Vitruvian Woman

Woman is the measure of all things!

Rhyming Thomas & the Faery Queen | Томас Рифмач и Королева эльфов

Rhyming Thomas & the Faery Queen

‘Twas at the breaking of the day
As wandered I in heartsome moan
All in the merry month of May
By Huntly Banks, myself alone.
The chirping finch, the warbling thrush
The blackbird trilling as he sang
The wild wood vale all in a rush
Till all the forest pealed and rang.

All in a longing as I lay
On mosses ’neath a spreading tree
Espied I then a lady fey
Come riding o’er the bonny lee.
And though I sit until Doomsday,
My fluent tongue to twist and try,
I could not hope in any way
To tell what vision met my eye.

Her palfrey was a dapple grey,
A finer mount you ne’er did see.
Her saddle shone so bright and gay,
All set with pearls down to her knee.
I looked upon her in a daze,
For ’neath the raiment she had on,
Reflecting all the sun’s glad rays,
I swear, her skin it fairly shone.

Her fair hair o’er her head it hung
As she rode o’er the bonny lee.
A while she blew, a while she sang
With no one to observe but me.
There was no man to hear her noise
Save Thomas as he lay alone –
Whose eyes appraised her graceful poise,
Whose heart at once was all undone.

Her hands they were as white as snow
That loosely held her raches’ trace
Her greyhounds ran in even flow
In concert with that lady’s pace.
Her hunting horn, she blew with pride;
On either flank hung tinkling bells;
A golden lyre set at her side,
Of which the minstrel’s rapture tells.

I lay there to behold that sight
From underneath the spreading tree
Said: “Thon is Mary, great in dight
That bare the child that died for me.
If I speak with that lady bright
I trow my heart should brak in three
But I will go with all my might
To meet her at the Eildon tree.”

Thomas gladly up he rose
And bounded o’er the hill so high
If it be as the story says
He met her at the Eildon tree.
He bent before her on his knee
All underneath a green wood spray:
“Lovely lady, rewe on me
O Queen of Heav’n, as well ye may.”

Then answered back that lady bright:
“True Thomas, let such phrases be.
For Queen of Heaven, I am not;
I’d never claim such high degree.
For I am of an ilk country
Where I am held most high in praise
When I ride o’er the bonny lee
My raches cleave to my device.”

“If thou be held most high in praise
And ride all o’er the bonny lee
Of love thou also must be wise –
Then give me leave to lie by thee.”
But she said: “Thomas, tell me why
I’d fain come down to lie with thee
To lose my virtue in your eye?
I pray thee, Thomas, let me be!”

“Ah lady, should’st thou pity me
Forever shall I with thee dwell
And here my troth I plight to thee
Whether thou go’st to heav’n or hell.”
“Man of mould, thou wilt me mar
Albeit thou shalt have thy will
But know it well, thy thrust be war:
For all my beauty thou shalt spill.”

Down then lit that lady bright
All underneath the greenwood lee
And, if the tale’s remembered right,
He seven times with her made free
She said: “Thou lovest well thy play
What bird in bow’r could dwell with thee?
Thou marrest me this lingering day
I tell thee Thomas, let me be!”

Thomas leapt up with a shout
As he beheld that lady fair
For horror! Seemed her eye was out
And on her head such loathsome hair!
With all her clothing laid away
Her naked body in its stead
Was fifty hideous shades of grey
All black and blue as beaten lead!

Then Thomas cried: “Alack! Alas!
In faith this is a dreadful sight
How thou art faded thus in face
That shone before like sunshine bright”.
On every side he looked about
But saw no place that he might flee
She was so haggard, grey and stout
He felt the devil she must be.

But she said: “Thomas, don’t displease,
For fiend of hell I’m surely none.
Albeit now I’m ill at ease
And suffer pains for what we’ve done.
You’ve pledged your troth, you’ve bound your hog
For seven years you’ll share my life.
You’ll serve your Queen in Tir nan Og –
Then hold your tongue and cease your strife!”

“Take now your leave of sun and moon,
The leaf that springs from every tree –
For seven years you will be gone
And middle earth you shall not see.”
“Alas”, he cried. “My heart is dust.
I trow my acts shall wage me care.
My soul to Jesus I entrust
Where’er on earth my bones shall fare.”

She led him down at Eildon Hill
All underneath the greenwood lee
For three long days and three long nights
He trudged through red blood to the knee.
And he saw neither sun nor moon,
But heard the roaring of the sea.
At last he cried: “Let help come soon!
For want of food I think I’ll die!”

