© Copyright Vladimir Vysotsky
    © Copyright english translation by Andrey Kneller
    Email: m.kneller@worldnet.att.net

     Animal herds are swarming through copses
     Not looking for water nor for a snack
     They are fiercely pursuing hunters and horses
     In their happy and cheerful flock

     Beasts have forgotten the elderly curse
     And decided to face whatever still haunts them
     Like uncomfortable shirts, they rip open their furs
     They fall to the ground -- but nobody wants them

     There are many in thickets, lurking and crawling
     Annoying like crickets, weeping and bawling
     Yowling and raving, hissing and flirting
     Attention craving and self-supporting

     The fish is swimming against powerful waves
     You can virtually walk on it towards the ford
     Wanting for once to be caught, each fish raves
     To fall on the plate... and down the throat

     The fish is cold-blooded, unlike the meat
     It longs to get trapped in the fishermen's net
     It dreams of a spot on the stove, near the heat
     With the broth by its gills, there's nothing to dread

     There are many swamps, slavishly swimming
     Covered with lumps, beamingly gleaming
     Sluggishly sleeping and hibernating
     Dinner retrieving and dinner awaiting

     Even the birds crave for shrapnel in flight
     Slowly becoming more agile and neat
     Just so the apples could fit loosely inside--
     The thoughtful geese had nothing to eat

     Courageous bird shows its power in hunting
     It screams to the weak, "Allow me to pass!"
     Then takes its own life with a wailing grunting,
     Without shots being fired, it aims for the grass

     There are many on branches, quietly squealing
     Sitting in bunches, strange and appealing
     Bawling and raving, signing and flirting
     Attention craving and self-supporting

     Fur-bearing beasts are tired of sweating
     They desperately try to get shot and get caught
     Not sharing their warmth is really degrading
     And they often dream of shedding their coat
     Just think for a minute, it's kind of funny--
     Walking into our banks by themselves
     Thousands of dollars in effortless money
     As fabulous fur stocks itself on the shelves

     There are many in thickets, many in bushes
     Annoying like crickets, voluptuously luscious
     Engagingly raving, ferociously flirting
     Attention craving and self-supporting
     Cold-blooded, caring or simply barbarian
     Pasture expending and vegetarian
     Slowly decaying and microbe consuming
     And self-displaying, glowing and blooming
     Gloomily gleaming, harking and talking
     Stirringly swimming, running and walking
     Small and gigantic, strange and appealing
     Raging and frantic, extensively squealing
     Corrupted and evil and wickedly wild
     Seemingly civil, harmless and mild
     Beautiful, ravishing, radiance casting
     Gradually vanishing, and century lasting
     Sluggishly sleeping and hibernating
     Dinner retrieving and dinner awaiting

     Fur is undamaged, fish -- fresher than ever
     Meat with no bullets -- easy chewable food
     Beautifully done, outstandingly clever
     Peacefully, quietly - and no need to shoot!

     Wearing white aprons, commanded to serve,
     With posters "Don't harm!" and lit up with zeal
     The huntsmen protected the nature reserve
     With one commandment "Thou shall not kill!"

     There are many in thickets, frantic and hectic
     Annoying like crickets, guarding, protecting
     With passion ignited, intensively burning
     Thrilled and excited, adventure yearning
     Crawling and lurking, and face concealing
     Cheerless and murky, and space depleting
     Loudly grunting, running and standing
     With pleasure hunting, with nature blending
     Roaring and yelling and peace disturbing
     Harshly compelling, clustering, swarming
     In bushes hiding and heavily breathing
     Mosquito fighting, jumping and heaving
     Awaking the sleeping, marching, parading
     Dinner retrieving and dinner awaiting

     That night, I didn't drink, I didn't sing--
     I stared at her and didn't blink,
     As though a child, as though a child
     But he, who's been with her before
     He told me, I should simply go,
     He told me, I should simply go,
     I'd face denial!

     And he, who's been with her before
     He talked so coarsely and he swore
     But I remembered--I wasn't drunk then
     And as I tried to walk away
     She told me, "What's the hurry, stay!"
     She told me, "What's the hurry, stay,
     It isn't late yet!"

     But he, who's been with her before
     Remembered and did not let go
     And once in fall, and once in fall
     I'm with my friend, they blocked our lane
     They stood together in a chain,
     They stood together in a chain--
     Eight men in all

     With me--my knife and I decide
     I won't go down without a fight
     Watch out you fools! Watch out you fools!
     Why should I wait to be submersed?
     And so, I chose to strike them first
     And so, I chose to strike them first
     Those were the rules

     But he, who's been with her before
     He planned and plotted a fierce row,
     Severe and grave, severe and grave
     Right from behind, someone attacked
     And Johnny warned me, "Watch your back!"
     And Johnny warned me, "Watch your back!"
     It was too late

     For all eight sins--one resolution
     A prison clinic--my conclusion
     I lied there flat, I lied there flat
     The surgeon cut across and down
     He told me, "Man, just hang around!"
     He told me, "Man, just hang around!"
     I did just that!

