Mikhail Yuryevich Lermontov (October 15, 1814 – July 27, 1841) was a Russian Romantic writer, poet and painter, sometimes called "the poet of the Caucasus", the most important Russian poet after Alexander Pushkin's death in 1837 and the greatest figure in Russian Romanticism. His influence on later Russian literature is still felt in modern times, not only through his poetry, but also through his prose, which founded the tradition of the Russian psychological novel.
A Hero of Our Time (1840; rev. 1841)
- O vanity! you are the lever by means of which Archimedes wished to lift the earth!
- Many a calm river begins as a turbulent waterfall, yet none hurtles and foams all the way to the sea.
- I am like a mariner born and bred on board a buccaneer brig whose soul has become so inured to storm and strife that if cast ashore he would weary and languish no matter how alluring the shady groves and how bright the gentle sun.
- I would make any sacrifice but this; twenty times I can stake my life, even my honour, but my freedom I shall never sell. Why do I prize it so much? … What am I aiming at? Nothing, absolutely nothing.
- Referring to marriage
- Happy people are ignoramuses and glory is nothing else but success, and to achieve it one only has to be cunning.
- The public of this country is so youthful, not to say simple-minded, that it cannot understand the meaning of a fable unless the moral is set forth at the end. Unable to see a joke, insensible to irony, it has, in a word, been badly brought up. It has not yet learned that in a decent book, as in decent society, open invective can have no place; that our present-day civilisation has invented a keener weapon, none the less deadly for being almost invisible, which, under the cloak of flattery, strikes with sure and irresistible effect.
- I was involuntarily struck by the aptitude which the Russian displays for accommodating himself to the customs of the people in whose midst he happens to be living. I know not whether this mental quality is deserving of censure or commendation, but it proves the incredible pliancy of his mind and the presence of that clear common sense which pardons evil wherever it sees that evil is inevitable or impossible of annihilation.
- A childish feeling, I admit, but, when we retire from the conventions of society and draw close to nature, we involuntarily become children: each attribute acquired by experience falls away from the soul, which becomes anew such as it was once and will surely be again.
- In simple hearts the feeling for the beauty and grandeur of nature is a hundred-fold stronger and more vivid than in us, ecstatic composers of narratives in words and on paper.
- The history of a man's soul, even the pettiest soul, is hardly less interesting and useful than the history of a whole people; especially when the former is the result of the observations of a mature mind upon itself, and has been written without any egotistical desire of arousing sympathy or astonishment. Rousseau's Confessions has precisely this defect – he read it to his friends.
- Of two friends, one is always the slave of the other, although frequently neither acknowledges the fact to himself.
- Women love only those whom they do not know!
- Russian ladies, for the most part, cherish only Platonic love, without mingling any thought of matrimony with it; and Platonic love is exceedingly embarrassing.
- A strange thing, the human heart in general, and woman's heart in particular.
- One should never spurn a penitent criminal: in his despair he may become twice as much a criminal as before.
- Women! Women! Who can understand them? Their smiles contradict their glances, their words promise and allure, but the tone of their voice repels.
- You men do not understand the delights of a glance, of a pressure of the hand... but as for me, I swear to you that, when I listen to your voice, I feel such a deep, strange bliss that the most passionate kisses could not take its place.
- My whole past life I live again in memory, and, involuntarily, I ask myself: 'why have I lived - for what purpose was I born?'... A purpose there must have been, and, surely, mine was an exalted destiny, because I feel that within my soul are powers immeasurable... But I was not able to discover that destiny, I allowed myself to be carried away by the allurements of passions, inane and ignoble. From their crucible I issued hard and cold as iron, but gone for ever was the glow of noble aspirations - the fairest flower of life. And, from that time forth, how often have I not played the part of an axe in the hands of fate! Like an implement of punishment, I have fallen upon the head of doomed victims, often without malice, always without pity... To none has my love brought happiness, because I have never sacrificed anything for the sake of those I have loved: for myself alone I have loved - for my own pleasure. I have only satisfied the strange craving of my heart, greedily draining their feelings, their tenderness, their joys, their sufferings - and I have never been able to sate myself. I am like one who, spent with hunger, falls asleep in exhaustion and sees before him sumptuous viands and sparkling wines; he devours with rapture the aerial gifts of the imagination, and his pains seem somewhat assuaged. Let him but awake: the vision vanishes - twofold hunger and despair remain!
And tomorrow, it may be, I shall die!... And there will not be left on earth one being who has understood me completely. Some will consider me worse, others, better, than I have been in reality... Some will say: 'he was a good fellow'; others: 'a villain.' And both epithets will be false. After all this, is life worth the trouble? And yet we live - out of curiosity! We expect something new... How absurd, and yet how vexatious!
- ...man, this ruler over general evil,
With a perfidious heart, with a lying tongue...
- "The Cemetery" (1830)
- What is this eternity to me without you?
What is the infinity of my domains?
Empty ringing words,
A spacious temple — without a divinity!
- "The Demon" (1830)
- And everything that he saw before him
He despised or hated.
- "The Demon" (1830)
- I want to reconcile myself with heaven,
I want to love, I want to pray,
I want to believe in good.
- "The Demon" (1830)
- Alone, as before, in the universe
Without hope and without love!..
- "The Demon" (1830)
- The chain of young life is broken,
The journey is ended, the hour has struck, it is time to leave,
Time to go where there is no future,
No past, no eternity, no years;
Where there are no expectations, no passions,
No bitter tears, no fame, no honour;
Where memory sleeps deeply
And the heart in its narrow coffin home
Does not feel the worm gnawing it.
- "Death" (1830 or 1831)
- I do not love you; the former dream
Of passions and torments has passed by;
But your image in my soul
Is still alive, although it is powerless;
Although I abandon myself to other dreams,
I still cannot forget it;
So an abandoned temple is still a temple,
A dethroned idol — still a god!
- "I do not love you..." (1831)
- I was born, so that the whole world could be a spectator
Of my triumph or my doom...
- "Fate brought us together by chance..." (1832)
- For what did the creator prepare me,
Why did he so terribly contradict
The hopes of my youth?...
- "My future is in darkness..." (1837)
- To the earth I gave the earthly tribute
Of love, hopes, good and evil;
I am ready to begin another life,
I am silent and wait: the time has come;
I shall leave no brother in this world,
And dark and cold embrace
My tired soul;
Like a premature fruit, deprived of sap,
It withered in the storms of fate
Under the burning sun of existence.
- "I look upon the future with fear..." (1838)
- And I, as I lived, in an alien land
Will die a slave and an orphan.
- "The Novice" (1839)
- The surrounding forest, as though in a mist,
Was blue in the powder of smoke.
But there, far off, in a disordered ridge,
Which was yet eternally proud and calm,
Stretched the mountains — and Kazbek
Gleamed with its sharp peak.
And with secret, heartfelt sorrow
I thought: 'Pitiable man.
What does he want! The sky is clear,
Beneath it there is much room for all,
But constantly and vainly
He alone wages war — why?'
- "I am writing to you..." (1840)
- What good are the passions? For sooner or later their sweet sickness ends when reason speaks up;
And life, if surveyed with cold-blooded regard is stupid and empty — a joke.
- "Lonely and Sad" (1840)
- No, it is not you I love so ardently,
The glitter of your beauty is not for me:
I love in you my past suffering
And my perished youth.
- "No, it is not you I love so ardently..." (1841)
- In people's eyes I read
Pages of malice and sin.
- "The Prophet" (1841)