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Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov

(1814 - 1841 / Russia)

The Poet's Dead


The Poet's dead! - a slave to honor -
He fell, by rumor slandered,
Lead in his breast and thirsting for revenge,
Hanging his proud head!...
The Poet's soul could not endure
Petty insult's disgrace.
Against society he rose,
Alone, as always...and was slain!
Slain!...What use is weeping now,
The futile chorus of empty praise
Excuses mumbled full of pathos?
Fate has pronounced its sentence!
Was it not you who spitefully
Rebuffed his free, courageous gift
And for your own amusement fanned
The nearly dying flame?
Well now, enjoy yourselves...he couldn't
Endure the final torture:
Quenched is the marvelous light of genius,
Withered is the triumphal wreath.

Cold-bloodedly his murderer
Took aim...there was no chance of flight:
His empty heart beat evenly,
The pistol steady in his hand.
No wonder...from far away
The will of fate sent him to us
Like hundreds of his fellow vagrants
In search of luck and rank;
With impudence he mocked and scorned
The tongue and mores of this strange land;
He could not spare our glory,
Nor in that bloody moment know
"gainst what he'd raised his hand!...

He's slain - and taken by the grave
Like that unknown, but happy bard,
Victim of jealousy wild,
Of whom he sang with wondrous power,
Struck down, like him, by an unyielding hand.

Why did he quit the blissful peace of simple fellowship
To enter this society, so envious and stifling
To hearts of free and fiery passion?
Why did he give his hand to worthless slanderers,
How could he have believed their hollow words
And kindness, he, who'd ever understood his fellow man?...

And they removed his wreath, and set upon his head
A crown of thorns entwined in laurel:
The hidden spines were cruel
And pierced his noble brow;
Poisoned were his final moments
By sly insinuations of mockers ignorant,
And thus he died - for vengeance vainly thirsting
Secretly vexed by false hopes deceived.
The wondrous singing's ceased,
T'will never sound again.
His refuge, gloomy and small,
His lips forever sealed.

___
And you, the offspring arrogant
Of fathers known for malice,
Crushing with slavish heels the ruins
Of clans aggrieved by fortune's game!
You, greedy hordes around the throne,
Killers of Freedom, Genius and Glory!
You hide beneath the canopy of law
Fall silent - truth and justice before you...
But justice also comes from God, corruption's friends!
The judge most terrible awaits you:
He's hardened to the clink of gold,
He knows your future thoughts and deeds.
Then will you turn in vain to lies:
They will no longer help.
And your black blood won't wash away
The poet's sacred blood!

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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