The English trace in the heading-final complex of Anna Akhmatova’s “Poem without a Hero”

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The specificity of the heading-final complex of Anna Akhmatova’s “Poem without a Hero” (“Poema bez geroya”) is based on the fact that the semantics of the components included in it refers to several sources at once, and allusions to the works of English romantics, authors of poems, play the most important role among the components included in the poem's frame, and above all to J.G. Byron. The relevance of the undertaken research is due to the application of an integrated approach to the analysis of the elements of the frame text “Poem without a Hero”: not only primary, but also secondary and tertiary allusions, playing with the reader’s perception and his knowledge of predecessor texts are considered. The purpose of the study is to identify the “English trace” in “Poem without a Hero” and the ways of its manifestation through the heading-final complex. The authors trace the genealogy of “Poem without a Hero” from Byron to Pushkin and to the nominally absent, but implicitly animated, hero of Akhmatova’s poem. Research objectives are defined as the study of the framework text as an essential element of the poem, identification of the features of the frame text and its intertextual links, comparison of epigraphs in the poem with notes, comments and critical articles of the author. The authors show that the poet often “hides” Byronic allusions in the reception from Pushkin’s poems (mainly “Eugene Onegin”), placing them in the heading-final complex. The article proves that this technique is used by Akhmatova to build the genre genealogy of her own poem, which goes back to the tradition of English romantic poems, mediated by the tradition of A. Pushkin. The reason for turning to this tradition, according to the authors, lies in the tragic personal and epoch-making collisions, the genre interpretation of which could become the transformed Akhmatova canon of the romantic poem, the founder of which was Lord Byron.

