Speaking In Tongues
Scribbling In Voices

Vladimir Mayakovsky

Translated by Alec Vagapov

© Translation by Alec Vagapov, 1968

The Poem of the Soviet Passport
Left March
The Parisian Woman
To Comrade Nette, the Man and the Ship

The Poem of the Soviet Passport

I'd root out bureaucracy once and for ever.
I have no respect for formalities.
May every paper go to the devil
But for this...
A courteous official passes through
The maze of compartments and halls.
They hand in passports, and I, too,
Hand in my red-skinned pass.
Some passports arouse an obliging smile
While others are treated as mud.
Say, passports picturing the British Lion
Are taken with special regard.
A burly guy from the USA
Is met with an exorbitant honor,
They take his passport as if they
Were taking a gift of money.
The Polish passport makes them stare
Like a sheep might stare at a Christmas tree:
Where does it come from, this silly and queer
Geographical discovery?
Without trying to use their brains,
Entirely dead to all feelings,
They take quite coldly passports from Danes
And other sorts of aliens.
Suddenly, as if he had burnt his mouth,
The official stood stock-still:
It's my red passport fall this bound
Into the hands of his majesty.
He takes my pass, as if it were
A bomb, a blade or those sorts of things,
He takes it with extraordinary caution and scare
As if it were a snake with dozens of stings.
The porter meaningly bats his eyes
Ready to serve me for free.
The detective looks at the cop in surprise,
The cop looks at him inquiringly.
I know I'd be fiercely slashed and hanged
By this gendarmerie caste
Only because I have got in my hand
This hammer-and-sickle pass.
I'd root out bureaucracy once and for ever.
I have no respect for formalities.
May every paper go to the devil
But for this...
This little thing, so dear to me,
I withdraw from my loose pantaloons,
Read it and envy me: I happen to be
A citizen of the Soviet Union.


Разворачивайтесь в марше!
Словесной не место кляузе.
Тише, ораторы!
товарищ маузер.
Довольно жить законом,
данным Адамом и Евой.
Клячу истории загоним.
Эй, синеблузые!
За океаны!
у броненосцев на рейде
ступлены острые кили?!
оскалясь короной,
вздымает британский лев вой.
Коммуне не быть покоренной.
за горами горя
солнечный край непочатый.
За голод
за мора море
шаг миллионов печатай!
Пусть бандой окружат нанятой,
стальной изливаются леевой, —
России не быть под Антантой.
Глаз ли померкнет орлий?
В старое станем ли пятиться?
у мира на горле
пролетариата пальцы!
Грудью вперед бравой!
Флагами небо оклеивай!
Кто там шагает правой?


About turn! March!
Away with a talk-show.
Silence, you speakers!
Comrade mouser,
have the floor.
Down with the law which for us
Adam and Eve have left.
We'll ruin the jade of the past.
Hey, bluejackets!
Be gone!
Sail away! Overseas!
Or is there anything wrong
with the keels
of your battleships?
the vigorous British Lion
Keep howling, frenzied and chafed.
The commune shall not resign.
o'er the hills of sorrow
There's a land of the rising sun...
For hunger,
for the sea of horror,
millions, march one by one!
May them gang up against us,
To all their threats we’ll be deaf,
The Entente shall never suppress us.
Can the eagle ever get blind?
Can they make us swing off the road?
your proletarian hand
tight on the world's throat!
Deck out the sky with drape!
March boldly ahead , don’t be late!
Who's marching out of step?


Вы себе представляете парижских женщин
с шеей разжемчуженной, разбриллиантенной рукой...
Бросьте представлять себе! Жизнь — жестче —
у моей парижанки вид другой.
Не знаю, право, молода или стара она,
До желтизны отшлифованная в лощенном хамье.
Служит она в уборной ресторана —
маленького ресторана «Гранд-Шомьер».
Выпившего бургундского может захотеться
для облегчения пойти пройтись.
Дело мадмуазель — подавать полотенце,
она в этом деле просто артист.
Пока у трюмо разглядываешь прыщик,
она разулыбив облупленный рот,
пудрой попудрит, духами попрыщет,
подаст пипифакс и лужу подотрет.
Раба чревоугодий торчит без солнца,
в клозетной шахте по суткам клопея,
за пятьдесят сантимов (по курсу червонца
с мужчины около четырех копеек).
Под умывальником ладони омывая
дыша диковиной парфюмерных зелий,
над мадмуазелью недоумевая,
хочу сказать мадмуазели :
— Мадмуазель, Ваш вид, извините, жалок.
На уборную молодость губить не жалко Вам?
Или мне наврали про парижанок,
или Вы, мадмуазель, не парижанка.
Выглядите Вы туберкулезно и вяло,
Чулки шерстяные... Почему не шелка?
Почему не шлют Вам пармских фиалок
благородные мусью от полного кошелька? —
Мадмуазель молчала, грохот наваливал
на трактир, на потолок, на нас.
Это, кружа веселье карнавалово,
весь в парижанках гудел Монпарнас.
Простите, пожалуйста, за стих раскрежещенный
и за описанные вонючие лужи,
но очень трудно в Париже женщине,
если женщина не продается, а служит.