They came then to an orchard fair
Where luscious fruit bore every tree.
Pear and apple, ripe they were,
Figs and grapes and sweet cherry.
The popinjay, the nightingale,
Canaries flitting tree to tree:
The chatter of the orchard vale
Collapsing into unity.

Thomas reached out with his hand –
With hunger he was nigh on faint.
But she said: “Thomas, let it stand
Or else the fiend will thee acquaint.
If ye pluck fruit, the sooth to say,
Your soul goes out to the fires of hell
And comes not out until Doomsday
But there in pain shall ever dwell.

She said: “Now Thomas, take not fright
And lay thy head upon my knee
And thou shalt see the fairest sight
That e’er saw man of thy country”.
Thomas did as he was bade
A sigh of yielding joy he heaved.
His head upon her knee he laid
His longing for the while relieved.

“See ye now yon simple way
That’s set amongst the distant hills –
That’s the path, the sooth to say,
For restless souls to break their wills.
And see ye now yon narrow way
That lies beneath the distant rise –
That’s the path, the sooth to say,
To all the joys of paradise.

“And see ye now yon desolate way
That’s set amongst the weary plain –
That’s the path, the sooth to say,
Where all damned sinners writhe in pain!
But see ye now yon citadel
That glitters high upon the green –
Of town and tow’r it bears the bell
On earth its like was ne’er yet seen.

“In faith, True Thomas, there I dwell
My lord’s the king of this country
You’d better burn for aye in hell
Than he should learn ye lay wi’ me.
So when ye walk wi’ me this way
I trow a courteous man ye be:
No matter what to you they say
Ye speak no word, except to me.

“My lord waits in a mighty hall
With thirty gallant knights and three
And I will say, in front of all
I took your tongue at the Eildon tree.”
Thomas stood as still as stone
As he beheld that lady fair,
Who once again shone like the sun,
And wondered at her golden hair.

Said Thomas: “Lady, what delight!
To live to see this happy day
For now thou art so fair and bright
When ere thou wert so old and grey
I beg thee, Thomas only tell,
Sweet Lady, if thy will it be,
At Eildon, when thou wert not well –
I trow ’twas not ascribed to me?”

“Indeed, and had it not been so,
The certain sooth I shall thee tell,
I had as well myself to go
Into the burning fires of hell.
My lord he needed but to sniff,
Who is the king of this country,
And straight away he’d caught the whiff
Of all the things I did with thee.

Into that hall they boldly went
With Thomas walking at her side
Ladies came and lithely bent
Their knees as they did curtsey wide –
Harp and fiddle they did play
The fife and drum, the psaltery
The lute, the bagpipe, singers fey
All manner of fine minstrelsy.

There was feasting, merry games,
Lords a dancing three by three,
Uisge beatha, comely dames,
Feats of strength and archery.
Thomas watched, his heart a thud,
As forty hinds were carried in –
The greyhounds lapping at their blood
The cooks with knives to flay their skin.

He heard and saw more in that place
Than word or phrase could ever tell
Until one day his lady says:
“True Thomas, we must say farewell.”
“My lady, I’ve but lately come,
My servitude is in arrears.”
“True Thomas,” she just laughed at him.
“In Tir nan Og, that’s seven years”.

“You must make haste your ways to wend
And take your leave of this country
For on the morn shall come the fiend
Among our folk to claim his fee.
Well do I know that demon’s way
He’ll crave your soul so couth and bold
Thus never shall your Queen betray
Her own true Thomas, man of mould.”

She took him out at Eildon hill
All underneath the greenwood spray
By Huntly banks, where the burn flows still
All in the merry month of May.
The chirping finch, the warbling thrush
The blackbird trilling as he sang
The wild wood vale all in a rush
Till all the forest pealed and rang.

Томас Рифмач и Королева эльфов

На листьях капельки росы
Игривый лучик озарил.
И лес невиданной красы
Свои объятия мне открыл.
Я в Хантли-Бэнкс, на берегу,
Встречал рассвет, и пение птиц
Звучало радостно в лесу,
И мой восторг не знал границ.

Раскинув руки я лежал,
Мне мох был мягче всех перин.
Вдруг топот конский услыхал.
– Похоже, здесь я не один!
Верхом на сказочном коне,
Навстречу мне летит она.
Красивей не встречалась мне,
Прекрасней, чем сама весна.

