Vladimir Vysotsky. My Hamlet.

My Hamlet.

Just a few things I’m going to explain,
To tell you more I’d want to be empowered...
I was conceived in tenseness and in pain
That sinful night that follows the espousals.

I knew that as we rise above the earth
We learn the heartlessness that there’s inherent.
I neared the throne knowing of my worth,
With all the hubris of an heir clear-cut.

The world was mine! I never faced a fall,
And I was never querulous nor down.
My friends and playmates served me one and all
Just like their fathers served the Danish crown.

I never cared much for what I said,
And effortlessly squandered my avowals.
All noble kids believed me all the same,
Assenting to my primacy of power.

At nights the watchmen feared our reckless band,
Time was diseased with us as if with smallpox.
I slept on skins, used as a fork my hand,
And disciplined self-willed and wicked horses.

I knew that one fine day I’d hear, “Be king!”
Since birth, I felt a mark on my brow burning.
The tourneys made me drunk like heady drink,
And I endured the irksome books and learning.

I smiled, but did it only with my lips,
No one could tell if I was glad or sorry.
The jester taught me, and I took his tips.
Alas, he’s now dead. Amen! Poor Yorick!

But I rejected, when I came of age
The life of pleasure, endless fun and routs:
I pitied on a sudden a murdered page,
Since then I never tramped on fragile sprouts.

I could enjoy no longer hunters’ feasts,
And was disgusted at greyhounds and beagles,
I turned my horse away from wounded beasts
And mercilessly whipped painstaking beaters.

I saw that what we played began to look
Like playing disarray with the poor nation,
And late at night, in secret, in a brook
I tried to wash off daily dissipation.

The more I saw the sillier I got,
I overlooked my relatives intriguing.
I didn’t like the century and, of course,
All of its men, and I submerged in reading.

My brain required knowledge more and more,
Perceiving all: both progress and stagnation.
But what’s the use in science and in thoughts
If everywhere you see their refutation?

I tore the tread with playmates and was free,
It seemed that Ariadne’s was a false plan.
I racked my brain to be or not to be
As if this simple dilemma was unsolvable.

Our arrows hit the everlasting sea
Of troubles, disillusionments and slavery.
Like millet in a sieve, we try to sift
A chancy answer from this mannered question.

My father called me through the dying hum,
And I went forth, pursued by creeping doubts.
A heavy load of musings tugged me up,
While carnal wings lugged pitilessly down.

Days smelted me into the alloy that
Soon after cooling was disintegrated,
For I spilled blood like others tit for tat!
I dived into revenge and into hatred.

My last success was, in the end, my fall.
Ophelia! Decay I cannot bear!
But killing made me equal to them all
With whom a common grave I’d later share.

I’m Hamlet! I despised the rule of force,
I didn’t care for the Danish throne,
But all around me were sure, of course,
That I destroyed my rival to reign alone.

A genius often looks like one who raves,
Right after birth, death starts its quick progression.
But we again a tricky answer raise
And fail to find a veritable question!

1972.

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