Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Ballad about Struggle

Can't make up my mind of it is trite or deep. Also, tried translating, but poetry is almost impossible... read Nabokov to find out why :(

Among the melting candles and evening prayers
Among the war trophies and peacetime bonfires
Lived bookish children, who didn't know battles
Tortured by their minor catastrophies.

Children always resent
Their age and their life,-
And we fought till we drew blood,
Until mortal insults.
But our clothes were patched up
By our mothers just in time,
Meanwhile we swallowed up books,
Getting drunk on their words.

Our hair stuck to our sweaty foreheads,
And we were sweetly nauseous from the phrases,
And our heads were spinning from the scent of battle,
That was coming off the yellowed pages.

And we tried to grasp
We, who didn't know wars,
Who mistook howling for
A battle cry,
The mystery of the word "order",
The designation of borders,
The point of an attack and the clash
Of battle chariots.

And in the boiling pots of previous battles and troubles
How much food for out little brains!
To the roles of traitors, cowards, Judas'
In our childish games we assigned our enemies.

And the trail of the evildoer
We would not let get cold,
And the most beautiful ladies
We promised to love,
And calming our friends
And loving those close,
We would put ourselves
In the role of the hero.

But one can't escape into dreams forever:
Playtime is short - how much pain is around!
Try to pry open the hands of the dead
And accept the weapons from their calloused hands.

Experience, possessing
A still warm sword
And putting on armor
What it's all about, what it's all about!
Figure out who you are - a coward
Or one chosen by fate,
And try a taste of real battle.

And when next to you a wounded friend collapses,
And you'll howl, mourning, over your first loss,
And when suddenly you'll be left skinless
Because, they killed him - not you,-

You'll understand that you've recognized,
Discerned, sought out
By the scowl of the visor:
This is death's scowl!
Falsehood and evil - look,
How crude their faces are!
And always behind them -
Crows and coffins.

If you've never eaten
Meat from a knife,
If folding your arms,
You observed from above,
If you've never entered battle
With a scoundrel, an executioner,
Then in life you were
Irrelevant, irrelevant!

If, clearing a path with your father's sword,
You saved the experience of your salty tears,
If in hot battle you've learned what is what,
Then you read the right books when you were young!

Vladimir Vyssotsky (1975)


Blogger The back of the hill said...

read Nabokov to find out why

And despite reading Vladimir Vladimirovich, I have tried to do so.

Dutch poetry will always sound better in Dutch. Chinese poetry will be crystal-concise and pointed only in Chinese.

Some Nabokovian stuff is a great paraody of translated verse - the couplets halfway through Ada come to mind.

June 20, 2007 6:37 PM  

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