In her essay How The Bronze Horseman Was Made, Priscilla Meyer argues the author of The Bronze Horseman, Alexander Pushkin, was influenced heavily by Madame Aimée Harelle’s The Flood at Nantes (L’indondation à Nantes). “The Bronze Horseman is the tale of the conflict of three agents, Peter, Evgenii, and the Petersburg flood of 1824”, and Meyer suggests scholars have only properly accounted for the first two. Meyer compares the two texts to address the highlight the role of the flood. Throughout her article, Meyer looks to similarities between The Flood at Nantes and The Bronze Horseman to argue the presence an allegorical for revolution in The Bronze Horseman.
Meyer begins her argument by establishing Pushkin read The Flood at Nantes. Pushkin owned the copy of The Foreign Review of Literature in which The Flood at Nantes was published, and letters he sent to Pogodin around the time of the publication of The Flood include criticism of French literature and journals. He likely read The Flood just before writing The Bronze Horseman.
Meyer then begins to contrast the two pieces to expose their similarities. She describes how both texts share a chronology of their floods, including how the islands flood first, and then low mainland points. As she compares specific lines from each text Meyer highlights the connection between the language and narrative structures, and she transitions to detailing her argument about the presence of similar themes in both texts. A main character in The Flood at Nantes is an American Revolutionary War Captain who is visiting France during the period of the French Revolution. Meyer demonstrates the revolutionary message of The Flood at Nantes and highlights similarities between The Flood and The Bronze Horseman to build her argument for the presence of an allegorical message in The Bronze Horseman.
After highlighting the revolutionary messages in The Flood at Nantes, and establishing that Pushkin had read The Flood and that it had influenced The Bronze Horseman, she begins her argument that The Bronze Horseman is an allegory for the Decembrist Revolt. Meyer believes
“Besides the thematic points of contact between the two poems the flood, the love story, the revolution there are two other suggestive correspondences…”,
According to Meyer, the American Captain in The Flood is a symbol for revolution, and that Evgenii plays the same part in The Bronze Horseman. She argues Evgenii is a symbol of the members of the Decembrist movement, while the Bronze Horseman represents Nicholas I and his response to the revolutionaries. Despite Meyer’s concession that Pushkin was ‘not interested in a reign of terror like the French’, she argues that Pushkin set Evgenii in 1825 as part of an egalitarian message that fits as a symbol of the Decembrists. Meyer concludes her paper arguing that as The Flood at Nantes relates to the French/American Revolutions The Bronze Horseman is a recreation of the Decembrist Revolt.
Meyer has strong evidence to support her claim that Pushkin’s The Bronze Horseman was influenced by Harelle’s The Flood at Nantes, but her assertion that Evgenii is symbolic of the Decembrists is speculative. Her claims throughout the paper are all strongly substantiated with references, but for her argument of the egalitarian message of the poem to be accepted Meyer would need to provide more evidence.
Meyer, Priscilla. How The Bronze Horseman Was Made. Two Hundred Years of Pushkin: Alexander Pushkin : myth and monument, Volume 2. Brill Academic Publishers, 2003
Pushkin, Alexander. The Bronze Horseman. Translated by Arndt, Walter. Alexander Pushkin Collected Narrative and Lyrical Poetry. Ardis Publishers, 1984.