Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lermontov and Pushkin


Хәзрәти Пүшкин авылда язды үз "Евгениен",
Мин исә җырлыйм фәкать монда бәрәнгенең көен.

Шунда да күрмим үземне һич тә Пушкиннән түбән;
Тугьры күз салсаң эшенә -ул үзе миннән түбән:

Бервакыт онтыр җиһан Пушкинне һәм "Евгениен",
 Яүме мәхшәрсез онтымаслар бәрәңгәмне минем.

Язганың булса бәкалы, ул бәкага тартала*;
Мин дә бупдым һич тә онтылмас кеше шул аркада.

 * Тарта ала, димәк.  Язганча укыйлар. (Г.Тукай искәртәсе.) 
Яүме мәхшәрсез - кыямәт җитмичә.
Бәкалы - дәвамлы.
Бәкага - дәвамга, мәңгелеккә.

More than once have we read the words of our beloved Gabdullah Tukay and he has made reference to "Lermontov and Pushkin". As Tukay has found them worthy of mention, we've found them worthy of further study. Most Americans are familiar with the name "Pushkin" but "Lermontov" is a bit more obscure. We know that they are of the Russian Romantics and both died in duels. We found this rather famous poem by Pushkin about the Crimean Tatar Khan Girey, and his captive Polish love.

The Fountain of Bakhchisaray - 1824

Many have visited this fountain, as I
have done; but some are no more,
others are wandering afar.

With brooding eyes sat Khan Girey
Blue smoke his amber mouthpiece shrouded;
About their fearsome ruler crowded
The court in sedulous array.
Deep silence reigned about the prince;
All humbly scanned the least reflection
Of irritation or dejection
On his beclouded countenance.
But now a gesture of impatience
From the imperious lord of nations
Made all bow low and melt away.

Enthroned alone remains Girey;
More freely labors now his breathing.
More clearly now his scowls betray
The surf of passion's inward seething.
Thus clouds, the brow of heaven wreathing.
Are mirrored in a changeful bay.

On what high issues is he poring?
What would his haughty mind essay?
To Russia will he fare with warring,
On Poland force his sword and sway?
Is he aflame with bloody vengeance,
Are plots uncovered in his host,
Do mountain tribes alarm him most
Or devious Genoa's subtle engines?

No - he has tired of armored fame,
That formidable arm is tame;
The lure of strategems has faded.
Should rant defilement have invaded
His harem on betrayal's spoor,
A child of charms enchained have traded
Her ardent heart to a giaour?

No - Girey's wives, subdued of bearing,
Designs still less than wishes daring,
In melancholy stillness blush;
Their guard is vigilant and dreaded.
They harbor no deceit, embedded
Deep in their drear unsolaced hush.
In stealth their beauty blooms and wanes,
A sombre dungeon for its bower;
Thus blossoms of Arabia flower
Beneath the sheltering hothouse panes.
For them, disconsolately flow
Days, months, and years in changeless rhythm,
And, all unnoticed as they go,
Take youth and love and ardor with them.
Of even hue is every day,
And slow the current of the hours.
Sloth holds the Harem's life in sway,
And seldom sweet enjoyment flowers,
The youthful wives, by forced resort
To pastimes of whatever sort,
Will choose among their gorgeous raiments,
Engage in games and entertainments,
Or, deep in shade of sycamores,
By well-springs babbling near their quarters,
May sport in gauzy threes and fours.
Beribboned by the shining waters.
A baleful eunuch wanders here;
To counter him is vain endeavor;
His unrelenting eye and ear
Are fixed on all their movements, ever.
Their changeless order bears his seal.
The sum and essence of his functions
Lies in his master's word and weal,
Nor the august Koran's injunctions
Does he observe with greater zeal.

His soul spurns love; a graven idol
Of unconcern, he does not bridle
At hatred, scorn, reproach; he brooks
the taunts which wanton mischief utters,
Disdain, appeal, submissive looks,
Unspeaking sighs, and languid mutters.
No stranger he to women's hearts,
He knows how wily are their arts
At large or in the dungeon's throe;
Eyes melting, tears' appealing source,
Are impotent to stay his course;
He ceased to trust them long ago.

