“We all now pose as Napoleons– Millions of two-legged creatures For us are the instrument of one. ” –Eugene Onegin, by Pushkin Napoleon in Russian Thought Despite Russia’s own history with Napoleon Bonaparte in the Russian invasion of 1812, Russians came to view Napoleon with a strange sort of admiration and reverence. In much the same way as Western Europe at the time, Russians saw Napoleon as a symbol: an extraordinary modern man who overstepped boundaries and moral law to change history on his own terms. As a historical example or type, Napoleon surfaces in the writing of Gogol, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Tutchev and Pushkin.
In his verse novel Eugene Onegin (1825-1832), Pushkin cites the influence of Napoleon in Russian thought: “We all now pose as Napoleons/ Millions of two-legged creatures/ For us are the instrument of one. ” Napoleon in Russian Poetry of the 19th Century During his exile at Se. Helena, Napoleon often exclaimed “What a novel my life has been”. These words expressed a genuine appraisal of his life, however at the same time they are filled with the bitterness born of the incompatibility of life as British prisoner at St.
Helena with the sudden meteoric brilliance and glory of the past. Napoleon was observed by millions of contemporaries. He has a million books dedicated to his life and military campaigns, with many more to be added in the future. The most fascinating aspect of this personality is its powerful aura of the romantic charm. This image has been a constant companion to the Napoleonic epoch, transforming it into a mythical era. Maybe it wasn’t even the greatness of his soul that caused it, but its undoubted magniture which drawrfed the souls of all his fellow men.
Goethe said that Napoleon’s “destiny was more brilliant than any the world had seen before him or would see after him. The story of Napoleon produces on me an impression like that of the Revelations of St. John the Divine. We all feel there must be something more in it, but we do not know what. ” The admirationo of Napoleon was an important part of the Russian spiritual and cultural life in the first half of the 19th Century. Some echos of this admiration went on for quite some time, but after Alexander Pushkin, Fyodor Tyutchev and Mikhail Lermontov it lost the majority of its social significance.
The first half of the 19th Century was an incredible period in Russian literature which found the luminaries of Russian poetry creating their greatest masterpieces. But why did they, great patriots of Russia, praise Napoleon? Why, did they, remembering Moscow’s ashes, thousands of Russian dead and a devastated country, ponder on his personality? Despite subjective reasons to reprimand Napoleon, the poetic genius of these Russian poets rose above patriotism, personal feelings and found an objective historical and philosophical thread that they transformed into incredible artistic image of Napoleon.
This portrayal varies with the characteristic features and vision of each of the poets, but the admiration for his character and a sense of his greatness unites them. In the creativity of each of them, Napoleon appears surrounded by a specific romantic aura. However, this charm is deprived of any servility. Each poet tries to perceive the internal essence of Napoleon and the genuine proportion of his greatness. In his poem, “Napoleon,” Alexander Pushkin offers not only an image of the French Emperor, but also a depiction of that age, filled with a rich diversity of events.
But the review of past deeds is difficult without predilection or hatred. Consequently, Pushkin creates conditions of objectivity around the hero by bowing in front of the emperor’s tomb to utter: “A wondrous fate is now fulfilled, Forever extinguished this grand man. In somber prison night was stilled Napoleon’s grim, tumultuous span. The outlawed monarch has vanished, Bright Nike’s mighty, pampered son; For him, from all Creation banished, Posterity has now began…” ???????? ?????? ??????????: ???? ??????? ???????. ? ?????? ??????? ????????? ????????? ??????? ???. ????? ?????????? ??????????, ?????? ???????? ?????, ? ??? ?????????? ????????? ??? ????????? ???????. Napoleon’s name is always associated with military campaigns, bloody battles and thousands of perished soldiers. But Pushkin does not reproach him for this, but restrains himself before the supreme will of a Providence who pacified her mutinous hero. ? ??, ???? ??????? ???????? ??? ?????, ????? ????? ????, ????????? ????? ??????, ????? ????? ????????? ????… “O hero, with whose bloodied story Long, long the earth will still resound, Sleep in the shadow of your story, The desert ocean all around”
To Pushkin, Napoleon’s illustrious personality appears as a natural necessity of time; Napoleon’s enterprise is of a such enormous proportions, that Pushkin praises him even while discussing Napoleon’s attitude to Russia and does not belittle his glory and greatness: ?????????! ??? ???? ?????????? ??? ????? ???? ?????? ??? ??? ?????? ??????? ?? ????????? ?? ? ?????? ???????? ???? ????????????? ?????? ?? ?????????, ?? ?? ??????, ??? ???? ????? ?? ????, ??? ????; ?? ?????? ??????? ????????… “Vainglorious man ! Where were you faring, Who blinded that astounding mind?
