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Mainstream, VOL LIII, No 20, May 9, 2015

War Poems

Saturday 9 May 2015

May 9, 2015 marks the seventieth anniversary of Victory over Fascism in the Second World War. On this occasion we carry poems by Russian poets who, like all other citizans of their country, actively participated in the struggle to rid the world of the fascist menace and bore the real brunt of that War.

These times of ours are rather hard upon the pen.

Vladimir Mayakovsky

You’ll hear the ring of metal in my voice.

Direct and heavy into life I came.

Not all will die, nor all be Future’s choice.

But be that as it may, under my name

Descendants will make out in archive litter

A clump of the warm earth that served us true.

On which we marched with mouths charred black and bitter

And carried courage as a banner all life through....

The world’s a window opened wide for air.

We’ve marched through it, yes, marched until the end,

And it’s a good thing that our fingers bear 

That smell so grim, the smell of faithful lead.

However fast the years erode remembrance,

We’ll be remembered over time’s whole span

Because, for all the planet making weather,

We clothed in flesh and blood the proud word ‘Man’

Nikolai Mayorov

(killed in the War)

* * *

Unharvested rye waves in masses

Through it our regiment strides

Through it stride we—the lasses,

Looking just like the lads.

That is no hut which blazes—

That is my youth burnt to ash.

Through the war go the lasses,

Looking just like the lads.

Yulia Drunina

* * *

To V.S.

Wait for me and I’ll return,

Wait, despite all pain.

Wait when sorrow, chill and stern,

Follows yellow rain.

Wait through storms of whirling snow.

Wait through heat and sweat.

Wait when others do not know

How not to forget.

Wait when no word reaches you

From so far away

Wait when others who were true

Cease to wait one day.

Wait for me and I’ll return.

Wait when doubts beset

Those who show, too soon, concern,

Saying—Now forget!

Let my mother and my son

Hope until they tire.

Let friends say my course is run.

Gathered round the fire

Let them toast in bitter wine,

Trusting grief will pass.

When they drink, those friends of mine,

Do not raise your glass.

Wait for me and I’ll return,

Spiting death and hate.

Let the ones who did not yearn

Say I’m saved by Fate.

They don’t know, they cannot tell

How your faith so sure

Saved me from that fiery hell,

Led me back once more.

Why I lived and did not fall,

We two know that best—

Waiting, you had faith, that’s all,

stronger than the rest.

Konstantin Simonov

* * *

Not as what in our childhood in old tales we learn,

Not as what in our school-days we read in our books,

But as one I heard sob and as one I saw burn

With my eyes red with smoke, I remembered those looks—

Thus I still see my homeland now victory is near,

Not as granite and bronze, crowned with fame evermore,

But as one whom great grief and misfortune still sear,

All-enduring, a woman of Russia at war.
Konstantin Simonov