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Introduction In modern literary criticism, the beginning and end of a text (or parts of it) is usually denoted by the term heading-final complex or text frame (French - cadre, English - frame, German - Rahmen, Spanish - marco). The beginning of the text (highlighted graphically) may include the following components: name (pseudonym) of the author, title, subtitle, dedication, epigraph(s), preface (introduction, preface, in some cases - prologue). The main text can be provided with author's notes, which are printed either on the bottom margin of the page, or after the main text. The obligatory/optional nature of certain framework components is largely determined by the genre of the work. The most important of them for epic and dramatic works, lyric poetry of “large forms”, lyro-epic is the title. The organizing role of the framework components is especially evident when referring to works that have a complex composition, in which stylistically heterogeneous components are combined. It is to such works that Anna Akhmatova’s “Poem without a Hero” (“Poema bez geroya”) belongs to such works. The purpose of research One of the striking features of the “Poem without a Hero” framework is its intertextual nature. Almost all the components - the title, subtitle, epigraphs, preface, notes refer to the texts of both Russian and foreign predecessors, mostly classics. In this article, we set ourselves the task of isolating, among the numerous intertextual references contained in the frame of “Poem without a Hero”, an English trace, or rather a trace of an English romantic poem. Scientific content and methods It is important to note that a literary text, while functioning simultaneously as a separate work and at the same time enters into a “dialogical relationship” not only with the reader, but also with other texts. Epigraphs (most of which are quotations), genre subtitles (implying the presence of a certain literary series) emphasize the openness of the text boundaries, its correlation (sometimes through irony and negation) with the texts of other authors and other eras. It follows that the framework components of the heading-final complex should be considered not separately, but in their connection with each other and with the main text of the work, since the functions they perform can be redistributed both among themselves and between the inline components. With the help of intertextual, system-typological and receptive methods, we will reveal the reasons for Akhmatova's indexed appeal to the discourse of the English poem and to her outstanding creators. Review An extensive literature is devoted to the interpretation of the intertexts of “Poem without a Hero”, Akhmatova's dialogue with Russian and world classics, although the actual English reception of the poem has been studied to a lesser extent. Let's point out some of the works that have already become classics, relevant for our research: such as V. Musatov, T. Tsiviyan, R. Timenchik, L. Dolgopolov, V. Zhirmunskiy [1-6]. Of the latest works in terms of identifying Western European, including English, receptions in “Poem without a Hero”, the article is especially valuable to us is the article by G. Mikhailova [7]. The article by O. Rubinchik [8] was also important for our research. Also the book by G. Kruzhkov [9], the fragment of chapter eight devoted to the recalls by Akhmatova and Yeats. Also the article by E. Kulikova [10] was significant, and in it the problem of intertextual dialogue is presented as a version of the intersubjective polylogue. The semantics and poetics of the title complex of the Akhmatov poem have also repeatedly become the object of attention of researchers. Especially in this regard, Akhmatov's epigraphs were “lucky”. There are a number of studies devoted to the epigraphs to “Poem without a Hero” like the work by T. Tsiviyan, V. Zhirmunskiy, D. Batalov [11-15]. Also the significant relevant works were made by the commentators and publishers of the poem: N. Kraineva, O. Filatova and Yu. Tamontseva [16], who, firstly, collected, systematized and commented on the epigraphs to different editions and lists of the poem, and secondly, gave the necessary comments to them. As our cursory review shows, there are currently no special works devoted to the reflection of the topic of the English poem in the heading-final complex “Poem without a Hero”, which makes the topic of this study especially relevant. Research results According to our observation, the English “trace” in “Poem without a Hero” in a number of cases is given not explicitly, but secretly, and is often hidden in references to Russian classics, most often to A.S. Pushkin. We will try to figure out the reasons for this “concealment”, leading to the effect of an intertextual “puff pie”. Consider the references to “Eugene Onegin”. The first epigraph is “There are no others, but those are far away” (“Inykh uzh net, a te daleche”). Pushkin puts it before the prosaic preamble “Instead of a Preface” (“Vmesto predisloviya”), that is, it opens the poem. It expands and at the same time encrypts the meaning of the preface, indicating the hidden motives of the poem (its requiem “echo”). But its semantic function lies not only in this: the epigraph specifies the algorithm of “mirror writing” necessary for the author to build the intertextual genesis of his poem. We should pay attention to the fact that the author gives a reference to Pushkin’s quote, which, in the context of 51 stanza of chapter eight of “Eugene Onegin”, refers to Saadi's quote: “But those to whom in a friendly meeting / I read the stanzas first... / There are no others, and those are far away, / As Sadi once said” (“No te, kotorym v druzhnoy vstreche / Ya strofy pervyye chital... / Inykh uzh net, a te daleche, / Kak Sadi nekogda skazal”] [17]. But Saadi (Sadi) at that time was not yet translated into Russian, but was perceived by Pushkin in the context of the romantic poems