Saturday, March 01, 2008

Lermontov

My teacher in poetry, Michail Lermontov, was born in 1814 and died in a duel in 1841, being just 26 years old. His was killed by a pal officer Martynov with who he served in Caucasus, after an odd argument.

In childhood, I visited those places, saw the little house where he lived, the place of the duel – reciting his immortal verses and feeling so sad about the tragedy which deprived Russia of one of its best poets.

One do not need to know astrology to understand that Lermontov was melancholic, yet restless: his poems speak for themselves (“The Sail” in excellent translation by Yevgeny Bonver):

The sail is whitening alone
In blue obscurity of sea:
What did it leave in country own?
What does it want so far to see?

The wind is strong, the mast is creaking,
The wave is playing with the wave...
But not a fortune is it seeking,
Nor from this fortune is its way.

By it a stream is bright as azure
By beams of sun it's warmed and blessed
But it is seeking gales as treasure,
As if the tempests give a rest.

In fact, he is very similar to another expert in sadness, Robert Burton, who wrote famous “The Anatomy of Melancholy” (Burton's chart there is correct, although the year in the caption is wrong: he was born in 1577).

Finally, I decided to look at Lermontov’s chart, to learn more about the character. I found a strange picture:

Moon in Scorpio did not surprise me. I was surprised to see the Jupiter in detriment – rather different than what I would expect to see in a chart of a noble poetic soul. What was the reason for the duel then, and who was the initiator and why? I started searching documents and found the story. In short, it was not nice, and he, indeed, was guilty: it concerned Martynov’s sister.

I would not discover this fact about my favourite poet if I didn’t look at his chart! Yet, his genius is incomparable:

Since that time when the highest court
Had given me the prophet's vision,
In eyes of men I always caught
The images of sin and treason.

Then I began to promulgate
The clear love's and truth's commandment:
At me all humans threw for that
Hard sticks and stones, like the madmen.

I put sackcloth and ashes on,
And ran - a beggar - from the town,
And there I live in desert lone,
Like birds, on food that God sends down;

Here earthly creatures serve me right,
The laws of the Lord obeying;
And stars here hear me in night,
With their rays, like babies, playing.

And when to towns' walls, by chance,
I hurry through the noisy places,
The old men say to younger ones,
With selfish smiles on their faces,

"Look, there is an example for us!
He was expelled from life, like ours:
The fool was forcing us to trust
That God is speaking through his mouth!

So, see, my children: how grim,
Thin, pale he is - with shaggy hair!
Look, how poor he is and bare,
How despise all people him!"

Burton had the same airy Sun, Moon in Scorpio, Saturn in Capricorn, detrimented Jupiter and afflicted Venus… Two miserable and blessed melancholics…

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