Cerca / Search

Textual description of firstImageUrl

Mikhail Lermontov | Demon, 1829 | Chapter I

Demon / Демон is a poem by Mikhail Lermontov, written in several versions in the years 1829-1839.
It is considered a masterpiece of European Romantic poetry.
Lermontov began work on the poem when he was just 14 or 15, but completed it only during his Caucasus exile. Lermontov wrote six major variations of the poem, and the final version was not published until 1842, after his death.
The poem is set in Lermontov's beloved Caucasus Mountains. It opens with the eponymous protagonist wandering the earth, hopeless and troubled. He dwells in infinite isolation, his immortality and unlimited power a worthless burden. Then he spies the beautiful Georgian Princess Tamara, dancing for her wedding, and in the desert of his soul wells an indescribable emotion.
The Demon, acting as a brutal and powerful tyrant, destroys his rival: at his instigation, robbers come to despoil the wedding and kill Tamara's betrothed. The Demon courts Tamara, and Tamara knows fear, yet in him she sees not a demon nor an angel but a tortured soul.
Eventually she yields to his embrace, but his kiss is fatal.
And though she is taken to Heaven, the Demon is left again "Alone in all the universe, Abandoned, without love or hope!..."

Tamara and the Demon | Konstantin Makovsky, 1889

Part I
Chapter I

His way above the sinful earth
The melancholy Demon winged
And memories of happier days
About his exiled spirit thronged;
Of days when in the halls of light
He shone among the angels bright;
When comets in their headlong flight
Would joy to pay respect to him

As, chaste among the cherubim,
Among th' eternal nebulae
With eager mind and quick surmise
He'd trace their caravanserai
Through the far spaces of the skies;
When he had known both faith and love,
The happy firstling of creation!
When neither doubt nor dark damnation
Had whelmed him with the bitterness
Of fruitless exile year by year,
And when so much, so much...but this
Was more than memory could bear.

Mikhail Vrubel - Demon


Outcast long since, he wandered lone,
Having no place to call his own,
Through the dull desert of the world
While age on age about him swirled,
Minute on minute - all the same.
Prince of this world - which he held cheap -
He scattered tares among the wheat....
A joyless task without remission,
Void of excitement, opposition -
Evil itself to him seemed tame.

Mikhail Vrubel - Demon Head


And so - exiled from Paradise -
He soared above the peaks of ice
And saw the everlasting snows
Of Kazbek and the Caucasus,
And, serpentine, the winding deeps
Of that black, dragon-haunted pass
The Daryal gorge; then the wild leaps
Of Terek like a lion bounding
With mane of tangled spray that blows
Behind him, and a great roar sounding
Through all the hills, where beast and bird
On mountain scree and azure steeps
The river's mighty voice had heard;
And, as he flew, the golden clouds
Streaked from the South in tattered shrouds...
Companions on his Northbound course;
And the great cliffs came crowding in
And brooded darkly over him
Exuding some compelling force
Of somnolence above the stream...
And on the cliff-tops castles reared
Their towered heads and baleful stared
Out through the mists - wardens who wait
Colossal at the mighty gate
Of Caucasus - and all about
God's world lay wonderful and wild...
But the proud Spirit looked with doubt
And cool contempt on God's creation,
His brow unruffled and serene
Admitting no participation.

Mikhail Vrubel - Demon flying


Before him now another scene
In vivid beauty blooms.
The patterned vales' luxuriant green
Spread like a carpet on the looms
Of Georgia, rich and blessed ground!
These poplars like great pillars tower,
And sounding streams trip over pebbles
Of many colours in their courses.
And, ember-bright, the rose trees flower
Where nightingales forever warble
To marble beauties fond discourses
Forever deaf to their sweet sound.
On sultry days the timid deer
Seek out an ivy-curtained cave
To hide them from the midday heat;
How bright, how live the leaves are here!
A hundred voices soft conclave
A thousand flower-hearts that beat!
The sensuous warmth of afternoon,
The scented dew which falls to strew
The grateful foliage 'neath the moon,
The stars that shine as full and bright
As Georgian beauties' eyes by night!...
Yet in the outcast's barren breast
Abundant nature woke no new
Upsurge of forces long at rest,
Touched off no other sentiment
Than envy, hatred, cold contempt.


Right high the house, right wide the court
Grey-haired Gudaal has builded him...
In tears and labour dearly bought
By slaves submissive to his whim.
Across the neighbouring cliffs its shade
From sunrise dark and cool is laid
A steep stair in the cliff-face hewn
Leads from the corner-tower down
To the Aragva. Down this stair
Princess Tamara, young and fair,
Goes gleaming, snow white veils a-flutter,
To fetch her jars of river water.