When fragrant hair in loose undress,
The youthful captives, on an outing
To feel the heart of day the less,
Have gone to bathe, clear fountains spouting
About their lovely nakedness,
He, all enjoyment's guard unswerving,
Is there, impassively observing
That welter of unveiled delight
He stalks the shaded harem night,
Inaudible his feline gliding;
Across the carpets' soundless deeps
To the obsequious door he creeps,
In secret aisle on aisle bestriding;
What sensuous slumber might reveal
He summons to his shrewd ordeal,
Each whisper of the darkness scouting;
Quick breathing, sighing, languid pouting-
He dockets with relentless zeal;
And woe to her whose slumbrous mutters
Perchance another's name impart,
Or who to trusted ear unshutters
Unlawful stirrings of her heart!

What sorrows marks the ruler's bearing?
The hookah wafts its fumes no more;
The Eunuch, not a tremor daring,
Awaits the signal at the door.
The pensive potentate has risen
The portals gape. In silence grim
He enters the secluded prison
Of wives but lately dear to him.

His visitation biding blithely
Round playful fountains, sprawling lithely
On silken rugs, our beauties lark;
One frisky troop beguile their leisure
By watching with a childish pleasure
The darting fishes glint and spark
Against the marble's lucent dark;
Some, doubly willful and capricious.
Drop golden earrings to the fishes .
Slave maidens, weaving all among,
Serve cooling sherbet, tart and fruity,
And to an air of tuneful beauty
Make all the Harem sweet with song:


"Man's way on earth the Heavens checker
By turns with wretchedness and tears;
Blest is the Fakir, eyeing Mecca
At evenfall of weary tears.

Blest they who hallow Danube's valley
Afresh with mortal sacrifice:
To them, with lips on fire, will rally
The lovely maids of Paradise.

But blest, Zarema, more than these,
Who spurning worldly clash and riot,
In the seraglio's peaceful ease
May lull you, sweetest one, in quiet."

They sing... Zarema , though , is far,
The Harem's queen, love's brightest star!-
Alas, all pale and overwrought,
She does not hear her praise. Distraught,
A palm by tempest bent and spread,
She sadly hangs her lovely head.
No thing can hearten her or spur:
Girey has ceased from loving her.

Betrayed! . . . But how can one believe you
Excelled in charms? By whom conceive you
Outshone? Around your lily brow is laid
A double coil of raven braid;
Your wonder-working eyes seem able
To blind the day, make night more sable;
Who sounds with fuller voice than you
The transports of enflamed desire?
Whose gifts of passion could outdo
Your fierce caresses' festering fire?
Enchantment tasted in your arms-
Who would essay another's charms?
Yet Khan Girey has been eluding
Your spell, from cruelty or scorn,
Those cooling hours from dusk to morn
He has been solitary, brooding -
Since first the Polish princess, doomed
To harem life, was here entombed.

Fair Mary had but little time
Been planted in this alien orchard-
A lovely flower , till lately nurtured
To blossom in her native clime.
She was her graybeard father's pride
Joy of his years' receding tide.
The maiden's every youthful whim
Was the indulgent father's order.
A sole wish animated him
That Providence should but accord her
Life's bright spring; that each day be passed
So that no shadow of displeasure
Should mar the comfort of his treasure,
That even as a bride at last
She should remember, tenderhearted,
Her maidenhood, those joyous days
That like a fleeting dream departed.
All spoke for her; her quiet ways,
Her movements, lithe and swift to view,
And eyes, a languishment of blue.
Kind Nature's gifts of heart and brains
With art's accomplishments she mated,l
And with her harp's bewitching strains
Their homely feasting animated;
For her fair hand there came contending
The rich in gold and in estate,
And man a youth, in secret rending
His heart for her, bemoaned his fate.
But to her spirit Love was late
To make his way with soft incursions;
Her unsequestered leisure hours
In the paternal grounds and towers
Were spent in innocent diversions.

How long? Alas! The Tartar swarm
On Poland's marches poured in rivers:
Not with such rushing fury quivers
The fire across a field of corn.
By warlike devastation savaged,
New-orphaned lay the blooming land,
The dear pacific pastimes banned,
Oak groves and hamlets charred and ravaged,
The noble castle's keeps unmanned.
Maria's morning room is muted...
The crypt wherein, in marble dressed,
Ancestral relics lie at rest,
Embossed with princely crown and crest,
Sees a fresh sepulchre recruited...
The orphaned princess snatched by arms,
A grasping heir succeeds upon her,
By now a galling yoke's dishonor
His rule has brought to ravished farms.

