Sunday Poetry – Mikhail Yurevich Lermontov

Apart from Pushkin, Lermontov is probably the best known poet in this anthology. His novel, A Hero Of Our Time, is still in print. I have vague memories of reading it a very long time ago. His poetry was also influrntial. Tolstoy apparently said that Lermontov’s poem, Borodino, gave him the inspiration for War and Peace. Lermontov was another military man from an impoverished noble family, as so many of the Russian poets of the Romantic period were. He was outspoken in his belief that Pushkin’s death in a duel was covert assassination. When his poem on the subject came to the attention of the Court, he was sent into exile. Lermontov was also killed in a duel, at the age of only 26.

I’m reading Jack London’s The Sea-Wolf with my 19th century book group at the moment & so I’m drawn to this poem, The Sail, just because of the seagoing theme.

A white sail gleams alone out yonder
Amid the ocean’s pale-blue haze…
What quest has driven him to wander?
Why has he left his native bays?

The waves crest as the fresh wind rises,
The mainmast bending in the breeze…
It is not happiness he prizes,

Nor is it happiness he flees!

Beneath, the azure current flowing;
Above, the golden sunlight glows…
Perverse, he seeks the storm winds blowing,
As if in storms to find repose!

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