Several literary critics have argued that Romanticism was a male-gendered institution. Certainly we find in the Russian poetry of the first half of the nineteenth century such blatantly male-centered Romantic conventions as the friendly epistle (druzheskoe poslanie) celebrating the cult of male friendship, anacreontic odes, and Bacchic poetry.1 Here I would like to consider some of the ways that women poets of this period dealt with two less obvious but more basic androcentric Romantic conventions: poetic representations of the self and of nature.
Both Western and Russian Romantic men poets commonly represented themselves as priests, prophets, and "unacknowledged legislators of the world," all occupations barred to women. In Russia we find many men poets appropriating God's voice and authority to chastise men and even rulers.2 For example, in Pushkin's "Prorok" (The prophet, 1826) the prophet-poet becomes God's surrogate, able to burn people's hearts "with the word." In Baratynsky's "Poslednii poet" (The last poet, 1834) the poet's death expresses the ultimate condemnation of a civilization that has rejected both nature and poetry. Other examples of the poet as priest and prophet can be found in Del'vig's "Vdokhnovenie" (Inspiration, 1822), Lermontov's "Poet" (1838) and "Poet i tolpa" (The poet and the crowd, 1828), Khomiakov's "Poet" (1827), "Rossii" (To Russia, 1839), "Sud bozhii" (God's judgment, 1854), and Maikov's "Sny" (Dreams, 1885).
Russian men poets also represented themselves with the trope of the warrior-bard.3 While poetic self-representation as glorifiers of war can be traced back at least as far as Homer, in late eighteenth-century Russia and Europe the bardic tradition gained new life from the ballad revival, with its focus on minstrels, as well as from James Macpherson's very popular Ossian poems.4 As late as 1919 one literary historian of Russia's Golden Age hypothesized that all "professional epic-lyric poetry" originates in battle songs and stories (Verkhovskii, "Poety pushkinskoi pory," in Poety pushkinskoi pory, 16-17). In addition, men poets represented themselves in explicitly sexual terms—as seducers of women or in sexual relationships with desirable female muses or muse surrogates.5 Women poets, in contrast, had few mythic or historical models from which to create female images of the poet. The two most eminent women poets known at this time were the classical Greeks Sappho and Corinna, whose work only survives in fragments.6 Women poets avoided using Sappho as a model, not only because they lacked a male classical education and thus had no direct access to her poetry but also, it seems likely, because men poets and critics used the term russkaia Safo (the Russian Sappho) in sexualizing epigrams and ad feminam attacks. One Russian scholar cites a series of epigrams directed at women poets from the beginning of the nineteenth century that implied they suffered from unrequited love for a particular man poet, as Sappho is supposed to have done for Phaon. Other epigrams encouraged women poets to follow Sappho's example by jumping from the promontory of Leucas or expressed the epigrammatist's desire to do so rather than listen to their po-etry.7 Such demeaning allusions to Sappho and women poets continued at least into the middle of the century. In 1847, when V. R. Zotov, editor of Literaturnaia gazeta, started publishing Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaia's poetry, he placed the first two selections below a serialized article about Sappho's career as a courtesan ("Safo i Lezbosskie getery" [Sappho and the courtesans of Lesbos]). In the article, the author, M. Mikhailov, refers to Sappho as "this lamentable mixture of such depravity and such genius" ("eto plachevoi smeshenie takoi isporchennosti i takogo geniia"), while describing in great detail Sappho's training as a courtesan, presumably for the delectation of men readers.8
How, then, could women poets represent themselves? As mentioned earlier, some enacted the culturally encouraged but unsatisfying stance of poetessa or "sociomoral handmaiden." Several wrote poems about the impossibility of being both a woman and a poet in their society or ironically advised women, in poetry not to write poems at all, or counseled them to write only those appropriate to poetesses. For example, Shakhova's "K zhenshchinam poetam" (To women poets, 1845):
HaM qe.no BeHe^ naBpoBtm flaBHT, KO.eT H TeCHHT, Top^ecTByeT yM cypoBtm,— Cepfl^ »eHCKoe rpycTHT. [. . . .]
On our brow the laurel crown Presses, pricks and constrains us, The stern mind exults, The woman's heart grieves. [. . .])
or Teplova's "Sovet" (Advice, 1860):
Epoct .Hpy, 6poct h 6ontme He Hrpan, H BAOXHOBeHHBie, npeKpacHtie HaneBti Th b rny6HHe flymH 3a60T.HB0 cKptiBan; no33Ha—onacmm flap fl.a fleBti!
