Konstantin Batyushkov

Konstantin Nikolayevich Batyushkov (Russian: Константи́н Никола́евич Ба́тюшков, IPA: [kənstɐnʲˈtʲin nʲɪkɐˈlajɪvʲɪtɕ ˈbatʲʊʂkəf] (listen); 29 May [O.S. 18 May] 1787 – 19 July [O.S. 7 July] 1855) was a Russian poet, essayist and translator of the Romantic era. He also served in the diplomatic corps, spending an extended period in 1818 and 1819 as a secretary to the Russian diplomatic mission at Naples.[1]

Konstantin Nikolayevich Batyushkov
Portrait by unknown artist, 1810's
Portrait by unknown artist, 1810's
Born29 May 1787
Vologda, Russian Empire
Died19 July 1855 (aged 68)
Vologda, Russian Empire
OccupationPoet, essayist, translator


The early years of Konstantin Batyushkov's life are difficult to reconstruct. He probably spent the first four years of his life in Vologda; the exact place he lived from 1792 to 1796 is unknown: possibly with his father, possibly with his grandfather, Lev Andreyevich Batyushkov, on their family estate, the village of Danilovskoe, Bezhetski district, Tver province. However, it was Konstantin's youth spent in St. Petersburg which played the most important part in his development as a poet.

Batyushkov's earliest extant letter from St. Petersburg is dated 6 July 1797. His first years there were spent in Pensionnats (private boarding schools). Contact with his relatives was restricted to correspondence and rare meetings. From 1797 to 1800 he studied at the Pensionnat directed by O.P. Jacquinot; it was a rather expensive school for children of good families. The curriculum included Russian, French, German, divinity, geography, history, statistics, arithmetic, chemistry, botany, calligraphy, drawing and dancing. In 1801 Batyushkov entered a Pensionnat run by an Italian, I.A. Tripoli; he graduated in 1802. It was here that Batyushkov began to study Italian. His first literary offering, however, was a translation into French of Metropolitan Platon's Address on the occasion of the coronation of Alexander I of Russia.

Early works

1802 is conventionally considered the beginning of Batyushkov's poetic career. He wrote in a letter to Nikolai Gnedich on 1 April 1810 that he had composed his first poem at the age of fifteen. Batyushkov quotes two lines; he felt that their main idea — dissatisfaction with reality and a longing for "distant lands", both geographic and spiritual — anticipated his mature work: "Муза моя, ещё девственница, угадала" (My Muse, while still a virgin, had divined it).

Batyushkov began to write poetry seriously in 1804 (at least, the dating of his first works from 1802—03 is not documented). Two poems are conventionally regarded as having been written before the first published one. The first of these, "Bog" (God), is a direct imitation of Gavrila Derzhavin's spiritual odes (Echoes of Derzhavin continued to appear in Batyushkov's mature work, but as only one element of his own, highly individual, style). The other poem is "Mechta" (the title, usually translated as "Dream", can also mean "Fantasy" or "Imagination"). Never satisfied with the realization of his idea, Batyushkov reworked "Mechta" for the rest of his literary life; thus it is possible to illustrate the evolution of Batiushkov's versification and verbal style using only examples from successive wordings of this piece.Including both original and translated fragments, this piece became a manifesto of Batiushkov's own aesthetics: "Mechtan'e est' dusha poetov i stikhov" (Dreaming is the soul of poets and of verse). This brings him close to Nikolay Karamzin and the Vasily Zhukovsky, but even in "Mechta", the literary pose of an escapist and hedonist is already evident. It was most likely the programmatic nature of this, on the whole rather weak, poem that continued to hold the interest of its otherwise self-critical author.

The journals, in which Batyushkov's first poems were published, are easy to link to his personal contacts. His first poetic offering was the satirical "Poslanie k stikham moim" (Epistle to My Verses); in January 1805 it appeared in "Novosti russkoi literatury", supplement to the periodical of Moscow University.

