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  Philologica 3 (1996)  


1. Was Prince Shalikov the Inventor of “the ‘Onegin’ Stanza”?


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Students of versification have tried more than once to find the prototype of “the Eugene Onegin stanza”. This search has not been successful: it is generally accepted that “the Onegin stanza was a fully original creation of Pushkin: neither Russian nor European poetry had such a 14-line stanza” (M. L. Gasparov). In the meantime, a text has escaped the attention of scholars, the stanzas of which contain the same sequence of rhymes as Eugene Onegin. This is an ode by Prince Petr Shalikov, Verses to His Majesty the Sovereign Emperor Alexander the First on the Occasion of the Immortal Victory at the Walls of Leipzig in October of the Year 1813. Nevertheless, one should not consider Shalikov the inventor of “the Onegin stanza”: his stanzas differ from those of Onegin in that they begin with a feminine clausula, and not from the masculine (aBaBccDDeFFeGG). However, the degree of similarity between the stanzaic discoveries of the two poets should not be underestimated: to Pushkin, the Onegin stanza was, primarily, the rhyming scheme. Let us recall his note of the “metrical formula” of his novel: “Strof 4/ croisés, 4 de suite 1. 2. 1. et deux”. Both Shalikov’s and Pushkin’s constructions conform to this formula.

The stanzas of Shalikov’s ode also differ from those of Eugene Onegin in that they are deprived of any regular internal syntactic segmentations. As is demonstrated in Vinokur’s classical study, The Word and Verse in “Eugene Onegin” (1941), the first two quatrains, in Pushkin and his followers, form, as a rule, not only a rhyme unit, but also a syntactic one: in about 70% to 80% of all cases, the end of the first strophoid coincides with the end of the sentence, while the end of the first strophoid in 50% to 65%. In Shalikov it is totally different: the border between the periods after the fourth, the eighth and the twelfth line appears only once in six cases.


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