Vladimir Vysotsky: Songs: Trans. by Alex Tolkachev

Vysotsky's Lyrics: Translation by Alex Tolkachev

Five hundred
I dash, I push, - and I'm ashamed to get up...
In a game preserve - I forgot which one...
In the white hot Africa...
My gypsy song
Take a deep breath, then some more...
You could be driving or riding a taxi...

Source: Speaking In Tongues
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* * *
Russian title: Veselaya pokojnickaya
You could be driving or riding a taxi 
Or simply walking along with a friend 
With the abundance of cars in the city 
It's hard to walk through your life to the end. 

Check out the car crash on the Moskva river 
Three guys were taking the fourth to the morgue 
All of them, even the driver, were injured 
'Cept for the dead who was safe in his box. 

Funeral deacon would skip higher notes 
And hired weepers half-heartedly wept 
Loud and flat was the brass band's performance 
Only the stiff didn't cheat or fall flat. 

His former boss, a concealed mafioso, 
Kissed him on forehead and spat in disgust. 
All took turns kissing, except for the body 
Which was too timid to kiss anyone. 

Suddenly thunder - and it started raining: 
Forces of nature can get in the way 
Everyone ran under covers and shelters 
Only the dead one did not run away. 

"So what it's raining? He doesn't mind! 
It is the living who shiver and freeze. 
Corpses were people of much better kind, 
Brave people, nothing like you or like me." 

Kingdom of shadows is peachy and rosy 
There are no dangers, or troubles, or sins. 
Each day we live - is by dear God's mercy, 
It is the dead who don't fear a thing. 

One can be buried alone or with others - 
Living arrangements don't bother the corpse 
"He is so nice, that deceased friend of ours, 
Doesn't require much care at all." 

Hard as you try, you cannot lose the feeling 
There is a price tag attached to your head. 
You can't be sure and peaceful completely 
Until you are undeniably dead. 

I hear you complaining: “He's fond of the corpses” 
But no, it's my destiny that makes me mad: 
Sooner or later we'll all get run over 
Except for those who are already dead. 
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* * *
Russian title: Pesenka pro kozla otpushcheniia
In a game preserve - I forgot which one - 
Once upon a time lived a Billy Goat. 
Living among wolves didn't howl like one 
He maaa'd goat songs like a goat ought. 

He was grazing in the meadow growing rounder every day 
Never getting into any troubled matter. 
He was useless as a goat - as the Russians like to say, 
However he was harmless, which is better. 

He lived in the woods, by the little moat 
Never treading the turf of his neighbors' 
But - they noticed one day modest Billy Goat, 
And elected him to be their Scapegoat. 

For example Bear, local goon and cheat, 
Would insult or hurt someone, like the bears do, 
They would find the Goat, bring him in, and beat 
Him between the horns till he couldn't move. 

Poor Goat suffered daily never trying to protest 
He endured all the beatings with a smile 
Even Bear said: "The Goat sets example for the rest 
He is a hero, I have noticed after while." 

They protected him like a royal heir 
Even sent patrols all along the road 
To make sure that, even if he'd care, 
From the game preserve couldn't go the Goat. 

As far as the Goat, he was running free 
However he started acting weird 
Once he braded his dirty long goatie 
And called Wolf a jerk from behind a tree. 

Yet another day or evening, as he was routinely "scaped" 
All because the Wolves bit more than their share 
He, as though by mistake, began to growl like a Bear 
But at that time no one seemed to hear or care. 

While the predators fought their petty wars 
The opinion grew in the game preserve 
That more precious than Foxes, Wolves or Boars 
Is the priceless old Billy-scaping-Goat. 

Once the Goat heard that, all his manners changed 
"Hey you, brown", he cried, "hey you, grey, 
I will take away the Wolves' place in chain 
And from Bears their rights to see light of day." 

"I will show you what a Goat is like when he is really mad 
I will poke holes in everything that moves 
I will gore you to death and after that I'll hurt you bad 
And I'll let the world know you died from my hooves." 

More than one of you will eat dirt for food 
You will rot in hell where it's really hot, 
It is I who will decide if you were bad or good 
There is no escape from the Scaping Goat! 