     The time flew by during my term
     She did not wait for my return
     But I've forgiven, her--I've forgiven
     Yes her, I surely do condone
     But him, who's been with her before
     But him, who's been with her before
     I won't be leaving
     With him, who's been with her before
     With him, who's been with her before
     I will get even

     :: Translation by Eugenia Weinstein with modifications of A.Kneller
     :: Original variant of translation

     Someone spotted a fruit, still unripe
     Shook the branch and it fell, lacking poise
     There's one who did not sing a line
     And was left unaware of his voice

     Perhaps, he had conflicts with fate
     And by chance, his plans went amiss
     But the guitar string had already been laid
     And its flaw was unknowingly missed

     He started humbly with a "do..."
     But never finished that one note
     His first accord fell much too flat
     He made an unexciting vice
     A dog was barking, and a cat
     Was chasing mice...

     It's funny, don't you think it's wry?
     He left his joke halfway complete
     He did not fully taste his wine
     He didn't even take a sip

     He was only plotting his fret
     He was timid and slow to begin
     And his soul, in large droplets of sweat,
     Still perspired from under his skin

     He was starting a duel, so inane
     He walked slowly onto the floor
     Only grasping the rules of the game
     While the ref hadn't opened the score

     He yearned to know so much at once
     And yet, he never quite advanced
     And no conclusion could be drawn
     He never traveled deep enough
     And her, the one who's still alone,
     He lacked a chance to fully love

     It's funny; don't you think it's droll?
     He hurried, ran, but all in vain
     And riddles that he hadn't solved
     Unsolved remained...

     What I'm telling you now aren't lies
     He was pure to the style he held
     On the snow, he was writing her rhymes
     And it's sad that the snow had to melt

     But it was snowing that day, and at least
     He was free to write on the snow
     On the run, he would catch with his lips
     Crystal flakes in their brilliant glow

     But to her, in a silver-gilt surrey
     He never made it all the way
     He had no time to sprint nor fly
     He never ran, the runaway
     His star-sign--Taurus-- from up high
     Just lapped the ice-cold Milky Way

     It's kind of funny, don't you think?
     Not having seconds, time was tight,
     And from a single missing link --
     Unfinished flight, unfinished flight...

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

     I'm gonna blow as if three hundred tons of TNT--
     I'm charged with dullness of all evil-hearted
     But just today, the Muse came forth to me
     Stayed for a while, then departed...

     I know, she had good motives; I understand--
     I have no right to moan here in dismay,
     Just think, a Muse... at night... and with a man!
     God only known, what some might say!

     And yet, I feel rejected and aroused
     Because this Muse--and many will agree!--
     Had daily hung out at Block's house,
     And stayed with Pushkin and never tried to flee

     I rushed towards the desk, still so impatient
     I beg You, God, please keep me in your sight!
     She left, and thus I lacked my inspiration
     And--money that she needed for the ride

     In rage, I rush around the house in a pother
     But I forgive her, even though it's tough
     She left me here alone, but for another
     I guess, I didn't treat her well enough

     Gigantic cake with candles was prepared
     Now it dries up from woe; I, too, feel used
     And with my neighbor--lowlifes, I have shared
     The cognac that was meant just for the Muse

     Like people, years have slowly passed on by
     All's in the past, I yawning from ennui
     She left without a word, without a reason why,
     Two lines are left from her, yes only two

     Here are the lines--without a doubt, I'm a poet;
     I hear applause and I am full of pride;
     "I still remember that amazing moment,
     When you appeared before my sight!"

     Inhale deeply, arms--out more,
     Do not hurry--three and four!
     Grace and pliability are emphasized!
     All around conditioning,
     And hangover quickening,
     If you're still alive and fidgeting-

     If you're working out at home,
     Do lie down!--three and four!
     Correctly go through every single motion!
     Lose the tension that you feel,
     Get accustomed to the drill!
     Inhale deeply right until...

     Quickly growing 'round the world--
     Flu and illness--three and four!
     The disease is gradually flourishing!
     If you're weak--straight to the grave!
     If you want your wellness saved,
     With a towel rub yourself,
     It's nourishing!

