Vladimir Vysotsky. The Nature Reserve.

A Song about the White Elephant.Adapted from Alec Vagapov’s translation by Akbar Muhammad.

Far away in India, since the ancient times,
There lived wild gray elephants of tremendous size.

They rambled about in all directions without path,
And there was ’mongst these elephants a white one.

It was known for its discernment, noble birth and breed,

Had a friendly look and gentle spirit.

It was, due to its white color, a rare bird indeed

In the herd of its but swarthy kindred.

And the king of India — how could I expect? —
Gave me this white elephant just out of respect.

“I see no profit of this beast,” I told him.
“A heart of gold is owned by it,” returned he.

Then it made to me a curtsy, and I made a bow,

My address to it was soft, not vicious;

It turned out this elephant was actually a cow,

Or, in other words, a female specious.

Sitting on my beast friend, I looked as fine as grand;
I’d enjoy perceiving the Indian fairyland.

We’d roam here and there and everywhere,
And every inconvenience we’d share.

When it happed so that we sang our serenades of love,

Ladies round and round became like crazy...

I should say this elephant was talented enough,

And his music gift was just amazing.

On a map, I’m sure, you’ve seen India, haven’t you?
So you know there are in it many rivers, too.

My elephant and I would feed on mangoes,
And somehow we were lost around the Ganges.

I was dashing near the river restlessly, on end

Having undermined my flesh and spirit...

Later on they told me, “Mister, your white elephant

Has met with a herd of its white kindred.”

I was angry and upset for some time, but then
I received an elephant from the king again —

But as a knob for cane in all its finery —
A nice white elephant — but made of ivory.

Holding seven such elephants, as people say, is good,

It protects the holder from misfortune...

I would rather have my beast friend walking in the wood,

I wish it to bring to no one fortune!

I would rather have my beast friend walking in the wood,

I wish it to bring to no one fortune!

1972.

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