Lermontov: Sail (From Russian)

By Mikhail Lermontov
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click to hear me recite the Russian

A sail drifts white and on its own
Amid the light blue ocean haze.
What does it seek in distant country?
What made it leave its native bays?

The billows play. The winds are whistling
Down at the bending, creaking mast
Oh! This one seeks no happy ending
And does not flee a happy past.

Below, a brighter stream than azure.
Above, the golden sunray flows,
Yet this one, restive, quests for tempests
As if in tempests were repose.

Special thanks to: Robert Chandler, Boris Dralyuk and Irina Mashinsky for nudging me into nudging the last stanza into shape. 

The Original:

Михаил Юрьевич Лермонтов

Белеет парус одинокий
В тумане моря голубом!..
Что ищет он в стране далекой?
Что кинул он в краю родном?..

Играют волны - ветер свищет,
И мачта гнется и скрыпит...
Увы, - он счастия не ищет
И не от счастия бежит!

Под ним струя светлей лазури,
Над ним луч солнца золотой...
А он, мятежный, просит бури,
Как будто в бурях есть покой!


  1. This is by far and away the best translation of this poem I've ever seen.  It is so hard to capture the essence of any poem in a translation, especially while preserving rhythm and rhyme. You have done an amazing job!

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