A violin and a little nervous

The violin was panicking, imploring

and suddenly burst into tears,

so child-like and pesky

that the drum couldn't stand it:

"All right, all right, all right!"

It got weary, couldn't wait till the violin finished,

slipped out onto the gleaming Kuznetsky

and took flight.

The curious orchestra looked on as

the violin wept itself out,

without words

or cadence

and only the nearby seated,

foolish cymbals

kept banging:

“What is it?

Who did it?”

And when the helicon,


and covered with sweat,




get some sense!”

across the notes,

I staggered ahead

over the horror-struck music stands.

For some reason, I cried out:


and reached for its wooden face:

“Violin, we are similar

don’t you see that?

I also

shout a lot

and like you, I can’t prove my case!”

The musicians laugh:

“He’s been caught

by a wooden girl, - what could be better?!

He’s mad!”

But I don’t care what they say

I’m a good guy…

Hey, violin, you know what?

Let’s live together

Vladimir Mayakovsky
Read in English and Russian



if the stars are lit,

then someone must need them, of course?

then someone must want them to be there,

calling those droplets of spittle pearls?

And wheezing,

in the blizzards of midday dust,

he rushes to God,

fearing he’s out of time

and sobbing,

he kisses God’s sinewy hands,

tells Him that it’s important,

pleads to Him that the star must shine!


that he won’t survive the starless torment!

And later,

he wanders, worried,

though seemingly calm and fit,

and tells somebody:

“Finally, nothing can

frighten you,



if the stars are lit,

then someone must really need them?

then it is essential

that at least one star


over the rooftops each night?!
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Read in English and Russian

About Petersburg

From rooftops, tears seeped into pipes

and to the river’s arm drew streaks,

while lips, suspended from the skies,

continued sucking on stone teats.

The sky, relaxed, could now see clearly:

along the sea's resplendent channel,

the sweating cameleer drove wearily

The Neva’s lazy, two-humped camel.
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Read in English and Russian

I smeared the weekday map

I smeared the weekday map, in passing,

while splashing paint from a glass;

revealed upon a plate of aspic

the ocean’s angled cheeks at last.

In scales of a tin fish, hidden,

I’ve read the calls of lips yet mute.

Could you

have played a nocturne


a common drainpipe for a flute?
Vladimir Mayakovsky
Read in English and Russian

Song about a friend

If your friend just became a man,

Not a friend, not a foe, - just so,

If you cannot just look and conclude,

If he's bad or he's good, -

To the peaks take this man -- don’t fret!

Do not leave him alone, on his own,

Let him share the same view with you--

There you’ll who is who.

If the guy on the peak got weak,

If he lost all his care -- got scared,

Just one step on the ice - he flies,

One missed step - and he cries, —

Then the one you held close is false,

Do not bother to yell-- expel, --

We can’t take such aboard, and in short,

We don’t sing of his sort.

If the guy didn’t whine or pine,

He was dull and upset, but went,

When you slipped from the cliff, he heaved,

Holding you in his grip;

If he walked right along, seemed strong,

On the top stood like he belonged, --

Then, whenever the outlook seems grim,

You can count on him!
Vladimir Vysotsky
Read in English and Russian


Ships will linger awhile, plan their voyage, and sail.

And though the weather is foul, they will soon reappear.

Half-a-year will not pass, and I’ll return without fail,

Just to set out again,

just to sail again half-a-year.

Everybody comes back, only dear friends get lost,

And the faithful women with whom we were blessed,

Everybody returns, but the ones we need most,

I believe not in fate,

I believe not in fate, in myself – even less.

I would like to believe all is not how it seems,

That the burning of ships is a craze that can’t last.

I will surely return, full of friends, full of dreams,

I will soon sing again,

I will soon sing again - half-a-year will not pass.
Vladimir Vysotsky
Read in English and Russian

Debris remaining from the crown


Remaining from the crown

With no state, no throne around,

There is no country left to govern—

All is damned!

And we’re,

Chased to holes like hunted game,

Caught like thieves to face the blame,

There’s only blood and shame,

To withstand.

