On fatal dates and figures
For poets and others, but mostly - for poets
A tragic end - is every poet's fate,
And if the timing's right – that poet's rare.
At twenty-six, one faced a gun, dismayed,
Another - found a noose in "Angleterre."
Then, there's Christ, at thirty-three... (He said:
"Thou shall not kill!" – just try, I'll hunt you down)
They crucified him to suppress the threat,
Or he'd keep writing, preaching to the crowd.
The number thirty-seven's just as cruel,
I'm sobered up, recalling what's been done:
Great Pushkin picked this number for a duel
And Mayakovsky's temple hit the gun.
Let's stay on thirty-seven. God, the tyrant -
He put it bluntly: take your pick, right now.
On this frontier, we lost Rimbaud, and Byron,
Though modern poets passed it by somehow.
The duel did not take place or got delayed,
And they were crucified at thirty-three but barely.
No blood was spilled, only their hair turned gray
At thirty seven, - they were treated fairly.
"Your heart sank to your feet? You're too afraid?"
Have patience, all you psychos with caprices!
These poets walk, with heels against the blade,
And cut their barefoot hearts to bits and pieces.
The long-necked poet's gained too much appeal.
So cut him short! – the resolution's wise.
They stab him - but he's glad to feel the steel,
He posed a danger, so he paid the price.
You, numerologists, who think you know the day,
Scared like the concubines in harems, in denial!
The life expectancy has grown, and let us pray
That poets' deaths will be postponed awhile.
By Vladimir Vysotsky
Translation by Andrey Kneller