In the army

In the autumn of 1806 Napoleon occupied Berlin and most of Prussia, Russia's ally; Alexander I declared a mass levy. On 13 January 1807 Batyushkov, with the civil rank corresponding to the twelfth class, was attached to General Nikolai Nikolaevich Tatishchev's staff. On 22 February he enlisted in the Petersburg battalion of the Militia as sotennyi (a junior officer), and immediately set out for the West. On 2 March he was in Narva, on the 19 March in Riga, from where he sent letters to Gnedich, containing an impromptu and another verse epistle. When taking part in the Prussian campaign, he met Ivan Aleksandrovich Petin, an officer, who was to become another close friend. Batyushkov fought at the battle of Gutstadt (22—27 May); on 29 May he was seriously wounded at the battle of Heilsberg. (A year later, on 20 May 1808, he was awarded the Order of St. Anne, 3rd class, for bravery.) After the battle he was transported to hospital and then to Riga where he was convalescing during June and July 1807.

Konstantin Batyuskov
Portrait by Orest Kiprensky (1815)

In Riga, Batyushkov was living at the house of a merchant, Müguel, with whose daughter Emilie he fell in love. This episode formed the background for two poems: "Vyzdorovleniie" (Convalescence, 1815—16?), considered by Pushkin one of Batyushkov's best elegies, and "Vospominaniia 1807 goda" (Recollections of 1807), whose popularity is also testified to by Pushkin's note in his epistle "To Batyushkov" (1814). Both works strongly influenced the Russian elegy of the 1810s and 1820s.

The idea of presenting the main works of world literature in the Russian language and making them part of Russian belles lettres is characteristic of the early nineteenth century. Batyushkov might have come to similar ideas under the influence of Gnedich who was already working on his translation of the Iliad. First and foremost in importance to the literati were heroic epopees. This is why in Batyushkov's correspondence with Gnedich, "your poet" and "my poet" are Homer and Tasso, although Batyushkov considered only two extracts from his incomplete verse translation of Torquato Tasso's Gerusalemme liberata worth publishing. In his translation Batyushkov ignored the metric and stanzaic form of the Italian original, octave, and used the "classical" alexandrine.

In July 1809, he wrote his famous "Videnie na bregakh Lety" (A Vision on the Shores of the Lethe). "Videnie..." soon became widely known and brought the author a certain notoriety. In October 1809 it was sent to Gnedich who allowed to make a copy, which rapidly multiplied. Batyushkov wrote the poem following the French satirical tradition, but its material was wholly Russian: it describes a dream in which all contemporary Russian poets have unexpectedly died and turned up in Elysium; their works are immersed in the waters of the Lethe: those found wanting sink into oblivion. The Russian writers of the eighteenth century were not the main concern of the satire. In the poem, it is not only the notorious Ivan Barkov who escapes oblivion, but also Vasily Trediakovsky who was generally despised at that time."Videnie" performs a balancing act between ridicule and obscenity, it is full of caustic allusions and offensively transformed or reinterpreted quotations. With "Videnie", Batyushkov's reputation was established; he began to regard himself as a mature and original poet, and started gathering material for a publication of his collected works.

Napoleon Invasion

On 22 April 1812 Batyushkov became an Assistant Keeper of Manuscripts at the Imperial Public Library.His colleagues included Gnedich, Krylov and Uvarov. In June he bought an apartment nearby. The quiet life ("thank God, I have wine, friends, tobacco...") was clouded only by ill-health ("I am so weak that shall not even outlive my verses").

But even now peace and calm denied Batyushkov: Napoleon invaded Russia on 12 June 1812. Batyushkov wrote to Pyotr Vyazemsky that had it not been for a fever, he would have immediately joined the army.

The scenes of destruction deeply affected him and determined his attitude to the war; he wrote to Gnedich of the French: "Barbarians! Vandals! And this nation of monsters even dares to speak of freedom, of philosophy, of philanthropy!". On 29 March Batyushkov entered military service, with the rank of junior captain. It was the events of 1812 that dictated the mood of an epistle-elegy, "K Dashkovu" (To Dashkov), a turning-point in Batyushkov's poetics and weltanschauung. The poem echoes his personal letters and expresses his feelings on seeing Moscow in ruins. The War becomes an incarnation of Evil: "Moi drug! ia videl more zla / I neba mstitel'nogo kary" (My friend! I saw a sea of evil / And wrath of the avenging heavens).

