The Lyric

The final and most encompassing poetic genre, or "kind," to be discussed is the Romantic lyric. Lyric originally referred to one of three modes of literature—a musical mode, sung to the lyre, as opposed to the epic and drama. In this sense the ballad and the elegy are genres of lyric. However, since the Renaissance the lyric itself has come to be considered a genre—a poem with such characteristics as "brevity, metrical coherence, subjectivity, passion"(New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and

Poetics, 714). During the Romantic period the lyric was a central poetic genre; one scholar notes that the Romantics equated the lyric with poetry in general (Fowler, Kinds of Literature, 235).

The Russian scholar Lidiia Ginzburg attributes the development of the nineteenth-century Russian lyric to the breakdown of the neoclassical poetic "genre system." In the eighteenth and the early nineteenth century, she writes, poets did not create the subject of their poems but rather chose a poetic genre: ode, elegy, epistle, satire (O lirike, 53). The subject and mood of a poem were implicit in its genre.53 By Lermontov's time, however, the poet himself had become the lyric subject. The distinguishing feature of the lyric, Ginzburg maintains, is that the poet, besides being author and subject, also is "included in the aesthetic structure of the work as its active element" ("v kachestve deistvennogo ee elementa") (O lirike, 7). In Fet's poetry, for example, the poet does not appear as the lyric subject, yet is nonetheless present. The early nineteenth century also saw the lyric of thought—the ode—merge with the lyric of feeling—the elegy.54 After 1820, Ginzburg continues, a demand for a "poetry of thought" arose among the Decembrist poets, the "Liubo-mudry" (Lovers of wisdom, a group of Moscow writers who studied and discussed Schelling's philosophy), as well as Belinsky and his circle. At this time the central issues of the Romantic lyric became the image of the poet, poetic inspiration, genius, and "the crowd" (91-92).

M. H. Abrams, writing during the 1970s, as did Ginzburg, also described thought as central to English and German Romantic poetry. For Abrams the defining characteristic of Romantic poetry is its close relation to the philosophy of the time: the concern of both Romantic poets and Romantic philosophers (Schelling, Fichte, Hegel) with polarities, antitheses, unity lost and regained, "the fall from primal unity to self-division, self-contradiction, and self-conflict," and a circular or spiral quest that ended in a "loving union with the feminine other."55

More recent scholarship, however, has begun to question these and other assumptions about Romanticism and the Romantic lyric. One scholar points out that Romanticism as a general term for European poetry of the first part of the nineteenth century was first introduced only in the 1860s; the poets we now call Romantics did not refer to themselves in this way. He further suggests that the meaning of Romanticism changes with each generation's shifting "Romantic" canons.56 As noted in the introduction, during the "Romantic" period men and women poets occupied themselves with different issues. Recent scholars have shown that while men poets wrote about subjective idealism (the arche type of the poet, egoism, escapism), literary primitivism (bards, minstrels, ballads, and romances), and a return to nature—and, one could add, the search for nation—women poets more typically concerned themselves with female heroism; female desire; domestic affections; home, family, and community; female childhood; education; motherhood; and careers (Wolfson, "Romanticism and Gender," 385-96). If Romanticism describes only the concerns of men, it may not make sense to speak of women Romantic poets—unless we expand our definition of Romanticism.

This is not to suggest that these women poets did not write lyrics on the Romantic themes of the poet, nature, and nation, as well as love lyrics. We have seen in chapter 2 that they did, although usually from their own point of view. I would suggest, however, that because the work of women poets does not conform to the gender norms of Romantic po-etry—for example, the male's quest to be reunited with the female Other—their work has been marginalized or considered insufficiently intellectual, philosophical, or "universal." Of course, middle- and upper-class women—whose lives were characterized by physical, legal, and often psychological limitations, financial dependency, and expected subservience to men—would not have found relevant the metaphor of a quest, even for a male Other. Nor could the German philosophical striving for an idealized yet sexualized "eternal feminine" serve as a tenable basis for their poetry. In addition, the mythology available to men poets could not help them depict women's experiences. A recent study of Romanticism includes chapters on the male archetypes of Werther, Faust, Prometheus, Napoleon, the dandy, and Don Juan.57 The only female Romantic archetype discussed is La Belle Dame Sans Merci, a soulless man-destroying character, who has much in common with the archetype that Dolores Barracano Schmidt calls the "Great American Bitch" ("The Great American Bitch," 900-905).

Like their European counterparts, these Russian women poets in their lyrics not only reinterpreted male Romantic themes but also treated the "women's themes" just mentioned. Images of female heroism, for example, appear in Kul'man's poems about Korinna and Sappho, Pavlova's "Jeanne d'Arc" (1839), Rostopchina's "Kak liubiat zhen-shchiny: predsmertnaia duma Sharloty Stiglits" (How women love: The dying thoughts of Charlotte Stieglitz, 1841), Bakunina's "legend in verse" about the early Christian martyr Iulianiia Nikomidiiskaia (1849), and in Fuks's Osnovanie goroda Kazani (1837). The theme of female desire appears in the lyrics of almost all these women poets, but without the pornographic overtones that often accompany descriptions of male de sire in men's lyrics. These women poets also wrote lyrics about "domestic affections" (that is, poems to mothers, sisters, brothers), female childhood and education, motherhood, and women's old age.58

Other themes frequently found in these women's lyrics, but rarely in those of their male contemporaries, concern the darker side of their experience as women, for example, forced marriages.59 Their poems often treat boredom, isolation, and the enforced, rather than chosen, solitude that many upper- and middle-class women experienced in the nineteenth (and the twentieth) century.60 Some of these poems give the impression of having been thrown over a prison wall; in many of them the speaker sits by an open window, often at night, as if longing to escape.61 Many poems express depression, a sense of futility or despondency. The word naprasno (in vain) appears in several of these women's poems, as, for example, in Khvoshchinskaia:

H b hohb rny6oKyro, He 3Haa CHa,

HanpacHo He6o npH3LiBana

(And in deep night, not knowing sleep

In vain I called upon heaven.)

("I dlia menia byvala zhizn' trudna," 1847)

3 3Haro, 3aBTpa nn, cero^Ha nn, HanpacHo

ToMHTtca 6y^y a

(I know that tomorrow or today,

I will pine in vain.)

("Uzh vecher," 1848)

H CBeTnHX, acHLix ayM 3a^yMaHo HanpacHo

(And of bright, clear thoughts conceived in vain.)

Or Pavlova:

Ho 6ecnno^Ho, ho HanpacHo:

HeT eH 3ByKoB, HeT eH cnoB

(But fruitless, but in vain:

There are no sounds, no words for her [the soul]).

("Shepot grustnyi govor tainyi," 1839)

ByflTO Bee HanpacHO, Mto mh npoeHM CTpaCTHO

(As if everything for which we passionately ask Were in vain.)

The word "naprasno" occurs less frequently in men's poetry.62 Some poems depict death as a desired goal or a means of transcendence.63 Such themes occur rarely, if at all, in the poetry of their male contemporaries.

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