A Russian love poem about love of his country by Mikhail Lermontov (1814 – 1841). Translated by Peter France. Lermontov was a Romantic and considered the Byron of Russia.
I love my country, but with a strange love –
stronger than reason! …..
Neither the fame that blood can buy,
nor the calm pride of confidence,
nor the time-honoured gifts of ignorant days
can stir my soul with dreams of happiness.
But what I love – for some strange reason –
is the cold silence of her plains,
the swaying branches of her endless forests,
her rivers as wide-spreading as the sea;
galloping in a cart on country tracks
and gazing slowly deep into the dark,
seeing on either side, longing for sleep,
the poor sad villages’ bright windows.
I love the smoke of burning stubble,
the lines of carts crossing the steppe,
and in bright meadows, on a hill,
a pair of birches gleaming white.
I feel a pleasure few can share
seeing the barns piled high with grain,
the hut beneath a roof of thatch
with fretted shutters on the windows;
and on a dewy feast-day evening
I’ll gaze till late into the night
at whistling dancers, stamping feet,
and hear the drunken peasants talk.Mikhail Lermontov (1814 – 1841)
Lermontov’s mother died when he was 3 and he was brought up by his grandmother who spoilt him and permitted only limited access to his father who died when Mikhail was about 17. He had been a sickly child but but, after university, he joined the Hussars where one of his fellow cadet-school students, described him as “the young man who was so far ahead of everybody else, as to be beyond comparison,” a “real grown-up who’d read and thought and understood a lot about the human nature.”
This same cadet, several years later, killed him in a duel after he could no longer take the teasing from Lermontov.