Vladimir Vysotsky. A Ballad of Time.

A Ballad of Time.Adapted from Oleg Roderik, Sergey Roy, Pavlo Shostak
and Alec Vagapov’s translations by Akbar Muhammad.

Time has brought down the castle and covered with grass,

Where the walls stood, grow nettles and thistles.

But the granite’s tranquility won’t always last,
One fine day these old, cold stones will talk of the past —

Of old triumphs, campaigns and collisions.

Time hasn’t tombed these deeds under the thistle:
If we rip away its upper crust,
Or take it by the throat a little,
It’ll uncover its lore of the past.

Scores of padlocks will fall, scores of chains will be shed,
And a vast heap of ages will break out in sweat,
And keen legends of hundreds of verses will flow,
About tournaments, sieges and dauntless free shots.

These old times will to you be familiar enough,

And their melodies will sound sublime,

For the reason that love will forever be love,

Even in your remote future time.

Steel would crack with a clank, at the slash of the sword,

And the bow-string would fume under tension,

Death would settle on lances, and bawl, sitting squat,
Foes, appealing for quarter, would fall on the spot,

And yield to their defeaters’ discretion.

But not all who avoided destruction
Had retained former sweetness of souls,
Having saved their good names from abduction
By unscrupulous thieves of all sorts.

It feels fine to be rocked by the horse’s smooth gait,
When your hand wields the lance’s consolatory weight;
It feels fine when ye know where the arrow comes from,
And it’s ill when your foe lies in wait for your soul.

What about the mean creatures, how hard is their fate?

Are the witches as usual spitfire?

Don’t disaster and evil remain just the same

Even there, in your kind future time?

At all times, in all different parts of the world,

People scorn scoundrels, cowards and traitors.

Foe is foe, and to fight with is our only work,
And but freedom is what we have need and long for,

And we always set hopes on the better.

Time will never abolish these notions,
If we rip away its upper crust,
Like hot fuming blood, ageless emotions,
Heavenly feelings will sweep down on us.

All’s as it was before and will be, my dear friend —
There are prices to pay, there are errors to mend.
It feels fine if no one takes from you false offense,
If ye fight close together with your steadfast friends.

Plainness, purity come from the ancients to us,

From the past, we take legends and tales,

For the good at all times is the good — in the past

And in future, as well as at present!


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