In austere silence heretofore
The house has looked across the valleys;
But now wide open stands the door
Gudaal holds feast to mark the marriage
Of his Tamara: now the wine
Flows freely and the zurna skirts;
The clan is gathered round to dine
And on the roof-top, richly spread
With orient rugs. the promised bride
Sits all amongst her laughing girls:
In games and songs their time is sped
And merriment. Beyond the hills
The semicircle of the sun
Has sunk already. Now the fun
Crows fast and furious. Now the steady
Rhythmic clapping and the singing
The bride brings to her feet, poised ready,
Her tambourine above her head
Is circling, she herself goes winging
Bird-light above rug, then stops,
Looks round, and lets her lashes drop
That envious hide her shining glance;
And now she raises raven brows,
Now suddenly sways forward slightly
Her slender foot peeps out, and lightly
It slides and swims into the dance;
And see she smiles - a joyous gleam
Aglow with childish merriment.
And yet... the white moon's sportive beam
In rippling water liquid bent
With such a smile could scarce compare
More live than life. than youth more fair.


So by the midnight star I swear
By blazing East and beaming West
No Shah of Persia knew her peer
No King on earth was ever blessed
To kiss an eye so full and fine.
The harem's sparkling fountain never
Showered such a form with dewy pearls!
Nor had mortal fingers ever
Caressed a forehead so divine
To loose such splendid curls;
Indeed, since Eve was first undone
And man from Eden forth must fare
No beauty such as this, I swear,
Had bloomed beneath the Southern sun.


So now for the last time she danced
Atasi Tomorrow, she, the heir
Of old Gudaal, the daughter fair
Of liberty must bow her head
To a slave's fate like one entranced,
Adopt a country not her own,
A family she'd never known ä
Often a secret doubt would shed
A shadow on her radiant face;
Yet all her movements were so free
Appealing, redolent of grace
So full of sweet simplicity
That, had the Demon soaring high
Above looked down and chanced to see...
Then, mindful of his former race,
He had turned from her ä with a sigh....


The Demon did see.... For one second
It seemed to him that heaven beckoned
To make his arid soul resound
With glorious, grace-bestowing sound -
And once again his thought embraced
The sacrosanct significance
Of Goodness, Beauty and of Love!
And, strangely moved, his memory traced
The joys that he had known above
A chain of long magnificence
Before him link on link unfolding
As though he watched the headlong flight
Of star on star shoot through the night....
And, long the touching scene beholding,
Held spell-bound by some Power unseen,
New sadness in his heart awoke.
Then. suddenly, emotion spoke
In accents once familiar;
Could this yet be regeneration?
The subtle promptings of temptation
Had gone as though they had not been...
Oblivion? - God gave this not yet: -
Nor would he, if he could, forget!...


Meanwhile, his galant steed all lathered
Hastening to join his kin forgathered
To celebrate his wedding day
The bridegroom made his urgent way....
Good fortune yet attended him
To bright Aragva's verdant bank.
A line of camels after him
So weighted down with costly gifts
They scarce from hoof to hoof could shift
Wound down the pathway, rank on rank,
Now clear to view, now lost to sight,
Bells chiming softly as they plod.
Their master rode on in the van
To guide his laden caravan
That followed where his horse had trod....
Erect, the tithe waste girdled tight;
Sabre and dagger-hilts shine bright
Beneath the sun; and on his back
A gleaming rifle, notched in black.
The wind is fluttering the sleeve
Of his chukhd - all bravely braided
His saddle-cloth of richest weave,
The saddle with gay silks is broidered
The reigns are tasseled - and his steed
Is of a priceless, golden breed.
Nostrils dilated,twitching ears
He glances down and snorts his fears
Of the deep drop, the flying foam
That crests the rapids' leaping waves.
How perilous the path they follow,
The cliff o'erhangs the way so narrow,
The deep ravine the torrent paves.
The hour is late. - The sunset glow
Is fading on the peaks of snow.
The caravan makes haste for home.


But see - a chapel by the way....
Here now has rested many a day
Some prince, now canonized, but then
By vengeful hand untimely slain.-
And here the traveller must stay
Whether he haste to fight, or whether
To join the feast, here he must ever
Rein in his horse and humbly pray
The good saint to protect his life
Against the lurking Moslem's knife.
But now the bridegroom, overbold,
Forgot his forefathers of old
And, by perfidious dreams misled
Of how, beneath the cloak of night,
He would embrace his bride, instead
Of holding by their pious rite
He yielded to the Demon's will
Seduced by turbid thoughts - until
Two figures - then a shot - ahead
What was it? Rising in his stirrups
Cramming his high hat on his brow
The gallant lover, at the gallop,
Plunged like a hawk upon his foe!
No word he spoke, his whip cracked once
And once blazed forth his Turkish gun....
Another shot. Wild cries. The Prince
Goes thundering on. The groans behind
Long echoes in the valley find....
Not long the fight. Of timorous mind,
The Georgians turn and run!