The Khan's serail in now confiningg,
O grievous thought! The young princess,
Mute bondage has Maria pining
In tears of utter hopelessness.
Girey indulges her distress:
Her laments, sobs, despairing pleas
Disturb the Potentate's brief slumber,
And he has waived for her a number
Of the Seraglio's stern decrees.
The Harem beauties' gloomy warder
Does not patrol her night or day,
Nor does his company and order
Attend her to her slumber bay,
The contumely of his eyes
To her pure visage did not rise;
She used a pool, remote and lonely,
Attended by a slave girl only,
To bathe; the Khan himself was prone
To spare his captive's frail composure,
Permitting her to live alone,
In the Seraglio's last enclosure:
You'd think, in that secluded cell
One not of earth had come to dwell.
Within, a light is ever shining
Before Our Lady's image fair,
Assuagement for the spirit's pining:
There pious Faith confounds despair
And makes with Hope a saving pair;
And all inclines the soul to ponder
A gentler shore, a refuge yonder.

In this spare lodgement, set apart
From envious wives, she grieves her heart.
And while the rest have never craved
But unreflecting dissipation,
This nook, miraculously saved,
Hides virtue's sacred resting station.
Thus heart, by wickedness bespoken,
Amidst incontinence of vice
May clutch a sigle sacred token,
Discern a glint of paradise...

