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Apollon Nikolayevich Maykov

(1821 - 1897 / Moscow, Russia)

Biography of Apollon Nikolayevich Maykov

Apollon Nikolayevich Maykov poet

Apollon Nikolayevich Maykov (or Maikov) (June 4 1821, Moscow – March 20 1897, Saint Petersburg) was a Russian poet, best known for his lyric verse, showcasing images of Russian villages, nature, and Russian history. His love for ancient Greece and Rome, which he studied for much of his life, is also reflected in his works. Maykov spent four years translating the epic The Tale of Igor's Campaign (1870) into the modern Russian, translated the folklore of Belarus, Greece, Serbia, Spain, as well as the works of Heine, Adam Mickiewicz and Goethe among others. Many of Maykov's poems were put to music by N. Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky.

Apollon Maykov was born into the artistic family. His father, Nikolai Apollonovich Maykov (1796-1873), was a painter, an academic of the Imperial Academy of Arts in his later years. His mother Yevgeniya Petrovna Maykova (née Gusyatnikova, 1803-1880) loved literature and later in her life had some of her own verses published. The boy's childhood was spent in the family estate just outside Moscow, in the house often visited by writers and artists. Maykov's early memories and impressions formed the foundation for his later much lauded landscape lyricism, marked with what biographer I.Yampolsky calls "touchingly naive craving for the old patriarchal ways."

In 1834 the family moved to Saint Petersburg. Both Apollon and his brother Valerian were being educated at home, under the guidance of their father's friend, a writer, philologist and translator Vladimir Solonitsyn. Ivan Goncharov, a virtually unknown young author at the time, taught Russian literature to the Maykov brothers. As he later remembered, the house "was full of life, and had many visitors, providing the never ceasing flow of information from all kinds of intellectual spheres, including science and arts." At the age of 15 Apollon started to write poetry. Along with the group of friends who formed their domestic circle (V.G.Benediktov, I.A.Goncharov, P.P.Svinyin and others) brothers Apollon and Valerian were editing two hand-written magazines, Podsnezhnik (Snow-drop) and Moonlit Nights. It was there that young Apollon's earliest poetic exercises have been 'published'.

After finishing his whole gymnasium course in just three years, in 1837 Apollon Maykov enrolled into the Saint Petersburg University's law faculty. As a student he learnt Latin which enabled him to read Ancient Roman authors' originals. Later he learnt Ancient Greek too but until then had to content himself with French translations of the Greek classics. It was in the University that Maykov developed his passionate love of the Ancient Greece and Rome, something which influenced him immensely.

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The Aeolian Harp

The land lies parched in sun,- to heaven the air is still,
Hushed now upon the harp the golden strings' lost thrill;
Aeolian harps our native singers are,- and numb
Must be their heart, their dying life blood cease to flow,
Forever silent be their voice, if longer dumb
Their breath be suffocated in this sultry glow!
O if a Genius on tempest-pinions winging,
Stormed through our native land,- Spirit with freedom rife!
How jubilant would our Aeolian harps be ringing

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