Death of the Hero

The Hero’s killed! A slave of honour,
He fell being slandered by a mob,
With lust for vengeance, poor goner,
He drooped at last his proud top.

Image by Evgeny Feldman/Novaya Gazeta, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

On February 16, 2024, Russian authorities announced the death in prison of a long-time Mr. Putin’s critic Alexei Navalny. He was 47 years old.

Alexei Navalny was probably the only real oppositionist to the existing Russian regime and a personal opponent of Mr. Putin who did not leave Russia. Moreover, having the opportunity to stay in Europe after he barely survived “Novichok” poisoning in the fall of 2020, Alexei Navalny boldly returned to Russia in January 2021 and was immediately arrested.

Mr. Putin has no nobility as well as many other human qualities.
Russian courts sentenced the dangerous truth-seeker on trumped-up charges first to 3.5 years in prison, then to 9 years more and then to another 19 years under 6 articles of extremism.
In December 2023, Mr. Navalny was transferred to a colony in the Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district where he died of “natural causes» on February 16, 2024.

Mr. Putin did kill him. Basically, this could have been easily predicted, and I thought that Mr. Navalny foresaw that possibility himself, but went for it anyway. A madness of the braves...

Mr. Putin has killed a real Hero of Russia.

The poem «Death of the Poet».

When I learned about Mr. Navalny’s death, a phrase from a poem of the great Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov on the death of another great Russian poet, Alexander Pushkin, immediately came to my mind: «The Poet’s killed! A slave of honour...». Only in my head it sounded as «The Hero’s killed! A slave of honour...».

The poem «Death of the Poet» was written by M. Lermontov in 1837 immediately after A. Pushkin was seriously wounded in a duel and died on January 29, 1837. The poem propelled Lermontov to an unprecedented level of fame. Handwritten versions quickly spread throughout St. Petersburg and fell into the hands of the government which saw a dangerous freethinking in the poem. The poet was arrested and after a brief investigation was exiled to the active army in the Caucasus by the order of Emperor Nicholas I on February 25, 1837. Mikhail Lermontov was 23 years old then.

Later, like Alexander Pushkin, he also has been killed in a duel on July 27, 1841 at the age of 26.
Mikhail Lermontov somehow managed to write a surprising amount of good poetry and prose for such a young age.

The poem «Death of the Hero».

I reread the poem "Death of the Poet" several times. To my surprise, it seemed to be specially written on the death of Alexei Navalny despite 187 years distance in time. The poem only needed to be shortened a little and updated - by around 20 percent. And I wanted to do that to honor the memory of Alexei Navalny in that way, a very brave man, a true patriot and real Hero of Russia.

In my work I used quite good translations of the original poem made by Yevgeny Bonver and John Woodsworth, sometimes taking entire ready-made quatrains from them.

Poetry is a difficult stuff to translate in general, but Lermontov’s poems, as for me, are quite difficult for translating. And yet there is a conceptual and verbal difference in time - after all, 187 years have passed.

Here's what I've got.
I'm giving here a two-language variant of the poem, because I slightly altered Lermontov’s original version in Russian. My variants in Russian and English are dedicated specifically to Alexei Navalny and are called “Death of the Hero”.

Death of the Hero

The Hero’s killed! A slave of honor,
He fell being slandered by a mob,
With lust for vengeance, poor goner,
He drooped at last his proud top.

The Hero’s heart had many scars
From Russian traitorous elite,
He fought against the Russian tsar
Alone as always … And is killed!

He’s killed... Why is there all the crying,
The praising choir's empty shout
And wretched babble's justifying?
Fate's sentence has been carried out!

Was it not you who long conspired
To mock his gift so free and bold
And, just for fun, to fan the fire
Whose embers were now growing cold?

You may be happy … Those tortures
Have broken his belief at last:
Like a lamp, went out the genius gorgeous;
The sumptuous wreath had withered fast.

His killer boldly struck a blow…
In prison, where there's no return.
Misuse of law is mean and low
But Russia showed a little concern.

His life's last moments venomously blighted
By mocking fools' sly whisperings aggrieved,
He died with thirst for vengeance unrequited,
Tormented in his soul by fervent hopes deceived.

His truthful words are now interdicted
They will be never heard again:
His few associates in Russia are convicted
Or fled the country in a pain.

And you, you haughty ones, descendants
Of famous fathers being so base and mean,
Who trampled under foot the remnants
Of glorious Decembrist kins!

You stand around the throne, the greedy misers,
Who Freedom, Genius, Glory seek to kill!
You hide behind your lawyers and advisors,
Before you, truth and judgement must keep still!

But fortunately also there is a Court of God,
It waits for you, and then
You can't pay off your debts with stolen gold
It knows the thoughts and deeds of men.

All words and tears will happen then in vain
All explanations, slinging mud,
You won’t wash off with poison from your veins
The Hero’s righteous blood!

Смерть Героя

Погиб герой! Невольник чести,
Пал, оклеветанный толпой,
С огнём в груди и жаждой мести,
Поникнув гордой головой.

Не вынесло героя сердце
Обид России от элит,
Восстал он против самодержца
Один, как прежде… И убит!

Убит... К чему теперь рыданья,
Пустых похвал ненужный хор
И жалкий лепет оправданья?
Судьбы свершился приговор!

Не вы ль сперва так злобно гнали
Его свободный, смелый дар
И для потехи раздували
Чуть затаившийся пожар?

Что ж, веселитесь... — он мучений
Последних вынести не мог:
Угас, как светоч, дивный гений,
Увял торжественный венок.

Его убийца хладнокровно
Навел удар... спасенья нет:
Рукой закона, подло, злобно,
Которого в России нет.

Отравлены его последние мгновенья
Коварным шепотом насмешливых невежд,
И умер он — с напрасной жаждой мщенья,
С досадой тайною обманутых надежд.

Замолкли звуки слов его правдивых,
Не раздаваться им опять:
Его друзей в России мало всем на диво,
И на устах его печать.

А вы, надменные потомки
Известной подлостью прославленных отцов,
Пятою рабскою поправшие обломки
Российских гордых декабристами родов!

Вы, жадною толпой стоящие у трона,
Свободы, Гения и Славы палачи!
Таитесь вы под сению закона,
Пред вами суд и правда — всё молчи!..

Но есть и божий суд, наперсники разврата!
Есть грозный суд: он ждет;
Он не доступен звону злата,
И мысли и дела он знает наперед.

Тогда напрасно вы прибегнете к злословью:
Оно вам не поможет вновь,
И вы не смоете всей вашей черной кровью
Героя праведную кровь!
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