     If already you feel spent,
     Sit and stand, sit and stand--
     Do not fear the Arctic and Antarctic!
     Our main scholar Dr. Joffe
     Proved to us that booze and coffee
     Will be replaced by athletic prophy--

     All the talking should be stopped
     Keep on squatting 'till you drop
     Do not be such gloomy creatures!
     If you cannot hold your ardor
     Rub yourself with something harder
     In the water, you can start the
     Drilled procedures

     We're not scared of doltish talk--
     In response we run and walk,--
     Amateurs--triumphant from the start!
     Beautiful!--right from beginning
     No one's losing, no one's winning
     Stationary running is bringing
     Peace to hearts!

     If your friend just became a man,
     Not a friend, not a foe,-- just so,
     If you really can't tell from the start,
     If he's strong in his heart, --
     To the peaks take this man -- don't fret!
     Do not leave him alone, on his own,
     Let him share the same view with you--
     Then you'll know if he's true.

     If the guy on the peak got weak,
     If he lost all his care -- got scared,
     Took a step on the frost -- got lost,
     Tripped and screamed in exhaust, --
     Then the one you held close is false,
     Do not bother to yell-- expel, --
     We can't take such aboard, and in short
     We don't sing of his sort.

     If the guy didn't whine nor pine,
     He was dull and upset, but went,
     When you slipped from the cliff,
     He heaved, holding you in his grip;
     If he walked right along, seemed strong,
     On the top stood like he belonged, --
     Then, whenever the chances are slim
     You can count on him!

     To the scramble of cities and the crowded streets
     We return, for these places have bound us.
     We descend from the conquered mountain peaks,
     Leaving our hearts in the mountains.

     So, I beg you, just stop all the meaningless fights!
     Many times I have proven this speech,
     And to me, the one thing that is better than heights,
     Is the height that I haven't yet reached!

     Who would want to be left by all alone in a mix?
     To descend when the heart starts to revel?--
     Yet, we left from the conquered mountain peaks--
     Gods, themselves, desended from heaven.

     So, I beg you, just stop all the meaningless fights!
     Many times I have proven this speech,
     And to me, the one thing that is better than heights,
     Is the height that I haven't yet reached!

     Beautiful verses in their honor were penned
     And the mountains call us to stay.
     For a year or forever-- but we have to descend,
     We must always return, either way.

     So, I beg you, just stop all the meaningless fights!
     Many times I have proven this speech,
     And to me, the one thing that is better than heights,
     Is the height that nobody has reached!

     Just briefly, I'll explain myself in verse,
     To tell you everything-- I do not have the might.
     I was conceived, the proper way, in curse, --
     In sweat and tenseness of the wedding night.

     I knew, when separating from the earth --
     The higher, the more harsh we got.
     I walked towards the throne that I deserved
     And acted like an heir in line of blood.

     I knew that everything would be just as I ruled.
     And I was never at a loss and never down.
     My mates of sword and those I knew from school
     Were loyal, like their fathers to the crown.

     I never gave my speech a bit of thought.
     Into the wind, I threw my words with pleasance--
     Like to a leader, trust to me was brought
     By noble and high-ranking adolescents.

     We made the guards feel restless in the night,
     From us, like from a pox, the time grew worse.
     I slept on leather; ate right off the knife--
     With stirrups disciplined my wicked horse.

     "Long live the King!" - I had foreseen this cry,
     The destiny has branded me at birth.
     Around chased harnesses, I would get high,
     I'd disregard abuse of books and words.

     I'd smile with my lips while being pestered.
     My mystic stare, which used to burn in fury,
     I've learned to hide, raised by a happy jester.
     And now the jester's dead: "Amen!" Poor Yurik.

     And yet I disapproved of any sharing--
     Of gains, rewards and privileges one has.
     Then, suddenly for life I've started caring
     And rode around the newly sprouted grass,

     I lost the thrill for hunting -- lost its aim,
     I started to despise greyhounds and beagles.
     I sped my horse away from wounded game,
     And whipped the huntsmen and the beaters

     I watched our games with every single night
     Turn more and more into disgrace of time.
     And by the flowing rivers, I would hide
     And wash myself from staining filth and slime.

     I started to perceive, while growing duller,
     I even missed my household's affair.
     Towards the people of this era I grew colder,
     I hid myself in books and lost all care.

     My brain, for wisdom greedy like a spider,
     Grasped everything: the immobility and motion.
     But what is wit when one cannot apply it?
     When all around there's an opposing notion?

     With friends I tore the tread and I was free--
     The thread of Ariadne was but a scheme.
     I pondered on the words "to be or not to be,"
     A problem with no answer as it seemed.

