Napoleon and Alexander I in Pushkin's Pre-exile Poetry.
The pre-exile poems are significant not only because of the light they throw on Napoleon and Alexander--and their relationship--but because they are important for understanding the image of Napoleon in Pushkin's later works, a task that has been undertaken before but needs to be revisited in light of these earlier poems.
Keywords: Pushkin, Napoleon, Alexander I, Russian poetry, War of 1812
Napoleon and Alexander I in Pushkin's Pre-exile Poetry
Napoleon appears in Pushkin's work from the very beginning, playing a significant role in several poems Pushkin wrote during his years at the Imperial Lycee, where he studied for six years, graduating in 1817. The negative image of Napoleon in these poems--and in "Freedom" ("Vol'nost'," 1817), (1) the poem that Pushkin wrote in Petersburg soon after graduation from the lycee--reflects the predominant Russian attitude toward Napoleon in Russian poetry, prose, and journalism in the first few years after the Napoleonic Wars. Most commentators, therefore, have seen the image of Napoleon in these early poems of Pushkin as borrowed, unoriginal, and imitative, to be understood primarily as a point of reference for studying the changes that would take place in Pushkin's view of Napoleon after the emperor's death in 1821. (2) "It is not important that in this respect Pushkin showed so little originality, what is important is where he goes from here." (3) But this view gives short shrift to these poems, (4) overlooking the different function of Napoleon in each of these poems, the internal and external reasons for these differences, and, perhaps most important, the changing relationship between Napoleon and Alexander delineated in these works, culminating in the surprising comparison in the ode "Freedom" of Alexander to Napoleon as a regicide. I hope to show that the less than enthusiastic eulogy of Alexander--as well as the relatively restrained condemnation of Napoleon--in the first of these poems, "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo" ("Vospominaniia v Tsarskom Sele," 1814), led Pushkin, in later poems, to compensate by creating more derogatory images of Napoleon and eulogistic images of Alexander, especially in poems commissioned for occasions celebrating Alexander and other heroes of the war. When in "Freedom" Pushkin was under no external constraints, and writing for no occasion, he took a very different direction, using Napoleon not to enhance Alexander as the victor over the French emperor and the liberator of Europe, as in the previous poems, but to post a warning to Alexander about his future actions: not to follow in the steps of villainous tyrants such as his father, Paul I, and Napoleon.
From the beginning Pushkin showed a profound interest in the political in a historical context. If the early poems about Napoleon reflect the young Pushkin's problematic relationship with Alexander, especially his growing disillusionment, they also show him beginning to reflect more on the deleterious consequences of absolute rule, with respect to both Alexander and Napoleon, for the rule of law and the existence of freedom (vol'nost'). The victories of Napoleon not only devastated a large swath of Russian territory, including the poet's native Moscow, but, in his view, they led to the subjugation of many of the peoples of Europe. After Napoleon's death in 1821, Pushkin began to see a different side of Napoleon, weighing the possibility that he was also a great man--or had the potential to have been one. But it is also clear that despite having become more ambivalent about Napoleon after 1821, Pushkin retained for a long time the view of Napoleon as a tyrant and destroyer so salient in these pre-exile poems.
The Image of Napoleon, 1812-18
The image of Napoleon in Russian poetry between 1812-15 was invariably uniform, with little or no difference between poets and poetasters. The same uniformity of image is found in the period's journalism. (5) The horrors and devastation of the Napoleonic invasion forged a unity in Russian society that, among other things, was reflected in the printed word. Napoleon is consistently presented as the personification of moral, social, and political evil. He is called "brigand" (razboinik), "blood-thirsty beast" (krovozhadnyi zver "), "a freak of nature" (strashilishche prirody), "murder-lusting villain" (ubiistva zhazhdushchii zlodei), "monster" (izverg, chudovishche), "murderer" (ubiitsa), "despot" (despot), "tyrant" (tiran), "horror " (uzhas), "destroyer" (gubitel"usurper" (uzurpator), "not a man but a tiger" (tigr ne chelovek)--and among the more religious, apocalyptical, and mystical, the Antichrist and the "beast" (zver'). Russian poetry exhausted its battery of deprecatory epithets to brand "the rabid enemy" (liutyi vrag).
But the moral denunciation of Napoleon to some was an insufficient explanation for so many years of military successes. Although Napoleon was admired by some Russians even during the Napoleonic Wars (Prince Andrei Bolkonsky and Pierre Bezukhov in War and Peace both were admirers, at least in 1805), many patriotic Russians could not concede that Napoleon was a genius or a great general. (6) His success could best be explained, in their view, by sheer luck, by a fortunate concatenation of circumstances. He was "a son of fortune" (syn schast'ia). Others sought explanations in the agency of higher powers, some concluding that Napoleon played the role of "a scourge of the universe" (uselennoi bich) sent to punish mankind for its sins, or alternatively that he may have been used by the Deity for reasons yet inscrutable. (7)
Although we see Pushkin employing some of the same negative epithets in reference to Napoleon in his poetry--in particular the five poems written from 1814-17--we should be wary about accepting the implications of almost all critics that the image of Napoleon in these poems is mechanically and uncritically incorporated. (8) In fact, as we shall see, in each of the poems different aspects of the received stereotype of Napoleon are employed to fit the different functions that Napoleon performs, especially in relation to Alexander. In the first of the poems, "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo," Napoleon is more the "son of Fortune" and "the scourge of the universe"; in the last, "Freedom," he is more the usurper and tyrant.
"Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo": The Original Version
The first of the poems, "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo," is ostensibly a celebratory poem dedicated to Alexander I, founder of the lycee at Tsarskoe Selo and the victor in the recent war over Napoleon. Only cursory attention has been paid to the content and narrative of the first of these "Napoleon" poems, actually the first of all of Pushkin's published work. The poem has generally been considered a youthful and derivative endeavor both with regard to its style and portrayal of Napoleon. Those who have focused on the poem's style have pointed out the ways in which Pushkin borrows imagery from his predecessors--Derzhavin, Zhukovsky, and Baratynsky--although Tomashevsky could find no instance in Russian poetry using the exact stanza form of Pushkin's poem. (9) Those who have commented on the image of Napoleon in the poem have focused on the borrowed epithets and phrases concerning Napoleon but have not studied the image of Napoleon in the narrative context of the poem itself. (10)
The poem in its original form was written in October 1814 for the exams that marked the transition from the first course of study at the lycee (the first three years) to the last course (the final three years). Pushkin was a member of the first class. The poem was delivered on 8 January 1815 in the presence of many invited guests of considerable prominence, including the greatest poet of his time, the seventy-year-old Derzhavin. And why should the poem not have been celebratory? Ever since Napoleon's invasion of Russia, students and faculty had closely followed and discussed daily every stage of the Napoleonic Wars and the Russian counteroffensive. (11) They could not have been more proud of the tsar's victory over Napoleon. Further, 1814 signified more than just a Russian victory: Alexander had become an international celebrity. Pushkin had certainly read or heard several versions of Alexander's magnificent entry into Paris and the stir that his presence had caused. Citing primarily the memoirs of Armand de Caulaincourt, Alan Palmer recounts the impression the tsar made as he proceeded into the French capital:
At eleven o'clock that same morning [31 March 1814], the first Russian cavalry reached the barrier of Pantin, on the eastern outskirts of Paris. They were followed by the Tsar's personal Guard in full parade uniform, and then by Alexander himself, riding slowly down the cobbled streets with Frederick William beside him and Constantine and other dignitaries immediately behind them. Nobody appears to have noticed anyone in the procession apart from the Tsar, and this is hardly surprising. With the bright spring sunshine flashing on his golden epaulettes and collar, he looked the incarnation of one of the Gods in a classical myth. A smile of contentment was carved on his face as he acknowledged cheers by raising his right arm to his great green hat with its plume of cock feathers caught by the breeze. "Long live the Allies! Hurrah for Peace! Hurrah for Tsar Alexander!" the onlookers called as the procession went by. No foreign conqueror had ridden into Paris for four hundred years. This was Alexander's hour of apotheosis, and he had every intention of savoring the experience to the full. (12)
Alexander was perceived initially not only as the primary victor over Napoleon, but as a great and liberal peace-maker. He played a leading role, especially throughout 1814, of in creating the treaty that determined the future of the defeated France. Hating Napoleon, not France, he wished to treat France more generously than most of the members of the alliance. He also seemed more modest than his fellow monarchs. When Alexander returned to Petersburg on 24 July 1814, where he would spend seven weeks before returning to Vienna, he thought it unseemly to have a ceremonial welcome. (13)
However, when we consider the "Recollections" in the political context in which Pushkin composed his tribute to the great military hero, peacemaker, and international star, we are a little taken aback. There is actually little of Alexander in the poem, especially in the original version, and the praise is scarce. Nor is there a great deal about his nemesis, Napoleon. Neither figure seems to be of much interest to the young poet. It appears that Pushkin was not enthusiastic about providing this poem in the first place. In 1835 Pushkin wrote that he was forced to write the poem. One of the teachers, A. I. Galich, "made me [zastavil menia] write my 'Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo' for the 1814 exam." (14) Additionally, it was understood that all such poems were to be carefully examined beforehand by the administration. (15) It seems that for Pushkin what was most important about the poem was not the writing but the anticipation of the presence of Derzhavin at the ceremony and the actual reciting of the poem in Derzhavin's presence. Pushkin would later recount how excited he was to read his work before Derzhavin, especially since in the poem he had mentioned Derzhavin as the poet celebrating the most glorious age in Russia's past, the reign of Catherine the Great, the subject of one of the poem's most important sections. (16)
But there is little of either Alexander or Napoleon in the first version of the poem, and what little there is diminishes both of them. This diminution is not overt; it works primarily by omission and disparaging comparisons, but it is unmistakably present. The first third of the poem is devoted to a celebration of Russia's glorious past under the rule of Catherine the Great, Alexander's grandmother, the Russian Minerva, a goddess of wisdom, but more importantly here, also a war goddess and patron of heroes. Catherine ruled over a golden age, in which Russia was crowned with glory and flourished in protected quiet and peace. Her generals were giants, their deeds immortal, their fame assured, their weapons Zeus-like. All one need do is look up at all the monuments in the park erected to commemorate the magnificent Russian victories and military leaders of the past. Their deeds were passed down not only in columns and obelisks but in the songs of the eminent poets, especially Derzhavin and Petrov. (17)
[phrase omitted]. O, fearsome age of martial quarrels / Witness to Russian glory / You saw, how Orlov, Rumiantsev, and Suvorov, / The redoubtable descendants of Slavs / Snatched victory with the lightning bolt of Zeus / And the world was both astonished and terrified by their bold exploits. / Derzhavin and Petrov commemorated those heroes in their songs / With the resounding strings of their lyres. (49-56)
The peace that Catherine and her generals secured is reflected in a park at Tsarskoe Selo where all in nature is at rest under the protective cover of the dozing heavens, through which floats the moon like a magnificent swan. All is lush and in flower, creating a magnificent harmony. It seems to the poet that it was in a place just such as this that the earthly gods spent their peaceful days. This Northern Elysium is in effect a temple dedicated to Catherine.