(Throw away your lyre, throw it away and don't play any more. And your beautiful, inspired songs Carefully hide in the depths of your soul; Poetry is a dangerous gift for a maiden!)
or Rostopchina's "Kak dolzhny pisat' zhenshchiny" (How women should write, 1840):
Ho TontKO a nro6nro, tto6 nyqmHX chob cbohx neBH^ po6Kaa BnonHe He BHflaBana [ ]
mto6 noBecTt MHnyro .k>6bh h cnaflKHX cne3
fla! »eHcKaa flyma flon^Ha b TeHH cBeTHTtca, [. . . .]
(But I only like it when the shy woman singer
Hasn't entirely given away her best dreams, [ ]
When she has bashfully hidden and covered
The story of dear love and sweet tears; [ ]
Yes! A woman's soul must shine in the shadows. [. . .])
Many of these women, however, chose to represent themselves as poets, reworking elements of men's poetic self-representation. In so doing, they appropriated cultural prerogatives reserved for men: positions of "sacred authority"—the role of priest or prophet—as well as the power to "experience and narrate the sacred" (S. Friedman, "Craving Stories," 24), although they did so with ambivalence, with what Gilbert and Gubar call "anxiety of authorship" (Madwoman in the Attic, 49).
Interestingly, the only woman poet in this group to represent herself as prophet was Rostopchina, who, as we shall see, generally has been perceived as enacting the poetessa role.9 However, if women could not be prophets, they could narrate the sacred as visionaries; seven out of the fourteen women poets we have been considering wrote poems describing religious visions, poems usually titled "Videnie" (Vision). Perhaps it is significant that while there are no instances in the Bible of God speaking directly to a woman, there are models for women having religious visions in the Annunciation and in the three Marys' vision of the resurrected Christ.10 However, these Russian women poets express ambivalence about assuming even such limited religious authority. Zhadovskaia's two poems, "Videnie proroka Ieziekiila" (Vision of the prophet Ezekiel) and "Kto mne rodnia?" (Who is kin to me? both 1858), are "cross-gendered," that is, written in the masculine voice. Shakhovskaia's ambitious religious-patriotic vision significantly is called Snovidenie (A dream) rather than "Videnie" (Vision). Gotovtseva's and Teplova's poems, both called "Videnie," focus more on the female narrator's feelings for the angel than on the vision itself.11
As for the representation of poets as bards and part of a military-poetic complex, a number of women poets appropriated this role as well. It may be, as Paula Feldman and Theresa Kelley have suggested, that "nationalistic or patriotic convictions allowed some women writers to strengthen their claim to authorship."12 In addition, these writers may have been encouraged to portray themselves as patriotic and even militaristic by the literary fashion for Joan of Arc—Robert Southey's epic Joan of Arc (1796), Schiller's Die Jungfrau von Orleans (1802), which Zhukovsky translated into Russian in 1820 and Karolina Pavlova translated into French in 1839—as well as by Pushkin's sponsorship of the memoirs of Nadezhda Durova, who fought for Russia in the Napoleonic Wars disguised as a man. The most exaggerated example of such patriotism is Shakhovskaia's vision Snovidenie, which describes a heaven occupied exclusively by Russian and Roman soldiers and the poets who glorify them and is dedicated to moia otchizna (my fatherland). Only
Mordovtseva, whose son died in the Russo-Turkish War, questioned militarism, and her work appeared at a much later date.13
Finally, as regards men poets' self-representation in terms of sexual prowess, it would have been impossible for women to appropriate this image at a time when society so strictly limited their sexual expression. Nonetheless, several created unconventional male muse figures with whom a sexual relationship is implied—although these relationships generally seem marital in contrast to men poets' pre- or extramarital muse relationships. Bakunina in one unpublished poem alludes to her chertenok (little demon), who distracts her from sewing by tempting her with his lyre. In an unpublished play he appears on stage as her constant companion. Khvoshchinskaia's muse is a more frightening prizrak (phantom), who seems to represent a past painful romance. Teplova, Zhadovskaia, and Bakunina all write about their genii (genius).14
The scholar Mary DeShazer has suggested that a male muse poses problems for a woman poet that a female muse does not present for a man. "While [the man poet] asserts his authority over the muse by naming and subordinating her," she writes, "the woman poet may feel overpowered and violated by her 'authoritative' masculine muse" (Inspiring Women, 28). "Will a patriarchal muse inspire or control, aid or appropriate her writing?" (3). The woman poet, DeShazer suggests, may have difficulty "separating the male muse from other intimidating and debilitating male forces, those that limit rather than expand her female identity" (30). These Russian women poets seem to have experienced similar problems with male muses. Kul'man, for example, evokes Anacreon as vengeful antimuse in "K Anakreonu" (To Anacreon, 1839), her introduction to her translations of his verse. The poem begins:
AHaKpeoH nro6e3HHn! TH cepAHmtca! Cero^Ha 3 BHfle^a co CTpaxoM Te6a bo CHe.
(Dear Anacreon! You are angry! Today I had a terrifying dream About you.)
