Mikhail Lermontov (Part 1)
Ivanovo, the Textile capital of Russia

Mikhail Lermontov (part 2)

The 1st part of our article relates the chilhood and the youth of the great poet, Mikhail Lermontov. Read now his tragic destiny.

You can also read the original article about M. Lermontov in Russian.

Fame came to Lermontov in the days of the tragic death of A. Pushkin. Lermontov was not familiar with the great Russian poet but immediately reacted to his death. The day after Pushkin’s death, a poem was being passed from hand to hand whose started like this:

Погиб поэт – невольник чести, Пал, оклеветанный молвой…

The Poet’s dead! – a slave to honor – He fell, by rumor slandered…

In those verses, the young poet declared that the hand of the murderer was conducted by the people being close to the Tsar. Soon he was arrested for his inadmissible poetry and send in the Caucasus as an officer in the Dragoons in the hope to get rid of the troubled poet.

Around this time, his great prose “A Hero of Our Time” was released in all Russia. It was the first psychological novel in prose in Russian literature. Now, it would be called a cult novel. In his novel, he tried to solve an actual problem of his time as why smart and energetic people don’t find a use of their capacity, why they don’t serve higher goals.

“Pechorin (the main hero of his roman) is a superfluous man” said about him critic Belinsky.

The poet didn’t abandon the thought of giving his resignation. He dreamed of devoting his time to literature and build great creative plans: he wanted to publish his own magazine, to write a historical novel. However his dreams never came true.

Returning from a holiday in Saint Petersburg to the Caucasus, Lermontov stopped in Pyatigorsk, where on July 27th, 1841, he was killed in a dual with Martynov, with whom he studied at some point in the cadet school.

The study of archives shows that since 1837 Lermontov was under the secret police constant surveillance. The Tsar Nicholas I saw in Lermontov the heir of the Decembrists’ ideas and of Pushkin. Learning the death of the poet, the Tsar didn’t hide his satisfaction!

When Mikhail Lermontov was killed, he was not yet 27 years old. Russia, having so recently buried Pushkin, lost another great poet. Lermontov was the hope of Russian literature and its future. The work he has created during his short life became the pride of Russian culture and enriched the Russian language.

If Lermontov’s poetry is the continuation of Pushkin’s one, then we can say that the prose of the great realistic-writers Turgenev, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, which brought Russia to its international fame is the continuation of the tradition started by Mikhail Lermontov with his novel “A Hero of Our Time”.

Погиб Поэт! – невольник чести- Пал, оклеветанный молвой, С свинцом в груди и жаждой мести, Поникнув гордой головой!.. Не вынесла душа Поэта Позора мелочных обид, Восстал он против мнений света Один, как прежде… и убит! Убит!.. к чему теперь рыданья, Пустых похвал ненужный хор И жалкий лепет оправданья? Судьбы свершился приговор! Не вы ль сперва так злобно гнали Его свободный, смелый дар И для потехи раздували Чуть затаившийся пожар? Что ж? веселитесь… он мучений Последних вынести не мог: Угас, как светоч, дивный гений, Увял торжественный венок.

Его убийца хладнокровно Навел удар… спасенья нет: Пустое сердце бьется ровно, В руке не дрогнул пистолет. И что за диво?… издалека, Подобный сотням беглецов, На ловлю счастья и чинов Заброшен к нам по воле рока; Смеясь, он дерзко презирал Земли чужой язык и нравы; Не мог щадить он нашей славы; Не мог понять в сей миг кровавый, На что’ он руку поднимал!.. И он убит – и взят могилой, Как тот певец, неведомый, но милый, Добыча ревности глухой, Воспетый им с такою чудной силой, Сраженный, как и он, безжалостной рукой. Зачем от мирных нег и дружбы простодушной Вступил он в этот свет завистливый и душный Для сердца вольного и пламенных страстей? Зачем он руку дал клеветникам ничтожным, Зачем поверил он словам и ласкам ложным, Он, с юных лет постигнувший людей?… И прежний сняв венок – они венец терновый, Увитый лаврами, надели на него: Но иглы тайные сурово Язвили славное чело; Отравлены его последние мгновенья Коварным шепотом насмешливых невежд, И умер он – с напрасной жаждой мщенья, С досадой тайною обманутых надежд. Замолкли звуки чудных песен, Не раздаваться им опять: Приют певца угрюм и тесен, И на устах его печать.
А вы, надменные потомки Известной подлостью прославленных отцов, Пятою рабскою поправшие обломки Игрою счастия обиженных родов! Вы, жадною толпой стоящие у трона, Свободы, Гения и Славы палачи! Таитесь вы под сению закона, Пред вами суд и правда – всё молчи! Но есть и божий суд, наперсники разврата! Есть грозный суд: он ждет; Он не доступен звону злата, И мысли, и дела он знает наперед. Тогда напрасно вы прибегнете к злословью: Оно вам не поможет вновь, И вы не смоете всей вашей черной кровью Поэта праведную кровь!

