To Bulat Okudzhava
Truth walked the earth once in fine clothes - which she used to wear Only to please all the poor and the cripples in their plight. Crude Lie decoyed tender Truth one night into her lair, Telling her, Why donít you stay at my place overnight? Gullible Truth went to bed and slept quietly and soundly, Dribbling saliva, and smiling a radiant smile. Crude Lie first hogged all the blankets and then started sucking At Truthís lifeblood, feeling as pleased as Punch all the while. Then she rose swiftly and made a crude face at the other: Ha! Just a dame! Whatís so special about this damn bitch? Truth or Lie, there is no difference at all, whatever - If you undress them, of course - you canít tell which is which. Then golden ribbons she nimbly pulled out of the tresses. Put on the dress and the shoes that the other one wore, Picked up the money, the watch and the papers, with curses Spat on the floor, coarsely swore, and skipped out of the door. Truth in the morning woke up, and her losses discovered, And felt amused as she looked at herself in the light: Somebodyíd got hold of soot and her body had covered In dirty streaks, but the rest - more or less - looked all right. Truth merely laughed when they stoned her, and told those dense people: "These are all lies, and the fine clothes Lieís wearing are mine." But a report was made out by a couple of cripples Who called her all the bad names they could think of, the swine. They called her bitch, and much worse; and with jeers and with howls She was all tarred, and then baited with dogs by the hoods. "Get lost, and stay lost!" They gave her just twenty-four hours In which to pack and get out of the city for good. That report ended in brazen-faced, impudent slander (Jobs done by others were pinned on the poor Truth, to boot): This bum who called herself Truth, they wrote, went on a bender, Hocked all her clothes to get booze, and was found in the nude. How pure Truth pleaded, sobbed and swore by all that is holy! Knocking all over the world, she was broke and in pain. One dark night, Dirty Lie stole a fast, thoroughbred filly And rode away with a whoop of delight and disdain.
A certain crank tried to vindicate Truth - heís still trying. True, thereís no truth in his speeches - theyíre cunning and sly: "Time will come, brothers, when Truth will be certain to triumph - Always provided it acts in the same way as Lie." Often, when you split a bottle of booze with two others1, You donít know where you will spend the night, with whom or why. You can be picked clean - I swear itís the purest truth, brothers - Look - those are your trousers, stolen by insidious Lie. Look - that is your watch, now worn by insidious Lie. Look - that is your horse that carries insidious Lie!
1 Vysotsky refers here to the accepted way of dealing with vodka: a bottle (half a litre) is poured into three glasses which are downed at a draught. In the drinking circles, the system is known as "for three" (na troikh).
© Sergei Roy. Translation, 1990