Во все века (In All Ages…) by Yuliya Drunina

In all ages, always, everywhere, and everywhere
It repeats itself, the cruel dream –
The inexplicable kiss of Judas
And the ring of the accursed silver.

To understand such things is a task in vain.
Humanity conjectures once again:
Let him betray (when he cannot do else),
But why a kiss on the lips? …

By Юлия Владимировна Друнина
(Yulia Vladimirovna Drunina)
translated by Albert C. Todd

Во все века

Во все века,
Всегда, везде и всюду
Он повторяется,
Жестокий сон, —
Необъяснимый поцелуй Иуды
И тех проклятых сребреников звон.

Сие понять —
Напрасная задача.
Гадает человечество опять:
Пусть предал бы
(Когда не мог иначе!),
Но для чего же
В губы целовать?…

Я только раз видала рукопашный (So Many Times I’ve Seen…) by Yuliya Drunina

So many times I’ve seen hand-to-hand combat.
Once for real, and a thousand times in dreams.
Whoever says that war is not horrible,
Knows nothing about war.

By Юлия Владимировна Друнина
(Yulia Vladimirovna Drunina)
translated by Albert C. Todd

Я только раз видала рукопашный

Я только раз видала рукопашный,
Раз наяву. И тысячу — во сне.
Кто говорит, что на войне не страшно,
Тот ничего не знает о войне.

Additional information: Yulia Vladimirovna Drunina (Ю́лия Влади́мировна Дру́нина) (May 10, 1924 – November 21, 1991) was a Soviet poet who wrote in the Russian language. She was a nurse and a combat medic during World War II and known for writing lyrics and poetry about women at war. Her works are characterized by moral clarity, sincere intonation and based on her real life experience, including participation in the war as a source of inspiration for her writings.

When she was just eighteen Yuliya Drunina went to the front lines of World War II as an instructor in hygiene. Her first collection of poetry, published in 1948, was an ingenious confession of the horrors of war as seen through the eyes of a young girl who had dragged wounded men on her frail back under fire. Yet her biography is not simple. During the campaign to “smash the cosmopolitans” beginning in 1948, she unexpectedly spoke out against her teacher Pavel Antokolsky. Just as unexpected was her marriage to the lover of Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alilueva, the screenwriter Kapler, who had just been released from Stalin’s Gulag.

During the attacks by party ideologues on the younger generation for its supposed antipatriotism, Drunina defended the young people, saying; “We too were young twits, but when the time came we became soldiers.” She was elected a national deputy during the era of perestroika. She wrote several classic examples of front-line lyrics, among which is the tiny confessional gem included here that is known by heart by thousands of Russian readers. She committed suicide in apparent personal, social, and professional despair.

Biographical information about Drunina, p.738, ‘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).

Roncesvalles by Varlam Shalamov

I was captivated straight away,

tired of the lies all around me,

by that proud, tragic tale

of a warrior’s death in the mountains.

 

And it may have been Roland’s horn

that called me, like Charlemagne,

to a silent pass where the boldest

of many bold fighters lay slain.

 

I saw a sword lying shattered

after long combat with stone –

a witness to forgotten battles

recorded by stone alone.

 

And those bitter splinters of steel

have dazzled me many a time.

That tale of helpless defeat

can’t help but overwhelm.

 

I have held that horn to my lips

and tried more than once to blow,

but I cannot call up the power

of that ballad from long ago.

 

There may be some skill I’m lacking –

or else I’m not bold enough

to blow in my shy anguish

on Roland’s rust-eaten horn.

 

by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов (Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)

(1950?)

translated by Robert Chandler


Fun facts: Shalamov references one of his favourite poems by Marina Tsvetaeva by mentioning Roland’s Horn calling to him.

Roncesvalles is famous in history and legend for the defeat of Charlemagne and the death of Roland in 778, during the battle of Roncevaux Pass, when Charlemagne‘s rear guard was destroyed by Basque tribes. Among those killed in the battle was a relatively obscure Frankish commander, Roland, whose death elevated him and the paladins, the foremost warriors of Charlemagne’s court, into legend, becoming the quintessential role model for knights and also greatly influencing the code of chivalry in the Middle Ages. There are numerous written works about the battle, some of which change and exaggerate events. The battle is recounted in the 11th century The Song of Roland, the oldest surviving major work of French literature, and in Orlando Furioso, one of the most celebrated works of Italian literature.