The name of the main character is not mentioned in the poem. Mtsyri in Georgian means non-serving monk, something like novice. The titles of the chapters are conventional.
Chapters 1-2. The Story of Mtsyri
Once upon a time there was a monastery in the mountains of eastern Georgia. The monastery flourished in the early 19th century, when Georgia was just incorporated into the Russian Empire, but later fell into decay and dilapidation, and only an old gray-haired watchman guarded the old graves in the monastery's cemetery.
In the days of prosperity a Russian general passed by the monastery. He was carrying with him a captive boy of about six years old, wild, timid and weak. The boy could not bear the hardships of the long journey and became seriously ill.
But in him a painful affliction
"then developed the mighty spirit...
Of his fathers. Without complaint he
"He languished, not even a faint moan
From his children's lips not even a faint moan,
He rejected food with a sign,
He died quietly and proudly.
One of the monks kept him and let him out.
The boy grew up in the monastery, which became a prison for him. At first he shunned "childish pleasures," avoided everyone and longed for his homeland, but then he got used to captivity and learned to understand the language spoken by the monks. The old monk christened Mtsyri, who was already preparing to become a monk himself, but disappeared one night.
For three days the monks searched the surroundings of the monastery and finally found the young man, exhausted and exhausted. Once again in captivity, Mtsyri did not answer questions, rapidly fading, and soon it was clear that he was dying.
A monk, who had raised him, came to the young man "with an exhortation and an entreaty. Gathering the rest of his strength, Mtsyri began his confession.
Chapters 3-8. Mtsyri decides to escape
Mtsyri confesses to the monk that he would trade two such lives for "one, but full of worries". Since his childhood, he had been tormented by one "but fiery passion": he dreamed of escaping and seeing the free world full of "anxieties and battles."
Mtsyri thought that in vain the old monk saved him from death, for his life was sullen and lonely. "By soul a child, by fate a monk," he did not know his father and mother and swore that he would find his kin.
On the outside, Mtsyri felt his memory clearing up. He looked at the "gray-haired, immutable Caucasus" and realized that he had once lived there. He remembered his native village in a deep gorge, his father and the beautiful young sisters who sang over his cradle. Along the gorge ran a fast river, by which Mtsiri had played as a child, and in his father's house, in the evenings by the hearth, long stories were told.
Mtsyri escaped from the monastery at night during a thunderstorm. The monks, frightened by the storm, were praying at the altar, but Mtsyri was not afraid, he "would be glad to embrace the storm." Thus began his short stay in the wild, which became a real life for Mtsyri. "Without these three blissful days," Mtsyri's life would have been even sadder and gloomier.
Chapters 9-11. Wandering on the mountain steeps
Mtsiri wandered for a long time and only came to rest at dawn. He heard a jackal "screaming and crying like a child" somewhere in the mountains, and a snake slithering between the rocks, but Mtsyri was not afraid. He himself, like a beast, shunned people and hid like a snake.
When dawn broke, the young man saw that he lay at the edge of a deep ravine, at the bottom of which flowed a rough river.
The young man lay admiring the trees and grasses around him, beautiful and blooming like "God's garden," and he listened to the voices of nature, among which "only man's proud voice" did not resound. He looked at the clear sky and dreamed until the midday heat made him thirsty.
Chapters 12-13. Meeting the Girl
Going down to the river to drink, Mtsyri heard the noise of someone's footsteps. The young man hid in the bushes and soon heard a song, and then saw a beautiful, slender young Georgian girl in poor clothes. With a pitcher on her head she was going down to the river for water.
The summer heat
Covered her face and bosom with a golden shadow.
Her face and bosom; and the heat
Breathed from her lips and cheeks.
And the gloom of her eyes was so deep,
So full of love's secrets,
That my fervent thoughts
My thoughts are confounded.
At the sight of the beauty, Mtsyri's mind became confused. While he was recovering, the Georgian woman managed to draw water and leave.
