Apollon Maykov

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Apollon Nikolayevich Maykov
Portrait of Maykov by Vasily Perov
Born June 4 [O.S. May 23] 1821
Died March 20 [O.S. March 8] 1897
Saint Petersburg
Occupation Poet
Nationality Russian
Notable awards Pushkin Prize

Apollon Nikolayevich Maykov (or Maikov) (Russian: Аполло́н Никола́евич Ма́йков, June 4 [O.S. May 23] 1821, Moscow – March 20 [O.S. March 8] 1897, Saint Petersburg) was a Russian poet, best known for his lyric verse, showcasing images of Russian villages, nature, and Russian history. His love for ancient Greece and Rome, which he studied for much of his life, is also reflected in his works. Maykov spent four years translating the epic The Tale of Igor's Campaign (1870) into the modern Russian, translated the folklore of Belarus, Greece, Serbia, Spain, as well as the works of Heine, Adam Mickiewicz and Goethe among others. Many of Maykov's poems were put to music by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky.


Apollon Maykov was born into the artistic family. His father, Nikolai Apollonovich Maykov (1796-1873), was a painter, an academic of the Imperial Academy of Arts in his later years. His mother Yevgeniya Petrovna Maykova (née Gusyatnikova, 1803-1880) loved literature and later in her life had some of her own verses published.[1] The boy's childhood was spent in the family estate just outside Moscow, in the house often visited by writers and artists.[2] Maykov's early memories and impressions formed the foundation for his later much lauded landscape lyricism, marked with what biographer I.Yampolsky calls "touchingly naive craving for the old patriarchal ways."[3]

In 1834 the family moved to Saint Petersburg. Both Apollon and his brother Valerian were being educated at home, under the guidance of their father's friend, a writer, philologist and translator Vladimir Solonitsyn.[note 1] Ivan Goncharov, a virtually unknown young author at the time, taught Russian literature to the Maykov brothers. As he later remembered, the house "was full of life, and had many visitors, providing the never ceasing flow of information from all kinds of intellectual spheres, including science and arts."[4] At the age of 15 Apollon started to write poetry.[5] Along with the group of friends who formed their domestic circle (Vladimir Benediktov, Ivan Goncharov and Pavel Svinyin among others) brothers Apollon and Valerian were editing two hand-written magazines, Podsnezhnik (Snow-drop) and Moonlit Nights where young Apollon's earliest poetic exercises appeared.[1]

After finishing his whole gymnasium course in just three years,[3] in 1837 Apollon Maykov enrolled into the Saint Petersburg University's law faculty. As a student he learnt Latin which enabled him to read Ancient Roman authors' originals. Later he learnt Ancient Greek too but until then had to content himself with French translations of the Greek classics. It was in the University that Maykov developed his passionate love of the Ancient Greece and Rome, something which influenced him immensely.[3]

Literary career[edit]

Apollon Maykov's first poems (signed "M.") were published in 1840 (Odessa Almanac) and 1841 (Biblioteka Dlya Chteniya, Otechestvennye Zapiski). Guided by his father's example, he was studying painting too, but soon devoted himself to poetry wholeheartedly. Instrumental in this decision was Pyotr Pletnyov, the University professor whose encouragement for the young man was highly important. Fulfilling the role of a mentor, Pletnyov showed the first poems of his protégé to such literary giants as Vasily Zhukovsky and Nikolai Gogol. Maykov has never become a painter, but still those lessons had strong bearing upon his artistic worldview and influenced the style of his writing.[1]

In the early 1842 his first collection Poems by A.N. Maykov was published, to much acclaim. "For me it sounds like Delvig's ideas expressed by Pushkin," Pletnyov wrote.[6] Vissarion Belinsky responded with a comprehensive essay,[7] praising the book's first section called "Of the Anthology Kind" (V antologicheskom rode), a cycle of verses stylized after both ancient Greek epigrams and traditional elegy. Despite certain flaws (which Belinsky subjected to thorough analysis too) the book was a success, placing Apollon Maykov among Russia's leading poets of the time. Much gratified with the famous critic's close attention,[note 2] the young poet paid heed to all of the latter's advice and years later, working upon re-issues, did a lot of self-editing in direct accordance with them.[8]

