Speaking In Tongues
Guided by Voices

Vladimir Vysotsky

Translated by Andrey Kneller

A Meeting with the Muse

I'm gonna blow as if three hundred tons of TNT --
I'm charged with dullness of all evil-hearted
But just today, the Muse appeared to me
Stayed for a while, then we parted...

She had her reasons and I understand --
I have no right to moan here in dismay,
Just think, a Muse... at night... and with a man!
God only knows, what some might say!

And yet, I feel rejected and aroused
Because this Muse -- and many will agree! --
Had daily hung out at Block's house,
And stayed with Balmont, never tried to flee

I rush toward the desk, sad and impatient
I beg You, God, please keep me in your sight!
She left, and thus I lacked my inspiration
And money that she needed for the ride

In rage, I rush around the house in a pother
But I forgive her, even though it's tough
She left me here alone, but for another
I guess, I didn't treat her well enough

Gigantic cake with candles was prepared
Now it dries up from woe; I, too, feel used
And with my neighbor - lowlifes, I have shared
The cognac that was meant just for the Muse

Like people, years have slowly passed on by
All's in the past, I yawning from ennui
She left without a word, without a reason why,
Two lines are left from her, yes only two

Here are the lines -- without a doubt, I'm a poet;
I hear applause and I am full of pride;
"I still remember that amazing moment
You have appeared before my sight!"

A Song about a Friend

If your friend just became a man,
Not a friend, not a foe, -- just so,
If you cannot decide from the start,
If he's strong in his heart, --
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 --
Then you'll know if he's true.

If the guy on the peak got weak,
If he lost all his care -- got scared,
Took a step on the frost -- got lost,
Tripped and screamed in exhaust, --
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 nor 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 chances are slim
You can count on him!

Fastidious Horses

Along the gap, right by the cliff, where the edge is very narrow
With the whip I lash my horses, striking harder, force applying...
There's no air for me to breathe, -- I drink the wind, the mist I swallow
I can sense with tragic passion that I am dying... that I am dying!

Slow it down, horses, calm your eagerness!
Do not listen to the old tight thong!
But the horses that I've got are fastidious --
Had no time to fully live or sing the song...

I'll allow them to drink, and this verse I will sing
Just a little bit longer I will stay on the brink...

Like a flake, a brutal twister will then sweep me off the palm
In the morning, by the sledge, on the snow I'll heave and welter
Slow your gallop, oh my horses, -- make it peaceful and calm
And extend, somewhat, my journey to the last and final shelter

Slow it down, horses, calm your eagerness!
Do not listen to the old tight thong!
But the horses that I've got are fastidious --
Had no time to fully live or sing the song...

I'll allow them to drink, and this verse I will sing
Just a little bit longer I will stay on the brink...

We came in time - there's no lateness to God's palace --
Why are angels singing with their loud, angry voices?
And perhaps it is the bell, which is weeping thus with malice,
When I'm screaming "Slow it down!" to the wild, unruly horses?

Slow it down, horses, calm your eagerness!
I'm begging you, do not charge so strong!
But the horses that I've got are fastidious --
Had no time to live, -- let me finish this song!

I'll allow them to drink, and this verse I will sing
For a moment I'll stay on the brink...

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
He talked so coarsely and he swore
But I remembered -- I wasn't drunk then
And 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
And once in fall, and once in 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

With me -- 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
He planned and plotted a fierce row,
Severe and grave, severe and grave
Right from behind, someone attacked
And Johnny warned me, "Watch your back!"
And Johnny warned me, "Watch your back!"
It was too late

For all eight sins - one resolution
A prison clinic -- my conclusion
I lied there flat, I lied there flat
The surgeon cut across and down
He told me, "Man, just hang around!"
He told me, "Man, just hang around!"
I did just that!

The time flew by during my term
She did not wait for my return
But I've forgiven, her -- I've forgiven
Yes her, I surely do condone
But him, who's been with her before
But him, who's been with her before
I won't be leaving
Yes her, I surely do condone
With him, who's been with her before
With him, who's been with her before
I will get even

"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?
Where are friends and where 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,
Seducing 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, --
Aiming at the temple or the foe.

"I'm on a deal..."

I'm on a deal, I've got my knife
Don't bother me when I'm in strife!
And later - I'll be going to the bar.
Let others think that I'm insane,
But I obtain - I drink my gain,
And I will do so as I've done so far.

A man walks up to me in rage
And he declares, "In this tough age,
I want to execute all crooks like you!"
And thus this guy I firmly grabbed
I did not 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.

