The reed

A fisherman sat humming
Beside a stream one day
And watched the wind of morning
The reeds and grasses sway.
He cut a reed, and, making
A hole in it or two,
To one end held a finger
And in the other blew.

The reed to life was wakened,
It spoke up with a sigh.
Was't voice of wind or maiden,
Its gentle voice and shy?
"0 fisherman," it begged him,
"Do not torment me so.
0 fisherman, I pray you,
Hear out my tale of woe.

"A fair and lovely maiden
But motherless I was.
I bloomed, but bloomed unwanted,
By no one loved, alas!
My father he remarried
And took a witch to wife.
I called on death to claim me
So wretched was my life.

"The witch she had a dearly
Beloved son, had she,
A worthless rogue and scapegrace
Who fooled young maids was he.
I went with him one evening
To walk beside the stream
And watch its waters mirror
The sun's last dying gleam.

"My love in vain he begged forþ
Him and his pleas i spurned.
Gold coins to me he offeredþ
In ire from him I turned.
Then with his knife he struck me.
He struck me in the breast.
A grave he dug and put me
There on the bank to rest.

"And o'er my grave soon after
There grew a slender reed,
And in it live the sorrows
That made my young heart bleed.
0 fisherman, pray leave me,
Do not disturb my sleep.
Alack, you cannot help me
And have not learnt to weep!..."
Mikhail Lermontov
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The Mermaid

A young mermaid once swam and plashed in a stream
That was lit by a full moon's bright beam,
And she struck at the waves, for she wanted to send
The white foam to the moon overhead.

And the stream leapt and danced and rushed noisily on.
And the clouds in its depths whirled and spun.
And the mermaid she sang, and her song echoed o'er
The blue water and high, rocky shore.

Sang the mermaid: "Deep down, hid from everyone's sight,
There are flashes of colour and light,
Crystal cities that give off a magical glow,
Golden fishes that flit to and fro.

"On bright pillows of sand, in the stream's cool embrace,
With the sea grasses shading his face,
Sleeps a knight, of the jealous blue waters the prey,
Sleeps a knight from a land faraway.

"And my sisters and I, when we tire of our play,
By the side of the knight like to stay,
And we comb his silk locks with a gold comb, and his
Ashen brow and pale lips gently kiss.

"But the knight never stirs and, I cannot tell why,
To our kisses he does not reply.
Cold and still lies he there, by a deep slumber bound,
And no murmur escapes him, no sound."

So the mermaid she sang, filled with sadness and pain,
With a sorrow she could not explain,
And the stream leapt and danced and rushed noisily on,
And the clouds in its depths whirled and spun.
Mikhail Lermontov
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No, not on you my passion's bent

No, not on you my passion's bent
And not for me your beauty's splendour;
In you I love what I remember
Of sorrow past and youth misspent.

And sometimes when I look at you and seek
With steadfast gaze to penetrate your heart
In occult colloquies I bear my part -
But it is with another that I speak.

I speak then with that long-lost love of mine,
Seek other features in your features' stead
And, in your living lips, see lips long dead,
And see your eyes with burnt-out ardours shine.
Mikhail Lermontov
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My native land

I love my native land, but mine's a strange love, truly,
And baffles reason. Neither glory bought
With blood, nor, I record it duly,
A calm to proud faith wed, nor exploits brought
To life in tales and myths, and out the dim past taken
Within my heart a glad response awaken.

And yet I love, not knowing why they please,
Her rolling steppes, at once so chill and soundless,
Her wind-swept, rustling groves and forests boundless,
Her streams, by vernal floods made nigh as broad as
Reclining in a cart and for a warm bed sighing,
I love to bump along a country road at night
And meet with drowsy eye, the shadowed dark defying,
Of cheerless villages the lonely, trembling lights.
Smoke coiling o'er a field of stubble,
A string of wagons, homeward bound
Or camping in the steppe, two humble
Young birches perched atop a mound,
A barn with grain stocked to the ceiling,
Carved wooden shutters, roofs of thatch -
All, all within me rouse a feeling
Of joy.... And, too, I like to watch
The village dancers stamping wildly
And whistling of a Sunday, while
Drunk muzhiks, sitting nearby idly,
With talk night's spun-out hours beguile.
Mikhail Lermontov
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I'am lonely and sad

I'm lonely and sad, and in moments of bitterest pain
Have no one to look to, alas...
Desires!.. What use to desire without end, without gain,
While all the best years swiftly, fleetingly pass!

To love... Whom?.. If briefly, 'tis not worth the effort...
Vain longing, since love cannot last.
Look into your heart: joy and torment - all paltry, and there
Remains not a trace of the past.

The passions?.. Sweet ailment that reason will easily cure,
A cold word of logic arrest.
And life - what is life if you look round you coolly?-
A poor,
An empty and trivial jest!..
Mikhail Lermontov
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Gifts of the Terek

Mid huge rocks, the Terek, leaping,
Onward courses, wild and fierce.
Like a storm he howls, and, weeping,
Sprays the cliffs with angry tears.
But he broadens out on reaching
The great steppe and waxes meek.
To the sea in half beseeching,
Friendly tones we hear him speak:

"Give my waters refuge, ancient,
Give them shelter, Caspian Sea.
Long enough have they, impatient,
Roamed the hills, it seems to me.
Sired by peaks Caucasian soaring,
By the clouds above them fed,
They dispute man's rule, and, roaring,
Rush impetuous ahead.
They have robbed Daryal of treasure,
Herds of boulders, free of fear,
For your sons' delight and pleasure
Driving off year after year."