Kul'man then attempts to persuade Anacreon to approve her translation of his work. And as we shall see, Pavlova similarly evoked another dead man poet, Pushkin, as an oppressive antimuse.15
Indeed, some of these women poets chose a female or ambivalently gendered muse. Shakhova, for example, in an early poem describes her muse as a "maiden-phantom" (deva-prizrak) ("Vdokhnovenie" [Inspiration, 1839]) and ten years later as an androgyne ("Fantaziia," [Fantasy, 1849]):
KaK My3a aHre.OM npornaHeT.
(No longer he, when she,
As the muse appears like an angel.)
Fuks depicts her muse in "Razgovor s muzoiu" (Conversation with the muse, 1834) as a rather unpleasant female acquaintance given to pouting. Mordovtseva, who in her poem Staraia skazka (An old fairytale, 1877) calls Apollo her muse, in another poem ("Opiat' vsia v chernom" [Again all in black, 1877]) depicts a female muse who appears to represent death:
OnaTt Bca b qepHOM th,
Bca b Kpene h b nnepe3ax,
O My3a cKop6Haa! npHXoflHmt th ko MHe.
(Again all in black
All in crepe and mourning trim
0 sorrowing muse! you come to me.)
Interestingly, in the twentieth century Anna Akhmatova similarly identifies her muse with death and suffering ("Kogda ia noch'iu zhdu ee prikhoda" [When at night I await her arrival], 1924).
Korfla a Hoqtro »fly ee npHXofla,
H bot Bomna. OTKHHyB noKpHBa.no, BHHMaTentHO B3raaHyna Ha MeHa. Eh roBopro: "Th nt flaHTy flHKTOBana CTpaHH^i Afla?" OTBeqaeT: "3".
(When at night I await her arrival
Life seems to hang by a thread [ ]
And she has entered. After removing her veil, She looked attentively at me.
1 say to her, "Was it you who dictated to Dante The pages of the Inferno?" She answers, "It was I.")
Kul'man in "Korinna" (1839, see appendix) implies that her heroine's muse is Diana—goddess of the moon but apparently more supportive of women poets than the god of the arts, her brother Apollo. We find no muse figures at all in the poetry of Garelina, Gotovtseva, Lisitsyna, or Rostopchina. In this literary period, I would suggest that the absence of muse figures—that is, of projected creativity—in women poets' work indicates their discomfort within the male-defined role of poet. Such absence also may have led men critics to question further women's credibility as poets; every one of the seven canonical men poets under consideration wrote several poems to a traditional muse.16 It is not surprising, however, that so many women poets chose a nonsexual muse or decided to dispense with one altogether. For many heterosexual men poets of this period, muses represented an unproblematic fusion of their sexuality with their creativity. Women, on the other hand, were subject to even stronger prohibitions against expressing their sexuality than those against writing. Aside from the other problems that male muses presented, women poets may not have been able to conceive of a muse relationship that was both satisfying and socially acceptable.
Men poets represented themselves not only archetypally, as prophets, bards, or Don Juans, but also as individuals, through the literary devices of signatures and personae—devices that women poets modified as well. Signatures, as one scholar has shown, allow poets to represent themselves either in the "sincere" and "natural" pose of poets who always sign their own name (for example, Wordsworth) or in a "theatrical" pose, in which there is a "deliberate creation of multiple selves" (for example, Wordsworth's contemporary Mary Robinson).17 During the first part of the nineteenth century most Russian poets used pseudonyms from time to time; Masanov (Slovar' psevdonimov, v. 3) lists sixteen for Baratynsky for example, and thirty-three for Pushkin. For women poets, however, female pseudonyms carried the added significance of allowing them to disguise their identity in a society where their poetry writing was considered controversial. Further, if a woman poet chose a male-sounding pseudonym and avoided feminine past-tense verbs and adjectives, she could disguise her gender, thus gaining more favorable reactions from male literary gatekeepers.18 Indeed, several of these fourteen women poets occasionally used "unmarked" pseudo-nyms.19 None of the canonical or noncanonical men, on the other hand, ever signed their poetry with a feminine pseudonym.
Surprisingly, however, despite the benefits of an unmarked pseudonym, these women poets very rarely used them. Most of the time they either signed their poems with their full name—as did Gotovtseva, Lisitsyna, Pavlova, and Khvoshchinskaia, who, however, used a male pseudonym, V. Krestovsky, for her prose-or chose female-gendered pseudonyms.20 Bakunina, for example, used P. B-na; Garelina used Nadezhda Libina, Neskazaeva, and L. G-a; Rostopchina used gr-ia, Ra, russkaia zhenshchina, S-va, D., and many others. Even Mordovtseva, who published her one book of poetry under the unmarked signature A. B-z, established herself as female in the first poem—which concerns her poetic vocation—by using marked female verbal endings. It would appear that these poets wanted to write as women, even if doing so adversely affected their reception.
