The Elegy

In Russia the elegy may be considered a central—or even the central— Romantic poetic genre. At the dawn of Romanticism, the writer and historian Nikolai Karamzin wrote, "The first poetry was elegiac" ("Pervaia Poeziia byla Elegicheskaia"), referring to the genre's combination of natural surroundings and laments over the loss of love (Grigor'ian, "'Ul'traromanticheskii rod poezii," 95, capitalization is Karamzin's). The Russian poet and critic Vil'gel'm Kiukhel'beker (1797-1846) identified the elegy with Romanticism in "O napravelenii nashei poezii, osobenno liricheskoi, v poslednee desiatiletie" (On the direction of our poetry, especially the lyric, in the last decades, 1824), an article that criticized Russian poets for slavishly following European models and writing poems full of clichés (Grigor'ian, "'Ul'traromanticheskii rod poezii'," 108). Belin-sky described the elegy as "ul'traromanticheskii rod poezii" (the ultra-romantic "kind" of poetry) (97).

Elegy, which comes from the Greek word for lament, confusingly describes two kinds of poem. The first, a poem of mourning and consolation, is based on the classical pastoral elegy expressing "ceremonial mourning for an exemplary figure." This tradition extends from Theocritus and Bion, through Tasso, Ronsard, Spenser, Milton, and Shelley, and continues in England and America into the twentieth century. It also continues as elegiac verses or "poems in the elegiac mode," dealing with loss, grieving, and consolation, for example, Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" (1751), which was very influential in Russia. The second "kind" of elegy based on the Latin love elegy, is a "meditation on love or death."39 This tradition, which Boris Tomashevsky traces to Pushkin through Ovid, Propertius, Catullus, Horace, and Parny, also includes Boileau, Chenier, and Schiller.40 In the interests of clarity and coherence, I shall focus on those elegies and elegiac poems of both kinds that treat loss—whether of love, happiness, or a beloved person—and consolation.

Like the ballad, both kinds of elegy were imported to Russia in the late eighteenth century. Early examples include poems by Aleksandr Sumarokov (1718-77), Aleksei Rzhevsky (1737-1804), and Mikhail Mu-rav'ev (1757-1807). It was Zhukovsky, however, who popularized the elegy, as he had the ballad, with his translation of a European model:

Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" ("Sel'skoe kladbishche: Elegiia," 1802).

As with the poema, the implied gender norms of the elegy led women poets to write them differently from men. Boris Tomashevsky observes that the elegist made himself the hero of poems that described his feelings of unrequited love, jealousy, grieving, sadness, and loneliness and his thoughts about the end of youth or the approach of an untimely death. The poet, Tomashevsky continues, by his use of the pathetic fallacy, made nature a character that sympathizes with those feelings (Pushkin, 1: 120). That is, a male poet/protagonist grieves his lost love, youth, or friend in the midst of a female-gendered nature. Since women poets did not always feel comfortable with a female-gendered nature (see chapter 2), we would expect their elegies to tell different stories.

We can infer other gender norms of the elegy from the work of the twentieth-century American scholar Peter Sacks, whose influential study of the English elegy may be applied to many nineteenth-century Russian elegies.41 Sacks's discussion of the elegy is particularly male-centered because he relies on the theories of Freud and Lacan, which often conflate the male with the human. For Sacks the elegy concerns the "renunciatory experience of loss and the acceptance, not just of a substitute but of the very means and practice of substitution" (English Elegy, 8). Sacks identifies the "means and practice of substitution" with the capacity for symbolic behavior, and more specifically with the Oedipus complex, thereby implicitly excluding women from art:

There is a significant similarity between the process of mourning and the oedipal resolution. ... In the elegy, the poet's preceding relation with the deceased (often assimilated with the mother or Nature or a naively regarded Muse) is conventionally disrupted and forced into a triadic structure, including the third term, death (frequently associated with the father, or Time). The dead, like the forbidden object of primary desire, must be separated from the poet, partly by a veil of words. . . . [This] castra-tive aspect should not be slighted, for it lies at the core of the work of mourning.42