The night has fallen; shades of sorrel
Now tint the smiling Tauric vale;
Far in the bosky hush of laurel
I hear the tuneful nightingale;
The starry choirs revolve, ashimmer,
The moon rides up; from cloudless height
It washes knoll and forest night
And lowlands with its langorous glimmer.
Their faces veiled in snowy swathes,
From house to lowly house there ply
The twilight of Bakhchisaray
On feet as light as nimble wraiths
The simple Tartar women, roaming
To barter gossip in the gloaming.
The Court is still; the Harem wing
Lies in assuagement lapped, untroubled;
Its slumber no unpeaceful thing
Can threaten; vigilance redoubled,
The Eunuch turns his nightly rounds.
Asleep, as now, his spirit hobbled
But loosely, stays alert to sounds.
Scant respite to his chafing sense
Allows betrayal's restless fear.
Now someone's scrape or lisp he fancies,
Now exclamations does he hear;
Night sounds imagined or deceiving
Arouse him to a restive crouch,
His head and hearing tensely weaving...
But all is still about his couch,
The fountain's dulcet purl and bobbing
Alone enlives the marble close,
And nightingales, in darkness sobbing,
Which ever wait upon the rose;
Long does the Eunuch listen then-
Till sleep exacts its toll again.
How rich the night of Orient sky
How lush the shaded splendor of it!
How genially its hours flow by
For the disciples of the Prophet!
Sweet langours from their arbors well,
In their enchanted lodgement dwell,
Their harem, safe in stout defenses,
Where by the magic of the moon
All throbs in a mysterious swoon,
Voluptuous rapture of the senses!
The wives are sleeping. All but one.
She rises , breathless; tiptoes on;
She finds the door and, fingers questing,
She opnes it; her footfall light
Advances in the murk of tnight...
Across her path the Eunuch's resting
In swathes of sleep that come and pass.
A heart of iron is his merit:
His tranquil sleep deceives, alas!...
She shimmers past him like a spirt.
A door ahead: her fingers blundered
As, tremulous, they groped to catch
The drawbolt of the trusty latch...
She entered, gazed about her, wondered...
An awed misgiving blanched her cheek:
A candelabra's lonely glimmer,
Its mournful light now bright, now dimmer
On a gilt frame, a visage meek,
Our holiest Maid's, and, sacred token
Of love, the Cross. O Georgian! These
Awaken strings which have not spoken
So long - in accents soft and broken
They sound forgotten melodies...
Before her the Princess was lying,
Her slumbrous breathing seemed to blow
Her cheeks a warmer, livelier glow
And cause a wistful smile to grow
Upon the trails of recent crying.
Thus walks the moon her silver lane
Through blossoms raved by the rain.
A son of Eden, downward sweeping,
It seemed, had furled his pinions here,
And in his sleep shed tear on tear,
The captives' wretched fate beweeping...
Zarema - oh! what touches you?
Her heart is gripped by pangs of rue,
Her knees bend under as if heeding
Another's will. "I beg of you,"
She prays, "have mercy, hear my pleading...."
Her movements, sobs, abrupt behest
Have chased Maria's tranquil rest.
She fears who knows what mischief masked
In this appeal of a young stranger,
And trembling, sensible of danger,
She helps her to her feet, and asks:
"Who are you?...Lone nocturnal ranger,
Why are you here" "I come to you;
Save me; such is the lot I drew
That you are now my sole redress.
Long did I savor happiness,
Live unassailed by care or doubt...
The shadow even of my bliss
Is gone; I perish. Hear me out.
This is not my home; my childhood haven
Is far away.. but what remains
Of bygone scenes, my mind retains
Live to this day and deeply graven.
Impenetrable forest lowers,
I see great mountains, ether-girt,
Hot falls which from the mountains spurt;
And lows and customs far from ours.
By what ordainment, by whose hand
I came to leave my native land
I know not; I recall the heaving
Of seas, a man high on a spar
Above the sails ... Alarm and grieving
Have stayed aloof from me so far;
In peace which nothing seemed to mar
I bloomed in Harem shade, expecting
The call of love on me - my first -
With humble heart and unreflecting.
My fantasies, in secret nursed,
Came true. For peaceable indulgence
Girey renounced the clash of war;
When he forswore its gory fulgence,
The Harem saw him as before.
In dark suspense, we were paraded
Before the Khan. His countenance
Turned to me, shone: he was persuaded,
He summoned me ... and ever since
Enchanted bliss without remission
We sipped; not once from that glad day
Did slander, scheming competition
Tormenting jealousy, suspicion,
Or boredom mark us for their prey.
But you appeared to him, Maria! ...
From that time on, alas, his soul
Turned black with traitorous desire!
Girey, rank perfidy his goal,
Is callous to my castigation,
The heart's lament he would ignore,
Finds neither converse nor sensation
To give Zarema as before.
You do not share his lapse from duty,
I know, and guiltless is your mind...
So listen to me: I have beauty;
Here, only you may boast the kind
That I might stand in peril of;
But i was wholly made for love,
And you can't love him in my fashion;
With barren beauty void of passion
Why stir a vulnerable heart?
Leave him to me; Givrey is mine;
On me his burning kisses smart;
Most awesome vows from him I treasure,
Not just of late his thought, his pleasure
Seek me and with my own combine;
His faithlessness will be my death...
I weep - look! - prone before you, reaching
Humbly to touch your feet, beseeching
You (whom I dare assign no breath
Of blame) to heal my sorrow, teaching
Girey to be what once he was...
Gainsay me not, by word or sign;
Though dazed by you, Girey is mine;
By pleading, spurning give him pause,
Pride, grief - whatever - make him heed;
Swear to me (though for the K'oran
Amid the captives of the Khan
I all but lost my childhood creed,
My mother prayed the Christian way
Like you...) by this your faith I say:
Back to Zarema turn Girey...
There's hope ... but mark me: if I lose it -
I have a dagger, and I use it.
The Caucasus has been my sire."
With this, she vanished; and Maria
Avoided watching her depart.
The voice of mutinous desire
Is foreign to her maiden heart.
She cannot fathom its narration.
It frightens her and makes her ill.
What tears, entreaty, imprecation,
Might rescue her from degradation?
What looms ahead? Must, by his will,
What bitter youth awaits her still
Reek with a concubine's disgrace?