About a Mental Clinic

I told myself:-- must stop to 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!
Just yesterday, in seventh ward,
            One madman lost his mind and roared,--
He 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!

Leaving the Mountains

To the scramble of cities and the crowded streets
We return, for these places have bound us.
We descend from the conquered mountain peaks,
Leaving our hearts in the mountains.

So, I beg you, just stop all the meaningless fights!
Many times I have proven this speech,
And to me, the one thing that is better than heights,
Is the height that I haven't yet reached!

Who would want to be left all alone in a mix?
To descend when the heart starts to revel? --
Yet, we left from the conquered mountain peaks--
Gods, themselves, descended from heaven.

So, I beg you, just stop all the meaningless fights!
Many times I have proven this speech,
And to me, the one thing that is better than heights,
Is the height that I haven't yet reached!

Beautiful verses in their honor were penned
And the mountains call us to stay.
For a year or forever-- but we have to descend,
We must always return, either way.

So, I beg you, just stop all the meaningless fights!
Many times I have proven this speech,
And to me, the one thing that is better than heights,
Is the height that nobody has reached!

"My friends light up the candles for me still..."

My friends light up the candles for me still,
And in the smoke, your image is outlined,
And I don't want to know that time will heal,
That everything will pass away with time.

No longer will I ever lose my verve,
For any burden on my soul and any pain,
Unknowingly, she took along with her--
At first, into the port, then on the plane.

Inside my soul there are deserted lands.
What are you seeking in this fruitless blur?!
There are just fragments of old songs and webs,
And all the rest she took along with her.

Inside my soul are goals without means.
Go dig inside,-- you'll find there, perchance,
Two simple phrases and unfinished scenes,
And all the rest is now in Paris, France.

My friends light up the candles for me still,
And in the smoke, your image is outlined,
But I don't want to know that time will heal,
That everything will pass away with time.

My Hamlet

Just briefly, I'll explain myself in verse,
To tell you everything-- I do not have the might.
I was conceived, the proper way, in curse, --
In sweat and tenseness of the wedding night.

I knew, when separating from the earth --
The higher, the more harsh we got.
I walked towards the throne that I deserved
And acted like an heir in line of blood.

I knew that everything would be just as I ruled.
And I was never at a loss and never down.
My mates of sword and those I knew from school
Were loyal, like their fathers to the crown.

I never gave my speech a bit of thought.
Into the wind, I threw my words with pleasance--
Like to a leader, trust to me was brought
By noble and high-ranking adolescents.

We made the guards feel restless in the night,
From us, like from a pox, the time grew worse.
I slept on leather; ate right off the knife--
With stirrups disciplined my wicked horse.

"Long live the King!" - I had foreseen this cry,
The destiny has branded me at birth.
Around chased harnesses, I would get high,
I'd disregard abuse of books and words.

I'd smile with my lips while being pestered.
My mystic stare, when it is sad and mourning,
I've learned to hide, raised by a happy jester.
And now the jester's dead: "Amen!" Poor Yorick.

And still I disapproved of any sharing--
Of gains, rewards and privileges one has.
Then, suddenly for life I've started caring
And rode around the newly sprouted grass,

I lost the thrill for hunting -- lost its aim,
I started to despise greyhounds and beagles.
I sped my horse away from wounded game,
And whipped the huntsmen and the beaters

I watched our games with every single night
Turn more and more into disgrace of time
And by the flowing rivers, I would hide
And wash myself from staining filth and slime

I started to perceive, while growing duller,
Somehow, I missed the household affair.
Towards the people of this era I grew colder,
I hid myself in books and lost all care.

My brain, for wisdom greedy like a spider,
Grasped everything: the immobility and motion.
But what is wit when one cannot apply it?
When all around there's an opposing notion?

With friends I tore the tread and I was free--
The thread of Ariadne was but a scheme.
I pondered on the words "to be or not to be,"
A problem with no answer as it seemed.

The sea of grief was splashing in diffusion.
We stood against it; we were sieving grain,
And filtering the blurry resolution
To a dilemma, which appeared inane.

As clamor ebbed, my father's call was sharp,
I walked ahead, while lurking doubts loomed.
The weight of heavy thoughts would pull me up
And wings of flesh would drag me to my tomb.

Into a weak alloy, I've melted with each day,
And barely cool, it started to diffuse.
Like others, I've spilled blood and just like they
The growing vengeance I could not refuse.

The rising before death... was my collapse!
Ophelia! My dear, I won't decay...
With killing, I have made myself, perhaps,
An equal to the one with whom I lay.