After graduating the University, Maykov joined the Russian Ministry of Finance as a clerk. Having received a stipend for his first book from Tsar Nicholas I, he used the money to travel abroad, visiting Italy (where he spent most of the time writing poetry and painting), France, Saxony, and Austria. In Paris Apollon and Valerian attended lectures on literature and fine arts at the Sorbonne and the College de France.[5] On his way back Maykov visited Dresden and Prague where he met Vaclav Hanka and Pavel Jozef Safarik, two leaders of the national revival movement.[3] The direct outcome of this voyage for Apollon Maykov was a University dissertation on the Ancient Slavic people's law.[5]

In 1844 Maykov returned to Saint Petersburg to join Rumyantsev Museum's library as an assistant. He became actively involved with the literary life of the Russian capital, contributing regularly to several leading journals: Otechestvennye Zapiski, Finsky Vestnik, Sovremennik. He also debuted as a critic and published several essays on both literature and fine art, reviewing works by artists like Ivan Aivazovsky, Fyodor Tolstoy, Pavel Fedotov, from the position of a "natural school" doctrine follower.[1]

Apollon Maykov circa 1850

In 1846 the Petersburg Anthology (Peterburgsky sbornik) published his poem "Mashenka", which saw Maykov discarding elegy and leaning towards more down-to-Earth style of writing. Again Belinsky was much impressed, hailing the arrival of "a new talent, quite capable of presenting real life in its true light."[9] The critic also liked Two Fates (Dve sudhby, Saint Petersburg, 1845), another "natural school" piece. Marked by Mikhail Lermontov's influence, it featured "a Pechorin-type character, an intelligent, thinking nobleman degrading into a low-brow philistine," according to Alexander Hertzen's review.[10] In the late 1840s Maykov was also writing prose, using a Gogol-induced manner known as "physiological sketch": among the short stories, published at the time, were "The Uncle's Will" (1847) and "The Old Woman. Fragments From the Notes of a Virtuous Man" (1848).[1]

In the late 1840s Maykov became close to Belinsky's circle, striking friendships with Nikolai Nekrasov and Ivan Turgenev. He started to attend Mikhail Petrashevsky's 'Secret Fridays'. Maintaining close contacts with Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Aleksey Pleshcheyev, he became effectively a member of the Petrashevsky Group, which had to even greater extent his brother Valerian involved. Later the governmental investigative committee interrogated Maykov on the subject. The poet avoided arrest (his role in the group's activities was not prominent) but for several years was kept under the secret police surveillance.[1] In the years to come Maykov, who's never believed in the ideas of Socialism, often expressed his embarrassment with his involvement in the Petrashevsky affair. "For all the vagueness of my political views at the time I was unreasonable enough to join a group where all the government's actions had been criticized and condemned as indisputably wrong, with many of [its members] applauding every mistake - like, the worse they rule, the quicker they'll fall," he confessed in a letter to M.A.Yazykov in 1854.[11] In the 1850s Maykov started to drift towards Slavophiles, becoming a champion of "firm" monarchy and strong Orthodox Christian values.[2] "Only such form of the political system could be called viable which had been proved by the test of history," he argued, writing to Aleksandr Nikitenko.[12] In 1852 Maykov moved into the office of the Russian Committee of the Foreign censorship where he continued working for the rest of his life, becoming its chairman in 1882.[1]

In 1847 Apollon Maykov's second collection of poems, Sketches of Rome (Otcherki Rima) came out, an artistic outcome of his earlier European trip. Belinsky's criticism has been taken into account: some poems were built upon the juxtaposition of majestic ruins and lush landscaped of the 'classic' Rome to the everyday squalor of contemporary Italy. This homage to the "natural school" movement, though, hasn't made Maykov's style less flamboyant; on the contrary, in Sketches of Rome he was making full use of exotic epithets and colourful imagery.[1]

In 1848-1852 Maykov wrote little, then the Crimean War apparently got his creative forces awaken. First came the poem "Claremont Cathedral" (1853), an ode to Russia's historical feat which prevented the Mongol hordes from devastating the European civilization,[note 3] then the compilation 1854. Poems. Some of its poems, like those about the siege of Sevastopol ("To General-Lieutenant Khrulyov") were welcomed by the literary left (notably Nekrasov and Chernyshevsky), others, glorifying the monarchy ("In the Memory of Derzhavin", "A Message to the Camp") were deemed 'reactionary'.[13] The last 1854 poem, "The Harleqiun", for many looked like a caricature on a revolutionary man aiming at raising havoc and undermining centuries-old moral principles.[13] Now a "patriarchal monarchist", Maykov started to praise the Nikolai I regime. Another poem, "The Carriage", where Maykov openly supported the Tsar was not included in 1854, but circulated in a hand-written version and did his reputation a lot of harm. Enemies were either ridiculing the poet or accusing him of political opportunism and base flattery, friends were positively horrified. Poet Nikolay Shcherbina in his epigrams labeled Maykov "a chameleon" and "a servile slave".[1] While social democrats (who dominated in the Russian literary scene of the time) saw political and social reforms necessary for Russia, Maykov called for solidifying the state power, seeing this as the only answer to all problems.[13]

