Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Zima Station. Poem . Translated from the Russiam by Alec Vagapov
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Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Zima Station. Poem. Translated from the Russian by Alec Vagapov
Translated from the Russian by Alec Vagapov
As we get older we become more open,
and therefore we bless our lucky stars...
The changes taking place in life quite often
coincide with changes taking place in us.
And if we have a different point of view,
if we have changed
the estimation scales,
if, viewing people,
we discover something new,
it means we first revealed it in ourselves.
Of course, I haven"t lived too long, and yet
at twenty I reviewed my life throughout:
I should have never said
what I had said,
and what I hadn"t said
I should have spoken out.
I saw that I had often been too prudent,
had not been thoughtful, sensitive, pretentious,
that in my life, quite smooth, there wouldn"t
be real deeds, but rather good intentions.
But still there is a way of coming round
and gaining strength for new ideas, just
stepping down, once again, upon the ground
I used to tread, barefooted, raising dust.
This thought has always helped me everywhere,
a simple thought it seems to be, by far,
that I"ll be seeing you again somewhere
near Baikal Lake[i] you, station called Zima.
I"d like to see the old familiar pines,
the witnesses of the old-old bygone times,
when great-granddad, along with other peasants,
were banished to Siberia as rebels.
From far away
to God forsaken place,
through mud and rain, deep in disgrace,
along with their wives and kids they were driven,
Ukrainian peasants, from Zhitomir [ii] region.
They plodded, trying to forget about
the things they treasured most of all, perchance...
The watchful convoy guards on the look out
would look askance at their heavy veiny hands.
The corporal would be playing cards as night would fall
while great-granddad, absorbed in thought all night,
would skilfully pick up a piece of coal
straight from the fire, to have a light.
what his thoughts were about;
perchance, about that land, unknown, new...
Would it be friendly or the other way around?
What it was really like God only knew.
He didn"t bet on tales there were
about the place which "wasn"t really bad"
that "simple people lived like nobles there"
( Where had ever people lived like that ? ).
Nor did he trust the feeling of distress
which would come over him all over sudden:
for, after all, there was a plot, for kitchen garden,
where he could plough and sow like anywhere else.
What is in store for us?
There is a long-long way to go as yet.
Where is Ukraine?
Sweet homeland, where is she?
There"s no way back from here, you bet.
The places are impassable.
No roads. It is impossible,
for human or a demon,
on horseback or on foot,
on horseback or on foot,
to cross the rugged wood.
New settlers, not withstanding their wishes,
the peasants should have, naturally, thought
that land to be a twist of fate and a malicious
misfortune which had fallen to their lot.
They had to change their homeland for another
and should have felt resentment and dismay,
for, after all, however good, stepmother
would not replace one"s mother, anyway.
But as they touched its soil, to see what it was worth,
and as they let their kids taste water, crystal clear,
they realised: it was the good old earth,
that it was theirs,
near and dear !..
However, they would gradually come to harm of
the yoke of poverty, and hardship would begin.
It"s like a nail one drives in with a hammer,-
is it to blame
for being driven in?
They were early birds and never waited
for crows to wake them up at dawn,
but all was vain: however hard they sweated
they would be swallowed by the harvest grown.
They mowed, threshed grain,
made hay and weeded,
they did the house-chores and cleaned the shed;
sufficiency of bread was all they needed, -
was in the daily bread.
My great-granddad believed in bread devoutly,
and, having gone through miserable days,
he dreamed about the truth, undoubtedly,
but not the kind of truth he had to face.
The great granddaddy"s truth was insufficient for it,
the new, unusual truth was to be trusted in:
a girl of nine, my mother got to know it,
the year of nineteen hundred and nineteen.
One autumn day, amidst the skirmish thunder,
there came a horseman, riding from afar,
a man with golden forelock
seen from under
the hat embellished with a metal star.
Then, galloping headlong, in jubilation,
across the bridge, which couldn"t hold the load,
cavalrymen rushed passed towards the station
with sabres glittering in flight along the road.
There was some merit and some simple vision,
which obviously were acquired traits,
about the way the man from State Commission
had stopped the robbery and looting raids;
about the way the comic from the squadron
performing in the club;
about the way
the lodging soldier-man was bothering
with his jackboots
he"d give a good hard scrub.
He fell in love. She was a high-school teacher.
He lost his head and couldn"t say the word,
he"d talk about this and that but feature
of the hydra of the world.
He was quite smart in theoretic sphere
( as soldiers in his squadron said ).
The main thing , he would claim, was the idea,
it didn"t matter if there wasn"t bread.
He would go wild and argue with devotion,
resorting to quotations and his fist,
the bourgeois, he said, must drown in the ocean,
the rest was simple,
like the twist of wrist.
What would come after? Life would be so lovely:
unfold the flags and banners, red!
the trumpets playing lively,
march to Commune,
straight ahead !
As tough as old jackboots, the "preacher",
the valiant horseman, loaded down with grain,
got on his horse
and, turning to the teacher,
"So long! See you again!"
to look ahead into the distance
where winds were filled with powder smell,
and off he rode,
the horse now took him eastwards,
in burrs and bands its forelock swayed farewell.
I was a boy then.
We would play around.
At hide at seek we"d find a little nook,
the place where we would not be found,-
the barn with bullet holes through which we"d look.
We lived in our world of fun and mischief
when Moscow was within the reach of
Guderian[iii], who standing on the tank,
gaped at the Kremlin on the river bank...
We were carefree, we"d run away from class,
across the schoolyard through the field of grass,
on to the river we would come out,
we"d cut a twig, a fishing rod, self-made,
we"d have a line, a hook and bait,
with no one there to order us about.
I would go fishing, fly a kite,
I would take a stroll,
I"d wander, chewing clover,
out in the open,
my sandals green from grass, from top to sole.
I"d walk along beehives
and fresh black furrows
and watch the clouds floating, soft and white,
I"d see them, slightly trembling, stretch as far as
horizon, where they"d drown, filled with light.
I"d see a farm-yard and, walking by it,
I"d listen to the horse"s neigh,
and I would fall asleep,
tranquil and tired,
relaxing in a stack of hay.
I had no worries living life of ease then,
which was as smooth as it could be,
did not seem hard to me just for the reason
that I would have my problems
solved for me.
I knew that I would get the answers, surely,
to all my questions: "how?" and "what?" and "why?",
however, it was no one else but I
who had to answer all these questions duly.
The difficulty, as I pointed out,
came by itself, as some unwitting chance,
and it was my anxiety, no doubt,
that made me go to see Zima, for once.
Returning to the near and dear forests,
to streets where I liked to walk about so,
I brought my current complication and my worries
to the simplicity of former times, for show.
They looked intently in resentment, or they rather
were feeling mutual offence, an anger streak:
two ages, Youth and Childhood,
faced each other
who would be the first to speak.
It was my Childhood that began:
I hardly recognised you.
It"s your fault.
I used to dream about you, and, you know,
you"re different from what you were in my thought.
I"ll tell you openly that you upset me.
You are my debtor, and you owe me a great deal".
Youth , slightly puzzled, answered:
"Will you help me?"
And Childhood , smiling, said:
Then, stepping softly, as we said our goodbye,
watching the houses around and the passers-by,
I made my way, in joy and trepidation,
about the streets of
ofdear Zima station.
I had been thinking, and I wondered whether
I would see any changes when I got in.
I figured if it wasn"t any better
at least it wasn"t worse than it had been.
But everything appeared to be small,
the chemist"s shop, the city park and all.
It seemed that things had shrunk and therefore
were smaller than had been nine years before.