How came it in designs of daring The Russian’s heart was not divined? At fiery sacrifice not guessing, You idly fancied, tempting fate, We would seek peace and count blessing; You came to fathom us too late…” To Pushkin, Napoleon is mythical hero; the last of the Atlantes, great sons of the Titan Ocean. Atlantes were islanders, so was Napoleon. Born on the island of Corsica, he died on the island of St. Helena; his first fall brought him to the island of Elba, and his whole life was spent in waging war against an island – Great Britain. Therefore, Pushkin writes: Ocean, your image was stamped upon him; He was created by your spirit; He is fathomless and potent like you, Like you by naught to be tamed. ” But if Pushkin depicts Napoleon’s greatness as epic, heroic, the same image has induced Mikhail Lermontov to create mystical, enigmatic portrayal of the great man. Lermontov, the author of such patriotic lyrics as “Two Giants” and “Borodino,” was also bewitched by Napoleon’s fate. One of his first poems dates back to 1829, when the young bard was only 15 years old. “Napoleon – He was a stranger in this world. All in him was a mystery,” wrote Lermontov.
He depicts Napoleon as a great individual, who rose high above his contemporaries and endeavored to oppose Fate, but perished in the struggle. For Lermontov and his peers, Napoleon was a colossus, a demigod, who fought against ignorant Europe, but was betrayed and captured, but not conquered. Napoleon’s death among his jailers, a picture of the Giant overpowered by the dwarfs, eclipsed his vanity and his crimes. In Lermontov’s poetry, mysterious grandeur surrounds Napoleon, found even the waves washing the shores of St. Helen. “Where the waves wash the seashore Where the wild monuments lies careless
In damp soil and small grave There sleeps our great hero – Napoleon ! ” The hero’s greatness is increased by the mystery of his character. The degree of Lermontov’s admiration for Napoleon is enormous and the poet uses all his refinement and ability to depict it. Lermontov sees Napoleon as he was seen by those at the Arc de triomphe during victorious parades; or at Austerlitz after glorious victory; or at small village of Laffrey in 1815, where, on the return from Elba, Napoleon addressed the Royal troops with open breast, “Is there one among you who would fire on his Emperor? ”
This image reflects an indelible trace left in consciousness of mankind by the so-called “Napoleonic legend. ” Napoleon always appears radiant in the memories of the people representing the glorious past days. But Lermontov gives to this image also the sense of mystery and sadness: “Whose shadow, whose image did appear On that alone seashore, gazing at the swell He is not alive, but not a dream as well: These piercing glance and hands across the breast” In another poem, he considers Napoleon as questing to escape the imprisonment of death, still on a voyage to something perhaps greater: The Emperor quietly awakens And rises alone from the dead His gray colored tunic is on him and three cornered hat on the head He crosses his arms with an effort, and, walking as if in a dream He noiselessly reaches the vessel And pushes it into the stream” The figure of Napoleon became legendary and he is always remembered only in a peculiar, symbolical way, immortalizing his dress and other attributes. Lermontov paid particular attention to this aspect of the great personality. “His gray colored tunic is on him and three cornered hat on the head”
Unlike Pushkin with his epic reality and Lermontov with mysterious image, Feodor Tyutchev beholds Napoleon and his greatness as though in a distance. He neither appeals to an image nor endeavors to revive it. For him, Napoleon is a great phenomenon, but it is forever lost in the past: “Inspired is nature with the advent of spring, And everything glitters in this splendid season: The azure sky, the deep blue sea… Men’s minds are filled with his great shade While his shade, alone on this savage shore, An Alien, heeds the roar of the wave and rejoices in the sea-birds crying”
Moreover, Tyutchev sees in Napoleon a merger of the most opposite talents: “Two demons served him Two powers – wondrously merged: The eagles soared in his head the Vipers writhed in his breast” These verses of Pushkin, Lermontov and Tuytchev express austere, fair estimations of Napoleon. Though depicting the cool, ruthless thrift by which the great statesman carried out his designs, they were unable to belittle his omnipotent genius and tremendous scale of his enterprises. Who, of all men, was raised to such heights or fell as he? These poets believed: the farther the fall, the greater the man who fell!
