Нежность (Gentleness) by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

This can’t go on:
is after all injustice of its kind.
How in what year did this come into fashion?
Deliberate indifference to the living,
deliberate cultivation of the dead.
Their shoulders slump and they get drunk sometimes
and one by one they quit;
orators at the crematorium
speak words of gentleness to history.
What was it took his life from Mayakovsky?
What was it put the gun between his fingers?
If with that voice of his, with that appearance,
if ever they had offered him in life
some crumbs of gentleness.
Men live. Men are trouble-makers.
Gentleness is a posthumous honour.

by Евгений Александрович Евтушенко
(Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko)
(1960)
translation by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi

Нежность

Разве же можно,
чтоб все это длилось?
Это какая-то несправедливость…
Где и когда это сделалось модным:
«Живым — равнодушье,
внимание — мертвым?»
Люди сутулятся,
выпивают.
Люди один за другим
выбывают,
и произносятся
для истории
нежные речи о них —
в крематории…
Что Маяковского жизни лишило?
Что револьвер ему в руки вложило?
Ему бы —
при всем его голосе,
внешности —
дать бы при жизни
хоть чуточку нежности.
Люди живые —
они утруждают.
Нежностью
только за смерть награждают.

Additional information: This poem’s subject is the suicide of Vladimir Mayakovsky which, for a long time, was speculated to be a government sanctioned assassination though Mayakovsky was prone to suicidal ideation.

Хотят ли русские войны? (Do the Russians want war?) by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Do Russian people stand for war?
Go, ask the calm on plain and shore
The wide expanse of field and lea,
The birches and poplar tree.

The soldiers who once fought abreast,
And near the birches lie at rest,
Their sons will answer by the score,
Ask them if Russians are,
Ask them if Russians are,
Ask them if Russians are for war.

Not only for their country’s life
Did soldiers perish in their strife –
But that all human creatures might
Sleep always peacefully at night.

Ask those that fearful battles knew,
Who on the Elbe joined with you,
We keep these memories evermore –
And ask if Russians are,
And ask if Russians are,
And ask if Russians are for war.

Yes, We know how to fight,
But we don’t want again
For soldiers to fall
On their bitter land.

Ask the mothers,
Ask my wife,
And then you should understand
If the Russians,
If the Russians,
If the Russians want war.

The working people of each land
Will come, for sure, to understand
Throughout the world on sea and shore –
If Russian people are,
If Russian people are,
If Russian people are for war.

by Евгений Александрович Евтушенко
(Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko)
(1962)
English lyrics translation by Ольга Моисеенко (Olga Moisseyenko)

Sung by Mark Naumovich Bernes who was a Soviet actor and singer of Jewish ancestry, who performed some of the most poignant songs to come out of World War II including “Dark Night” and “Cranes”.

Хотят ли русские войны?

Хотят ли русские войны?
Спросите вы у тишины
Над ширью пашен и полей,
И у берез, и тополей.

Спросите вы у тех солдат,
Что под березами лежат,
И вам ответят их сыны:
Хотят ли русские,
Хотят ли русские,
Хотят ли русские войны?

Не только за свою страну
Солдаты гибли в ту войну,
А чтобы люди всей земли
Спокойно ночью спать могли.

Спросите тех, кто воевал,
Кто нас на Эльбе обнимал.
Мы этой памяти верны,
Хотят ли русские,
Хотят ли русские,
Хотят ли русские войны?

Да, мы умеем воевать,
Но не хотим, чтобы опять
Солдаты падали в бою
На землю горькую свою.

Спросите вы у матерей,
Спросите у жены моей,
И вы тогда понять должны,
Хотят ли русские,
Хотят ли русские,
Хотят ли русские войны?

Performed by Ансамбль Александрова (the Alexandrov Ensemble) using the 1970s (?) translated lyrics of Ольга Моисеенко (Olga Moisseyenko). Although she titles it ‘Do the Russian people stand for war’ a translation along the lines of ‘Do the Russian want war?’ is more common.

Additional information: Хотят ли русские войны? (Do the Russians Want War?) is a 1961 anti-war song lyric written by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and set to music by Eduard Kolmanovski.


Yevtushenko later said he wrote the song in response to conversations he had with foreigners while travelling in western Europe and the United States. The lyrics evoke the peaceful Russian countryside, the memory of the millions of lives lost in the Second World War, and the friendly meeting of U.S. and Soviet soldiers on Elbe Day.


The poem was cited by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his address to the Russian people immediately prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine during the 2021-2022 Russo-Ukrainian crisis.

On Thursday 24 February 2022 Russian citizens were heard singing the song at protests held in St Petersburg and Moscow. After these protests were broken up, by authorities in riot gear, it was apparently remarked by civilians “в России запрещено говорить, что русские не хотят войны…” (“In Russia it is forbidden to say Russians do not want war…”)

No civilians anywhere want war.

