Vladimir Vysotsky. Serving the Elements.

Commentary to the song “A Corsair”.

It is pertinent to give here Quintus Horatius Flaccus’ words: “Nil desperandum.” (“Nothing should be despaired of.”)

A translation version of the song:

For seven years our corsair sailed the seas,

And our banner hasn’t lost its colors.

We’ve learned to fix the clipper sails in storm or breeze,

And plug with our bodies cracks and holes.

We’ve met a squadron, and it’s firmly chasing us.

The sea is calm, we’re longing for a blow.

But our captain said to us without fuss,

“It isn’t over till it’s really over!”

The flagship frigate took in sails and made a turn,

Her starboard portholes started spitting fire.

We’re gunning back, and our balls have smashed her stern!

We hear shrieks of anguish, loud and dire!

We’ve been through worse, and our fortune is still in;

But storms are brewing; and we’re holed, moreover.

Yet our captain shouts above the hellish din,

“It isn’t over till it’s really over!”

Through mighty telescopes a hundred glaring eyes

Spy how we endure these deadly rallies;

But no one will ever view us in the guise

Of slaves chained up to oars in navy galleys!

They outnumber us, soon our ship may sink.

We’ll never get to see the cliffs of Dover!

But our captain doesn’t ever even blink!

“It isn’t over till it’s really over!”

He who is merry, who is brave, who isn’t heel

Prepare your blades and handguns for infighting!

But rats may quit the ship it isn’t a big deal,

We don’t need them in the mortal fighting!

And rats were praying doing jumping overboard,

“The Lord save us!” but they just died quite sober

While we were nearing the frigate board by board

It isn’t over till it’s really over!

Knife knifing knife, face facing face, eye eyeing eye!

So that not to be cut with lobsters’ nippers,

Some in a rage, some in a fury, some in cry,

We were departing our sinking clipper.

But our ship! They won’t sink her in the end

She’ll carry us to port, we’ll be in clover.

The sea will keep her, she is our loyal friend,

And it’s for certain true it isn’t over!

The sea will keep her, she is our loyal friend,

And it’s for certain true it isn’t over!

A translation version of line 28:

They’re but a hindrance in the mortal fighting!

Y u r y L y u b i m o v was the director of the Taganka Theater, where Vladimir Vysotsky worked.

This song was written for the film “My Papa is a Captain” (1969).

The presented translations main translation and translation version are adapted from Thomas Beavitt’s “It Isn’t Over Until It’s Over”, Stas and Mar­gar­et Porokhnya’s “It’s Not Yet Evening”, Dmitry Sivan’s “Corsair” and George Tokarev’s “A Corsair”. These translations are available here.

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