Evgeny Baratynsky 1800-1844
(Full name Evgeny Abramovich Baratynsky. Also transliterated as Boratynsky, Baratinskij, Boratinskij, Baratinskii, and Boratinskii) Russian poet, short story writer, and essayist.
Baratynsky holds an important place among the poets who contributed to the Golden Age of Russian poetry, which reached its height in the 1820s. His style embodies elements of both Classicism and Romanticism and his poetry eloquently treats such themes as disillusionment, the role of the poet, the relationship between man and nature, and the rise of industrialization. He is best known for his sensitive elegies dealing with loss and despair and for the personal, revelatory tone of his love poems.
Baratynsky was born on his family's estate in the village of Mara, in the Tambov province. In 1808, when Baratynsky was eight years old, his family moved to Moscow, but upon his father's death two years later, Baratynsky's mother moved back to Mara with her children. Baratynsky attended a German boarding school in St. Petersburg for a short period, and then enrolled in the Pages' Corps in 1812. After an incident which involved stealing a gold snuffbox full of money with some schoolmates, he was expelled from the Corps, forbidden by the Emperor of ever serving in the military as anything but a private and sent back to Mara. The humiliation of this harsh punishment was to stick with the young man for the rest of this life. Returning to St. Petersburg in 1818, Baratynsky joined the army as a private. He began writing poetry during this period and became a regular visitor to literary salons and philosophical circles frequented by other St. Petersburg writers. Baratynsky became involved with a group of writers called the Arzamas, which included Aleksandr Turgenev. The group, heavily influenced by French Classicism, played a major role in the development and encouragement of the young poet's versification. Baratynsky was transferred to Finland in 1820 and remained there until 1825. At the end of his term, he married Nastasia Engelhardt, the sister of an army friend, and moved to Moscow, obtaining a government job in the land surveying office. Baratynsky continued to write and publish poetry and contributed to several magazines, including the Moskovskiy Telegraf, Literaturnaya Gazeta, and Evropeets. His friends in Moscow included the writers Alexander Pushkin and P. A. Vyazemsky, and he became associated with the Lyubomudri (Lovers of Wisdom) circle, a group of intellectuals interested in the idealistic philosophy of Friedrich von Schiller. Baratynsky's first collection of poetry, Stikhotvoreniia, (Poems) was published in 1827 to favorable reviews. Yet by the time his second collection of poetry, also titled Stikhotvoreniia, came out in 1835, Baratynsky received harsh criticism from reviewers. General interest in poetry had declined in the late 1830s and Russian writers turned instead to realism. Baratynsky, disillusioned and stung, retired to Muranovo to manage his wife's family estate. He published one more collection of poetry, Sumerki, (Twilight) in 1842, but it received almost no critical attention. Baratynsky died suddenly in Naples in 1844, while on a vacation abroad with his family. He was buried a year later in Alexander Nevsky Monastery.
Baratynsky's poetry that was written while he was living in Finland—“Finlyandia,” Piry, and Eda—and published in the Polyarnaya Zvezda magazine brought him his first measure of popular and critical success. In these elegies he depicted the austerely beautiful Finnish landscape and portrayed himself as the isolated poet in exile. Man's relationship to nature and the role of the poet in society continued to be prominent themes in Baratynsky's later poetry as well. His first published collection of poems included many pieces dealing with Baratynsky's disillusionment over man's neglect and alienation from natural beauty as a result of the coming of industrialization. Critics of Baratynsky's poetry, including his friend Pushkin, praised his originality, lyricism, and the keen psychological insight evident in his poetic monologues. He also experimented with language, using neologisms as well as elements of Old Church Slavonic to create a fresher kind of diction. A master of meter, Baratynsky also skillfully manipulated the iambic tetrameter rhythm in his poetry. Almost all of Baratynsky's poetry attests to the conflict he felt between reason and emotion. In his second collection of poetry, he relied heavily on Schiller's philosophical ideas concerning the imagination as a bridge between reason and emotion. This persistent dualism remained a prominent feature of his style and, as he grew more and more discouraged by his critics, especially following the publication of The Gypsy Girl (1831), his poetry grew more disillusioned. Several scholars have pointed out that Baratynsky's reworking of the elegy form in his second collection revitalized the genre as a whole in Russian poetry of the time. His last collection, Sumerki, reveals a more conservative and pessimistic Baratynsky, preoccupied with loss and finality.