‘На что мне ночи, полные вина…’ (‘Of What Use To Me…’) by Nina Grachova

Of what use to me are the nights full of wine,
and stars over the rusty rowan bush?
As though by barded wire, I’m fenced in
by the huge Russian Empire.
And among her holy fools and dunces
and among her serfs – I suffer for her.
It is not the whips’ and cannons’ power I revere,
but the anguish of the land.
And this pain, this bliss
which is called my motherland,
grain by grain I put down in my notebook,
so that later I won’t reproach myself
with not having learned by heart
this cart-horse tongue, these dialects
that hide wolfish sadness,
drunken delirium, and human torment…

by Нина Владимировна Грачёва
(Nina Vladimirovna Grachova
a.k.a Nina Vladimirovna Grachyova
a.k.a Nina Vladimirovna Grachiova)
from Строфы века (Stanza of the Century)
(1990)
translated by Nina Kossman

На что мне ночи, полные вина…

На что мне ночи, полные вина,
И звёзды над кустом рябины ржавой?
Как проволокой, я обнесена
Российскою огромною державой, –
И средь юродивых её, и средь шутов,
И средь холопов – всё терзаюсь ею,
И не пред властью пушек и кнутов,
А пред тоской земли благоговею.
И эту кару или благодать,
Что называется моей отчизной,
Я по крупице заношу в тетрадь,
Дабы не говорили с укоризной,
Что я не заучила наизусть
Сей ломовой язык, сии наречья,
В которых затаилась волчья грусть,
Хмельной угар и мука человечья…

Additional information: There is little information about her it seems. Boris Dralyuk recently did a post about her covering her poem Шпионка (Spy) about Mata Hari. A list of her poems is available to view on this Russian poetry site if you are able to read Russian.

An interesting thing I noticed is that the ‘Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry’ anthology, compiled by Yevgeny Yevtushenko and printed in 1993, I referenced gives her date of birth as 1971 when the few other source I’ve found give it as 1969. In the anthology’s brief biography of her it states “Grachova was discovered by the editor E. C. Lashkin, a great connoisseur of poetry whose efforts sometime earlier had succeeded in the printing of Bulgakov’s great novel The Master and Margarita. Even at age fifteen it was already clear that Grachova possessed a divine gift. Her poems are uniquely religious, with a faith that incorporates nature, personal feeling, and poetry“.

А вы могли бы? (What about You?) by Vladimir Mayakovsky

I splintered the landscape of midday

by splashing colours from a tumbler.

I charted on a tray of aspic

the slanting cheekbones of Atlantis.

Upon the scales of an iron turbot,

I found ladies’ lips, aloof.

And you, could you have played a nocturne

using a drainpipe for a flute?

.

by Владимир Владимирович Маяковский
Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky
(1913)
translation by Maria Enzensberger

Mayakovsky’s poem recited by Veniamin Borisovich Smekhov

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

А вы могли бы?

Я сразу смазал карту будня,
плеснувши краску из стакана;
я показал на блюде студня
косые скулы океана.
На чешуе жестяной рыбы
прочел я зовы новых губ.
А вы
ноктюрн сыграть
могли бы
на флейте водосточных труб?

Чертовы качели (The Devil’s Swing) by Fyodor Sologub

Beneath a shaggy fir tree,
Above a noisy stream
The devil’s swing is swinging
Pushed by his hairy hand.

He swings the swing while laughing,
Swing high, swing low,
Swing high, swing low,
The board is bent and creaking,
Against a heavy branch.

The swaying board is rushing
With long and drawn-out creaks;
With hand on hip, the devil
Is laughing with a wheeze.

I clutch, I swoon, I’m swinging,
Swing high, swing low,
Swing high, swing low,
I’m clinging and I’m dangling,
And from the devil trying
To turn my languid gaze.

Above the dusky fir tree
The azure sky guffaws:
“You’re caught upon the swings, love,
The devil take you, swing!”

Beneath the shaggy fir tree
The screeching throng whirls around:
“You’re caught upon the swings, love,
The devil take you, swing!”

The devil will not slacken
The swift board’s pace, I know,
Until his hand unseats me
With a ferocious blow.

Until the jute, while twisting,
Is frayed through till it breaks,
Until my ground beneath me
Turns upward to my face.

I’ll fly above the fir tree
And fall flat on the ground.
So swing the swing, you devil,
Go higher, higher… oh!

.

by Фёдор Сологуб (Fyodor Sologub)
a.k.a. Фёдор Кузьмич Тетерников (Fyodor Kuzmich Teternikov)
(14 July 1907)
Translated by April FitzLyon

The poem recited by Ekatrina Sorokova

Beneath is the original Russian version of the poem in Cyrillic.

Чертовы качели

В тени косматой ели,
Над шумною рекой
Качает черт качели
Мохнатою рукой.

Качает и смеется,
Вперед, назад,
Вперед, назад,
Доска скрипит и гнется,
О сук тяжелый трется
Натянутый канат.

Снует с протяжным скрипом
Шатучая доска,
И черт хохочет с хрипом,
Хватаясь за бока.

Держусь, томлюсь, качаюсь,
Вперед, назад,
Вперед, назад,
Хватаюсь и мотаюсь,
И отвести стараюсь
От черта томный взгляд.

Над верхом темной ели
Хохочет голубой:
– Попался на качели,
Качайся, черт с тобой!-

В тени косматой ели
Визжат, кружась гурьбой:
– Попался на качели,
Качайся, черт с тобой!-

Я знаю, черт не бросит
Стремительной доски,
Пока меня не скосит
Грозящий взмах руки,

Пока не перетрется,
Крутяся, конопля,
Пока не подвернется
Ко мне моя земля.

Взлечу я выше ели,
И лбом о землю трах!
Качай же, черт, качели,
Все выше, выше… ах!