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    Vladimir Vysotsky's Translations by Eugenia Weinstein

    Someone Spotted a Fruit...

(Translated by Eugenia Weinstein, Jan. '99)

Someone spotted a fruit, still green,
Shook the tree, and it fell to the ground...
Here's one who had no chance to sing,
Never knew that his voice had a sound.

Maybe something went wrong with his fate,
Maybe something with chance was amiss.
The guitar string had tightly been laid
On the frets with a flaw that he missed.

He started humbly with a "do",
But no one happened to adore
His first accord that fell so flat
And disappeared in a trice.
A dog was barking, and a cat
Was chasing mice...

It's so funny, is it not?
He had no chance to show his wit,
To taste his wine... He never got
To even take a nip of it.

Only started an argument, yet
He was timid and slow to begin,
And his soul, like droplets of sweat
From the pores, dripped from under his skin.

Only started a duel, again
So slowly, like never before,
Only grasping the rules of the game,
While the judge hadn't opened the score.

To know all he'd always strive,
And yet he never quite arrived...
He had no chance to reach his peak,
To search below, to seek above,
And her, the only and unique -
To love enough...

It's so funny, is it not?
He hurried, ran, but all in vain.
All questions that he never got
To solve in time - unsolved remain.

Not a letter of mine is a lie:
He was faithful to his pure style -
On the snow he was writing her rhyme...
But the snow would melt in a while.

It was snowing back then, and at least
He was free on the snow to pen,
And the large snowflakes with his lips
He was trying to catch as he ran.

To her, in a silver-gilt landau
He never made it before dawn.
He had no time to leap, to fly,
Never quite ran, the runaway.
His star sign - Taurus - was up high
Lapping the ice-cold Milky Way.

It's so funny, is it not?
When seconds lack and time is tight...
One missing link, and all you got -
A halted flight!..

Seemed funny, didn't it? Of course,
To you and even me, it did.
A bird in flight, a racing horse...
Whose fault is it?..


    Where Are You, Wolves?

(Translated by Eugenia Weinstein, Sept. '02)

To Mikhail Shemyakin

Like a razor, the daybreak slashed over the eyes,
>From the rot of the river took off dragonflies,
Then the gun shutters opened, as if by a spell,
And the gunners appeared, as sure as hell,
And the merriment started - full-swing, at full pelt!

You lay down on your bellies and covered your fangs,
Even those who would dive under round-up flags,
Who would sense every pitfall when life was at stake,
Those whom even a bullet could not overtake -
Also lay, bathed in sweat, and would weaken and shake.

Life is rarely known to smile on my kin,
But we love it - to no avail!
Now, death has a broad and beautiful grin,
And its teeth are all sturdy and hale!

Let us smile the grin of a wolf at the foe,
Dogs are yet to be shown who is stronger!
But - inscribed as a scarlet tattoo on the snow
Is your mark: we are wolves no longer!

So we crawled - tails doggishly tucked, minds dazed,
Tattered muzzles in wonder to heaven upraised:
Whether God's retribution was spilling on us,
Or the end of the world came, or we had gone nuts -
But the steel dragonflies were scorching our guts!

We got soaked in blood in the rainstorm of lead.
There was no escape, and we no longer fled.
Snow would melt underneath us, like under the sun...
Man, not God up above, thought of slaughter as fun:
Fly - and perish in flight, flee - and die on the run!

Raging crowd of dogs, don't you mess with my pack -
If the scuffle is equal - we'll beat you!
Life is good to us wolves, and we treasure it back,
You are dogs - death will properly treat you!

Let us smile the grin of a wolf at the foe,
Cutting short any rumours that wrong us.
But - inscribed as a scarlet tattoo on the snow
Is the mark: we are wolves no longer!

To the woods - I may rescue a few of you still.
To the woods! When you run, you are harder to kill!
Save the cubs! I am thrashing around, easy prey
For the gunners, half-drunk, who are eager to slay,
As I call to the souls of wolves gone astray!..

The survivors are over the creek, lying low.
There is naught I can do, being weak and alone!
I am losing my sight, and my nose is no good...
Wolves, where are you who used to inhabit the woods?
Yellow-eyed kith and kin, just where are you, my wolves?!

...I live on, but around me I see every day
Beasts to whom a wolf's cry is unknown.
These are dogs - distant cousins and earlier prey,
Once chased down by some of our own.

I am smiling the grin of a wolf at my foe:
Rotten splinters of teeth that are long gone.
And, inscribed as a scarlet tattoo on the snow,
Fades the mark: we are wolves no longer!


    Song About Earth

(Translated by Eugenia Weinstein, June '99)

Who could say: "All was burned to a crisp,
Earth will never again be fertile!"?
Who could say that it ceased to exist?
No, it quieted down for a while.