A self-representational device related to signature is the persona or speaker in a poem. Poets may choose personae closely identified with themselves, for example, the speaker in Wordsworth's Prelude, or completely separate, for example, Alfonso II, Duke of Ferrara, the speaker in Browning's "My Last Duchess," or somewhere in between, for example, the speaker in Eliot's "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."21 Men critics have often assumed women poets to be too "artless" to use personae at all, taking for granted that anything a woman writes in a poem is completely autobiographical. Emily Dickinson found it necessary to explain to Thomas Higginson, poetry critic of the Atlantic Monthly, "When I state myself, as the representative of the verse, it does not mean me, but a supposed person" (Bianchi, Life and Letters of Emily Dickinson, 242). Even in the twentieth century at least one Russian critic in his discussion of the "lyric heroine" (liricheskaia geroinia) assumed that women poets use the same persona in every poem.22
Yet, while some men critics assumed women to be incapable of creating personae, others urged women not to use them. Belinsky in his review of Rostopchina's first poetry collection suggested that in the future she write "poetic revelations of the world of the feminine soul, melodies of the mysticism of the feminine heart. Then they would also be more interesting to the other half of the human race, which, God knows why, has appropriated the right of judgment and reward."23 Similarly Petr Viazemsky advised Gotovtseva in an open letter, "Don't write verses on general problems. . .. There is a special charm in women's confessions. ... For God's sake, don't put on masks."24 One wonders whether such critics were motivated by voyeurism, hoping to gaze upon women's naked souls in poetry as they gazed upon women's naked bodies in paintings and at the ballet. Certainly, men critics praised, if condescendingly, the "sincerity" of women poets like Rostopchina and
Zhadovskaia, who assumed confessional personae; such critics, however, often attacked or ignored women poets like Pavlova, Khvoshchin-skaia, or Fuks, who did not pretend to be exposing their most intimate feelings.25
Despite men critics' views that women could not and should not create fictional personae, these fourteen women poets used a great number and variety of them, possibly more than did the men. Many of the women wrote at least one poem in which they combined a male persona with "unmarked" male grammatical endings and pseudonyms in order to disguise their gender. Men poets, it should be noted, wrote far fewer such "cross-gendered" poems; Pushkin for example, wrote none, except for a draft of "Dioneia" (1821) from which he subsequently eliminated the female-marked verb endings. Among the other men poets we are considering I found only two by Del'vig, five by Fet, one by Tiutchev, four by Kol'tsov, two by Miller, and one by Maikov. Perhaps the men felt uncomfortable in assuming the lower-status female role.26
Even among the women poets, however, cross-gendered poems represent an insignificant number of works. Most of their fictional personae are female, suggesting that they were less interested in disguising their gender than in exploring different personalities and perspectives. Gotovtseva, for example, juxtaposes poems with similar vocabulary but very different viewpoints. In the last stanza of one poem, "Odinochestvo," (Solitude, her translation of Lamartine's "L'Isolement," 1819) and in the first stanza of the next "K N. N." (To N. N.) the same word, poblekshii (withered), appears, first seriously and then mockingly: "Kogda poblekshii list na zemliu upadaet" (When the withered leaf falls to the earth), as opposed to
3aqeM no6^eKmne ^era TH nerKon KHCTBKI oTTeHaemt?
(Why do you with a light brush Shade withered flowers?)27
Similarly, Zhadovskaia starts one poem "Ty skoro menia pozabudesh'" (You will soon forget me, 1858) and another "Ty menia pozabudesh' ne skoro" (You won't forget me soon, 1858). In Fuks's collection Stikhotvoreniia (Poems, 1834), "Zhenikh" (The bridegroom), a poem satirizing romantic love, is followed by "Aneta i Liubim" (Aneta and Liu-bim), which exemplifies it. Similarly, in this collection, which appeared under Fuks's name, "Schastlivye druz'ia!" (Lucky friends!), a poem with a female-voiced speaker about unhappy love, is followed by "Poslanie k drugu" (Epistle to a friend) and "Pavel i Virginiia" (Paul and Virginia), two unhappy love poems with male-voiced speakers.
Several poets wrote dramatic monologues in which they speak in a woman character's voice: Kul'man in "Safo" (Sappho, 1839); Pavlova in "Doch' zhida" (The Jew's daughter, 1840) and "Donna Inezil'ia" (1842); Rostopchina in "Kak liubiat zhenshchiny" (How women love, 1841), in which she speaks as Charlotte Stieglitz, wife of the German poet Heinrich Stieglitz (1801-49); and Khvoshchinskaia in "Solntse segodnia za tucheiu chernoi takoi zakatilosia" (Today the sun disappeared behind such a black cloud, 1852), in which she speaks as a nanny.28 It is possible that men poets found the androcentric poetic modes of self-representation discussed earlier so comfortable, natural, and transparent that they were less concerned with persona as a poetic device. Women poets, on the other hand, had to expend a great deal of energy to modify the "conventional" male poetic persona, which fit them so badly, and as a result may have turned to exploring other fictional per-sonae as well.