Although Baratynsky received praise from critics for his first two collections of poetry, by the time his third and last collection was published, he was already a marginal name in Russian literature. Forgotten almost entirely by the end of his life, Baratynsky and his works were rediscovered at the end of the nineteenth century by the Russian Symbolist poets, and a complete edition of his works was published for the first time in the early twentieth century. Modern criticism of his poetry has focused on Baratynsky's style as well as his ideas. Dora Burton, and Luc Beaudoin have written about Baratynsky's philosophical ideas, with Burton emphasizing his pursuit of a personal poetic vision, and Beaudoin discussing the influence of Schiller's ideas on Baratynsky's The Gypsy Girl. Benjamin Dees and Sarah Pratt have commented extensively on Baratynsky's themes, especially dualism, in his poetry. R. M. Grau, writing about Baratynsky's only completed piece of prose fiction, the short story “Persten” (1832; “The Signet Ring”), calls attention to three different levels of possible interpretation of the tale and suggests that it, too, may be about the artist's attempt to stay true to his personal poetic vision. Susanne Fusso and Howard Stern have explored Baratynsky's response to his critics, whereas J. A. Harvie has focused on Baratynsky's own criticism of science and technology in his poetry. Other critics have examined the interplay between Baratynsky and some of the more luminous figures of the Russian Romantic period, including Pushkin and Turgenev.
Bal [The Ball] (poetry) 1825–28
Eda, Finliandskaia povest', i Piry, opisatel'naia poema (poetry) 1826
Stikhotvoreniia [Poems] (poetry) 1827
Nalozhnitsa [The Concubine; also published as Tsyganka, and The Gypsy Girl] (poetry) 1831
“Persten'” [“The Signet Ring”] (short story) 1832
Stikhotvoreniia [Poems] (poetry) 1835
Sumerki [Twilight; also published as Dusk] (poetry) 1842
Sochineniia [Works] (poetry and prose) 1869
Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (poetry and prose) 1894
Polnoe sobranie stikhotvorenii 2 vols. (poetry, prose, letters) 1936
Stikhotvoreniia: Poèmy, Proza, Pis'ma (poetry, prose, letters) 1951
(The entire section is 69 words.)
SOURCE: “The Conflict Between Reality and a Higher Realm,” in E. A. Baratynsky, Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1972, pp. 74-98.
[In the following excerpt, Dees discusses the development of Baratynsky's poetic style during the 1820s, focusing on his view of nature and treatment of the theme of death as well as the inherent conflict between Romantic content and Classical expression in his poetry.]
The middle and late 1820's were a period of perplexed transition in both Baratynsky's creative development and his personal life. In April, 1825, he was promoted to lieutenant (poruchik) which, insofar as his verse was concerned, deprived him of the image of the “exile.” Moreover, in October of the same year he arrived in Moscow on leave and did not return to Finland, thus putting an effective end to the inspiration and background provided by the special character of Finnish nature.
Although his marriage in 1826 strengthened his ties with Moscow, he continued to feel somewhat alienated in the city. This situation contributed in lending an indefinable fascination to the years spent in Finland, and he came to look upon them as a time of youth and friendship. His physical isolation notwithstanding, he had been an integral part of the animated literary life of Petersburg.
It was also in Finland that his fame as a poet, and, in particular, as the “poet of Finland,” had...
(The entire section is 9432 words.)
SOURCE: “Russia's Doomsday Poet,” in Forum for Modern Language Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2, April, 1973, pp. 170-81.
[In the following essay, Harvie examines Baratynsky's poems containing his criticism of science, technology, and the emerging capitalist-industrialist society.]
Of Baratynsky's poem “The Last Poet” (“Posledny poet”) Belinsky said that it would have been a masterpiece but for the perverse equation of poetry with ignorance and the blaming of science for the degeneration of society.1 Later apologists for Baratynsky have generally felt constrained to argue that all he really meant was that there was a certain charm about mystery which is removed by knowledge.2 No such defence is necessary today. With the benefit of 130 years of hindsight it is clear that Baratynsky was right and Belinsky was wrong; indeed, he has some claim to be called Russia's Doomsday Poet.
At its best Baratynsky's work has the same kind of latent prophetic quality that characterises Dostoevsky's great novels. His opposition to science and technology, which is much more thoroughgoing than has generally been believed, is set out with great force in a group of poems written between 1825 and 1840. The best known of these are “The Final Death” (“Poslednyaya smert'”), “The Last Poet” and “Omens” (“Primety”), which I propose to consider in reverse order, before...
(The entire section is 5832 words.)
SOURCE: “The Eclipse of the Golden Age,” in Forum for Modern Language Studies, Vol. 12, No. 2, April, 1976, pp. 176-88.
