Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin
Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin (Гаври́ла Рома́нович Держа́вин, 1743 – 1816) was the greatest Russian poet before Alexander Pushkin. Although his works are traditionally assigned to the literary Classicism, his best verse is full of antitheses and conflicting sounds in the way reminiscent of John Donne and other Metaphysical poets.
Born and educated in Kazan, he rose from the ranks as a common soldier to the highest offices of state under Catherine the Great. He was the governor of Olonets (1784) and Tambov (1785), personal secretary to the Empress (1791), President of the College of Commerce (1794), and Minister of Justice (1802). He retired in 1803 and spent the rest of his life in the country estate at Zvanka near Novgorod, writing idylls and anacreontic verse.
Derzhavin is best remembered for his odes, dedicated to the Empress and other courtiers. He paid little attention to the prevailing system of genres, and many a time would fill an ode with elegiac, humorous or satiric contents. In his grand ode to the Empress, for instance, he mentions searching for fleas in his wife's hair and compares his own poetry with lemonade.
Unlike other Classicist poets, Derzhavin found delight in the carefully chosen details, like a colour of wallpaper in his bedroom or a poetical inventary of his daily meal. He believed that the French was a language of harmony, the Russian was a language of conflict. Although he relished harmonious alliterations, sometimes he would deliberately instrument his verse to the effect of cacophony.
Derzhavin's major odes were the impeccable "On the Death of Prince Meschersky" (1779); the playful "Ode to Felicia" (1784); the lofty "God" (1785), which was translated into all languages of Europe; "Waterfall" (1794), occasioned by the death of Prince Potemkin, and "Bullfinch" (1800), a poignant elegy on the death of his friend Suvorov.
- Gde stol byl yastv, tam grob stoit (English: Where used to be a table full of viands, a coffin now stands)
- Ya tsar, - ya rab, - ya cherv, - ya bog (English: I'm a czar - I'm a slave - I'm a worm - I'm a God)
Lines found at Derzhavin's table after his death
- The current of Time's river
- Will carry off all human deeds
- And sink into oblivion
- All peoples, kingdoms and their kings.
- And if there's something that remains
- Through sounds of horn and lyre,
- It too will disappear into the maw of time
- And not avoid the common pyre... <lines broken>
- Y. K. Grot. Life of Derzhavin. SPb, 1883 - great biography by a first-rank scholar
- V. F. Khodasevich . Derzhavin. Berlin, 1931 - a literary masterpiece in its own right.
The contents of this article is licensed from www.wikipedia.org under the GNU Free Documentation License. Click here to see the transparent copy and copyright details