of Thomas Moore (“Lalla Rook”) and Byron (“The Siege of Corinth”) [18]. Thus, the epigraph became a cipher, the key to which was in the source text (Pushkin’s poem “Eugene Onegin”). But this source, in turn, referred to another source, namely - to Saadi and at the same time - to English romantic poems with an “oriental” flavor. The “oriental” poems of Moore and Byron Akhmatova, who professionally studied the origins of Pushkin’s work, undoubtedly took into account when building the genre genesis of the poem. But here, of course, is a reference to the “eastern” poem of Pushkin himself - to the “The Fountain of Bakhchisaray”, where the name of Saadi first appeared. The principle of using genre references in a double function (as a semantic code and as a way to expand the receptive field) Akhmatova reveals in one of the “Editor’s Notes” (“Primechaniya redaktora”). Commenting on the technique of skipping stanzas, in a number of editions, including the last, 9th (1963) in the 21st note, she explains: “The skipped stanzas are an imitation of Pushkin. See “About “Eugene Onegin” (“O<b> Evgeni<i>Onegine”): “I also humbly confess that there are two missing stanzas in ‘Don Juan’, wrote Pushkin” [19. P. 345]. Pushkin in his article “Refutation of Critics and Comments on Own Works” (“Oproverzheniye na kritiki i zamechaniya na sobstvennyye sochineniya”] (1830), before the quoted phrase by Akhmatova, writes: “The missed stanzas have repeatedly given cause for censure. That there are stanzas in ‘Eugene Onegin’ that I could not or did not want to print is nothing to be surprised at. But when they are released, they break the connection of the story, and therefore the place where they were supposed to be is signified. It would be better to replace these stanzas with others or to transport and merge the ones I have saved...” [20]. Comparison of Akhmatova’s note with the cited Pushkin's note convinces us that Akhmatova “imitates” the “secret writing” of the Russian classic, who points out the omission of uncensored stanzas by referring to Byron’s authority. The reference to Pushkin assumes that the reader is aware of the censorship reasons for missing stanzas in “Eugene Onegin”, which suggests that in “Poem without a Hero”, there should be “seditious”, “hidden” stanzas in place of the omissions. Akhmatova’s (and in anamnesis) Pushkin's game with the reader is aggravated by the fact that in Byron's “Don Giovanni” the missing stanzas appeared precisely for censorship reasons, but without the author's knowledge. Look Byron's reproaches in a letter to Murray (August 31, 1821): “Upon what principle have you omitted the note on Bacon & Voltaire? and one of the concluding stanzas sent as an addlition? …I desire the omissions to be replaced (except the stanza on Semiramis) particularly the stanza upon the Turkish marriages” [21. Pp. 109-110]. It is easy to see that the demonstrated intertextual chain (when the frame text refers to another text (in this case, to Pushkin's), which, in turn, refers to the third text or to several texts at once, is the very “mirror letter”, about which Akhmatova writes in “Reshka” as her discovery. As we can see, one of the “assemblage points” of intertextual projections is the genre “gene” of the romantic poem, which Akhmatova - through Pushkin - erected to the English romantics and, above all, to Byron. Byron’s poems are perceived by her as a standard example of romantic poems, the forerunner of Pushkin’s poems, including “Eugene Onegin”, whom she also considered a poem. N. Roskina cites Akhmatova's judgment on this topic: “About ‘Don Juan’ by Byron: ‘Great, but our 'Onegin' fluttered out of it like a butterfly!’ ” [22. P. 530]. At the same time, the genesis of “Poem without a Hero” goes back, in the view of Akhmatova, goes back to Byronic poems, and more broadly - to English romantic poems - as canonical examples of romantic poems in general. Let's prove it. First, the poetess gives the title to her poem, based on the first verse of Byron's poem “Don Juan” - “I want a Hero!”. This reference was first mentioned by V. Zhirmunsky, who explains that “Byron complains that in modern times there are no heroes for a poem” [12. P. 513]. In the “Prose about the Poem” (“Proza o poeme”) Akhmatova comments on the title of the “Triptych” (“Triptikh”): “The one who is mentioned in its title <...> is really not in the poem, but much is based on his absence...” [19. P. 358]. Secondly, Akhmatova identifies the image of the “romantic poem” with Byron’s “Beppo”. Thus, in the notes to the fourth edition (1946) of “Poem without a Hero”, we read: “The Centenary enchantress is a romantic poem, like Byron’s ‘Beppo’ ” [19. P. 660]. Thirdly, Akhmatova puts an epigraph from Byron’s “Don Juan” to the early editions of the “Triptych”, in particular to the first edition (1942): “In my hot youth, when George the III was King... / Don Juan” [16. P. 165]. In addition, these allusions, placed in the heading complex, are supported by receptions for Byron's works in the text of the poem itself. Thus, the author refers the reader to Byron's poem “Manfred” by means of the phrase “Manfred’s spruce” (“Manfredovy eli”) [19. P. 340]. Moreover, this image appears in the context of meta-descriptive reasoning about the romantic poem. The very mention of Byron's name is also significant: “And George held the torch” [“I fakel Georg derzhal”] [19. P. 340] in “Reshka”. But the last of the specified receptions of Byron is a projection not on a literary text, but on a life one, referring to the tragic situation of Shelley's funeral, at which Byron was present. Therefore, references to Shelley are in the same row of the poem's appeal not only to art, but also to collisions of life. On the one hand, Shelley is important for Akhmatova as the author of romantic poems, one of which, namely the tragedy poem “Chenchi”, she was going to translate in 1936. In addition, Akhmatova was interested in his philosophical study “Defense of Poetry”, which, according