Враги сожгли родную хату (The Enemy Had Burned His Cottage Home) by Mikhail Isakovsky

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

The lyric performed by Mark Bernes

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.

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.

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).
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Связует всех единый жребий (For All Of Us…) by Nikolai Stefanovich

For all of us destiny is undivided.
You only have to sprain your ankle,
and at that moment in Addis Ababa
someone will cry out in pain

by Николай Владимирович Стефанович
(Nikolai Vladimirovich Stefanovich)
(1912 – 1979)
written in Perm, 1943
translated by Albert C. Todd

Связует всех единый жребий

Связует всех единый жребий:
Лишь стоит ногу подвернуть –
И в тот же миг в Аддис-Абебе
От боли вскрикнет кто-нибудь.
Откуда взялся ужас оный,
Который вдруг во мне возник?
Не заблудился ли ребёнок
В лесу дремучем в этот миг?

Additional notes: The English translation by Todd omits the latter half of the poem. The untranslated lines, roughly in English, are ‘Where did that horror come from? / Which suddenly appeared in me? / Has the child gone astray? / In the dense forest at this moment?‘ or, as a native Russian speaking friend translated them ‘Where does the terror that suddenly arose in me come from? / Did a child get lost in thick woods at this moment?’

I couldn’t find any major source of English information about Stefanovich in English after an, admittedy brief, search. However the Russian Wikipedia page for Stefanovich is available for those who can read Russian or are happy to use a translator.

A brief summary of some information from Stefanovich’s Russian Wikipedia page: Soon after the start of the war in 1941, the theater, in which Stefanovich was on duty, was hit by an air raid bombshell. (He was, as a result, seriously shell-shocked and became disabled for the rest of his life). During the same year, together with the theater, he was evacuated to Perm. He rarely published his poems during his life time with the few exceptions include pieces in the Permian newspaper Zvezda during wartime and in two issues of Poetry Day in the 1970s.

According to information from a number of publications, in the mid 1930s and early 1940s, he wrote denunciations (or investigative testimony) against several people who were subsequently repressed because of this, in particular Daniil Leonidovich Andreyev (the son of the author Leonid Andreyev – though you probably noticed that from his patronymic), Natalia Danilovna Anufriev, Alexander Arkardievich Borin and Daniil Dmitrievich Zhukovsky.

Stefanovich was a bookbinder and little-known actor in the Vakhtangov Theater in Moscow who almost never managed to publish his poetry during his lifetime. Nevertheless he beautifully bound his manuscripts and circulated them personally. Only after his death did his verse begin to appear, attracting readers with its literary acuteness and capacity to say much in few words.

Biographical information about Stefanovich, p.604, ‘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).

Рождественская звезда (Star of the Nativity) by Joseph Brodsky

In the cold season, in a locality accustomed to heat more than
to cold, to horizontality more than to a mountain,
a child was born in a cave in order to save the world;
it blew as only in deserts in winter it blows, athwart.

To Him, all things seemed enormous: His mother’s breast, the steam
out of the ox’s nostrils, Caspar, Balthazar, Melchior – the team
of Magi, their presents heaped by the door, ajar.
He was but a dot, and a dot was the star.

Keenly, without blinking, through pallid, stray
clouds, upon the child in the manger, from far away –
from the depth of the universe, from its opposite end – the star
was looking into the cave. And that was the Father’s stare.

By Иосиф Александрович Бродский
(Joseph Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky a.k.a. Iosif Aleksandrovich Brodsky)
(December 1987)
translated by the author, Brodsky, himself

Brodsky reciting his poem

Рождественская звезда

В холодную пору, в местности, привычной скорей к жаре,
чем к холоду, к плоской поверхности более, чем к горе,
младенец родился в пещере, чтоб мир спасти:
мело, как только в пустыне может зимой мести.

Ему все казалось огромным: грудь матери, желтый пар
из воловьих ноздрей, волхвы — Балтазар, Гаспар,
Мельхиор; их подарки, втащенные сюда.
Он был всего лишь точкой. И точкой была звезда.