But the Russian poets saw Napoleon not only in an abstract greatness. An astonishing Napoleonic epic induced them to comprehend such important historical-philosophical questions as a individual’s role in history and his or her place in the whirlpool of these events. They believed that the rise and fall of the hero is predestined by an objective course of events; but these events are also closely bound to the subjective factor, the personality of the hero himself. The hero acts in Pushkin’s verse as initial result of world-wide and historical predetermination, as if an absolute spirit has come down to the earth. That was this miraculous man, the envoy of the providence, The fateful executive of an unknown ordinance” But at the same time the poet realizes, that a personality like Napoleon’s cannot be comprehended through the ordinary human perception; that it carries inside a tremendous change, and its nature, in a character thirsting for great exploits, would inevitably disregard human suffering: “This rider, to whom the sovereigns cowered Tumultuous freedom’s heir and slayer This pitiless bloodsucker This sovereign is vanished as a dream, a shade of dawn”
But Pushkin is far from considering Napoleon only as the blind instrument of Destiny, an objective course of the world-historical process. Exclusive vitality is given to the image of the hero by its connection with the revolution which gave him birth. He is the nursling of the Revolution as once Romulus was that of the she-wolf. Though some still argue that Napoleon turned back to the Revolution or tried to suppress it, yet he always returned to it: the blood flowing in his veins was that of the Revolution. The rise of Napoleon is a result of the French revolution, when the society aspired to the ideas of freedom, equality and brotherhoods.
Pushkin describes this time as a moment … “When first from ancient serfdom’s languor The world awoke to hope new-grown, And Gaul hauled down with hands of anger the Idol for its brittle throne When on the milling square in gory Collapsed the royal carcass lay And brought the fated day of glory All-conquering freedom’s shining day Society was intoxicated by newly-born freedom. But the intoxication soon reeled out of bounds and grew into chaos and the bloody “Terror. ” And at this moment the Providence sent the ingenious hero, who: “Then in the storm and strife of nations
An awesome lot you soon divined, And noble-minded aspirations You came to scorn in humankind. ” Napoleon’s self-confidence and belief in the future were distinctive features of his bright individualism. He used to say that, “I am husband of the destiny, and the power is my mistress. ” This boundless self-confidence and ambition Pushkin depicted in the following lines: “The baneful augury of fortune Would beckon to your lawless bent To self-rule unrestrained importune The lure of disillusionment. Napoleon in Russian Poetry of the 19th Century Part II By Alexander Mikaberidze
The history of Napoleon shows that the society is inclined to admire heroes and that from adherents to freedom, people sometimes can turn into the crowd of slaves. The eminence of Napoleon is the another side of these metamorphoses. Revolutionaries might threaten to become a collective Brutus to any would-be Caesars enticed by the laurels of tyranny, swearing to assassinate oppressors and tyrants. But suddenly they were seduced by swaying victorious banners and embraced the hero of Arcole, the Pyramids, Austerlitz, and Pushkin reproaches them for this: Among the slaves, you poured, to slake the lust of chattel,
The drug of conquest in their veins,! You sped their musters into battle And laurels wound about their chains. But Napoleon acted not only because of his impetuous ambition, but also by the command of the Destiny. The winner is always right and each hero creates the truth of his time. Tyutchev expressed this notion by saying: “And he emerged: two eras Fighting one another Behold him and suddenly submitted As if in sight of mighty Fate” Napoleon’s triumph appears as a phenomenon unfeasible for one person. This is an original pinnacle of aspirations and opportunities for a personality.
