The Dagger (Кинжал), Mikhail Lermontov


Lermontov spent many years travelling in the Caucasus, and much of his work was inspired by it. He wrote this poem in 1838. As is often the case with Lermontov, his metre is regular, but the length of his lines isn’t.

I love you, O my dagger, damask-sheathed,
My comrade, cold to hand and shining.
By craft of thoughtful Georgian made, who vengeance breathed,
Your blade was sharpened by a free Circassian.

A slender lily-hand transferred you into mine
To bring to mind the moment of our parting,
And now it wasn’t blood that caused your blade to shine,
But teary glint – a pearl-like jewel of anguished hearting.

And then you fixed upon me doleful raven gaze,
Replete with melancholic moment flittered,
Like steel before the fire’s quivering blaze,
At first it dimmed and then it glittered.

To wandering spirit your companionship is true,
To me you are a friend in pledge of love unspoken:
And so my iron comrade, I shall be like you –
Of hardened heart and will unbroken.


Люблю тебя, булатный мой кинжал,
Товарищ светлый и холодный.
Задумчивый грузин на месть тебя ковал,
На грозный бой точил черкес свободный.

Лилейная рука тебя мне поднесла
В знак памяти, в минуту расставанья,
И в первый раз не кровь вдоль по тебе текла,
Но светлая слеза – жемчужина страданья.

И черные глаза, остановясь на мне,
Исполнены таинственной печали,
Как сталь твоя при трепетном огне,
То вдруг тускнели, то сверкали.

Ты дан мне в спутники, любви залог немой,
И страннику в тебе пример не бесполезный:
Да, я не изменюсь и буду тверд душой,
Как ты, как ты, мой друг железный.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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