Poems and Songs of Vladimir Vysotsky. Serving the Elements.

A Ballad of the Abandoned Ship.Adapted from Sergey Roy and George Tokarev’s translations by Akbar Muhammad.

On that day each one said to the captain “Hey, man!”,

The ship’s boy was a match for the skipper.

Disengaging their hands and removing the bands,

On the shrouds my sailors were skipping.

We went crazy in order
To see visions of our tracts —
We reached phantoms of shores and
Saw the blankets of lands,

Those lands we set our hopes on and reckon —
Of Columbus, and of Magellan.

But it seems that I won’t
See those lands and those shores —
At the speed of nine knots
I did strand ’mongst the rocks.
While our brave lads are bound
To the glorious aim...
Yes, for running aground
It’s but me who’re to blame.

And they left me behind, all my brothers, my fleet;

Those who sensitive — swallowed a tear.

Her great cruise the Armada just had to complete,

And no ship had the freedom to veer.

Cursing bad luck, the weather,
The treacherous sea,
All my shipmates together
Sailed on out of me.

They saluted me twice or they set out —
From Columbus, and from Magellan.

I drink foam when hot —
Water’s way goes too low,
And my starboard and port
Are off water and glow.
Both they’re dirty, of course,
And my decks are unclean;
All my wounds, all my sores
Can be easily seen.

Here’s a cannonball furrow, quite close to the frame;

Here are scars left by ramming and fire;

One can see where I was in preceding days maimed

By a sea-rover’s honed grappling irons.

Look, my keel is uneven,
As if gnawed by huge teeth —
It’s my belly was cleaved
Long ago by a reef.

I’m decaying, forlorn and forgotten —
Even well-salted things may become rotten.

And my blood with the winds
Through big crannies does flight,
They give me pain and kinks,
I’m quite but at first sight,
Being open to the winds
Nights and days, nights and days...
Into my soul these winds
With no ruth hammer nails.

They behave like the rakes, evil, cheeky and bold,

And mess everything up, play the goat;

Wish they’d choke with the wine keeping deep in my hold,

Or, rampaging, would set me afloat.

Of this chance I’m convinced —
What a desperate creed!
No, it’s not evil winds
What at present I need.

My sails droop like the breasts of old slatterns,
And my masts look like creaky, thin battens.

I’m to bide for my time —
The eighth wonder will come,
And a merciful tide
Will wash off all the scum,
God’s dew will strip the spell
For all time of myself,
And will readily swell
As in old days my sails.

I’ll rush after my fleet, catch them and — I’ll forgive

The Armada that badly remembers;

I don’t hold them a grudge, I’ll be glad to receive

Back aboard all my former crew members.

But they don’t want to let
Me inside their dense ranks.
Shut thy mouth, corvette,
Don’t sting me with thy pranks!
I’m thy twin, dostn’t thou see?
I’ve escaped from the blight.
Bro, we aren’t short of sea,
Take a little to the right!

Won’t ye lend me a hand?
Do ye mean I must go?
If I was on the strand —
Then I’m out of the row?!
Let me be at my ease —
Aren’t we ships, aren’t we pals?
Bros, we aren’t short of seas,
And we aren’t short of lands!

Those lands we set our hopes on and reckon —
Of Columbus, and of Magellan.


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