In January 1814 the Russians crossed the Rhine, entered France and moved in on the capital.The first month in Paris was an exciting time for Batyushkov. He even managed to attend a meeting of the Academy. Batyushkov's impressions were negative and he wrote on 25 April 1814 that the age of glory for French literature had passed. This letter was also a literary work; an abridged version was published by the poet's friends in 1827. In May Batyushkov fell ill, grew depressed and decided to return home. Batyushkov arrived in London in mid May and spent two weeks in England. On 25 May he was issued a passport to travel home via Sweden, and from 30 May to June was sailing from Harwich to Gothenburg. The crossing was described in a letter on 19 June 1814; Batyushkov later revised it as a traveller's sketch which was published in 1827.


Batushkov by Utkin
Batyushkov in 1815; portrait by Nikolai Utkin

In early January 1815 a crash of matrimonial hopes coupled with serious illness caused a nervous reaction. In March Batyushkov set off in search of spiritual healing. He spent the second week of Lent at a monastery in Tikhvin. It seems that Batyushkov experienced a religious conversion, evidence of which may be found in a poem of this year, "Nadezhda" (Hope). Apparently in the same year he composed a poem combining the motifs of love and fatal illness: "Posledniaia vesna" (The Last Spring), a free version of Charles-Hubert Millevoye's "La Chute des feuilles", one of the most popular elegies among Russian translators of the 1810s and 1820s. Another translation, "Mshchenie" (Vengeance) from Parny, was composed both as an addition to the earlier "Prividenie" (a "mirror image" of the same theme), and a possible sublimation of his disappointment in love, which was still eloquent in his poems.

In the first half of 1815 Batyushkov came to meet the young Aleksandr Pushkin at Tsarskoe Selo; in the eyes of later generations this meeting took on a historic or even symbolic meaning.

The verse volume of Opyty appeared in October 1817. It was divided into genre sections: "elegies" (opened by "Nadezhda" and concluded by a new version of "Mechta"); "epistles" (first, a "friendly" one, "Moi Penaty", and last, a "didactic" one to Murav'ev-Apostol); and "miscellanea" (a section with an undefined organizing principle, for some reason followed by three of Batiushkov's most recent works). Public recognition immediately followed. On 17 October 1817 Batyushkov became an honorary member of the "Military Society", on 18 November he was made an honorary librarian at the Public Library; and in April 1818 he became an honorary member of the "Free Society of the Lovers of Russian Letters".

Insanity and death

During 1820 Batyushkov's depression grew. In August he applied for leave to go to Germany, which was confirmed only in April 1821. From December 1820 to May 1821 he lived in Rome, then went to Teplitz for convalescence; in November he moved to Dresden. The first signs of approaching insanity were a series of quarrels on relatively insignificant grounds. In 1820 an editor of "Syn otechestva" journal, Aleksandr Voeikov, permitted himself an unauthorized publication of an epitaph by Batyushkov. The author overreacted: Batyushkov, infuriated, sent Gnedich a letter intended for "Syn otechestva", claiming he had abandoned his writing forever. Pletnev, a genuine admirer of Batyushkov, attempted to palliate his "guilt" by publishing a panegyrical "inscription" to Batyushkov — who took it as yet another insult. Batyushkov's mind became clouded, and in a fit of depression he destroyed his latest manuscripts.

On 18 September and 12 December 1821 Batyushkov applied for retirement. Instead, the Emperor Alexander I granted him indefinite leave. He came to St. Petersburg on 14 April 1822 and travelled to the Caucasus from May to July; in August he arrived in Simferopol, where, over the following months, symptoms of persecution mania became obvious. He burnt his books and three times attempted suicide. On 4 April 1823 he was sent to St. Petersburg, supervised by a doctor. For a whole year his relatives and friends looked after him. In April 1824 he wrote a completely mad letter to the Emperor with a request to enter a monastery. After a word with Zhukovsky, Alexander I decided to send the unfortunate writer for treatment at state expense. From 1824 to 1828 Batyushkov was at the "Maison de santé" in Sonnenstein (Saxony), from 1828 to 1833 in Moscow; and from 1833 onward he lived in Vologda. On 9 December 1833 the incurable Batyushkov was at last released from service and granted a life pension.