Сверкает жемчугом седло,
И сбруя золотом горит.
Вокруг всё стало так светло,
Горячий конь вперёд летит.
Его хозяйка так легка,
И вьются кудри за спиной.
Так пляшут огоньки в глазах…
Не понимаю, что со мной.

Завороженный я смотрел,
Как солнца луч играет с ней.
Пошевелиться я не смел,
Чтоб не спугнуть мечты своей.
Под тонким платьем кожи блеск
Мой взгляд цепями приковал.
Охотница, что вышла в лес,
Меня сразила наповал.

И даже гончих быстрый бег
Был грациозен, ей подстать.
Рукою, что белей, чем снег,
Легко ли было их держать?
Вот гордо в горн трубит она,
Перекрывая лай собак.
И лиры золотой струна
Поэту шлёт счастливый знак.

Своей догадкой потрясён,
Скрывался я в листве густой.
– О Боже! Это ли не сон?
Дева Мария предо мной!
Хотя бы слово прошепчу,
Осколки сердца не собрать.
Но, Боже, как я с ней хочу
У древа Элдон побывать.

Томас быстро побежал,
Перемахнул через ручей.
И если правду рассказал,
У древа Элдон был он с ней.
– Ты мне подарена судьбой,
Сказал он, пересилив страх,
– Я на коленях пред тобой,
Царица Неба, я твой раб.

– Томас, ты не угадал,
Сказала Леди так легко.
– Во мне Царицу ты признал,
Но до небес мне далеко.
Ведь я живу в таком краю,
Где каждый угодить мне рад.
Когда охочусь я в лесу,
Ищейки ждут моих команд.

– Уж если королева ты,
В любви, должно быть, знаешь толк.
Ты женщина моей мечты,
Дай мне твоей любви глоток.
– Зачем же, Томас, стану я
Тебе дарить свою любовь?
Чтоб тотчас ты забыл меня?
Прощай, не нужно больше слов!

– О, Королева, я клянусь,
Тебя не брошу никогда!
Я от тебя не отвернусь,
С тобой останусь навсегда!
– Ну как тебя не полюбить?
Таких как ты не знала я,
Но помни, после, может быть,
Исчезнет красота моя.

По телу пробежала дрожь,
И в жилах закипела кровь,
И если это всё не ложь,
Семь раз он доказал любовь.
– Ты, Томас, явно не из тех,
Кто просто любит тишину.
Тебе достаточно утех?
Теперь оставь меня одну!

Томас крикнул от испуга –
Так внезапно изменилась.
Его новая подруга
Вдруг в старуху превратилась.
На него она смотрела
Одним глазом, точно ведьма.
Её сморщенное тело
Было серое, как небо.

Томас крикнул: – Боже мой!
Какой же совершил я грех!
Что вдруг произошло с тобой?
Ведь ты была прекрасней всех!
Он посмотрел по сторонам,
Но некуда было уйти.
Как смерть она была страшна,
Ну просто Дьявол во плоти!

– Ну что ты, Томас, перестань,
Не стоит дьявола винить.
Мне и самой ужасно жаль,
Но ничего не изменить.
Ты дал мне слово, и теперь
Семь лет со мною будешь жить.
Придётся перестать скорбеть,
И Королеве послужить.

Прощайся с солнцем и луной,
Запомни этот дивный лес.
Ты покидаешь дом родной,
Семь лет тебя не будет здесь.
– Увы, разбито сердце в прах!
За свой поступок я плачу!
И умоляю я Христа,
Чтоб душу пощадил мою.

За ней от Элдонских холмов
Он шёл три ночи и три дня.
Вокруг лилась потоком кровь,
И он стонал, судьбу кляня.
Не поднимая головы
Шагал, шатаясь на ветру,
И думал: – Боже, помоги!
Ведь я же с голоду помру!

Они вошли в прекрасный сад:
На каждой ветке фрукт висит.
Здесь сочный спелый виноград,
И море яблок, груш и слив.
Здесь соловья весёлый свист,
Павлина красочный узор,
Все голоса прекрасных птиц
Слились в один чудесный хор.

Томас руку протянул,
От голода он падал с ног,
Но кто-то вдруг ему шепнул:
– Ты потерпеть еще бы смог.
Ведь если ты здесь что-то съешь,
Твоей душе гореть в аду,
Не зная никаких надежд.
Попробуй отвести беду.

Она сказала: – Прислонись
К моим коленям головой.
Откроется прекрасный вид,
Никто не видывал такой.
Томас так и поступил,
И голод будто бы пропал,
Ей на колени положил
Он голову и задремал.

