The Prophet: Lermontov Songs
Composer: Alexander Feht
Lyrics: Mikhail Lermontov
Performers: Nikolay Dorozhkin, Sergey Chechyotko
Alexander Feht © 2009
1. A JEWISH MELODY
(Byron's verse modified by Lermontov)
My soul is dark. Quickly, singer, quickly!
Here's your golden harp;
Let thy fingers fling over it,
Awakening the sounds of Paradise.
And if my hopes weren't taken away forever by fate,
They shall rise up within my soul;
And if there still remain some tears in my glazed eyes,
They shall unfreeze and flow forth.
Let your song be wild. My poet's wreath
And sounds of joy weigh heavily upon me!
I tell thee, singer: I must weep,
Or else this heart will burst, full of pain.
It has been nursed by suffering,
Ached long in silence;
And now the terrible hour has come: it overflows
With poison, as a chalice of Death.
2. WHEN GENTLY FLUTTERS...
When gently flutters a sallow field of wheat,
And forest, fresh, rushes at the lightest hint of wind,
And a crimson plum hides in the orchard
Under the delightful shade of a green leaf;
When, sprinkled by the flagrant dew,
Facing a ruddy sunset or a golden dawn,
Under a bush the silver lily of the valley
Is greeting me with its amiable nods;
While a chilly spring flows playfully down the ravine,
And, steeping my thoughts into some nebulous dream,
Babbles out a mysterious saga
About a peaceful realm, wherefrom it rushes forth, —
Then my disquiet soul is tamed,
Then my brow is finally unwrinkled, —
And I can comprehend happiness on Earth,
And in the skies I perceive a divinity.
3. INSCRIPTION UNDER A PORTRAIT
Frolic as a curly angel,
Gay as a summer butterfly,
She speaks with meaningless significance
But her mouth makes it welcoming.
Her affection cannot be long:
She loathes habit as if it were a chain,
She'll slip away like a snake,
She'll flutter and be gone like a little bird.
Her young brow dissimulates
At her whim, either joy or grief.
Her eyes are as luminous as heavens,
Her soul is as murky as the deep sea!
Now she breathes out the saintly truth,
A moment later she is full of pretence and deception!
It is impossible to comprehend her
But not to love her? Even more impossible.
4. AN ANGEL
Through midnight skies an angel flew,
Singing a quiet tune,
And the crescent, and stars, and clouds crowded
To hear his holy song.
He sang of sinless spirits, blissful
Among the pastures of Heaven,
He sang of the mighty God, and his praise
Was truly unfeigned.
In his embrace, he carried a fresh soul
For our world of sorrow and tears;
And in this young soul the sound of angelic song
Remained without words but alive.
Long languished this soul in the mundane world,
Congested with sublime aspirations,
And never the sounds of Heaven were commuted
For this one by the tedious songs of Earth.
5. THE PRISONER KNIGHT
I sit in silence under the dungeon's wicket;
One could see the blue sky from here:
Free and easy, birds are playing in the air;
Watching them, I feel a painful shame.
There's no sinful prayer on my lips,
There's no song praising my gracious dame:
All I remember are horrible battles,
My heavy sword and my iron armor.
I am enfettered now in stone armor,
A stone helmet presses down on my head,
My shield is impervious to arrows and swords,
My horse is running, unsteered.
Quick time is my loyal horse,
My helmet's visor: the porthole bars;
My stone armor: the high walls;
My shield: the iron doors of the dungeon.
Race faster, thou fleeting time!
I suffocate under this new armor!
Death, as we shall arrive, would help me dismount,
And finally I'll tear off the vizard from my face.
6. THE CLIFF
A little golden cloud spent the night
On the giant cliff's bosom;
Early in the morning she darted away,
Playfully sparkling in cerulean depths.
But remains a dewy trace in the wrinkle
Of the ancient cliff. Lonely
It stands, deep in thought,
And drops his silent tears into the desert.
7. THE CHALICE OF LIFE
We drink from the chalice of existence
Wetting its gilded fringe
With our tears.
But death comes nigh,
The blindfold drops,
And all that inveigled us
Disappears with it;
And then we see how empty
Was our gilded chalice,
How all we drank was but a dream,
And not even our dream at that!
Clouds in the sky, eternal wanderers!