     The sea of grief was splashing in diffusion.
     We stood against it; we were sieving grain,
     And filtering the blurry resolution
     To a dilemma, which appeared inane.

     I heard my father's call when clamor stopped,
     Walked forth, -- while lurking doubts loomed.
     The weight of heavy thoughts would pull me up
     And wings of flesh would drag me to my tomb.

     Into a weak alloy, I've melted with each day,
     And barely cool, it started to diffuse.
     Like others, I've spilled blood and just like they
     I was incapable my vengeance to refuse.

     The rising before death -- was my collapse!
     Ophilia! My dear, I won't decay...
     With killing, I have made myself, perhaps,
     An equal to the one with whom I lay.

     I'm Hamlet, I despised injustice and abuse!
     I did not give a damn about the crown!
     But in their eyes, I hungered fame and I'm accused
     Of sending rivals to the throne into the ground.

     The striking splash appears as an illusion
     And death through birth emerges from a side.
     And we're still asking the deceitful solution
     Not finding the question to abide.

     I was yelling: "You're insane! What happened?
     You have lost our prominence for chess!"
     They responded from the sports department:
     "You can help to lead us from this mess!

     But remember, your opponent's clever--
     Sleeps next to the board and has the might,
     He plays neatly, never makes an error..."
     That's all right! I surely won't surrender, --
     In reserve, I have a sturdy knight!

     Oh, my muscles, strong and grand,
     Rapid fingers, brutal looks! --
     Carved and painted by hand
     Wooden castles, wooden rooks!

     My friend, the soccer player, told me:
     "He's not used to playing such opponents.
     For the rear and center do not worry,
     But, attack him straight along the corners!"

     Started running, confidence obtaining
     Lost some weight and never slept this fine!
     Hockey practices became sustaining...
     I must say that after all this training -
     I should crush my rival in no time!

     Oh, my palms -- so full of might,
     Lower back so tough and brawny!
     Oh, my strong and forceful knights,
     Oh, my bishops bring me glory!

     "Stand up straight and don't be nervous, --
     My friend, the boxer told me that, --
     And don't close in, go for the corpus
     Your advantage is the jab."

     Any doubt of losing now is gone! --
     The defeat is hanging on his tail.
     I played Al ten times, for fun,
     In dominoes, in pool and twenty one, --
     Al exclaimed, "He'll never fail!"

     Oh, my muscles shaped so fine!
     Strong and build on all the sides!
     I'll crush those figures in no time -
     Lightweight bishops, feeble knights!

     In the bar, closed for the night,
     The chef convinced me: "I just know it,
     With that awesome appetite
     You'll eat his pieces in one moment!

     Rest is most important-- that is true!
     Stuff your bag with food or else you'll lose!
     Make sure that you bring some pie... for two,
     Your opponent is as talented as you,
     But when it comes to food, he won't refuse!"

     Oh, we're strong and won't go down
     And the crown we will win!
     Like a pawn, I lay me down--
     Wake up feeling like a queen!

     As we landed on the ground -- we sat down.
     All the pieces were already in their spots.
     The photographers were swarming all around --
     Flashing me, and trying to drive me nuts.

     But, even in my home, -- who can abate me?
     I won't be beaten by reporters' rude abuse!
     My unskillfulness will only aid me
     My opponent won't be capable to rate me--
     He won't be able to foresee my moves.

     Lucky bastard, he'll be first to go,
     People say that he is keen with white! --
     From E-Two he moves up to E-Four,
     Seems familiar... that's right--that's right!

     It's my turn, -- what can you do now, Steph?!--
     Guessing, like through Tundra in the night...
     Queen is greater than the rest -- I recollect--
     Moving back and forth, and right to left,
     While the pattern "L" is for the knights!

     Now I thank my fellow friend mechanic,
     Who has taught me every piece's route.
     Later I have learned-- that from the panic--
     I have played a classical debut!

     I observed that not a blunder passed.
     And I thought about my chef - in woe, distress--
     Oh, swap each figure for a liquor glass! --
     And the board will prove who is the best!

     I could see--his fork begins to rattle--
     Wants to eat--and I would eat the queen!
     With this appetizer, I could use a bottle!
     But alcohol's prohibited within.

     And I'm hungry, -- do not be surprised! --
     Eggs and coffee is our only food!
     Squares are more like circles in my eyes,
     Kings are more like aces in disguise,
     I confuse a double with debut.

     There's a superstition - risk's worth taking! --
     "First time's lucky!"--and I think I'm ready.
     I will punish him with constant checking --
     Oh, if only I could make my pawn a lady!