After Russia's defeat in the war there came a period of sobering up for Maykov. Poems like "The war is over. Vile peace is signed...", "Whirlwind" (both 1856), "He and Her" (1867) condemned lame, inadequate officials and corrupt high society, indifferent to the woes of the country and its people.[13] Now openly critical of Nikolas I, Maykov admitted to having been wrong when professing a belief in the monarch. "It was only my stupidity, never a meanness," he was assuring Yakov Polonsky, according to the latter's memoirs.[14]

In 1858 Maykov took part in the expedition to Greece of the Bayan corvette. Prior to that he read numerous books about the country and learnt the modern Greek language. As a result of this trip two books came out: The Naples Album (including "Tarantella", one of his best known poems) and Songs of Modern Greece. The former, focusing on the contemporary Italian life, was coldly received by Russian critics who found it too eclectic. In retrospect it is regarded as a curious experiment in breaking genre barriers, with images and conversations from the foreign life used to express things which in Russia couldn't be pronounced aloud.[13] The theme of the author's sympathy to the Greek liberation movement featured there strongly too.[3]

The early 1860s saw Maykov's popularity on the rise: he often performed in public and had his works published by the leading Russian magazines.[15] But in the mid-1860s Maykov once again drifted towards the conservative camp where he stayed for the rest of his life, condemning young radicals, expressing solidarity with Mikhail Katkov's nationalistic remarks regarding the Polish Uprising and Russian national policy in general. In poems like "Fields" (which employed Gogol's metaphor of Russia as troika, but expressed horror of the emerging capitalism),[13] "Niva" and "The Sketch" he praised the 1861 land reform, provoking sharp criticism from Saltykov-Schedrin[16] and Nikolay Dobrolyubov.[2] Adopting the Pochvennichestvo doctrine, Maykov became allies with Apollon Grigoriev, Nikolai Strakhov and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, his friendship with the latter proving to be particularly firm and lasting one.[1]

In 1860-1870s Maykov was contributing mainly to the The Russian Messenger.[3] One of the leading proponents of Russian Panslavism, he saw his country as fulfilling a mission in uniting Slavs, but first and foremost freeing the peoples of Balkans from the Turkish occupation. "Once you've seen Russia in this [Panslavic] perpective, you start to understand its true nature and feel ready to devote yourself to this life-affirming cause," wrote Maykov in a letter to Dostoyevsky.[17] The mission of art, according to the poet, was to develop the national self-consciousness and revive the "historical memory" of the people. The Slavic history and moral basis on which it stood became Maykov's poetry major theme (cycles "Of the Slavic World", "At Home", "Callings of History"). Well aware of the darker sides of Russia's historic legacy, he still thought it necessary to highlight its "shiny moments" ("It's dear to me, before the icon...", 1868). Maykov wasn't a religious person himself but attributed great importance to religious fervour of the common people seeing it as a basis for "moral wholesomeness" ("The spring, like an artist", 1859; 1868; "Ignored by all...", 1872). His religious poems of the late 1880s ("Let go, let go...", "The sunset’s quiet shine...", "Eternal night is near...") differed radically from his earlier odes to paganism. Maykov now professed a belief in "spiritual humbleness" and was sure that this particular feature of the Russian national character would become the latter's saving grace.[13]

Maykov and revolutionary democrats[edit]

Unlike Afanasy Fet, his artistic ally, Maykov has always felt the need of "spiritual communication" with the ordinary people and was following "the folk tradition set by Pushkin, Lermontov, Krylov and Koltsov," according to biographer Yampolsky.[3] Yet, he was skeptical about the doctrine of narodnost [closeness to common people] as formulated by Dobrolyubov and Chernyshevsky who saw the Russian literature's mission in actively promoting the democratic movement. In 1853, horrified by Nekrasov's poem "The Muse", Maykov came up with "An Epistle to Nekrasov", urging the radical poet to "dilute his malice in nature's harmony." Yet, he never severed ties with his opponent and often gave him credit. "There is only one poetic soul here, and that is Nekrasov," Maykov wrote in an October 1854 letter to Ivan Nikitin.[18]

