Research article
Issue: № 3 (7), 2016


The article reveals the poetic facets of the creative multilateral personality personality of Simeon Polotsky, a prominent public figure and writer of XVII century. Simeon Polotsky is the founder of poetic and of dramatic genres in Russian literature. The works of Simeon Polotsky are often linked to the emergence in Russian literature of eulogy and of fables, baroque syllabic system of versification, and poetic rendering of the Psalter. His poems are often instructive and educational in the desire as clear as possible to transfer knowledge. His poems reflect many personal experiences and life events of the tsar family because he was the teacher of tsar’s children. The patriotic feelings of Simeon Polotsky in connection with contemporary historical events were also reflected in his poems. He considered the glorification of the might and glory of the Russian state as the most important task. He paid much attention to the reform of the literary language in his publishing activities by bringing it to the living spoken language. Simeon Polotsky fought for the churching of culture and believed that unifying the Slavic peoples can and should be a single Orthodox religion. He was the first Russian writer tooking on the role of ‘Advisor to kings’, affecting ideology and policy. The work of writer Simeon Polotsky perceived as a personal and moral achievement. Just as God created the world with Word, the writer in his poetic world creates the world of art. Thanks to Simeon Polotsky educational book and the word occupies a higher place in the national public consciousness. His diverse literary work and beginnings in poetry were a powerful impetus to further development of domestic culture on a spiritual basis.

Personality and creativity of outstanding people are inextricably linked. Creativity is one of the main spheres of the personality’s orientation manifestations in life span. Creativity requires significant mental strength and often becomes one of the most important for a personality. This problem relates to broader and classic problem of the life meaning and of creativity. In the process of creative expression a person takes towards the world special complete position, going through an ontological union, the ownership of everything in the world. It is the expression of personality carried out in a particular direction.

 In the process of scientific activity personality plays an important role, although completed scientific concept is not as bright as in the artwork in personality showing. Personal characteristics manifest themselves primarily in the process of creating a creative ‘product’ in the style, the specifics of presentation. However in Humanities the strength of the personality is comparable to works of art. The Humanities closer to the arts and more eloquently than science evidence of the scientific activity subject’s identity.

So the value aspect of scientific creativity becomes apparent, especially in appeal to the creativity of such a multifaceted personality as Simeon Polotsky.

A biographical approach to personality and creativity allows to comprehensively considering the personality and the creativity drawning to their manifestations throughout the life span connected with lifestyle, worldview. The biographical method can be considered more broadly as a special research direction challenging the holistic knowledge of life in temporal extension. Overall, the biographical approach provides a unique opportunity to examine stability and variability of individual behavior across time and situations.

The convenience of the biographical method lies in the possibility of studying extensive autobiographical creative heritage (letters, diaries, notes, autobiographical prose and poems) as a consequence of rich inner world, of mature reflection. This approach was implemented in a number of our studies about the multifaceted personalities of Russian culture [3], [4], [5]. In this article on the example of Simeon Polotsky personality we can also see that the person with spiritual vision can penetrate deeply into the essence of phenomena [2].

The personality of Simeon Polotsky (1629-1670) is a bright, original phenomenon of Russian culture of the XII century. In addition to his outstanding ecclesiastical and secular social activities including theology and pedagogy Simeon Polotsky is famous for his literary activities.

Samuil Gavrilovich Petrovskii-Sitnianovich was born in 1629 in Polotsk, was educated in the Kiev-Mohyla Academy. During all his life he remained a faithful disciple and follower of Lazarus Baranovych (from 1657 Bishop of Chernigov), his mentor at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. In 1656 he became a monk in the Orthodox Polotsk Epiphany monastery and didaskale of sister school in Polotsk being as a teacher for eight years. Simeon in the custom in those years listened to additional lectures in the West Jesuit institutions of higher education, but remained loyal to Orthodoxy. He wrote the famous Russian printed book of the seventeenth century ‘The Rod of the Management, Approval, Punishment and Execution’ to refute the grounds for the split [7].

Simeon Polotsky has a lot of brilliant beginnings. He has a poetic gift and become the founder of poetic and of dramatic genres in Russian literature. He saw his calling in literature and considered himself ‘the searcher of the word’. Being a Belarusian by birth he became the first writer-professional in Russian literature whose name has acquired an European fame. His vast poetic heritage has become a real school for such prominent Russian poets of the education as Mardary Honykov, Sylvester Medvedev, Karion Istomin, Antiochus Kantemir, M. V. Lomonosov. St. Dimitry Rostovsky, Metropolitan Stefan Yavorsky treated to him with great respect.

The artistic heritage of Simeon Polotsky is extensive: books of sermons ‘The Spiritual Lunch’ and ‘The Spiritual Supper’, a theological work ‘The Crown of the Orthodox-Catholic faith’ preserved only in manuscripts of the book ‘Ritmologia’ and ‘The Multicolor Vertograd’ including more than one thousand poems. The events of the Royal family life were reflected in the ‘Ritmologia’; also ‘The Russian Eagle presented in the Sun’ dedicated to the king was included in this book.

