Vjačeslav Ivanov’s “Alpine Horn” as a Manifesto of Symbolism

The manifesto is a genre associated mainly with Futurism, and Ivanov’s 1901 poem “Al′pijskij rog” is not in the style or form of a typical manifesto. However, in a succinct and clear form, it presents the basic tenets of Symbolism. My paper will present a detailed analysis of the poem from this viewpoint.

The poem begins with the concrete (material) image of a shepherd blowing his horn to produce a song, which is then echoed by the mountains. This sets the paradigm for subsequent developments: artist—instrument—artwork (music)—response. In the same concrete sphere, the next level is a metaphoric one: the echo sounds “as if”: choir of spirits—unearthly instruments—speech of heavens—thought. The second half of the poem “echoes” the same paradigm on the abstract level in a comparable two layers: 1) material: musician—genius—song of earth—another song in human hearts; 2) metaphor: answering voice—Nature=Symbol—sounding—God In the paradigm the horn as instrument corresponds to “genius” (human talent) and Nature. Each response raises the discussion to a higher level of consideration as we move from the mundane to the divine. Nature is equated with the Symbol, a key Symbolist Neo-Platonic doctrine. The material world is seem as merely a poor reflection of the spiritual realm and only the artist (poet-musician) can break through the veil of maya to glimpse the higher realm. Included are oblique references to Goethe’s Faust (“Alles Vergaengliche ist nur ein Gleichniss”=“Priroda—simvol, kak sej rog”) and the Sermon on the Mount. Although the verse is unrhymed, there are sonic echoes throughout, the most important being rog/Bog.

A table of these relationships will be presented and discussed in more detail vis-à-vis the poem.