Vladimir Vysotsky: Songs: Trans. by Jack Doughty

Vysotsky's Lyrics: Translation by Jack Doughty

Carroll's song
The dream
He didn't return from the battle
My gypsy song
Song of reincarnation

All the rights are protected. Contact the author: jdoughty@isp.primuseurope.com
British. Born 1931. Russian-English translator for RAF, Civil Service & (27 years) BBC Monitoring.

The dream
Russian title: Durackij son, kak kistenem...
A morbid dream obsessively weighs on me lately.
I see it only hazily.  Why does it hate me?
Within it I betray and lie, fawning and crawling.
I never would have thought that I was so appalling.

I clench my fists, put on a show, cursing and damning,
Although I know, and others know, I'm only shamming.
The dream grows dim and dimmer still, I hope it's vanished.
It reappears, against my will to see it banished.

I do not stride, I mince along, acting, dissembling.
I keep in step, don't get it wrong, in fear and trembling.
I crawl to men more strong than I, I'm weak and shaken.
I loathe myself, but though I try, I can't awaken.

Here madness lies!  I hear a groan.  Acutely, plainly.
I hear myself, the dream's my own, I argue vainly.
I wake, and hear that groan again, the dream is finished.
I open up my eyes with pain, but fear's diminished.

As I lie prone upon the bed, the dream's before me.
Have dreams come true?  This thought like lead hangs grimly o'er me.
I feel a shudder down my spine. I mutter hoarsely.
Did the dream show this soul of mine in truth, or falsely?

But it was just a dream, forsooth!  How lucky for me.
Yet could that dream have told the truth in how it saw me?
Do dreams reflect thoughts from the day?  It can't be true, though!
And yet, in some distorted way, they seem to do so.

And now, they'd put me to the test?  I've no heart for it.
I'm just a coward, like all the rest, though I abhor it.
Conform, they say, and have no fear; they'll be forgiving.
And now I know, the dream is here.  It's what I'm living.
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Song of reincarnation
Russian title: Pesenka o pereselenii dush
with help from Yevgeniy Dubnov
There's some believe in God, and some in Allah for salvation,
And some believe in nothing, and treat everyone with spite.
But Hindus have a nice idea that's called reincarnation:
That when we die, we're born as we deserve - I hope they're right.

	If upward strives your soul divine,
	Reborn, to heights you'll fly.
	But if you've lived life like a swine,
	You'll wake up in a sty.

Let people look at you askance, reproaches cannot hurt you.
Don't worry, when you're born again, you'll know how to reply.
And if you see your foe's demise in this life, for your virtue,
The next time round you'll find you have a piercing eagle eye.

	Live happily, and don't get cross,
	No need to sit there moping.
	Next life, perhaps you'll be the boss.
	Well, there's no harm in hoping.

Live out your life in sweeping roads, next time you could be foreman,
And after that you might end up as minister, no joke!
But if you're thicker than a plank, you'll be a tree for sure, man,
And for the next two hundred years, you'll stand there as an oak.

	So who was pretty Polly then,
	And who that writhing adder?
	Much better be a decent man,
	And climb on up the ladder.

So who is who, and who was what, will always be a riddle.
He who was no'one shall be all, just think what that implies!
Maybe that scruffy cat was once a rascal on the fiddle,
And that nice chap's a faithful dog, who now has won his prize.

	I jump for joy!  Oh, what relief!
	I'll not yield to temptation!
	It's such a comforting belief,
	Is this reincarnation!

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Carroll's song
Russian title: Pesnya Kerrola
	In summer heat or cooling breeze,
	Alone or hand-in-hand,
	I call you to come with me, please,
	Into Wonderland.

However shall we get there? - is the first thing you will say.
We'll surely need a magic spell to open up the way.
And should we take some things to eat, and change of underwear?
And how far must we go before we're there?

We don't need any magic spell!  Oh, children, do not cry!
	It isn't far, you don't need to prepare.
To Wonderland you do not have to walk, or swim, or fly.
	You only need be there!

You're sure you don't mind getting wet?
The rain is magic too!
Or would you rather wait a bit?
Oh well, it's up to you!

In the land where we are going, there may be hail and snow.
It's not a dream, you're wide awake, there's no way back again.
You're not afraid?  You're sure you're not?  All right, so off we go!
And first, we have to count from one to ten.

It's getting rather misty here, it's clearer on our way.
	You'll see all right, but do not go astray!
Good fights with evil, but be sure that good will win the day.
	Believe in what I say!

	You wouldn't always understand,
	If you were all alone,
	But I'll explain this Wonderland
	When we are on our own.

That little girl - her name is Alice.  Just keep her in sight!
With her as guide to Wonderland, we're sure to be all right.
Now shut your eyes and see the magic forest all around.
Now just say: "Alice!  One, two, three" - and we are onward bound.

Our journey done, a magic oar is rowing us ashore.
	Farewell, the land of wonder and delight!
When we are home, we'll tell them of the wondrous things we saw.
	But not - good night!

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He didn't return from the battle
Russian title: On ne vernulsya iz boya
Why is everything wrong?  Yet it seems just as fine:
The same sky, just as blue as before;
The same air, the same water, same forest of pine -
But he didn't come back from the war.

Who was right, who was wrong, I have no idea now,
In our ongoing quarrels and faction.
They wearied me then, now I long for a row,
Since he's been posted missing in action.

He'd go suddenly quiet.  He would sing out of tune,
And his voice had a harsh kind of rattle.
He would keep me awake, then he'd get up too soon -
But he didn't return from the battle.

The loneliness isn't just all it's about.
I've just realised, we two made a pair.
It's as if the wind suddenly blew the fire out,
Now I know that he's no longer there.

With the spring blooming out now, in colourful riot,
I called him this morning, forgetting.
"Hey, leave me a dog-end!"  No answer.  Dead quiet -
For he didn't come back from the fighting.

Our dead will not leave us behind in the lurch.
The fallen still guard us forever.
The trees reach aloft like the nave of a church -
But my friend will return to me never.

There is plenty of room in the dugout below,
But it's time for us both now to yield.
I've the place to myself, yet I feel that I know
It is I who was killed in that field.

(Translated August 1991)
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My gypsy song
Russian title: Moya cyganskaya
I dream, and distant lights I see.  In sleep, I'm snoring.
Well wait a while, it ought to be clear in the morning.
But morning comes, there's still no joy, and willy'nilly,
You find you'd rather smoke than eat, or drink yourself silly.

The bar looks smart, green tablecloths, white napkins there -
Heaven for beggars and for fools - for me, a snare.
In church, it's gloomy, incense'laden, murky light -
No, there as well, all isn't right, all isn't right.

I climb a mountain, breathing hard, and cautious - very.
Trees on the mountain, alders on high, below them, cherry.
If all the slope were draped in plush, I'd love the sight.
And yet it lacks I know not what - all isn't right.

I walk in fields along a stream. Light, darkness - godless.
The fields are bright with cornflower blue - the road seems endless.
Witches could lurk beside the road, within the wood.
At road's end - block and axe, with headsman wearing hood.

Horses hooves, clip clop, clip clop, riders unbending.
Along the road, all isn't right - worse at its ending.
Not in the church, not in the bar, there's no salvation.
All isn't right, lads, isn't right - Hell and damnation!
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