I'm Hamlet, I despised injustice and abuse!
I did not give a damn about the crown!
But in their eyes, I hungered fame and I'm accused
Of sending rivals to the throne into the ground.

The striking splash appears as an illusion.
And death through birth emerges from a side
And we're still stating the deceitful solution
Not finding the question that is right.

The Honor of the Crown: The Training

I was yelling: "You're insane! What happened?
You have lost our prominence for chess!"
They responded from the sports department:
"You can help to lead us from this mess!

But remember, Bobby Fisher's clever--
Sleeps next to the board and has the might,
He plays neatly, never makes an error..."
That's all right! I surely won't surrender, --
In reserve, I have a sturdy knight!

Oh, my muscles, strong and grand,
Rapid fingers, brutal looks!
Carved and painted by hand --
Wooden castles, wooden rooks!

My friend, the soccer player, told me:
"He's not used to playing such opponents.
For the rear and center do not worry,
But, attack him straight along the corners!"

I started running, confidence obtaining
Lost some weight and never slept this fine!
Hockey practices became sustaining...
I must say that after all this training -
I should crush my rival in no time!

Oh, my palms -- so full of might,
Lower back so tough and brawny!
Oh, my strong and forceful knights,
Oh, my bishops bring me glory!

"Stand up straight and don't be nervous, --
My friend, the boxer told me that, --
Do not close in, go for the corpus
Your advantage is the jab."

Any doubt of losing now is gone! --
The defeat is hanging on his tail.
I played Tal ten times for fun,
In dominoes, in pool and twenty one, --
Tal exclaimed, "He'll never fail!"

Oh, my muscles shaped so great!
Strong and build on all the sides!
I'll have no problem to abate--
Lightweight bishops, feeble knights!

Inside the private bar that night,
The chef convinced me: "I just know it,
With that awesome appetite
You'll eat his pieces in one moment!

Rest is most important-- that is true!
Bring a lot of food or else you'll lose!
Pack some paschal pie... for two,
This Shifer -- he's as talented as you,
And when it comes to food, he won't refuse!"

Oh, we're strong and won't go down
And the crown we will win!
Like a pawn, I lay me down--
Wake up feeling like a queen!

The Honor of the Crown: The Game

As we landed on the ground -- we sat down.
All the pieces were already in their spots.
The photographers were swarming all around --
Flashing me, and trying to drive me nuts.

But, even in my home, -- who can abate me?
I won't be beaten by reporters' rude abuse!
My unskillfulness will only aid me
And this Shifer then will never rate me--
He won't be able to foresee my moves.

Lucky bastard, he'll be first to go,
People say that he is keen with white! --
From E-Two he moves up to E-Four,
Seems familiar... that's right--that's right!

It's my turn, -- what can you do now, Steph?!--
Guessing, like through Tundra in the night...
Queen is greater than the rest -- I recollect--
Moving back and forth, and right to left,
While the pattern "L" is for the knights!

Now I thank my fellow friend mechanic,
Who has taught me every piece's route.
Later I have learned-- that from the panic--
I have played a classical debut!

I observed that not a blunder passed.
And I thought about my chef - in woe, distress--
Oh, swap each figure for a liquor glass! --
And the board will prove who is the best!

I could see--his fork begins to rattle--
Wants to eat--and I would take the queen!
With this appetizer, I could drink a bottle!
But alcohol's prohibited within.

And I'm hungry, -- do not be surprised! --
Eggs and coffee is our only food!
Squares are more like circles in my eyes,
Kings are more like aces in disguise,
I confuse a double with debut.

There's a superstition - risk's worth taking! --
"First time's lucky!"--and I think I'm ready.
I will punish him with constant checking --
Oh, if only I could make my pawn a lady!

I can't make a choice; all seems so blurry--
And it's time to strike -- I take my aim!
Hit him with the rook? -- Seems kind of surly
Right hook to the jaw? - A little early,
After all, it's only our first game.

Breaking my defense, he quickly strikes me --
With an Indian approach-- from every angle.
This situation seemingly reminds me
Of an Indo-Pakistani struggle!

He should've never joked around with fate!
I have my methods -- I attack when mad.
If he decides to end it with a mate,
Then I'll tackle him, becoming more irate,
Or hit him with a knight... right on the head!

Then, just a notch of speed I've started gaining--
And all was not as dismal as it seemed.
In the world of chess, a pawn, with training
Can evolve, with time into a queen.

