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  Philologica 5 (1998)  
   
russian
 
 
 

M. I. SHAPIR

THE PHENOMENON OF BATEN’KOV AND THE PROBLEM OF MYSTIFICATION
(The Linguistic and Versification Aspect. 3—5)

 
 
 


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Summary

3. Verse and language. Apart from its vocabulary, the language of different writers is typified by its grammar, but in verse the poet’s personal predilections are to a certain extent “suppressed” by the general grammatical characteristics of a particular poetic form. Hence it follows that approximate proportions of different parts of speech found in works written using the same metre cannot be used as evidence of a common genesis of these works. At the same time, divergences in the frequency of grammatical categories do not necessarily prove that the given works were composed by different authors, for the corresponding characteristics of poetic language can vary from one text to another. Evidence for the possibility that Baten’kov was not the author of the poems ascribed to him are the regular deviations from Baten’kov’s proportions of different parts of speech. The most striking stylistic feature of his literary “double” is the increased role of epithets: the overall figure for adjectives and participles in authentic iambic tetrameters is 10. 7%, while in dubious tetrameters it is 14. 2%. In Baten’kov adjectives are relatively rare, while verbs and adverbs are abundant: in his own tetrameters adjectives and verbs are found in the ratio of 1 to 1. 6, while in those ascribed to him the ratio is 1 to 1.

Syntax is no less dependent on the parameters of verse than morphology (thus, as a rule, the lower the proportion of stresses in particular lines, the closer the syntactic bonds between them). However, even here there is enough room for the author’s individuality. A comparison with Lomonosov, Sumarokov and Derzhavin reveals that Baten’kov and Pseudo-Baten’kov are distinguished by weak interlinear syntactic bonds. This, however, is not an additional argument for identification of Pseudo-Baten’kov’s poetic manner: from this point of view Baten’kov’s own poems are too heterogeneous. Also, the syntactic profile of the odic decima in the dubia is essentially different from the authentic Baten’kov. The classical structure of syntactic bonds was developed by Lomonosov: strong — weak — strong — weak — medium — strong — weak — medium — strong — weak. Baten’kov’s decima differs from this pattern by levelling syntactic bonds in the tercets: strong — weak — strong — weak — medium — medium — weak — medium — medium — weak (an analogous syntactic rhythm was discovered in Sumarokov’s odes). In the dubious Baten’kov, interlinear syntactic bonds are levelled only in the first tercet, but the difference between his decima and Lomonosov’s seems to be more significant. Firstly, in the dubia the hierarchy of weak syntactic bonds is upset: it is not the quatrain, but the initial distich (just as in Derzhavin’s odes) that proves to be syntactically more independent than other lines. Secondly, in the dubia the hierarchy of strong syntactic bonds is upset: it is not the two initial and two final lines in the stanza, but the lines in each distich of the quatrain that are bound together more tightly than others (this also brings Pseudo-Baten’kov’s syntactic pattern of the stanza closer to Sumarokov’s and Derzhavin’s). Thirdly, the syntactic rhythm in dubious poems (as compared with the authentic Baten’kov) appears to be exaggerated, as is often the case with imitations and stylizations: in the dubia the strongest syntactic bonds become even stronger and the weakest become weaker.

The syntax of the line is inseparable from its rhythm, therefore both the authoritative and dubious texts fit common regularities: everywhere words within the line are bound together more tightly than lines within the stanza; the amount of “contact” syntactic bonds (i. e. those between adjacent words) is higher than the amount of “distant” bonds; at the end of the line, words are bound together more tightly than at the beginning; fully stressed lines tend to be syntactically divided into hemistichs. However, all these features can be equally found in Pushkin’s syllabic-accentual and Maiakovskij’s accentual verses, and even in Mixail Kuzmin’s vers libres. At the same time the divergences between Baten’kov and his probable “co-author” form a certain system. According to M. L. Gasparov’s data, in the course of historical time the proportion of “distant” syntactic bonds decreases; thus it is significant that in authentic iambic tetrameters the proportion of such bonds is a little higher than in the dubia. Furthermore, in the eighteenth century weakening of syntactic bonds in the middle of four-word lines was not manifested so clearly as in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries — correspondingly, in the authentic Baten’kov the “middle” bond is also weakened less than in the dubia. Finally, the asymmetry between the beginning of the line and its end (which derives from strengthening of the last bond) is less perceptible in earlier poets — correspondingly, in Pseudo-Baten’kov’s two- and three-stress lines the last (i. e. the strongest) bond is even stronger, while the first (weakened) bond is weaker. Thus, using the example of intralinear syntax we are faced with the same exaggeration of style as in the case of interlinear syntax.

