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Igor Pilshchikov

The structure of audience and circle poetics in Pushkin and Baratynsky1

The aim of this paper is to demonstrate how Alexander Pushkin and Evgueny Baratynskys use of particular quotations and hints on proper names divides the audience of their poems into two categories: the circle of close friends who understand the hint perfectly, and wider audience who realize that the poet hints on something but are unable to appreciate all the details. I would also like to show how this split is linked to different types of poetics. Another point is that this communication strategy is not specific to the above mentioned poets, but is characteristic of aristocratic literature of Pushkins age in general or, at least, to the Lyceum and post-Lyceum circle poetics. To make the material, so to speak, more observable and comparable, I will focus on some quotations from Anton Delvig and mentions of his name in Baratynsky and Pushkin. Delvigs position was quite peculiar: he was a close friend of both Pushkin and Baratynsky, and was a good poet himself.

In 1922 Modest Gofman published a collection of Delvigs previously unpublished poems. Among the pieces written in the Lyceum at Tsarskoe Selo (and reworked in 1819) there was A Horatian Ode: Fanni (: ) which begins as follows:


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(That is: ... I change maids like wine. / Temira, Daphne and Lileta / Have long ago been forgotten by me, as a dream, / And they are kept in the poets memory / Only because of my apt verse.) 2 As Gofman noticed (see 1922: 124), it is this poem that was quoted in the obscure lines from Pushkins Eugene Onegin:


:
,
,
.

[That is: I am also allowed to use / The words of the prophetic poet: / Temira, Daphne and Lileta / Have long ago been forgotten by me, as a dream ( 1937, 6: 647; Pushkin's emphasis).] Before Gofman published Delvigs ode (that is, almost a hundred years later), the general audience could not have figured out who the prophetic poet was: his name is omitted, and the quotation was irrecognizable.

In his seminal article The Text and the Structure of Audience (1977), Yuri Lotman commented on Pushkins allusion to Delvig as follows: In the printed text, addressed to any reader, Pushkin deliberately omits something as if it is well known, or hints at facts known only to a very small circle of his friends. Among the potential readers of Eugene Onegin there was a small group for whom this hint was clear: it was the circle of Pushkins Lyceum friends <...> and, possibly, a tight circle of the acquaintances of the post-Lyceum period (Lotman means such friends-poets as Baratynsky, Kiukhelbeker, or Viazemsky). Thus, Pushkins text split the audience in two groups: a small one, to whom the text was comprehensible and intimately known, and the most part of the readers who felt the hint but were unable to decipher it ( 1992: 164165). Let us keep both this poem and Lotmans observations on it in mind as we proceed.

There is another reference to Delvig in Eugene Onegin, in the passage where Vladimir Lensky composes his famous elegy:

            <...> ,
,
.
, ,
.

(That is, He recites his verses, / Aloud, with lyric ardor, / Like a drunken Delvig at a banquet.) First of all , most people had never encountered Baron Delvig at a banquet and could only guess how he used to recite poems. Secondly, and more important, this line could not appear at Pushkins time, as we are accustomed to reading it today the name of Delvig was replaced by the initial . All the editions published in Pushkins lifetime read: . ( 1937, 6: 651).

As Maksim Shapir demonstrated in his widely discussed article on the authentic text of Eugene Onegin, the poetics of proper names in Pushkins novel in verse implies the following categorization (. 2002: 69). The rural landlords bear charactonyms (such speaking surnames as , , ). The Moscow gentry is called by first names and patronymics, rather than surnames (cf. 1999: 83):

,
,
,
<...> and so on.