A final aspect of poetic self-representation is the audience that poets address—both the "you" of a poem and their implied reader. In the poetry of men poets, even when the addressee of the poem is a woman, the implied audience is almost always men.29 In the poetry of these and other women poets, in contrast, both the addressee and the "implied reader" (the intended audience) are often female. Several Western scholars have suggested that there were two nineteenth-century literatures: a male, supposedly "universal" literature, written by, for, and to men, which women also read, and a female literature, written by, for, and to women, which, with few exceptions, men considered second-rate and ignored. We can see the split between the two literatures perhaps most clearly in the United States, where economic factors maintained it. At a time when middle-class women generally were entirely dependent upon men, American women could support themselves by writing for the many U.S. women's magazines. To do so, however, they had to conform to editors' expectations that they assume the poetess role and confine themselves to a "special feminine discourse" of "affect and domesticity," reflecting "woman's sphere."30 Such strictures, of course, made for rather superficial poetry. The absence of a market for "women's poetry" in Russia may have decreased the number of women who wrote poetry, but also the number writing as poetesses.
Several of these fourteen Russian poets, however—and not only those who could be described as poetessy—addressed themselves primarily to women. Perhaps they assumed men would not be interested in the realities of their lives. Or perhaps they chose as their implied reader an audience that had also experienced those realities. Teplova, for example, in about twenty of her poems directly addresses women friends and relations. Pavlova dedicated Dvoinaia zhizn' (A Double Life) to society women:
Bac Bcex, ncHxen, .HmeHHBix KptmHH HeMtix cecTep Moen aymH
All of you Psyches deprived of wings The mute sisters of my soul!)
In digressions throughout the work Pavlova's narrator addresses this audience. Several other women poets wrote poems to groups of women friends.31
The implied reader can affect a poet's attitude toward the poem's subject. Rachel Blau DuPlessis finds that many lyrics by men poets objectify and silence women. Such poems depict "masculine heterosexual desire looking at and framing a silent, beautiful, distant female; an overtly male 'I' speaking as if overheard in front of an unseen but loosely postulated male 'us' about a (beloved) 'she'" ("'Corpses of Poesy,'" 71). In women's poetry written to women friends, audience and addressee are the same and such objectification does not occur. Furthermore, in these Russian women's poems the male Other is often allowed to speak or even have the last word, if only to demonstrate his insensitivity to women. For example, in Garelina's "Bezumnaia" (The madwoman, 1870)—in which a count's son seduces and abandons a priest's daughter, who drowns herself—the poem closes with her seducer dismissing her as a madwoman. We do occasionally find poems by these women in which the male Other is framed and silenced, for example, Pavlova's two poems "10 noiabria 1840" (10 November 1840, 1840) and "Na 10 noiabria" (For 10 November, 1841) about Mickiewicz. We also find a very few poems by men in which a nonaristocratic male Other speaks. For example, in Pushkin's "Besy" the coachman speaks to tell his passenger, who narrates the poem, that they are lost in the snowstorm; in
Guber's "la po komnate khozhu" (I pace the room, 1845) an apparently poor speaker condemns a rich nobleman for seducing and abandoning a servant. In men's poetry, however, the silenced female Other appears to be the rule.32
Of course, Russian women poets also wrote many epistles and poems to men and participated in men's discourses—for example, Pavlova's engagement with Slavophilism in "Razgovor v Kremle" (A conversation in the Kremlin, 1854). These poets could not afford to ignore a male audience or men's concerns if they wished to publish their works. At the very least they needed to win the support of a man editor or influential family friend, and doing so often required conforming to men's ideas of what women's poetry should be. Nonetheless, women poets related differently from men poets to their male audience. Rather than taking a male audience for granted, the women poets, as Gitta Hammarberg describes writers of album verse, engaged in a "peculiar form of double address, with a sideward glance at potential other readers"—in this case, male ("Flirting with Words," 299).
