Maxim Gorky was born 150 years ago this month. His works remain widespread on all continents and contribute to the consolidation of proletarian class-consciousness.
Gorky’s socialist-realist method is his ground-breaking world literary achievement. His books, stories and plays continue to be a touchstone and benchmark for socialist writers all over the world. We wish to pay tribute to him by printing here a poem for which he became famous.
“Storm Petrel” (1901)
High above the silvery ocean winds are gathering the storm-clouds, and between the clouds and ocean proudly wheels the Stormy Petrel, like a streak of sable lightning.
Now his wing the wave caresses, now he rises like an arrow, cleaving clouds and crying fiercely, while the clouds detect a rapture in the bird’s courageous crying.
In that crying sounds a craving for the tempest! Sounds the flaming of his passion, of his anger, of his confidence in triumph.
The gulls are moaning in their terror—moaning, darting o’er the waters, and would gladly hide their horror in the inky depths of ocean.
And the grebes are also moaning. Not for them the nameless rapture of the struggle. They are frightened by the crashing of the thunder.
And the foolish penguins cower in the crevices of rocks, while alone the Stormy Petrel proudly wheels above the ocean, o’er the silver-frothing waters.
Ever lower, ever blacker, sink the storm-clouds to the sea, and the singing waves are mounting in their yearning toward the thunder.
Strikes the thunder. Now the waters fiercely battle with the winds. And the winds in fury seize them in unbreakable embrace, hurtling down the emerald masses to be shattered on the cliffs.
Like a streak of sable lightning wheels and cries the Stormy Petrel, piercing storm-clouds like an arrow, cutting swiftly through the waters.
He is coursing like a Demon, the black Demon of the tempest, ever laughing, ever sobbing—he is laughing at the storm-clouds, he is sobbing with his rapture.
In the crashing of the thunder, the wise Demon hears a murmur of exhaustion. And he knows the storm will die and the sun will be triumphant; the sun will always be triumphant!
The waters roar. The thunder crashes. Livid lightning flares in storm-clouds high above the seething ocean, and the flaming darts are captured and extinguished by the waters, while the serpentine reflections writhe, expiring, in the deep.
It’s the storm! The storm is breaking!
Still the valiant Stormy Petrel proudly wheels among the lightning, o’er the roaring, raging ocean, and his cry resounds exultant, like a prophecy of triumph—
Let it break in all its fury!
Source: M. Gorky, Selected Short Stories, Moscow: Progress Publishers, 1955.
On-line version: Maxim Gorky Internet Archive (www.marxists.org), 2002