The poem presents the past as a rebuke in almost all respects to the present, except for the Russian common soldier. Under Catherine, Russia experienced a golden age of peace and glory. The heroes of the past are likened to classical gods; they are singled out by name. They attained glory for Russia while keeping her safe from her enemies. Alexander and his Russian generals retreated before Napoleon's onslaught and left Moscow, and other Russian cities, to a terrible fate. There were no immortal leaders, no Russian Minervas, no great generals guiding the Russian forces. Kutuzov is mentioned as a greying warrior unable to stop the carnage at Borodino or to prevent the French from occupying the Kremlin (97-104). "It was hard for Alexander to maintain his personal popularity in the face of the retreat." (18) The tsar's sister Catherine wrote him: 'You are accused loudly of the misfortunes of your Empire, of its ruin in general and in particular, and finally of having lost the honour of your country and of your person." (19) The poem focuses not on the victory over Napoleon but the terrible destruction inflicted by the French armies and the inability of the Russian leaders--that is Alexander and his generals--to prevent it. The Russian common soldiers fought bravely, like bogatyrs, but not before Russian lands were ravaged and most of Moscow was burnt to the ground.
The devastation of Moscow is central to the vision of the poem. The poet likens Moscow when he was a child to the idyll of Tsarskoe Selo. It was there he spent his golden carefree hours, but now Moscow is soaked in blood and consumed by fire. Far away from Moscow, at Tsarskoe Selo, the narrator was unable to sacrifice his life avenging her. All he could do was burn with helpless indignation. The magnificent buildings, monuments, and idyllic park at Tsarskoe Selo are little consolation now, for all the groves, gardens, parks, myrtle, and lindens in the Moscow of the poet's youth are no more than embers, ash, and dust. It does not seem to matter much that the tide has turned, Napoleon has been driven out of Russia, and that Alexander is triumphant in Paris, because while Alexander is getting a hero's welcome in Paris, which is untouched by the war, Moscow is still despondent, wrapped in midnight darkness (v unynii, kak step' v polnoshchnoi mgle, 150). Its embers, ashes, and dust are still burned into everyone's consciousness. After the fire, the Pushkins decided not to return to Moscow but to relocate to St. Petersburg. (20) Pushkin's uncle, one of the last to leave, lost his "house, his library and all his possessions ... and arrived in Nizhny Novgorod with no money and only the clothes he stood up in." (21) Alexander is mentioned only once in the entire poem, in the very last paragraph. Though the average Russian soldier fought valiantly, it was fate in the end that led to the defeat of Napoleon. Fortune and the war god Bellona turn on their favorite, Napoleon, who vanishes like a terrible dream. The Russian winter, the snow, and cold play a greater role than Alexander.
Throughout the poem, the narrator draws a salient dichotomy between a heroic past and a diminished present. Whereas Catherine, the grandmother, presides over an era characterized by magnificent victories and an idyllic peace, her grandson, Alexander, has achieved a sullied victory over Napoleon, which occurred only because of the help of the gods and the elements, and which left the country in ruins, with her mother city, Moscow, burnt to the ground. This is more than an unflattering portrait of Alexander. It shows a weak tsar, an autocrat who was virtually powerless in the defense of Russian lands at the beginning of the war. There is no mention in the poem of Alexander's victorious entry into Paris.
The poem's Napoleon offers surprises as well. We expect an unflattering portrait of the French Emperor, which was the standard of the time, but Napoleon does not appear to be as nefarious as he is customarily depicted, nor is he presented as a terrible, masterful power commensurate with the destruction wrought by his armies. In the end, he commands events no more than Alexander. Neither Alexander nor Napoleon are equals to Catherine the Great and her brilliant generals. As we shall see, this view of Napoleon will change significantly in the other pre-exile poems, including the revisions of "Reminiscences in Tsarskoe Selo," in which Pushkin diminishes Napoleon and extols Alexander.
Napoleon is actually alluded to more than Alexander, but he, too, is not the focus of the poem. We learn that his inordinate pride is the source of his unlawful behavior and his territorial aggression. The bloody battlefields at Borodino are insufficient to contain his prideful ambitions ("O borodinskie krovavye polia! Ne vy neistovstvu i gordosti predely!," 112). In most of the poetry of the time, Napoleon is invariably vilified as an illegitimate ruler, a usurper. He has attained power by treachery (kovarstvom). He scorns faith, law, and the voice of truth ("Prezrevshii pravdy glas, i veru, i zakon," 142).
Pushkin, however, eschews the notion that Napoleon is the personification of evil, the devil incarnate, the Antichrist. He is not portrayed as a bloodthirsty monster or an abomination of nature. Moreover, just like Alexander, who is not mentioned in the numerous descriptions of Russian bravery and sacrifice for the motherland, Napoleon is dissociated from the fighting; he is not mentioned in the many descriptions of the destruction caused by the French armies. Both the French and the Russians are primarily referred to in the plural or as collectives. The enemies of Russia sweep through the Russian fields; they destroy everything, reducing everything to dust. When they retreat, they dare not look back. In the darkness of night they find starvation and death. Even when Russia is finally able to look upon the destruction of the invader (na gibel'prishletsa, 131), the reference is not to Napoleon per se, but to the collective of French troops. The avenging right hand of the Creator now weighs heavily on the arrogant necks of the invaders (na ikh nadmenny vyi, 132), not specifically on Napoleon.
If Napoleon is not the personification of evil, neither is he a "great man" in any sense of the word. He is not even an evil genius. As we have seen, Napoleon is dissociated from the French troops that secure the victories and cause the devastation from which Russia is still suffering. In order not to give Napoleon any credit for his "accomplishments," Russian writers, as we have seen, attempted to write off his victories as good fortune, luck, or the work of higher powers. Pushkin seems to follow this line of reasoning, calling Napoleon "the scourge of the universe" (vselennoi bich) and "the son of fortune" (syn schast'ia). If Napoleon were not Fortune's fickle favorite or a tool of the deity, how does one explain the great Russian victories of the past against the devastation of the present? How does one explain the French in the towers of the Kremlin, and then, soon after, Moscow in dust and embers and as flat as the Russian steppe? The use of fortune, however, is a double-edged sword. Napoleon's retreat and the Russian victory are similarly explained as abandonment by the war god and Fortune, an explanation that deprives the Russians of some of the credit for their ultimate victory. Both Napoleon and Alexander are deprived of heroic, not to speak of godlike, status.
It may be inappropriate to speak of a fifteen-year-old Pushkin's view of history, (22) but there is kind of "historical consciousness" operating here, making judgments about the most important historical figures of the era, judgments which in some ways are quite different from that of the published poets and journalists of the time. (23) The idealization of the past is not naive, but has a definite purpose: to provide a commentary on the historical present. The minimal lip service paid to Alexander's role in the war against Napoleon is astonishing, but equally noteworthy is Pushkin's portrait of Napoleon, who is presented as neither a great man, nor the personification of evil, but rather a plaything of fate. Nor is it clear, however strange this may sound, which leader is more responsible for the destruction suffered during the War of 1812, the Emperor who led the invasion or the Emperor who abandoned his cities and left them to burn.
"Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo," The First Revised Version
It is difficult, in the end, to say why the young poet diminished the role of Alexander and Napoleon and focused on the average soldiers of both armies, or why he emphasized the heroic aspects of Russia's military past during the reign of Catherine and did not present the War of 1812 in the same heroic terms. But whatever the reasons for his diminution of Alexander and his less than expected excoriation of the nefarious Napoleon, it seems likely that Pushkin soon understood, or was made to understand, that he had not done what was expected of him. This is evident in the different treatment of Napoleon and Alexander in the next lycee poems in which Napoleon and Alexander figure prominently. It is also clear from changes that Pushkin made in "Reminiscences in Tsarskoe Selo." When Pushkin realized that Derzhavin, as well as other prominent figures, were going to be present at the examination at which he was going to read his poem, he decided in December of 1814 to add two stanzas to the end: the last stanza included a tribute to Zhukovsky and Derzhavin (as a war bard, brannyi pevets, 160); the next-to-last stanza included an out-and-out paean to Alexander. Since Pushkin deleted this stanza when he revised the poem in 1819, the stanza is omitted from most editions of the poem. It was, however, the December 1814 revision of the poem that was circulated, published (1815), and known. In 1825 Pushkin tried to publish the poem with a second set of revisions dating from 1819--in which the additions of December 1814 were deleted--but this version did not get past the censor. The poem was never published with the 1819 revisions during Pushkin's lifetime.
In the fulsome stanza of praise of Alexander of the December 1814 version, Pushkin is making the necessary amends.
[phrase omitted]. Worthy grandson of Catherine, / why is my soul not as inspired by the heavenly muses / as the poet of our time, the bard of Slavic warriors? / Oh, If Apollo had now injected into my breast / the wondrous gift of poets, then enthralled by you / my lyre would ring out in heavenly harmony / and I would shine brightly in the darkness of time. (161-69)
Alexander, the grandson of Catherine, is now tied specifically to the heroic age of the last century glorified in the poem. The poet would now like to be associated with Alexander in the same way that Derzhavin was associated with Catherine; he wants to be a martial poet and gain glory through his songs of praise. Alexander, as grandson of Catherine, is thereby associated with Minerva, the goddess of war, beneficent to heroes, whereas Napoleon is the son of Fortune and the belligerent Roman war god, Bellona. Pushkin alludes to a famous, lengthy ode by Zhukovsky, "The Singer in the Camp of Russian Warriors" ("Pevets vo stane russkikh voinov," 1812), in which Alexander is repeatedly praised and celebrated. Thus, Pushkin follows in Derzhavin's path by glorifying the past, and then follows in Zhukovsky's path by glorifying the present, using much of the latter's phraseology. Like Zhukovsky, he writes of the important function of poetry in inspiring heroes to great deeds in the recent past. Thus, in the last stanzas he attempts to become a celebratory poet, like his predecessors. (24)
Zhukovsky was finishing his poem at the beginning of October 1812 (NS), when the French had just started pulling out of Moscow. Pushkin had the benefit, two years later, of knowing of the victory of Russian forces and the tsar's magnificent entry into Paris. Yet there is still much less in Pushkin's poem of the heroism of Russian forces, and, of course, very little mention of Tsar Alexander, despite Pushkin's familiarity with Zhukovsky's poem and, in spots, his borrowing from it significantly. (25) Pushkin's later insertion of the lines acknowledging the tsar's role in the Russian victory seems forced and tacked on. Nor is Zhukovsky the issue here. The praise of Alexander in Zhukovsky's poems is representative of the vast majority of poems in praise of Alexander prompted by the tsar's military and political successes in Europe. (26) Pushkin's poem is the anomaly. And it was not an oversight. The style, vocabulary, and phraseology of "Reminiscences," including direct references to other writers and their poems, indicate that Pushkin knew the eulogistic poetry written about the war and Alexander's role in it. One can imagine even Pushkin's friends and supporters--many who read the poem in its original form and expressed their amazement at its brilliance--confronting the young poet not about what he had included in the poem about Napoleon and Alexander, but what he had left out. (27)
One way of looking at the December revision of "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo" is to view Pushkin trying to do damage control regarding a poem that he did not want to write in the first place and now had to change for institutional and political reasons. (28) And it seems that the young poet learned his lesson, at least with respect to the other lycee poems in which Napoleon and Alexander appear: "Napoleon on Elba" ("Napoleon na Elbe," 1815), "On the Return of His Majesty, the Emperor, from Paris in 1815" ("Na vozvrashchenie gosudaria imperatora iz Parizha v 1815 godu," 1815), and "To the Prince of Orange" ("Printsu Oranskomu," 1816). "On the Return of His Majesty" is brimming with fulsome praise of Alexander. "Napoleon on Elba" and "To the Prince of Orange" present Napoleon in a much more negative light. In other words, Pushkin needed not only to write much more positively about Alexander's role in defending Russia, defeating Napoleon, and establishing a universal peace, but also needed to write more critically of Alexander's rival, Napoleon. Because of their more explicit ideological and moral position, these poems suffer in quality in comparison to the "Reflections," especially the original version, in which Alexander is hardly mentioned and Napoleon mentioned primarily as an explanation for the carnage of 1812.
"Napoleon on Elba"
In "Napoleon on Elba" Pushkin portrays a much more nefarious Napoleon, a lover of destruction for its own sake, but also a Napoleon who exercises an unmistakable fascination for the poet, something more characteristic of some of Pushkin's post-exile poems about Napoleon. We do not know when exactly "Napoleon on Elba" was written. Most assume it was composed in April or May of 1815 during the "100 days": that is the period between the time Napoleon entered Paris on 20 March 1815, after his escape from exile on Elba, and 8 July 1815, the return of Louis XVIII, the new French king, to Paris. Taking into consideration the discrepancy between old and new style dates, and the approximately two-week period required for news to travel from western Europe to St. Petersburg, we can surmise that Pushkin began writing "Napoleon on Elba" at least two months after the news about Napoleon's escape from Elba arrived in Petersburg. The return of Napoleon was a frequent subject of discussion in the Russian press and it was undoubtedly a focus of interest for the teachers and students at the lycee, who had closely followed and passionately discussed the Napoleonic Wars ever since the invasion of Russia in 1812. (29) Given the supernatural interpretation that commentators attached to Napoleon's career and his invasion of Russia, many believed that Napoleon could threaten Europe again. If Napoleon was indeed as Pushkin portrayed him in "Recollections"--a child of chance and a divine scourge--fickle fortune could have chosen to favor him once more, or he could have taken up again his role as the scourge of the universe. It was time for the young poet to take a harsher line with Napoleon, to redeem himself, as it were, regarding his comparatively tame deprecation of Napoleon in "Recollections." Now he was also dealing with a clear and present danger, not with a seemingly declawed exiled monarch.
The poem portrays Napoleon on the island bemoaning his fate, fantasizing about his escape and the resumption of his career of destruction. It is a fantasy that the reader knows has been realized. When Napoleon was at Elba, after having been decisively defeated by the coalition forces, the main concern of Europeans was not the fear of Napoleon's imminent return, but the future borders, government, and rulers of France--and for Alexander, the fate of Poland. Some might have thought that it was possible for Napoleon to escape, but not that he could march all the way to Paris with about 1100 men and depose a king who commanded a large army, supported by the major European powers.
The first twelve lines (the introduction) and the last fourteen lines (the conclusion) of the poem are told from the point of view of the narrator. The middle section, sixty-seven lines, Napoleon's monologue, is ostensibly from the point of view of the deposed emperor, but bears the imprint of the narrator's decidedly negative views of Napoleon's personality and ambitions. Far more than in "Recollections," in "Napoleon on Elba," the portrait of Napoleon replicates the deprecatory rhetoric of Pushkin's contemporaries, including, this time, the language of Zhukovsky's poem "To Alexander" ("Aleksandru") of 1814. The function of the introduction and conclusion is to associate Napoleon with the dark forces of nature. The middle section, the monologue, focuses on the emperor's malevolent motives and destructive energy; it also explores Napoleon's embrace of the idea that his career was determined by fate and divine intervention.
Throughout "Napoleon on Elba," all the imagery is employed to associate Napoleon with an ominous darkness. In "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo," the dark night in the grounds of the park represented peace, rest, and security won by the heroic deeds of the great men of the past. Here the darkness of the night is a reflection of the soul and mind of the destroyer (gubitel', 9), Napoleon. All the light around Napoleon is dying or obscured. The twilight over the gulf is fading (Vecherniaia zaria v puchine dogorala, 1). The storm clouds are pale (blednye, 3), the moon is covered in mist. In the end, the heavens grow darker, the day expires, darkness blocks out the setting sun. A storm hangs in the mist about to threaten Europe again. It seems that Napoleon is the storm, the gulf, the grey waves, the menacing cliffs, the darkening heavens, the darkness itself (t'ma, 7). He sits alone in the darkness of night (v t'me nochnoi, 135) and thinks dark thoughts (mrachny dumy, 9). (30)
Pushkin also portrays Napoleon as morally bankrupt. His main motivation is revenge, against Europe, to be sure (Europa! mshchen'e, mshchen'e!, 76), but especially against Alexander (Polnoshchi tsar' mladoi, 55), by whom he has been humiliated. He wants nothing less than to grind Alexander and the other European monarchs into the dust. When he is emperor again, his glory will come about from vengefully rising upon the graves of those he has destroyed.
