vasily zhukovsky

Karl Bryullov - Svetlana Guessing on her Future, 1836

“Svetlana” was a Romantic poem by Vasily Zhukovsky. The story is about  a girl named Svetlana, who tried to guessing her future on Christmas Eve. She used mirror and candles, like is shown on the painting ( that’s traditional Russian way of guessing).

But then - yes, we’re speaking about Romantic poem - some evil forces arose, and Svetlana sunk into the depths of folkloric nightmare. 



With the exception of Grand Duchess Alexandra Alexandrovna, the eldest child, who died of infant meningitis at age 6, these are the years Tsar Alexander II and his immediate family turned thirteen years old, their first year of being a teenager.

When Alexander II was 13, few imagined that he would be known to posterity as a leader able to implement the most challenging reforms undertaken in Russia since the reign of Peter the Great. The boy’s moral and intellectual development was entrusted to the poet Vasily Zhukovsky, a humanitarian liberal and romantic. Even from an early age, he traveled widely across Russia.

In 1837, 13-year-old Marie Alexandrovna was a skinny Hessian princess living in Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany. Marie was a year shy of meeting her future husband, Tsarevich Alexander. During Alexander’s tour through Europe in 1838, he met the teenage Marie and unexpectedly fell in love. The two married in April 1841. Marie was 16 and Alexander 23.

When Alexander and Marie’s eldest surviving child, Tsarevich Nicholas, was 13 years old in 1856, he was already the heir of the Russian throne and witnessed the end of the Crimean War and his parents’ luxurious coronation. Nicholas only had nine years of life left before tragically dying of meningitis. This was the same type of disease that claimed the life of his elder sister Alexandra sixteen years earlier.

When the rest of the boys Alexander, Vladimir, Alexei, Sergei and Paul were 13, they were receiving military training as expected for their titles of Grand Duke. However, the youngest two brothers were more interested into the arts than the military. The boys’ linguistic, artistic and musical abilities were encouraged by tutors.

The remaining sibling, Maria, became thirteen years old in October 1866 and she was the only girl in the family full with boys, causing her to grow up as a tomboy. Standing out in a crowd of boys, Maria was often in the center of attention and had a great influence over her father, who became deeply attached to her after the death of little Alexandra. Mark Twain, the famous American author, met Maria in August 1867 while visiting the imperial family in Livadia and thought her to be very pretty and noticed the influence the girl had on her father.

Maria was the first Russian grand duchess to be raised by English nannies and to speak fluent English. This eventually enabled her to meet and become engaged to Prince Alfred of the United Kingdom, the second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was the only Romanov in the British Royal Family.

You stood there
in silence,
your sad gaze
full of feeling.
It brought to mind
the past I loved…
your last gaze
on earth for me.

You vanished,
silent angel:
your grave,
celestial peace!
All earth’s memories
are there,
all the thoughts
of heaven, sacred.
Heavenly stars,
silent night! …
—  Vasíly Zhukóvsky, ‘19th March, 1823’

Russian poet Vasily Zhukovsky

 was the foremost Russian poet of the 1810s and a leading figure in Russian literature in the first half of the 19th century. He held a high position at the Romanov court as tutor to the Grand Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna and later to her son, the future Tsar-Liberator Alexander II.

Zhukovsky is credited with introducing the Romantic Movement into Russia. The main body of his literary output consists of free translations covering an impressively wide range of poets, from ancients like Ferdowsi and Homer to his contemporaries Goethe, Schiller, Byron, and others. Many of his translations have become classics of Russian literature, better-written and more enduring in Russian than in their original languages (more)

'To a Familiar Genius Flying By'

Reveal yourself, anonymous enchanter!
What heaven hastens you to me?
Why draw me to that promised land again
That I gave up so long ago?

Was it not you who in my youth
Enchanted me with such sweet dreams,
Did you not whisper, long ago,
Dear hopes of a guests ethereal?

Was it not you through whom all lived
In golden days, in happy lands
Of fragrant meadows, waters bright,
Where days were merry ‘neath clear skies?

Was it not you who breathed into my vernal breast 
Some melancholy mysteries
Tormenting it with keen desire 
Exciting it to anxious joy?

Was it not you who bore my soul aloft
Upon the inspiration of your sacred verse,
Who flamed before me like a holy vision,
Initiating me into life’s beauty?

In hours lost, hours of secret grief,
Did you not always murmur to my heart,
With happy comfort soothe it
And nurture it with quiet hope?

Did not my soul forever heed you
In all the purest moments of my life
When'ere it glimpsed fate’s sacred essence
With only God to witness it?

What news bring you, O, my enchantress?
Or will you once more call in dreams
Awaken futile thoughts of old,
Whisper of joy and then fall silent?

O spirit, bide with me awhile;
O, faithful friend, haste not away;
Stay, please become my earthly life,
O, Guardian angel of my soul. 

Vasily Andreyevich Zhukovsky