In a game preserve - I forgot which one - 
Goat runs the show, not like once before, 
He lived among Wolves, and he howled like one, 
Now he growls like Bear, so he scares more. 
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* * *
Russian title: Pesenka pryguna v vysotu
I dash, I push, - and I'm ashamed to get up 
My mouth full of sand, my eyes - of tears 
On God forsaken height of seven-foot-one 
The plank has stopped me just like I had feared. 

I'll confess to you like in a church 
That's what athlete's life is all about 
For a moment you are at the top 
And the next moment you're going down. 

But I will reap and taste the forbidden fruit 
And I will yank the tail of the beast named Fame 
While everybody pushes with their left foot 
I like to push with right, even though it's bad. 

I dash, I push, - the crowd sees me falling 
They boo and drag me down to the dumps 
My Coach told me: "Man, it looks appalling. 
You maybe think that this is a long jump?" 

"You will pull groin if you don't stop 
Pushing right is a laughable quirk 
You will never be there on the top, 
You'll fall down despite of hard work." 

But panting I explained to him: at the root 
Of temporary troubles and my current plight 
The fact that they all push with their left foot, 
But I, myself, can only push with my right. 

I dash, I push, - I'll never catch the Frenchman 
He's laughing in my face as he flies by 
I hit the plank again at seven-foot-one 
And Coach told me looking in my eye: 

That he will kill me with his bare hands 
And that it will be for my own good 
If - "I mean it!" - right there and then 
I don't switch my wrong right pushing foot. 

I'll rather eat some venom or poisoned food 
Or do some other damage to myself 
I won't quit pushing wrong, with my old right foot 
I won't start pushing right, that is, with my left. 

The bleachers laughed as soon as they saw me run 
But mockery could never kill my zeal 
I dash, I push, I fly, and seven-foot-one 
Becomes my past accomplishment for real. 

And it's okay that my groin will hurt 
And it's okay that I jumped myself limp 
Now I know I've been to the top 
And nobody pushed me off of it. 

Thus, I got to taste the forbidden fruit 
And I caught the tail of the Fame-animal 
That's okay that they all push with their left foot 
I will always push only with my right.
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Five hundred
Russian title: Krugom piat'sot
I grew up tall and handsome lad 
Thanks to my Mother and my Dad, 
A people's person, never had a lack of friends. 
I didn't bend and I stood tall 
And didn't mind life at all 
And rolled along, and helped my head with both my hands. 

But I was young was and I got framed 
I had no credit to my name 
There was this room that had a sign: "Respect the Time" 
It's where they eat you without salt, 
They seal you in an envelope 
Address at random, send you where the sun don't shine. 

I was a drifter but came back 
With prison time behind my back 
I wished that someone bought those years or took them free 
I thought I'll never get a job 
But there was this recruiter snob 
Who made a good long distance trucker out of me. 

The road... On the side - the truck 
We ran off road and got stuck 
The cabin's dark, my partner hasn't said two words. 
I wish he'd yell than sit like that 
500 miles right or left 
And all I hear is his teeth banging "Dance with Swords" 

We both knew all about the road 
And how they needed our load 
And that our job was sit and drive through day and night 
Who could have said - New Year's day, 
500 miles either way 
The blizzard's strong, and we can honk with all our might. 

"Shut down the truck," he says at last, 
"You see yourself that we won't last, 
You see yourself that there's no use to even pray 
500 miles on either end 
By dawn for sure we'll be dead 
And snowed in so well we will not need a grave." 

I go: "Shut up, you make me retch" 
And then he jumps and grabs a wrench 
And stares at me, his face no more than deadly mask 
What does he care? - 500 miles, 
And only that one who survives 
Will tell the story to the cops in case they ask. 

He was my brother, only more 
I used to hand-feed him before 
And there he is, his look is giving me the chills 
What does he care - 500 miles, 
And who will later write in files 
That he forgot who I'm to him and he - to me. 

And then he left and went away 
I let him go and hit he hay 
I dreamed about our funny little scene 
500 miles right to left 
I'm looking for the "out" gate 
But all I'm finding is an "in", and I'm locked in. 