– Есть в жизни всем известный путь
Страданий и душевных мук.
И тем путём шагают пусть
Те, кто в чистилище бредут.
Есть также в жизни путь для тех,
Кто просветления достиг.
Тех, кто не знает слова Грех,
Он в Рай приводит напрямик.

Проклятье вечное ждёт тех,
Кого из ада не вернуть.
Кто жизнь прожил ради утех,
И выбрал прегрешений путь.
Но видишь ли ту цитадель,
Что возвышается в горах?
Ведь красоты такой досель
Никто не видел в городах!

Там, Честный Томас, я живу.
Мой Лорд – король этой страны.
Но лучше нам сгореть в аду,
Чем рассказать, где были мы.
Когда пойдёшь туда со мной,
Не подведи меня, смотри.
Заговорит ли кто с тобой,
Молчи, со мной лишь говори.

Мой Лорд, в кругу своих солдат,
Задаст вопрос мне о тебе.
При всех должна ему сказать:
«Язык твой я взяла себе.»
Томас просто обомлел
И любовался на неё:
Она опять, во всей красе,
Сверкала золотым огнём!

Сказал он: – Леди, я так рад!
Прикажешь – стану как немой.
Ведь ты прекрасней во сто крат,
Чем ведьма та, что шла со мной.
Скажи лишь только правду мне:
Не я ли стал тому виной,
Что ты на Элдонском холме
Вдруг стала ведьмою слепой?

– Меня б он проклял навсегда,
Тебе, по правде, я скажу,
Пришлось бы долго мне тогда
Гореть и мучиться в аду.
Ведь Лорд пронюхал бы легко,
А он король этой страны,
Что мы зашли так далеко,
И были б мы обречены.

Они уверенно вошли
В огромный королевский зал.
И дамы поклонились им,
Оркестр громко заиграл.
Волныка, арфа, барабан,
И скрипок нежных голоса,
А также флейта и труба
Творили просто чудеса.

Веселье, танцы, пир горой,
Соревнования стрелков,
И виски, что лилось рекой,
Живой водой впадало в кровь.
Томас подивился вновь:
Несли оленей со двора.
Собаки их лакали кровь,
Сдирали шкуру повара.

Он столько повидал всего,
Что в двух словах не рассказать.
Но время кончилось его,
Она пришла ему сказать:
– Прощай, мой Томас, вышел срок,
Скорее собирайся в путь.
– Но как же так? Ведь лишь чуток
С тобой побыл я здесь, мой друг.

– Семь лет назад, но как вчера,
Тебя сюда я привела.
И вот расстаться нам пора,
Здесь скоро будет демон зла.
Придёт он дань свою забрать
И душу заберёт твою.
Мой честный Томас, не отдать
Тебя ему я не смогу.

И вновь на Элдонском холме
Под деревом волшебным он
У речки Хантли на земле
Лежал и видел сладкий сон.
Над головой шумит листва,
И коноплянки там и тут,
И свист весёлый соловья,
И гимн весне дрозды поют.

Modern English version adapted from four Middle English manuscripts by Thomas Beavitt ©2014. Russian verse translation by Michael Feigin ©2015

На смерть Байрона | On the death of Byron

На смерть Байрона (1824)

О чем средь ужасов войны
Тоска и траур погребальный?
Куда бегут на звон печальный
Священной Греции сыны?
Давно от слез и крови взмокла
Эллада средь святой борьбы;
Какою ж вновь бедой судьбы
Грозят отчизне Фемистокла?

Чему на шатком троне рад
Тиран роскошного Востока,
За что благодарить пророка
Спешат в Стамбуле стар и млад?
Зрю: в Миссолонге гроб средь храма
Пред алтарем святым стоит,
Весь катафалк огнем блестит
В прозрачном дыме фимиама.

Рыдая, вкруг его кипит
Толпа шумящего народа, –
Как будто в гробе том свобода
Воскресшей Греции лежит,
Как будто цепи вековые
Готовы вновь тягчить ее,
Как будто идут на нее
Султан и грозная Россия…

Царица гордая морей!
Гордись не силою гигантской,
Но прочной славою гражданской
И доблестью своих детей.
Парящий ум, светило века,
Твой сын, твой друг и твой поэт,
Увянул Байрон в цвете лет
В святой борьбе за вольность грека.

