To Bulat Okudzhava
Delicate Truth took a walk in a lovely apparel, Having spruced up to delight the poor invalids’ sight. Coarse Lie decided to get this Truth over a barrel, And asked her, “Why don’t ye stay at my place for the night?” Thus with a heart full of trust Truth quite happily dozed off, Blew little bubbles and smiled to herself as she dreamt. Treacherous Lie slyly crept up and snatched her bedclothes off, Dug into Truth and became of that fully content. Then she got up and pulled her a wry bulldog’s face rudely, “She’s just a woman, so why should she make someone care?” One won’t see difference between Truth and Lie, absolutely, With the proviso, of course, that they both will be bare. Next she pulled out the ribbons of gold of her hair, And grabbed her clothes and shoes, having taken measures by sight; Picked up her documents, money and watch, lying there, Spat on the floor, cursed incautious Truth and took to flight. Truth in the morning woke up, and her losses discovered, And felt amused as she looked at herself in the light: By someone’s hand with black soot her clean body was covered With many streaks, but the rest - more or less - looked all right. Facing with stones, Truth but proudly laughed at the crowd, “It’s all a lie, and it’s Lie who wears my lovely dress!” Two blissful invalids wrote a report calling loud Her by bad names and admonishing her for the mess. She was called wicked and even much worse than just wicked, Set by a mongrel, and plastered all over with mud... And their decision ran, “She must be kicked out, evicted! We must in twenty-four hours get rid of this slut!” That long report was fulfilled with the scornful conclusion (And, by the way, they blamed Truth for some crimes they hadn’t solved), “This creature calls herself ‘Truth’ for the sake of confusion, Since she’s a drunk who lay rough till her clothes have dissolved.” Bowing to Lie has been easy from old times till now, Nothing hurts like Truth, she makes all and sundry annoyed. So uncorrupted Truth has since then roamed the rough ground, Meeting with folks, through her bareness, she tries to avoid.         Even today strive for Truth certain fellows pigheaded, But, truth to tell, there’s little of Truth in those guys. Sometime neat Truth will distinctly be in the ascendant, If doesn’t take care and uncovers herself blatant Lie. So don’t ye stay for the night at the place that’s another’s, Be always sure of your host and don’t miss warning signs. One can be picked clean - I swear it’s the purest truth, brothers! Look - it’s your hat on the head of perfidious Lie. Look - it’s your watch on the hand of perfidious Lie. Look - it’s your horse in the coach of perfidious Lie.
© Akbar Muhammad. Translation, 2016
[Adapted from translations by other translators:
Andrey Kneller’s “The Parable about the Truth and the Lie”,
Stas and Margaret Porokhnya’s “A Parable about Truth”,
Sergey Roy’s “A Parable of Truth and Lie”,
Alec Vagapov’s “The Story of the Truth and the Lie”.]