Мы только женщины – и, так сказать, “увы!”… (We’re Only Women) by Novella Matveyeva

We’re only women – alas, as it were.

But why alas? Time to define the reason.

‘Wine and women’ – so you say.

But we don’t talk of ‘chocolates and men’!

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We distinguish you from buns or toffee

We somehow feel that people are not hams,

Though (to hear you) we only differ

In never having a head upon our shoulders.

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‘Wine and women’? Let’s follow it from there.

Woman, take a cookbook,

Say ‘I love you better than jugged hare,

Than strawberry jam! Than pig’s feet! Than fish pie!’

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Well, how do you like my affection?

You’re a person, not a piece of cheese?

– And I?

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By Новелла Николаевна Матвеева

(Novella Nikolayevna Matveyeva)

(1965)

Translated by J. R. Rowland

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Below is the original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem.

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Мы только женщины – и, так сказать, “увы!”…

Мы только женщины – и, так сказать, “увы!”

А почему “увы”? Пора задеть причины.

“Вино и женщины” – так говорите вы,

Но мы не говорим: “Конфеты и мужчины”.

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Мы отличаем вас от груши, от халвы,

Мы как-то чувствуем, что люди – не ветчины,

Хотя, послушать вас, лишь тем и отличимы,

Что сроду на плечах не носим головы.

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“Вино и женщины”? – Последуем отсель.

О женщина, возьми поваренную книжку,

Скажи: “Люблю тебя, как ягодный кисель,

Как рыбью голову! Как заячью лодыжку!

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По сердцу ли тебе привязанность моя?

Ах, да! Ты не еда! Ты – человек! А я?”

The Lay Preacher Ponders by Idris Davies

‘Isn’t the violet a dear little flower? And the daisy, too.

What nice little thoughts arise from a daisy!

If I were a poet now – but no, not a poet,

For a poet is a wild and blasphemous man;

He talks about wine and women too much for me

And he makes mad songs about old pagans, look you.

Poets are dangerous men to have in chapel,

And it is bad enough in chapel as it is

with all the quarelling over the organ and the deacons;

The deacons are not too nice to saintly young men like me.

(Look at Jenkins John Jones, the old damn scoundrel!)

They know I can pray for hours and hours,

They know what a righteous young man I am,

They know how my Bible is always in my pocket

And Abraham and Jonah like brothers to me,

But they prefer the proper preacher with his collar turned around;

They say he is more cultured than I am,

And what is culture but palaver and swank?

I turn up my nose at culture.

I stand up for faith, and very simple faith,

And knowledge I hate because it is poison.

Think of this devilish thing they call science,

It is Satan’s new trick to poison men’s minds.

When I shall be local councillor and a famous man –

I  look forward to the day when I shall be mayor –

I will put my foot down on clever palaver,

And show what a righteous young man I am.

And they ought to know I am that already,

For I give all my spare cash to the chapel

And all my spare time to God.’

 

by Idris Davies