Therefore, the poets often compared Napoleon to the great heroes of the past. For them, Napoleon is two-thirds demigod, and one-third mortal man. But the bards also questioned whether one person, even the most ingenious could achieve the world supremacy. They responded to this immemorial question with an interesting artistic and philosophical solution. Napoleon’s fall – his Russian campaign, destruction of the Great Army and fall of empire – is depicted in radiance of his greatness and opposition to the Destiny: Vainglorious man! Where were you faring, Who blinded that astounding mind? How came it in designs of daring
The Russian’s heart was not divined? And so you stood, with Russia before you. Prophetic magus, foretelling battle, You uttered the fatal words yourself: “Now let her destiny be fulfilled! ” Your incantation was not in vain : Your voice had destiny’s response. In these lines Napoleon embodies the pinnacle of the human greatness, possibility and determination. Can one person reach beyond this boundary; can he oppose Fate? Eminence and certain illusoriness of this goal inevitably causes a shattering collapse. Napoleon is defeated but not conquered, though the idea of world supremacy is doomed.
The “husband of destiny” – as Napoleon is called by the poets – was defeated by his own spouse. The brilliance and rapidity of his rise was eclipsed by the downfall. The Europe has prevailed over the military genius of victorious emperor, but Napoleonic epic endured. Napoleon continues to excite the mankind as a phenomenon, perhaps as the most evident example of creation of history by a single person, as the symbol of a challenge to Destiny. His greatness became more radiant after his downfall and exile, combining military glory, genius and personal tragedy.
The grandeur of Napoleon’s personality, his charm and overwhelming power made a miracle – his downfall became a symbol of one’s determination, rise and fall. But this bizarre downfall also undermined Napoleon’s soul. The sovereign of almost the whole Europe was doomed to spend his last days on a remote island, observing a routine the life. Lermontov ponders this grief in the following lines: “And thus, unknown ghost beholds Eastward, at the at dawn France is there ! The native land And glory, hidden in the haze There, among the wars her day were passed , why did they pass so fast ? Deposed and banished Napoleon did not lose his grandeur. Moreover, his image acquired even greater eminence and mystery. The image of the imprisoned and deceased emperor, like a mysterious phantom, stepped out in all greatness and radiance, untouchable by any reproach. “Redeemed are now the blights and horrors He spread with fabled victories By the forsaken exile’s sorrows Amidst the gloom of alien seas. The thousands of perished and vast devastation are forgotten. The shadow of the once mighty conqueror forces people to reconsider his life.
Therefore, Tyutchev observes not the destruction and bloody wars, but depicts an extraordinary spectrum of events experienced by Napoleon. The Emperor is portrayed as an omnipotent person. It is as if by his imprisonment, Napoleon proves that world domination was not perplexing for him, that he was engaged only to reveal the real possibilities of the human being. “He experienced all in life: Fortune, victory and bondage The passion of the Fate and rage Two times he vanquished and Twice regained the throne” To Lermontov, Napoleon became more enigmatic after his death for his passing is comprehended only in connection with Destiny.
The man of Fate ! You deal with men like Destiny with you Only Fortune that raised you could destroy you ! But your greatness remains luminous ! His enormous figure causes only the mightiest passions. He was surrounded with by enmity of all the monarchs of Europe, envied by the closest kinsmen, brothers, and sisters. And those whom he spared least, the common people of France, were the most loyal to him. The army stood up for him until the end, unlike his marshals and grandees. And most marvelous of all, when in 1815, France was asked whether she would prefer to have Napoleon as her frenzied ruler, her answer was, “Yes! And therein lies the greatness of France. Napoleon’s glorious past is a source of grief, because compared to the years of captivity and inactivity, it causes immeasurable pity. Therefore, in the creative imagination of Lermontov, Napoleon’s ghost hastens every year to its native coast to restore a sense of life, former authority and glory: To France, his beloved, he hurries, Again to his glory and throne, Again to his son and his comrades, Back home to the land of his own. But the deposed emperor becomes also a symbol of loneliness. He is confined to an island, far from his family, friends and native land.