Men poets, in addition to gendering the poet as male, also continued a long tradition of gendering nature as female, identifying women with nature, men with culture, and asserting the moral superiority of the male over the female.33 Hélène Cixous discusses these equations as part of a system of binary "hierarchical [that is, unequal] oppositions" that she believes structure Western thought: activity/passivity, logos/ pathos, high/low, culture/nature, form/matter, day/night, father/ mother, and, most basically, man/woman. In each pair, the first term is presented as inherently superior to and ultimately victorious over the second, its negation or Other. As a result of such thinking, women are defined only in terms of how they differ from men, those differences being considered aberrations from the norm ("Sorties," 101-2). Romantic men poets expressed these ideas in a recurring image noted by several literary critics: the man poet's usurpation or colonization of the procre-ative powers of female nature.34
Certainly, the Russian men poets of this generation often depicted nature in terms of a woman—variously characterized as the dangerous, devouring, alluring, repulsive, attainable, or unattainable Other. In Pushkin's "Rusalka" (The rusalka, 1818), for example, a hermit living in the wilderness, who tries and fails to resist the seductive wiles of a fe male nature figure, drowns.35 In "Tsygany" (The gypsies, 1824) the free-spirited gypsy heroine Zemfira is identified with nature, which is described as opposing man-made law (culture). Her fickle heart, we are told, is like the "free moon" (vol'naia luna), which men's laws cannot control. Aleko—the representative of Russian society or culture, despite his rebellion against it—unable to control Zemfira verbally with threats, murders her.36 In "Kobylitsa molodaia" (Young little mare, 1828, originally subtitled "An imitation of Anacreon," a reference to Anacreon's "To a Little African Mare") (Sobranie sochinenii, 2: 571) the speaker identifies the female horse with a woman by describing how he will subjugate it, using language suggestive of rape:
H Te6e npnm^a nopa;
noro^n; Te6a 3acTaB^ro
3 cMHpHTtca no^o mhoh
(Your time has come, as well
Just you wait;
I will force you to submit to me [literally, "under me."])
(Sobranie sochinenii, 2: 142)
In "Osen' (otryvok)" (Autumn [a fragment], 1833), Pushkin describes autumn as chakhotochnaia deva (a consumptive maiden). "Mne ona mila .. . ulybka na ustakh uvianuvshikh vidna" (she is dear to me ... a smile can be seen on her withered lips) (Sobranie sochinenii, 2: 309-10).
We find similar images of nature as woman and Other in the poetry of Del'vig, Tiutchev, Lermontov, Iazykov, and Fet. In "Dshcher' khladna l'da!" (Daughter of cold ice! 1812-13), Del'vig characterizes the Russian winter as "Boginia razrushen'ia ... rossiian mat'" (Goddess of destruction . . . mother of Russians). His "Luna" (The moon, 1822) identifies the moon with the perfidious (kovarnaia) Lila.37 Tiutchev anthropomorphizes both winter and spring as women: winter as a spiteful witch (ved'ma zlaia) ("Vesna" [Spring, 1836]), and spring as a beautiful and powerful queen ("Vesennie vody" [Spring waters, 1832] and "Vesna" [Spring, 1839]).
In Lermontov's "Morskaia tsarevna" (The sea princess, 1841), a prince struggles with and kills a sexually aggressive female nature figure, a mermaid. In "Vecher" (Evening, 1830-31) and "Noch'" (Night, 1830-31), the speaker identifies natural settings with a woman's inconstancy. Iazykov goes even further, merging nature and women into ob jects of male sexual fantasies. In "Bessonitsa" (Insomnia, 1831), spring breathes its sweet breath on the poet's face and breast and the moon kisses his eyes as he thinks about his lover. Nature provides a sexualized backdrop for even more explicitly described sexual encounters in "Vesenniaia noch'" (Spring night, 1831), "Pesnia (Ia zhdu tebia, kogda vechernei mgloiu)" (Song [I wait for you when like the evening darkness], 1829), and "Elegiia (Zdes' gory s dvukh storon stoiat)" (Elegy [Here mountains stand on both sides], 1839).
Fet, too, presented nature as the female object of male sexual fantasies. Spring is a sexually alluring peasant woman in "Eshche vesny dushistoi nega" (Still the voluptuousness of fragrant spring, 1854), and a sleeping beauty whose body is described in voyeuristic detail in "Glub' nebes opiat' iasna" (The depths of the heavens are clear once again, 1879). A May night is a trembling bride in "Eshche maiskaia noch'" (Another May night, 1857); morning on the steppe is like a "newly married queen before her powerful groom" ("Utro v stepi" [Morning on the steppe, 1865]); a woman is compared to a May breeze, and her sexual response to an Aeolian harp, which, despite its few strings, always finds new sounds ("Kak maiskii golubookii zefir" [Like a blue-eyed May zephyr], 1842). Like Iazykov, Fet often describes a sexualized, feminized nature as a backdrop for sexual encounters with women.38
It is not my intention to suggest that these poets represent nature only as female Other. They also use the nightingale (male gender, solovei) as a symbol for the man poet, Pan to represent the spirit of nature, and the masculine word for moon (mesiats) as well as the feminine (luna), although in different contexts worth examining.39 But it seems significant that they preferred to exemplify nature with feminine nouns—for example, zvezda, luna, vesna, zima, berezka, roza, noch', buria—rather than masculine- or neuter-gendered nouns (les, mesiats, veter, oblako, vecher, solntse, tsvetok). At the very least, we can say that a strong literary tradition identified the poet as male, while identifying women with a feminized and sexualized nature.
