Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov Poems >>
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!

Another translation:
By Yevgeny Bonver

Death Of the Poet

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!