Itís my fate, to fight on to the end, to the cross. Itís my lot, to keep wrangling and shout myself hoarse, And to argue and fight, till I froth at the mouth, That itís all of it wrong - silly words, crooked path: That the hucksters are lying about Christís mistakes, That the wailing still echoes at countless wakes, That we still bear the scars of the cursed Tartar yoke, Of the three hundred years that all went up in smoke. Yoke or not, Kalita1 strengthened Muscovyís throne, Those who fought one to ten felt no longer alone, Then - more proof that goodwill and revolt are in vain: Pugachov2, blood and misery, and blood again. Iíll repeat it, though people wonít get it, at first. I will say it in earnest, in malice and jest, Though I sometimes believe that the point has been lost: Itís all vanity, and of all vain things, the worst. But I canít drain the cup, not as long as I run. Even if I spill half, I do not think I can. And I canít throw the cup in an enemyís face - Iím not lying or bragging, I simply confess. On a slippery disk, swiftly turning, I reel. I keep losing my balance, I writhe like an eel. Shall I smash into pieces my cup? But I canít! For a worthier man I shall patiently hunt. Iíd hand over the cup, and Iíd slide off the disk. Iíd be free from the worry, I would be released. I would hide in the darkness, the sleet and the snow. He might finish the cup - only Iíd never know. Now I graze in a meadow, with other old bums. Not a hint at the cup left undrained - I keep mum. Not a murmur - I guess I had best save my breath. It I donít, Iím afraid Iíll be trampled to death. I am breaking my back, boys, I do what I can, And some day one of you may for me light a candle - For the naked nervesí sting as I sing and I choke, For the tough jolly manner in which I make jokes. Even if I am threatened with all kinds of woe, Even if I am promised rewards, I say no! I will not sound too good if my nerves dangle loose - I best take up the slack and then lighten the screws. I would rather carouse, romp, raise all hell and fight, I would rather tear up what I wrote in the night, I would rather knock down and kick senseless my song Than dance happily like butterflies in the sun. If I do drain the cup - after all, itís my fate - If my songs arenít too crude, and the tunes do not grate, I shall froth at the mouth, but I shall not complain; I shall go - but Iíll prove that not all is in vain!
1 Ivan Kalita (?-1340) - Prince of Muscovy, Grand Duke of Vladimir. Under Kalita, the resurgence of Russian national consciousness and power began.
2 Yemelyan Pugachov (1740-1775) - leader of a peasant uprising under Catherine the Great. Sergei Yesenin wrote Pugachov, a drama in verse. In its Taganka production, Vysotsky played Khlopusha, one of Pugachovís closest associates. The part is remembered as an embodiment of the spirit of revolt.
© Sergei Roy. Translation, 1990