Through the cerulean fields as a pearly stream
You flee as if you are outcasts like me,
From the dear North to the South.
What is it that makes you run? A fateful decision?
A secret envy? An undisguised hatred?
Or are you burdened with a crime?
With the poisonous slander of friends?
No, you are bored with fruitless fields,
Passions and sufferings are alien to you;
Eternally cold, eternally free,
You have no home, you can't be cast out.
9. FROM HEINE
Sie liebten sich beide, doch keiner
Wollt'es dem andern gestehn.
They loved each other so long and so tender,
With such a deep yearning, with such a delirious, rebellious passion!
But, like enemies, they avoided any declaration, any meeting,
And their laconic words were cold and empty.
They parted in silent and proud pain,
And saw each other's dear visage only in a dream, once in a while.
And death has come: they met in the afterlife...
But in the new world they failed to recognize each other.
I am sad, because I love you,
Because I know: your flowering youth
Shall not be spared by the vulpine persecution of a rumor.
For every happy day, for every sweet moment
Fate will make you pay with grief and tears.
I am sad... because you're not.
The sunset flames like a distant fire;
I stand in silence, fascinated, by the window:
Perhaps, tomorrow it shall glint
Upon my lifeless, cold corpse.
One thought remains within my empty heart:
A thought of her. Oh, she's far away,
And not a single tear would she shed
Upon my frigid pale body.
Neither friend nor brother would give a farewell kiss
To my unseeing face;
By a stranger's hand, without regret,
I will be buried in the dank earth.
My spirit shall drown in the bottomless abyss!
But thee! Oh, have pity for me, my flower of beauty!
Nobody could love you better,
With such a freehearted, ardent passion.
12. MY HOME
My home is everywhere under the firmament,
In all places where songs are sung;
All that sparks with life, lives in my home,
But it is spacious enough for a poet.
Its roof is reaching to the very stars,
And the distance from one wall to another
Is so great that inhabitants can measure it
Not by sight but only with the soul.
There is a sense of truth in the human heart,
A holy kernel of eternity:
An infinite space, a span of time
It embraces in an instant.
The Almighty has built my wonderful home
With this particular sense in mind,
And, though I am destined to suffer many years,
Only in this home can I rest in peace.
I thank you for everything:
For the secret pain of passion,
For the bitterness of tears, for the poison of your kiss,
For the revenge of enemies and the slander of friends;
For the fire in my soul — dissipated, lost in a desert,
For everything that betrayed me in my life...
Just make it so that, from now on,
I'll not have to thank you for much longer.
14. FROM GOETHE
Lie sleeping in the dark;
Are full with fresh mist;
Nobody raises dust on the road,
Nothing makes leaves tremble...
Wait for a while,
You'll have your rest, too.
There are obscure
Or insignificant words
That cannot be perceived
Their sounds are full
Of insane desire!
In them — tears of the parting,
In them — a thrill of the tryst.
There shall be no answer
Among the mundane noise
To the words born
By the blinding light;
But in worship or in battle,
Or wherever I shall happen to be,
I will recognize them
As soon as I hear them.
I'll stop in mid-prayer
To answer to their sound,
I'll rush away from the battle
To meet these words.
16. THE SAIL
The white sail is soaring, lonely,
Far in the blue haze of the sea...
What does it seek in the alien land?
What has it left at home?
Waves are playing, winds are whistling,
The mast is bending, creaking...
Alas! This sailor pursues no happiness
But doesn't run from the happiness either!
The stream below him is lighter than the azure,
Above him are golden rays of the Sun...
But he, rebellious, prays for a storm,
As if there could be peace in storms!
17. A DREAM
In the heat of the noon, in the valley of Daghestan
With lead in my breast I lay without move.
The deep wound still smoked,
Drop by drop my blood leaked.
I lay alone on the valley sand,
The ragged cliffs crowded above me,
The sun burned their yellow tops
And burned me too - but I was asleep with a dream of death.
And I saw with shining lights
A night banquet in my homeland.
From young ladies crowned with flowers
I heard a happy talk about me.
Not entering this happy talk
She sat alone in thought,
Her young soul lost in sad dream -
God knows why 'twas so.
And in her dream she saw the valley of Daghestan,
In it the familiar body -
The wound in his breast still smoked,
Blood leaked as a cooling stream.
