M. Iu. Lermontov

Poems in this Collection

Death of a Poet/Смерть поэта
Bored and sad.../И скучно и грустно...
I go out on the road alone.../Выхожу один я на дорогу...
The Leaf/Листок
The Angel/Ангел

Timeline for M. Iu. Lermontov


Born October 3 in Moscow to Yurii Petrovich, a retired officer of questionable heritage (he claimed to be of Spanish and Scottish ancestry), and Marya Mikhailovna (nee Arsenieva), a wealthy--though sickly--member of the Stolypin family. Family moves to the family estate of Marya Mikhailovna at Tarkhany in the Penza province.

Marya Mikhailovna dies in February and Yurii Petrovich moves to the Tula province, leaving him to be raised by his maternal grandmother, Elizaveta Alekseevna Arsenieva (nee Stolypina). Mikhail Yur'evich spends a mostly happy childhood in his grandmother's care, receiving private tutoring and achieving early notoriety as a skilled artist and musician.

Elizaveta Alekseevna moves to Moscow in order for Lermontov to receive a more intensive education. Returns briefly to Tarkhanov.

Enrolls in Moscow University's School for Nobility, where he earns the nickname "Frog" and excels in his studies of literature. He begins translating (mostly from German and English) and writing poetry. His earliest lyrics and other writings, which he published in the school's literary journal, display the poet's love for Schiller, Byron and Pushkin. Begins his first draft of what eventually becomes Демон ("The Demon"), a narrative poem that Lermontov worked on throughout his adult life and which was only published posthumously, in 1842. Although not particularly popular at school, his grandmother's family connections allowed Lermontov into many of Moscow's most elite social circles, where his wit and talent gain him much favor. He becomes known throughout Society for his beautiful and sometimes acerbic epigrams and album verses. It is in these early poetic fragments especially that Lermontov developed his characteristic method of incorporating, and thus refreshing, quotations and references from other famous poets' work. Enrolls in Moscow University proper, but does not exert much effort in his studies, instead turning his attention to poetry, to society, and to several (mostly unsuccessful) romances.

Lermontov's father, with whom he had only limited contact throughout his childhood, dies.

Withdraws from Moscow University and moves to St. Petersburg with the intent of studying at the university there. St. Petersburg University, however, rejects Lermontov's transfer application, refusing to accept his work at Moscow University, where he had done more offending of professors than schoolwork. Consequently enrolls in Junker School (School of Cavalry Cadets) in St.Petersburg. Pens some of his most famous lyrics, such as Парус ("The Sail") and Нет, я не Байрон ("No, I am not Byron"), in this transitional period. Хаджи Абрек (Khadzhi Abrek), a narrative poem, appears as Lermontov's first published work in 1833 in Bilblioteka dllya chteniya. As he enters the soldier's life, Lermontov shifts his creative focus away from the lyrics of his youth to more "mature" material that reflected his new surroundings, which included more debauchery than romance. The poems from this period are commonly referred to as Lermontov's "Hussar poems," and he also began working on prose fiction at this time. Finishes School with the rank of Cornet (equivalent of Second Lieutenant).

Upon graduation from the Junker School, Lermontov is stationed in the elite regiment of Hussar Life Guards in Tsarskoe Selo. During this period, Lermontov leads an increasingly hectic and paradoxical existence. While his literary activities both intensify and diversify, Lermontov's social life is that of a Society darling and an officer. However immersed he seemed in the delights and dramas of social life in the capital, Lermontov privately-and gradually publicly-became more and more critical of the pretentiousness and superficiality of that life. Lermontov's most famous dramatic work, Маскарад (The Mascarade), published in 1836, expresses his growing disdain for the vagaries of the nobles' social life in the capital. This development culminated in his famous response to the death of his much beloved Pushkin in a duel. Circulated and distributed via unofficial channels throughout St. Petersburg in February of 1837, Lermontov's poem Смерть поэта (Death of a Poet) laments the loss of Russia's greatest poet and even implicates the court in his death. The poem exhibits Lermontov's typically brash, technically ostentatious and precise style and was almost solely responsible for catapulting the poet into the national spotlight. Wary of any insurrection, the Tsar's government transfers Lermontov to the front in the Caucasus, to the Nizhegorodsky Dragoons. In June, publishes Поле Бородино (Borodino Field), a narrative poem, in Sovremennik, a journal begun by Pushkin. The poem is a narrative account of Kutuzov's famous battle against Napoleon and celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the Russian's defeat of the French and expresses Lermontov's enthusiastic patriotism. Not coincidentally, by year's end Lermontov is transferred closer to the capital, to Novgorod, thanks in part to his patriotism but more importantly to the influence in court of his grandmother.

Readmitted to the capital and granted full pardon; transfers service back to Hussars in Tsarskoe Selo and resumes voracious social life, which now intensifies to the extent that he begins to ignore some of his military duties. Regular publication begins, first of lyrics, then of longer narrative poems, beginning with Тамбовская казначейша (The Tambov Treasurer's Wife), in Sovremennik, under the direction of Russia's two most important living poets, Viazemsky ad Zhukovsky. Begins work on the final version of Demon. Increased disenchantment with high society coincides with intensification of creative output. Otechestvennye Zapiski begins frequent publication of Lermontov's lyrics. Promoted to full Lieutenant.

At a New Year's Eve ball attended by all of high society, including a young Ivan Turgenev, Lermontov insults two of the Tsar's daughters. In February, he publishes a poem called "The First of January," ostensibly about that evening, which is especially scornful of society generally and of a few of its members in particular. Finally, in March Lermontov involves himself in a duel with the French ambassador's son that, although no one is hurt, results in the poet's arrest and second exile to the Caucasus to the Tenginsky Infantry Regiment. While under arrest, Lermontov befriends the critic Vissarion Belinsky, publishes both the first edition of his masterpiece, Герой нашего времени (Hero of Our Time) and the most famous (in his lifetime) of his narrative poems, Мцыри (The Circassian Boy), and attends Nikolay Gogol's name-day party in Moscow on the way to his new post in the Caucasus. Sometime during this first stage of exile, Lermontov also writes one of his more famous lyrics, Тучи ("The Clouds"), which expresses the poet's (very typically Romantic) feeling of free from concerns of social and political convention. At the front in the Caucasus, Lermontov, hoping to return to official favor, insinuates his way into several battles and displays remarkable bravery. His grandmother again lobbies for leniency for Lermontov, this time convincing the authorities to allow him two months' leave. Lermontov is recommended for an official award for valor in battle.

Receives two-month pass from army in early January and arrives in St. Petersburg in early February, where, despite still being under official condemnation, he immediately attends a society ball, thus provoking even further consternation from the authorities. This last St. Petersburg period includes a flurry of creative output, including the publication of the final edition of Hero of Our Time and many of the poet's most famous lyrics, two of which-- Выхожу один я на дорогу ("I go out onto the road alone...") and Сон ("The Dream") -- prefigure the oncoming tragic events. Outstays his two-month pass and, in mid-April, is sent immediately back to the front, where he arrives in May to the town of Pyatigorsk. On July 15, a retired army major, Nikolay Martynov, whom Lermontov had continually derided and mocked since his arrival, shoots and kills Lermontov in a duel.

Dana Fuller

Bibliography of critical works on M. Iu. Lermontov



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