[In the following essay, Harvie compares Baratynsky's poetry written in protest of industrialization with that of English poet William Wordsworth, concluding that Wordsworth was the more didactic in his approach.]
The contemporary crusade against the excesses of science and technology should be viewed, not simply as a reaction to modern social conditions, but also as part of the continuing romantic protest against industrialisation, which goes back at least 200 years. It began with Rousseau in France, soon to be followed by Schiller and Novalis in Germany, whence the protest spread to England and finally to Russia. Here I wish to explore the similarities in the thinking of two protesting romantic poets, the one English and the other Russian.
While there can be no question of influence, Wordsworth and Baratynsky share an obvious aversion to industrialisation, as well as a profound fear of modern science and technology.1 In other respects, the two writers seem very different: there is little in common between Wordsworth's ultimately optimistic nature-pantheism, later overlaid with a veneer of Christianity, and Baratynsky's cosmic pessimism. Both men were, however, deeply indebted to Rousseau, though neither would have been very willing to admit the fact....
(The entire section is 6004 words.)
SOURCE: “The Poet of Thought in ‘Vse mysl’ da mysl’!…’: Truth in Boratynskij's Poetry,” in Bulletin of the Rocky Mountain Modern Language Association, Vol. 35, No. 1, 1981, pp. 31-42.
[In the following essay, Burton explores Baratynsky's expression of the pain and emotional exposure caused by trying to remain true to his poetic vision, focusing on the poem “Vse mysl’ da mysl’!…”]
In Boratynskij's early and well-known poem “Bogdanovicu” (“To Bogdanovic,” 1824) the poet, at the zenith of his fame, enthusiastically announces his readiness to sacrifice the beauty of his verse for truth: “V zamenu krasoty, daju stixam moim / Ja silu istiny” (I give the power of truth, in place of beauty, to my verse).1 A few years later, in 1827, a less famous but more mature and confident poet alters his lines to underscore not only the likelihood of the perfect harmony of truth and beauty, but to indicate further that the essence of beauty is truth itself: “Ja pravdy krasotu daju stixam moim” (I give to my verse the beauty of truth). In his other early poem, “Istina” (“Truth,” 1823), truth itself is not rejected by the melancholy singer in his search for happiness; only her offer to initiate him at the time (or in his youth) into her frightful and dismaying “code” of life is refused. She is asked to return, but to postpone her coming. And she appears, fourteen...
(The entire section is 4790 words.)
SOURCE: “‘Persten’: Baratynskii's Fantastic Tale,” in Canadian Slavonic Papers, Vol. 26, No. 4, December, 1984, pp. 296-306.
[In the following essay, Grau analyzes “Persten,” Baratynsky's only completed work of prose fiction, and suggests three different ways of interpreting the tale: as a fashionable tale of the fantastic, as a parody of the fantastic genre, or as a depiction of an artist searching for his place in society.]
In the fall of 1831 the poet Evgenii Baratynskii wrote to Ivan Kireevskii, promising to send him, among other things, a short story in prose for his journal Evropeets: “It is all mediocre, but it will do for a journal.”1 The story, “Persten',” appeared early in 1832 in the second issue of Evropeets, and was soon forgotten, contemporary critics apparently agreeing with the author's assessment.2 But although the story is Baratynskii's only complete work of fictional prose, and although it has been disparaged by the few critics who have considered it, “Persten'” has significance both for an understanding of Baratynskii the poet, and for an appreciation of the development of the fantastic tale in Russia in the early 1830s.
At the time “Persten'” was written the Russian literary atmosphere was dominated by the fantastic. E. T. A. Hoffmann's tales were being translated with increasing frequency and being...
(The entire section is 4572 words.)
SOURCE: “Mystic Transformations,” in Russian Metaphysical Romanticism: The Poetry of Tiutchev and Boratynskii, Stanford University Press, 1984, pp. 174-83.
[In the following excerpt, Pratt presents a detailed analysis of Boratynsky's “The Last Death,” exploring its themes, structure, and philosophical underpinnings.]
… Three types of poetic material contribute to the underlying substance of [“The Last Death”]: a mystical visionary aspect, an archaic or biblical aspect, and a personal conversational aspect. All these are held together by a framework based on the imagery of time and vision. The framework itself breaks down into a series of two-stanza segments. The opening segment introduces the persona, who narrates the poem initially as an abstract third person (on: he; chelovek: man) and then as a first person who addresses the reader himself, and also introduces the key concepts of vision and time. The third and fourth stanzas portray a specific vision about a specific time, the Enlightenment, and the fifth and sixth stanzas focus on the romantic epoch dominated by idealist philosophy. The persona never identifies the historical periods by name, but his descriptions leave little room for misunderstanding. The two final stanzas then describe the horrifying spectacle of the Last Death.