The end was simple - tractors came 
There was a doctor and a chain 
And they made sure that the truck got to its goal. 
And he came back, and he looked whipped 
But there will be another trip 
I don't hold grudges, he's my partner after all.
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My gypsy song
Russian title: Moia cyganskaia
Dreaming, I see yellow lights 
And I hiss while dreaming 
Give me time, oh give me time 
Morning will be easy 

But the morning is all wrong 
Party's long been over 
Smoking on and empty gut 
Or drinking in hangover. 

Hey, one, another one, 
And more, and more, and more, and more another ones, 
Another one 
Drinking in hangover. 

I run into the field, along the stream 
It's dark from light, there's no God 
And in the field there are bluebells 
And a road that goes far. 

By the road there are thick groves 
Witches hiding in them 
And at the end of that long road 
There's beheading platform. 

Hey, one, another one, 
And more, and more, and more, and more another ones, 
Another one 
A beheading platform. 

I run up the hill, losing breath 
To save myself from trouble 
On top of hill there stands an elm 
And at the foot – a cherry. 

Wish the slope was strewn with with grass 
That would maky me happy 
Wish there was anything else 
Nothing is the right way. 

Hey, one, another one, 
And more, and more, and more, and more another ones, 
Another one 
Nothing is the right way. 

In the church there's dusk and stink 
Deacons burning incents 
No, the church is also wrong 
Nothing is the right way. 

Neither church, nor even pub 
Nothing's ever sacred 
No, my friends, nothing is right 
Nothing's right my friends.
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* * *
Russian title: Utrenniaia gimnastika
Take a deep breath, then some more 
Do not hurry, three-and-four, 
Spirit, grace, plasticity are emphasized 
All around strengthening 
In the mornings sobering 
(If you're still alive, of course) is exercise. 

Those of you who have clean floor 
Can lie down, three-and-four, 
Do the exercises and don't say a word 
Try to get rid of the tension 
You will learn to pay attention 
Take a deep breath so it really, really hurts. 

Very active 'round the world 
Is the flu, and-three-and-four, 
The desease is widening and deepening 
If you're frail - you will die 
So in order to survive 
Take a cold wet towel, rub yourself with it. 

Now please don't talk at all 
Do the sit-ups till you fall 
Try your hardest not to look all grim and cross 
If you can't stand any longer 
Rub yourself with something colder 
Then proceed to shower which is right across. 

Those of you who are fatigued 
Stand-and-sit, and-stand-and-sit 
We're not afraid of Arctic and Antarctic 
Our main professor Joffe 
Proved to us that booze and coffee 
Can be both replaced by sports and prohylactic. 

We're not scared by life's pace 
In response we run in place 
Even total novice will be happy here 
Wonderful: from the beginning 
No one's losing, no one's winning 
Stationary running is agreeable.
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* * *
Russian title: Chto sluchilos' v Afrike
In the white hot Africa 
In its central part 
Once, outside the schedule 
Happened a tragedy 

Elephant said on the spur 
There will be a flood 
One Giraffe fell in love 
With an Antelope. 

Then everybody got upset 
And only wise old Parrot said 
Loud and clear, above the rest: 
"Giraffe is ta-a-a-al - 
He knows best." 

"What's the big deal she has the horns?" 
Exclaimed Giraffe with love, 
"These days in our fauna 
We are equal - everyone." 

"If my own family 
Won't be pleased with her 
Don't you blame it all on me 
I will leave the herd." 

Then everybody got upset 
And only wise old Parrot said 
Loud and clear, above the rest: 
"Giraffe is ta-a-a-al - 
He knows best." 

Antelope's father 
Doesn't need such son 
We can tell he'd rather 
See him dead and gone. 

And the Giraffes' in-law grumbles 
"How d'you like this dope?" 
So Giraffe moved to the Bisons 
With his Antelope. 

Then everybody got upset 
And only wise old Parrot said 
Loud and clear, above the rest: 
"Giraffe is ta-a-a-al - 
He knows best." 

In the yellow, hot Africa 
There is no idyll 
He-Giraffe and she-Giraffe 
Are crying bitter tears 

Only they can't help their lot 
No laws to live by them 
Their own daughter got 
Married to a Bison. 

Giraffe might not been right 
But he's innocent, alright, 
Who is to blame? The one who said: 
"Giraffe's ta-a-a-al - 
He knows best."
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