What’s this house, so still, Sunk so low in gloom? Swept by evil winds, It but vaguely looms. All its windows look On a deep ravine. And the broken gates Towards the highway lean. Ah, how fagged I was! I unharnessed the team. Hey, folks, lend us a hand - are you all of you dead? Not a soul, just a shadow moved near, quick and dim. And a buzzard in circles flew low overhead. Like a dirty dive, This house surely is, And the people here Look like enemies. For unbidden guests, A fist in the eye. Even icons hang Anyhow, awry. I sat down, and a meaningless, strange talk began. Someone beat a guitar, someone crooned pitiously. And a slobbering fellow, a mad hooligan, Pulled a razor-sharp blade, and he wagged it at me. "Look, what house is this - Who the deuce can tell? Was it hit by plague? Or - by what the hell? Why no candles burn. And the air’s so foul? There’s no life, no song - It’s all death and howl? All the doors here are open but all souls are barred. Who’s the host in this house? Can’t you give me a shot?" And they told me, "You really have come from afar. We have long lived like this - or have you forgot? Now we feed on grass, We have gone to pot, And our soured souls Stink of muck and rot. Most amuse themselves Swilling rotgut wine, Fight and hang themselves, Ruin the house, the swine." "Wolves have chased me, I’ve driven my horses to death. Tell me where is the land lit with icon-lamp light. Tell me where is that place, where’s that spot on the earth, Where they sing and not howl, and where wrong is not right?" "We have never heard Of a place like that, And we’ve always lived In the dark, like rats. We have always known That the good’s no good, All our icons are Black with greasy soot." Then away from the stench, icons hanging awry, I went tearing along, off the highway again, Dropped the whip and the reins, let the team bolt away For the land where lived men, and where men lived like men. How much water’s flowed off the good old earth! I’ve been smashed by life - thank God, not to death. Maybe this my song wasn’t deep or wise - I had better sing of those dark big eyes.
© Sergei Roy. Translation, 1990