The waves run up the shore and fall back. I run up the approaches of God and fall back. The breakers return reaching a little further, gnawing away at the main land. They have done this thousands of years, exposing little by little the rock under the soil’s face. I must imitate them only in my return to the assault, not in their violence. Dashing my prayers at him will achieve little other than the exposure of the rock under his surface. My returns must be made on my knees. Let despair be known as my ebb-tide; but let prayer have its springs, too, brimming, disarming him; discovering somewhere among his fissures deposits of mercy where trust may take root and grow.
Lone sail against blue sea-mist: what is it seeking? What forsaken?
Wind, waves, and bending mast: not happiness... not happiness. In beam of gold, on azure the rebel flees for stormy seas.
by Михаил Юрьевич Лермонтов (Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov) (1832) translated by Anthony Wood
Below is the poem in its original Russian Cyrillic form:
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 another alternative translation of Lermontov’s poem Парус compared to those made by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman and Robert Chandler which, respectively, closely reproduced the original’s external form and presented a version which is more condensed. This version is the most concise retaining the incredible impact of the poem without losing it’s meaning.
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.