Sacks claims that the Freudian model of mourning applies equally to men and women, that both mourn in the same way their necessary "renunciation of primary [sexual] desire," "separation from [the] mother," and the "internalization and identification with the idealized parental figure" (that is, the father) (English Elegy, 12, 11, 15). Whether or not this is a true, other twentieth-century writers have suggested that women ad ditionally mourn their induction into second-class citizenship, their loss of agency, freedom, and power in the world. For example, Annis Pratt maintains that in the nineteenth century women, unlike men, experienced puberty as "enclosure" and "atrophy" (Archetypal Patterns in Women's Fiction, 30). Carol Gilligan sarcastically quotes Freud, who wrote that a girl's puberty is marked by a "wave of repression" necessary to transform her "masculine sexuality" into the specifically feminine sexuality of her adulthood (In a Different Voice, 11). Karen Horney wrote in 1926, "In actual fact a girl is exposed from birth onward to the suggestion—inevitable, whether conveyed brutally or delicately—of her inferiority" (Feminine Psychology, 69). Horney felt that women's resulting low self-esteem along with discrimination against them made it extremely difficult for them to find any meaningful life's work aside from child rearing (69-70, 185-86). Sacks himself acknowledges, if somewhat obscurely, this difference in women's experience. He writes of twentieth-century women poets: "Whereas the male figure's castra-tive loss of actual force is compensated by its subsequent wielding of symbolic power, the female figure has been robbed by its cultural occlusion, of even this latter compensation" (English Elegy, 324). We have seen in chapter 1 just how little symbolic power nineteenth-century Russian women poets could wield.

On the other hand, as Gilligan, Horney, Modleski, and Simone de Beauvoir have suggested, women receive other consolations: the ability to bear children; closeness and community with their mothers, sisters, and friends; a period of sexual power over some men; and social approval if they do not violate the rules of decorum.43 These differences between men and women's experiences, I submit, are reflected in their elegies.

As with the poema, fewer women poets than men titled works "Elegiia," possibly because they found the classical origins of the genre intimidating. Among the men poets we have been considering, Pushkin titled four poems "Elegiia," Baratynsky six, Del'vig two, Lermontov two, Fet four, Iazykov thirty-four, Khomiakov two, Maikov two—and he also used the word as a section heading for several poems—Guber two, Kol'tsov one. Among the women poets only three—Shakhova, Lisitsyna, and Teplova—wrote poems they titled "Elegiia," but virtually all of them—as did all the men poets—wrote poems elegiac in tone and content.44

And, as in the case of romanticheskye poemy and ballads, the elegies written by these women poets differ from those of their men contemporaries in focusing on women's experiences. Some losses described in men's elegies—for example, of the ability to love, or of graphically described sexual pleasure—appear infrequently in the women's, as does the consolation that there will be other lovers.45 Nor did these women, like Pushkin and Del'vig, write parodies of elegies.46 Such themes would have violated women's gender role at the time and probably were unthinkable. In addition, while several of the canonical and noncanon-ical men wrote funerary elegies on the death of poets and other famous men—never women—only two women did so: Teplova on Pushkin ("Na smert' A. S. Pushkina" [On the death of A. S. Pushkin, 1837]) and on Lisitsyna ("V pamiat' M. A. L-oi" [In memory of M. A. L-oi, 1842]), and Rostopchina on Lermontov ("Pustoi al'bom" [The empty album, 1841]).47 The women poets may have suffered from genre anxiety in regard to funerary elegies, a genre traditionally concerned with "initiation and continuity inheritance and vocation," rewards difficult or impossible for women of the era to attain.48

Conversely, some losses mourned in women's elegies rarely or never appear in those of their men contemporaries, for example, the death of a child or a young woman: in Bakunina's "Siialo utro obnovleniem" (The morning shone with a renewal, 1840); Mordovtseva's entire book of poetry dedicated to her son, who died in the Turkish war (Otzvuki zhizni [Echoes of life, 1877]), as well as her "Pri smerti bol'nomu rebenku" (To a mortally ill child, 1877); Lisitsyna's "Smert' iunosti" (Death of youth, 1829); Teplova's "Na smert' devy" (On the death of a girl, 1831), "Na smerf docheri" (On the death of my daughter, 1846); and Gotovtseva's "Na smert' A. N. Zh-oi" (On the death of A. N. Zh-oi, 1825).49 In contrast to funerary elegies, in which death allows the poet to sum up the meaning of the subject's life, these elegies mourn lost potential. Interestingly, the theme of lost potential finds its way into Teplova's funerary elegy on Pushkin. And, conversely, Fet's elegy to his young nephew ("Na smert' Miti Botkina" [On the death of Mitia Botkin, 1886]) focuses on the meaning of his life. It would appear that Tania Modleski's remark about twentieth-century U.S. popular culture also applies to nineteenth-century Russian poetry: for men death reveals the meaning of life, whereas for women it represents the end of all meaning and hope (Loving with a Vengeance, 88-89).