Из океана своего
Текут лета с чудесной силой:
Нет ничего уже, что было,
Что есть, не будет ничего.
Грядой возлягут на твердыни
Почить усталые века,
Их беспощадная рука
Преобратит поля в пустыни.

Исчезнут порты в тьме времен,
Падут и запустеют грады,
Погибнут страшные армады,
Возникнет новый Карфаген…
Но сердца подвиг благородный
Пребудет для души младой
К могиле Байрона святой
Всегда звездою путеводной.

Британец дряхлый поздних лет
Придет, могильный холм укажет
И гордым внукам гордо скажет:
«Здесь спит возвышенный поэт!
Он жил для Англии и мира,
Был, к удивленью века, он
Умом Сократ, душой Катон
И победителем Шекспира.

Он всё под солнцем разгадал,
К гоненьям рока равнодушен,
Он гению лишь был послушен,
Властей других не признавал.
С коварным смехом обнажила
Судьба пред ним людей сердца,
Но пылкая душа певца
Презрительных не разлюбила.

Когда он кончил юный век
В стране, от родины далекой,
Убитый грустию жестокой,
О нем сказал Европе грек:
«Друзья свободы и Эллады
Везде в слезах в укор судьбы;
Одни тираны и рабы
Его внезапной смерти рады».

Кондратий Рылеев

On the death of Byron (1824)

Amidst war’s horrors, what, alas,
Can e’er to sorrow be consoling?
To where they flee with mournful tolling,
The sons of mythical Hellas?
With blood and tears, her soil was nourished,
Embroiled in long and sore travails;
Again, cruel fate that land assails,
Where bold Themistocles once flourished;

To which, though perched on shaky throne,
Emir of ostentatious Asia
Was glad to court the prophet’s pleasure
And send post-haste the young and old
To famous Missolonghi, burling,
Where by the holy altar stands,
A catafalque with fiery brands,
Transparent smoke of incense swirling.

Lamenting, all around him boils
A multitude of mourners pouring,
As if in mausoleum; sov’reign
Rejuvenated Hellas roils
As if the age-old chains and fetters
Again were pressing down on her,
Those boots to which she must defer,
From East and West, her brutal betters.

Oh, proud czarina of the waves!
Pride not of force or brutes that tower,
But from her citizens, that power
Abiding in the child that braves,
With soaring mind, the dawning era…
Your son and friend, distinguished bard,
The evanescent Byron, scarred
In holy war by grace of Hera,

Out of the timeless ocean,
As years fly by, with wondrous power,
To seize the day, for now’s the hour;
What is or was is all in motion.
They’re fortifying their encampments
To rest the weary centuries;
Their brutal penitentiaries
Break whole worlds into fragments…

As harbours lapse in depths of time
And cities fall into abjectness
Of Amphitrite, once proctectress;
While walls of Carthage newly climb…
But noble exploits cheer the grateful
And long endure for youthful souls;
At Byron’s graveside, fans the coals
A dark polaris for the faithful.

A weary British wanderer
Arrives, his tumulus betokens,
By awed grandchildren here bespoken:
“Sleeps here a noble troubadour!
Who fought for England and the world,
Amazed the century – his role,
With Plato’s mind and Cato’s soul,
To carry Shakespeare’s flag unfurled

And ponder all beneath the sun,
Unmoved by schemes of Mars and Venus,
Obeying only laws of genius,
All other worldly claims to shun.
With baneful laughter, fate releasing
Those kindred ones he must console,
This dauntless, ever-ardent soul,
Though unrequited, loved unceasing,

While youthful peers their fortunes seek,
In exile, all their schemes surpassing…
The tragic cruelty of his passing
Revealed to Europe by the Greek:
“All friends of Freedom and our nation
Shall mourn at his and nearby graves;
While only tyrants, goons and slaves
Could greet his death with jubilation.

Kondraty Ryleyev

On the death of Byron by Kondraty Ryleyev. Translated by Thomas Beavitt ©2020

This translation was sponsored by Bella Evloeva

Герой | Hero

«Герой», Александр Пушкин

Что есть истина?


Да, слава в прихотях вольна.
Как огненный язык, она
По избранным главам летает,
С одной сегодня исчезает
И на другой уже видна.
За новизной бежать смиренно
Народ бессмысленный привык;
Но нам уж то чело священно,
Над коим вспыхнул сей язык.
На троне, на кровавом поле,
Меж граждан на чреде иной
Из сих избранных кто всех боле
Твоею властвует душой?


