Essay on Napelon as Portrayed by Pushkin and Lermontov

3902 Words Nov 27th, 2011 16 Pages
“We all now pose as Napoleons--
Millions of two-legged creatures
For us are the instrument of one.”
--Eugene Onegin, by Pushkin
Napoleon in Russian Thought

Despite Russia’s own history with Napoleon Bonaparte in the Russian invasion of 1812, Russians came to view Napoleon with a strange sort of admiration and reverence. In much the same way as Western Europe at the time, Russians saw Napoleon as a symbol: an extraordinary modern man who overstepped boundaries and moral law to change history on his own terms. As a historical example or type, Napoleon surfaces in the writing of Gogol, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Tutchev and Pushkin. In his verse novel Eugene Onegin (1825-1832), Pushkin cites the influence of Napoleon in Russian thought: “We
…show more content…
Helena; his first fall brought him to the island of Elba, and his whole life was spent in waging war against an island - Great Britain. Therefore, Pushkin writes:

“Ocean, your image was stamped upon him;
He was created by your spirit;
He is fathomless and potent like you,
Like you by naught to be tamed.”

But if Pushkin depicts Napoleon’s greatness as epic, heroic, the same image has induced Mikhail Lermontov to create mystical, enigmatic portrayal of the great man. Lermontov, the author of such patriotic lyrics as “Two Giants” and “Borodino,” was also bewitched by Napoleon’s fate. One of his first poems dates back to 1829, when the young bard was only 15 years old. “Napoleon - He was a stranger in this world. All in him was a mystery,” wrote Lermontov. He depicts Napoleon as a great individual, who rose high above his contemporaries and endeavored to oppose Fate, but perished in the struggle. For Lermontov and his peers, Napoleon was a colossus, a demigod, who fought against ignorant Europe, but was betrayed and captured, but not conquered. Napoleon’s death among his jailers, a picture of the Giant overpowered by the dwarfs, eclipsed his vanity and his crimes. In Lermontov’s poetry, mysterious grandeur surrounds Napoleon, found even the waves washing the shores of St. Helen.

“Where the waves wash the seashore
Where the wild monuments lies careless
In damp soil and small grave
There sleeps our great hero - Napoleon

Related Documents