Now all is silence; sadly huddled
The camels stand and stare befuddled
Upon their erstwhile master ä man,
Lying dead amongst these silent fells.
The only sound their harness bells,
Ravaged and robbed their caravan;
And see, the owl flies softly round
The Christian bodies on the ground!
No peaceful tomb beneath the stones
Of some old church will take these bones
Like those in which their fathers lie;
Mothers nor sisters will not come
In their long floating veils to cry
Over these graves so far from home!
Instead, by zealous hands, a cross
Was raised to mark the dreadful loss
Just where the road hugs close the sheer
And towering cliff-wall, close to where
They perished in the raid....
And ivy, growing lush in spring,
An emerald net about it flings....
Here, weary of the toilsome road,
The traveller yet lays down his load
To rest in God's good shade....


Swift as a stag still runs the horse
Snorting as though he held his course
In some fierce charge, now plunging on
Now pulling up as though to harken
His nostrils flared to sniff the wind:
Then leaps up and comes ringing down
On all four hooves, sets sparking
The stones and, in his mad career,
His tangled mane streams out behind.
A silent rider he does bear
Who lurches forward now and then
To rest his head in that wild mane.
The reins lie slack in useless hands,
The feet are deep-thrust in the stirrups,
And on his saddle-cloth the bands
Of blood are broadening as they gallop
Ah gallant steed, your wounded master
You bore from battle swift as light
The ill-starred bullet sped yet faster
And overtook him in the night!


Gudaal's is now a house of mourning,
The people crowd into the court:
Whose horse comes galloping in terror
To fall before the rock-hewn gate?
The lifeless rider, who is he?
The battle fury on his face
Has left a deep inscribed trace
On coat and weapons they could see
Fresh bloodstains, and a wiry strand
Of mane was twisted in his hand,
Not long you waited, youthful bride,
And looked to see your bridegroom come:
Alas, though he has gained your side
To join the feasting at your home
His princely word he keeps in vain...
Never will he mount horse again.


Like thunder, the Lord's judgement broke
About this unsuspecting house!
Tamara, sobbing on her couch,
Gives free rein to the heavy tears
Till, shaken, she on them must choke....
Then, suddenly, it seems she hears
Above her words of wonder spoke:

Mikhail Vrubel - Tamara and Demon -

"Weep not, my child! Weep not in vain!
Those tears are no life-giving rain
To call an unresponsive corpse
Back to the living world again.
They only serve to dull their source
In those clear eyes, those cheeks to burn....
And he is far and will not learn
Of all your bitter sorrow now;
The winds of heaven now caress
His high, angelic brow;
And heavenly music, heavenly light....
What are the dreams and dark duress,
The little hopes and stifled sighs
Of earthly maidens in the sight
Of one who dwells in paradise?
Ah no, the lot of mortal man,
Believe, my earthly angel dear,
It merits not one second's span
Your precious sorrow here!

Mikhail Vrubel - Tamara and Demon -
Mikhail Vrubel | Tamara and Demon

On the wastes of airy ocean
Rudderless and stripped of sail
Through the mists in listless motion
Stars in courses never fail;
Through the boundless fields of heaven
Traceless pass the fluffy sheep -
Clouds dissolving in the even
Reaches of the azure steppe.
Hour of parting, hour of meeting,
Brings them neither joy nor sorrow;
Nor regrets for past fast fleeting;
Nor desires for any morrow.
Let remembrance day be only
One long sorrow-laden day;
For the rest, be strong and lonely
Free of earthly cares as they!"

"As soon as night has spread her veil
To cover the Caucasian heights;
As soon as nature neath the spell
Of magic words falls silent quite;
As soon as on the cliffs the wind
Runs rustling through the fading grass,
And the small bird that hides behind
The brittle blades flies up at last;
And, drinking in the evening dew
Beneath the vine-leaves in the gloom,
Night flowering blossoms come to bloom;
As soon as the great, golden moon
Above the mountain quietly peeps
To steal a stealthy glance at you;
I shall come flying to watch your sleep
And on your silken lashes lay
Enchanted dreams of golden day...."

And softly as a strange delusion
The voice fell silent, sound on sound.
The maid sprang up and gazed around,
An inexpressible confusion
Within her breast; - sorrow nor fear
Nor ecstasy could now compare
With this great upsurge of emotion.
The soul from its fast fetters broke
And burning fire coursed through her veins
It seemed as though the voice still spoke
Unknown and wonderful - and then
The sleep she craved came down to bless
Her weary eyes with heaviness;
But now he troubled even her thought
With dreams prophetic and unsought:
A stranger, mist-enshrouded, stood
Beside her bed and spoke no word
But, glimmering with unearthly beauty,
He looked at her with quiet devotion
And sadly, as it were in pity.
But this was not her guardian angel,
No visitant from realms divine:
About his head no radiant halo
Upon the shadowy curls did shine
Nor was it some tormented sprite
Some vicious spirit of hell - ah no!
Neither of darkness nor of light!...
More like the gentle afterglow
As evening deepens into night!...

For Part II -in english and italian- see:
Michail Lermontov | Demon / Il Demone, 1829 | Part.2🎨