Members of Petersburg high society are described periphrastically, but Pushkins contemporaries could easily recognize these portraits. Other contemporaries are cited with their full names, if they are described in terms of their public activities. Thus, Bard of Feasts, and languid melancholy is Baratynsky, as Pushkin himself explains in note 22 to Eugene Onegin. Another bard who eloquently / Hath painted for us the first snow is Prince Viazemsky, as Pushkin explains in note 27. But if the same personage appears in the novel as a private person, his name is always replaced by asterisks or the initial letter. Thus, when Tatyana Larina meets the same Prince Viazemsky, we are informed: - . ( 1937, 6: 652; rather than - , as the modern editions read). The famous passage Du comme il faut (, / , ):

Shishkov, forgive me: I dont know
the Russian for le comme il faut

was never published by Pushkin in this form. He intended to use the initial , but then replaced it with three asterisks ( 1937, 6: 623, 652), so that the friend of Pushkin, Delvig and Baratynsky Wilhelm Kiukhelbeker was sure that the lines were addressed to him, and the correct reading supposedly was , / , ( 1934: 372). Indeed, Pushkin could not take liberties with Shishkov (who was Admiral of the Russian Fleet and President of the Russian Academy), just as he could not openly mock Baron Delvigs drinking. As Shapir points out, by adding proper names to Pushkins texts, the editors violate both his norms of ethics and his poetics (. 2002: 6, 8).

The apotheosis of this poetics of enigma is Pushkins epigram A Collection of Insects ( ) where all the names are replaced by asterisks, the number of which corresponds to the number of syllables:

** ,
**** ,
** ,
** ,
** ࠠ and so on

There are three or four reconstructions of this epigram with inserted names, but even Pushkins contemporaries were not sure how to decode this poem. Pushkin was quite fond of the effect this text produced (cf. 1949, 11: 131). The asterisks are ambiguous: the readers have to guess who is who and insert different names. To use Lotmans words, we are invited to share in a game of hints and omissions (Lotman 1990: 66).

Lets now discuss one of Baratynskys numerous poems addressed to Delvig , that is The Elysian Fields3

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The poem was first published in 1825; later Baratynsky included it in the third Book of Elegies of his 1827 collection and in the first section of his 1835 collection (this version is quoted above). The date 1821 usually found in modern editions of Baratynskys lyrics derives from his own indication in a letter to Ivan Kozlov (from April 1825): The Elysian Fields was written about four years ago: it is a French trifle ( ) and fit only for an almanac (Baratynskij 1973: 53, translation slightly modified; cf. 1951: 481). The key words here are and .

Baratynskys reference to an almanac bears witness to what Boris Eikhenbaum called literary domesticity [ ( 1929)]. In such texts references are often made to other texts, which are important to, or even simply known by, a small group of readers. These texts tend to actualize what Yuri Tynianov refers to as domestic, intimate, circle semantics [, , ( 1927: 279)]. By playing on circle semantics and exploiting circle poetics, such texts bring together literature and literary byt (. 1927). And last but not least, what matters here is the authors playful, half?serious attitude toward the text.

In his epistle to Gnedich, Baratynsky explained that are verse bagatelles ( ), humorous, but different from serious poetry. The members of Arzamas also defined their literary production as . One of the materials from Viazemskys personal archive published by Viazemsky himself in the 1860s, bears the title (Arzamas Literary Trifles). An epigraph from Bludovs speech at the celebration of Viazemskys anniversary is prefixed to this publication: Shall we recollect, not without a smile, our, as it were, literary trifles, in particular because they often had much vivacity and wit ( , 1866,  3, . 473).
Baratynskys poem is permeated with quotations from the poets whose names were especially important for him: Evariste Parny an exponent of the elegy par excellence, the Russian Parny Konstantin Batiushkov, and the older friend of Baratynsky Anton Delvig who, in his own words, helped Baratynsky to make friends with the Muse (cf. in Delvigs sonnet To N. M. Iazykov). It should be noted that the names of Parny and Delvig appear in the text of the poem.

The Elysian Fields describes the dying poet and combines the melancholy stylistics of the elegy with that of the friendly epistle. The transition from the elegiac to the epistolary is effected through Baratynskys use of the traditional motif of valediction to friends:

, ,


!

(Farewell, light-hearted friends, / With whom, in this life, / I carelessly shared the noisy leisure hours / Of my cheerful youth). The phrase is a self-quotation it refers to Baratynskys descriptive poem (Feasts), published in 1821:

, ,
,
,


?

