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.

Осень (Autumn) by Boris Pasternak

I have let my household disperse,
My dear ones have long been apart,
And a familiar loneliness
Fills all of nature and all my heart.

Here I am with you in the lodge.
No one walks through the woods these days.
As in the old song, undergrowth
Has almost hidden the forest ways.

Forlornly, the timber walls
Look down on the two of us here.
We did not promise to leap obstacles,
We shall fall at last in the clear.

We shall sit down from one till three,
You with embroidery, I deep
In a book, and at dawn shall not see
When we kiss each other to sleep.

More richly and more recklessly,
Leaves, leaves, give tongue and whirl away,
Fill yesterday’s cup of bitterness
With the sadness of today.

Impulse, enchantment, beauty!
Let’s dissolve in September wind
And enter the rustle of autumn!
Be still, or go out of your mind!

As the coppice lets slip its leaves,
You let your dress slip rustling down
And throw yourself into my arms
In your silk-tasselled dressing gown.

You are my joy on the brink
Of disaster, when life becomes
A plague, and beauty is daring,
And draws us into each other’s arms.

By Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(c.1947 or 1949)
from Доктор Живаго
(Doctor Zhivago – where it is presented as the work of the titular character)
translated by Jon Stallworthy and Peter France

Осень

Я дал разъехаться домашним,
Все близкие давно в разброде,
И одиночеством всегдашним
Полно всё в сердце и природе.

И вот я здесь с тобой в сторожке.
В лесу безлюдно и пустынно.
Как в песне, стежки и дорожки
Позаросли наполовину.

Теперь на нас одних с печалью
Глядят бревенчатые стены.
Мы брать преград не обещали,
Мы будем гибнуть откровенно.

Мы сядем в час и встанем в третьем,
Я с книгою, ты с вышиваньем,
И на рассвете не заметим,
Как целоваться перестанем.

Еще пышней и бесшабашней
Шумите, осыпайтесь, листья,
И чашу горечи вчерашней
Сегодняшней тоской превысьте.

Привязанность, влеченье, прелесть!
Рассеемся в сентябрьском шуме!
Заройся вся в осенний шелест!
Замри или ополоумей!

Ты так же сбрасываешь платье,
Как роща сбрасывает листья,
Когда ты падаешь в объятье
В халате с шелковою кистью.

Ты — благо гибельного шага,
Когда житье тошней недуга,
А корень красоты — отвага,
И это тянет нас друг к другу.

Последнею усталостью устав (Filled with the final weariness…) by Boris Slutsky

Filled with the final weariness
Seized with the exhaustion before dying
His big hands limply spread
A soldier lies.
He could lie differently –
Could lie beside his wife, in his own bed,
Not tearing at the mosses drenched with blood.
But could he? Could he?
No, he could not.
The Ministry sent him his call-up notice,
Officers were with him, marched beside him.
The court-martial’s typewriters clattered in the rear.
But even without them, could he?
Hardly.
Without a call-up, he’d have gone himself.
And not from fear: from conscience, and for honor.
Weltering in his blood, the soldier lying
Has no complaint, and no thought of complaining.

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий
(Boris Abramovich Slutsky)
translated by J. R. Rowland

Последнею усталостью устав

Последнею усталостью устав,
Предсмертным умиранием охвачен,
Большие руки вяло распластав,
Лежит солдат.
Он мог лежать иначе,
Он мог лежать с женой в своей постели,
Он мог не рвать намокший кровью мох,
Он мог…
Да мог ли? Будто? Неужели?
Нет, он не мог.
Ему военкомат повестки слал.
С ним рядом офицеры шли, шагали.
В тылу стучал машинкой трибунал.
А если б не стучал, он мог?
Едва ли.
Он без повесток, он бы сам пошел.
И не за страх — за совесть и за почесть.
Лежит солдат — в крови лежит, в большой,
А жаловаться ни на что не хочет.

Additional information: Бори́с Абра́мович Слу́цкий (Boris Slutsky) (7 May 1919 in Slovyansk, Ukraine – 23 February 1986 in Tula) was a Soviet poet of the Russian language.

