Poems and Songs of Vladimir Vysotsky. A Ballad of Fighting.

A Ballad of the Children of Books.Adapted from Vyacheslav Chetin, Sergey Roy and
George Tokarev’s translations by Akbar Muhammad.

In the world of burnt candles and obligatory prayers,
In the world of war trophies and peaceful bonfires,
There lived children of books, thirsting for war affairs,
Counting their real existence too boring and trite.

At all times children feel
A disgust with their age,
And in our fights we spilled
Hidden hurt and dark rage.
But our mothers repaired
Those patched-up rags of ours,
While we lived in the air
Of the books we devoured.

In the night, our foreheads suddenly glisten with sweat,
It looked like we were endlessly falling through space,
As the rumble of great battles wheeled around our little heads,
When we sailed through the sea of the old days’ suspense.

And we tried to perceive,
Knowing nothing of wars,
What an ambush could give,
What a chariot was,
Why frontiers were set,
What it means to obey,
When an order ye get
And there’s nothing to say.

In the cauldrons of former distempers and wars,
There was plenty of food for our young souls and brains.
For performing the parts of betrayers, dastards, rogues,
We appointed our foes in our childish war games.

We were brave and see through
Any villainous ploys,
We assured to stay true
To fair maids of our choice,
We soothed pains in the hearts
Of our kin and our friends,
And the positive parts
We reserved for ourselves.

But one can’t live forever in his make-believe,
Games are over quite soon for the world’s full of pain.
So ye have to begin in real earnest to live
And take over the arms from the arms of the slain.

Having gotten someone’s sword
And his armor, ye’ll go
To discover this world,
See what’s high and what’s low.
Prove yourself — what are ye,
A poltroon or a knight?
Come to find out what means
To take part in the fight!

When your old friend fall down, shedding blood on the plain,
When ye wail over this irreplaceable loss,
When ye feel as if scalped, since your buddy was slain
’Stead of you — and this will be forever your cross —

It’ll be clear that now ye’ve
Comprehended and sensed
By the foes visors’ grin —
It’s a sneer of Death! —
Lie and Evil — look ye,
How their faces are coarse,
And their road always leads
But to coffins and crows!

If, when cutting your way with your father’s old sword,
To gulp down tears and sweat on and on ye’d proceed,
If the battles ye took part ye got as a reward —
Then the right books ye read in your childhood — ye did!

If ye never ate meat,
Sitting at the field fire,
If ye stayed in your seat,
Taking part in no strife,
If your hand ever helped
No one person in need —
Then your life ye misspent,
Spoiled and squandered — ye did!


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