Even more than Napoleon's darkness and turpitude, the poem focuses on Napoleon as the embodiment of a terrible destructive energy. Napoleon is wasting away from the quiet, the deadly sleep, of his island; he needs noise and action. He craves grom--the storm, the clatter of swords (stuk blestaiushchikh mechei, 65) the explosion of shells, yes, even the terrible groaning of the wounded (padshikh iaroe stenan'e, 66). It is not surprising that a great general would crave the sounds and activity of battle; however, Napoleon is attracted not only to military adventures, but to destruction for its own sake. He looks forward to returning to Europe as a destructive storm (pogibel'naia groza, 27). As a destructive force, Napoleon eerily foreshadows the descriptions of the Neva in The Bronze Horseman. The adjectives used to describe Napoleon's darkness, power, and destructiveness are transferred to the river. This is not so strange given that the story of the Neva in part replicates Napoleon's own. The people look on the destructiveness of the flood as divine retribution, as scourge of the universe: "Narod zrit bozhii gnev i kazni zhdet" (The people gaze upon the divine wrath and await their punishment; PSS, 4: 387). After the Neva unleashes its destructive power against Petersburg, the storm abates, the sun comes out, and life for most seems to return to normal because the river seems once again safely confined to its banks. We know, however, that the Neva will again escape its man-made constraints. Napoleon wreaked devastation throughout Europe, culminating in the destruction of Moscow. He is defeated and confined to the rock. Peace on earth and joy in heaven is established (i mir zemle, i radost' nebesam, 57). But he escapes his confinement on Elba and seems, like the Neva, bound to retake his previous path of destruction.
In addition to this even more derogatory portrait of Napoleon in "Napoleon on Elba," there emerges a more flattering image of Alexander than in "Reminiscences," made more striking by coming from the mouth of Napoleon himself. Napoleon associates Alexander with divine revenge (mesti grom, 53) and singles him out as the force impelling the troops that brought about his fall (gibel', 55). Referring to Alexander as young (mladoi), Napoleon seems to acknowledge his own declining powers and the rise of a new star. Napoleon's expression of "tsar of the north" (polnoshchi tsar', 54) contains another acknowledgment of the tsar's power--given the other meaning of polnoshch' (midnight)--since Napoleon associates himself with darkness and the night (Volnuisia, noch', nad el'bskimi skalami! / Mrachnee tmis' za tuchami, luna!, 22-23). Thus, in "Napoleon on Elba," Pushkin is able to achieve a dual goal by providing a further diminution of Napoleon and an enhancement of Alexander, especially in comparison with their images in the original version of "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo."
This view of Napoleon and Alexander can be understood as a compensatory exercise in relation to "Recollections," but one must take into consideration the political and historical context as well. The disillusionment of liberal Russians with Alexander, which would eventually have an effect on the young poet, had not yet taken place in early 1815--nor was there a shift back in sympathies toward Napoleon. The final defeat of Napoleon did not occur until July of 1815, and not until August did Napoleon set sail for St. Helena, from which escape was virtually impossible. Pushkin was writing "Napoleon on Elba" when Napoleon was still a grave threat to Europe. What is most surprising, and perhaps even against the young poet's intention, is that despite the depiction of Napoleon as almost a gothic villain--a villain with few extenuating justifications for his actions--Napoleon emerges as a monumental figure, a bad great man, but a great man nevertheless, who has played a remarkable role in shaping history and who was reprising this role after his escape from Elba and the flight of the lawful kings of Europe from Paris in terror (Pobegli s trepetom zakonnye tsari, 87). Identifying Napoleon with inimical, dark, powerful, and destructive natural forces hardly diminishes his stature. Rather, it makes him an objection of fascination. The power of his mind, his ambition, and his self-confidence only add to this impression. (31)
As we have seen, many writers presented Fortune and divine justice as determining Napoleon's destiny and the course of European history. In "Napoleon on Elba," Pushkin shows Napoleon self-servingly adopting this view of his many successes and eventual defeat. Napoleon does not tout his military genius; he does not even mention it. Nor does he claim that he is a great man. Rather, he ascribes his major victories to fortune (schast'e). Furthermore, just because Fortune abandoned him once does not mean that it will not come to his aid again. This is evidently what he is thinking when he says the hour is nigh and the fateful moment is approaching (No blizok chas!griadet minuta rokovaia!, 71). Most leaders do not mind seeing themselves aligned with the higher powers of the universe. It gives them greater confidence, and when all hope seems lost, as at Elba, it can keep alive the possibility that they can be actors on the world stage once again. Moreover, because of the converging of reality and Napoleon's desires, Napoleon's trust that fate and divine powers may yet come to his rescue again do not seem so far-fetched, considering that the poet knows that Napoleon's wish has actually come true and that he is presently threatening European thrones. It is not just that Napoleon thinks he is the child of fortune; the poem flirts with the possibility that he really is and that he in fact may be a great man.
What is especially striking about the image of Napoleon in "Napoleon on Elba," despite Pushkin's otherwise depreciatory portrait of the French emperor, is that Napoleon emerges as a far more impressive figure on the world stage than he does in "Recollections." He may be morally diminished, but he looms larger in terms of power, ambition, determination, and achievement. In addition, when Pushkin reconsiders and reevaluates Napoleon in the poems written after Napoleon's death in 1821, the foundation of a much more formidable man, even a great man, has already been laid. Napoleon's association with waves, the sea, the gulf, storms, abysses, thunder, lightning, and cliffs, aligns him, along with Byron--especially in "To the Sea" ("K moriu," 1824)--less with the forces of destruction and more with those of creativity, freedom, and great ideas. Similarly in The Bronze Horseman (Mednyi vsadnik, 1833), the Neva is portrayed as more than a force threatening Peter's city and achievement--when channeled and properly directed, it has a creative role to play in Peter's vision of empire.
Two Commissions: "On His Majesty's Return" and "Prince of Orange"
In 1815, Pushkin writes two commissions, one to celebrate the victorious return of Alexander from Paris, the other to commemorate the deeds of the Prince of Orange, who played a role in Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo. Pushkin essentially did what was expected of him. "On the Return of His Majesty, the Emperor, from Paris in 1815," is a panegyric ode almost in the tradition of the eighteenth century. In contrast to the original version of "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo," where Alexander is barely mentioned, in "On the Return," Alexander not only dominates, but is the object of that fulsome praise characteristic of much of the poetry about the tsar at the time. "On the Return of His Majesty" was specifically written for a ceremonial visit arranged for the tsar's return from Europe, where he had been for the better part of three years, from December of 1812 to December of 1815. During that time he spent only seven weeks in St. Petersburg, from the end of July to the middle of September 1814. During his brief stay, he eschewed ceremonial dinners and celebrations, focusing almost exclusively on the upcoming Congress of Vienna, where he arrived on 25 September 1814. Things had not gone well in Russia in the tsar's absence, administratively and economically. As Marc Raeff points out, "The great cost of the wars had resulted in a severe economic crisis, and the hardships and mismanagements provoked by the conflict underscored the basic injustices of the social and political system." (32) Those who had hoped that the tsar liberator would initiate beneficent reforms in his own country were not encouraged by the words and actions of the Holy Alliance at the Congress of Vienna. Frankly, the tsar was much more focused on the borders and governments of Europe than on problems back home. It is difficult to say how much Pushkin knew of this discontentment, especially among officers who had participated in the campaigns of 1812-13, when he wrote "On the Return of His Majesty." In his first extant letter, on 10 December 1815 (NS), Pushkin writes the director of the Department of Public Education, I. I. Martynov, that he is carrying out his command to write a poem on the arrival of the Sovereign Emperor. "If the feelings of love and gratitude which I have depicted towards our great monarch are not completely unworthy of my lofty subject, how happy I would be if His Excellency, Count Alexey Kirillovich, would be so kind as to present to the Sovereign Emperor the feeble production of an inexperienced versifier!" (33) Alexander arrived in Petersburg on 14 December. Even if Pushkin was beginning to share some of the views of his more progressive contemporaries about Alexander, it was not going to influence the panegyric tone or the content of the poem, especially given his less than enthusiastic praise of Alexander in "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo."