The coalescence of rhythm with grammar and lexis results in formulae and clichés. From this point of view the similarity between the two groups of texts is impressive: 27% of authentic and 37% of dubious iambic tetrameters form mutual rhythmic-grammatical and rhythmic-lexical parallels. However, one instructive circumstance prevents us considering this fact a powerful argument, not only for the authenticity of Pseudo-Baten’kov’s poems, but even for the very possibility that they belong to the same literary tradition. In 1918 Sergei Bobrov composed a continuation of Pushkin’s verse fragment “Kogda vladyka assirijskij...” (“When the Assyrian sovereign king...”). Only after his mystification had been successful, did Bobrov reveal his own authorship, and a few years later made this hoax the object of philological reflection, which had the aim of discovering Pushkin’s patterns. Bobrov confessed that his line Idet poslushlivyj Evnux (= The servile eunuch is coming) imitates Pushkin’s line from the poem “Stambul giaury nynche slaviat...” (“Today the giaours laud Istanbul...”): I spit podkuplennyj Evnux (= The bribed eunuch is sleeping); the word poslushlivyj ‘servile; obedient’ was borrowed from Anchar (Anchar). Bobrov’s other “Pushkinian” verses were constructed in a similar way: Teriaet on iazyk i um (He’s loosing both his speech and mind) ← Iazyk i um teriaia razom (Loosing my speech and mind at once); Shchastlivy debri Iudei (The wilds of Judaea are blissful) ← Spokojny debri Kalomony (The wilds of Col-amon are placid) and so on.

4. Language. In the field of phonetics and grammar the contrastive analysis of the language of Baten’kov and Pseudo-Baten’kov is mostly confined to deviations from today’s norm (“anomalies”). In the dubia accentual anomalies are half as frequent: in the authentic poems we find one unusually stressed word form every 20 lines, while in the dubious poems one such form is found every 40 lines. The question of the verbal suffix -sia/-s’ lies on the border between phonetics and morphology: the reduced form of this suffix is normally preceded by a vowel, and the full form follows a consonant (cf. : plestis’, but volochit’sia). Apparently, this was usual in Baten’kov’s everyday speech, but in his poetic language both variants are allowed after a vowel: there are 14 instances of the “Zhena iavilasia s kinzhalom” type and 34 instances of the type, “Stekajtes’, deti prosveshchen’ia”. It is not the case with Pseudo-Baten’kov: in his poems this suffix is used 45 times after a vowel, and every time in compliance with today’s norm. This fact corresponds with the general tendency: in the authentic poems the reduced forms of the doublets by/b, zhe/zh, ili/il’, chtoby/chtob etc. either are not found at all or are used less frequently than in the dubia.

Morphologic anomalies are chiefly represented by obsolete inflectional forms or their functional-stylistic equivalents. In Baten’kov one anomaly is found every 22 lines on average, while in Pseudo-Baten’kov we find one anomaly every 15 lines. In addition, the heightened archaism of the dubia derives mainly from the use of the most typical and distinctive phenomena belonging to the sphere of “poetic licence” inherited from the eighteenth-century tradition, such as “clipped” forms of pronouns, adjectives and participles, the genitive ending in -yia (-iia), optatives and so on. Especially suspicious is an anomalous form of the participle found in Pseudo-Baten’kov, which claims to be Church Slavonic: Spasen’ia pregradivy put’. The rules of Church Slavonic grammar require the following use: <...> Lish’ brenny obretut oblomki, // Spasen’ia pregradivsha put’ (= They’ll find but perishable remnants, // Which barred the way of salvation). The author presumably invented the specious form of the participle by analogy with the basic form pregradivyj. For such an irregular inflection has no parallels in the language of the authentic Baten’kov, there is a strong reason to consider this fact as virtually the most telling argument for the “counterfeit” version.

In the field of poetic syntax deviations from today’s norm are much more frequent than in the sphere of phonetics and morphology. This is determined by the amount of syntactic inversions, their frequency being the same in both groups of texts: approximately 77—78 times in every 100 lines. The proportion of instances when the order of the determinatum and the unextended attribute in concord is inverted also coincides, but given that in the dubia the share of such attributes is one third higher than in Baten’kov, freedom of word-order in the poems with different legends has different degrees (in the authentic poems there are 55% cases when the attributive adjunct precedes the determinatum, while in the dubious poems there are 66% such cases). Other examples of syntactic “licence” are on average two or three times less frequent in pseudo-baten’koviana as compared with Baten’kov himself. More than a half of these cases are ellipses (109/33); solecisms and quasi-solecisms are not so frequent (72/19); among other syntactic figures relatively notable is parcelling out (14/2).