     I can't make a choice; all seems so blurry--
     And it's time to strike I take my aim!
     Hit him with the rook? -- Seems kind of surly
     Right hook to the jaw? - A little early,
     After all, it's only our first game.

     Breaking my defense, he quickly strikes me --
     With an Indian approach-- from every angle.
     This situation seemingly reminds me
     Of an Indo-Pakistani struggle!

     He should've never joked around with fate!
     I have my methods -- I attack when mad.
     If he decides to end it with a mate,
     Then, I will tackle him, becoming more irate,
     Or hit him with a knight... right on the head!

     Then, just a notch of speed I've started gaining--
     And all was not as dismal as it seemed.
     In the world of chess, a pawn, with training
     Can evolve, with time into a queen.

     With deception my opponent played:
     He'd get up and walk and come around.
     He proposed to me a castle trade,
     It is natural for him to be afraid--
     When I bench three hundred lying down!

     I diminished his small figure with my stare.
     At the moment when he told me, "Check,"
     I revealed my biceps, strong and bare,
     Took my jacket off for more effect.

     At that moment everything grew quiet
     My opponent, watched me rise in awe
     He forgot the game for just a while,
     Realizing-- he was held confined,
     Suddenly agreed to have draw.

     Along the gap, right by the cliff, where the edge is very narrow
     With the whip I lash my horses, striking harder, force applying...
     There's no air  for  me  to breathe,--  I drink  the wind,  the mist  I
     I can feel with tragic passion that I am dying, that I am dying!

     Slow it down, horses, calm your eagerness!
     Do not listen to the old tight thong!
     But the horses that I've got are fastidious--
     Had no time to fully live or sing the song...

     I'll allow them to drink, and this verse I will sing
     Just a little bit longer I will stay on the brink...

     Like a flake, a brutal twister will then sweep me off the palm
     In the morning, by the sledge, on the snow I'll heave and welter
     Slow your gallop, oh my horses,-- make it peaceful and calm
     And extend, somewhat, my journey to the last and final shelter

     Slow it down, horses, calm your eagerness!
     Do not listen to the old tight thong!
     But the horses that I've got are fastidious--
     Had no time to fully live or sing the song...

     I'll allow them to drink, and this verse I will sing
     Just a little bit longer I will stay on the brink...

     We came in time - there's no lateness to God's palace--
     Why are angels singing there with their loud, angry voices?
     And perhaps it is the bell, which is weeping thus with malice,
     When  I'm  screaming  "Slow  it  down!" to  the wild,  unruly

     Slow it down, horses, calm your eagerness!
     I'm begging you, do not charge so strong!
     But the horses that I've got are fastidious--
     Had no time to live, -- let me finish this song!

     I'll allow them to drink, and this verse I will sing
     And just for a moment, I will stay on the brink...

     Debris remaining from the crown
     With no state, no throne around
     There is no country left to govern--
     All is damned!

     And we're--
     Chased to holes like hunted game,
     Caught like thieves to face the blame,
     There's only blood and shame,
     To withstand!

     For us,
     It's impossible to find,
     With whom to split, with whom to bind,
     Who's with us and whom to mind,
     Where to go, where to unwind -- we can't tell.
     Where's spirit?
     Where's honor?
     Where's guilt?
     Where are friends and where are strangers,
     How did we neglect this danger,
     Do we wish to cast this land to hell?

     And shame--
     On all of those who value rest
     On those, whose conscience is a pest,
     Who cannot choose in all this mess
     To kill.

     A call!...
     And like a bull during a fray,
     Like a hawk -- after a prey,
     Seducing ravens all to stay
     For the meal.

     Hey you!
     Where's the strength that lit your face?
     Where's the pride with which we've gazed?
     To rest today -- it's a disgrace!
     Grip the pistol in your hand and go!
     An end!
     To all
     An end!
     All is broken, all seems brittle
     We are left with just a little, --
     Aiming at the temple or the foe.

     My friends light up the candles for me still,
     And in the smoke, your image is outlined,
     And I don't want to know that time will heal,
     That everything will pass away with time.

     No longer will I ever lose my verve,
     For any burden on my soul and any pain,
     Unknowingly, she took along with her--
     At first, into the port, then on the plane.

     Inside my soul there are deserted lands.
     What are you seeking in this fruitless blur?!
     There are just fragments of old songs and webs,
     And all the rest she took along with her.

     Inside my soul are goals without means.
     Go dig inside,-- you'll find there, by chance,
     Two simple phrases and unfinished scenes,
     And all the rest is now in Paris, France.

     My friends light up the candles for me still,
     And in the smoke, your image is outlined,
     But I don't want to know that time will heal,
     That everything will pass away with time.

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