But the Caspian Sea is drowsy
And he does not seem to hear,
And the Terek, his friend rousing,
Murmurs softly in his ear:

"Here's a gift, a rich one, for you -
A Kabardian who fell
On a battlefield. Before you
He is lying, cold and still.
Precious is his mail of iron;
On his elbow guards - behold!-
Lines from the Koran incised are,
All in lettering of gold.
Dead, he wears a look unbending,
Knit his brows are, while a trace
Of dark blood his lip stains, lending
Something solemn to his face.
On it enmity is graven,
And 'tis mirrored in his stare.
Round his neck there steals a raven
Lock of wet and matted hair."

But the Caspian Sea is pensive
And to answer does not deign,
And the Terek, apprehensive,
Pauses and then speaks again.

"Look, O sea, I have another
Gift to offer - take it, pray.
From the world, my friend and brother,
I have kept it hid away.
Tis a Cossack maid, a daughter
Of the steppes. Long has she been
Cradled by my friendly waters,
Long no man the maid has seen.
Fair is she, her hair a gleaming
Mass of gold, and seems at rest,
With the blood still thinly streaming
From the wound that mars her breast.
On the shore, come night, come morning,
Crowd her people, young and old.
All save one her death are mourning,
All save one young Cossack bold.
The Chechens he battles, smiting
Right and left, his sword held high.
In the hills he is and fighting,
And 'tis fighting he will die."

Low the Terek's voice is growing
As the sandy shore he laves,
While a maid's head, pale hair flowing,
Bobs and bounces on the waves.

And the sea, huge billows raising,
Fearful as a thunderstorm,
Starts awake, his blue eyes blazing,
Full of passion newly born.

Swept by sudden joy and rapture,
With love's tenderest whisper, he
Folds the waters and their capture
To his old heart eagerly.
Mikhail Lermontov
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A cossack lullaby

Sleep, my darling, sleep, my baby,
Close your eyes and sleep.
Darkness comes; into your cradle
Moonbeams shyly peep.
Many pretty songs I'll sing you
And a lullaby.
Pleasant dreams the night will bring you....
Sleep, dear, rock-a-bye.

Muddy waters churn in anger,
Loud the Terek roars,
And a Chechen with a dagger
Leaps onto the shore.
Steeled your father is in gory
Battle.... You and I,
Little one, we need not worry... .
Sleep, dear, rock-a-bye.

There will come a day when boldly,
Like your dad, my son,
You will mount your horse and shoulder,
Proud, a Cossack gun.
With bright silks your saddle for you
I will sew.... There lie
Roads as yet untrod before you....
Sleep, dear, rock-a-bye.

You'll grow up to be a fearless
Cossack, and a true.
Off you'll ride, and I'll stand tearless,
Looking after you.
But when you are gone from sight, son,
Bitterly I'll cry....

May the dreams you dream be light, son;
Sleep, dear, rock-a-bye.
Thoughts of you when we are parted
All my days will fill.
In the nighttime, anxious-hearted,
Pray for you I will.
I'll be thinking that you're lonely,
That for home you sigh....
Sleep, my son, my one and only,
Sleep, dear, rock-a-bye.

I will see you to the turning,
And you'll ride away.
With my icon you will journey
And before it pray.
Let your thoughts in time of danger
To your mother fly.
Close your eyes and sleep, my angel,
Sleep, dear, rock-a-bye.
Mikhail Lermontov
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If I am sad it is because I am in love with you,
And well I know: the blight of rumour most untrue
Will not forbear to mark your blooming youth with sorrow.
For every hour of joy Fate will exact tomorrow
A toll of tears and pain that you alone must pay.
So I am sad, my dearest love, because you are so gay.
Mikhail Lermontov
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The Confession

I’m to believe, but with some fear,
For I haven’t tried it all before,
That every monk could be sincere
And live as he by altar swore;
That smiles and kisses of all people
Could be perfidious only once;
That, sometimes, they forgive the little
Mistakes, the others make by chance;
That time heals sufferers around,
The world is one of joy and gleam;
That virtue is not just a sound,
And life is more than a dream.

But rough and hardened life’s experience,
Repulse my warm faith every time,
My mind, sunk, as before, in grievance,
Has not achieved its goal, prime,
And heart, full of the sharp frustrations,
Holds in its deep the clear trace
Of dead – but blest imaginations,
And vanished senses’ easy shades;
There will be none for it to fear,
And what’s a poison for all them,
Makes it alive and feeds it here
With its ironic, mocking flame.
Mikhail Lermontov
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The Captive Knight

By a loophole, I sit in my prison,
Could see the blue of the heaven from there,
I feel sharp pain and a shame at the vision
Of heedless birds, freely playing in air.

On my dry lips, I’ve not any prayers,
Nor any songs, that have ever to fly on,
But I remember the ancient battles,
My heavy sword and my coat of iron.

My stony armor – the cross I’m to bear,
My stony helmet compresses my brow,
My shield’s worn from a sword and a spear,
My horse takes roads – I don’t now how.

Time is my horse that stays always my own,
A helmet’s mask-visor – the grate on a hole,
The walls are my armor that’s made of the stone,
My permanent shield is the door’s iron fold.

Time! I desire to speed your hooves’ rattle!
My stony armor is heavy to rise on!
Death, when we’ve come, will help me by the saddle;
I will dismount and rise up my visor.
Mikhail Lermontov
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