What will be considered as peculiar lexicological phenomena are the words which are absent from the 17-volume Slovar’ sovremennogo russkogo literaturnogo iazyka (Dictionary of Modern Russian Literary Language) or supplied with delimiting marks. Both in Baten’kov and Pseudo-Baten’kov “marginal” lexis covers 5. 8% of word forms, but this figure is provided by different means. As with morphology, the author of the dubious poems chiefly draws from a store of the most traditional kinds of “poetic licence”. Such are, for instance, non-pleophonic forms which have a stylistically neutral pleophonic doublet in the language of Baten’kov: in the authentic Baten’kov the figures for pleophony and non-pleophony are equal (28 : 28), while in the dubia the former is half as frequent as the latter (15 : 29). The identical frequency of lexical anomalies corresponds to the results of the thoroughgoing comparative analysis of the vocabulary of the authentic and dubious poems. Of Pseudo-Baten’kov’s 1420 words 630 are found in the verses of the Decembrist poet. A fair part of the vocabulary of the dubious texts have no parallels in Baten’kov’s poems, but can be confirmed by the quotations from his correspondence. From this point of view the authentic poems are not different from the dubious: 69% of Baten’kov’s and 68% of Pseudo-Baten’kov’s poetic vocabulary is covered by Baten’kov’s letters.

A considerable difference between the original poems and the dubia is revealed in the index of frequently used words. This divergence is not very perceptible in the case of the most frequent nouns, but appears more visible when we deal with adjectives and verbs, and is really striking in the case of personal and possessive pronouns. In Baten’kov the pronouns ia ‘I’ and moj ‘my, mine’ are 1. 3 times as frequent as ty ‘thou’ and tvoj ‘thy, thine’, while in the dubia they are 8. 6 times as frequent. Another difference is connected with the frequency of demonstrative particles and adverbs denoting spatial orientation: in Baten’kov the former are four times as frequent, and the latter are 2. 5 times as frequent.

Most words which have no parallels in the authentic poems and letters (93%) are fixed in the dictionaries which were published before Baten’kov’s birth or during his lifetime. Another fourteen words which were described by lexicographers after the poet’s death had been used by his contemporaries in the first half of the nineteenth century. Pseudo-Baten’kov’s six occasional neologisms do not bring us closer to the truth: not one of them can give firm grounds for athetesis. However, another six words deserve special attention, because they are not found either in Baten’kov or his contemporaries: nadtresnutyj ‘(slightly) cracked’, neudachnik ‘unlucky man’, pervoosnova ‘primary basis’, pervoprichina ‘original cause’, proniknovennyj ‘moving’ (lit. ‘penetrating’), proshchal’no (lit. ‘valedictorily’). All these words, the last excepted, when used in the poems composed by a Decembrist, can to varying degrees testify against their authenticity. In particular, it is most likely that the noun neudachnik was used for the first time (in literary texts) in Goncharov’s 1869 novel Obryv (Precipice), while, in Iliushin’s edition, the Pseudo-Baten’kov’s ode Gordynia (Arrogance), the seventh line of which contains neudachnik, is dated 1860. Not only words, but also their meanings can be anachronistic. Thus, for example, the author of Uznik (The Prisoner, 1820s—1840s?) uses the word kamera to denote the prisoner’s cell. However, this meaning appeared in common usage later: in the second half of the nineteenth century. In the Decembrists’ memoirs other lexemes are used: kazemat, nomer, komnata, kvartira. Therefore, unless the word kamera with this meaning is found in the manuscripts of any Decembrist, we cannot consider Uznik an authentic poem. However, perhaps not the whole poem, but only a stanza, a line or even a single word may have been counterfeited.

5. Conclusion. The comparative analysis of these texts may be continued, but it is very likely that this will not add to what is already clear: in the language and poetics of Baten’kov and the author of the dubia a fundamental similarity is overshadowed by no less fundamental divergences. In addition, scarcely further investigation will give an indisputable answer to the question of the poems’ authorship. We do not know how large the gap between the works needs to be, before we can say that they must belong to different authors. When we compare these works and attempt to attribute them, we presume that the texts composed by one and the same person are relatively homogeneous. In our case this assumption is by definition unsubstantiated: the difference between the early and the late Baten’kov may be as great as it is possible to be.

To pave the way “from the writer to the language” and “from the language to the writer” (G. O. Vinokur) it is necessary to establish whether there are, among the manifestations of linguistic individuality, some which cannot be counterfeited. Everything changeable, unique, inimitable gives no grounds for comparison; everything stable, recurrent, repeatable is amenable to abstract reproduction. The artist’s self cannot find a direct, unconditional, organic reflection in the text, while all other (culturally determined) forms of expression can be alienated from one speech subject and adopted by another. The author remains a fiction of literary criticism: in fact, we do not know what we are saying when we pass off divergences between texts as differences between their creators: for us the latter are nothing but “labels” on texts. Once such a “label” is lost, we risk loosing a possibility of ever finding out to whom a particular text belongs.

 


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