White sail out in the bay billowing in the wind. Why sail so far away? Why leave so much behind?
Winds must play on the seas and masts creak in the wind. Fortune is not what he seeks, nor what he's left behind.
A golden light still pours down onto deep blue seas; this rebel, alas, seeks storms, as if in storms lies peace.
by Михаил Юрьевич Лермонтов (Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov) (1832) translated by Robert Chandler
Beneath is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.
Белеет парус одинокой 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!
Additional notes: This is an alternative translation of Lermontov’s poem Парус compared to that made by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman which closely reproduced the original’s external form while this version is more condensed.
The Sail was written when Mikhail Lermontov was only 17 years old in 1832. This was the year when he was forced to leave Moscow and his university studies. Recorded in a letter sent by Maria Lopukhina, whom he had sent the first version of the poem, upon his arrival in Saint Petersburg Lermontov immediately produced this poem’s outline while walking along the Gulf of Finland’s shoreline.
Fun fact: The poem refers to Cape Clear Island off the coast of Ireland. Clear Island or Cape Clear Island (officially known by its Irish name: Cléire, and sometimes also called Oileán Chléire) lies south-west of County Cork in Ireland. It is the southernmost inhabited part of the island of Ireland and has a population of over 100 people. Officially it is a Gaeltacht (Irish-speaking area), and most inhabitants speak Irish and English. Archaeological sites on the island include a prehistoric cup-marked stone (moved to the island’s museum), a fulacht fiadh at Gort na Lobhar, a neolithic passage tomb at Cill Leire Forabhain, several standing stones around the island, a promontory fort at Dún an Óir, and a signal tower dating from the Napoleonic Wars. The island also has a number of early Christian sites, and is reputed to be the birthplace of Saint Ciarán of Saigir. The ruins of 12th century church are close to the main pier.