Batiushkov, Konstantin Nikolaevich
Born May 18 (29), 1787, in Vologda; died there July 7 (19), 1855. Russian poet.
Batiushkov belonged to an old family of the nobility. He served in the military and later in the diplomatic corps (in Italy). In 1822 he became mentally ill. He began to write poetry in 1802. The ideas of the 18th-century French Enlightenment helped to shape Batiushkov’s philosophical outlook on life. In the satirical poem “Vision on the Shores of Lethe” (1809) he spoke out against “the conversations of the Russian word lovers,” a literary society in St. Petersburg (1811–16), which was the literary stronghold of the Old Believers. He participated in the progressive literary society Arzamas.
Batiushkov became a master of so-called light poetry (elegies, epistles, and poetry anthologies), which, in his opinion, demand “potential perfection, clarity of expression, balanced composition in style, versatility, and fluidity.” The glorification of the joys of earthly life, friendship, and love was combined in his friendly epistles with the affirmation of the poet’s inner freedom and his independence from the “slavery and chains” of the absolutist feudal social system. The epistle “My Penates” (1811–12; published in 1814) summarizes the themes of his life’s work. The epistle “To Dashkov,” written during the Patriotic War of 1812, was imbued with patriotic feeling. Influenced by the effects of the war, the destruction of Moscow, and personal shocks, Batiushkov underwent a spiritual crisis: disappointment in the ideas of philosophical enlightenment and intensification of religious sentiments. His poetry takes on increasingly sadder tones, culminating in the gloomy “The Saying of Mel’khisedek” (1821). Batiushkov’s better poetry includes “My Genius” (1815), “Tavrida” (1817), “Dying Tass” (1817), and translations from a Greek anthology, “Imitations of the Ancients” (1817–18). A. S. Pushkin was delighted with the musical quality of his verse (“Such Italian sounds! This Batiushkov was quite a miracle worker!”). V. G. Belinskii admired his “plasticity” and “sculpturesqueness.” Batiushkov also wrote prose (essays and articles on literature and art).
WORKSSoch., vols. 1–3. St. Petersburg, 1885–87.
Soch. Edited with introduction and commentary by D. D. Blagoi. Moscow-Leningrad, 1934.
Stikhotvoreniia. Introduction by B. V. Tomashevskii. [Leningrad] 1948.
Poln. sobr. stikhotvorenii. Introduction and annotation by N. V. Fridman. Moscow-Leningrad, 1964.
REFERENCESBelinskii, V. G. “Sochineniia Aleksandra Pushkina (articles 2 and 3).” In Poln. sobr. soch., vol. 7. Moscow, 1955.
Maikov, L. N. Batiushkov, ego zhizn’ i sochineniia, 2nd ed. St. Petersburg, 1896.
Fridman, N. V. Proza Batiushkova. Moscow, 1965.
D. D. BLAGOI