O heaven - what if Girey had left her
To droop in this forsaken place;
Or if his purpose had bereft her
Of her sad life's remaining lease-
with what serenity Maria
Would leave behind life's joyless grind!
What moments had been dearer, higher,
Had long been lived and left behind!
What in this waste but begs release?
Her time is come, her place is shown,
And with a smile so like her own,
They call her home to heavenly peace.
The days have fled; Maria's gone,
To earth committed what was human,
An angel now, the friendless one
Her longed-for haven helps illumine.
What was it thrust her to her tomb?
Sad durance, whence all hope was banished,
Disease, or else some other doom?
Who knows - but tender Mary's vanished! ...
The vacant Court in doldrums fades,
By Khan Girey once more forsaken;
His Tartar squadrons he has taken
To lash abroad with evil raids;
To slaughter, seemingly the same,
He rides agian, blackbrowd and cruel,
But in his heart, a desolate flame
Of other feelings draws its fuel.
At times, in peril's very jaws
He'd lift his sword, and as he downed it,
Halt, peer distractedly and pause
As if forgetting where he was,
And blanch as if by fear confounded,
Then whisper something - and it seems,
Tears scored his cheeks in scalding streams.
The Harem, utterly neglected,
Knows not the favor of his stay;
Within, their womanhood rejected,
Beneath the Eunuch's frigid sway
The fretful wives grow old. Their orders
Long since exclude the Georgian girl:
By the Seraglio's tongueless warders
Cast to the waters' silent swirl.
The very night the Princess died,
Her own deliverance was hastened.
Sin as she did, from love and pride,
She was most pitilessly chastened!
Laid waste with sword and firebrands
Caucasia, and the peaceful lands
Of Rus' with plague of war infected,
Back home the Tartar chieftain came;
A marble fountain he erected
To honor poor Maria's name,
Deep in a corner of the Court.
Mohammed's crescent moon surmounting,
A cross was set atop the fountain
(Symbols conjoined from lack of thought,
They still affront in the recounting).
There's writing, too; the probing whirls
Of time have not erased it yet.
Behind tits curious curves and curls
Within the stone the aters fret,
Then gush and rain in tearlike pearls,
Undried, unsilenced evermore.
Thus mothers mourn in grief unnmeasured
Sons doene to death by savage war.
This tale of woe from ancient lore
The maidens hereabouts have treasured;
Each age the mournful mark reveres,
and know it as The Fount of Tears.
Departed from the north at last,
High merriment for long put by,
I visited Bakhchisaray,
Its palace, slumbering in the past.
By soundless lanes and deviations
I roved, where erstwhile, scourge of nations,
The fiery- blooded Tartar dined
And from more ghastly depredations
In more luxurious ease reclined.
Luxuriance to this day enthralls
Those vacant pleasances and halls;
The roses glow, the waters jingle,
The tendrils of the vine commingle,
And gold still glistens on the wall.
Frail lattice still shuts off each chamber
Where, in the spring of years confined,
Distraitly fingering beads of amber,
The harem wives in silence pined.
I saw the Khans' sepuchral mounds,
The potentates' last resting grounds.
Those pillars rising from the sod,
Topped with their marble turban-winding,
Made sensible the secret grinding,
I fancied, of the mills of God.
Where now the Khans? The Harem where?
All now was silent, all was dreary,
All had been altered ... but not there
Was what bestirred the spirit's query:
The breath of rose, the fountain's gush
Induced, unwilled by me, forgetting;
Unwilled by me, there surged a rush
Of feelings questioning and fretting,
And through the palace, shadow- light,
A maiden glided in my sight! ...
Whose shade, companions, did I see?
Tell me: whose tender image haunted
My pensive mind so earnestly,
By naught deflected, nothing daunted?
Did pure-souled Mary cross my path,
Was it Zarems's fiery passion,
Who, deathless in her jealous wrath,
Bestrode the Court in spectral fashion?
I know a gaze as dear and fair,
And beauty still in nature anchored;
To her my heart-deep thoughts repair,
For her in exile I have hankered...
Madman! Enough of this! Forbear,
Do not perversely ask to languish,
To frantic dreams, love's hopeless anguish,
You have paid tribute, and to spare-
Come to your senses; convict pining,
How long are you to kiss your chain,
And with your lyre's immodest whining
Broadcst your madness, and your pain?
To peace and to the Muse devoting
My heart, Oh! soon I'll relish here
The smiling banks of the Salgir,
On neither love nor glory doting!
I'll half ascend the coastal height
And, full of memories to aching,
Let Tauric waves in crest and breaking
Regale again my eager sight.
O magic shore! O visions' balm!
All there inspirits: peak and pine,
The graceful valleys' sheltering calm,
The rose and amber of the vine,
Cool brooks and toplar shade near by...
All wthis will lure the rider's eye
As his familiar mount may sidle
Along the shore with slackened bridle
Upon a windless morning's spree;
And, turning emerald, the brine
Will scintillate for him and shine
Where Ayu Dağ falls off to sea...


on Lermontov (1814-1841)

Mikhail Lermontov is comparatively unknown outside Russia, but he is considered the finest poet after Pushkin and the author of the first novel of the realistic, psychological type that Russia became famous for in the nineteenth century.  Lermontov's long poems include Demon and Mtsyre (The Novice).  Although Demon has been more popular, Mtsyri is perhaps artistically superior.  Set in the Caucasus Mountains, Mtsyri is the story of a novice, captured by Russians as a boy, who escapes the monastery in a doomed attempt to seek freedom and happiness in his native mountains.  Lermontov's poetry is romantic, with lush descriptions and lonely heroes reminiscent of Byron.

Lermontov's novel A Hero of Our Time is essentially a set of five linked short stories.  The main character is Pechorin, a superfluous man and Byronic hero in the mold of Eugene Onegin.  Cold and calculating, Pechorin is nonetheless strangely attractive, not only to his acquaintances in the novel, but to generations of readers.  The plotting, the descriptions, and the psychological analysis of Pechorin have made this novel a favorite.  Shortly after completing the novel, Lermontov died in a duel; he was in his twenties. 

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