A second group of elegiac themes that appear more often in the work of these women poets is depression, unbearable emotional suffering, isolation, and constraint: for example, Garelina's "Vse pogiblo, vse poteriano" (Everything has perished, everything is lost, 1870), Mor-dovtseva's "Byvaiut strashny, tiazhely mgnoveniia" (There are terrible, painful moments, 1877), Zhadovskaia's "Uvy i ia kak Prometei" (Alas, I, too, like Prometheus, 1858), Pavlova's "Proshlo spolna, vse to, chto bylo" (Everything that was, has completely passed, 1855), and Lisit-syna's elegy "Akh! Zhizn', moia zhizn!" (Ah! Life, my life! 1829). Although we also find such poems of extreme emotional suffering among men poets—for example, Pushkin's "Ne dai mne Bog soiti s uma" (Please God, don't let me lose my mind, 1833), Kol'tsov, "Vopl' stradaniia" (A cry of suffering, 1840), and the first part of Mil'keev's "Den' rasseiannyi, den' nestroinyi" (A scattered day, a discordant day, 1842)—the greater number of such poems among women poets most likely reflects their greater experience of social limitations and lack of agency, freedom, and power.

Not only do the women's elegies mourn different losses from men's but also they portray different consolations. Many elegies are addressed to a woman friend or a circle of friends who appear to provide some comfort in a time of sorrow and despair. The speaker in Garelina's "Druz'ia moi! Ne smeites' nado mnoi" (My friends! Do not laugh at me, 1870) asks her friends to help her in her love sickness. Conversely, in Fuks's "Poslanie k drugu" (Epistle to a friend, 1834) the speaker offers comfort to a woman who is suffering. Other such poems that evoke a female community include Garelina's "Molisia obo mne" (Pray for me, 1870); Pavlova's "Da, mnogo bylo nas" (Yes, we were many, 1839), Zhadovskaia's "Ty sprosila otchego ia" (You asked why I, 1858), and Gotovtseva's "K druz'iam" (To my friends, 1840). This theme, too, occasionally appears in men's elegies—for example, Pushkin's "Elegiia," "Opiaf ia vash, o iunye druz'ia!" (Again I am yours, O young friends, 1817), but much less often than the druzheskoe poslanie (friendly epistle) or anacreontic male "cult of friendship, of good company and wine" discussed in chapter 1.50

A second consolation found almost exclusively in women's elegies is religion: imagined meetings with the spirits of loved ones, a professed faith in God, and belief in heaven or acceptance of the will of God. In Bakunina's "Siialo utro obnovleniem" the speaker is grieving the death of an infant when its spirit returns to her as an angel to tell her not to mourn. Teplova in "Son" (A dream, 1860) imagines catching a glimpse of her dead husband on Judgment Day and in "Vospominanie" (Memory, 1860) is comforted by the shade of her dead friend. In "V pamiat' M. A. L-oi" the speaker asks her dead friend, who is in heaven, to forgive her grieving. Similarly, Gotovtseva in "Osen'" (Autumn) finds consolation in heaven's eternal spring. Perhaps, as in the case of the ballad, women poets projected their earthly longings onto the next life, as they saw little possibility for consolation in this one. Or perhaps closer emotional ties among women made the final separation of death especially hard to bear, inspiring fantasized reunions beyond death. Paradoxically, however, these women poets gain from religion what men elegists, according to Sacks, gain from the funerary elegy, a "consoling identification with symbolic even immortal figures of power."51

One final factor specific to Russian culture must be considered in relation to the gender norms of the elegy: the lament, or prichitanie. This is a Russian folk genre that peasant women traditionally improvised and performed at funerals, when army recruits left their village (for as long as twenty-five years), and as part of the wedding ritual, in which the bride mourned leaving her family and her loss of freedom (volia). The lament differs significantly from the elegy in function and form. In contrast to the classical, male-centered, literary elegy, the prichitanie is oral, improvised, public, and performed by women. Rather than a private act of mourning, it voices the grief of a community around life-cycle events. The prichitanie differs from the elegy in poetic form as well; it is composed in two- or three-stress accentual verse, with varying intervals between the stresses, as opposed to the more regular metrical verse of the elegy. In addition, the prichitanie features repeated questions, exclamations, parallelisms, and, in the case of funeral laments, reproaches to the dead for leaving or injunctions to them to come back to life. The word prichitanie comes from the word meaning "to list or enumerate"; the performer enumerates all that can be remembered in connection with the tragic event, in contrast with the elegist's attempts at synthesis.52 Whereas the consolation in the lament comes from having one's grief witnessed by the community, the elegy works through literary tradition to "reintegrate [the poet's] destructive solitary experience into the community" (Greenleaf, Pushkin and Romantic Fashion, 90).

