Somebody must have played a trick on me, Iím laughing, for itís like distorting mirrors, - Big noses, clownís grins, - it seems to be A fancy-ball, or carnival in Venice. A dancing crowd has encircled me, They push me urging me to take my chances. My ordinary face, as I can see, Was taken for a mask by the rejoicing dancers. Confetti, fireworks... But all I do is vain, They look at me reproachfully, with sadness, The say that I am out of time again, That I keep stepping on the shoes of partners. What shall I do? Shall I just run away? Or had I better go on making merry? I hope beneath the masks of beasts of prey Some have a human face and normal bearing. They all are masked and "wigged", - each is akin To fairy tale or literary figure Here is a hangman, thereís a gloomy harlequin, And every third one is a stupid piggy.         I join the dancers, laughing, yet I feel, Uneasy and disturbed: it may so happen, - Someone may like his hangmanís mask and will Refuse to take it off and be quite happy. What if the gloomy looking harlequin Should really be disheartened and cast down? What if the fool should wear his stupid grin Upon his normal face, without a frown?                
        I wish I could discern a really good face And tell an honest man from a dishonest... To save their faces from a break-up and disgrace They put on masks and wear them in earnest. I know what masks are for, and I expect Iím right in guessing the ingenious riddle: The masks that people wear will protect Their faces from a slap and spittle.
© Alec Vagapov. Translation, 1999