Once More about Rodzianko, Pushkin, and The Green Lamp

Joseph Peschio, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

An important poet of the 1810s and early 1820s, Arkadii Rodzianko is now remembered only by a few Pushkinists as Pushkin’s Green Lamp comrade, occasional sexual rival, and profane correspondent. Much has been made of this association, especially its significance in Pushkin’s early political education. Meanwhile, Rodzianko remains a poorly-understood writer. Rodzianko’s contemporaries and the early Pushkinists regarded him as a light, Epicurean poet and libertine, “the carefree bard of mirth and love” (Bestuzhev, 29). Conversely, Soviet scholars describe Rodzianko as a serious civic poet and dismiss his “social reputation” as a “semipornographic poet,” deeming it an “aberration” and a “legend” (Vatsuro, 64, 47).

In this paper, I will revisit the origins of Rodzianko’s social reputation, starting with an explication of the appellations he earned from Pushkin, who called him “The Ukrainian Piron” and “The Bard of Socratic Love.” “Pironic” impropriety was of course a mode of writerly behavior that Pushkin adopted enthusiastically throughout his career, and Rodzianko was doubtless one of his models in this. And Pushkin’s use of the term “Socratic Love” is not ironic – as some commentators contend – but an oblique reference to one of Rodzianko’s most important poems, the homoerotic “Horatian” ode “K Ligurinusu.” (Horace’s Ligurinus is mentioned in Voltaire’s entry, “Amour socratique,” in the Dictionaire philosophique, whence Pushkin most likely took the phrase.)

“K Ligurinusu” is surprisingly representative of Rodzianko’s work. A number of other poems with homoerotic themes, images, and subtexts have been preserved in Rodzianko’s archive, though none have been published or, indeed, acknowledged by the one scholar to have written on the archive (Vatsuro). “K Ligurinusu” is significant in literary-historical terms because a copy of it found in The Green Lamp archive is the only documentary evidence we have of Rodzianko’s participation in the group. Comparing the Green Lamp redaction with the other extant redaction (still unpublished) provides us a textologically-based picture of The Green Lamp and the role Rodzianko assumed in the group, the Bard of Socratic Love. Rodzianko presented a relatively chaste redaction of “K Ligurinusu” to other, more official literary societies. But he revised the poem, making it more homoerotic expressly for The Green Lamp. This indicates both that taboo sexual discourses were part and parcel of the group’s aesthetic expectations and that Rodzianko was happy to oblige his fellow Lampists in this regard. Thus, his social reputation was neither an aberration nor a legend, but a consciously-constructed pose, one that had an impact on The Green Lamp and its members, including Pushkin.

Бестужев, А.А. Взгляд на старую и новую словесность в России. Полярная звезда на 1823 год. СанктПетербург, 1823.

 Вацуро, В.Э. Пушкин и Аркадий Родзянка (из истории гражданской поэзии 1820-хх гг.). Временник Пушкинской комиссии. 1969. Ленинград: АНСССР, 1971