When ill, he wrote only a few incoherent texts. His final poem was written in Vologda on 14 May 1853; it is a quatrain which concludes as follows: "Ia prosypaius', chtob zasnut', / I spliu, chtob vechno prosypat'sia" (I only wake to fall asleep / And sleep, to awake without end).

He died on 7 July 1855 from typhus.

Notes and references

  1. ^ N. V. Fridman, Поэзия Батюшкова, Moscow, Nauka, 1971, pp. 124, 248.

External links

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The central figure in Amphion was its editor-in-chief and co-publisher (alongside with S.Smirnov and Fyodor Ivanov), the poet and literary critic Alexey Merzlyakov (who also went down in history as the young Mikhail Lermontov's personal tutor). His in-depth analysis of Kheraskov's Rossiyada (serialized in Nos. 1—3, 5—6, 8—9), which is considered to be the first work of literary criticism in Russia, had a strong formative influence on Russian literary scene of the time.The magazine proved to be short-lived, only 12 issues of it came out, but among the authors whose work appeared there for the first time were Vasily Zhukovsky, Konstantin Batyushkov, Pyotr Vyazemsky, Fyodor Kokoshkin, Denis Davydov and Wilhelm Küchelbecker.

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This article includes content derived from the Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1969–1978, which is partially in the public domain.


Batyushkov may refer to:

Konstantin Batyushkov (1787–1855), Russian poet, essayist and translator

Fyodor Batyushkov (1857–1920), Russian philologist and critic

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Golden Age of Russian Poetry is the name traditionally applied by philologists to the first half of the 19th century. It is also called the Age of Pushkin, after its most significant poet (in Nabokov's words, the greatest poet this world was blessed with since the time of Shakespeare). Mikhail Lermontov and Fyodor Tyutchev are generally regarded as two most important Romantic poets after Pushkin. Vasily Zhukovsky and Konstantin Batyushkov are the best regarded of his precursors. Pushkin himself, however, considered Evgeny Baratynsky to be the finest poet of his day.

Ivan Muravyov-Apostol

Ivan Matveyevich Muravyov-Apostol (Russian: Иван Матвеевич Муравьёв-Апостол; October 12 [O.S. October 1] 1762 – March 23 [O.S. March 12] 1851) was a Russian statesman and writer.

Ivan Muravyov-Apostol came from an old notable family. His father was military engineer Matvei Muravyov and his mother was Elena Apostol, granddaughter of a Zaporozhian hetman Danylo Apostol) (Ivan adopted the last name Muravyov-Apostol at solicitation of his cousin in 1800). Ivan Muravyov-Apostol himself was the father of three Decembrists (besides seven other children) – lieutenant colonel Matvey Muravyov-Apostol (1793-1886), lieutenant colonel Sergey Muravyov-Apostol (1796–1826), and warrant officer Ippolit Muravyov-Apostol (1806–1826).