to G. Mikhailova [7], was reminiscently reflected in the first chapter of the poem - in the context of discussions about the “poet in general”. These reminiscences show that Akhmatova knew this treatise well. In it, Shelley gave a “meta-meaningful” definition of the genre of the poem, which should have appealed to Akhmatova. The poem, in Shelley's interpretation, - “ a picture of life, depicting what is eternally true in it. The difference between the story and the poem is that the story is a list of separate facts connected only by the relations of time, place, circumstances, cause and effect; in the poem, the action is subordinated to the unchanging principles of human nature, as they exist in the consciousness of their creator, reflecting all other consciousnesses. The first is something private, referring only to a certain time and to certain combinations of events that may never be repeated; the second is something universal, containing the beginnings of kinship with any motives or actions possible for human nature” [23. P. 483]. On the other hand, the mention in the XXV stanza - in the context of reasoning about the origins of “Poem without a Hero”, about Shelley’s tragic death and his cremation on the seashore - refers not only to the literary traditions of English romantics (note that the stanza also contains an allusion to the poem Shelley “To the Skylark”, the title and authorship of which is disavowed in the 24th footnote in the “Editor's Notes” [19. P. 345]), but to the “text of life”, in which both legislators of the genre of the English romantic poem are united: …to the shore where Shelley is dead, Looking straight into the sky, lying, - And all the larks of the whole world Tore apart the abyss of ether And Georg held the torch [19. P. 340]. …na bereg, gde mertvyy Shelli, Pryamo v nebo glyadya, lezhal, - I vse zhavoronki vsego mira Razryvali bezdnu efira, I fakel Georg derzhal. Akhmatova needs a reference to the biographical situation, because one of the central collisions of the poem is the death of the Poet. Thus, Shelley's death serves as a prelude to the tragic deaths of poets of the 20th century and is projected onto their biographical code. The topic of Shelley's funeral also becomes a code for the death of Mandelstam (the second addressee of “Dedication” to “Poem without a Hero”), which is indicated in the title date - December 27, 1940 - the second anniversary of the poet's death. In “Dedication” the same semantic signs are found - eyes/gaze, sea, smoke, needles, burial [19. P. 320], as in stanza XXV, and they refer to Mandelstam's poetics of the period of the Cherdyn and Voronezh exile. So, in “Dedication” are hidden quotes from Mandelstam’s poems of the “Voronezh” period, such as, for example, “Not a mealy white butterfly...” (“Ne muchnistoy babochkoyu beloy…”), “Having deprived me of the seas, running and flying...” (“Lishiv menya morey, razbega i razleta…”), “The day was about five heads...” (“Den’ stoyal o pyati golovakh...”). One gets the impression that the supporting images of these poems (eyes, sea, needles, funeral) Akhmatova implicitly includes both in “Dedication” and in stanza XXIII. But the situation of Shelley's funeral is interpreted not only in the aspect of realities of life, but also in autometatextual terms. Thus, it is curious that the episode of Byron Shelley's burial with the culminating collision of Akhmatova's early poem “Near the Sea” (“U samogo morya”), the hero of which, the prince, like Shelley, drowned while sailing on a yacht, seems curious. The drowned prince (just like Shelley) looked at the sky (cf.: “He lay quietly and looked at the sky” (“Tikho lezhal i glyadel na nebo”)). It is also noteworthy that the burial of Shelley and the death of the tsarevich are accompanied by “bird” motives (cf. in the poem “Near the Sea” (“U samogomorya”): “Swallow, swallow, how it hurts!” (“Lastochka, lastochka, kak mne bol'no!”). These literary and biographical roll-overs place Akhmatova's early poem in the same genealogical paradigm as “Poem without a Hero”. It follows from this that Akhmatova actualizes in the “Triptych” the tradition of English romantic poems, onto which she projects not only “Poem without a Hero”, but her first poem as well. Conclusion As a result, the English romantic poem acts as a paradigmatic structure, projected, on the one hand, on Akhmatova’s poems written in this genre; on the other hand, on certain biographical situations that can be read through a romantic code. In romantic discourse, according to Akhmatova, the boundaries between life and art are erased. And the genre of the romantic poem is revived in “Poem without a Hero” precisely because life situations themselves gave this foundation. That is why Shelley’s death grows into the text of the “Triptych” and becomes an “accumulator” of similar situations, both literary and real-life. The genre patterns of the English romantic poem became for the poet a way of crystallizing life’s collisions. The English romantic poem, mediated by the tradition of Pushkin's romantic poems, thus turns out to be a kind of cultural universal, a kind of “categorical grid” within which the tragic aspects of being and consciousness are being comprehended. The archetype of the romantic poem, according to Akhmatova, typologically generalizes the fateful collisions of the poet’s fate.


About the authors

Lyubov G. Kikhney

Institute of International Law and Economics named after A.S. Griboedov

Author for correspondence.

PhD, Professor, Head of the Department of History of Journalism and Literature

21 Entuziastov Highway, Moscow, 111024, Russian Federation

Anna V. Lamzina

Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology


senior methodist of the Department of Foreign Languages

9 Institutskii Lane, Dolgoprudnyi, 141701, Russian Federation


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Copyright (c) 2020 Kikhney L.G., Lamzina A.V.

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