According to Yampolsky, Nekrasov's poem "Grandfather" (1870, about a nobleman supporting the revolutionary cause) might have been an indirect answer to Maykov's poem "Grandmother" (1861) which praised high moral standards of the nobility and condemned the generation of nihilists. Maykov's poem Princess (Knyazhna, 1876) had its heroine Zhenya, a girl from aristocratic family, joining a gang of conspirators to lose all notions of norms - religious, social or moral. Unlike Vsevolod Krestovsky or Viktor Klyushnikov, though, Maykov treated his 'nihilist' characters rather like victims of the post-Crimean war social depression rather than the villains on their own right.[3]

The Tale of Igor's Campaign[edit]

Seeking both inspiration and moral virtues in the spirit of Russian folklore, Maykov was trying to revive the archaic Russian language tradition which he called "the treasury of the Russian soul."[19] In his later years he made a lot of freestyle translations and stylized renditions of Belorussian and Serbian folk songs, developed strong interest in the non-Slavic folklore too, exemplified by epic poems Baldur (1870) and Bringilda (1888) based on the Scandinavian epos.[3]

In the late 1860s Maykov became intrigued by Slovo o Polku Igoreve, which his son at the time was studying in gymnasium. Baffled by vagueness and occasional incongruity of all the translations available, the poet shared his doubts with professor Streznevsky, who replied: "It is for you to sort these things out". Maykov submerged himself into the subject and for four years was working upon the new version of the text. Later he referred to those years as his "second university", in terms of how much history and philology he had to learn.[3] In his commentaries to the publication Maykov mentioned that his driving stimulus was to prove the authenticity of the text - something that many (Ivan Goncharov among them) were expressing doubts about. Ignoring Dostoyevsky's advice to use rhymes so as to make the text sounding more modern, Maykov provided the first ever scientifically substantiated translation of the document, with comprehensive commentaries. First published in Zarya magazine's January 1870 issue, it is still regarded as one of his finest work.[13]

Taking his historical poems and plays seriously, Maykov paid great attention to the problem of authenticity. In his drama about the Old Believers, The Wanderer (1867), he, admittedly, borrowed a lot from the "hand-written literature of raskolniks" and, "once involved with those poetic gems, tried to re-mould them into... modern poetic forms."[20] Each of Maykov's work was more than just a poem, having been preceded by thorough research.[13]

Maykov saw his personal creative mission as a continuous "spiritual ascension and self-improvement," according to the biographer O. Mayorova.[1] While going back to the times of old, the poet often had in mind contemporary Russia's issues. "Writing of ancient history I was looking for parallels to things that I had to live through. Our times provide so many examples of the rise and fall of the human spirit that an attentive eye looking for analogies can spot a lot," he wrote.[21]

Christianity and paganism[edit]

Apollon Maykov in his later years

Maykov's first foray into the history of the early Christianity, "Olynthus and Esther" (1841) was not taken kindly to by Belinsky. The poet returned to this theme ten years later in the lyrical drama Three Deaths (1857). Dissatisfied with the result, he came up with its second part, "The Death of Lucius", finished in 1863. Three Deaths became the starting point of his next big poem, Two Worlds, written in 1872, then re-worked and finished in 1881. Following Belinsky's advice, Maykov gave the role of Lucius, a weak Epicurean, to Decius, a patrician, embodying all things sublime that's ever been created in Ancient Rome, who, while hating Nero, he still hoped for the state to rise up from its ashes.[13] As Sketches of Rome decades earlier, Two Worlds, was a eulogy to Rome's eternal glory ("Rome has united everything / Like mind for man, it’s given laws to the whole world and sealed the peace"), according to biographer Vladimir Solovyov, featuring a hero whose whole life was driven by his faith in Rome. With it he dies, fighting the impending Christianity, believing Rome to be eternal even if realizing its fall was imminent. Rome for him is like Heaven, "it's dome embracing Earth."[5]