The portrayal of Napoleon near the beginning of the poem (lines 6-16) is stereotypical. He is not the terrible but formidable foe of "Napoleon on Elba." Although in focusing on Napoleon's defeat in Russia, the poem mentions his abandonment by fate (Sodrogsia schast'ia syn, i, broshennyi sud'boiu, 13) and punishment by higher powers (mesti grom, 15), it does not contextualize them or show how they relate to Napoleon's power and extraordinary career. There is also a more personal aside or digression (33-44), in which the poet laments that he spent the war in safety and was not given the opportunity to spill his blood for the fatherland (Pochto zh na brannyi dol ia krovi ne prolil, 40). The rest of the poem is about or addressed to Alexander. It basically takes up where the additions in the revised version of "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo" leave off, where Alexander became a worthy grandson of Catherine, and where his victories, and the wonderful peace that followed, are likened to hers. To add to his allure, the tsar, unlike Catherine, is also presented as a great military leader, almost like an immortal god. When the enemy was attacking, he armed himself and joined in the fray, swearing to prevent Russia from being subjected to tyranny (ot iga, 22). (34) In "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo" much of the emphasis was on the fighting of average Russian soldiers, not Alexander. There is also a section here on the bravery of Russian soldiers (23-32), but it is much shorter, probably to give as much of the credit as possible for the victories to the tsar. We learn that the acclamation of Alexander is universal; everywhere Russians are overwhelmed with joy over their god's (bozhestvo) victorious return. An old warrior looking upon Alexander even forgets the "happy age of Catherine." We learn that when these young soldiers become old they will tell of the glory days under Alexander and they will in tears bless the good tsar. What more could Pushkin have said in praise of Alexander? He has saved Europe. He has saved Russia. He will be remembered by old soldiers the way the "Recollections" say Catherine and her age are remembered. (35) If the poem was in part making amends for the sins of omission in the "Recollections," it succeeded pretty well. (36)
But the young poet, it would seem, could not resist inserting an implicit critique into the encomium. Yes, the tsar has liberated all the peoples of Europe, but what does that liberation and the tsar's return to Petersburg mean for Russia? For the poet, what is most important now, after the victory in Europe, are the fruits of the ensuing peace. The poem begins with radiant peace descending from the heavenly heights onto a despondent land (na zemliu mrachnuiu, 4). It has already been three years since Napoleon was driven from Russia. Napoleon's invasion caused widespread destruction to the country's western and central provinces. The expenses incurred in prosecuting the war in Europe--Alexander's decision--in the following two years (1813-15) further exacerbated economic conditions, especially among the peasantry. The reconstruction of Moscow was not to begin until 1817. The poet begs the tsar to put away the weapons of war and turn his attention to the project of peace and reconstruction. He calls upon the god Janus, the god of endings (war) and beginnings (peace), to initiate the transition so that farmers may flourish again in their fields and trade can resume over liberated oceans. This section might express an expectation that now that the tsar has returned home he will spearhead a program of reforms and recovery. But we also cannot rule out a less hopeful interpretation of these passages, one that contains implicit criticism regarding the lack of progress during the three years that had elapsed since Napoleon and his army departed Russia, a time when the tsar was devoting all his attention to France, the German states, and Poland, and essentially paying little attention to Russia itself. The image of Moscow in ruins haunted Pushkin and he probably could never forget who abandoned it and had therefore the responsibility for restoring it. In addition, secret organizations had been forming in Russia since 1814, so-called pre-Decembrist groups. The first Decembrist group formed in February 1816, just a few months after Pushkin published "On the Return of His Majesty." It would be surprising if Pushkin had not known about the political dissension, especially among returning guard officers, regarding Russia's social, political, and economic problems and the possibility that Alexander's mystical turn was jeopardizing hopes for significant reforms. Perhaps embedding an implicit critique in an encomium to the tsar was the best way he could express both his hopes and his fears about Russia's future.
In July of 1816, Pushkin was presented with another commission to write a poem to be recited on the occasion of the wedding of the future King Willem II of the Netherlands, then Prince of Orange, to Anna Pavlovna, the youngest sister of Alexander I. Pushkin is reported to have finished off the poem in an hour or so. (37) The poem reads like a commission; it praises the Prince of Orange for his role in Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, at which the prince suffered a noble wound (iazva chesti, 30). He is described in the last line as a warrior of vengeance, implying that he was, as it were, chosen by God to implement divine retribution. The first half of the poem is devoted to a formulaic derogation of the actions and personality of Napoleon. Napoleon's role here as a foil to the eulogized subject is similar to the one he plays in "On the Return of His Majesty." Napoleon is a villain (zlodei, 8), a horror to the world (uzhas mira, 10), who was able by treachery to throw off his chains in an attempt to establish his former dominance. But rejected by the universe (ottorzhen vselennoi, 15), he failed once more. In twelve lines Napoleon is forthrightly vilified as a villain, a monster, and a divine outcast, a portrayal that one might find in much of Russian poetry written about Napoleon during and directly after the War of 1812. One might be disappointed by Pushkin's portrayal of Napoleon in both "Recollections" and "To the Prince of Orange" given his more dynamic representation of the French emperor in "Napoleon on Elba," but we must remember that these were commissions and that his original plan was to derogate Napoleon. They are nevertheless useful as a basis of comparison when examining both the pre-exile poems about Napoleon that Pushkin did not write under commission and the post-exile poems about Napoleon in which we find similar formulaic representations.
"Freedom" (1817) and "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo" (1819)
In "Freedom" ("Vol'nost"'), Pushkin presents a very different Alexander, especially in relationship to Napoleon. The emperors are not contrasted with each other, they are compared to each other. In "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo," these men are only briefly mentioned, and if they are at all tied to each other, it is through their implicit association with the destruction of the Russian lands: Napoleon leading an army of destruction and Alexander permitting the destruction by his retreat. In "Napoleon on Elba" and "On the Return of His Majesty," Napoleon and Alexander are contrasted. In "Napoleon on Elba," Napoleon himself sees his star falling and Alexander's rising. In "On the Return of His Majesty," Alexander emerges as a magnificent victor and Napoleon as a defeated and humiliated monarch, abandoned by fate. In "Freedom," now unconstrained by any commission, and having grown considerably disillusioned with Alexander, Pushkin took a bold--and even dangerous--political position, portraying Napoleon as a precursor to Alexander and stigmatizing both of them as violators of the law and regicides. For this act alone, Alexander might have felt justified in exiling Pushkin to Siberia.
To understand this radically changed relationship between Alexander and Napoleon, it is necessary to see the emperors in the context of Pushkin's arguments about freedom and the law. The ideas in "Freedom" have been much discussed, especially in the way they reflect late eighteenthand early nineteenth-century theories regarding the relationship between power, human rights, and the law, (38) but for our present purposes, it is important to understand how these ideas actually work in the narrative itself, especially in the examples Pushkin gives in the last stanzas. Despite the title, the poem is more about the law than about freedom, the word law (zakon) occurring twice as often as svoboda and vol'nost' combined. Freedom, negatively defined in terms of the law, is the peace (pokoi) and prosperity that come about when those in power do not abuse the law, especially in relation to those beneath them, the people (narod). The poem argues that it is in the self-interest of kings not to abuse their power because freedom and peace (the absence of abuse) are the best means of preserving their rule. The people also must abide by the law because lawlessness among the people (the French Revolution) can have the same undesirable consequences as the abuse of the law among rulers. The historical reality is that rulers (tsari) have consistently acted against their own interest in the past. The political reality is that they are continuing to do so in the present. If Alexander was disturbed by the poem's accusation about his complicity in his father's murder, he was probably even more irked by the poem's accusations about the abuse of the law among all present leaders.
[phrase omitted]. Alas! Wherever I cast my gaze--/ Everywhere scourges, everywhere irons, / The pernicious shame of laws, / The impotent tears of slavery;/Everywhere lawless Power / In a thickened slough of prejudice / Has settled in--the terrible Genius of Slavery / The fateful passion of glory. (17-24)
The poem insists that the egregious abuse of the law is ubiquitous, the word "everywhere" (vezde) occurring four times. The phrase "Wherever I cast my gaze" further emphasizes that the poem is not making an exception for Russia. When in the last stanza, the poet insists that punishments, (unmerited) rewards, dungeons, and altars will not secure the power of monarchs either, he is definitely not excluding Alexander.
Napoleon and Alexander figure prominently in another important idea that is related to the law: the succession of rule. The unflattering portrait of Napoleon undergirds the idea that one of the greatest of all political evils is the unlawful transfer of power. (39) The abuse of the law, especially abuse that lasts generations--and France again is the perfect example--disrupts lawful succession to the throne. The poem maintains that the abuses of the ancestors of Louis XVI were the main cause of the Revolution, which led to the king's execution and the tyranny and loss of freedom that followed. The poem does not advocate for democracy: the abuses of the law by the people, it is implied, can have even more dire consequences than the abuses of the law by monarchs. Napoleon, the benefactor of this unhappy process, evokes the hatred of the narrator, who takes joy in Napoleon's destruction, even in the death of his children. Why should he not when Nature, God, and the peoples of the world view Napoleon as a monster and a horror of nature? Yet this situation is not entirely Napoleon's fault. He is the natural issue of the legal abuses of the past, the illegal over-throwal of royal power, and the unlawful assumption of that power by the people. (40) There is no hint in the poem that Napoleon is an extraordinary individual, an outstanding general, or a great man. He is more a symbol and a warning: if monarchs continue to abuse the law, the world can expect to see more Napoleons, that is, more manifestations of egregious tyranny.
The example of Napoleon, the epitome of lawlessness, can, to be sure, be interpreted in Alexander's favor. Unlike Napoleon, Alexander is not a monster, a reproach to God, hated by all peoples. Rather, he defeated Napoleon, restored peace to Europe, and even helped put the Bourbons back on the French throne, that is, restored the natural, lawful royal succession. (41) In addition, one might argue that the crime committed against Paul is less reprehensible than the one committed against Louis XVI, for Paul is presented as a terrible tyrant, whom the god of history avenges for his crimes. The same word "villain" (zlodei) is used to describe both Paul and Napoleon. By contrast, Louis XVI was killed more for the sins of his forebears than his own. The assassination of Paul was more of a coup, perpetrated by members of his own class. An aristocratic assassination, it is implied, is less abhorrent than execution by the people. After Paul's death, the succession stayed within the same family, going to the next in line to the throne, Alexander. All that being said, the differences between the rise to power of Napoleon and Alexander reflect poorly on the tsar. Napoleon was an illegitimate ruler because he became emperor as a result of the lawless actions of the people, resulting in the execution of the rightful monarch, but he did not take part in the execution of the king (21 January 1793). Further, almost seven years after the execution of Louis XVI, Napoleon came to power not through violence, but through a bloodless coup, Coup d'etat de Brumaire, on 9 November 1799, precipitated by the weakness and incompetence of the French government. A great deal happened in those seven years, to which many hundreds of books are devoted. Napoleon may have benefitted from a lawless act, but he personally had no part in it. Unlike Napoleon's rise to power, Alexander's was the result of a violent overthrow of a legal and legitimate monarch. Unlike "the monster" Napoleon, Alexander was a willing participant in a violent coup. (42) Unlike Napoleon, Alexander was guilty of both regicide and parricide. Perhaps the monster Napoleon was indeed punishing Russia for the sins of its rulers, not only Paul's, but Alexander's as well. Was it still paying the price?
