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Gasparov 54 (T4, folk songs)

March 12, 2010

The third category of trochaic tetrameter poems that Gasparov discusses is the folk-song-like poem.  It had functioned as a separate genre in eighteenth-century poetry, and many short poems in the meter preserved “folk” associations in the early nineteenth century.

However, the big change in the nineteenth century was the use of the meter in long forms.  This happened in two phases.  Many narrative poems were written in trochaic tetrameter with unrhymed dactylic line-endings, in imitation of Russian folk poetry.  (Gasparov slips out of his descriptive neutrality and calls this particular variant of the meter “rather easy” and “monotonous,” quite probably out of experience writing such lines and more experience than he would like reading them.)  This first phase centered around Karamzin and his followers.

The later phase came after 1831 with the verse fairy tales of Pushkin and Zhukovskii.

These сказки didn’t emerge only out of Russian folk poetry or eighteenth-century Russian poetic emulations of folk songs.  They also owed much to the German and Spanish tradition of trochaic ballads. In fact, this meter was associated with the ballad tradition, with classical antiquity, and with exotic, primarily Oriental, settings.  If I understand Gasparov’s point correctly, the use of trochaic tetrameter for ballads and poems on classical themes caused the meter to be associated with a kind of “other” – another social group or another era or another nation – and this meant it was natural to extend its use to new Others, particularly for “Eastern” poems.


«Еще тройка» («Тройка мчится, тройка скачет…», 1834)


«Киев» (1839)

F. Glinka

«Москва» (1840)


«Два великана» (1832)


«Илья Муромец» (1794)

«Граф Гваринос» (1789, subtitled «Древняя гишпанская историческая песня»)


«Сказка о царе Салтане» (1831)
«На Испанию родную…» (1835; sometimes with the title «Родрик»)
«Прозерпина» (1824)
«Делибаш» (1829)

«Подражание арабскому» (1835)


«Спящая царевна» (1831)
«Кассандра» (1809)
«Ахилл» (1814)

«Сид» part 1 part 2 (1831-32)


«Сид» (1822)


«Див и Пери» (1827)

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