Russian romanticism is divided into several periods: the initial period (1801-1815), the mature period (1815-1825) and the period of post-decembrist development. However, relative to the initial period, the convention of this scheme is striking. For the dawn of Russian Romanticism is associated with the names of Zhukovsky and Batiushkov, poets, whose creativity and worldview is difficult to put together and compare within the same period, their goals, aspirations, temperaments are so different. In the poems of both poets, the authoritative influence of the past is still felt – the epoch of sentimentalism, but if Zhukovsky is still deeply rooted in it, then Batiushkov is much closer to the new trends. Belinsky rightly pointed out that Zhukovsky’s works are characterized by “complaints about unfinished hopes that did not have a name, a melancholy for lost happiness, which God knows what was in it.”
Indeed, in the person of Zhukovsky, romanticism did still
its first timid steps, paying tribute to sentimental and melancholy melancholy, a vague, barely perceptible heartache, in a word, to that complex complex of feelings that in Russian criticism was called “the romanticism of the Middle Ages.” A completely different atmosphere reigns in Batiushkov’s poetry: the joy of being, frank sensuality, a hymn to pleasure. Plasticity and elegant definiteness of form brings it closer to the classical literature of antiquity. Zhukovsky is rightfully considered a bright representative of Russian aesthetic humanism. Alien to the strong passions, the benign and gentle Zhukovsky was under the noticeable influence of Rousseau’s ideas and the German Romantics.
Following them, he attached great importance to the aesthetic side in religion, morality, and social relations. Art acquired Zhukovsky’s religious meaning, he sought to see in art the “revelation” of higher truths, it was “sacred” to him. The German Romantics is characterized by the identification of poetry and religion. We find the same thing in Zhukovsky, who wrote: “Poetry
is God in the holy dreams of the earth.” In German romanticism, he was particularly close to gravity toward everything beyond, to the “night side of the soul,” to the “ineffable” in nature and man. Nature in Zhukovsky’s poetry is surrounded by a mystery, his landscapes are ghostly and almost unreal, like reflections in the water:
How merged with the coolness of plants incense!
How sweet it is in the silence of the jet of streams splashing!
How quiet is the marshmallow’s way through the waters
And a flexible willow trembling!
The sensitive, gentle and dreamy soul of Zhukovsky seems to fade sweetly on the threshold of “this mysterious light.” The poet, according to Belinsky’s apt expression, “loves and beats his suffering,” but suffering does not hurt his heart with cruel wounds, for even in sadness and sorrow his inner life is quiet and serene. Therefore, when in the message to Batiushkov, “the son of bliss and fun”, he calls the Epicurean poet “native to the Muse”, it is difficult to believe in this kinship.
Rather, we will believe the virtuous Zhukovsky, who advises the singer of earthly pleasures in a friendly way: “Cast away the sensual pleasures are perishing dreams!” Batyushkov – a figure in all the opposite Zhukovsky. He was a man of violent passions, and his creative life was cut off 35 years before his physical existence: he was immersed in an abyss of insanity by a very young man. He with equal strength and passion gave himself to both joys and sorrows: in life, as in her poetic comprehension, he – unlike Zhukovsky – was alien to the “golden mean”. Although his poetry is also peculiar to the praise of pure friendship, the rejoicing of the “humble corner”, but his idyll is by no means modest and not quiet, for Batiushkov does not think it without languid bliss of passionate pleasures and intoxication with life.
At times the poet is so carried away by sensual pleasures that he is ready to cast aside the oppressive wisdom of science:
Are in the truths of the sad
Gloomy Stoics and boring sages,
Sitting in dresses funerary
Between the debris and coffins,
Will we find the lives of our sweetness?
From them, I see, joy
It flies like a butterfly from thorn bushes.
For them there is no charm in the charms of nature,
The virgins do not sing to them, weaving themselves into dances;
For them, as for the blind,
Spring without joy and summer without flowers.
True tragedy rarely sounds in his poems. Only at the end of his creative life, when he began to detect signs of mental illness, one of his last poems was written down to dictation, in which the motives of the vanity of earthly existence sound distinctly:
Do you remember what I said,
Saying goodbye to life, the gray-haired Melchizedek?
A man was born a slave,
The slave will lie down in the grave,
And death will hardly tell him,
Why did he walk in the valley of wonderful tears,
Suffered, wept, suffered, disappeared.