Poems and Songs of Vladimir Vysotsky. Our Life Has Lots of Edges.

At the Masquerade.Adapted from Bruce and Kathryn Hamilton, George Tokarev
and Daria Verzhbovsky’s translations by Akbar Muhammad.

I want to be awakened with all my soul,
And laugh and weep as near distorting mirrors:
As during the Venetian fancy-ball,
Here all perform the parts of different heroes.

They come on me — bright costumes trimmed with lace,
I’m pulled inside, I’m being pinched and shaken.
Well, now I see — my normal human face
By all of them just for a mask was taken.

Each one came from folklore or from a book,
Their wigs and masks are fulvous, golden, ruby...
Here’s Harlequin, who has a grievous look,
The next one’s Hangman, while the other’s Booby.

I join their merry dance and laugh, although,
I’m not convinced that it’s the right endeavor:
Say, one may like the mask of Hangman so
That he’ll decide to keep this mask forever;

Say, Harlequin will be forever grave,
Enjoying his abnormal wistful image;
Or, the dull look this Booby simulates
Will stay forever on his normal visage...

Should I escape from this deceptive feast?
Or should enjoy myself with these strange creatures?
I stay in hopes that many masks of beasts
Conceal not beasts, but people’s handsome features.

It seems that for this dance, I can’t be fit,
The masks look upon me with objurgation.
They cry that I’ve incessantly missed the beat,
That hitting partners’ foot isn’t a good action.

The spiteful masks make fun of such a sloth,
The jolly ones become severe and vicious.
Behind the masks, as if behind the wall,
They hide their human unaffected visage.

The modest muses, here and there I chase,
But frankly speaking, I have no intentions
To ask someone to show her pretty face —
There might be masks behind the masks, not faces.

I’ve sunk into the mystery of masks,
And here’s my openhearted explanation:
The mask of coldness wearing by someones
Protect them from their mean deeds’ compensation.

Yes, if without the mask one was a knave,
It’s good to wear it. But your case is facing:
Why have you taken somebody else’s shape,
While your own one is evidently graceful?

How not to miss a generous, kind face,
How to divine fair people with precision?
They wear the masks not through a paltry case —
In order to protect themselves from jeers.
They wear the masks not through a paltry case —
In order to protect themselves from jeers.


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