Far away, the young man saw two stone houses, as if joined to the rock. Smoke was billowing over the flat roof of one of them. Into it the girl stepped.
Mtsyri retained the memories of these wonderful moments until his death, and he wanted them to die with him.
Chapters 14-19. Fighting the Wild Leopard
Tired after a sleepless night, the young man lay down in the shade and fell asleep. He dreamt of a young Georgian girl, and woke up from a strange and sweet longing that prevented him from breathing. Night had already fallen, the moon had risen, "the world was dark and silent." Mtsyri saw a light in the house where the girl lived, he wanted to go in, but he could not give up his goal: "to go to his native land."
Disregarding the intense hunger, the young man set out on his journey. Losing sight of the mountains, he got lost and wandered into a thick forest. Mtsyri climbed a tree, saw that all around was an endless forest, and wept in despair. But even now he did not want "human help," realizing that he was a stranger to people.
Wandering, Mtsyri came to a moss-covered clearing. Suddenly, "a mighty leopard, the eternal guest of the desert," leapt out of the thicket. The young man armed himself with a strong bough, his heart kindled with a thirst for blood and fight. The leopard sensed the enemy and attacked. Mtsyri managed to hit the beast with the bitch and cut its forehead, but the leopard did not give up and rushed at the young man. "Intertwined like a pair of snakes," the man and the wild beast fell to the ground.
And I was terrified in that moment;
Like a desert leopard, angry and wild,
I flamed and squealed like him;
As if I myself were born
In a family of leopards and wolves
Under the fresh canopy of the forests.
Mtsyri managed to poke a bough into the neck of a leopard. Fighting, he felt like a wild beast. Having received a mortal wound, the leopard died bravely, like a warrior in battle.
With difficulty, Mtsyri, wounded by the leopard's claws, wandered deep into the forest.
Chapters 20-23. Return to the Monastery
Mtsyri only got out of the forest in the morning. Looking around, he realized that he found himself near a monastery. All the hardships suffered during these days were in vain: "barely looking at God's light," the young man returned to his prison.
A bell rang in the distance. This sound awakened the young man for many years, driving away dreams of family and friends, of wild and free steppes, of light and furious horses and battles, in which Mtsyri was defeated by everyone. He realized that he would never see his relatives. Just as a frail flower that grew in a dungeon could not grow in a beautiful garden, so the young man could not survive in the wild: the monastery, his prison, left its stamp on him. Mtsyri fell into the grass, gripped by a deathbed delirium.
It was quiet all around, everything in nature was asleep, stunned by the heat, only a snake was slithering in the grass. Mtsyri thought he was lying at the bottom of a cold and deep river. He liked the darkness and coolness surrounding him. Above him floated "motley flocks of fish." One of the fish, covered with golden scales, was especially affectionate to the young man. She sang to him, telling him how good and fun it would be for Mtsyri if he stayed with her forever. The song of the goldfish merged with the murmuring of the water, and the young man lost consciousness.
Chapters 24-26. Mtsyri's Death
Mtsyri, wounded and unconscious, was found by the monks. The young man knew that he was dying, but did not repent of his escape. The only thing that saddened him was that no one would mourn him and bury him in his native land. The fire that had been burning in Mtsyri's chest all his life had finally "burned out his prison".
In a holy, heavenly land
My spirit will find a shelter...
Alas! - ♪ In a few minutes ♪
Between steep and dark cliffs,
Where I played as a child,
I would trade paradise and eternity...
Mtsyri asked the old monk before his death to carry him to the monastery garden and put him between the flowering bushes of white acacia trees, where you can see the Caucasus. When he dies, the young man will look at his native mountains, perhaps he will think that his brother or father is leaning over him, and then he will fall asleep peacefully, without cursing anyone.
The retelling is based on edition of the poem from Lermontov's Collected Works in 4 volumes (L.: Nauka, 1980).