When a harp rings out boldly in eternal halls of fame

Global Village Bard presents “When a harp rings out boldly in eternal halls of fame” Translated and read by Thomas Beavitt Eternal soul, since childhood I recall, in search of the miraculous sublime not light itself, but light’s delusions all, in which I dwelt for minutes at a time; and torments filled those moments, as it seems; I’d occupy such enigmatic dreams amongst those instants; but, like peace, the dream within could never find release. How often, summoned by some ghost refrain, I lived another age, another chance; forgot the world. And, time and time again, when starting from a heavy-hearted trance, I wept; but all those restless visions, held by flesh and viewed through rents and scissions, didn’t seem like creatures who could dwell on earth. All in them was holy – or from hell. In simple prose, a man cannot describe internal strife. But I hear other tones sufficiently resounding to imbibe ambrosia. I feel, this bag of bones, exalted passions, yet still undeclared struck dumb; but now I am prepared to sacrifice myself f something good – though its shadow flee into the wood. Fame and glory, what are they but lies? Yet in them is something that compels the willing victim to the sacrifice. My days are a continuum of hells, lacking purpose, but yet faced by choice; still I believe it! – this compelling voice – a summons to eternity; each breath relinquishing all earthly gifts to death. And, for the eternal there’s no grave. When I’m ashes, these outlandish dreams, though still paradoxical, are brave and blessed by angels; seems you won’t die with me; and my love will carry you to spaces up above; to your name, my legend will be linked, though after death, our souls are indistinct. For the dead, there’s peace at least; a son shall worship what his father once despised. This is how the race of life is run: in order that each force be neutralised. A person, whether yet advanced in years – mere blossom to be scattered; and all fears are equally contemptible. A womb is just a staging post towards the tomb. So, with the formation of a soul – by a river, facing the abyss, watching as the rapid waves cajole the blue into the white with noisesome hiss. And, above that foaming, turbid tide, I stood and listened, dazed, preoccupied, lost amidst the unremitting din, which scattered all the restless thoughts within. There was I content. If I could only forget the unforgettable! Her glance! Source of all distress! Why I am lonely! Known by her across the wide expanse of time and destined here to love her, and her alone. To God above I pray for torments new: yet these elide that ghost that still continues to reside. No one cares for me, not then or now, burdensome to others and a devil; anguish divagates upon my brow; I am cold and proud; and even evil like the crowd; but is it of her art to daringly transpierce into my heart? could she even know its rightful name – since there are fire and shadow all the same? Across the sky, a dark cloud brings a chill, but in its heart it hides a deadly fire, which, bursting forth, attenuates to nil all that it meets; with swift desire, flashes and is covered once again. And who can such phenomena explain? And who has eyes to peer into the dark? Why try? They disappear without a mark. Harrowing my entrails, bittersweet, my journey’s end, at which extremity the soul’s condemned to wander and to meet its kindred spirits, and where to be free. But who has loved me, who my plaintive voice has heard and understood – and felt my joys? I see that love, for me, is like a taint, which, from the weaker, could not bear restraint. Many lovers do not trust the world and so are happy; others feel desire engendered in their blood and outwards swirled in brain disorder or creative fire. Love, of all the passions, most divine; yet, a thing I never could define! Seems a love can take but one sure course – at fever pitch with all my psychic force! But I could not be weaned from such deceptions; my unimpassioned heart would throb in vain. To its beat, amongst the lacerations, pipes there still love’s long-revered refrain; as from dreary ruins springs a birch – youthful, spry, beguiling from her perch – like a ray of hope, she greens the rones and titivates the melancholy stones. And, for her fate, the nameless interloper mourns. Poor defenceless devotee! Under sultry blasts and lack of hope, she wilts and withers, my tenacious tree. But, from her spot, she will not be effaced; as whirlwinds surge, she’s sturdy at her base; for, only in a broken heart, desire can burn with potent, everlasting fire. The proud soul does not tire or yield to gloom, But bears its heavy load with resignation; to its fate it will not yet succumb, But still persists; in breath, its vindication. Dueling with the Absolute, it fails; but, may, in losing, and by such travails, inspire a thousand vassals to rebel: Such a soul’s in heaven – or in hell! I have always loved the open places, where the wind caresses naked hills, where the kite, ascending airy spaces, essence of the speckled steppe distils. Here the skittish herd no yoke constrains; and, frolicking, above the mottled plains, the raptor rushes straight out of the blue, hoving between clouds and into view. Colossus-like, eternity bestrides impermanence to strike the mind of man. The boundless ocean of the steppe elides description, turning blue across its