Все он, все он — пришлец сей бранный,
Пред кем смирилися цари,
Сей ратник, вольностью венчанный,
Исчезнувший, как тень зари.


Когда ж твой ум он поражает
Своею чудною звездой?
Тогда ль, как с Альпов он взирает
На дно Италии святой;
Тогда ли, как хватает знамя
Иль жезл диктаторский; тогда ль,
Как водит и кругом и вдаль
Войны стремительное пламя,
И пролетает ряд побед
Над ним одна другой вослед;
Тогда ль, как рать героя плещет
Перед громадой пирамид,
Иль, как Москва пустынно блещет,
Его приемля, — и молчит?


Нет, не у счастия на лоне
Его я вижу, не в бою,
Не зятем кесаря на троне;
Не там, где на скалу свою
Сев, мучим казнию покоя,
Осмеян прозвищем героя,
Он угасает недвижим,
Плащом закрывшись боевым.
Не та картина предо мною!
Одров я вижу длинный строй,
Лежит на каждом труп живой,
Клейменный мощною чумою,
Царицею болезней… он,
Не бранной смертью окружен,
Нахмурясь ходит меж одрами
И хладно руку жмет чуме
И в погибающем уме
Рождает бодрость… Небесами
Клянусь: кто жизнию своей
Играл пред сумрачным недугом,
Чтоб ободрить угасший взор,
Клянусь, тот будет небу другом,
Каков бы ни был приговор
Земли слепой…


Мечты поэта —
Историк строгий гонит вас!
Увы! его раздался глас, —
И где ж очарованье света!


Да будет проклят правды свет,
Когда посредственности хладной,
Завистливой, к соблазну жадной,
Он угождает праздно! — Нет!
Тьмы низких истин мне дороже
Нас возвышающий обман…
Оставь герою сердце! Что же
Он будет без него? Тиран…



Hero by Alexander Pushkin

What is the truth?


Fame’s lustre is as fancy free
As wicked sharpened tongue; and she
Alights upon the ranks anointed,
One brow gilds, then as appointed,
Another to the same degree.
And that to which last week they quickened
Men’s fickle hearts are now inured;
But he whose exploits fame has thickened
For long our gaze has now endured.
On gilded throne, midst bitter battle,
Who dwelt amongst a migrant line
Of those who brave the tittle-tattle –
To whom then does your soul incline?


To him of all – that scornful stranger,
Upon whose aura tyrants fawn;
That soldier who, despising danger,
Then vanished like a ghost at dawn.


So, when your mind thus blithely reckons
With this marvellous glittering star;
When, as from lofty summit beckons
A sainted pilgrim from afar;
Or then, if fray or flag suffices,
Or else the regal sceptre; then
How do you chart your journey when
A war’s fast-burning flame entices,
In blurred perspective flickers past,
Each triumph greater than the last;
And how the hero’s army shimmers
Before the hulking pyramids;
Or else, how Moscow darkly glimmers,
Accepts him first – and then forbids?


It’s not amongst his bosom kindred;
Not there I see him, nor in coup
D’état with Caesar’s throne rescinded,
Nor on the peak to which he flew
And sat, tormenting peace to zero,
Traduced by soubriquet of hero,
Tenacious like a mountain oak,
Enfolded in his warrior’s cloak.
That’s not the gist of my phantasma!
I see a line of beds arrayed,
Upon which groan the living dead
All pockmarked by a vile miasma,
The queen of plagues; but he in breath,
Not shamed by ignominious death,
Still paces wards at six and seven
And coldly shakes the deathly hand;
Thus, in a mortal frame of mind,
Invokes good cheer… I swear by Heaven –
Whoever plays his life out so,
Who lets each trial and tribulation
Inform his fading gaze once more,
Will be a friend to all Creation,
Whatever may be laid in store
By callous fate…


A poet’s cant –
The strict historian must harass!
His voice rings out again – Alas!
And where’s the world’s sublime enchantment?


We think the truth is what we know
When, coldly, from the median,
It gleams to tempt the greedy
And vindicates the vain! But… no!
The dark of lower truths is dearer –
We’re subterfuge aspirant…
Reflected in the mirror,
The hero’s face, or else… a tyrant…


Comfort yourself…

Hero by Alexander Pushkin. Translated by Thomas Beavitt ©2020

This translation was sponsored by Bella Evloeva

Review of Vitruvian Woman by Jock Urquhart

A ten minute snapshot of global history, politics and philosophy, it’s an ambitious and sprawling piece confidently presented by Beavitt and his collaborators.