This tradition left Romantic women poets of this generation in a quandary: should they identify with the figure of the man poet, or with nature as female Other, or try to invent some other way of relating to these two concepts? As we have seen, for a woman to identify herself as a man poet, as opposed to a poetess, was to transgress cultural norms. But, as Margaret Homans observes, it was equally dangerous for women poets to identify with nature: "Mother nature is . . . prolific biologically, not linguistically, and she is as destructive as she is creative... . [E]nor-mous as her powers are, they are not the ones that her daughters want if they are to become poets" (Women Writers and Poetic Identity, 13-16). Not surprisingly, we find a wide variety of attitudes toward nature in the work of these fourteen women poets, as well as conflicting attitudes within the work of some. These variations indicate how difficult they found the female gendering of nature and also how inventive they were in finding ways to address their dilemma.
Some of these Russian women poets accepted the prevailing paradigm with modifications or reservations. Lisitsyna, for example, represents women, nature, and especially the moon as inconstant, and herself as a fallen woman; but she often refers to the moon as mesiats (masculine gender) rather than as luna (feminine) and describes men's inconstancy as well as women's ("Golubok," [The dove]; "K S[erafime] S[ergeevna] T[eplov]-oi" [To S[erafima] S[ergeevna] T[eplova]]; "K nev-ernoi" [To an unfaithful woman]; "K mesiatsu" [To the moon]; "Zavet-naia gora" [The cherished mountain]). Bakunina avoids romantic themes altogether, but in her published poetry also seems to identify with nature as the fallen female principle, spiritually inferior to the godlike male (see "Rozhdenie nezabudki" [The birth of the forget-me-not, 1841], "Groza" [The storm, 1840], and "Nad Koreizom nebo iasno" [The sky is clear over Koreiz, 1851]).
Teplova identifies herself with the beauty of the natural surroundings of her childhood in "K rodnoi storone" (To native parts ) and with nature's gloominess in "Osen'" (Autumn, 1837). Gotovtseva in two unpublished poems, "Derevnia" (The country) and "Sad" (The garden), depicts nature as a close friend and safe haven. Similarly, the heroine of Ros-topchina's Dnevnik devushki (A girl's diary, 219-20) apostrophizes the moon as a friend. Khvoshchinskaia, while depicting nature as feminine, expressed a wide range of attitudes toward it, from longing ("O daite mne pole, shirokoe, gladkoe pole!" [Oh, give me a field, a wide, smooth field! 1847]); to finding nature more meaningful than her writing ("U okna" [At the window, 1853]); to rejecting nature as less important than the struggle for social justice ("Zhila-b v tebe moia dusha, o mat' priroda" [If only my soul lived in you, O, Mother Nature, 1858]).40
At the same time these women poets often used a variety of devices to avoid identifying nature with the feminine. Bakunina, who in her published poetry identifies herself with fallen nature, in her unpublished poetry creates a pagan world in which nature is represented by gods, goddesses, and Slavic folk figures of both genders (for example, "Prolog igrannyi v Uiutnom 8 iul' 1835 v den' rozhdeniia M. M. Bakunina" [Prologue performed at Uiutnyi on July 8, 1835 on M. M. Bakunin's (her father's) birthday], see appendix).41 Although Teplova identifies herself with nature in the two poems mentioned in this discussion, in "K char-odeiu" (To the magician, 1832) she characterizes nature as Other and male. Pavlova for the most part appears to have ignored or suppressed the dilemma, or perhaps she was indifferent to it. Nature does not figure prominently in most of her poetry. While she uses such metaphors as crossing deserts or climbing mountains to describe life's difficulties, the mountains and deserts are abstract, almost cardboard ("Strannik" [The wanderer, 1843], "Zovet nas zhizn'" [Life calls us, 1846], "Kogda odin" [When alone, 1854], "Ne pora!" [It is not time! 1858]). In Dvoinaia zhizn' she implies that for those of her class, nature, like the life of peasants, is completely unknowable (Polnoe sobranie stikhotvorenii, 260, 262).
The most startling depiction of nature in these women's poetry, however, is not as feminine, masculine, or irrelevant, but as alien and indifferent to humanity. In Pavlova's "Nebo bleshchet biriuzoiu" (The heavens sparkle turquoise, 1840), flowers bloom indifferently on graves. In Mordovtseva's "Vzglianula na sad ia, v sadu opustelom" (I cast a glance at the garden, in the deserted garden, 1877), the sun and the sky cheerfully but indifferently regard the earth. In Zhadovskaia's "Rusalka" (The rusalka), an equally indifferent rusalka steals a young woman's flower wreath. Woman and rusalka seem to inhabit reflecting worlds that do not touch; the young woman's eyes, glittering with tears and sadness, are reflected by the rusalka's eerily glittering eyes and spiteful laughter at the end of the poem. Zhadovskaia's "Sovet" (Advice, 1846) suggests that there is no communication at all between people and nature, that the only meaning we find in it is what we project onto it.
