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Batiushkov: satirist, admirer of Radishchev

August 25, 2010

Is there a name for this trope?

The deliberate use of awkward, “poetic” syntax to establish a light and ironic tone.

Но в тот день, из Москвы как в путь он собирался
Кипя досадою и с гневом на глазах,
Бледнее, чем Глупон который проигрался,
Свой гнев истощевал почти что в сих словах […]

Here is the text of Batiushkov’s Перевод 1-ой сатиры Боало (1804-05). Fridman (p. 72), citing Orlov, says Batiushkov used this poem “as an ‘introductory work’ to be accepted into the Free Society [of Admirers of Literature, Sciences, and Arts],” the group of poety-radishchevtsy.

Given that audience, it’s interesting that the poet has a framing device in lines 1-12 distancing himself from the poet-satirist Damon, whose speech takes up lines 13-119. (I haven’t compared this poem to the Boileau poem it is said to be a free translation of, but the choice to include the

Nicolas Boileau-Despréaux

Nicolas Boileau

framing device is important whether it replicates Boileau or not.) At first glance, I get the impression the poet wants to distance himself not from what Damon says (commonplaces about how satire cannot actually change others’ minds, how it is unprofitable for the poet compared to other genres, and attacks on types who exhibit particular vices and have appropriate names), but rather from the tone of “honest” indignation. Damon already has little faith in satire (“Кого переменю моими я словами?”), but the poet adopts a pose of being less naïve than Damon, who is already less naïve than a satirist who thought he could change people. The fact the poem is a translation adds another layer separating Batiushkov from Damon.

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