The Russian Review/Volume 1/May 1916/Lights

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By V. G. Korolenko.

Translated for "The Russian Review."

A long time ago, on a dark autumn evening, I happened to be going in a boat up a gloomy Siberian river. Suddenly, beyond a bend of the river, a tiny speck of light flashed ahead, at the foot of some dark mountains.

It flashed brightly, clearly, as though it were very near . . .

"Thank God!" said I joyfully. "Now we are near a place to spend the night."

The man at the oars glanced at the light over his shoulder, and then resumed his apathetic strokes.

"It's far away."

I did not believe him. The light seemed to be so close by, standing out against the vague darkness. But the oarsman was right; the light was really far away.

What a peculiar property do these night lights possess! They approach you ever so closely, conquering the darkness and burning in its midst, beckoning to you and alluring you with their nearness. It seems that two or three strokes more, and you will be at the end of your journey . . . And yet, that end is far, far away.

And on that autumn night, too, it was for a long time after we noticed the light that we were going up the river, black as ink. Rocks and gorges sprang up before us, seemed to be moving towards us, and then floated away, lagging behind and disappearing in the darkness, while the tiny speck of light was still standing before us, there, ahead, twinkling and beckoning, ever near, yet ever far away . . .

And even now, I often recall this dark river, with the rocky cliffs crowding upon its banks, and the tiny speck of light burning far ahead. Many a light has thus allured me and others with its apparent nearness. But life flows, on, between its gloomy banks, and the lights are far away. And again we must ply our oars . . .

And yet . . . and yet, there are lights ahead! . . .