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The Dream


Mikhail Lermontov, 1814–1841

184 words

Translated by Leo Yankevich

High noon in Dagestan, I lay marooned
In blistering heat, a bullet in my breast.
Smoke still rose in the valley from my wound
As drop-by-drop I watched blood flowing west.

I lay upon the loam of that strange land,
Cliffs closing in, the sun soon touching peaks,
Reaching past the mountain with its hand
To burn my dreaming brow and death-pale cheeks.

I dreamt I saw the flaming orb’s bright glare
Feasting on poppies in my native parts,
And braided girls with flowers in their hair,
Recalling me with soft hands on their hearts.

But in the oaken table’s hazy gleam
I saw another girl with half-crazed eyes.
She sat as if a captive in a dream,
Her stare the shade or shroud of starless skies.

She dreamt of that strange place in Dagestan,
Of smoke ascending over the black breast
Of a strange but somehow familiar man
As drop-by-drop he watched blood flowing west.

After the Russian of Mikhail Lermontov (1814–1841), from Leo Yankevich’s Journey Late at Night: Poems and Translations, forthcoming from Counter-Currents


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  1. Alex from Russia
    Posted September 26, 2013 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I dare to add, Mikhail Yurjevich Lermontov had Scottish roots, and ugly intrigues against him [turned to be deadly] from Freemasons` end [reminds Edgar Poe` fate, I guess] depicted very well in LERMONTOV movie [1986] by our remarkable patriotic actor and movie-maker Nikolai Petrovich Burlyayev

  2. eiszeit
    Posted September 25, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    Great poem, but the Nabokov translation is the best, imo.

  3. Stronza
    Posted September 25, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    What a poem. Also, it probably takes no mean talent to translate a poem and make it rhyme. I looked up a couple of other translations and I don’t see any reference to blood flowing “west”, though.

    • rhondda
      Posted September 25, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. A truly lovely poem. I didn’t look up other translations but the west has always symbolized death. (the dying sun)

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