The Poem

(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

As a boy of six, the young novice is captured by Russians in his native mountains. They want to take him to their own country, but he falls ill with a fever and is left with the monks of the monastery. At first, the boy refuses food and drink and seems likely to die. One of the monks, who is to become his father-confessor, takes him into his care and nurses him back to health. A Muslim by birth, he is baptized a Christian and becomes a novice confined within the narrow monastery walls. He finds his prisonlike existence intolerable. The memory of his free life in a mountain village constantly haunts him. One night, he escapes. After three days, he is found, starved and exhausted, by his father-confessor. On his deathbed, he offers his confession to the old man. It is an account of what happened to him the night he escaped and during the days that followed before his recapture.

The night he fled, the novice explains, there was a storm so violent that the monks prostrated themselves in fear before the altar. The novice took advantage of the distraction to escape into the surrounding countryside. Trying to reach his village, he wandered in the forest. He felt at home with the wild landscape and with the creatures that lived in it. His perception became heightened so that he clearly heard the many voices of nature. While drinking at a stream, he heard another song; it was that of a beautiful Georgian girl fetching water. Unseen, he watched her graceful and sensual movements and saw her go back to her home—an image that brought the uprooted novice much suffering. He longed to head toward her hut, but instead he took the path that led into the woods, and, as night fell, he became lost in the dense forest.

For the first time in his life, he cried. Suddenly, he saw two...

(The entire section is 729 words.)

The Novice Bibliography

(Great Characters in Literature)


Eikhenbaum, B. M. Lermontov. Translated by Ray Parrott and Harry Weber. Ann Arbor, Mich.: Ardis, 1981. A literary and historical evaluation of Lermontov’s works, including “The Novice.” Places Lermontov in Russian literary context and offers useful insights into his versification.

Garrard, John. Mikhail Lermontov. Boston: Twayne, 1982. Arguably the best overview of Lermontov’s life and works for the general reader. Contains a substantial section on “The Novice,” examining its background, form, structure, and themes.

Lavrin, Janko. Lermontov. New York: Hillary House, 1959. A lucid and intelligent summary of Lermontov’s life, major works, and recurrent themes. Includes a short section on “The Novice.”

Mersereau, John, Jr. Mikhail Lermontov. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1962. An extremely useful and readable critical analysis of Lermontov’s works, incorporating a valuable discussion of Lermontov’s Romanticism and a section on “The Novice.”