He is lonesome, for he is deprived of opportunities to accomplish the remarkable feats that nurtured his life. He is alone, for “Over his former companions The Elbe imperturbably flows, The desert unleashes its sandstorms, And Russia, her pitiless snows. And deaf to his call are the marshals: Some perished in battles, deplored, While others are serving new masters And selling their saber and sword. Then, having burdened him with shameful chains, They led the hero away from weeping troops And on an alien cliff, beyond the blue seas, Forgotten, he died alone Alone – tormented by the vain revenge. ”
The tragedy of Napoleon is depicted also from the personal aspect. The Emperor is separated from his cherished little son. Therefore, Lermontov describes St. Helena as a place: Where in the wilderness, forgetting War and posterity and throne, On his dear son he brooded, fretting, In grievous thought, alone, alone. And boarding the Ghost ship and hastening to France, Napoleon: Waits for a last consolation And loudly addresses his son; He’ll give him the world for the asking, Yet, France he can promise to none. But soon history had put an end to these torments of the great prisoner and the wanderings of his shadow.
In 1841, by request, Napoleon’s remains were transferred from St. Helena to Paris, in the Dome of Invalids. This event once again gave the Russian poets an opportunity to assess Napoleon in view of the mutual relations between the hero and the crowd. And again the hero appears blessed by Providence for the salvation of the country. Thus, Lermontov addresses French people, reminding them of the role Napoleon played in the history: Perishing you were, until with stern demeanor He rose, chosen by the Lord, Acclaimed by all as leader and a king – And merging your life with his soul.
For the poets, Napoleon’s eminence is inseparable with greatness of his country. With the rise of Napoleon, the French themselves experienced ultimate attainment of greatness. The glory became an integral part of the French consciousness. Revolution filled their hearts with pride, and the triumph of Napoleon supported and strengthened this feeling. “Your strength revived in the shadow of his glory; The trembling world in silence gaped to see The wondrous chasuble of fame and story He brought to clothe you in the days to be. “ But the sovereign is adored while destiny is kind to him.
The fallen hero is often forgotten, reproached or cursed. The hero can be abandoned at any time since the crowd admires success and cherishes the victors. That is why Lermontov reproaches the French: He was alone, changeless and cold of manner, Father of the gray phalanxes, well-loved son of fame; In Egyptian deserts, or the walls of Submissive Vienna, Or the steppe-land snows, where Moscow rose in flame. And tell me, what did you do for worth or pardon, While in far fields he bled in proud aloofness ? You cast your chosen leader like a burden; You ground a coward’s dagger in the darkness!
In the last battles, when desperate odds assailed him, In fear, oblivious of your own black shame, Like a false woman, shameless you betrayed him, Like coward slaves you spat upon his name. But what awaits the hero after his death? Glory, disgrace? Who will judge him? The poets also believed that greatness is not subject to the trend of times, and eventually the people would remember a great man of the past. Lermontov witnessed this revival of Napoleon’s memory when in 1841 his remains were met in France with the same delight and admiration as the emperor found during his lifetime. So rides, the Conqueror homeward to his own,
And, as before, the mad mob throngs and moils, While in a pompous cask, in the noisy town, His cold remains are laid in Gaelic soil. Napoleon’s life proved that despite his downfall, that genuine greatness endures. Napoleon is above the idle talk of the crowd. He was great on the battlefield, on the imperial throne and on a remote, rocky island. It was, and still is, a universal greatness. And Pushkin, Lermontov, Tyutchev and other Russian poets saw his greatness in its unity with the Creation. To the mighty spirit of Napoleon, even the most regal and magnificent tomb is cramped, since his destiny is the Universe.