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Отрывок из неконченного собрания сатир

February 16, 2010

Я не поэт, а гражданин!

Сатиры смелый бич, заброшенный давно,
Валявшийся в пыли, я снова поднимаю:
Поэт я или нет — мне, право, всё равно,
Но язвы наших дней я сердцем понимаю.
Я сам на сердце их немало износил,
Я сам их жертвою и мучеником был.
Я взрос в сомнениях, в мятежных думах века,
И современного я знаю человека:
Как ни вертися он и как ни уходи,
Его уловкам я лукавым не поверю,
Но, обратясь в себя, их свешу и измерю
Всем тем, что в собственной творилося груди.
И, зная наизусть его места больные,
Я буду бить по ним с уверенностью злой
И нагло хохотать, когда передо мной
Драпироваться он в страдания святые,
В права проклятия, в идеи, наконец,
Скрывая гордо боль, задумает, подлец…

August 23, 1855

The epigraph is from Ryleev.  Perhaps the death of Nikolai I a few months before Grigor’ev’s poem brought the Decembrist poet to mind.  Ryleev’s “Войнаровский,” the dedication of which is the source of the Poet/Citizen line, was published in full in 1825, the year of the previous reign change (and the failed uprising).  And the Poet/Citizen theme was, of course, not only on Grigor’ev’s mind, as Nekrasov’s “Поэт и гражданин” would be published as the programmatic opening poem of his 1856 Стихотворения.

The turning point in the poem, it seems to me, is the “satirist’s” definition of his target as современный человек.  There is a sort of escalation throughout.  In the first quatrain the poet seems to be taking the title, epigraph, and satirist’s mission seriously; “Поэт я или нет — мне, право, всё равно” is a bit stronger and cruder than Ryleev’s gently self-deprecating “Как Аполлонов строгий сын/ Ты не увидишь в них искусства” (where в них means в моих трудах in the dedication to Bestuzhev), but the sense is much the same.  By the time we get to “И, зная наизусть его места больные,/ Я буду бить по ним с уверенностью злой/ И нагло хохотать” it is clear that the first-person satirist is himself the object of criticism.  But it isn’t a sudden shift.  The lines “Как ни вертися он и как не уходи,/ Его уловкам я лукавым не поверю” are already full of sympathy for modern man rather than the poetic “I,” but this is because он here is современный человек and not, say, ребята подлецы.  Of course, since the poet says he can understand the failings of modern man through his own experience, flaws, and emotions, his cruelty as a satirist is turned inward as well as outward (a gesture which is perhaps repeated through his implicit attack on himself for his satirical cruelty toward others).

The final image with драпироваться and скрывая, where suffering, rights, ideas are no more than an attempt by “modern man” to cover himself, to hide his pain and weakness, is quite interesting and new to me.  It means more or less the same as уловки earlier, but that first metaphor seemed a conventional (if effective) one: the target squirms away from the satirist’s whip.  In the covering-up metaphor, are there shades of the Garden of Eden?  (Or of a painter’s model?  Where else do we get драпироваться?)

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 16, 2010 7:36 am

    not to criticize, but who exactly is this targeted at?
    the English-speakers won’t be able to read the Russian and the Russian-speakers – the English. still, an interesting entry. 😉

    • 19thcenturyrussianpoetry permalink*
      February 16, 2010 11:25 am

      You’re right, of course. Mainly I’m doing this for myself – to give myself a reason to read or reread a poem every day or two. Beyond that, there’s a small group of Anglophone students and teachers of Russian language and literature who could conceivably be interested. Once in a while I plan to post on existing English translations of Russian poems, but I don’t expect to translate anything for this blog.

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