As different versions of this mammoth work started to appear in print, it became clear how much effort has gone into this epic.[1] While in his earlier years the author was evidently more attracted by the Antiquity, decades later he became much more intrigued by Christianity and its dramatic stand against the oppressors. Some contemporaries praised Maykov for "objectivity", respecting him as a scholar as well as a poet. Still Orthodox Christian critics were skeptical about the whole cycle, considering its author "too much of a heathen" and accusing him of failing to show the ideas of Christianity in their true historical light.[22] Later researchers tended to review Maykov's historical dramas more favourably, giving their author credit for remaining true to his principle of total neutrality which enabled him to show both positives and negative aspects of the two cultures, old and new. Maykov's Antiquity "lives and breathes, it's anything but dull," wrote critic F. Zelinsky in 1908.[23] For the Two Worlds Maykov received The Russian Academy of Sciences' Pushkin Prize in 1882.[1]

Last years[edit]

In 1858 G.A.Kushelev-Bezborodko published the first Maykov's anthology Poems by Ap. Maykov. In 1879 it was expanded and re-issued by Vladimir Meshchersky. In 1884 came out The Complete Maykov (its second edition following in 1893).[5] In the 1880s Maykov's poetry was dominated by the religious and nationalistic themes and ideas. Only few of his later poems ("Emshan", "The Spring", 1881) according to I.Yampolsky had "the undisputable artistic quality."[3] In his later years the poet wrote almost nothing new, engaged mostly in editing his earlier work, preparing them for compilations and anthologies. "Maykov's was a quiet, radiant life of an artist, evidently not belonging to our times... his path smooth and full of light. No strife, no passions, no persecution," wrote Dmitry Merezhkovsky in 1908.[24] This sweeping generalization was far from truth, biographer F. Prima argued, but it certainly expressed the general impression the poet was making in his later years.[13]

On March 8, 1897, Apollon Maykov died in Saint Petersburg. "His legacy will always sound as the mighty, harmonious and very complicated final chord to the Pushkin period of the Russian poetry," wrote Arseny Golenishchev-Kutuzov in the Ministry of Education's obituary.[25]


Maykov's initial rise to fame, according to the Soviet scholar Fyodor Pryima, had a lot to do with Pushkin and Lermontov's untimely deaths, and the feeling of desolation shared by many Russian intellectuals of the time.[13] Vissarion Belinsky, who discovered this new talent, believed it was for Maykov to fill the vacuum. "Lavish is Russian soil, never failing to come up with talents... The moment your heart, crushed by another heavy loss or insulted by unfulfilled promise, is ready to collapse in desperation, suddenly a new phenomenon springs up to awaken in you a trembling hope... The emergence of this new talent is especially important in our times, when in the devastated Church of Art... we see but grimacing jesters entertaining dumb obscurants, egotistic mediocrities, merchants and speculators," Belinsky wrote, reviewing Maykov's debut book.[26]

The sleeve of Poems by Apollon Maykov in 2 volumes, 1858.

Hailing the emergence of a new "powerful talent", Belinsky unreservedly supported young author's poems of the "anthological" kind, stylizations after the Ancient Greek poetry. The critic saw them as "the major element of the author's talent," praised "the plasticity and gracefulness of the imagery," the virtuosity in the art of decorativeness, the "poetic, lively language" but also the simplicity of the latter, finding the book free from "false pathos" or "feigned elegance".[27] "Even in the Pushkin's legacy this poem would have rated among his best anthological pieces," Belinsky wrote about the poem called "The Dream".[28] The critic disliked several poems concerning the recent Russian history. While admitting "Who's He" (a piece on Peter the Great, which some years later found its way into textbooks) was "not bad", Belinsky lambasted "Two Coffins", a hymn to Russia's victories over Karl XII and Napoleon. All the while, he advised the author not to stay in the "anthological" field for too long.[29]

Maykov's debut collection was a success and in the course of the next few years he strengthened his position as one of the leading Russian poets. In the 1840s "his lexical and rhythmic patterns were becoming more diverse but in essence the style remained the same, still relying upon the basics of classical elegy," according to biographer O.E.Mayorova. Both in his landscape lyricism and social sketches, while the wording was flamboyant, the imagery remained strangely static. "There was an insurmountable distance between the poet and the world he pictured; the attractive simplicity and natural ways of Italian life, like the ancient idyll in his anthological exercises remained unattainable for this poet," the critic argued.[1]

Belinsky continued to support Maykov up until his death. After that, with Maykov wavering between the two camps, the Westernizers and the Slavophiles, critics started to treat his work in accordance to both their own political views and the poet's changing ideological stance. Maykov's 1840s' "natural school"-influenced poems were praised (and actually published)[30] by Nikolay Nekrasov, his later works, expressing conservative, monarchist and anti-'nihilist' views, have been invariably supported by Dostoyevsky, who on more than one occasion pronounced Maykov Russia's major poet.[13][31]

