Napoleon and Alexander I in Pushkin's Pre-Exile Poetry

By Rosenshield, Gary | Pushkin Review, Annual 2019 | Go to article overview

Napoleon and Alexander I in Pushkin's Pre-Exile Poetry


Rosenshield, Gary, Pushkin Review


Abstract: The historical and mythical Napoleon plays a significant role in Pushkin's work from his first published poem, "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo" ("Vospominaniia v Tsarskom Sele," 1814) to his famous poem about Napoleon of 1830, "The Hero" ("Geroi"). However, the works of the pre-exile period in which Napoleon plays an important role have not received the attention they deserve. Critics have passed over these early poems because they view the image of Napoleon in these works as borrowed, unoriginal, and imitative. But this view overlooks the different function of Napoleon in each of these poems, and, most important, the changing relationship between Napoleon and Alexander which these poems delineate, culminating in the surprising comparison in the ode "Freedom" ("Vol'nost'") of Alexander to Napoleon as a regicide. I hope to show that the less than enthusiastic eulogy of Alexander--as well as the relatively restrained condemnation of Napoleon--in the first of these poems, "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo," led Pushkin, in later poems, to compensate for this oversight by creating more derogatory images of Napoleon and more eulogistic images of Alexander. When in "Freedom" Pushkin was under no external constraints, and writing for no occasion, he took a very different direction, using Napoleon not to enhance Alexander as the victor over Napoleon and the liberator of Europe, as in the previous poems, but to post a warning to Alexander about his future actions. Pushkin is not writing in a historical mode in the pre-exile poetry, but his use of the past to make political judgments about the present is already in place. He can employ, for example, the age of Catherine to formulate an implicit critique of Alexander in one poem and to praise him in another.

The pre-exile poems are significant not only because of the light they throw on Napoleon and Alexander--and their relationship--but because they are important for understanding the image of Napoleon in Pushkin's later works, a task that has been undertaken before but needs to be revisited in light of these earlier poems.

Keywords: Pushkin, Napoleon, Alexander I, Russian poetry, War of 1812

**********

Napoleon and Alexander I in Pushkin's Pre-exile Poetry

Napoleon appears in Pushkin's work from the very beginning, playing a significant role in several poems Pushkin wrote during his years at the Imperial Lycee, where he studied for six years, graduating in 1817. The negative image of Napoleon in these poems--and in "Freedom" ("Vol'nost'," 1817), (1) the poem that Pushkin wrote in Petersburg soon after graduation from the lycee--reflects the predominant Russian attitude toward Napoleon in Russian poetry, prose, and journalism in the first few years after the Napoleonic Wars. Most commentators, therefore, have seen the image of Napoleon in these early poems of Pushkin as borrowed, unoriginal, and imitative, to be understood primarily as a point of reference for studying the changes that would take place in Pushkin's view of Napoleon after the emperor's death in 1821. (2) "It is not important that in this respect Pushkin showed so little originality, what is important is where he goes from here." (3) But this view gives short shrift to these poems, (4) overlooking the different function of Napoleon in each of these poems, the internal and external reasons for these differences, and, perhaps most important, the changing relationship between Napoleon and Alexander delineated in these works, culminating in the surprising comparison in the ode "Freedom" of Alexander to Napoleon as a regicide. I hope to show that the less than enthusiastic eulogy of Alexander--as well as the relatively restrained condemnation of Napoleon--in the first of these poems, "Recollections in Tsarskoe Selo" ("Vospominaniia v Tsarskom Sele," 1814), led Pushkin, in later poems, to compensate by creating more derogatory images of Napoleon and eulogistic images of Alexander, especially in poems commissioned for occasions celebrating Alexander and other heroes of the war. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Napoleon and Alexander I in Pushkin's Pre-Exile Poetry
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.