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Milton and the Rise of Russian Satanism

Milton and the Rise of Russian Satanism

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 276
  • Book Info
    Milton and the Rise of Russian Satanism
    Book Description:

    Russian notions of good and evil changed before the Revolution and will change again under glasnost' and perestroika. But no literary character has reflected such changes more dramatically than Milton's Satan, who managed to be both a hero to Romantic poets and Marxist critics.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6465-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xv)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  6. Transliteration
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. INTRODUCTION: The Rise of Russian Satanism
    (pp. xix-xxvi)

    Since evil and ambiguity are the essence of Satanism, the term is hard to pin down. Sometimes it refers to a cult that travestied Christian ceremonies in nineteenth-century France. Or the term can be used to designate (as Southey did) the satanic school of Byron, Shelley, and their imitators, who extolled ‘impiety’ and delighted in ‘lawless passion.’ Dictionaries also cite sinister associations with social revolution or the kind of diabolical disposition that reduced Luther to intemperance. But Satan himself, despite his Protestant connections, has ancient lineage, being commonly identified with Lucifer, the chief of the fallen angels, who according to...

  8. PART I The Satan of the Enlightenment

    • ONE Satan and the First Translation of Paradise Lost
      (pp. 3-13)

      Before the eighteenth-century, devils dominated the Russian imagination much as they did Puritan England, as is demonstrated by the polemics unleashed by theRaskol.This, the only major schism in the history of the Orthodox church prior to the Russian Revolution, broke out just as the Restoration in England brought Dissent to yet another turning-point.Paradise LostandPilgrim’s Progress,the two world classics brought forth by English Puritanism, express in their different ways the sense of crisis induced by the collapse of the Commonwealth. But for John Bunyan, who unlike Milton did not belong to the class that had...

    • TWO Introducing Milton’s Satan to the Common Reader
      (pp. 14-29)

      The attempt to adaptParadise Losthas been made hundreds of times - beginning with Dryden’s dramatization - the latest today being that of a Polish composer-librettist who has been criticized for focusing his opera on Adam and Eve. Their love, however approached, is devoid of action. Except for a little gardening, there-is not much they actually do until Satan’s menacing appearance in Eden (Book IV). By then the outline of the principal plot, involving the momentous conflict of good and evil, the account of which is resumed by Raphael’s narration in Book v, has been established. The temptation and...

    • THREE Monks and ‘Pocket Poets’: Publication
      (pp. 30-47)

      Vasilii Petrov (1736-99) was not necessarily more widely read in Russia than Ivan Vladykin, whose prolific compositions were bought by common people, but he was better known in the circles that counted, and he wrote in the refined style St Petersburg literati valued. His social connections and superior talent provided Petrov with the patronage that Vladykin’s fulsome odes to Catherine the Great and her heir-apparent had failed to obtain. And it was Petrov who reaped the honour of being the first Russian poet to publish a translation - albeit an incomplete one – ofParadise Lost

      Before Vasilii Petrov turned to...

    • FOUR Masonic Devils and the Light Within
      (pp. 48-67)

      It is not at all obvious why rationalists of the Enlightenment were so drawn by Milton’s passion and intensity. Certainly, there was here none of the perceived mutual affinity of the kind seen in the Victorian deification of the Puritan poet. In the Age of Reason it may rather have been the reverse: the attraction of opposites. This, as has often been pointed out, is what drew the Augustans with their polished ways and elegant infidelities to Milton’s soaring imagination and faith. But this cannot account entirely for his appeal to poets in Russia, where natural philosophy and what Peter...

    • FIVE Satan, Pugachev, and the French Revolution
      (pp. 68-78)

      The eighteenth century transformed the Devil in its symbolism to the degree that Christian theology gave way to the certainties of Newtonian science.¹ As belief in the transcendent waned elsewhere in Western Europe, among Russian writers and poets there was a reaction against the rationalism of the Enlightenment that often seems to have been paralleled by attitudes towards Milton’s Satan. The traditional feudal Devil had been condemned as a rebel against God, much as a runaway serf would be condemned for escaping from hisbarin.Pugachev, the leader of Russia’s largest peasant uprising, would be seen in this light; but...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  9. PART II Satan as Romantic and Marxist Idol