What is your idea of a Parisian woman?
A jeweled beauty with a gemmed hand?
Don't try to fancy! Life is more gloomy!
The Parisian I know is nothing of the kind.
I don't know whether she is old or young,
In a gloss of finery impaired by wear
She works at the toilet of a restaurant
A little restaurant called Grand Chamier.
After having a drop one may have a desire
To refresh oneself by taking the air.
The woman’s job is to help with a towel,
And she is a conjurer in this affair.
You sit at the mirror in the toilet-room
Watching your pimples while she, with a smile,
Will powder your face and put some perfume,
Wipe up the pool and give you a towel.
To please the gluttons she sticks around
In the somber lavatory all day long.
For fifty centimes! (Which is around
Four kopecks for every good turn).
I go to the washstand to wash my hands
Inhaling the marvel of perfumery smell,
Her wretched plainness puzzling my fancy
I want to say to the mademoiselle:
Your appearance is far from being pleasing.
Why should you spent your life in a toilet?
I must have thought too much of Parisians
Or you are not a Parisian at all.
Your manners are languid and you look unhealthy.
The stockings you wear aren't silk but plain.
Why don't moneyed messieurs present you
With bunches of violets now and then?
She didn't reply. The air being rent
By a loud street noise falling on us
That was the noise of the carnival merriment
Of young Parisians in Monte Parnasse.
I am sorry for a harsh poem like this,
For having mentioned a dirty pool,
But it's hard for a woman to live in Paris
If she has to work, — not to sell her soul.


Я недаром вздрогнул. He загробный вздор.
В порт, горящий как расплавленное лето,
разворачивался и входил товарищ «Теодор

Это -- он. Я узнаю его.
В блюдечках-очках спасательных кругов.
-- Здравствуй, Нетте! Как я рад, что ты живой
дымной жизнью труб, канатов и крюков.

Подойди сюда! Тебе не мелко?
От Батума, чай, котлами покипел...
Помнишь, Нетте, -- в бытность человеком
ты пивал чаи со мною в дип-купе?

Медлил ты. Захрапывали сони.
Глаз кося в печати сургуча,
напролет болтал о Ромке Якобсоне
и смешно потел, стихи уча.

Засыпал к утру. Курок аж палец свел...
Суньтеся -- кому охота!
Думал ли, что через год всего
встречусь я с тобою -- с пароходом.

За кормой луниша. Ну и здорово!
Залегла, просторы надвое прорвав.
Будто навек за собой из битвы коридоровой
тянешь след героя, светел и кровав.

В коммунизм из книжки верят средне.
«Мало ли что можно в книжке намолоть!»
А такое -- оживит внезапно «бредни»
и покажет коммунизма естество и плоть.

Мы живем, зажатые железной клятвой.
За нее -- на крест, и пулею чешите:
это -- чтобы в мире без Россий, без Латвий,
жить единым человечьим обшежитьем.

В наших жилах -- кровь, а не водица.
Мы идем сквозь револьверный лай,
чтобы, умирая, воплотиться
в пароходы, в строчки и в другие долгие дела.

Мне бы жить и жить, сквозь годы мчась.
Но в конце хочу -- других желаний нету --
встретить я хочу мой смертный час
так, как встретил смерть товарищ Нетте.



I startled. Then I saw that it was not a dream.
Nor was it the fancy of a poet.
The «Theodor Nette» turned about to steam
Into the port.

I have recognized him. He arrived
Wearing round spectacles of safety buoys.
Hello, Nette! I'm so glad that you're alive,
A smoky life of funnels, hooks and coils.

Now come here. How's everything?
You must have traveled, boiling, very far...
You remember, when a human being,
Having tea with me in a sleeping car?

People snored while you sat up till morn.
Squinting at the sealing-wax with half closed eyes.
You would talk about Rommie Yakobson
And amuse yourself by learning rhymes.

You'd fall asleep at dawn, revolver at the ready.
Was there anybody going to pry?
Could I think that in a year's time already
As a ship you would appear to my eye ?

Big and bright is the moon that shines in your rear,
The vast is divided in two by its light.
As if you were dragging the trace of a hero
From the scene of a severe naval fight.

We don't believe in communism from the books we read
There is a lot of rubbish in them as a rule.
But this is something that turns all «fibs» to real
And reveals the gist of the idea to the full.

We are living bound by an iron oath,
And we might as well be hanged and crushed
For we want this world to be a common earth
Without Latvias and without Russias.

We have blood, not water flowing in our body.
We are marching through the pistol din
So that consequently we might be embodied
In a ship, a poem or some other lasting thing.

I would live on and on following my bent.
But I have just one wish at length:
I would like to meet my latter end
Just as comrade Nette met his death.