Such representations of nature, anticipating twentieth-century existentialism, do not appear in the work of the men poets we have been considering. Even Tiutchev—who depicts nature as mysterious and having a separate life from humanity—implies that a relationship is possible or necessary, that the basic harmony between humanity and nature may be apprehended, if only fleetingly, that humanity is part of nature, although that unity may only become clear at death ("Ne to, chto mnite vy, priroda" [Nature is not what you think, 1831-36], "Priroda—sfinks" [Nature is a sphinx, 1869], "I grob opushchen uzh v mogilu" [And the coffin already lowered into the grave, 1831-36], "Ot zhizni toi, chto bu-shevala zdes'—" [From this life, which raged here, 1871]). Interestingly, however, we do find a similar representation of nature in a poem by a contemporary American woman poet, Emily Dickinson. In her "Apparently with no surprise" (1884), the frost carelessly beheads a flower while observed by an "unmoved" sun and an "approving God."42 In this and the other poems mentioned here, nature's indifference or hostility are merely noted without comment.
The range of attitudes toward nature found in these poems suggests that the conventional identification of women with nature and the characterization of both as Other deeply affected these poets. I would suggest that the issue was intensified for them by the Western religious tradition, which for thousands of years also has asserted the hierarchical oppositions of man/woman, spirit/body, God/nature. In the Judeo-Christian world these binary oppositions may be traced to the identification of nature with Eve, who is considered responsible for man's fall.43 These women poets, then, not only had to invent new ways to relate to nature but had to do so without challenging patriarchal religious doctrine or the righteousness of the male God who decreed their otherness; such challenges would have been unthinkable in mid-nineteenth-century century Russia.
It is possible, however, that these women, in reinventing their relationship to nature, could not entirely avoid looking at the cosmology that supported the traditional view. Some women poets depicted themselves in hopeless situations presided over by a sadistic God. Pavlova writes in "Tri dushi" (Three souls, 1845), a poem about the souls of three women poets (including herself) sent into a hostile world:
"H ecnH ayx na^eT neHHBtm
B mhpckom 6ok,— fla He bhhht Bam ponoT j«hbhh hk>6obb mok."
"And if your lazy spirit falls
In earthly battle, Don't in your lying complaints blame My love.")
In contrast, Bakunina and Kul'man, as we have seen, consciously or unconsciously sidestepped Christian cosmology by evoking the pre-Christian worlds of Russian folklore and ancient Greece.44
Others tried to avoid confronting male religious authority by separating God (male-gendered Bog) from fate (female-gendered sud'ba), attributing all their sufferings to the latter. Garelina, for example, writes in "Molisia obo mne" (Pray for me, 1870): 45
MonHca 060 MHe, hto6 Ta»KHH KpecT TepneHta HHcnocnaHHHH cyflt6oH, a c KpoTocTtro Hecna;
(Pray for me that I carry with humility the heavy cross of suffering Sent down by fate;)
Similarly, in Zhadovskaia's "Nikto ne vinovat" (No one is to blame, 1847), the speaker blames fate (rather than God) for her unhappiness. In several poems Rostopchina depicts fate as responsible for romantic disappointments and God as benevolently supporting all the speakers' desires and actions, including adultery. In Dnevnik devushki (1850), the speaker complains about the cruel fate that took her lover away:
Cyflt6a Te6a yM^ana flaneKO, M0»eT 6HTt, HaBeKH ot MeHa!
(Fate hurtled you away from me Far away, perhaps forever! Cruel!)
(Dnevnik devushki, 241)
while in Neizvestnyi roman, "Pri svidan'i" (An unknown romance, At the rendezvous, 1857) the married speaker, who is about to meet her lover, says:
Eor mh.octhb! . . MeHa oh He 3a6yfleT . . . Eyflt oh 3a Hac, a He 6oroct nrofleH! . .
(God is merciful! . . . He will not forget me . . . If he is for us, I will not be afraid of people! . . .)
Such a compartmentalization seems unconvincing to the contemporary reader. Nonetheless, I would suggest that these women poets' discomfort with a cosmology that cast them as Other also spurred them to find ways to transform that cosmology, adding a level of philosophical complexity and depth to their poetry absent from the men's.
The women of this generation faced a daunting array of male-defined
Romantic conventions that offered them no useful models for representing themselves as poets—or in relation to their creativity, their audience, or nature. Their refusal to be limited by androcentric images and their varied responses to them is a tribute to their courage, imagination, and originality. As we shall see, they were equally fearless and original in their reworkings of Romantic genres, themes, and myths.
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