Just briefly, I’ll explain myself in verse -
I don’t have strength to bring it all to light…
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 up, the harsher still 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 thought about the words I spoke.
I threw my words into the wind with pleasance-
I was a leader and my rank evoked
Devoted trust from noble 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 livid 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 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 instead 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 blossomed, growing dumber as I changed,
I even missed my household’s affair.
And I grew colder to the people of my age,
I hid myself in books and lost all care.
My brain, for wisdom greedy like a spider,
Grasped all: the immobility and motion, -
But what is science if you can't apply it,
When all around it are opposing notions?
I tore the tread with friends and I was free,
The thread of Ariadne was 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 profusion, -
We stood against it; we were sieving grain,
And filtering the shadowy solution,
Although our inquiry appeared to be inane.
As clamor ebbed, my father’s call was sharp,
I walked ahead, while lurking doubts loomed,
The burden of my 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 the side.
And we’re still stating the deceitful solution
Not knowing how to phrase the question right.
By Vladimir Vysotsky
Translation by Andrey Kneller