By the 1880s Apollon Maykov's poetic legacy became immense and warranted more comprehensive overview. Vladimir Solovyov, who in 1895 wrote Maykov's biography for Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary, was reserved, though, in his assessment. According to the latter, Maykov's poetry dominant characteristics were "serene, contemplating tone, elaborate patterns, distinct and individual style of writing (in form, although not in colours) and relatively lackluster lyrical side, the latter suffering obviously from too much attention to details, often at the expense of the original inspiration." Maykov's best works were, the critic opined, "powerful and expressive, even if not exceptionally sonorous."[5] Speaking of Maykov's subject matter, Solovyov was almost dismissive:

Two major themes form the foundation of Maykov's poetry, the Ancient Greek aesthetic and historical myths of the Byzantine-Russian politics; bonded only by the poet's unreserved love to both, they never merge... The concept of the Byzantine, as the Second Rome, though, has not cristallised as clear and distinct in the poet's mind as that of the original Roman Empire. He loves Byzantine/Russia in its historical reality, refusing to admit its faults and contradictions, tending to glorify even such monsters as Ivan the Terrible, whose "greatness", he believes, will be "recognised" in due time. [...] There was also a kind of background theme in his earlier work, - pastoral pictures of beautiful Russian nature, which the poet had all the better reasons to enjoy for being a devout fisherman.[5]

Autograph by Apollon Maikov of his poem "Pustinnik" (Hermit)

Even more stern was the modernist critic Yuly Aykhenvald in his 1906 essay. Re-viewing the cliche formula bonding "Maykov, Polonsky and Fet" into a solid group of similar-minded authors, he alleged that Maykov "to a lesser extent than the other two freed himself from the habit of copying classics" and "in his earlier works was unoriginal, producing verse that shone with a reflected light." Not even his passionate love for classics could help the author submerge "wholly into the pagan element," the critic opined.[32]

It was from books that Maykov has taken the spirit of Ancient classics in. He was a scholar of antiquity and his gift, self-admittedly "was strengthened by being tempered in fires of science." As a purveyor of classicism, his very soul was not deep or naive enough to fully let this spirit in or embrace the antique idea of intellectual freedom. Poems, inhabited by naiads, nymphs, muses and dryads, are very pretty, and you can't help being enchanted by these ancient fables. But he gives you no chance to forget for a moment that - what for his ancient heroes was life itself, for him is only a myth, a 'clever lie' he could never believe himself.[32]

The critic admitted that Maykov's obsession with Rome was genuine and all-consuming, and gave him credit for conveying the Roman beauty in the most impressive manner. "Yet even in this world which he knows and loves, the poet remains an outsider, unable to give himself away. He and his themes are separate." The reason for this peculiarity, according to the critic, was that "[Maykov] was not a lyric at all: he's unemotional and not impressionable enough: more often than not he lives outside of his own self rather than looks inside… His verse is elegant, but marble-like, and no amount of real love of Rome could give this stone a bit of warmth," Aykhenvald explained.[32]

Maykov's assets, the critic asserts, relate to the fact that he used to learn painting and, in away, extended the fine art into his poetry. What Aykhenvald gives him unreserved credit for is the "plasticity of language - the unequalled turn at working on a phrase as if it was a tangible material." Occasionally "his lines are so interweaved, the verse looks like a poetic calligraphy; a scripturam continuam... Rarely passionate and showing only distant echoes of original inspiration, Maykov's verse strikes you with divine shapeliness. It is so tangible, one is tempted to stretch out fingers and caress it, follow its curves like those of sculpture... What he presents you is a material thing, not a description of it... That was, apparently, how Apelles painted, making viewers take his drawings for real objects... Maykov's best poems resemble statues, driven to perfection with great precision and so flawless as to make a reader feel slightly guilty for their own imperfection, making them inadequate to even behold what's infinitely finer than themselves," Aykhenvald wrote.[32]

Another Silver Age critic who noticed how painting and fishing might have influenced Maykov's poetry was Innokenty Annensky. In his 1898 essay on Maykov he wrote:

A poet usually chooses their own, particular method of communicating with nature, and often it is sports. Poets of the future might be cyclists or aeronauts. Byron was a swimmer, Goethe a skater, Lermontov a horse rider, many other of our poets (Turgenev, both Tolstoys, Nekrasov, Fet, Yazykov) were hunters. Maykov was a passionate fisherman and this occupation came in perfect harmony with his contemplative nature, with his love for a fair sunny day which has got such a vivid expression in his poetry.[33]