The Bard is killed! The honor’s striver Fell, slandered by a gossip’s dread, With lead in breast and vengeful fire, Drooped with his ever-proud head. The Poet’s soul did not bear The shameful hurts of low breed, He fought against the worldly “faire,” Alone as always,… and is killed! He’s killed! What for are late orations Of useless praise; and weeps and moans, And gibberish of explanations? – The fate had brought her verdict on! Had not you first so hard maltreated His free and brave poetic gift, And, for your pleasure, fanned and fitted The fire that in ashes drifts? You may be happy… Those tortures Had broken his strength, at last: Like light, had failed the genius gorgeous; The sumptuous wreath had weathered fast.

His murderer, without mercy, Betook his aim and bloody chance, His empty heart is calm and healthy, The pistol did not tremble once. And what is wonder?… From a distance, By road of manifold exiles, He came to us, by fatal instance, To catch his fortune, rank and price. Detested he the alien lands Traditions, language and discussions; He couldn’t spare The Fame of Russians And fathom – till last instant rushes – What a disaster grips his hand!… And he is killed, and leaves from here, As that young Bard, mysterious but dear, The prey of vengeance, deaf and bland, Who sang he of, so lyric and sincere, Who too was put to death by similar a hand. And why, from peaceful times and simple-hearted fellows, He entered this high life, so stiff and so jealous Of freedom-loving heart and passions full of flame? Why did he give his hand to slanders, mean and worthless Why trusted their words and their oaths, godless, He, who from youth had caught the mankind’s frame? And then his wreath, a crown of sloe, Woven with bays, they put on Poet’s head; The thorns, that secretly were grown, Were stinging famous brow, yet. His life’s fast end was poisoned with a gurgle And faithless whisper of the mocking fops, And died he with burning thrust for struggle, With hid vexation for his cheated hopes. The charming lyre is now silent, It will be never heard by us: The bard’s abode is grim and tightened, And seal is placed on his mouth.
And you, oh, vainglory decedents Of famous fathers, so mean and base, Who’ve trod with ushers’ feet the remnants Of clans, offended by the fortune’s plays! In greedy crowd standing by the throne, The foes of Freedom, Genius, and Repute – You’re hid in shadow of a law-stone, For you, and truth and justice must be mute!… But there is Court of God, you, evil manifold! – The terrible court: it waits; It’s not reached by a ring of gold, It knows, in advance, all thoughts’ and actions’ weights. Then you, in vain, will try to bring your evil voice on: It will not help you to be right, And you will not wash of with all your bloody poison, The Poet’s righteous blood!

Тучки небесные, вечные странники! Степью лазурною, цепью жемчужною Мчитесь вы, будто как я же, изгнанники С милого севера в сторону южную.

Кто же вас гонит: судьбы ли решение? Зависть ли тайная? злоба ль открытая? Или на вас тяготит преступление? Или друзей клевета ядовитая? Нет, вам наскучили нивы бесплодные… Чужды вам страсти и чужды страдания; Вечно холодные, вечно свободные, Нет у вас родины, нет вам изгнания..

Clouds in the skies above, heavenly wanderers, Long strings of snowy pearls stretched over azure plains! Exiles like I, you rush farther and farther on, Leaving my dear North, go distances measureless.

What drives you southward? Is’t envy that covertly Prods you or malice whose arrows strike openly? Destiny is it? A crime hanging over you? Or friendship’s honeyed but poisonous calumny? No! O’er those barren wastes heedlessly journeying, Passion you know not or anguish or punishment; Feeling you lack, you are free – free eternally, You have no homeland, for you there’s no banishment.

Ночевала тучка золотая На груди утеса-великана; Утром в путь она умчалась рано, По лазури весело играя;

Но остался влажный след в морщине Старого утеса. Одиноко Он стоит, задумался глубоко, И тихонько плачет он в пустыне.

By a cliff a golden cloud once lingered; On his breast it slept, but, riseing early, Off it gently rushed across the pearly Blue of sky, a tiny thing and winged.

Still, a trace it left upon the stony Giant’s heart, and plunged in thought and weeping Slow and tortured tears, he stands there, keeping Vigil o’er the gloomy waste and lonely.

У врат обители святой Стоял просящий подаянья Бедняк иссохший, чуть живой От глада, жажды и страданья.

Куска лишь хлеба он просил, И взор являл живую муку, И кто-то камень положил В его протянутую руку. Так я молил твоей любви С слезами горькими, с тоскою; Так чувства лучшие мои Обмануты навек тобою!!

By gates of an abode, blessed, A man stood, asking for donation, A beggar, cruelly oppressed By hunger, thirst and deprivation.

He asked just for a peace of bread, And all his looks were full of anguish, And was a cold stone laid Into his stretched arm, thin and languished. Thus I prayed vainly for your love, With bitter tears, pine and fervor, Thus my best senses, that have thrived, Were victimized by you forever!
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Евгения Плещунова