Vladimir Vysotsky. A Ballad of Fighting.

Commentary to the song “On Fatal Dates and Figures”.

This song calls to mind Alexander Pushkin’s poem “To the Poet” (adapted from Rupert Moreton’s translation):

O poet! don’t take care of people’s valuation.
For soon to pass is the nice moment of their praise;
You’ll hear the crowd’s laugh and the blockhead’s estimation:
But you stay strong, serene and sombre all your days.
You are a Tsar: lead your life’s course in isolation.
Oh, may on the free road the unshackled mind you lead,
And, looking not for guerdon for your noble deed,
You bring with love your outcomes to sophistication.
You are your highest judge. The gift belongs to you;
More strictly than the rest you weigh up what you do.
Tell me, O picky master, are your outcomes pleasing?
So are you pleased? Then let the crowd your work despise,
And sputter on the altar where your flames arise,
And make to rock your tripod with its childish teasing.

Here also come to mind Gabdulla Tukay’s poems “To the Poet” and “For Memory”.

Another close in spirit poem is “The Fabulists” by Rudyard Kipling:

When all the world would have a matter hid,

Since Truth is seldom friend to any crowd,

Men write in fable, as old Aesop did,

Jesting at that which none will name aloud.

And this they needs must do, or it will fall
Unless they please they are not heard at all.

When desperate Folly daily laboureth

To work confusion upon all we have,

When diligent Sloth demandeth Freedom’s death,

And banded Fear commandeth Honor’s grave —

Even in that certain hour before the fall,
Unless men please they are not heard at all.

Needs must all please, yet some not all for need,

Needs must all toil, yet some not all for gain,

But that men taking pleasure may take heed,

Whom present toil shall snatch from later pain.

Thus some have toiled but their reward was small
Since, though they pleased, they were not heard at all.

This was the lock that lay upon our lips,

This was the yoke that we have undergone,

Denying us all pleasant fellowships

As in our time and generation.

Our pleasures unpursued age past recall,
And for our pains — we are not heard at all.

What man hears aught except the groaning guns?

What man heeds aught save what each instant brings?

When each man’s life all imaged life outruns,

What man shall pleasure in imaginings?

So it hath fallen, as it was bound to fall,
We are not, nor we were not, heard at all.

“At twenty-six, his end one in a pistol duel faced...” — Mikhail Lermontov was killed in a duel at the age of twenty-six.

“...another — in a noose in that darned hostel” — Sergey Yesenin was found hanged in the Angleterre Hotel in Leningrad when there remained three days be­fore the start of 1926 (there is no doubt that he died a violent death).

A l e x a n d e r P u s h k i n was mortally wounded in a duel at the age of thirty-seven in 1837.

V l a d i m i r M a y a k o v s k y shot himself shortly before reaching thirty-seven years old (his death seems to be the result of a failed suicide stim­u­la­tion).

G e o r g e B y r o n died at the thirty-seventh year of his life.

A r t h u r R i m b a u d died at the age of thirty-seven.

The presented text is partly adapted from Eugeny Derbarmdiker and Sergey Roy’s translations.

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