The three next-to-last stanzas of the poem (stanzas 9-11) further undercut the idea of a beneficent Alexander in comparison with Napoleon. In contrast to the mostly abstract presentation of freedom and the law, the final stanzas of the poem starkly dramatize Alexander's role in the assassination of his father, Paul. The poet imagines himself a witness to the event. According to F. F. Vigel', Pushkin was at the house of the Turgenev brothers, who lived right across from Mikhailovsky palace, where the emperor Paul was assassinated in a coup on 23 March 1801. Someone in the gathering, looking out the open window to the abandoned palace, playfully suggested that Pushkin write a poem about it. Pushkin supposedly jumped up on a table to get a better look at the palace, grabbed pen and paper, and dashed off the poem. (43) Vigel' may have received the story secondhand and he may also have theatricalized it a bit, but some of the story is confirmed by Nikolai Turgenev, who wrote in a letter of 1867 that the first half of the poem was written in his apartment. Pushkin then went home, finished the poem at night, and brought a copy to him in the morning. (44) The ode explicitly describes the poet himself at night looking at the desolate, abandoned, forgotten monument of the tyrant (69--72).
The poem also graphically underlines the nefariousness of Alexander's participation in the assassination of his father. The perpetrators of Louis XVI's death are depersonalized by comparison with Paul's. We see Louis XVI bending his uncrowned head onto the executioner's block and the blade falling. But we hear nothing of the perpetrators; they are silent like the Law. Paul's death is dealt with in much greater detail, with a clear focus on the perpetrators. Poetically, if not historically, the assassination of Paul is portrayed as a more cowardly, duplicitous, and treacherous act than the execution of Louis. The poem does not show the execution from Louis XVI's point of view; but it does show the assassination from Paul's. We see him actually looking up at his drunken assassins, observing their clothing and their faces. We learn of the betrayal of those who are supposed to protect him. There is silence accompanying his death, just as in Louis's, but it is the silence of those who are entrusted to protect the tsar (molchit nevernyi chasovoi, 81). It is a personal treason (predatel'stva, 84) rather than the abstract treachery (verolomstva, 52) of the people in the case of Louis XVI. It is done not in the light (Louis XVI) but in the darkest of the night. The killers are hired, obviously by the allies of Alexander. In the last line before the final stanza, the warning comes closer to home. Yes Paul, "the crowned villain," did "perish" (Pogib uvenchannyi zlodei, 88), but actually he was assassinated by his own son. It is clear, then, to whom Paul's death is a lesson, really a warning, in the last stanza.
What does it say about Alexander when his participation in the assassination of his own father is presented as more heinous than Napoleon's "participation" in the death of Louis XVI? Pushkin is engaging here in a little imaginative or poetic history to make his point. Napoleon did not assassinate the king, but Pushkin presents him as a usurper so that he can more easily compare Alexander to Napoleon. (45) This is the inevitable conclusion about Alexander that we must come to if we do not restrict ourselves to cherry-picking individual lines to discover their provenance, but actually examine the portrait of Napoleon and Alexander in the context of the poem's imagery and narrative structure. It is hard to imagine that the tsar or the tsar's officials did not understand some of the deprecatory comparisons that the poem was making between Napoleon and Alexander. If they did make the connections, it facilitated any decision to exile Pushkin, given the young poet's other less than flattering poems about the tsar and his administration. In 1819, Pushkin's turnaround was complete, with respect to the Alexander-Napoleon poems. In Pushkin's last revision of "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo," which was done in preparation for the publishing of a collection of his verse, he excluded the added stanza of December 1814 in which he praised the tsar as the "worthy grandson of Catherine." In other lines in which Alexander was mentioned, Pushkin made substitutions to erase any reference to, or praise of, the tsar. So instead of "for the faith, for the tsar" (za veru, za tsaria), he substituted, "For Russia, for the sanctity of the altar" (Za Rus', za sviatost' altaria, 88); and instead of "But what do I see? The Hero with a smile of reconciliation" (No chto ia zriu? Geroi s ulybkoi primiren'ia), he substituted "But what do I see? The Russian with a smile of reconciliation" (No chto ia vizhu, Ross s ulybkoi primiren'ia, 147). The fact that in 1819 Pushkin was willing to publish this early poem in a slightly revised version is another indication that the image of the original version of the poem was restrained at best in its praise of Alexander. Of course, exile to the south, however better than to Siberia, did not incline the young poet to a more favorable view of Alexander.
Pushkin did not write another word about either Alexander or Napoleon until two years later, when on 18 July 1821 he makes a note regarding the news of Napoleon's death and immediately draws up a plan of a poem devoted to him. (46) In "Freedom," Pushkin had gone much further with respect to the portrayal of Alexander than he ever had done before. The revisions of "Recollections" in 1819 confirmed the turn in his views. The fulsome praise of the two earlier poems can partly be explained by their being commissioned and the politics governing the circumstances at the time they were composed. But the image of Napoleon was to undergo an even more significant transformation, starting in exile in 1821 and continuing, in several spurts, throughout the 1820s.
Pushkin is not writing in a historical mode in the pre-exile poetry, but his use of the past to make political judgments about the present is already in place. He employs the age of Catherine to formulate an implicit critique of Alexander and his generals in the original version of "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo," and then conversely uses the age of Catherine in the first revised version of the poem to praise the tsar as the rightful grandson of his illustrious grandmother. In "Freedom," which assumes the disillusionment that was occurring among some in the educated classes with respect to Alexander, the past--that is, Napoleon and the French Revolution--is used to reflect unfavorably on the present, not because the past was better, but because the present was in many ways similar to it. We must remember that Pushkin started writing these poems when Napoleon had not yet been completely defeated and finished writing them when the consequences of his actions--the devastation of the War of 1812--were still being felt. It would take a long time getting over the shock of Moscow being abandoned and then burnt to the ground. Because of the pressure of present concerns in these poems, the past tends to become politicized.
When after the death of Napoleon in 1821, Pushkin begins to reassess Napoleon, again with political implications, he retains, especially in the early 1820s, a large part of the mostly negative portrait that he drew in the pre-exile poems. So in "Napoleon" ("Napoleon," 1821), "Why Were You Sent and Who Sent You" ("Zachem ty byl soslan i kto tebia poslal," 1824), and "A Motionless Guard Dozed on the Tsar's Threshold" ("Nedvizhnyi strazh dremal na tsarvennom poroge," 1824), we find heavy doses of Napoleon the usurper, the destroyer of freedom, the enslaver of nations, the tyrant, the enemy of the law, the egoist, and the bloody murderer. However, now it is tempered or balanced by another side of Napoleon, the great man who had the potential to change the world, a man of great ideas, boundless energy, and wondrous gifts. For Pushkin, Napoleon became a riddle that begged to be solved, but in the end proved irresolvable because of the contradictions between the good and evil elements in his personality and achievements. It is only in the last two poems by Pushkin in which Napoleon figures that we find few pejoratives in the description of the French Emperor: "To the Sea" ("K moriu," 1824), in which Napoleon is likened to Byron, and "The Hero" ("Geroi," 1830), in which the interlocutors dispute the positive attributes of the great man. The pre-exile poems are significant because of the light they throw on Napoleon and Alexander--and their relationship--but they are also important for understanding the image of Napoleon in Pushkin's later works, a task that has been undertaken before, but needs to be revisited in light of these earlier poems.
University of Wisconsin, Madison
[Please note: Some non-Latin characters were omitted from this article.]
Bethea, David. "Pushkin as a Historical Thinker." In The Pushkin Handbook, edited by Bethea, 266-82. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005.
--. Realizing Metaphors: Alexander Pushkin and the Life of the Poet. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998.
Binyon, T. J. Pushkin: A Biography. New York: Knopf, 2003.
Caulaincourt, Armand de. Memoires. 3 vols. Paris, 1935.
Chirukhin. M. N. "A. S. Pushkin o Napoleone." Accessed 16 July 2019.http:// www.museum.ru/museum/1812/Library/Chiruhin/index.html.
Choisseul-Gouffier, Comptesse de. Historical Memoirs of Emperor Alexander. Vol 1. London, 1904.
Evdokimova, Svetlana. Pushkin's Historical Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.
Fedunova, E. A. "Napoleon v rannem tvorchestve Pushkina." Vestnik NGPU, no. 3 (2011): 63-72.
Golburt, Luba. The First Epoch: The Eighteenth Century and the Russian Cultural Imagination. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.
Gukovskii, G. A. Pushkin i russkie romantiki. Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1965.
Hartley, Janet M. Alexander I. London: Longman, 1994.
Ianushkevich, A. S. "Zhanrovyi sostav liriki otechestvennoi voiny 1812 g. i 'Pevets vo stane russkikh voinov' Zhukovskogo." In Problemy metoda i zhanra 9 (Tomsk: Izdatel'stvo Tomskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta, 1983): 3-23.
Kahn, Andrew. Pushkin's Lyric Intelligence. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
Monnier, Andre. "Puskin et Napoleon." Cahiers du Monde russe 32, no. 2 (1991): 209-16.
Murav'eva, O. S. "Pushkin i Napoleon: Pushkinskii variant 'napoleonovskoi legendy.'" In Pushkin: Issledovaniia i materialy, 14: 5-32. Leningrad: Akademiia nauk SSSR, Institut russkoi literatury, 1991.
