Gavril Romanovich Derzhavin (1743-1816) rose
from penniless obscurity to the highest offices of state, but is
remembered today as Russia’s greatest poet before Pushkin.
Derzhavin was an original. By force of inspiration, he completed
the hopes of his eighteenth century predecessors like Katemír,
Trediakovsky and Lomonosov, and lived long enough to hear Pushkin
recite his first poems, recognizing a talent that would usher in a new
sensibility. Derzhavin is famous for his odes, into which he packed a
great deal of elegy, humour and satire. To our ears, the poems are
rather high-minded and over-long, but they are also exceptionally
accomplished and powerful.
The translations in this book include the more important odes, namely
On the Death of Prince Meshchersky (1779), Felitsa (1782), God (1785),
the opening excerpt from the Waterfall (1794), written on the death of
Prince Potemkin, and the Bullfinch (1800), which served as a short
elegy on the death of his friend, Marshall Suvorov. Also included
are the attractively informal Invitation to Dinner, and Life at
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