Wednesday, August 19, 2009

a hero of our time

"solitude" judy mackey

from the head, hand and heart of mikhail lermontov - writer and artist - come the following words excerpted and then reassembled as a text-collage to create a place and a time . . .

the full moon was shining on the little reed-thatched roof and the white walls of my new dwelling. in the courtyard, which was surrounded by a wall of rubble-stone, there stood another miserable hovel, smaller and older than the first and all askew. the shore descended precipitously to the sea, almost from its very walls, and down below, with incessant murmur, plashed the dark-blue waves. the moon gazed softly upon the watery element, restless but obedient to it, and i was able by its light to distinguish two ships lying at some distance from the shore, their black rigging motionless and standing out, like cobwebs, against the pale line of the horizon.

i entered the hut. its whole furniture consisted of two benches and a table, together with an enormous chest beside the stove. the sea-wind burst in through the broken window-pane. i drew a wax candle-end from my portmanteau, lit it, and began to put my things out.

about an hour passed thus. the moon shone in at the window and its rays played along the earthen floor of the hut. suddenly a shadow flitted across the bright strip of moonshine which intersected the floor. i raised myself up a little and glanced out of the window. again somebody ran by it and disappeared — goodness knows where! it seemed impossible for anyone to descend the steep cliff overhanging the shore, but that was the only thing that could have happened. i rose, threw on my tunic, girded on a dagger, and with the utmost quietness went out of the hut.

meanwhile the moon was becoming overcast by clouds and a mist had risen upon the sea. the lantern alight in the stern of a ship close at hand was scarcely visible through the mist, and by the shore there glimmered the foam of the waves, which every moment threatened to submerge it.

i confess that, much as i tried to make out in the distance something resembling a boat, my efforts were unsuccessful. about ten minutes passed thus, when a black speck appeared between the mountains of the waves! at one time it grew larger, at another smaller. slowly rising upon the crests of the waves and swiftly descending from them, the boat drew near to the shore.
reflecting thus, i gazed with an involuntary beating of the heart at the poor boat. it dived like a duck, and then, with rapidly swinging oars — like wings — it sprang forth from the abyss amid the splashes of the foam. “ah!” i thought, “it will be dashed against the shore with all its force and broken to pieces!” but it turned aside adroitly and leaped unharmed into a little creek.

about an hour passed thus, perhaps even longer. suddenly something resembling a song struck upon my ear. it was a song, and the voice was a woman’s, young and fresh — but, where was it coming from?. . . i listened; it was a harmonious melody — now long-drawn-out and plaintive, now swift and lively. i looked around me — there was nobody to be seen. i listened again — the sounds seemed to be falling from the sky. i raised my eyes. on the roof of my cabin was standing a young girl in a striped dress and with her hair hanging loose — a regular water-nymph. shading her eyes from the sun’s rays with the palm of her hand, she was gazing intently into the distance. at one time, she would laugh and talk to herself, at another, she would strike up her song anew.

i have retained that song in my memory, word for word:

at their own free will
they seem to wander
o’er the green sea yonder,
those ships, as still
they are onward going,
with white sails flowing.
and among those ships
my eye can mark
my own dear barque:
by two oars guided
(all unprovided
with sails) it slips.
the storm-wind raves:
and the old ships — see!
with wings spread free,
over the waves
they scatter and flee!
the sea i will hail
with obeisance deep:
“thou base one, hark!
thou must not fail
my little barque
from harm to keep!”
for lo! ’tis bearing
most precious gear,
and brave and daring
the arms that steer
within the dark
my little barque.

i had to return home; but i confess i was rendered uneasy by all these strange happenings, and i found it hard to await the morning.

the full text is available at the university of adelaide


  1. You are the only person I know of, apart from myself, to have used the word 'plash'! Yeah! But...why no capital letters? I find their omission disturbing, and reading more difficult as a result. It's as bad as those people who persit in dotting capital 'I's)...
    You can tell, I have strong Virgoan tendencies, despite being a fish.

  2. hi jinksy, why no capital letters? i love reading and writing and fonts are a very big part of those experiences for me. none of the fonts offered on blogger offer the sort of soft rounded edges that i like. i made this blog and the golden fish to be as close as possible to a place i would like to visit - makes sense right?! so i chose to keep the text lowercase because it was as close as i coudld get to softening the appearance of the words. steven