The structure of audience and circle poetics in Pushkin and Baratynsky1
The aim of this paper is to demonstrate how Alexander Pushkin and Evgueny Baratynsky’s 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 Pushkin’s 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 Del’vig and mentions of his name in Baratynsky and Pushkin. Del’vig’s 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In 1922 Modest Gofman published a collection of Del’vig’s previously unpublished poems. Among the pieces written in the Lyceum at Tsarskoe Selo (and reworked in 1819) there was A Horatian Ode: Fanni (‘Фани: Горацианская ода’) which begins as follows:
(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 poet’s memory / Only because of my apt verse.) 2 As Gofman noticed (see Дельвиг 1922: 124), it is this poem that was quoted in the obscure lines from Pushkin’s 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’ (Пушкин 1937, 6: 647; Pushkin's emphasis).] Before Gofman published Del’vig’s 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 Pushkin’s allusion to Del’vig 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 Pushkin’s Lyceum friends <...> and, possibly, a tight circle of the acquaintances of the post-Lyceum period’ (Lotman means such friends-poets as Baratynsky, Kiukhel’beker, or Viazemsky). ‘Thus, Pushkin’s 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’ (Лотман 1992: 164—165). Let us keep both this poem and Lotman’s observations on it in mind as we proceed.
There is another reference to Del’vig 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 Del’vig at a banquet’.) First of all , most people had never encountered Baron Del’vig at a banquet and could only guess how he used to recite poems. Secondly, and more important, this line could not appear at Pushkin’s time, as we are accustomed to reading it today — the name of Del’vig was replaced by the initial Д. All the editions published in Pushkin’s lifetime read: ‘Как Д. пьяный на пиру’ (Пушкин 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 Pushkin’s ‘novel in verse’ implies the following categorization (см. Шапир 2002: 6—9). The rural landlords bear charactonyms (such speaking surnames as Пустяков, Петушков, Буянов). The Moscow gentry is called by first names and patronymics, rather than surnames (cf. Кошелев 1999: 83):
Members of Petersburg high society are described periphrastically, but Pushkin’s 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: ‘К ней как-то В. подсел’ (Пушкин 1937, 6: 652; rather than ‘К ней как-то Вяземский подсел’, as the modern editions read). The famous passage ‘Du comme il faut (Шишков, прости / Не знаю, как перевести)’:
was never published by Pushkin in this form. He intended to use the initial Ш, but then replaced it with three asterisks (Пушкин 1937, 6: 623, 652), so that the friend of Pushkin, Del’vig and Baratynsky — Wilhelm Kiukhel’beker was sure that the lines were addressed to him, and the correct reading supposedly was ‘Вильгельм, прости / Не знаю, как перевести’ (Тынянов 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 Del’vig’s drinking. As Shapir points out, by adding proper names to Pushkin’s texts, the editors violate both his norms of ethics and his poetics (ср. Шапир 2002: 6, 8).
The apotheosis of this poetics of enigma is Pushkin’s epigram A Collection of Insects (‘Собрание насекомых’) where all the names are replaced by asterisks, the number of which corresponds to the number of syllables:
There are three or four reconstructions of this epigram with inserted names, but even Pushkin’s contemporaries were not sure how to decode this poem. Pushkin was quite fond of the effect this text produced (cf. Пушкин 1949, 11: 131). The asterisks are ambiguous: the readers have to guess who is who and insert different names. To use Lotman’s words, we are invited to ‘share in a game of hints and omissions’ (Lotman 1990: 66).
Let’s now discuss one of Baratynsky’s numerous poems addressed to Del’vig — ‘Элизийские поля’, that is The Elysian Fields: 3
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 Baratynsky’s 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 (французская шалость) and fit only for an almanac’ (Baratynskij 1973: 53, translation slightly modified; cf. Боратынский 1951: 481). The key words here are шалость and альманах.
Baratynsky’s reference to an ‘almanac’ bears witness to what Boris Eikhenbaum called ‘literary domesticity’ [‘литературная домашность’ (Эйхенбаум 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’ [‘домашняя, интимная, кружковая семантика’ (Тынянов 1927: 279)]. By playing on circle semantics and exploiting circle poetics, such texts bring together literature and literary ‘byt’ (ср. Эйхенбаум 1927). And last but not least, what matters here is the author’s playful, half?serious attitude toward the text.
In his epistle to Gnedich, Baratynsky explained that ‘шалости’ are ‘verse bagatelles’ (‘безделки стихотворные’), humorous, but different from serious poetry. The members of Arzamas also defined their literary production as ‘шалости’. One of the materials from Viazemsky’s personal archive published by Viazemsky himself in the 1860s, bears the title ‘Литературные арзамасские шалости’ (‘Arzamas Literary Trifles’). An epigraph from Bludov’s speech at the celebration of Viazemsky’s 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’ (Русский Архив, 1866, № 3, стб. 473).
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 Baratynsky’s 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 ‘Делил я шумные досуги’ is a self-quotation — it refers to Baratynsky’s descriptive poem Пиры (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 Del’vig and Pushkin). In the eyes of Baratynsky’s readers, Feasts represented his relationship to this coterie. The figure of primary importance for Baratynsky was Del’vig, and all the further development of The Elysian Fields leads to a specific Del’vigian context.