Putting Maykov into the "meditative masters" category alongside Ivan Krylov and Ivan Goncharov, the critic continued: "He was one those rare harmonic characters for whom seeking for beauty and working upon its embodiment was something natural and easy, the nature itself filling their souls with its beauty. Such people, rational and contemplative have no need for any stimulus, praise, strife, even a flow of new impressions... their artistic impressions getting filtered through gradually and slowly, artistic imagery growing as if from soil. Such contemplative poets produce ideas that are clear-cut and 'coined', their images are sculpture-like."[33]

Annensky praised Maykov's gift for creating unusual combinations of colours, which was "totally absent in Pushkin's verse, to some extent known to Lermontov, 'a poet of mountains and clouds' ...and best represented by the French poets Baudelaire and Verlaine." "What strikes one is Maykov's poetry extraordinary vigorousness, the freshness and firmness of the author's talent: Olympians and Antiquity heroes he befriended in his childhood years "among th dusty marbles of Potyomkin's rooms" must have shared with him their eternal youth," Annensky wrote.[33]

D. S. Mirsky called Maykov "the most representative poet of the age," but added:

Maykov was mildly "poetical" and mildly realistic; mildly tendentious, and never emotional. Images are always the principal thing in his poems. Some of them (always subject to the restriction that he had no style and no diction) are happy discoveries, like the short and very well known poems on spring and rain. But his more realistic poems are spoiled by sentimentality, and his more "poetic" poems hopelessly inadequate — their beauty is mere mid-Victorian tinsel. Few of his more ambitious attempts are successful.[34]

Maykov in 1868

By the mid-1850s Maykov has got the reputation of a typical proponent of the "pure poetry" doctrine, although his position was special. Unlike Afanasy Fet he was going for precision of imagery, and purity of meaning, according to scholar I.Yampolsky. The general mood of his poetry was not lyrical passion but "objectivity" and "peace of mind", sought after in harmony.[3]

The Soviet scholar F.Pryima was one of those who attributed great importance to Maykov's legacy. He dismissed the popular view of the poet as being part of the "arts for art's sake" doctrine. "Maykov was totally devoid of snobbishness and never saw himself occupying some loftier position even when mentioning 'crowds'. His need in communicating with people is always obvious ("Summer Rain", "Haymaking", "Nights of Mowing", The Naples Album). It's just that he failed to realize his 'people's poet' potential to the full," the researcher argues. "Urges to sear high and the fear of height - such was Maykov's dilemma and the drama of his whole life," F.Pryima wrote. "Maykov couldn't be seen as equal to giants like Pushkin, Lermontov, Koltsov or Nekrasov," but still "occupies a highly important place in the history of Russian poetry" which he greatly enriched, the critic insisted.[13]

In the years of Maykov's debut, according to Pryima, "Russian poetry was still in the state of infancy... so even as an enlightener, Maykov with his encyclopedic knowledge of history and a way of approaching every new theme as a field for scientific research played an unparalleled role in the Russian literature of the time." "His spectacular forays into the 'anthological' genre, as well as his translations of classics formed a kind of "antique Gulf Stream" which warmed up the whole of the Russian literature, speeding its development," another researcher, F.F. Zelinsky, agreed.[13] Maykov's best poems ("To a Young Lady", "Haymaking", "Fishing", "The Wanderer") deserve their place among Russian poetry classics, as well as translations of Slavic and Western poets and his poetic rendition of Slovo o Polku Igoreve, according to F.Pryima. "The poetry of Maykov, for all its outward modesty, engulfs a reader with the unity of ideas and feelings, the purity of artistic taste, melodism and musicality. It hasn't lost its power with time," the critic concluded.[13]

Selected bibliography[edit]

Poetry collections[edit]

  • Poems by A.N.Maykov (1842)
  • Sketches of Rome (Otcherki Rima, 1847)
  • 1854. Poems (Stikhotvoreniya, 1854)
  • The Naples Album (Neapolsky albom, 1858)
  • Songs of Modern Greece (Pesni novoy Gretsii, 1860)


Major poems[edit]


