Two impoverished nobles with a penchant for provoking the authorities with liberal penning’s, and a smorgasbord of sexual scandals. On the surface these two look very similar, but how far did Pushkin divulge away from his early romantic tendencies?

Pushkin’s early years, 1820-1825 have often been described as his Byronic Period, where he broke away from the classical tradition of his schooling and took on the romantic style that Byron was so well known for. In his personal life too, these years have been regarded as time of naive infatuation, where the Russian poet modelled not only his political but also his romantic behaviour on the cult of the byronic hero.

In his poetry Pushkin learnt much from Byron, following his tendency for fragmentariness, exotic settings and rapid story development. Arguably one of Pushkins most byronic poems was Bakrhchisaray Fountain, a lyrical poem with a deliberately fragmented style which breaks with the traditional notion of the epic.

But Pushkin didn’t always follow Byron’s well trodden path and by the point of the publication of ‘Gypsies', his treatment of the central character is so ambiguous and ironic that it is clear he is no longer following the standard outline of a byronic hero. 

Upon breaking from Byron’s spell, Pushkin began to give up the structural principles so typical of his early work. This transformation is most apparent in Eugene Onegin, where the hero no longer reigns supreme, the problems of character and milieu emerge, and Pushkin principles of realism begin to assert themselves. Although the structure of Eugene Onegin was inspired by Byron’s Don Juan, it is clear that it is a powerful critique of his former idol.

Despite repeated requests from Pushkin never wrote any work on Lord Byron’s death. In his work, it is clear that his Byronic period was well and truly over.

The irony however is that, in his personal life, Pushkin never really escaped the cult of the Byronic hero. His death after a dramatic duel, defending his and the honour of his wife, is nothing but romantic. 

By: The Russian Student

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