Joseph Brodsky: “НА СМЕРТЬ ЖУКОВА / On the Death of Zhukov”

Marshal Georgi Konstantinovich Zhukov

Originally uploaded by Diggerjohn


Вижу колонны замерших внуков,
Гроб на лафете, лошади круп.
Ветер сюда не доносит мне звуков
Русских военных плачущих труб.
Вижу в регалии убранный труп:
В смерть уезжает пламенный Жуков.

Воин, пред коим многие пали
Стены, хоть меч был вражьих тупей,
Блеском маневра о Ганнибале
Напоминавший средь волжских степей.
Кончивший дни свои глухо, в опале,
как Велизарий или Помпей.

Сколько он пролил крови солдатской
В землю чужую! Что ж, горевал?
Вспомнил ли их, умирающий в штатской
Белой кровати? Полный провал.
Что он ответит, встретившись в адской
Области с ними? “Я воевал”.

К правому делу Жуков десницы
Больше уже не приложит в бою.
Спи! У истории русской страницы
Хватит для тех, кто в пехотном строю
Смело входили в чужие столицы,
Но возвращались в страхе в свою.

Маршал! Поглотит алчная Лета
Эти слова и твоих прахоря.
Все же, прими их —\ жалкая лепта
Родину спасшему, вслух говоря.
Бей, барабан, и, военная флейта,
Громко свистит на манер снегиря.

Иосиф Бродский, 1974


Columns of grandsons, stiff at attention;
gun carriage, coffin, riderless horse.
Wind brings no sound of their glorious Russian
trumpets, their weeping trumpets of war.
Splendid regalia deck out the corpse:
thundering Zhukov rolls towrd death’s mansion.

As a commander, making walls crumble,
he held a sword less sharp than his foe’s.
Brilliant maneuvers across Volga flatlands
found him, like Pompey, fallen and humbled–
like Belisarius banned and disgraced.

How much dark blood, soldier’s blood did he spill then
on alien fields? Did he weep for his men?
As he lay dying, did he recall them–
swathed in white sheets at the end?
He gives no answer. What will he tell them,
meeting in hell? “We were fighting to win.”

Zhukov’s right arm, which once was enlisted
in a just cause, will battle no more.
Sleep! Russian history holds, as is fitting,
space for the exploits of those who, though bold,
marching triumphant through foreign cities,
trembled in terror when they came home.

Marshal! These words will be swallowed by Lethe,
utterly lost, like your rough soldier boots.
Still, take this tribute, though it is little,
to one who somehow–here I speak truth
plain and aloud–has saved our embattled
homeland. Drum, beat! And shriek out, bullfinch fife!

Joseph Brodsky (b. 24 May 1940)

Translation by George L. Cline

(More Brodsky resources and links here.)


~ by matt on 24 May 2009.

2 Responses to “Joseph Brodsky: “НА СМЕРТЬ ЖУКОВА / On the Death of Zhukov””

  1. i had to notice a thing
    in russian Brodsky has incredible syntax:
    “Воин, пред коим многие пали
    Стены, ….”
    Second line completely changes the first line meaning. So in english it have to be translated in two sentences or sentence which can mean both:
    1 line “The warrior defeated many [enemies]”
    2 line “[the warrior destroyed many]Walls (with less sharp…)”

    also here Вспомнил ли их, умирающий в штатской
    Белой кровати?
    after first line you cannot imagine the second one and it comes totally destroying meaning of the first one.

    top level of language use. so bad i’m not a poet

  2. that’s a good thing…

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Natalie E. Illum...

is a poet, performer and disability activist. Bring her stumbling to your city.

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