Vladimir Vysotsky. There Was Once a Man.

Paradise Apples.Adapted from Sergey Roy, George Tokarev and
Alec Vagapov’s translations by Akbar Muhammad.

Once I’ll certainly die, each of us reaches this destination,
And I’d rather be stabbed, than die peacefully in my own bed.
People pity the killed, pay them tribute and promise salvation...
Not those who’re still alive — those who’re dead are our business’ object.

I’ll fall down in the mud in good cinema style when it happens,
And the horses I stole will start rushing with my soul on.
There’s the end to it all, soon I’ll test those pink paradise apples,
As they might turn me back, I’ll come to being quiet and slow.

...Whoa, horses! What’s this? What I see here no one will call Eden:
Just a vast barren land, it’s a kingdom of “Nothing & Nix”.
O’er this land dominates a huge cast-iron gate painted leaden,
And in front of this gate lots of dumb fellows stand on their knees.

How my wild thill-horse shied! But I patted him, and cleaned his fetlocks,
And I plaited his mane, and solved that it was no use to neigh.
A grey-haired old man strove exceedingly long ’gainst the gate lock —
He kept grumbling o’er it, and gave up this, and hobbled away.

And those folks at the gate neither groaned nor uttered a sound,
Only squatted at once, as their knees went numb through kneeling there.
Dogs left prints on the sand — oh, my God, it’s a prison compound!
It can’t be Paradise, though the Crucified soars in the air.

I stand under a charm — other prisons should envy this great one!
The bread smell spreading off holds more strongly than shackles and chains.
For the meantime, I’m safe, but too much godsent ozone I’ve taken,
So that I’m nearly choked, and can’t curse as it gives me chest pains.

Having rolled up the sleeves, went to us the two ones in green vestments.
With the cry “strike the rail!” several vagrants dissolved in the mist.
Brothers, it’s a nice place — with so nice mellow chiming they’ve met us!
But kept jingling the keys — it’s to our souls they fitted keys.

I don’t ask for too much, it’s of no use to me goods and chattels,
All I need is some friends and a wife who will weep o’er my grave,
And for them I’ll, of course, gather those seedless paradise apples,
Though the gardens are watched, and they’ll certainly shoot me away.

Cherubs fly high above, in the tower keeps watch a thick angel.
Hoping for Jesus’ grace, into my shirt the apples I slip.
How I glad of the shot! My fast horses got me off this blest place,
Take the apples I’ve brought from my troubling and breathtaking trip.

I’ll be dead once again — we die for the next time if it’s needful.
Due to my lucky star, I was shot and didn’t die in my bed.
So that’s how things have been — those who’re shot down are sent off for Eden,
And those who’re shot down there are sent back to forestall any fret.

I’ll fall down in the mud in good cinema style when it happens;
Having taken some oats, I’ll trot up the old familiar track.
On the precipice’s brink, a shirt full of the paradise apples
I’ll bear thee, my beloved, hoping for thy dear one’s coming back.


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