Song of the Storm-Petrel


Maksim Gorky

Translated by George Jeshurun

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First published in Cosmopolitan, 40 (Jan, 1906) 260-61.

This web edition published by eBooks@Adelaide.

Last updated Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 14:30.

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eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

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Song of the Storm-Petrel

Translated by George Jeshurun

BETWEEN the ocean and the thunder,

Between black clouds and the gray water,

Speeds and floats and sweeps the petrel,

Before the storm, before the wildness —

Harbinger and mad foreboding.

Now he flouts the black sea-water,

Now he stabs into the cloud-ranks,

Hurling on them cries defiant,

Cries of war and tempest madness,

Cries of rage and white-hot passion,

And high strains of triumph battle

Upward through his storm-born crying.

Hark the moaning gulls around him,

Hark their shuddering calls of terror

At his fearful fighting pæan.

Fain, fain they are to sink and hide them

Far below the rush and wildness

Down to utter dark and quiet

In the caverned ocean shelter,

While the frailest soul, the penguin,

Hides and flutters, weakly yearning

For the rocks to fall and hide him.

But the one free soul, the petrel,

Floats unharmed above the chaos,

Gray with anger, stanch with raging,

While the darkness, growing blacker,

Hangs above the sea-flung mountains,

And the topmost, ever madder,

Leap and dash in frenzied laughter,

Toss their curses as to welcome

Crash and hurricane and lightning.

Listen to the rolling whirlwind,

Striving for the sea’s uprooting.

Now he grasps with rage titanic

One vast shrieking hell of water,

Dashing it upon the sea-rocks,

Where it sinks with one vast moaning

In a grave of tearful whiteness.

And the petrel in the cloud-heights,

The one rival of the lightning,

Scatters down his splendid crying,

Drawing from the very danger

Urge and will to cry forever.

There he’s laughing like a demon,

Like a god of all the tempest,

Laughing, calling, crying, sobbing,

At the clouds that strive to veil him.

Laughter mingles with his sobbing

At the storm-wind’s futile anger.

He the demon, wily, subtle,

He has long heard weaker singing.

Something tells him not forever

Can the glorious sun be hidden.

Not forever, not forever.

This web edition published by:

eBooks@Adelaide
The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005