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    Poems by Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov


    Meditation 

    With sadness I survey our present generation!
    Their future seems so empty, dark, and cold,
    Weighed down beneath a load of knowing hesitation,
    In idleness stagnating, growing old.
    We have received, when barely finished weaning,
    The errors of our sires, their tardiness of mind,
    And life oppresses us, a flat road without meaning, 
    An alien feast where we have dined.
    T'ward good and evil shamefully uncaring
    We wilt without a fight when starting on life's race;
    When danger threatens us - ignoble want of daring,
    Before those set on high - despicable and base. 
    A wizened fruit grown ripe before its hour,
    No pleasure to the eye and no delight to taste, 
    An orphan stranger there, he hangs beside the flower -
    The time of its full bloom is his to fall and waste.

    For we have dried our brains with fruitless speculations,
    Withholding enviously from friends and those ahout 
    The ringing voice of lofty aspirations
    And noble passions, undermined by doubt. 
    Our lips have barely brushed the cup of delectation,
    But youthful strength we did not thus retain; 
    From every joy we found, in fear of saturation,
    We took the best and never came again.
    The dreams of poesy, pure art, and its creation
    With its sweet ecstasy our senses never move;
    We greedily retain the remnants of sensation -
    Dug deep and miserly, a useless treasure trove.
    And we both love and hate by chance, without conviction,
    We make no sacrifice for malice, or for good, 
    There reigns within our souls a kind of chill constriction,
    Whene'er the flame ignites the blood.
    The pastimes of our sires we think a boring story,
    Their guileless, boyish dissipations unrefined;
    We hurry to our graves, unhappy, without glory,
    With one last sneering glance behind.

    A gloomy throng are we, condemned and soon forgotten,
    We pass across the world in silence, without trace, 
    No thoughts that might bear fruit for ages unbegotten, 
    No work of genius to inspire the race.
    Our ashes will receive a harsh and just portrayal, 
    Posterity will sneer with skilled and scornful verse, 
    A curse of bitterness from sons at their betrayal 
    By their own father's spendthrift purse.


    Native Land 

    I love my native land with such perverse affection! 
    My better judgement has no standing here.
    Not glory, won in bloody action, 
    nor yet that calm demeanour, trusting and austere, 
    nor yet age-hallowed rites or handed-down traditions; 
    not one can stir my soul to gratifying visions.

    And yet I love - a mystery to me -
    her dreary steppelands wrapped in icy silence, 
    her boundless, swaying, forest-mantled highlands, 
    the flood waters in springtime, ample as the sea; 
    I love to jolt along a narrow country byway 
    and, slowly peering through the darkness up ahead 
    while sighing for a lodging, glimpse across the highway
    the mournful trembling fires of villages outspread.
    I love the smoke of stubble blazing,
    heaped wagons on the steppe at night,
    a hill mid yellow cornfields raising,
    a pair of birch trees silver-bright.
    With pleasure few have yet discovered,
    a laden granary I see,
    a hut with straw thatch neatly covered,
    carved window shutters swinging free.
    On feast nights with the dew descending,
    I'll watch till midnight, never fear
    the dance, the stamps and whistles blending 
    with mumbling rustics full of beer.



    Untitled 

    No, I'm not Byron, it's my role
    To be an undiscovered wonder,
    Like him, a persecuted wand'rer,
    But furnished with a Russian soul.
    I started sooner, sooner ending,
    My mind will never reach so high;
    Within my soul, beyond the mending,
    My shattered aspirations lie:
    Dark ocean answer me, can any
    Plumb all your depth with skillful trawl?
    Who will explain me to the many?
    I... perhaps God? No one at all?



    Untitled 

    I

    I walk out alone into the darkness.
    Through the mist the roadway flints gleam bright;
    All is still, God speaks, the desert hearkens,
    Star with star holds convene in the night.

    II

    Skies above show forth a solemn wonder;
    Pale blue radiance laps the sleeping earth...
    Why must I be anguished, torn asunder -
    Old regrets? or expectation's birth?

    III

    No, of life I have no expectation,
    No regretful memories to keep,
    What I seek is peace, a liberation;
    I wish for oblivion, to sleep ...

    IV

    Not that sleep of graveyards, chill and gruesome:
    Bather for eternity to keep
    Life's full powers still dormant in my bosom, 
    Breast still gently heaving as I sleep;

    V
    Have by night and day, my ear beguiling, 
    Voices sing sweet melodies of love,
    Shady oak trees ever green and smiling 
    Bend their boughs and rustle close above



    Testament 

    I feel I'd like to be alone 
    with you, friend, if you'll stay:
    my time on earth is nearly gone; 
    at least that's what they say. 
    And you'll be going home on leave:
    mind you ... what odds? I do believe, 
    to tel the truth, not many 
    will give a brass halfpenny.

    If anyone should ask of you... 
    well, anyone at all... 
    you tell them where that bullet flew 
    right through the chest, one ball:
    "He died with honour for the Tsar"
    - and say how bad our surgeons are - 
    "and to his habitation
    he sent his salutation."

    You'll likely find that my old dad 
    and mother both are dead... 
    I wouldn't want to make them sad 
    or send them tears to shed; 
    but if you find that they're all right, 
    just say I haven't time to write, 
    the regiment's campaigning 
    and there's no use complaining.

    They've got a woman neighbour there?
    God knows how long ago 
    we parted!... She will hardly care 
    to ask you.. Let it go, 
    tell her the truth, leave out no part, 
    no need to spare an empty heart; 
    she'll shed a tear or two there... 
    but it means nothing to her!



    Prayer 

    At life's most testing moment, when
    the grieving heart's replete,
    a prayer that is most potent then
    I call up and repeat.

    There is a power, suffused with grace, 
    when living words combine, 
    a breath beyond the commonplace, 
    that holds a joy divine.

    Like dead-weight slipping from the brain 
    now fades my unbelief -
    I trust again, shed tears again, 
    and such relief, relief...



    Untitled 

    No, I'm not Byron, it's my role
    To be an undiscovered wonder,
    Like him, a persecuted wand'rer,
    But furnished with a Russian soul.
    I started sooner, sooner ending,
    My mind will never reach so high;
    Within my soul, beyond the mending,
    My shattered aspirations lie:
    Dark ocean answer me, can any
    Plumb all your depth with skillful trawl?
    Who will explain me to the many?
    I... perhaps God? No one at all?


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