A Fallen Idol Is Still a God: Lermontov and the Quandaries of Cultural Transition

By Elizabeth Cheresh Allen | Go to book overview

Preface

In 1837, the twenty-three-year-old Russian author Mikhail Lermontov wrote an untitled two-quatrain lyric poem now familiar to most students of Rus sian literature:

We have parted, but I treasure
Your portrait in my heart.
Like a pale phantom of better times
It delights my soul.

And though devoted to new passions,
I could not cease to love it,
For an abandoned church is still a church,
A fallen idol is still a god.

Расстались мы; но твой портрет
Я на груди своей храню:
Как бледный призрак лучших лет,
Он душу радует мою.

И новым преданный страстям,
Я разлюбить его не мог:
Так храм оставленный – всё храм,
Кумир поверженный – всё бог! (1: 382)1

Although this poem expresses a lover's feelings for his beloved, it con tains a metaphor that more generally captures Lermontov's relation to the cultural movement with which he is most often identified: Romanticism. For his works consistently express an attitude toward Romanticism as a ”fallen idol” that to Lermontov was nevertheless “still a god.” In other words, Romanticism might have lost its authority to command unques tioned allegiance, but it still merited a certain reverence and respect. Those

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