After the Tsar’s death Simeon Polotsky wrote the poems ‘Dramatic Elegy’, in which the king himself before his death turns to God and guides to the Kingdom of his heir, Prince Fedor Alekseevich, and all members of the Royal family, the Patriarch and all his subjects, as well as twelve ‘Laments’ about the king. The collections of poems remained unpublished for humility; subsequently printed of them only excerpts. Many his works were published only after his death – despite his high position and influence he aspired to literary honors.

Simeon was one of the founders of the Russian ‘biblical theater’ writing several plays, poems and prose (‘The Comedy of the Prodigal Son Parable’, tragedy ‘About  the King Navuhodonosore, about the Gold Idole and Three Youths in the Furnace not Burned’ etc.). The first poems he wrote in the years of study. The works of Simeon Polotsky are often linked to the question of the emergence in Russian literature of the Baroque style characterized by high emotionality, love to contrasts, colourful and bold images, allegories, attention to the reproduction of the life phenomena. Simeon brought to Russian literature the syllabic system of versification with an organizing principle equal to the number of syllables in the rhyming lines. It was unusual for his time and attracted attention.

A vigorous publishing activity of Simeon Polotsky contributed to the popularization of theological ideas, the formation of new genres of works, reforming the literary language by bringing it to the living spoken language and was aimed at raising awareness of Russian society.

 One of the creative impulses of Simeon began his life at court and training of the Royal children. Originally the tsar was attracted by his poetry. With the tsar Alexei Mikhailovich he met in 1656 in Polotsk when the tsar visited Polotsk in connection with the outbreak of the Russo–Swedish war, and welcomed emperor by verses written for this occasion. In 1660 Simeon with his younger brothers visited Moscow and once again read the verses before the tsar who reacted favorably to the scientist monk from Polotsk. In 1664 when Polotsk moved to Poland Simeon moved to Moscow where he received the support of tsar Alexei Mikhailovich and of Patriarch Joasaph. At court he was recognized as the wisest theologian, philosopher, poet and orator. The tsar instructed him to teach his children, and the Patriarch gave him instructions on the preparation of documents and of theological writings [6]. In 1667 he was entrusted upbringing and education of the Royal children – Prince Alexei, and after his death, Fyodor (the future Tsar Fedor Alekseevich) and of the Princess Sophia. He taught Peter I. The king and the children listened to his instructions.

It was the tradition of the Moscow higher class at that time to invite scientists’ visiting teachers for home schooling children [1]. With high level of education, Simeon had a good command of pedagogical techniques that facilitate the assimilation of knowledge – a nice teacher vesting the science in an attractive form. Indeed, we find a reflection of the extensive knowledge of Simeon in his instructive and educational verses.

These are the verses in which the basics of mathematics, knowledge about the senses which are the doors of understanding the world are presented. It is noticeable that Simeon is committed to open different doors of knowledge – it appeals to the senses and to the mind of the reader.

Moreover, to improve the efficiency of his books Simeon sought to the variety and expressiveness even their external decoration. It is known that he collaborated with great Russian artist Simon Ushakov at the Top of the printing house and advised him in relatively rare method of printing engravings from copper plates (etchings).

His poems often represent the poetic form of lessons. Having remarkable literary talent, Simeon modestly believed that in the literature the important thing is not talent, but knowledge. In the poems of Simeon Polotsky certain knowledge not only fun are given but also laid the foundation of the spiritual-moral and of patriotic education. Simeon instructs the Royal heirs to govern the state and treat subjects:

Here's how the head should do -

To live the interests of citizens,

Not despise, not counting dogs

But love as his children.

He develops in his Royal pupils a political consciousness:

How citizens live in well being

The rulers should know.

Simeon care about the readers was evident even in the preservation of bodily health which is also expressed in poetic form. It is the desire as clear as possible to transfer knowledge above all led to a particular style of Simeon Polotsky.  Complex forms of verse were used only in writing of court poetry and of panegyric verses. He used his knowledge for the presentation of moral and of doctrinal truths, applying bold comparisons and analogies with the natural world, which like a man is created by God. Figuratively presenting modern scientific ideas he did it for the sake of the educational effect. Simeon Polotsky sought to summarize the entire book wisdom and to teach the widest possible audience, thereby significantly contributing to the development of national education. He wanted to educate the educated and pious reader as other his wonderful compatriots – Lavrenty Zizany, Mikhail Lomonosov, Grigory Skovoroda. Such techniques Simeon also used in his vivid and convincing sermons. He believed that the perfect person is first of all with high moral qualities. Therefore it is indispensably to teach children first of all piety than knowledge like a body without a soul.