With deception my opponent played:
He'd get up and walk and come around.
He proposed to me a castle trade,
It is natural for him to be afraid--
When I bench three hundred lying down!

I diminished his small figure with my stare.
At the moment when he told me, "Check,"
I revealed my biceps, strong and bare,
Took my jacket off for the effect.

At that moment everything grew quiet
He observed me getting up in awe
He forgot the game for just a while,
Fisher, knowing he was held confined,--
Suddenly agreed to have draw.

The Tavern

What's this house here, it's submersed in haze,
On the seven free and quickly-passing gusts,
To a long, deep ravine with each window faced,
With its entrance -- to a highway pass?!

Although I was tired, I unharnessed my steed
"Come out and help,-- anyone here alive?!"
Not a soul,-- in the hall just a shadow appeared
And a carrion crow descended nearby.

Walked inside and there - just a bar, no more,
And the folks out there, -- every third's a foe.
Uninvited here, -- thus they'll grin at you.
Corner icons hang, -- even they're askew.

And a chatter began, deceptive and brief.
Someone slapped the guitar, singing in strife.
And a sick epileptic - a fool and a thief --
Under the table, -- bluntly showed me a knife.

"Answer me, what's this place you've got?
In the dark, as though some pestiferous hut?
Icon-lamps are dimmed, there's no air to breathe,
Have you all forgotten how the people live?

The doors -- opened wide, but the soul here is wronged!
Who's the host over here? - pour me some wine!..."
They replied thus to me: "You have traveled too long,
You've forgotten the folk - thus we lived all the time.

We chew grass alone, -- all day on sorrel,
Live a simple life, -- with our souls we fell,
We had fun with wine, and among ourselves,
Burglarized and fought even hung ourselves..."

"I've worn out by steed, -- fled from wolves on the way,
Show me that place, where the icons are bright
Show me that place, that I've sought every day, --
Where the people have fun, far away from this blight!"

"Of the places like that -- we have never heard.
For a very long time-- grew accustomed to dirt.
From beginning we live - in whisper and sin
Under icons in soot, all our lives we have been"

From the stench, where icons are hanging awry,
I would flee on a whim, with the lash I would heave,
Anywhere with my horse, I shall follow my eye,
To where people live-- the way people live...
How much passed since then! All was coarse and rough,
Life would toss me hard, -- but not far enough,
Or perhaps I've sung with a flaw, in sloth,--
"Black mysterious eyes, white table-cloth..."

"So there, the tremor left my hands..."

So there, the tremor left my hands
Now to the top
The fear has plunged into the depths
Now I won't stop

No cause for rest, no time to ease
I skid, I screech
And in this world there are no peaks
That can't be reached

Among the undiscovered paths
Let one be mine
The obstacles which weren't passed
I'll break with time

Those who fell short and sunk in waves
God be their judge!
Among obstructed, narrow lanes
There's one I'll trudge

From every side, my ocean raves
Its rage unfolds
The mysteries of people's names
Its bottom holds

I see my dream, in full awareness
Above all else
I still believe in truth and fairness
Of words and depths

And let the lengthy time advance
I won't forget
That here by will and not by chance
I've moved ahead

I heard the water sing to me
"I wish you best..."
What was the day?... oh, could it be?
A Wednesday, yes...

"The spring is just beginning..."

The spring is just beginning
We haven't started singing
And yet, my soul is jumping from my chest, --
And then they came to pester
With escorts, with escorts
And told me, "hurry up, get dressed!"

Oh how I begged the sergeant to re-think:
"Don't take me away from the spring!"

'Til May, with no progression--
They asked for my confession,
But I was stubborn! Forty days they've tried.
When I expected least,
My Katharine was seized
And the detective gained more rights than I.

And then I understood that I would sink, --
Just through the window, let me see the spring!

And once again, it's starting,
In train cars, we're departing
And rail junctions measure what's ahead.
And through the window, -- green
Maples and birches gleam
And all of them are begging "Don't forget!"

And from the hills, my friends still waved and winked
Why did I have to leave the precious spring!

In asking Kathy I was very prudent
We're leaving? - We shouldn't!
I've had it up to here! - I can't abide!
And thus replied my Kathy:
"You've had it, you've had it," --
We ran away through tundra in the night!

How warm was her embrace, oh just to think! -
So this is what you're like my lovely spring!

And only two days since
Those bitches sensed our prints, --
Like dogs, they sensed the path we've trod, --
Those bitches firmly tied
Our legs and arms so tight--
Like carrion they dragged us through the mud.
No longer would I ever dream a thing!
I have completely lost beloved spring!