“It’s useless. It is not my role” (“Нет, я не Байрон”), Mikhail Lermontov


400px-Lermontov_by_FOBudkin_1834 Pyotr Zakharov-Chechenets
Portrait of Lermontov by Pyotr Zakharov-Chechenets, 1834

Lermontov wrote this when he was 18. Byron cast a long shadow. I’m disappointed that I didn’t find a way to start as Lermontov does: “No, I am not Byron, I’m another.”

It’s useless. It is not my role
To be another great Lord Byron,
Like him I’m slave to straying’s siren,
And yet I have a Russian soul.
I sooner blazed, flame soon will gutter
Though mind a little will achieve;
As bobs on ocean jetsam’s clutter
Soul’s burden of dashed hopes I’ll grieve.
Oh, who is able, gloomy oceans
To taste your mystery? Is there none
To tell the crowds of all my notions?
Can I – can God – can anyone?


Нет, я не Байрон, я другой,
Еще неведомый избранник,
Как он, гонимый миром странник,
Но только с русскою душой.
Я раньше начал, кончу ране,
Мой ум немного совершит;
В душе моей, как в океане,
Надежд разбитых груз лежит.
Кто может, океан угрюмый,
Твои изведать тайны? Кто
Толпе мои расскажет думы?
Я – или бог – или никто!

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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