The opening part of the poem is based on a series of images and concepts...
(The entire section is 3621 words.)
SOURCE: “Character Associations and the Romantic Absolute in E. A. Baratynskii's ‘The Gypsy Girl,’” in Canadian American Slavic Studies, Vol. 29, No. 3-4, Fall-Winter 1995, pp. 257-70.
[In the following essay, Beaudoin discusses The Gypsy Girl as a reflection and embodiment of Boratynsky's interest in Friedrich von Schelling's concept of the Absolute and of the poet as an “inspired seer.”]
D'autre part, la civilisation que, grâce à leur action, réalisera la Russie, incarnera le rêve de nos jeunes philosophes, réalisera l'union de la poésie et la vie. Nous connaissons le rôle éminent que la conception romantique assignait à l'art, à la poésie. Toute activité créatrice a son prototype dans la poésie, et le philosophe, en tant du moins qu'il est créateur, est par cela même poéte. … Comprendre par le sentiment aussi bien que par la pensée, voila une formule tres nette de l'aspiration romantique à l'unification et l'intégration de l'esprit humain, à la fusion synthétique et organique de toutes ses <1
Alexandre Koyré, quoting Ivan Kireevskii, succinctly summarized one of the primary leitmotifs in the poetry of E. A. Baratynskii. During the 1820s Baratynskii was attracted to Lovers of Wisdom (liubomudry), particularly for their interest in the philosophy of Friedrich von Schelling and its concept...
(The entire section is 5597 words.)
SOURCE: “‘The Feasts of Ill Intention’: Baratynskii and the Critics,” in Freedom and Responsibility in Russian Literature: Essays in Honor of Robert Louis Jackson, edited by Elizabeth Cheresh Allen and Gary Saul Morson, Northwestern University Press, 1995, pp. 29-37.
[In the following essay, Fusso and Stern explore Baratynsky's attitude toward his critics and the way in which he used his anger at their attacks as a stimulus to continue writing poetry.]
“Even in the grave?” “Even under the coffin lid.” “I cannot sing!” “Well, sing about that!”
—Marina Tsvetaeva, 1928
[“Tak i v grobu?” —“I pod doskoi.” “Pet' ne mogu!” —“Eto vospoi!”]
“On Planting a Forest” (“Na posev lesa”), written in 1842, two years before Baratynskii's death, is a cross between two of his favorite genres. It is in part an elegy, a farewell to poetry: the poet, who feels the approach of old age, sadly sets aside his lyre and replaces the writing of poetry with the planting of trees. At the core of the elegy, however, there is an angry and biting epigram, calling down God's wrath upon the poet's treacherous enemies, who have preferred stealthy sabotage to an honorable duel. The lyric subject laments not only the malice of these enemies but also the indifference of a young and barren generation, the “barren ear” (pustotsvetnyi...
(The entire section is 4667 words.)
Barratt, Glynn. “A Note on the Development of Baratynsky's Elegiac Verse.” Slavonic and East European Review 66, No. 2 (April 1977): 172-84.
Evaluates Baratynsky's elegies, noting that after 1835 he removed himself as the narrator in his poems, creating a new kind of elegy in his collection Dusk.
Nilsson, Nils Åke. “‘In Vain’—‘Perhaps’. The Russian Romantic Poets and Fate.” Scando-Slavica 25 (1979): 71-82.
Discusses common themes in the poetry of Baratynsky, Gogol, and Pushkin.
Nilsson, Nils Åke. “Baratynskij's Elegiac Code.” In Russian Romanticism: Studies in the Poetic Codes, edited by Nils Åke Nilsson, pp. 144-63. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiskell International, 1979.
Contends that Baratynsky's poem “Priznanie” is the contemporary culmination of the elegiac genre.
Pilshchikov, Igor A. “Brodsky and Baratynsky.” In Literary Tradition and Practice in Russian Culture: Papers from an International Conference on the Occasion of the Seventieth Birthday of Yury Mikhailovich Lotman, edited by Valentina Polukhina, Joe Andrew, and Robert Reid, pp. 214-28. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1993.
Comments on the influence of Baratynsky's poetry on that of Josef Brodsky, citing similarities and differences in their respective...
(The entire section is 384 words.)