span, sounding universal harmony, and this, for us, is suffering or bliss: all becomes transparent, but this weight will count when we present ourselves to fate. Who has ever sat among the peaks in that hour when day holds precious light, gazed westwards, where the bright planet leaps into the sky, while shades of looming night gather in the east, the scarps, ravines, beams glinting all around the tops of loftiest extremes, and where the weird crown of cloud ignites after the storm, the rays glancing in the heights; for him, a heavy heart, of former years full, and beating fiercely; this mad ideal breathes life into a skeleton, the same tears and almost all the beauty of the real, just as the vain man’s hungry gaze retains the image of his portrait, though not much remains of likeness to the eyes’ bright lustre on the board portrayed and that long effaced by time as vital passions fade. Is anything on earth more splendid than these pyramids of nature, majestic snowy pinnacles, whose flanks may disappear amidst the mist, but no man’s victories or miracles compare to what is seen there, where clouds seem like crowds and lightning wreathes the beam of light that tops the rocks; nothing imaginary is real and he who has seen heaven need not fear the corporeal. But the steppe, when unbounded, stirs unease with its mile upon mile of waving feathergrass; no purpose in the meandering north-east breeze as it kicks up dust willy-nilly in its path; and, where all around, how cruelly to the eye is lacking the sight of two or three birch trees, backing into the distance under the bluish haze and fading to black in the emptying of days. And, when there’s no struggle, life’s a drag. Having found a way in, the colour of the years starts to fade and vital spirits sag – there’s little left now that the soul cheers. So, each day I must perform some mighty work of which immortals would be proud, not shirk an acting hero’s duties or comprehend what it means to rest at the day’s end. Something’s always churning in my mind, fermenting there; desire and longing in my breast forever grind – but what of it? Life’s a half-written song! I’m just afraid I won’t have time to bring it to fruition, that no rhyme could ever ease this fearful ache – and I could never live for another person’s sake. There is a time when the quick mind freezes; there is a gloaming of the soul, when tomorrow is another day and the mental logjam eases; in the half-light between joy and sorrow, the soul itself is constrained; life is hateful, but death is unexplained; you’ll find the root of the torment in yourself – and heaven cannot be blamed for anything else. This state, to which I’m long resigned, cannot be expressed in any tongue, neither that of demons, nor divine: no such cares or worries there among those for whom the terms are more refined; only in a man are they combined, this fractious blend of sacred and profane, from which source arises all his pain. No one ever gets just what he wants or whom he loves, and even he, to whom was sanctioned happy chance, considering the past, will come to see – he could have been still happier, his satisfaction snappier, had his hopes not been poisoned by his fate – for past conditions are hard to recreate… When, shepherded before the raging storm, a billow breaks and surges with its foam, it still recalls the kyle where it was born, that tranquil harbour that it once called home; and, perhaps, this wave will foam again to such a bay, but will not find its kin: no one who has wandered the high seas could ever hope for shelter or for ease. I foresaw my fate, my own demise; precociously, I set the seal thereon; and, how I suffer, no one need cognise – save the one whose verdict is foregone. And, though banal, my death – and at whose hands – will seem grotesque; in foreign lands, there’ll be amazement; but at home everyone will loudly curse my name. Everyone? Not quite, there is one creature; one heart with love’s capacity exists; though, till such time, I do not count this feature valid: the heart that still resists will not be swayed by what’s opined; and now Cassandra conjures her to mind; her eyes, once full of cheer, are misted as she wipes away a tear. For me, at last, a sanguine grave awaits; absent benediction or a cross; waters surging all around the straits; beneath the swirling mists, only moss and lichen… and this young boy, drawn here he knows not why to sit a while and meditate alone, pondering my fate upon this stone. He’ll say: “Wherefore he failed to see the light, and how he did not find his friends, and why love’s fancy did not ease his troubled mind – wasn’t he deserving?” And he’ll ponder as a shadow looms, and gazing yonder, see grey clouds gliding over waves of blue, a white sail, a fast-running canoe and my memorial! My cherished dreams are all like this; the sweetness is in everything not yet fulfilled; it seems in just such pictures there’s completeness. Though hard to put on paper, thought is strong, when not constrained by logic, only song — when running free, like in a children’s game, or when a harp rings out boldly in eternal halls of fame! Author: Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov Translated and read by Thomas Beavitt Music written and recorded by Andrey Bokovikov and Nikita Nikitin Sand animation – Ekaterina Sheffer Special thanks to Mairi Og Koroleva

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