Slutsky’s father was a white-collar worker and his mother a teacher. He went to school in Kharkov and from 1937 he studied in Moscow, first in law school and then at the Gorky Literary Institute. During World War II he made friends with many of the poets who were to die in the war and was himself severely wounded. Though he published some poetry in 1941, he did not publish again until after Stalin’s death in 1953. Ilya Ehrenburg wrote an article in 1956 adovicating that a collection of Slutsky’s work be published. He created a sensation by quoting many unknown poems. Discussings Slutsky’s poetry, Mikhail Svetlov said, “Of one thing I am sure – here is a poet who writes better than we all do.”

Slutsky’s first collection, Pamiat’ (Memory) (1957), immediately established his reputation as a poet. His most celebrated poems are “Kelnskaia iama” (The Pit of Cologne) and “Loshadi v okeane” (Horses in the Sea). His poems “Bog” (God) and “Khozain” (The Boss) sharply criticized Stalin even before the Twentieth Party Congress in 1956.

Slutsky’s poetry is deliberately coarse, prosaic, and always distinctive. He evoked many imitators and much ridicule, but he also taught many of the postwar generation of poets. During the scandalous attacks on Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago in 1959, Slutsky unexpectedly came out against Pasternak. It was a crucial error. Many of his admirers turned their backs on him, but, more important, he never forgave himself. When he died, he left so much poetry unpublished that almost every month for several years new poems appeared in magazines and newspapers.

Biographical information about Slutsky, p.689, ‘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).

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.

Русский ум (The Russian Mind) by Vyacheslav Ivanov

A capricious, avaricious mind –
Like fire, the Russian mind is dire:
Irrepressible, lucidity for hire,
So gay – and gloom will always find.

Like an undeviating needle,
It sees the pole in ripples and murky still;
From abstract daydreams in life’s cradle
It shows the course for timorous will.

The way an eagle sees through fog
It examines all the valley’s dust,
I will reflect sensibly about the earth
While bathing in dark mystical must.

by Вячеслав Иванович Иванов
(Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov)
(1890)
translated by Albert C. Todd

Русский ум

Своеначальный, жадный ум,-
Как пламень, русский ум опасен
Так он неудержим, так ясен,
Так весел он — и так угрюм.

Подобный стрелке неуклонной,
Он видит полюс в зыбь и муть,
Он в жизнь от грезы отвлеченной
Пугливой воле кажет путь.

Как чрез туманы взор орлиный
Обслеживает прах долины,
Он здраво мыслит о земле,
В мистической купаясь мгле.

A recital of the poem by Pavel Besedin which requires you to go to YouTube to hear.

Additional information: Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov (Вячесла́в Ива́нович Ива́нов) who was born 28 February [O.S. 16 February] 1866 and died 16 July 1949 was a Russian poet and playwright associated with the Russian Symbolist movement. He was also a philosopher, translator, and literary critic.

Akhmatova had a dim view of him as, aside from trying to persuade her to leave her husband Nikolay Gumilyov, “…Akhmatova indignantly recalled that Ivanov would often weep as she recited her verse at the turreted house, but would later, “vehemently criticize,” the same poems at literary salons. Akhmatova would never forgive him for this. Her ultimate evaluation of her former patron was as follows, “Vyacheslav was neither grand nor magnificent (he thought this up himself) but a ‘catcher of men.'”

Extraordinarily erudite, Ivanov was educated in philology and history at the universities of Moscow, Berlin, and Paris. He wrote poems beginning in childhood and was first published in 1898. His first two collections, Kormchie zviozdy (Pilot Stars) (1903) and Prozrachnost’ (Transparence) (1904), were published while he was traveling in Greece, Egypt, and Palestine. He was immediately recognized as a leading Symbolist poet.

Ivanov’s poetry was majestic, solemn, and declamatory, more like the odes of the eighteenth century studded with erudite references to the classics. All of his writing was about art, whose purpose he saw as the creation of spiritual myths in a religious-mystical, collective activity.

Beginning in 1905 his apartment in St. Petersburg, known as “The Tower,” was the center of communication for poets, artists, scholars, and scientists, who met every Wednesday for their celebrated gathering. An insight into his worldview can be gained by realizing that during the worst times of the terrible upheaval of the Civil War he could be found working on his dissertation about the cult of Dionysus, which he defended in Baku in 1921.

In 1924 Ivanov emigrated to Rome, where he remained for the rest of his life, aloof and disengaged from émigré life and politics.

Biographical information about Ivanov, p.14, ‘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).