(Can you remember, friends, that house / Where our faithful family, / Having forgotten about boredom, / Gathered in a noisy circle / And, on equal terms with Bacchus, / Shared our joyful leisure?). This text, after the publication of which Baratynsky became known as the Bard of Feasts, is addressed to the Lyceum circle of poets, with whom Baratynsky had become close by the beginning of 1819 (the names mentioned in Feasts are those of Delvig and Pushkin). In the eyes of Baratynskys readers, Feasts represented his relationship to this coterie. The figure of primary importance for Baratynsky was Delvig, and all the further development of The Elysian Fields leads to a specific Delvigian context.

Thus, friends in The Elysian Fields are not characters of elegiac literary convention but the concrete addressees of this coteries exchange of epistles. Thats how a melancholic elegy addressed to any reader turns into a friendly epistle which appeals to an intimate circle and entails subtexts belonging to the sphere of the circles poetic communication all in such a way that the text becomes cryptogrammatic. The poet describes his preoccupations in Elysium:

<...> <...>


.

(There... I will praise / My modest love / To the late Daphne and Temira.) What does the use of these conventional classical names mean here? Does it mean that the poet would celebrate Daphne and Temira or devote his poems to them as he did before? It does not, simply because he had not celebrated them before. Not one of Baratynskys other poems contains the name Temira. The name Daphne is not found in poems published or written ealier than The Elysian Fields. Thus, the passage under consideration is a periphrasis based on the Others words ( ), which means that unlike somebody else who does not want to praise love to Daphne and Temira, the author would do this (that is, compose love poems) even after his death. However, who is this somebody else? The answer is: Delvig.

To begin with, the constellation of traditional names found in The Elysian Fields is typically Delvigian. Thus, in his Consolation for the Poor Poet ( , published in 1819; also known as The Casket ) Delvig wrote: , / ? (Who was Lydius, where Temira / Blossomed with Daphne?). Baratynsky loved this poem and inscribed it in his family album ( 1916: 1112). But the actual passage alluded to in The Elysian Fields seems to be the one from the Horatian Ode: Fanni, that is, the same lines as Pushkin quoted in Eugene Onegin in 1827:

,
, , <...>

And I will celebrate them even after my death, Baratynsky replies. Moreover, the source is indicated in the poem itself. Indeed, the next line reads as follows: ! (O Delvig, I dont need any tears). In fact, this is how the quoted line reads in the 1827 and 1835 collections. In the 1825 publication, his name is represented by the initial . The juxtaposition of the quotation and the name of its author is a conscious device: in The Elysian Fields, Parnys name is mentioned in close proximity to the lines quoted from Parnys Le Revenant. The difference is that Parnys elegy was easily recognized by any learned reader of that period, while Delvigs unpublished ode was known only to a small circle of the poets friends.

However, why should Baratynsky have contrasted his own views to those of Delvig? In its entirety, The Elysian Fields can be taken as a playful reply to Delvigs presentation of Elysium in his Elysium for Poets ( ). In Delvigs poem, which also remained unpublished at that time, the young poet who followed Venus and Bacchus, and spent his time (at friendly feasts), has not been allowed in Elysium. In The Elysian Fields Baratynsky reassures Delvig that the reception might be much more favorable. This explains his address to Del'vig in the 1827/1835 wording of the poem:

! ;
,
<...>

(O Delvig, I dont need any tears; / Believe me: there, beyond the Cocytus, / I will be accorded a warm welcome). By the way, the rare adjective (lying beyond the Cocytus) was also invented by Delvig, who used it in the opening line of his epistle to Gnedich published in 1823 ( 1979: 51) 4. By means of this and other references to Delvigs published poems, the ordinary reader could also guess whose name was enciphered in The Elysian Fields. But the audience remained split in two parts: those few who understood everything, and the rest who understood only something. The poem was addressed to any reader, but one layer of its meaning was, to coin Zhukovskys word, addressed fur wenige (to a few).

