Gavriil Derzhavin’s logoaedic verse

2023. №4, 96-116

Konstantin Yu. Lappo-Danilevskii
Institute of Russian Literature (Pushkin House) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, Russia;


The poetic works of Gavriil Romanovich Derzhavin (1743–1816) published from 1777 to 1790 demonstrate a rather limited set of meters — mostly iambic (iambic tetrameters, аlexandrines, free iambic verse); the presence of trochees (exclusively tetrameters) is modest, and ternary meters are completely absent. The year 1791 was a turning point. In that year, Derzhavin published his polymetric cantata “To a Patron of the Arts”, which, although predominantly iambic, contains two dactylic passages. After that year, the poet often used iambic trimeter as well as trochaic tetrameter, which was inspired by his sudden interest in anacreontics. A year later, Derzhavin published his first version of “The Swallow” in The Moscow Journal, written in ternary trimeters with variable anacrusis, which was apparently the first experiment of this kind in Russian poetry. Soon afterwards, Derzhavin began to experiment with the dactylic tetrameter, resembling similar work by N. P. Nikolev, I. I. Dmitriev and N. M. Karamzin beginning in the late 1780s. Like those poets, he initially omitted one syllable in the second foot, and then two syllables, which led to the emergence of logoaedic structures in his poems. He uses these meters in their pure form (“Snowbird”), and also combined them in stanzas with syllabo-tonic meters (“Spring”, “On Atheists”, “To the Publisher of My Songs”, “The Rainbow”). He also created “logoaedized dolniks”, irregularly combining logoaedic lines with syllabo-tonic ones (“On the capture of Warsaw”, the sixth stanza of “The Encounter of Orpheus with the Sun”, “Autumn”). In the poems “On G. Ozerov, Who Dedicated ʻOedipus’ to Me” and “To Polyhymnia”, Derzhavin loosened the principle of isometric stanzas. One of the sources of inspiration for these experiments was Derzhavin’s enthusiastic and rather vague conception of the great rhythmic diversity of ancient poetry (primarily of Sappho’s and Horace’s poems) compared to modern European lyric poetry.

For citation:

Lappo-Danilevskii K. Yu. Gavriil Derzhavin’s logoaedic verse. Voprosy Jazykoznanija, 2023, 4: 96–116.


The author is grateful to I. G. Vishnevetskii, A. V. Volkov, S. A. Zav’yalov, K. M. Korchagin, I. A. Pilshchikov, and V. A. Plungian for their comments and remarks.