Внимательно, не мигая, сквозь редкие облака,
на лежащего в яслях ребенка издалека,
из глубины Вселенной, с другого ее конца,
звезда смотрела в пещеру. И это был взгляд Отца.

The poem recited by the actor Anton Shagin

Беженец (Refugee) by Arseny Tarkovsky

You granted me some salt for the journey,
sprinkled so much white I lost my mind.
Holy Kama winter, you burn like light.
I live alone as wind in a winter field.

You’re stingy, Mother. Just give me
a little bread. The silos are filled
with snow. I’m hungry. My bag is heavy:
A loaf of sorrow for a bite of catastrophe.

The frost is gnawing my feet.
Who needs me? I’m a refugee.
You don’t care whether or not I breathe.

What should I do among your pearls
and the chill wrought silver
on the black Kama, at night, without a fire?

by Арсений Александрович Тарковский
(Arseny Alexandrovich Tarkovsky)
(13 November 1941)
IV from Christopol Notebook
from Butterfly in the Hospital Orchard 1926-1945
translated by Philip Metres and Dimitri Psurtsev

Беженец

Не пожалела на дорогу соли,
Так насолила, что свела с ума.
Горишь, святая камская зима,
А я живу один, как ветер в поле.

Скупишься, мать, дала бы хлеба, что ли,
Полны ядреным снегом закрома,
Бери да ешь. Тяжка моя сума;
Полпуда горя и ломоть недоли.

Я ноги отморожу на ветру,
Я беженец, я никому не нужен,
Тебе-то все равно, а я умру.

Что делать мне среди твоих жемчужин
И кованного стужей серебра
На черной Каме, ночью, без костра?

Прогнали иродов-царей… (We Banished the Tyrant-Tsars…) by Nikolai Tryapkin

We banished the tyrant tsars,
the tsarist cannibals were smashed,
and afterward – faster! To the wall!
We ourselves were dragged.

And afterwards – our fine young reapers
came out swinging with such zeal,
that all those murder-loving tsars
turned over in their graves.

by Николай Иванович Тряпкин
(Nikoai Ivanovich Tryapkin)
(1981)
translated by Bradley Jordan

Прогнали иродов-царей

Прогнали иродов-царей,
Разбили царских людоедов,
А после — к стенке, поскорей
Тянули собственных полпредов.
А после — хлопцы-косари
С таким усердьем размахнулись,
Что все кровавые цари
В своих гробах перевернулись.

Additional information: There is little about Tryapkin in English except a Russian site with a few details. Much of his poetry involved rural imagery. Tryapkin was born 19 December 1919 and died on 20 February 1999. He was buried at the Rakitki cemetery in the Moscow region.

The original version’s first line refers to Herod (Ирод) but the translation subtitutes this with the more secular ‘tyrant’.

Tryapkin was born into a peasant family; his father was a joiner. In 1930 his family moved into the trading village Lotoshino near Moscow. Though his father’s income was slight and times were difficult, something about country life enchanted the future poet forever. From 1939 to 1941 he studied in Moscow at the Historical Archive Institute (from 1956 to 1958 he also studied at the Higher Literary Courses). Rejected by the army for health reasons during World War II, he was evacuated to a tiny village in the far north near Solvychegodsky, at first to plow and then to work as an accountant on a collective farm. Here Tryapkin’s creative life began; his first poems were published in 1945.

At first it seemed that he was no more than a talented balalaika player whose fingers skillfully played the strings at a time when the Russian peasant was writhing under the lash of a system directed against both the land and the people who loved the land. But when the era of glasnost began and the censor was no longer able to defend the system from the bitter truths about itself, Tryapkin suddenly appeared with a magic tablecloth of Russian folklore that had been hidden until the time was right. He unfolded it and wrapped in its white fabric was not the traditional abundance of food, but the bones of so many nameless people, the testimony of their suffering.

Biographical information about Tryapkin, p.678, ‘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).