18. IN THE WILD NORTH...
In the wild North, alone,
On a bare peak stands a pine,
And sways in its sleep, donned in
A loose, falling vestment of snow.
And it seems in its dream that in the desert,
Far away, where the Sun is rising,
Alone and melancholy, on a hot and dry cliff,
Grows a beautiful palm.
19. I LOOK AT THE FUTURE WITH FEAR...
I look at the future with fear,
I look at the past with yearning,
And, as a criminal before his execution,
Try to find around a kindred soul.
When would he come, a herald of salvation,
To unfold before me the meaning of life,
The final goal of all expectations and passions,
To tell me: what was my destiny,
And why it contradicted so bitterly
With the hopes of my youth?
I gave this world its earthly share
Of love, of hopes, of good and evil;
I am ready to begin a new life,
I wait in silence: the time has come.
No, I won't leave a brother in this world,
My tired soul is finally embraced
By the darkness and by the cold;
As an immature fruit, deprived of juice,
It withered, frayed by fateful winds
Under the torrid Sun of existence.
Amidst the exuberant feast, thoughtful he sat,
Alone, abandoned by his frantic friends,
And to the far, unknowable distance of the future
He looked with his spiritual sight.
And, I remember, full of sadness,
Among the clatter of goblets, exclamations, speeches,
Celebratory songs, and loud laughter of guests,
His words were heard, the words of a prophet.
He spoke: "Cheer up, my friends!
Why would you care about the fate of our senescent world?
There is an axe hanging over your heads,
But what's that to you? I alone shall see it falling."
21. DO YOU REMEMBER...
Do you remember, how we bid farewell
To each other? It was late already,
The evening gun has shot its thunder,
And we listened to it, disturbed...
The rays of the Sun were fading,
The sea fog was thickening;
Thunder swept along with an effort,
And suddenly died beyond the abyss…
Having completed my everyday chores,
I often dream about you,
While walking along the desolate waters
And listening to the shots of evening guns.
One after another, in sequence,
They are muffled by hoary waves,
While I cry, tortured by my yearning,
While I wish to die together with these sounds...
22. IT'S TIRESOME AND DREARY
It's tiresome and dreary, there's nobody to shake hands with,
When you need to lift your soul up from its misery...
Desires! What use is it to desire in vain for years?
And years are passing by, all the best years!
To love? But whom? For a short while — it's not worth the effort,
To love forever is impossible.
Look into yourself: there's no trace of the past there;
All joys, all sufferings, everything there is miserable...
Passions, what of them? Earlier or later their sweet ailment
Should disappear, as soon as reason would speak;
And life itself, if you look around with a detached attention,
Is nothing but an idle, stupid joke.
23. THE PROPHET
Since the Everlasting Judge
Bestowed on me the omniscience of the prophet,
I read in human eyes
Pages of malice and vice.
I embarked upon declaring
Pure teachings of love and truth:
All my beloved neighbors
Furiously threw stones at me.
I put ashes on my head,
And, pauper, escaped from the city;
Now I live in the desert
Like the birds, by God-given dole;
In accordance with the Everlasting Testament,
The earthly beast is tamed there in my presence,
And stars listen to me,
Joyfully swirling their iridescent rays.
But when I am forced to hurry
Through the noisy city,
The elders tell their grandchildren
With conceited smiles:
"Look! Here's an example set for you!
He was proud, couldn't conform;
A fool, he hoped to make us believe
That God Himself speaks through his voice!
Now look, children, at this tramp:
Look, how grim he is, how pale and spiny!
Look at this barefoot lowlife,
Look, how everyone despises him!"
24. I COME OUT ALONE TO THE ROAD...
I come out alone to the road;
A flinty path is sparkling through the mist;
The night is calm. The desert harks to God,
And star is talking to another star.
There's majesty and wonder in the heaven,
The earth dreams in its sapphire radiance...
Why then do I feel such pain, why do I struggle?
Am I waiting for something? do I regret?
No, I don't wait for anything in life,
I don't regret my past, not in the least;
I long for freedom and for restful peace,
I wish to lose myself in the oblivious sleep:
But not in that grave's cold repose --
I want to sleep eternally alive,
With forces of my youth still slumbering
Within my calmly breathing bosom,
While all the time, day after night,
Sweet voice would sing to me of love,
While shadowy and evergreen oak
Would sway and rustle above - forever.