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

By Elizabeth Cheresh Allen | Go to book overview

THREE
The Ambivalence of Influence
Lermontov 's “Not-Byronism”

LERMONTOV AND BYRON

In 1832, the young Lermontov opened a now well-known lyric poem with the abrupt denial, “No, I'm not Byron.” Lermontov goes on in that poem to offer a few wan comparisons of himself to the renowned British poet, claim ing to be “another, / Still unacknowledged chosen one” who, like Byron, is ”a wanderer hounded by the world, / Only with a Russian soul.” Then with an eerie prescience, as if foreseeing his own premature death just nine years later at the age of twenty-six, Lermontov asserts, “I began earlier, I will fin ish early.” Capped by a final lament, “Who / Will convey my thoughts to the crowd? / I—or God—or no one!” (1: 321),1 the poem resounds less as a declaration of personal and literary independence than as a plaint of disap pointment, as if to say, “No, I'm not Byron—alas!”

Although the adolescent Lermontov might have been speaking here not for himself, but simply in the voice of a poetic persona, his own actual at traction to Byron is one of the few well-documented facts of his biography. First encountering Byron's poems in French and Russian translations as a

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