Here I would like to use some points made by Sona Stephen Hoisington in her paper The Hierarchy of Narratees in Evgenii Onegin (see Hoisington 1976) 5. Reinterpreting her conclusions in some respects, one may maintain that, in Pushkins novel, the implied reader, who is repeatedly addressed by the narrator, finds him or herself, as it were, between two poles. The first pole is what Hoisington refers to as the mock reader, whom Pushkin also adresses from time to time (! ! , / ? Hm, hm. Noble reader, / How is all your kindred?). The other pole is represented by the poets real friends whom he apostrophizes too, and Baratynsky may be taken as an example ( , / , / / , Bard of Feasts, and languid melancholy, / If you had still been with me, / I would have annoyed you / With an indiscrete request, my dear friend). The implied reader is a self-identity the text imposes on or, to put it mildly, suggests to the real reader. The latter does not want to be identified with the mock reader; at the same time he or she is unable (and possibly unwilling) to assume the position of Pushkin real friends/readers. Nevertheless, these extremes play an important role in the structure of Pushkins narrative: the readers addressed by the poet reconstruct their identities taking into account different remarks, including those which are not addressed to them. Baratynsky finds it important to indicate the presence of his friends in the situation of poetic communication. Moreover, in his famous My gift is poor... he compares his ideal reader with a friend (<...> , / Just like I found a friend in my generation, / I will find a reader in the posterity).

It is not always so easy to find such a friend, though. The reading public did not accept either Tales of Belkin or The Little House in Kolomna: nobody understood them. At the same time, Pushkins friends seem to have undestood these texts perfectly. Pushkin informed Pletnev that Baratynsky laughed himself into fits when he read Tales of Belkin 6. We are still trying to guess why Baratynsky laughed.

Speaking back to Delvig and the problem of poetic citation we can add that the case of The Elysian Fields may be contrasted to another type of Delvigian quotations in Baratynsky. In many aspects Delvig was Baratynskys tutor in poetry, and sometimes Baratynsky followed Delvig when he appropriated traditional imagery. Let me cite two examples when Baratynsky used Derzhavins poetic formulas, which had already been tried by Delvig.

One such case was analysed by Vadim Vatsuro, who demonstrated that the last hemistich of Baratynskys Imitation of Chenier a o (literally crowned by sedge) goes back to Derzhavins ode The Spring () where we find e o. However, Baratynskys use of this formula was mediated by Delvig who, in his poem On Derzhavins Death, wrote: a o ( 1988). Another example was analysed by by the author of this paper (Pilshchikov 1996: 79; 1999: 285286). Baratynskys elegy The Waterfall (), inspired by Derzhavins ode of the same title, begins as follows: , , / , ! (Roar, roar from the steep peak, / Do not subside, the hoary stream!). All the elements of this description are already found in Derzhavin where they are scattered about in 444-line ode. The poet who gathered them together, before Baratynsky, was Delvig. In his Lyceum poem To Fantasy ( ) he imagined that his fantasy leads him to the mountains, / (Where the hoary stream roars / To the abyss from a gloomy ledge). We can see that it was Delvig who modified Derzhavins imagery and invented the combination the hoary stream and, as Alexander Penkovsky noted ( 2006), it was Delvig who tried an unusual use of the acoustic verb in locative and directional meaning: - to roar from something.

Other parallels may be found in Pushkin, who often used Derzhavins formulas that had already been slightly modified by Batiushkov. The difference between these examples and those discussed in the first part of my paper is that, in these examples, the fact of quotation belongs to the sphere of textual genesis, while in those discussed earlier, quotations acquire a teleological value. To use Mikhail Gasparovs distinction between literary intertext and language intertext ( 2002), we can say that, in Baratynskys The Waterfall, Delvigian quotations form part of the poetic language, while in The Elysian Fields they form part of the poetic text. Circle poetics split the audience into two classes: those who understand literary quotations, and those who interpret (or rather misinterpret) the facts of the poetic text as the facts of the poetic language.


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Notes


1 This research has been supported by the Russian Foundation for the Humanities (RGNF), research grant 04-04-00037a.

2 On Fanni see Peschio 2004: 159176, cf. 5267.

3 I analysed it in detail in my article Pilshchikov 1994 (cf. 1994); for the revised Russian version see 2004 or 2005.

4 Alexander Kushner considers one of Baratynskys unforgettable verbal formations ( 2002: 4849). He is wrong.

5 I am grateful to Prof. Marcus Levitt who drew my attention to this paper.

6 ( 1941, 14: 133).