Nemirovskii, V. I. "Genezis stikhovoreniia Pushkina: 'Napoleon' (1821)." In Pushkin: Issledovaniia i materialy, 15: 176-83. St. Petersburg: Nauka, 1995.
Palmer, Alan. Alexander I: Tsar of War and Peace. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974.
Pachmuss, Temira, and Victor Terras. "The Shift of the Image of Napoleon in the Poetry of Aleksandr Puskin." Slavic and East European Journal 5, no. 4 (1961): 311-30.
Pushchin, I. I. "Zapiski o Pushkine." In A. S. Pushkin v vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, edited by V. E. Vatsuro, 1: 71-115. Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1974.
Pushkin, A. S. Polnoe sobranie sochinenii. 10 vols. Moscow: Nauka, 196-266.
Pushkin, A. S. Stikhotvoreniia litseiskikh let, 1813-1817. Edited by V. E. Vatsuro. St. Petersburg: Nauka, 1994.
Raeff, Marc. The Decembrist Movement. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1966.
Reizov B. G. "Pushkin i Napoleon." Russkaia literatura, no. 4 (1966): 49-58.
Sandler, Stephanie. Distant Pleasures: Alexander Pushkin and the Writing of Exile. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989.
Shaw, J. Thomas, ed. The Letters of Alexander Pushkin. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967.
Shil'der, N. K. Imperator Aleksandr I: Ego zhizn' i tsarstvovanie. 4 vols. St. Petersburg, 1897.
Shklovskii, V. B. Zametki o proze Pushkina. Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel', 1937.
Shurinov, Aleksandr "A. S. Pushkin o Napoleone: K 191-ei godovshchine vziatiia Parizha 19 marta 1814 goda." Presentation at the 8th scholarly conference "Epoka napoleonovskikh voin: Liudi, sobytiia, idei. Muzei-panorama 'Borodinskaia bitva,'" Moscow, 21-22 April 2005.
Sorokin, Dmitrii. "Napoleon v tvorchestve Pushkina." Mosty 10 (1963): 165-78.
Sorokine, Dmitri. Napoleon dans la litterature russe. Paris: Publications Orientalistes de France, 1974.
Tomashevskii, B. V. Pushkin. 2 vols. Moscow: Akademiia nauk SSSR, 1956.
Tyrkova-Vil'iams, Ariana. Zhizn'Pushkina. 2 vols. Paris, 1929.
Vatsuro, V. E. "Iz zapisok filolologa." Russkaia rech': Nauchno-populiarnyi zhurnal, no. 6 (1987): 19-25.
Vernadskii, G. V. "Pushkin kak istorik." Uchenye zapiski: Istorichiskie i filologicheskie znaniia. Russkaia uchebnaia kollegiia v Prage 1, no. 2 (1924): 61-79.
Vorob'eva, N. N. "Istorizm Pushkina." In Printsip istorizma v izobrazhenii kharaktera: Klassicheskaia traditsiia i sovetskaia literatura, 52-103. Moscow: Nauka, 1978.
(1) The citations from Pushkin's works are from A. S. Pushkin, Polnoe sobranie sochinenii (hereafter PSS), 10 vols. (Moscow: Nauka, 1962-66). The five poems under discussion are: (1) "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo" ("Vospominaniia v Tsarskom Sele," 1814), PSS, 1: 83-88; (2) "Napoleon on Elba" ("Napoleon na El'be," 1815), PSS, 1: 123-25; (3) "On the Return of His Majesty, the Emperor, from Paris in 1815" ("Na vozvrashchenie gosudaria imperatora iz Parizha v 1815 godu," 1815), PSS, 1:153-55; (4) "To the Prince of Orange" ("Printsu Oranskomu," 1815), PSS, 1: 190-91; (5) "Freedom" ("Vol'nost'," 1817), PSS, 1: 321-24.
(2) "During this time, Pushkin undoubtedly shared the general attitude toward Napoleon found in Russian poetry and journals." See 0. S. Murav'eva, "Pushkin i Napoleon: Pushkinskii variant 'napoleonovskoi legendy,'" in Pushkin: Issledovaniia i materialy (Leningrad: Akademiia nauk SSSR, Institut russkoi literatury, 1991), 14: 6-7. See also B. Tomashevskii, Pushkin (Moscow: Akademiia nauk SSSR, 1956), 1: 62, 66.
(3) Murav'eva, "Pushkin i Napoleon," 8.
(4) Most of those who have studied the image of Napoleon in the pre-exile poems have devoted little space to them, at most a few pages at the beginning of their articles. See, for example, Andre Monnier, "Puskin et Napoleon," Cahiers du Monde russe et sovietique 32, no. 2 (1991): 210-11; Murav'eva, "Pushkin i Napoleon," 6-9; Temira Pachmuss and Victor Terras, "The Shift of the Image of Napoleon in the Poetry of Aleksandr Puskin," Slavic and East European Journal 5, no. 4 (1961): 312-15; B. G. Reizov, "Pushkin i Napoleon," Russkaia literatura, no. 4 (Leningrad: Nauka, 1966), 29-30; Dmitri Sorokine, Napoleon dans la litterature russe (Paris: Publications Orientalistes de France, 1974), 147-49; Dmitrii Sorokin, "Napoleon v tvorchestve Pushkina," Mosty 10 (1963): 168-69; E. A. Fedunova, in "Napoleon v rannem tvorchestve Pushkina," Vestnik NGPU, no. 3 (2011): 63-72, devotes her whole article to these early works but essentially reiterates the same basic points as others. Tomashevskii, whose focus was not on Napoleon, devotes much more space to most of these works. See also the detailed notes in A. S. Pushkin, Stikhotvoreniia litseiskikh let, 1813-1817, ed. V. E. Vatsuro (St. Petersburg: Nauka, 1994).
(5) Murav'eva, "Pushkin i Napoleon," 5-7.
(6) Tolstoy is not presenting Pierre and Prince Andrei as the sole defenders of Napoleon before the wars began. See, for example, Fedunova, "Napoleon v rannem tvorchestve Pushkina," 65. What is more noteworthy is that even in 1812 there were prominent figures, admittedly few in number, who while they considered Napoleon an enemy and an existential threat to Russia still viewed him as an extraordinary man (odin iz velichaishikh liudei), including Kutuzov and Denis Davydov. See Murav'eva, "Pushkin i Napoleon," 6.
(7) Murav'eva, "Pushkin i Napoleon," 7.
(8) For those who viewed the poems as largely derivative in their imagery and content with respect to Napoleon, see Aleksandr Shurinov, "A. S. Pushkin o Napoleone: K 191-ei godovshchine vziatiia Parizha 19 marta 1814 goda" (presentation at the 8th scholarly conference "Epoka napoleonovskikh voin: Liudi, sobytiia, idei. Muzei-panorama 'Borodinskaia bitva,'" Moscow, 21-22 April 2005); Pachmuss and Terras, "Shift of the Image of Napoleon," 311-15; Fedunova, "Napoleon v rannem tvorchestve Pushkina," 63-72; Monnier, "Puskin et Napoleon," 209-11; Sorokine, Napoleon dans la litterature russe, 147-49; M. N. Chirukhin, "A. S. Pushkin o Napoleone," http://www.museum.ru/museum/1812/Library/Chiruhin/index.html (accessed 16 July 2019), 3-5; Reizov, "Pushkin i Napoleon," 4-5; Murav'eva "Pushkin i Napoleon," 7-8. Tomashevsky stresses the originality of the versification of "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo," but agrees that Pushkin's view of Napoleon was unoriginal, something shared by all his contemporaries and justified by the historical circumstances (Pushkin, 1: 55-62).
(9) Tomashevskii, Pushkin, 1: 57.
(10) Shurinov, "Pushkin o Napoleone."
(11) See, for example, 1.1. Pushchin, "Zapiski o Pushkine," in A. S. Pushkin u vospominaniiakh sovremennikov, ed. V. E. Vatsuro (Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1974), 1: 81-82.
(12) See Alan Palmer, Alexander I: Tsar of War and Peace (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974), 280; and Armand de Caulaincourt, Memoires, 3 vols. (Paris, 1935), 87-89. See also N. K. Shil'der, Imperator Aleksandr I: Ego zhizn' i tsarstvovanie, 4 vols. (St. Petersburg: Izd. A. S. Suvorina, 1987), 3: 209-10.
(13) Palmer (Alexander I, 302) here relies on the memoirs of the Comptesse de Choisseul-Gouffier, Historical Memoirs of Emperor Alexander (London, 1904), 128.
(14) Pushkin, PSS, 7: 39.
(15) Tomashevskii, Pushkin, 1: 55.
(16) See Pushkin's reminiscences of Derzhavin from 1835 (Pushkin, PSS, 8: 65-66). We do not know when Pushkin actually wrote this description down, but it was probably taken from notes that he had made before 1825. See David Bethea, Realizing Metaphors: Alexander Pushkin and the Life of the Poet (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998), 161; and Stephanie Sandler, Distant Pleasures: Alexander Pushkin and the Writing of Exile (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1989), 210-11.