Ivan Muravyov-Apostol was born near the town of Borovichi in Novgorod guberniya. In 1773, he was turned soldier of the Izmaylovsky Regiment. In 1776–1777, Ivan Muravyov-Apostol attended Leonhard Euler's boarding school and then was home-schooled after its closing. In October 1784, he joined the staff of Saint Petersburg Governor-General Yakov Bruce first as a legal adviser, then as an aide-de-camp (1785), and second major (1788). Also, Muravyov-Apostol served at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Purveyance Department and supervised the Schlisselburg canal as a Premier Major. In 1792, Muravyov-Apostol was introduced to the court of Catherine the Great as a tutor of Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich and Konstantin Pavlovich. He was then appointed a marshal of ceremonies. Muravyov-Apostol managed to gain the affection of Catherine the Great and even Pavel Petrovich (future emperor), which would affect his further career quite favorably. In December 1796, Ivan Muravyov-Apostol (already Grand Duke Konstantin Pavlovich’s chamberlain) was sent as a resident minister to Eutin to represent Russia at the court of Duke Peter of Holstein-Gottorp and Bishop of Lübeck. He combined this post with a similar post in Hamburg (1798) and Copenhagen (late 1799). As a diplomat, Ivan Muravyov-Apostol applied efforts to intensify the activity of the Second Coalition against France. He was a polyglot and was able to speak eight foreign languages, including a few ancient ones. In 1800, Ivan Muravyov-Apostol was recalled to Russia and promoted to privy councilor. In 1801, he was appointed vice president of the Collegium of Foreign Affairs (Ministry of Foreign Affairs). Ivan Muravyov-Apostol never supported Paul I (despite the latter’s benevolence towards him) and took part in the 1801 conspiracy against the emperor, becoming the author of one of the unrealized draft laws on legal restriction of sovereign power. In 1802, he was appointed Russia’s envoy to Spain, only to be dismissed four years later for some obscure reasons. Ivan Muravyov-Apostol was not in the service until 1824. That same year he became a member of the Governing Senate and a member of the General Board of Educational Institutions (Главное училищ правление). In the 1820s, Ivan Muravyov-Apostol’s liberal views on certain issues received much public attention and gained him prominence. For example, he made a stand for Vasili Popov, the director of the Department of Public Education, who had taken part in the translation of a mystical book by Johannes Gossner banned in Russia. Also, Ivan Muravyov-Apostol asserted the right of universities and professors to make use of books disregarding the official censorship. He stood for the teaching of philosophy at the universities, contravening the official stance of a powerful statesman, Mikhail Magnitsky, who had been overseeing the educational affairs at that time.

In 1826, the family of Ivan Muravyov-Apostol suffered through an immense tragedy. After the suppression of the Decembrist Revolt, his youngest son Ippolit Muravyov-Apostol shot himself, not wanting to surrender to the authorities. His older son Sergey Muravyov-Apostol was hanged with four other leading Decembrists. His oldest son Matvey Muravyov-Apostol was sentenced to 15 years of katorga, which would later be changed to exile in Siberia. Ivan Muravyov-Apostol left the service after the revolt and was then officially discharged in May 1826. He was registered as an "absent" senator up until 1847, all that time living mainly in Vienna and Florence. Ivan Muravyov-Apostol’s name completely disappeared from the mainstream Russian press from 1826 until the late 1850s (even though he returned to Russia in the 1840s).

Ivan Muravyov-Apostol died in Saint Petersburg in March 1851 and was interred at the Georgiyevskoye Cemetery.

Ivan Muravyov-Apostol is also known to have been a litterateur. He participated in the proceedings of a literary club called Conversations of the Admirers of the Russian Language ("Беседы любителей русского слова"). Also, Ivan Muravyov-Apostol was a member of the Free Society of the Admirers of the Russian Literature (Вольное общество любителей российской словесности). He was an active member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (since 1811) and honorary member of Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences. Ivan Muravyov-Apostol’s most significant work was a book called Journey across Taurida in 1820. It contains valuable information on archaeology, flora and fauna of the Crimea, unique features of urban, rural and monastic life of this region, and colorful depictions of oriental customs.

According to testimonies of Ivan Muravyov-Apostol’s contemporaries (such as Konstantin Batyushkov, Nikolai Grech and others), he was a man of a brilliant mind, esthete, polyglot, and bibliophile. Ivan Muravyov-Apostol ranged almost all of Europe and met many prominent people, such as Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock, Vittorio Alfieri, and George Byron. He is known to have been a tyrant to his family members, an epicurean, and a squanderer (dissipated several millions of rubles of fortune).

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List of Romantic poets

The six best-known English authors are, in order of birth and with an example of their work:

William Blake – The Marriage of Heaven and Hell

William Wordsworth – The Prelude

Samuel Taylor Coleridge – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

George Gordon, Lord Byron – Don Juan, "Childe Harold's Pilgrimage"

Percy Bysshe Shelley – Prometheus Unbound, "Adonaïs", "Ode to the West Wind", "Ozymandias"

John Keats – Great Odes, "Hyperion", "Endymion"

Notable female poets include Felicia Dorothea Hemans, Anna Laetitia Barbauld, Charlotte Turner Smith, Mary Robinson, Hannah More, and Joanna Baillie.