I imagine Tommy with a wry smile on his face as he performs his impressive, wordy tour of the historic hot-spots with what sounds distinctly like his tongue in his cheek.

This spoken word odyssey is brightly backed by inventive, engaging beats from regular collaborator Nikita Nikitin and the whole piece hangs together as a coherent whole.

While it might take a while for it to be regarded as a feminist meisterwerk, it’s surely a provocative call to re-assess the merits of patriarchy.

When a harp rings out boldly in eternal halls of fame

Sand animation by Moscow artist Ekaterina Sheffer illustrating a contemporary English version of Lermontov’s poem 1831-go IYUNYA 11 DNYA. The poem, translated and recited by global village bard and Ekaterinburg resident Thomas Beavitt, is accompanied by original music specially composed and recorded by young Urals musicians Andrey Bokovikov and Nikita Nikitin.

Written at the age of seventeen, 1831-go IYUNYA 11 DNYA is one of Lermontov’s most metaphysical lyrical works. According to G.E. Gorlanov, the poem “stands out against the rest of Lermontov’s work in terms of its philosophical significance”, with some stanzas having “programmatic applicability for creativity per se”. In its concentration of the young poet’s worldview, the poem paints a vivid picture of the inner life of an individual set against the grandeur of the Caucasian mountains and Eurasian steppe.

The poem is remarkable for its early concentration of the poet’s prophetic powers. In it, he quite accurately depicts his own violent death in a duel nine years later at the age of 26. Even more remarkably, in also predicting his own literary afterlife, Lermontov explicitly relates to us, his contemporary 21st century audience – like the boy in the second last stanza, “drawn here, he knows not why, to sit a while and meditate alone, pondering my fate upon this stone”.

Beavitt’s translation was originally commissioned for Maxim Privezentsev’s documentary film “The Scottish Wind of Lermontov”. Intrigued by the rhythmic possibilities of the text, as well as its prophetic and philosophical content, the translator then worked with two talented young musicians from Ekaterinburg’s Conservatoire to produce a soundtrack to accompany its recital. The result is a lush, almost symphonic accompaniment to the spoken word performance, which refers to diverse influences including classical music and contemporary rap at the same time as opening a rich musical space that closely corresponds to the poem’s content.

The project was given its visual dimension by the celebrated sand artist Ekaterina Sheffer, who uses the expressive medium to capture many striking images drawn from Lermontov’s life and work. Sheffer, who has ancestral connections with the Lermontov family, is strongly associated with the famous poet’s work, having presented her sand art creations on Lermontovian themes in Beijing last year, as well as at a special Lermontov festival in Pyatigorsk this year, which was attended by Chinese and Scottish delegations.

The film is also accompanied by Russian subtitles of the original poem.

The bard is dead!

A few months ago at the “Sail of Destiny” festival in Pyatigorsk, Thomas Beavitt gave this impromptu performance of Lermontov’s Смерть поэта (The Bard is Dead!), which was composed on the occasion of the death of Lermontov’s idol Pushkin in a duel.

The poem is important not only as a contemporaneous record of the strength of popular feeling at this pivotal moment in Russian literary history, but also in the sense that it prefigured Lermontov’s own senseless death, also in a duel, at the hands of his former comrade Martynov on 27th July 1841.

The extreme controversy generated by Смерть поэта would result in Lermontov’s immediate elevation to literary prominence and his banishment to the Caucasus following the personal intervention of Tsar Nicholas I and interrogation by Count Alexander Benckendorff, the head of secret police.

Lermontov’s death several years later in Pyatigorsk can be seen as a direct result of this controversy and banishment. Nicholas is said, on hearing the news, to have remarked: “The dog has died a dog’s death!” – although his attitude may have softened, since he later added: “The one who could have taken Pushkin’s place is dead.”

The musical version of the poem, performed here on the 178th anniversary of Lermontov’s death close to the place where he slept his last night, is Beavitt’s own composition. It was the first time he performed it in public in the original Russian entirely from memory. Audience members include a Scottish delegation (Lermontov had Scottish ancestors) and several contemporary members of the Lermontov bloodline.

Video shot and edited by Dmitry Perednya

Beavitt’s English translation of the poem is as follows:

The Bard is Dead!

The bard is dead! – conscience of our age –
Felled by lies and foul canard,
Lead-choked chest that bursts with rage
And lifts, at last, the proud regard
Of one whose soul could not consent
To yield to mean indignity,
Who railed against this world and went
Alone to face eternity!

