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Konstantin Nikolaevich Batiushkov

(1787 - 1855 / Russia)

The Prisoner


THERE, where the swift Rhone's waters flow
Its verdant banks between;
Where fragrant myrtles bending grow,
And Rhone reflects their green;
There, where the vineyards deck the hills,
And o'er the valleys spread,
Which golden citrons' fragrance fills,
And plantains rear their head—

There stood, as sunk the lord of day,
Upon the smiling shore,
One who long watch'd the waters play,
And thought his sorrows o'er;
A Russian hero— stolen by war,
The honour of the Don;
Divided from his friends afar,
He wander'd there alone.

'O roll!' he sang, 'ye waters roll—
Flow in your glory on;
Your waves shall waken on my soul
The memory of the Don.
My days pass by without an aim,
Amidst life's busy roar;
For what is life without its fame,
Or the bright world?— 'tis poor.

'Now nature wears its spring-tide dress,
The sun shines splendidly;
All liberty and loveliness—
O! why am I not free?
O roll, ye waters! rage, thou Rhone!
And waken, as ye roll,
The thoughts of my domestic zone
Within my troubled soul.

'The maidens here are fair and bright,
Their glance is full of fire;
And their all-graceful smiles of light
Might satisfy desire
'But what is love in foreign lands,
Or joy?— I only know
The joy and love that bless our sands,
Midst forests and midst snow.

'Give me my freedom— let me tread
Once more my country's strand;
With frost and storm all overspread—
My home— my father-land!
Deep is the snow around my door;
But give me my own steed,
And day and night, the mountains o'er,
Me to my home he'll lead.

'At home, there's one who sits and keeps
The memory of her love;
And often to the window creeps,
And pours her prayers above.
She guards the thoughts of him whose mind
Guards every thought of her;
She pats the horse I left behind—
How privileged to be there!

'O roll, thou Rhone! ye waters roll—
Rush in your glory on;
Your waves still waken in my soul
The memory of the Don.
Come, winds! come hither from the north,
Come, in your freshness, come:
And thou bright pole-star blazen forth,
Memento of my home!'

So spake the prisoner, as he turn'd
To Lyons his tired eye,
When long in exile's chains he mourn'd
His hapless destiny.
He sang— the Rhone roll'd proudly on,
The moon oft kiss'd its tide;
And oft on Lyons' turrets shone
The sun in all his pride.

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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