List of Russian-language poets

This is a list of authors who have written poetry in the Russian language.

For the plain text list, see Category:Russian poets.

See also: List of Russian-language writers, List of Russian-language novelists, List of Russian-language playwrights, List of Russian artists, List of Russian architects, List of Russian inventors, List of Russian explorers, Russian literature, Russian culture

List of romantics

List of romantics

Orest Kiprensky

Orest Adamovich Kiprensky (Russian: Орест Адамович Кипренский 24 March [O.S. 13 March] 1782-17 October [O.S. 5 October] 1836) was a leading Russian portraitist in the Age of Romanticism. His most familiar work is probably his portrait of Alexander Pushkin (1827), which prompted the poet to remark that "the mirror flatters me".

Romantic poetry

Romantic poetry is the poetry of the Romantic era, an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century. It involved a reaction against prevailing Enlightenment ideas of the 18th century, and lasted from 1800 to 1850, approximately.

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Vologda (Russian: Вологда, IPA: [ˈvoləɡdə]) is a city and the administrative, cultural, and scientific center of Vologda Oblast, Russia, located on the Vologda River within the watershed of the Northern Dvina. Population: 301,755 (2010 Census); 293,046 (2002 Census); 282,802 (1989 Census).The city serves as a major transport hub of the Northwest of Russia. The Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation has classified Vologda as an historic city, one of forty-one in Russia and one of only three in Vologda Oblast. 224 buildings in Vologda have been officially recognized as cultural heritage monuments.

Yury Neledinsky-Meletsky

Yury Aleksandrovich Neledinsky-Meletsky (Ю́рий Алекса́ндрович Неле́динский-Меле́цкий Jurij Aleksandrovič Neledinskij-Meletskij 1751-1828)

was a soldier, senator and secretary of state of the Russian Empire and a Russian poet.

His father was of the Neledinsky-Meletsky noble family (descended from a Polish nobleman of the Mielec family), his mother was a princess Kurakina. His mother died early and his father was abroad, so he grew up with his paternal grandmother in Moscow and later, at age 13, he moved to his maternal grandmother, Aleksandra Ivanovna Kurakina, in Petersburg, where he came under the influence of the European Enlightenment and became acquainted with the future tsar Paul.

In 1769, he went to the University of Strasbourg, where he studied French, Italian and German. In 1770, he entered the Russian army, participating in the siege of Bender and the Crimea campaign in the Russo-Turkish War (1768–74). His first published poem was dedicated to the generals under whom he served,

Petr Panin and Vasily Dolgoruky. In 1773, he served under Mikhail Kamensky and rose to the rank of 2nd major.

After the war, he served under Nicholas Repnin. He retired from the army in 1785 with the rank of colonel.

In 1786, he married princess Ekaterina Khovanskaya (1762-1813), with whom he had a son and two daughters, and began to dedicate himself to literature. With the accession of his childhood friend as Paul I in 1796, Neledinsky was given the rank of state councillor, but due to a court intrigue he was removed from office and two years later made senator in Moscow. In 1813, he again moved to Petersburg and became a senator there. Over the next ten years, he was under the protection of empress Maria Feodorovna and became well known as a court poet.

He retired in 1826 and moved to Kaluga, where he died two years later.

The works of Neledinsky-Meletsky were edited together with those of Anton Delvig in 1850 by A.F. Smirdin.

He is not now remembered as a great Russian author of his time; the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary calls him a "gifted amateur", judging that his works are now only of interest to literary historians, while emphasizing his popularity among his contemporaries; he was praised by Pushkin, and Konstantin Batyushkov called him "the Anacreon and Chaulieu of our time", setting him above Ippolit Bogdanovich. Among his works that remain known in modern Russia is the "folk style" poem Песня ("A Song", 1796; incipit Выду ль я на реченьку "When I go down to the river").

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