Twin Poems by Lermontov

The emphasis of my presentation will be on the semantic significance of poetic form. The talk will concentrate on two chronologically contiguous poems by Mixail Lermontov (“Angel” [1831] and “Rusalka” [1832]), both of which are quite well known and often discussed. To my knowledge, however, they have never been seen in juxtaposition. I hope to demonstrate the value of setting the poems side by side, in terms of Lermontov’s general world view as well as his poetics. Both of these poems reflect an interest in a world beyond, in one case demonic and in the other case angelic. In both, the theme of music is essential, and it is expressed in a particularly mellifluous sound patterning. Most importantly, Lermontov’s choice of meter encourages the reader to understand these works as companion poems. Although the meters are not identical, little effort is necessary to “derive” one from the other.

While most of the talk will be devoted to close textual analysis, I intend to conclude by showing what can be gained by supplying new context to such “classic” poems. Moreover, I will—very briefly—indicate how the same phenomenon (meter as a semantic indicator) occurs with frequency in Lermontov’s work and why it should interest us.