  1. ^ In 1839 Solonitsyn posed for a portrait by Maykov.
  2. ^ There was a "cult of Belinsky" in the Maykov family, partly imposed upon by Ivan Goncharov, for whom Belinsky was a genius.
  3. ^ The same idea was central to the famous Pushkin letter to Pyotr Chaadayev (October 19, 1836), but in 1853 the document has not been published yet, so Maykov couldn't have known of its existence.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Mayorova, O.E. (1990). "A.N.Maykov". Russian Writers. Bibliographical dictionary. (Ed. P.A.Nikolayev). Vol. 2. Moscow, Prosveshchenye Publishers. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  2. ^ a b c "A.N.Maykov". www.kostyor.ru. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Yampolsky, I. (1968). "Apollon Maykov. Russian Poets". Moscow. Detskaya Literatura Publishers. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  4. ^ Goncharov, A.I. N.A.Maykov. Obituary. Golos (The Voice). 1873. No 238. August 29.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Solovyov, Vl (1895). "Maykov, Apollon Nikolayevich". Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary. Retrieved 2012-12-01. 
  6. ^ Y.K.Grot and P.A.Pletnyov's correspondence. Saint Petersburg, 1896. Vol. 1. P.483.
  7. ^ Belivsky, V., Russian Literature in 1842. The Works of... In 9 Volumes, Vol. 6, p. 207)
  8. ^ Lansky, L. The Belinsky Library. Literaturnoye Nasledstvo (The Literary Heritage). Vol. 55, Мoscow., 1948, pp. 474--476.
  9. ^ The Works of Belinsky. Мoscow, 1982. Vol. 8. P. 148
  10. ^ The Complete Hertzen. In 30 volumes, Moscow, 1954. Vol. 2. P. 411
  11. ^ Yampolsky, I.G. Extracts From A.N.Maykov's Archives. The Pushkin House's Yearly almanac, 1974. P.37
  12. ^ A letter to A.V.Nikitenko. Yampolsky I.G., Poets and Prosaics, Leningrad, 1986, p. 136
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Pryima, Fyodor (1984). "A.N.Maykov's Poetry". Pravda Publishers. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  14. ^ The Voice of The Past, 1919. No 1/4. p. 107
  15. ^ Stackenshneider, E.A. Diary and Notes. Moscow, Leningrad, 1934.p. 48
  16. ^ The Complete М. Е. Saltykov-Schedrin, Vol.5, Moscow, 1966, p. 434
  17. ^ Dostoyevsky, F.M. Articles and other materials. Moscow-Leningrad. 1924, Book 2, p. 341
  18. ^ Russky Bibliofil. 1916, No 7, p. 74.
  19. ^ A letter to M.P.Pogodin, October 18, 1869. The Central Russian Literary Archives
  20. ^ Preface to Strannik. Maykov, A.N. The Selected Works of... 1977. Leningrad, p. 847.
  21. ^ Sukhomlinov. The Poetry of A.N.Maykov and its peculiarities. Russkaya starina. 1899, No 3, p. 486-487.
  22. ^ Umansky, A. Apollon Nikolayevich Maykov. Russkoye Bogatstvo. 1897, No 4, p. 41
  23. ^ Zelinsky, F. The Ancient World in A.N.Maykov’s Poetry. The Lives of Ideas. Saint Petersburg, 1908, p. 235.
  24. ^ Merezhkovsky, Dmitry. Eternal Companions. Dostoyevsky, Goncharov, Maykov. 3rd ed. Saint Petersburg, 1908, p. 66.
  25. ^ The Journal of the Ministry of Education. 1897. No.4, section IV.P. 53
  26. ^ The Complete V.G. Belinsky. Vol. 6, Мoscow, 1955, p. 7.
  27. ^ The Works of V.G. Belinsky in 9 Volumes. Moscow, 1979 Vol. 4, pp. 344-346.
  28. ^ The Complete V. G. Belinsky, Vol. VI, pp. 10-11.
  29. ^ The Complete V.G. Belinsky, Vol. I, p. 27.
  30. ^ "Mashenka. Commentaries". az.lib.ru. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  31. ^ "The Wanderer (Strannik). Commentaries". az.lib.ru. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  32. ^ a b c d Aikhenvald, Yuli. "Apollon Maykov. Silhouettes of Russian Writers, in 3 volumes". Moscow, 1906 - 1910; 2nd ed. 1908 - 1913. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  33. ^ a b c Annensky, Innokenty (1979). "A.N.Maykov and the pedagogical significance of his poetry.". Literary Monument series. Moscow, Nauka Publishers. Retrieved 2012-03-01. 
  34. ^ D.S. Mirsky, A History of Russian Literature: From Its Beginnings to 1900, Northwestern University Press: 1999, pp. 230-31

External links[edit]