Vladimir Vysotsky. Who For What Runs.

The Weightlifter’s Song.

To Vasily Alekseyev.

Weightlifting’s not a recent innovation.
Recall how, once, a Greek of some renown
Picked his opponent up, in desperation,
And held him for a while, then tossed him down.

Applause will come for me or for another?
As if the victim’s neck, I grip the bar.
I lift off my Antaeus from his mother
Just like that first athletic superstar.

Not having grace, I’m really hard as marble,
And all my movements are constrained and slow.
The heavy barbell, the o’erloaded barbell
Forever is my partner and my foe.

I think my task to be too uninviting,
To wish it to someone. There’s not much hope!
As I approach this heavy mass, I’m fighting
A heavy feeling: what if I can’t cope?

Both it and I look like we’re made of metal,
Though only it is metal to the core.
And on my lengthy way to the gold medal,
I made the deep indentions in the floor.

Not having grace, I’m really hard as marble,
And all my movements are constrained and slow.
The heavy barbell, the o’erloaded barbell
Forever is my partner and my foe.

It looks impressive when you knock your foe down.
But in my sport, it’s not so cut and dried.
Here’s what’s unfair about this final showdown:
I’m down below the barbell is up high.

That sort of win is like a loss, I reckon.
But victory is very simply found:
I must hold on for several painful seconds,
Then slam the barbell down onto the ground.

Not having grace, I’m really hard as marble,
And all my movements are constrained and slow.
The heavy barbell, the o’erloaded barbell
Forever is my partner and my foe.

Still, it creeps upwards, slowly losing power,
My muscles are near bursting as they swell.
And from their seats, as if from lofty towers,
Spectators scream, “Just drop it, what the hell!”

I ascertain the judges’ satisfaction;
My iron god goes down I’ve done my work!
I was performing the habitual action,
That’s called in my profession the “clean and jerk”.

1971.

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