Earth of motherhood try to bereave -
It's as hard as to empty an ocean.
Who believes Earth was burned, who believes?
No, it blackened of grief and commotion.

Gash-like trenches are running across.
Gaping wide, crater wounds never cured,
Laying bare the Earth's very nerves,
Which unspeakable pain have endured.

It'll wait, it'll bear anything, -
Called a cripple will hardly be ever!
Who would argue that Earth doesn't sing?
Who would say it's been silenced forever?!

No! It muffles its groans in a call,
Every wound of it sings, every hole!
Earth is our soul, after all, -
How can boots trample down a soul?!

Who believes Earth was burned, who believes?
No, it quieted down for a while...


    Ballad of the Free Archers

(Translated by Eugenia Weinstein, June '99)

If they scour, wicked fellows,
Seeking your unruly pate,
So your thin neck on the gallows
Even thinner could be made, -
Safest refuge, no doubt,
Is the wood: you won't be lost,
If some rat has sold you out
With your guts, at no cost.

All misfits and lonely paupers,
Scornful of a servant's lot,
All unlucky homeless loafers,
So that debt is all they got,-
Every flotsam, every jetsam
Flee to freedom in this wood,
'Cause its master is a handsome
Good old fellow - Robin Hood!

Here they listen to a loner,
Aren't afraid of sharp remarks;
Here they accept with honour
Dare-devils with a spark.
Even noble knights' approach
Is to hide, till time is right, -
No fear and reproach -
But the purse is always light!

All reindeer tracks they know,
Greenwood folks, from first to last,-
Now free archers on the go,
Slavish servants in the past.
Here, the ragged and the poorest
Will be saved and understood,
While he walks around the forest,
This good fellow - Robin Hood!

Merry men, they live and cope
In the face of all taboos,
Never losing heart and hope,
Those archers in the woods.
They would sleep on moss and feather,
Use for blankets starry skies,-
No matter what the weather -
Still alive, and that is nice!

Yet, each sighs of being parted
>From his home and piece of land,
Just before the battle started,
Strokes a bow, his loyal friend.
Better archers can't be found...
And if morrow's any good -
Knows the finest man around:
One good fellow - Robin Hood!


    The Tightrope Walker

(Translated by Eugenia Weinstein, Aug. '02)

He could neither for rank nor for height hope...
Not for fame and not for payment
In his odd style, without a swerve
All through life he's been walking a tightrope,
Not the pavement, not the pavement -
A tightrope strained like a nerve.

Look! No safety net!
He is moving across...
Half a tilt to the left -
He will fall, he is lost!
Half a tilt to the right -
He is doomed anyway...
But he clearly needs, needs to make it today
Through these four quarters of the way.

Lights were throwing off-step and would pierce
Worse than laurels, sharp and nimble.
The trumpet was going insane...
Shouts "Bravo!" kept blasting his ears,
And the cymbal, and the cymbal
Was hammering into his brain!

Look! No safety net!
He is moving across...
Half a tilt to the left -
He will fall, he is lost!
Half a tilt to the right -
He is doomed anyway...
But he now has less, less to walk, less to sway -
Already three quarters of the way.

"Ah! How awful, how lovely, how daring!
Death-defying! Just three minutes!"
Mouths open in wait and in fright,
>From the pit were gloomily staring
Tiny midgets... Tiny midgets
They appeared to him from his height.

Look! No safety net!
He is moving across...
Half a tilt to the left -
He will fall, he is lost!
Half a tilt to the right -
He is doomed anyway...
But calm down! He's now to balance his weight
For just two quarters of the way!

He would mock fleeting fame, but aspired
To be first, with all his might strove -
Try breaking his kind into crumbs!
It was our nerves, not the wire,
Not the tightrope, not the tightrope,
That he walked to the roll of the drums!

Look! No safety net!
He is moving across...
Half a tilt to the left -
He will fall, he is lost!
Half a tilt to the right -
He is doomed anyway...
But be still! There remains at the end of the day
No more than a quarter of the way!

Screamed the tamer, and animals scurried,
To the stretcher their paws thrust...
But the verdict is simple and blunt:
Whether he was assured or worried,
Into sawdust, into sawdust
He spilled his vexation and blood!

Someone else takes his route
Now, without a net.
Slender cord underfoot...
He will fall, he'll regret!
Leaning right, leaning left -
He is doomed anyway...
But he too, for some reason, must make it today
Through all four quarters of the way!


Original of this page (uptodate, with illustrations and audiofragments)
are placed on Eugenia Weinstein's home page
c Copyright Vladimir Vysotsky
c Translation Copyright, 1999-2002 by Eugenia Weinstein
Email: eugeniav@interlog.com


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