Nonetheless, the genres are related in that both address grief, mourning, and consolation, and both are repetitive in form. Monika Greenleaf describes the elegy as a genre of "repetition compulsion," which uses such repetitive conventions as echoing and refrain (Pushkin and Romantic Fashion, 88). It is also likely that the lament directly influenced the Russian elegy. Certainly, Russian writers knew about the lament. Although the first serious ethnological transcriptions took place in Russia in the 1860s, laments or references to them can be found in Russia's epic Slovo o polku Igoreve (The lay of Igor's host) and in such works of eighteenth-and nineteenth-century men writers as Radishchev's Puteshestvie iz

Peterburga v Moskvu (Journey from Saint Petersburg to Moscow, 1790) and in Pushkin's Kapitanskaia dochka (The captain's daughter, 1836) and Boris Godunov (1825). We can see the influence of the prichitanie on the elegies of the Russian men poets we have been discussing—for example, in Fet's "Na smert' Brazhnikova" (On the death of Brazhnikov, 1845)— but more markedly on those of Russian women.

Perhaps because, to paraphrase Susan Friedman, the prichitanie granted Russian women cultural authority to express grief, these women poets appear to have felt free to write elegiac poems even if they avoided the classical title "Elegiia" ("Gender and Genre Anxiety," 205). Interestingly two of the poems titled "Elegiia," those of Lisitsyna (1829) and Shakhova (1849), are written in the three-stress line of the lament. The influence of the lament can also be seen in Teplova's poem "Na smert' docheri," in which the speaker asks her dead daughter to tell what angered her enough to leave.

The prichitanie may have influenced women's elegiac verse on a deeper level as well. All elegies offer the poet (and the reader) consolation by translating grief into art. But while the elegies that Sacks discusses, and that many of the men poets write, describe the direct consolations of inheritance and symbolic power, many of those written by these women resemble the prichitanie in simply expressing grief. For example, in Garelina's "Gde ty, schast'e, skhoronilos'" (Where have you hidden yourself, Happiness, 1870), the speaker acknowledges that joy, hope, and love no longer exist in her life. The speaker in Mordovtseva's "Vzglianula na sad ia" (I cast a glance at the garden, 1870) compares her heart, which is bereft of hope and dreams, to a desolate garden in winter. Nor does she find any comfort in the heavens. Unconsolable sorrow also appears in Khvoshchinskaia's "Net, ia ne nazovu obmanom" (No, I will not call a deception, 1851) and "Shumit osennii dozhd', noch' temnaia niskhodit'" (The autumn rain pounds, dark night falls, 1854); Pavlova's "Da, mnogo bylo nas" (Yes, we were many, 1839) and "Byla ty s nami nerazluchnoi" (We were inseparable, 1842); Zhadovskaia's "Te-per' ne to" (Now it's not the same, 1858), "Ia plachu" (I weep, 1858), and "Uvy i ia kak Prometei" (Alas, I, too, like Prometheus, 1858); and in Ros-topchina's "Ne skuchno, a grustno" (It is not tedious, but sad, 1862) and "Osennie listy" (Autumn leaves, 1834). I do not wish to suggest that only women wrote such lamentlike elegies. We also find them among their male contemporaries: Pushkin's "Elegiia" "Bezumnykh let ugasshee vesel'e" (The extinguished gaiety of mad years" 1830); Lermontov's "Elegiia" "O! Esli b dni moi tekli" (Oh, if my days flowed, 1829);

Iazykov's "Elegiia" "Mechty liubvi—mechty pustye!" (Dreams of love are empty dreams, 1826). Such elegies, however, are far more characteristic of the women writers.

How have such differences between men's and women's elegies affected the literary reception and reputations of these women poets? In a study of English-language elegies, Melissa Zeiger writes that, traditionally the elegy has been considered a male genre. Male mourning was "accredited" and privileged, she writes, while women's mourning was dismissed as hysteria or depression, "doomed to remain speechless, incoherent or excessive" (Beyond Consolation, 6). While Zeiger may appear to overstate the case, we find some support for her views in a review of Garelina's Stikhotvorenie Nadezhdy Libinoi (1870). The reviewer sarcastically writes of Garelina: "[A]nd so the situation of the poor woman went from exhaustion and despair to the loss of self-control to the desire, finally, for death" ("Stikhotvorenie Nadezhdy Libinoi," Deiatel'nost 178 [Sept. 16, 1870]: 2). And "No matter how great the suffering, there still remained enough endurance and pride to hide from people the pain and tears If there was such a strong desire to hide her pain from people, then why proclaim it in print, and even in a separate edition of verse? . . . It is better to amuse oneself and be amusing than to bore everyone with constant complaints about everything, about fate, people and oneself ("Stikhotvorenie Nadezhdy Libinoi," Deiatel'nost 179 [Sept. 17, 1870]: 1).

It is hard to imagine a reviewer similarly chiding a man poet for boring everyone with his complaints, or reducing a man poet's book of poetry first to autobiography and then to psychopathology. We also see here a man reviewer's inability to conceive that a woman poet might use one or several poetic personae (as discussed in chapter 2). It would appear that in the elegy, as in other genres, definitions and assumptions need to be expanded to embrace women's writing as well as men's.

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