The enemy had burned his cottage home,
And murdered all his family.
So where can a soldier turn his steps,
To whom can he carry his sorrow?
In his deep grief the soldier went
Until he came to a crossroad.
He found in the expanse of field
A mount that was overgrown with grass.
The soldier stood and choked back
The lumps he felt rising in his throat.
The soldier said: “Praskovya, welcome home
A hero – it’s your husband.
“Prepare refreshments for your guest,
Lay the wide table in the house –
My day, the occasion of my return,
I’ve come to celebrate with you…”
There was nobody to answer him.
And nobody to meet the soldier,
It was only the warm breeze of summer
That stirred the grass upon the grave.
The soldier sighed, adjusted his belt,
And opening his soldier’s knapsack,
He then placed a little bottle
Upon the gray tombstone and said:
“Do not blame me, Praskovya,
That I have come to you like this:
I meant to drink your health,
And now must drink that you should rest in peace.
“Boys and girls will be reunited,
But you and I shall never be…”
The soldier drank from a copper cup
Wine and sorrow half and half.
He drank, the soldier, the people’s servant,
And with sore heart said then:
“It took four years for me to reach you;
I subdued three countries on my way.”
The soldier grew tipsy, and a tear
Rolled down, for all his shattered hopes,
And on his breast there shone a medal
For capturing Budapest.
by Михаил Васильевич Исаковский
(Mikhail Vasilyevich Isakovsky)
translated by Lubov Yakovleva
Враги сожгли родную хату
Враги сожгли родную хату,
Сгубили всю его семью.
Куда ж теперь идти солдату,
Кому нести печаль свою?
Пошел солдат в глубоком горе
На перекресток двух дорог,
Нашел солдат в широком поле
Травой заросший бугорок.
Стоит солдат — и словно комья
Застряли в горле у него.
Сказал солдат. «Встречай, Прасковья,
Героя — мужа своего.
Готовь для гостя угощенье,
Накрой в избе широкий стол.
Свой день, свой праздник возвращенья
К тебе я праздновать пришел…”
Никто солдату не ответил,
Никто его не повстречал,
И только теплый летний ветер
Траву могильную качал.
Вздохнул солдат, ремень поправил,
Раскрыл мешок походный свой,
Бутылку горькую поставил
На серый камень гробовой:
«Не осуждай меня, Прасковья,
Что я пришел к тебе такой:
Хотел я выпить за здоровье,
А должен пить за упокой.
Сойдутся вновь друзья, подружки,
Но не сойтись вовеки нам…”
И пил солдат из медной кружки
Вино с печалью пополам.
Он пил — солдат, слуга народа,
И с болью в сердце говорил:
«Я шел к тебе четыре года,
Я три державы покорил…»
Хмелел солдат, слеза катилась,
Слеза несбывшихся надежд,
И на груди его светилась
Медаль за город Будапешт.
Additional information: Mikhail Vasilyevich Isakovsky (Михаи́л Васи́льевич Исако́вский; 19 January [O.S. 7 January] 1900 – 20 July 1973) was a Soviet and Russian poet, lyricist and translator. He twice received the Stalin Prize for his songwriting (1943 and 1949). In 1970, he was awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labour. He was also awarded four Orders of Lenin, in addition to other orders and medals.
Many poems of Isakovsky are set to music. Two of the most famous are “Katyusha (Катюша)” (music by Matvey Blanter) and, as featured in the post under an alternative translation of the title, “The Enemy Burned My Native Hut (Враги сожгли родную хату)” (music by Matvey Blanter). The song “The Enemy Burned My Native Hut (Враги сожгли родную хату)” (1945) was officially criticized for “pessimism” and was not printed or sung until 1956.
He also published a book on the subject of poetry, О поэтическом мастерстве (‘On Poetic Mastery‘).
Mikhail Isakovsky died in Moscow on 20 July 1973, and he was buried in the Novodevichy Cemetery.
Isakovsky was born into a peasant family. He joined the Bolshevik party in 1918 and worked as a young journalist in Smolensk. His first poems were published in 1914 in the Moscow newspaper Nov’ (Virgin Soil); his first collection Provoda v solome (Wires in the Straw), in 1927, received mixed reviews but was approved by Maksim Gorky. He achieved enormous success with his folk song-like ballads, which made his the most recognized poet of the new collectivized countryside. Some critics today, however, have condemned Isakovsky for his praise of collectivization and his deliberate blindness to the misery in the villages.Biographical information about Isakovsky, p.394, ‘Twentieth Century Russian Poetry’ (1993), compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (ed. Albert C. Todd and Max Hayward) , published by Fourth Estate Limited by arrangement with Doubleday of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group Inc. (transcribed as found in the original text).
Isakovsky so craved a new fairy tale world that it must have seemed to him that to create it in poetry would turn it into reality. His best songs did become a part of reality. For his many wartime patriotic songs he was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1942. A sincere, modest man who shunned the glitter of fame, Isakovsky hardly touched the authentic problems of real life but chose to believe in a goodness that sometimes was marked with evil. Exceptional therefore in his classic masterpiece included here.