A Love Poem for St Valentines Day

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.

My County

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.

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