Vladimir Vysotsky. Serving the Elements.

Man Overboard.Adapted from George Tokarev’s translation by Akbar Muhammad.

To Anatoly Garagulya.

The rugged wind with hellish screeches sang —
The storm didn’t give the seamen any pardon.
The ropes tore the skin on palms and — bang! —
“Man overboard!” — they heard all of a sudden.

And at once — “Full astern! Boat in water!” —
The strict skipper was brief in his speech.
“Rescue that unconcerned bitch’s daughter
Or, perhaps, witless son of a bitch!”

Life on the Land is opposite, I guess —
To be alone in any plight I’m bound.
The landsmen won’t save me from any mess,
And sirens of alarm won’t ever sound.

With no one’s aid my woe will lessen,
But, instead, they’ll declare they’re right.
And I’ll hear, “We’ll teach you a lesson!
Ye yourself must get rid of your plight!”

My former team will leave me far behind.
I’d want them to become a little better...
Man overboard is what they’ll never mind,
For none of them his woe is a question.

They’ll rush on, so content, so conceited,
On the way that’s so lit and so broad —
It’s quite right that the strangers defeated
Are intended to stay overboard!

I wish the storm to sweep me to the Sea —
High waves and winds will greet me on arrival.
There will be sent a boat to rescue me,
And thus I’ll get good chances for survival.

They’ll pull me with a hook by my robe —
Odds for saving your garments increase —
And the boat board, exactly like hope,
With all strength of myself will I seize!

So I’m on board, the ship is on the course.
Folks hand me weeds and hearts of their own.
And if once more I happen to get the worst —
A life-buoy by these seamen will be thrown.

There the storms fall on all year round,
And the seamen keep watches and ward...
But they’ll never let someone be drowned
In the case he’ll be washed overboard!

1969.

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