Translating the poem "Looking for a Master"

This poem is about the very first years of Max’s life as a personality combined of several others. The memories of being someone else before are still fresh and haunting: the fog, comrades dying, him unable to save them, him taking what was theirs: memories, skills.

Max had a chance to leave his path and settle down. He could have had his own martial arts school and faithful students. He could have had an apprentice and a family. He refused all that to continue on his path and gamble for the biggest prize a human being can imagine...

This poem is a letter to the guy, Nirk, who was his biggest fan and wanted to be his apprentice. Nirk was everything Max wasn’t: he was kind, naive, hopeful; there was no crushing trauma in his past, no evil in his heart. Departing, Max wished him the best. The poem reflects that. It says: yes, freedom is hard but don’t give it away, don’t look for some guru who would show you where to go, don’t worship anyone; every person can teach you one thing or the other, learn from them but go your own way; in the end, you will find yourself and it will be well worth the effort.

The original Russian text:

В поисках учителя

Как она тяжела, свобода
Для твоих неокрепших крыл!..
Не ищи же, мой друг, кого-то,
Кто бы вел тебя и учил,

Кто бы мудрость седых столетий
На ладони тебе поднес,
Кто сумел бы легко ответить
На гнетущий тебя вопрос.

Не ищи ты кого-то, где-то,
Кто грозил бы самой грозе,
Кто познал бы все грани света
И сумел бы вместить их все.

Небо каждому дарит лучик;
Кто успел, тот его поймал...
Каждый странник тебя научит
Знакам жизни, что ты не знал.

И случится однажды встреча...
Ты поднимешь взгляд к небесам
И поймешь: твой учитель вечен,
Твой учитель – и есть ты сам.

My rough translation

Searching for a master

How heavy the freedom is
For your fledgeling wings!
My friend, don’t look for someone
Who would guide and teach you,

Who the wisdom of the grey ages
Would bring you on their palm,
Who would answer easily
The question that weighs you down.

Don’t look for someone somewhere
Who would threaten the thunder itself,
Who would know all the sides of the light
And could take hold of them all.

The sky gives its light to everyone,
Who is quick enough, gets it…
Every stranger will teach you
The aspects of life you didn’t know before.

And one day you will have the encounter…
You will rise your eyes to the sky
And see the truth: your master is eternal,
Your master is you.

Alan Jackson's translation:

Looking for a Master

Freedom exacts so heavy a toll
On your fledgeling wings!
Friend, do not seek one to control
What your life’s road brings,

Who ancient wisdom’s hoard doles out
To your hand's pleading,
Who easily lifts the load of doubt
That leaves your soul bleeding.

Don’t seek someone somehow somewhere
Who could thunder tame;
Who every side of the world can dare
To hold, to grasp, to name.

The sky gives rays to every heart –
A brief ray to each;
Every stranger the gates will part
Of new realms with their speech.

One day you will lift your vision through
Earth, sea, sky,
To the truth shining for ever in you –
And on your own wings fly.

Jump to another poem:

About the project:
My scifi and fantasy novels have a lot of poems in them that can not be removed without destroying the plot. Alas, my English in not good enough for translating poetry. Alan Jackson helps me to translate the poems. It makes the translation of my novels possible.