Eternity! Spare your crocodile tears…
Your empty praise – a surplus choir,
A token of your petty fears:
The order came from much, much higher!
Was it not you who cruelly mocked
The music from his golden lyre,
For entertainment, did concoct
A little, sly, tormenting fire?

Well? Enjoy the show… he burned
Until he could no longer stand beneath
But puttered out, expunged, and earned
His wilted laurel wreath.

His vicious killer, unbelieving,
Dealt the blow, gave not an inch:
Empty heart beat, cool and even;
Gun-hand did not flinch.

Occidental, quelle surprise!
Bequeathed to us by will of fate,
His wealth and rank to cultivate,
Like hundreds of such refugees.

The native customs of our land
Dismissed in terms derogatory;
Ridiculed our national glory;
Misconstrued this blood-soaked story;
And with that he raised his hand!…

And so he was slain and his body taken,
Like the nightingale, whose dulcet songs awaken
The envy and resentment of the deaf.
Exalted them till all tunes were forsaken,
Dumfounded, as was he, by the callous hand of death.

Why, from calm obscurity and artless geniality,
Did he step into the light, the glaring, harsh reality,
To sate a heart of free and ardent passion?
Why did he ever give his hand to rogues and fake princesses?
Why did he never countermand the false words and caresses?
He, who, from an early age, discerned life’s meagre ration…

And so, replacing with a crown of thorns, his wreath,
Intertwined with laurel, they thus contrived – and how! –
Clandestine needles sticking in beneath
That pricked his glorious brow,
Embittering his final hours with stress
And the subtle whispering of cretins…
And so he died – with vain thoughts of redress,
The intimate annoyance of mislaid expectations.

The mellifluous tones of our tragic nation
No more to be pealed
As, taking up his cramped accommodation,
The singer’s lips were sealed.

And you, O arrogant descendants
In whom are amplified the faults of your ancestors,
With slavish heels that trample on the fragments
Isn’t it a jolly game for their malign successors!
A greedy crowd with drooling, gaping maw,
Vapid executioners of freedom, wit and glory!
Cowards, taking refuge in the law,
For you, is truth and justice just a story?

But there is a sacred court, O intimates of vice!
There is an awful trial: there He sits and waits;
There’ll be no church bells chiming to entice;
Thoughts and deeds already known behind those final gates…
Then in vain will you recall the time before the flood,
With hearts already hard:
For you will never wash away the blood,
The righteous blood of the bard!

When a harp rings out boldly… (excerpt, Pyatigorsk July 2019)

Excerpt from ‘When a harp rings out boldly in eternal halls of fame’ , English version of Lermontov’s early poem 1831-го ИЮНЯ 11 ДНЯ, translated and performed at the 2019 ‘Sail of Destiny’ festival, in Pyatigorsk by Thomas Beavitt. The soundtrack was written by composer Nikita Nikitin and recorded by producer Andrei Bokovikov in Ekaterinburg in 2019. Live sand painting by Ekaterina Sheffer.

Musical interpretation of Lermontov’s poems ‘Ossian’s Tomb’ and ‘Yearning’ (in original Russian)

Thomas Beavitt performing his musical arrangements of Lermontov’s poems Ossian’s Tomb (Гроб Оссиана) and Yearning (Желание) at the door of the little house where the famous Russian poet slept his last night. The performance was part of the Sail of Destiny festival, which took place in July 2019 in Pyatigorsk. Photographer-videographer Valery Shilov, (Pyatigorsk).

When a harp rings out boldly in eternal halls of fame

Lermontov’s early poem 1831-го ИЮНЯ 11 ДНЯ, translated and read by Thomas Beavitt. The soundtrack was written by composer Nikita Nikitin and recorded by producer Andrei Bokovikov in Ekaterinburg in 2019.

Part of the poem was also featured in the recent film The Scottish Wind of Lermontov by Maxim Privezentsev, who also originally commissioned the translation.

According to the translator, the poem written by Lermontov in one day at the age of 17 is one of the most outstanding achievements of Russian literature. In its harmonious combination of a large number of metaphysical and psychological themes against the natural background of the Caucasus Mountains, it achieves rhythmic complexity and consistency. Despite initially seeming to be based on early romantic cliches, the language of the poem is quite modern in its perceptions. Moreover, this is perhaps the first major poetic work in which Lermontov begins to develop the dual forces of prophecy and psychological understanding for which he is so justly famous.