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.

“And again they’ll order a translation…” by Marina Boroditskaya

And again they’ll order a translation,
and a foreign poet, like an alien spaceman,
space-suit on fire, will enter the atmosphere
and land, as literals, on your writing table.

Get to work then, palms pumping chest,
trying to find life in this strange being,
to start the heart’s rhythm, the lung’s action,
so he can breathe the harsh local air.

This one will probably live, but some die,
and who can you tell later or explain
how the sacred honey congeals in your breast,
refusing to be poured into strange vessels.

.

by Мари́на Я́ковлевна Бороди́цкая
(Marina Yakovlevna Boroditskaya)
(c. 2003)
translated by Ruth Fainlight

.

Extra information: Marina Boroditskaya was born on June 28, 1954 in Moscow. In 1976 she graduated from the Moscow Institute of Foreign Languages ​​named after Maurice Torez. She worked as a guide-translator and taught in a school. In 1978 she made her debut as a translator in Russia’s Иностранная литература (Foreign Literature) magazine.

Since 1990 she has been a member of the Writers’ Union, and since 2005 she has become a member of the Мастера литературного перевода (Masters of Literary Translation) guild.

Marina Boroditskaya works as a presenter on the radio show Литературная аптека (translated as Literary Pharmacy’, ‘Literary First Aid Box’or ‘Literary Drugstore’ depending on your source) on Радио России (Radio Russia). She is convinced that the book is the best medicine.

Осень (Autumn) by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Within me is an autumn season.

There is transparency and coolness

Sadness, but not desolation,

And I am humble, full of goodness.

.

And if sometimes I storm aloud

Then I storm, to shed my leaves:

And the thought comes, simply, sadly,

That to storm is not what is needed.

.

The main thing is to learn to see

Myself and the world of toil and torment

In autumnal nakedness

When you and the world become transparent.

.

Insight is the child of silence.

No matter if we make no tumult:

We must calmly shed all noise

In the name of the new leaves.

.

Something, certainly, has happened:

Only on silence I rely

Where the leaves, piling on each other,

Are silently becoming soil.

.

And you see all, as from some height,

When you dare cast your leaves in time

And inner autumn, without passion,

Touches your brow with airy fingers.

.

.

by Евгений Александрович Евтушенко

Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko

(1965)

translation by J R Rowland

Alexei Simonov, the son of the poet Konstantin Simonov, recites the poem.

Beneath is the original version the poem in Cyrillic.

.

Осень

Внутри меня осенняя пора.

Внутри меня прозрачно прохладно,

и мне печально и, но не безотрадно,

и полон я смиренья и добра.

.

А если я бушую иногда.

то это я бушую, облетая,

и мысль приходит, грустная, простая,

что бушевать – не главная нужда.

.

А главная нужда – чтоб удалось

себя и мир борьбы и потрясений

увидеть в обнаженности осенней,

когда и ты и мир видны насквозь.

.

Прозренья – это дети тишины.

Не страшно, если шумно не бушуем.

Спокойно сбросить все, что было шумом,

во имя новых листьев мы должны.

.

Случилось что-то, видимо, со мной,

и лишь на тишину я полагаюсь,

где листья, друг на друга налагаясь,

неслышимо становятся землей.

.

И видишь все, как с некой высоты,

когда сумеешь к сроку листья сбросить,

когда бесстрастно внутренняя осень

кладет на лоб воздушные персты.

‘не надо говорит неправду детям…’ (Lies) by Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Telling lies to the young is wrong.

Proving to them that lies are true is wrong.

Telling them that God’s in his heaven

and all’s well with the world is wrong.

The young know what you mean. The young are people.

Tell them the difficulties can’t be counted,

and let them see not only what will be

but see with clarity these present times.

Say obstacles exist they must encounter

sorrow happens, hardship happens.

The hell with it. Who never knew

the price of happiness will not be happy.

Forgive no error you recognize,

it will repeat itself, increase,

and afterwards our pupils

will not forgive in us what we forgave.

.

.

by Евгений Александрович Евтушенко

(Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko)

(1952)

translation by Robin Milner-Gulland and Peter Levi

A recital of the poem in Russian by a lady named Yulia who reads ‘poems of love’ on her YouTube channel.

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

Не надо говорить неправду детям…

Не надо говорить неправду детям,
не надо их в неправде убеждать,
не надо уверять их, что на свете
лишь тишь да гладь да божья благодать.

Не надо по желанью своему
морочить их несбыточными снами.
Учить не надо верить их тому,
чему уже давно не верим сами.

Солгавший детям детство обезлюдит,
подсунет им бесчестье, словно честь.
Пусть видят же не только то, что будет,
пусть видят, ясно видят то, что есть.

Сладинка лжи — отрава в манной каше.
Писк лживый не прощайте у кутят,
и нас потом воспитанники наши
за то, что мы прощали, — не простят.