Vladimir Vysotsky poems in English

  1. A song about the hospital
  2. Brotherly graves
  3. Debris remaining from the crown
  4. Farewell
  5. He, who\'s been with her before
  6. I\'m working, with my knife in hand
  7. Now, my bride will clearly
  8. Silver strings
  9. Song about a friend
  10. Song about the mental clinic
  11. The spring is just beginning

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
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Farewell

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
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Debris remaining from the crown

Debris

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
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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
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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
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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
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Now, my bride will clearly

Now, my bride will clearly weep for me sincerely,

And my friends will settle all my debts at last,

Others men will gather to sing my songs completely,

And, perhaps, my enemies may even raise a glass.

They’ll no longer grant me here books that I desire,

One of my guitar strings has become undone.

Here, I can’t get lower and I can’t get higher,

I can’t have the moon, and I can’t have the sun.

Here, I don't have freedom – stripped of rights outright,

To the door or to the wall - no matter how I rage,

Here, I can’t turn left and I can’t turn right,

I can only have my dreams and the skyline's edge.

Dreams of how I’ll leave from my prison hastily,

With my old guitar in hand, I’ll walk out free.

Who will come to greet me, who will then embrace me,

And what songs, I wonder, will they sing to me?
Vladimir Vysotsky
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Silver strings

As I carry my guitar – walls, before me, separate!

I can see no freedom that evil fortune brings!

You can cut my throat, you can slash my veins, irate, -

But be careful not to rip my cherished silver strings!



I'll dig myself into the dirt, and disappear, perhaps, -

Would you shield a tortured youth underneath your wings!

They have climbed into my soul, and tore it into scraps,

I only hope they do not rip my cherished silver strings.



They took my freedom – my guitar, my life is out of order, -

I had to watch these scumbags ravage through my things!

"Kick me straight into the mud, throw me in the water -

But, I beg you, do not rip my cherished silver strings!"



What has happened, brothers? Am I never destined

To observe the sun again, or how the twilight sinks?!

They took away my freedom, left my soul in festers, -

And now they have completely ripped my cherished silver strings...
Vladimir Vysotsky
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He, who's been with her before

That night, I didn’t drink, I didn’t sing,

I stared at her and didn’t blink,

As though a child, as though a child,

But he, who’s been with her before,

He told me, I should simply go,

He told me, I should simply go,

I’d face denial.

And he, who’s been with her before,

Was rude to me, he yelled and swore, -

Yes, I remember - I wasn’t drunk then.

But as I tried to walk away,

She told me: - What’s the hurry, stay! -

She told me: - What’s the hurry, stay,

It isn’t late yet.

But he, who’s been with her before,

Remembered and did not let go,

Then, in the fall, then, in the fall -

I’m with my friend, they blocked our lane.

They stood together in a chain,

They stood together in a chain,

Eight men in all.

I’ve got my knife, and I decide:

I won’t go down without a fight.

Watch out, you fools! Watch out, you fools!

Why should I wait to be submersed?

And so, I chose to strike them first,

And so, I chose to strike them first,

Those were the rules.

But he, who’s been with her before

Would not let up, he wanted more,

To set me straight, to set me straight.

And from behind, someone attacked

Val tried to help me: - Watch your back! -

Val tried to help me: - Watch your back! -

But far too late.

For all eight sins - one resolution.

A prison clinic’s - my conclusion,

I lied there flat, I lied there flat.

The surgeon cut across and down

He told me: - Bro, just hang around! -

He told me: - Bro, just hang around! -

And I did that.

And all alone, I served my term,

She did not wait for my return,

But I forgive her, yes, I forgive her.

I don’t hold grudges anymore,

But him, who’s been with her before,

But him, who’s been with her before,

I won’t be leaving.

Thought she don’t owe me anymore,

With him, who’s been with her before,

With him, who’s been with her before,

I will get even!
Vladimir Vysotsky
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I'm working, with my knife in hand

I’m working, with my knife in hand, -

Don’t vex me now, you understand,

And later – I’ll be going to the bar.

Let people think that I’m insane,

But I obtain – I drink my gain, -

And I will do it as I’ve done so far.

A man walks up to me, enraged,

And he declares, “In this tough age,

I want to execute all crooks like you!”

And in response, I caught this chap, -

I didn’t reason, simply stabbed, -

And I’ll continue to do just as I do.

You want to tell me what you think -

Come sit with me and we will drink, -

And every problem we’ll discuss and fix.

But if you come with his intent, -

One rule applies to every man

And it will always stay just as it is.
Vladimir Vysotsky
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