One of the innovations of Simeon is the development of the genre of Eulogy. He wrote the greetings for Christmas, name days and birthdays of the Royal family members. Simeon was ahead by a quarter of an appearance in Russian fashion of a fable: he processed the fables of the ancient writers thus there was a poetic fable for the first time in the Russian literature.

In those days astrology was very popular but Simeon Polotsky in the poems emphasizes that the stars do not determine a person's life span. There is a Divine Providence, and there is human’s free will that choosing between good and evil.

Simeon was the first in Russia who made a poetic translation of the Psalter (‘The Rhymed Psalter’) which became the first poetic work printed as a separate publication in Russia. At the end of the Psalter he has inserted the entire annual calendar of the saints’ names in his poems.

‘The Rhymed Psalter’became one of the best and popular publications of this period and was printed in 1680 in the typography builted by Simeon. In 1685 ‘The Rhymed Psalter’ was put to music by deacon Vasily Titov. M. V. Lomonosov called ‘The Rhymed Psalter’ the gates of his learning and his first concept of the beauty and majesty of poetry borrowed from ‘The Rhymed Psalter’ of Polotsky [6]. The scholars of Simeon Polotsky M. A. Robinson and L. I. Sazonov expressed surprise at the conviction that Simeon was supposedly translated from Polish ‘Psalms of David’ by Jan Kochanowski, so clearly there is the distinction of the poetic approaches of the two translators (cited in [8]).

The life of Simeon Polotsky, full of drama, illuminated by spiritual aspiration, reflected in his poetic works: the fight against unjust slanders, tragic events – a brutal and deadly beating archers of his brother Isaac, also a celibate priest in 1674 or 1675, and the deviation from the Orthodox faith of his brother Luke, probably a scientist philosopher and philologist. His poems become the generalized form of expression of personal experiences. Such is a rubricated composition of the poem ‘The Threefold Death’ giving a deep understanding of the nature and meaning of human life and death:

 The death is of three types:

The first separates the soul from the body.

The second kills the soul,

Depriving it of the grace of God.

The third will occur on the day of judgement

When soul and body will be punished.

The first death is terrible, but has not the harm.

The second death is severe, but treatable with repentance.

The third death is terrible because of the torments of eternal fire.

The patriotic feelings of Simeon Polotsky in connection with contemporary historical events were also reflected in his poems. As the most important task he considered the glorification of the might and glory of the Russian state.

He opposed wars of conquest, ‘unjust abuse’ and in support of a defensive military action, as well as religious education and propagation of the Orthodox faith, considered it necessary to concentrate state power in the hands of the king  that will help to eliminate confusion and to establish peace. He called king ‘the light of faith’ and believed even his presence on the Belarusian land was a great blessing:

Fly, nice Alexey, under the sky,

The hope of Russia among monarchs.

Glorious winner, who out of mercy

Doing everything to the glory of God.

Simeon Polotsky emphasized that the main goal of the Russian Tsar, ‘the great fighter for the faith of Christ’, in the wars with Poland and Sweden – is missionary work and caring for the purity of the faith. The theme of war and of peace  was important to him throughout his life, many of his poetic compositions devoted to the military. The glory of Russia he also saw in the extension of the knowledge bounds, in the development of education, lamenting the lack of understanding his by contemporaries:

...Russia expands its fame

Not by the sword only,

But also by the books about eternal.

But such are the manners!

We prefer to destroy

than to create in honest labor.

Don't want sun shine to the world

And prefer to stay in the darkness of ignorance.

He was well aware that the development of printing will bring glory to Russia ‘more than the treasure’.

Simeon Polotsky was at the crossroads of cultures. For many years he wrote poems in three languages – Polish, Old Belarusian and Old Church Slavonic. He heat treated to a Polish, Belarusian, Russian and Ukrainian peoples believing that unifying the Slavic peoples can and should be a single Orthodox religion. So the books of Symeon Polotsky were very popular in Ukraine. It is known that they were sent at the request of the Dnieper Cossacks. Indeed, ‘The Mental Supper’ placed in ‘The Word to the Orthodox and Christianity Zaporizhia Army’ on the occasion of bringing in the shelves of the St. Alexis, the Metropolitan of Kiev icon. Thanks to the bright and ambitious person of Simeon Polotsky the gap between Church and culture was constrained. However he strongly fought for the purity of faith and acted for the Church culture opposite the secularization of the Church.

He was the first Russian writer tooking on the role of ‘Advisor to kings’ instructing the government and Russian society, affecting ideology and policy. He was followed by M. V. Lomonosov, G. R. Derzhavin, N. M. Karamzin, N. V. Gogol, F. M. Dostoevsky, A. I. Solzhenitsyn.

The work of writer Simeon Polotsky perceived as a personal and moral achievement. Just as God created the world with Word, the writer in his poetic world creates the world of art. Thanks to Simeon Polotsky educational book and the word occupies a higher place in the national public consciousness. His diverse literary work and beginnings in poetry were a powerful impetus to further development of domestic culture on a spiritual basis.


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