    • SIX The Demonic Tradition from Zhukovsky to Pushkin
      (pp. 81-101)

      Mirsky compares Zhukovsky’s influence up to about 1820 to that of Spenser or Ronsard, which gives some notion of the relative youth of Russian poetry, since Zhukovsky (who was born in 1783) is the accepted patriarch of its Golden Age. He still believed in the epic, and advised the young Pushkin to devote his talent to the genre, advice the young poet spurned after writing ‘Bova’ in 1814. At the age of fifteen Pushkin felt, as Zhukovsky did not, that the future of heroic verse was uncertain, and he did not want to follow ‘the all-wise German Klopstock, [whom he]...

    • SEVEN Milton’s Satan and Lermontov
      (pp. 102-118)

      Pushkin has been called a ‘very Miltonic poet,’¹ which may be apt in the sense that he could be sublime when he chose to, using the high-flown language (as inThe DemonorThe Prophet) with which Milton is most often associated in English poetry. But Pushkin’s sublimity is not usually achieved by using blank verse (although he did use it), and as a religious poet he had less in common with Milton than with Byron, whose moral grandeur was based on an exalted view of poetry as a weapon against oppression. For Milton the weapon was derived from God;...

    • EIGHT Banning and Reviving Satan
      (pp. 119-133)

      While Byron may have thought of Satan as an Englishman, he was uncertain to what degree Milton himself was in sympathy with the towering figure ofParadise Lost.For it was only in 1825 that Milton’s heterodoxies were revealed in broad daylight by the publication of theDe Doctrina Christiana,providing supporters of the Satanist argument with fresh ammunition to bolster their cause. By then Byron, who placed Milton above Shakespeare, was dead: nor is it probable that Lermontov and the other Romantic poets we have dealt with so far were aware of the time bomb Milton’s work on Christian...

    • NINE 1917 and After: The Triumph of Milton’s Satan
      (pp. 134-146)

      Those who identified Satan with Oliver Cromwell did not necessarily also assume that the author ofParadise Lostbelonged to the Devil’s party. Nor did Jacobin sympathizers necessarily admire the Lord Protector. Robespierre himself, for example, thought him a tyrant – as did Alexander Radishchev, although for the Russian radical Cromwell’s great service to mankind lay in the first part of his political career, when he taught the Stuarts a lesson in popular sovereignty.¹ But as depicted inParadise Lost,Satan’s politics cannot so easily be divided into a progressive and a negative part. After the decline of romanticism his stand...

    • TEN Satan as Anti–Imperialist
      (pp. 147-154)

      The style of Brezhnev’s rule, which lasted for almost two decades, has been compared to Stalin’s, but in parodic form. The shade of Stalin, after being denounced by Khrushchev and his associates at the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956, returned to semi-official favour before being again denounced, in instalments, by Gorbachev. In the light ofglasnost’andperestroika,the Brezhnev years were labelled by the party as the ‘period of stagnation,’ which is certainly valid in a cultural sense, since the prevailing ideology was neo-Stalinist. Its relationship to the original rhetoric of the Bolshevik Revolution was as hollow (for all...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  10. CONCLUSION: Prince of Darkness, Prince of Light
    (pp. 155-164)

    Attitudes to good and evil define society. Literature, no less than theology, law, or folklore, reflects our attempts to come to terms with them. But that most literary of all characters (as he has been called), the Devil, enjoys a global presence that evades national boundaries. Yet Russian culture, it has been suggested by the brilliant Soviet Slavist Yurii Lotman, is particularly susceptible to the Manichean polarities of good and evil.

    According to this view, maximalism and the contempt for compromise, which have so often characterized Russia’s religious and political attitudes, are due to the fact that concepts accommodated in...


    • APPENDIX ONE Milton’s Interest in Russia
      (pp. 165-173)
    • APPENDIX TWO An English Oration Concerning Milton’s Satan from Lermontov’s School
      (pp. 174-177)
    • APPENDIX THREE A Chronological Distribution Table
      (pp. 178-180)
  12. Abbreviations
    (pp. 181-182)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 183-234)
  14. Bibliographic Note
    (pp. 235-238)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-254)
  16. Index
    (pp. 255-276)