Reference Guide to Russian Literature

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Nikolai Mikhailovich Iazykov 1803-1847


Born in Simbirsk province, 16 March 1803. Attended cadet school in St Petersburg, did not complete schooling; European University of Dorpat (Tartu), 1822-29; met Del'vig, Pushkin, and Zhukovskii; wrote poetry that was well-received; did not graduate. Moved to Moscow, worked as official in Surveyor's Office, 1829. Began to associate with Slavophile circles and figures such as Khomiakov, Aksakov, Pogodin, and Shevyrev. First collection published, 1833. Ill health forced a return to Simbirsk estate, 1833-38. Visited various spas in Europe in search of cure, 1838-43. Met Gogol' in Italy.Died in Moscow, 7 January 1847.


Collected Editions

Stikhotvoreniia. St Petersburg, 1833.

Stikhotvorenii. Moscow, 1844.

Novye stikhotvoreniia. Moscow, 1845.

Polnoe sobranie stikhotvorenii. Moscow and Leningrad, 1934; 2nd edition Moscow and Leningrad, 1964.

Stikhotvoreniia i poemy. Leningrad, 1988.

Critical Studies

"Sud'ba literaturnogo nasledstva N.M. Iazykova", by M. Azadovskii , Literaturnoe nasledstvo, 19-21 ( 1935), 341-70.

"N.M. Yazykov as a Slavophile Poet", by Ian K. Lilly, Slavic Review, 31 ( 1972), 797-804.

"Yazykov: His Lyric, Narrative and Dramatic Verse", by E. I. Bristol , California Slavic Studies, 7 ( 1973), 41-64.

"Yazykov's Lyrical Poetry", by Benjamin Dees, Russian Literature Triquarterly, 10 ( 1975), 316-29.

" Yazykov's Unpublished Erotica", by Benjamin Dees, Russian Literature Triquarterly, 10 ( 1975), 408-13.

"Grammatical Rhymes in N. Yazykov's Poetry", by Assya Humesky , in Papers in Slavic Philology, vol. i, edited by B. Stolz , Ann Arbor, Michigan Slavic Publications, 1977, 121-41.

Poety Pushkinskoi pory, by V. I. Korovin, Moscow, 1980. "The Stanzaic Forms of N.M. Jazykov", by Ian K. Lilly, in Russian Poetics, edited by Thomas Eekman and Dean S. Worth , Columbus, Ohio, Slavica, 1983, 227-34.

The son of a rich landowner and the youngest of three brothers, Nikolai Iazykov soon abandoned cadet school, gave in to his burning urge to become a poet and, after a year in St Petersburg, settled as a student in the relatively free and cosmopolitan atmosphere of the German-language University of Dorpat ( Tartu), where he fused the grandeur of Russian I8th-century rhetoric and political ode with the life-asserting romanticism of Schiller and the Bacchic spirit of student songs. His stance was often that of a bard singing of past victories of freedom over Asiatic tyranny; in the context of the early 1820s he was widely admired as a hedonist poet in whom Schiller and Byron were subordinate to Russian patriotism, and appreciated as a peripheral supporter of Decembrist aspirations. More remarkable and highly praised was his revitalizing of fossilized poetic stances with rhythmic vitality and everyday imagery. In Dorpat he mixed with friends and relatives of Pushkin and Zhukovskii; not until 1826 did he meet Pushkin at Trigorskoe (an estate next to Mikhailovskoe): a short period of mutual admiration inspired both poets, especially Iazykov. In 1826 he mourned the execution of the Decembrist poet Ryleev: "Are you not the glory of our days, / The fiery sparks of freedom, / Ryleev died, like a criminal! / O, remember him, Russia / When you rise up from chains / And move your thunderous forces / Against the tyranny of Tsars!" But Iazykov's radical sympathies quickly faded. His attitude to Pushkin was contradictory: although a fellow-admirer of Byron, he deplored Pushkin's free-thinking discursiveness, fondness for telling detail and fecund narrative invention.

In 1829 Iazykov left Dorpat (without a degree) and moved to Moscow, where he followed Viazemskii's and Baratynskii's path as an official in the Surveyor's Office (a nominal job not for the salary, but merely to achieve civil rank). Here he fell into Slavophile circles and became more and more hostile to any western, prosaic, realistic or even late Romantic elements in the work of his contemporaries. The disease he had contracted in Dorpat recurred in Moscow and, from 1838 to 1843, forced him vainly to roam from one German and Italian resort to another. He died without issue and almost unmourned within three years of returning to Russia. Despite the publication of much of his best verse in 1833, his reputation had already waned, and he was bitterly attacked by the representatives of the new literature - Belinskii and Herzen whom he deprecated from his new stance of orthodox passivity. In 1841 Iazykov admitted his own decline: "I feel that I am far from what I was before and even further from what I should be at my present age." Nevertheless, in his last years he managed at last to achieve the extended forms that had eluded him in his youth especially the fairy-tale "Zhar-ptitsa" [The Fire Bird] ( 1836-38)


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Reference Guide to Russian Literature


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