A. A. DOBRICYN
NOTES ON THE ORIGINS
OF BARATYNSKIJ AND VIAZEMSKIJ’S EPIGRAMS
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, anecdotes and bons mots were often transformed into epigrams, and epigrams were often recast as prose anecdotes. Many epigrammatic witticisms made their way into novels, but movement in the opposite direction was relatively rare.
I. A. Pil’shchikov has pointed to a passage from Diderot’s Les Bijoux indiscrets as a possible model for Baratynskij’s epigram “Damon! You have started keep going...” It turns out, however, that the immediate source was Drobecq’s seven-line poem Conseil à un jeune Métromane, published in Almanach des Muses in 1778. If O. V. Golubeva is correct in saying that “Boratynskij’s epigram reflects the conventional features of a caricature of Shalikov”, we have here yet another example of the application of translated epigrams to a new context.
In precisely the same way, Viazemskij’s epigram ridiculing S. S. Bobrov “Bibris no doubt sang in the language of the gods...” was taken not from the Fontenelle passage indicated by I. A. Pil’shchikov, but from a Panis epigram published in Almanach des Muses in 1781. Nonetheless, the witticism Pil’shchikov points to merits attention, for it demonstrates that similar literary debates give rise to similar texts. Another example of this phenomenon is Pushkin’s attack on Zhukovskij and his caesura-less blank iambic pentameter, which is rife with syntactic enjambments: the mathematician and epigrammatist, Abraham Gotthelf Kästner, reacted in a very similar way to German hexameters.
In the conclusion of this note, the author presents the sources of two more epigrams (1808 and 1875) written by Viazemskij, who continued to value French wit to the end of his life.