Alexander Kaun (essay date 1943)
SOURCE: "Postsymbolists" in Soviet Poets and Poetry, University of California Press, 1943, pp. 35-97.
[In the following excerpt, Kaun discusses the sources, plot, and stylistic features of the Lay of Opanas, praising Bagritsky's work for its passionate optimism.]
Eduard Bagritsky was a member of the Constructivist Literary Center for some five years, but he bore no consistent allegiance to any school. His output, considerable for the short span of his life, is somewhat eclectic, showing traces of Robert Burns (a few of whose poems he lovingly translated) and other Western Europeans, as well as of a multitude of Russians, from Pushkin through the acmeists and futurists. Such traces, however, may be found in any wellread author, and it is futile to use them as a basis for any specific label. Bagritsky's verses vary in form, from regular meter (with a partiality for the amphibrach) to blank metric and free verse, futuristic broken lines, and arbitrary rhythms. As to subject, it ranges from Tyll Eulenspiegel and the romantic beggars of Burns to contemporary themes, the leading one being civil war episodes. His main work, on which his reputation stands, is Elegy on Opanas, a narrative poem, wherein epic mingles with ballad, and classic passages alternate with national motives from the ancient Lay of Prince Igor and from folk songs. The very name of the elegy, Duma, suggests Bagritsky's affinity with the celebrated Taras Shevchenko (1814-1861), author of numerous dumy (the name applied to Ukrainian folk epics and songs); the text reveals further signs of this kinship.
The poem is saturated with Ukrainian color, in both land-scape and motives. Opanas is an Ukrainian peasant, unwittingly swept by the waves of...
(The entire section is 744 words.)