(17) Bethea (Realizing Metaphors, 164) argues for Pushkin's sincerity in presenting the age of Catherine as a "Golden Age of Russian history." When genre and other considerations demanded, Pushkin could, years later, paint a very different picture of the age of Catherine the Great. See, for example, the analysis of the age of Catherine the Great in The Queen of Spades in Luba Golburt, The First Epoch: The Eighteenth Century and the Russian Cultural Imagination (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), 222-38. But the age of Catherine the Great remained for Pushkin the primary focus of his historical investigations. See G. V. Vernadskii, "Pushkin kak istorik," JJchenye zapiski: Istoricheskie i filologicheskie znaniia. Russkaia uchebnaia kollegiia v Prage, 1, no. 2 (1924): 61-79.
(18) Janet M. Hartley, Alexander I (London: Longman, 1994), 114.
(19) Ibid., 116.
(20) T. J. Binyon, Pushkin: A Biography (New York: Knopf, 2003), 32.
(21) Ibid., 30.
(22) Most of the critical works devoted to Pushkin's historical consciousness start their analysis with Boris Godunov, with a focus on the works of the 1830s--especially The Captain's Daughter and The History of the Pugachev Rebellion--when he was actively engaged in historical research and fiction. See David Bethea both for his excellent overview of Pushkin as a historical thinker as well as his extensive bibliography on the subject. David Bethea, "Pushkin as a Historical Thinker," in The Pushkin Handbook, ed. Bethea (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press), 266-82. Soviet scholars have dismissed the poems of the early twenties as romantic, not realistic, and therefore not germane to Pushkin's historical consciousness. See, for example, N. N. Vorob'eva, "Istorizm Pushkina," in Printsip istorizma v izobrazhenii kharaktera: Klassicheskaia traditsiia i sovetskaia literatura (Moscow: Nauka, 1978), 52-103. Although it might be said that Pushkin was obsessed by history, he never developed, or wished to develop, a single, systematic historical point of view. He preferred to present his works, and sometimes the same work, from different historical perspectives, the Bronze Horseman being the most striking example. This is the approach taken, among others, by Svetlana Evdokimova, Pushkin's Historical Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999).
(23) Among the things that Pushkin was remembered for as a schoolboy--which Bethea (Realizing Metaphors, 157) mentions first--were "a youthful patriotism and naive desire, in the context of 1812 and the Napoleonic campaigns, to be an active participant in History." Bethea (163) also interprets the Derzhavin encounter as being not so much about language but about "the role of the Poet in History."
(24) As one of my readers observed, even the added stanza of praise of Alexander may contain a less-than-celebratory note. The young poet wishes to be inspired, as though he were not already so inspired, and he wishes that his spirit would burn with passion, which it does not. On the other hand, this could be just a formu Napoleon and Alexander I in Pushkin's Pre-exile Poetry laic expression requesting help from one's muse given the importance of the task. When Krylov was reproached for not having glorified Alexander as so many other poets had, he responded by saying that he would have praised Alexander had he possessed the lyre of Pindar. See Sorokine, Napoleon dans la litterature russe, 41.
(25) In November of 1814, Zhukovsky completed an ode devoted specifically to Al exander, "To Emperor Alexander" ("Imperatoru Aleksandru"), right after Pushkin wrote the first version of "Recollections," and probably a little before Pushkin re vised the poem adding new praise for Alexander in the next-to-last stanza. In "To Emperor Alexander," Zhukovsky considerably expands the praise he heaped on Alexander in the earlier poem of 1812 ("Pevets vo stane russkikh voinov"). It is doubtful, however, that Pushkin was familiar with Zhukovsky's poem, not to speak of incorporating its praise of Alexander into the last two stanzas of his own. It is understandable why Zhukovsky would lavish even greater praise on Alexander in the poem of 1814, given that he wrote the poem after Alexander had entered Paris at the head of a victorious army. Some have speculated that Zhukovsky's poem of 1814 further prompted Pushkin to add a stanza directly praising Alexander. Pachmuss and Terras ("Shift of the Imagery," 312) argue that "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo" "is essentially an exercise written in the style of Zhukovskij's patriotic lyrics, particularly in the style of his lengthy ode 'Imperatoru Aleksandru." Tomashevsky also thinks it possible that "Pushkin is alluding to the yet unpublished version of Zhukovskii's 'Alexander'" (Pushkin, 1: 63). However, the editors of A. S. Pushkin, Stikhotvoreniia litseiskikh let, 1813-1817, find the hypothesis that Pushkin was familiar with Zhukovsky's 1814 poem praising Alexander problematic, at best (549).
(26) See A. S. Ianushkevich, "Zhanrovyi sostav liriki otechestvennoi voiny 1812 g. i 'Pevets vo stane russkikh voinov' Zhukovskogo," in Problemy metoda i zhanra 9 (Tomsk: Izdatel'stvo Tomskogo universiteta, 1983): 12-13, quoted in Murav'eva, "Pushkin i Napoleon," 7. See also Sorokin, "Napoleon v tvorchestve Pushkina," 169.
(27) For the reaction of contemporary poets and Pushkin's friends to "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo," see Pushkin, Stikhotvoreniia litseiskikh let, 549-50.
(28) Tomashevsky maintains that it is possible that Pushkin had been advised by the administration to include praise of Alexander.
(29) For memoir material regarding the effects of the war on the students at the lycee, see Ariana Tyrkova-Vil'iams, Zhizn'Pushkina, 2 vols. (Paris, 1: 81-82.
(30) For a slightly different take on the use of light and dark in the poem, see Andrew Kahn, Pushkin's Lyric Intelligence (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 230-33.
(31) Tolstoy well understood when creating his Napoleon for War and Peace that turning Napoleon into an outright villain could be counterproductive, enhancing his image rather than diminishing it. As Tolstoy argued, once one looks upon the deeds of a leader or a general as monumental or "great," one can easily overlook their crimes, even argue that their crimes are a sign of greatness or a necessary consequence of important military accomplishments. Tolstoy's approach was to deny Napoleon's historical significance and to show Napoleon to be petty, vain, unprepossesing, and unintelligent.
(32) Marc Raeff, The Decembrist Movement (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1966), 30.
(33) J. Thomas, Shaw, ed., The Letters of Alexander Pushkin (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1967), 59; Pushkin, PSS, 9: 7.
(34) As Tomashevsky (Pushkin, 1: 53) notes, there is much less of the religious element in Pushkin's poem than in Zhukovsky's ode to Alexander.
(35) Tomashevsky, with no proof, maintains that Pushkin was completely sincere in his praise of Alexander (ibid.).
(36) In responding to the contemptuous attitude that the poem has elicited in those who thought it formulaic and insincere, Tomashevsky (ibid., 1: 63) concedes that the praise of Alexander was obligatory, but in the parts having to do with the events (sobytiia) described Pushkin was sincere and his patriotism unquestionable.
(37) For details regarding the genesis and legends about the poem, see the notes in Pushkin, Stikhotvoreniia litseiskikh let, 1813-1817, 607.
(38) See especially Tomashevskii, Pushkin, 159-72.
(39) A few critics have expressed doubt as to whether stanza 8 refers to Napoleon. G. A. Gukovsky has argued that the name, Napoleon, at that time had come to stand for any tyrant: that is: tyrants in general (Gukovskii, Pushkin i russkie romantiki [Moscow: Khudozhestvennaia literatura, 1965], 157). However, the major objection to this stanza being about Napoleon was first voiced first by V. B. Shklovsky (Zametki o proze Pushkina [Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel', 1937], 16), who argued that the poem mentions the children of the tyrant, whereas Napoleon only had one child, and that it also refers to the tyrant's rule (tron) as though it still existed, whereas Napoleon had been out of power for several years by the end of 1817. The problem with Shklovsky's position is that Pushkin himself identified the regime mentioned in the two lines preceding this stanza as Napoleon's in his note to N. I. Turgenev ("Napoleonova porfira," PSS, 1: 502). See Tomashevsky (Pushkin, 1: 167-68) on these points. In addition, the formulas used to describe Napoleon are not only taken from the stock phrases usually attached to Napoleon, but ones used by Pushkin himself in previous poems, such as "horror to the world" (uzhas mira). It hardly seems credible that it is a tsar and not Napoleon that is the subject of this stanza, given the line about the poet looking forward to the death of the tyrant's children with great anticipation and joy.
(40) Tomashevskii, Pushkin, 1: 167. "Thus, the reign of Napoleon is viewed as history's fated retribution for the execution of the king."
(41) Monnier ("Puskin et Napoleon," 211) argues that this stanza is probably a clear denunciation of Napoleon, but just because, among other things, Napoleon's name is not mentioned, it does not mean that the stanza should be taken as praise of Alexander.
(42) The facts about the assassination of Paul were well known because the conspirators themselves did not keep them secret (Tomashevskii, Pushkin, 1: 169). Tomashevsky also concedes that indirectly "the ode treats Alexander not only as representative of absolute power but as a participant in a plot resulting in the death of his father." Alexander sanctioned the coup by his behavior and reaped its fruits with succession to the throne.
(43) Tomashevskii, Pushkin, 1: 146-48. We do not know how long after the events Vigel' wrote this description down. His reminiscences (Zapiski) were published in 1864 eight years after his death. He was wont to read his "notes" aloud at home and elsewhere.
(44) Tomashevskii, Pushkin, 1: 148.
(45) Of course, Napoleon might be seen as of the same party as those who assassinated the king.
(46) Murav'eva, "Pushkin i Napoleon," 9.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2019|
|Previous Article:||Between Nation and Empire: Alexander Pushkin's The Captain's Daughter.|
|Next Article:||Alexander Pushkin: The Snowslide (1829).|