For us,

It’s impossible to find,

With whom to split, with whom to bind,

Who’s with us and whom to mind,

Where to go, where to unwind -- we can’t tell!

Where’s spirit?

Where’s honor?

Where’s guilt?

Who are friends and who are strangers,

How did we neglect this danger,

Do we wish to cast this land to hell?

And shame--

On all of those who value rest

On those, whose conscience is a pest,

Who cannot choose in all this mess

To kill.

A call!...

And like a bull during a fray,

Like a hawk after a prey,

Inviting ravens all to stay

For the meal.

Hey you!

Where’s the strength that lit your face?

Where’s the pride with which we’ve gazed?

To rest today -- it’s a disgrace!

Grip the pistol in your hand and go!

An end,

To all.

An end.

All is broken, all seems brittle,

We are left with just a little, --

Fire at your temple or the foe.
Vladimir Vysotsky
Read in English and Russian

Song about the mental clinic

I told myself:-- you mustn't write!

But stubborn hands will not comply,

Oh, help me mother! Friends-- I’m in a fix!

I lie in bed -- they grin at me,

They might attack me terribly,

I’m scared to sleep: they’re noiseless, hopeless freaks.

The psychos vary here, and sure,

Not all are rowdy, some impure,

Receiving treatment -- getting starved and beat,

But here is what surprises me:

These madmen here are walking free,

And all the food that I receive, they simply take and eat.

Great Dostoyevsky’s fallen short

With the renowned, famous “Notes”!

I wish the poor deceased could come and see!

The famous Gogol I could tell

Such stories of this life in hell

That sure to God, this Gogol would most-boggled be!

Can’t stand this! Spit on those baboons,

‘cause after all, they’re rowdy loons!

They always aim to lick me on my face!

In number seven, yesterday,

Some loon, in utter disarray -

Just yelled, “America!” and stormed around the place.

I don’t want fame, and just for now,

I’m still remaining sane somehow,

I’ve yet to lose my head, but that’s my fate.

Here is the chief, -- the woman nurse,

She’s just a little crazed of course,

I yell that I am going mad and she just tells me: “Wait.”

And I am sensing while I wait,

I’m walking on a sharpened blade,--

Forgot the alphabet, -- my language’s Greek to me!

And I am asking friends mine this

Whoever I’m of theirs is

Of him, to take, his, me away from outtahere!
Vladimir Vysotsky
Read in English and Russian

A song about the hospital

The Arbat, with mom and pop,

Offered its advantages.

Now – the clinic, I’m on top

Of the bed, in bandages.

Who needs fame or light of day?

Who needs Claudia, the nurse?

My right neighbor passed away,

And my left one’s getting worse.

And one day, the left one told me,

From the fever, I suspect:

“Listen, buddy,” rather coldly,

“Did you know you’ve lost a leg?”

It can’t be! He must be merely

Joking with me, I suppose…

I recall the doc said clearly:

“We’ll just amputate your toes.”

But the left one drove me crazy, -

He kept calling me a wreck,

Even in a nightmare frenzy, –

He kept mentioning my leg.

He was taunting: "You will never

Walk again without help,

And your wife will leave forever!

If you could only see yourself!"

If I wasn’t such a cripple,

Climbing down on one leg,

Then, my life would be so simple,

I would cut the left one’s neck!

Now, I'm begging Claudia nightly:

“Bring a mirror, I insist…”

If the right one was beside me, -

He would tell me like it is.
Vladimir Vysotsky
Read in English and Russian

Brotherly graves

No crosses are placed on the brotherly graves,

And here no widows are mourning.

Some only bring flowers to honor the place,

And keep the Eternal flames burning.

This earth used to spurt and abandon its sleighs,

But now it just sleeps in the sun.

And here there are no individual fates -

All fates have grown into one.

The Eternal flame shows a flickering tank,

We watch Russian villages smolder,

The burning Smolensk, the burning Reichstag,

The burning heart of a soldier.

No mourning widows come to this place -

The people who come here are tougher.

No crosses are placed on the brotherly graves,

But how can that bring any comfort?...
Vladimir Vysotsky
Read in English and Russian