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The Sailing Ship

White on the blue, the sail has gone,
            to vanish with the breeze;
what does the sailor seek alone
            in far-off seas?

His tackle tautens in the stress
            of favouring winds astir;
alas, he seeks not happiness,
            nor flies from her.

The sun is bright above; below,
            the ripples curve and crease;
he, rebel, craves a storm, as though
            in storm were peace.

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About the translation:
Mikhail Lermontov
Cornford and Salaman
Original language:

Original poem

About the authors


Mikhail Lermontov

Mikhail Yurievich Lermontov was born in Moscow into a respectable noble family, and grew up in the village of Tarkhany (now Le...

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Cornford and Salaman

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The Sail

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

Играют волны, ветер свищет,
И мачта гнется и скрипит;
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!

Latin transliteration

Beleet parus odinokii
V tumane moria golubom!..
Chto ishchet on v strane dalёkoi?
Chto kinul on v kraiu rodnom?..

Igraiut volny — veter svishchet,
I machta gnёtsia i skripit...
Uvy! on schastiia ne ishchet,
I ne ot schastiia bezhit!

Pod nim struia svetlei lazuri,
Nad nim luch solntsa zolotoi...
A on, miatezhnyi, prosit buri,
Kak budto v buriakh est' pokoi!

Literal translation

A lonely sail shows white / against the sea's blue mist. / What does it seek in a distant region? / What has it abandoned in its own land?

The waves play, the wind whistles, / and the mast bends and screeches… / Alas, it does not seek happiness / and is not running away from happiness.

Beneath it the current is brighter than the azure, / above it is the sun's golden ray… / But it, rebellious, asks for a storm, / as if there were peace in storms.

(Literal tr. Donald Rayfield, with Jeremy Hicks, Olga Makarova and Anna Pilkington)


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