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University of Toronto · Academic Electronic Journal in Slavic Studies

Toronto Slavic Quarterly

Adam Mickiewicz

Crimean Sonnets

Translated by Agnieszka Kreczmar


The Storm

(Burza)

Sails have been torn, and our helm is broken,

The ship by roaring waves is downward tossed;

People shout in terror, from their mid-sleep woken,

The sun sets blood-red, and all hope is lost.

 

The wind is throwing waters up and down

And over this up-surging, frothing steep

Genius of Death triumphant enters on the ship

Like a soldier who tramples a defeated town.

 

Some people lie unfeeling, others only moan,

Still others say their prayers to drive death away,

Or wring their hands, or bid their friends farewell;

 

One passenger was sitting in silence alone

And thought: Happy are those whose powers fail,

Have someone dear to part with, or are able to pray.

 

The Akkerman Steppe

(Stepy Akermańskie)

I entered the dry waters of an open sea;

My carriage like a canoe plunges in the green

Deep of flowery meadows and passes between

The coral isles of brier and laburnum tree.

 

The dusk falls. Neither barrow nor road can I see.

I look up, the stars seeking that could lead my way.

A cloud glints in the distance – sign of rising day.

Perhaps Akkerman's lantern can show light to me.

 

Let's halt! It is so quiet I can hear the skein

Of cranes that flying slowly a hawk's reach surpass,

I hear the beetle kissing the drip of the rain,

The sleek viper that softly moves among the grass...

In this stillness – my ear I so curiously strain

A voice from home could reach me – No one calls, alas!

 

The Calm of the Sea

(Cisza morska)

No breath of wind will ruffle the flag of my ship,

The calm waters now quietly move up their breast

Like a bride who of happiness dreaming at rest

Wakes up, sighs for a moment, and goes back to sleep.

 

The sails are flagging easily from the naked masts

Like banners of an army after a long war;

The ship is rocking slightly, as if chained ashore;

The passengers laugh freely, the mate rests at last.

 

O, quiet sea, among your jolly beings is

On your deep bottom hidden a fierce octopus

That waves its greedy arms, fearful and long;

 

O, thoughts! You hide a swarm of memories

That in a stormy time invisible throng

But when it's quiet, our hearts will grasp.

 

Sailing

(Żegluga)

The roar rises, preparing a new thunderclap,

The mate has climbed the ladder – now the flag is red.

Up there, in an invisible he is stretching net

Like a spider that's waiting his victims to trap.

 

The wind is blowing – the ship seems to fret

Straining its cords – then diving in a frothy gale –

Raises its neck, to trample the waves, and sets sail

To cleave the clouds and tumbling waters with its head.

 

And my spirit flies upward, like a sky-high mast,

Imagination rising like sails in a tress,

And my voice is now joined with the roar of the sea,

 

I raise my hands, the cords of my ship try to clasp,

And its breast to still braver adventures I press,

Now I know – like a bird I can also be free!

University of Toronto University of Toronto