Thus, friends in The Elysian Fields are not characters of elegiac literary convention but the concrete addressees of this coterie’s exchange of epistles. That’s 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 circle’s 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 Baratynsky’s 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 Other’s words’ (‘чужое слово’), 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: Del’vig.
To begin with, the constellation of traditional names found in The Elysian Fields is typically Del’vigian. Thus, in his Consolation for the Poor Poet (‘Утешение бедного поэта’, published in 1819; also known as The Casket ‘Ларец’) Del’vig wrote: ‘Кто был Лидий, где Темира / С Дафною цвела?’ (Who was Lydius, where Temira / Blossomed with Daphne?). Baratynsky loved this poem and inscribed it in his family album (Верховский 1916: 11—12). 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: ‘О Дельвиг! слезы мне не нужны’ (‘O Del’vig, I don’t 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 Д. The juxtaposition of the quotation and the name of its author is a conscious device: in The Elysian Fields, Parny’s name is mentioned in close proximity to the lines quoted from Parny’s Le Revenant. The difference is that Parny’s elegy was easily recognized by any learned reader of that period, while Del’vig’s unpublished ode was known only to a small circle of the poet’s friends.
However, why should Baratynsky have contrasted his own views to those of Del’vig? In its entirety, The Elysian Fields can be taken as a playful reply to Del’vig’s presentation of Elysium in his Elysium for Poets (‘Элизиум поэтов’). In Del’vig’s poem, which also remained unpublished at that time, the young poet who followed Venus and Bacchus, and spent his time ‘на дружеских пирах’ (‘at friendly feasts’), has not been allowed in Elysium. In The Elysian Fields Baratynsky reassures Del’vig that the reception might be much more favorable. This explains his address to Del'vig in the 1827/1835 wording of the poem:
(‘O Del’vig, I don’t need any tears; / Believe me: there, beyond the Cocytus, / I will be accorded a warm welcome’). By the way, the rare adjective закоцитный (‘lying beyond the Cocytus’) was also invented by Del’vig, who used it in the opening line of his epistle to Gnedich published in 1823 (Алексеев 1979: 51) 4. By means of this and other references to Del’vig’s 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 Zhukovsky’s 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 Pushkin’s 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 (‘Гм! гм! Читатель благородный, / Здорова ль ваша вся родня?’ — ‘Hm, hm. Noble reader, / How is all your kindred?’). The other pole is represented by the poet’s real friends whom he apostrophizes too, and Baratynsky may be taken as an example (‘Певец Пиров и грусти томной, / Когда б еще ты был со мной, / Я стал бы просьбою нескромной / Тебя тревожить, милый мой’ — ‘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 Pushkin’s 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 (‘<...> И как нашел я друга в поколенье, / Читателя найду в потомстве я’ — ‘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, Pushkin’s 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 Del’vig and the problem of poetic citation we can add that the case of The Elysian Fields may be contrasted to another type of Del’vigian quotations in Baratynsky. In many aspects Del’vig was Baratynsky’s tutor in poetry, and sometimes Baratynsky followed Del’vig when he appropriated traditional imagery. Let me cite two examples when Baratynsky used Derzhavin’s poetic formulas, which had already been ‘tried’ by Del’vig.
One such case was analysed by Vadim Vatsuro, who demonstrated that the last hemistich of Baratynsky’s Imitation of Chenier — ‘венчaнный осокoй’ (literally ‘crowned by sedge’) goes back to Derzhavin’s ode The Spring (‘Ключ’) where we find ‘увeнчан осокoю’. However, Baratynsky’s use of this formula was mediated by Del’vig who, in his poem On Derzhavin’s Death, wrote: ‘венчaн осокoю’ (Вацуро 1988). Another example was analysed by by the author of this paper (Pilshchikov 1996: 79; Пильщиков 1999: 285—286). Baratynsky’s elegy The Waterfall (‘Водопад’), inspired by Derzhavin’s ode of the same title, begins as follows: ‘Шуми, шуми с крутой вершины, / Не умолкай, поток седой!’ (‘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 Del’vig. In his Lyceum poem To Fantasy (‘К Фантазии’) he imagined that his fantasy leads him to the mountains, ‘Где в бездну с мрачного навеса / Седой поток шумит’ (‘Where the hoary stream roars / To the abyss from a gloomy ledge’). We can see that it was Del’vig who modified Derzhavin’s imagery and invented the combination седой поток ‘the hoary stream’ — and, as Alexander Pen’kovsky noted (Пеньковский 2006), it was Del’vig who tried an unusual use of the acoustic verb шуметь in locative and directional meaning: шуметь с чего-либо ‘to roar from something’.
Other parallels may be found in Pushkin, who often used Derzhavin’s 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 Gasparov’s distinction between ‘literary intertext’ and ‘language intertext’ (Гаспаров 2002), we can say that, in Baratynsky’s The Waterfall, Del’vigian 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.