“So when they murdered Lorca” (“Когда убили Лорку”), Yevgeny Yevtushenko

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I remember struggling with this as a student a long time ago. I haven’t struggled with it any less this time. Finding rhymes for “Lorca” and “don Quixote” all but defeated me – and in one stanza I gave up the quest entirely. I have a feeling it would have been better to have retained the metre throughout, without the contrivance of rhyme.

The murder of a poet was a dangerous subject for a Soviet poet. The fact that Lorca was murdered by fascists hardly clouds the memory of Stalin’s victims. There’s a sad fatalism here – the people may mourn, but life goes on, and protestations about the poet’s immortality cannot expunge the reality of his fate at the hands of brutal rulers.

So, when they murdered Lorca –
and, yes, they really killed him! –
the mounted gendarme’s posture
rebuked a weeping woman.

So, when they murdered Lorca –
and, yes, they really killed him! –
the citizens remembered
the bowl and spoon that filled him.

To kill was but a trifle,
and Carmen, dressed to fashion,
so nearly did him stifle –
but dead can’t share your passion.

A well-known fortune teller
around her hut she wandered,
for Lorca grieved – however,
gift’s not on corpses squandered.

And one day followed other –
the sot’s enflamèd glower,
and swine in yellow smother,
and rose, the breasted flower.

And left were young and ancients,
the poor, and others nobler.
And now in all the nations
was everything but Lorca.

And save in dusty toyshop
were standing don Quixotes,
and Lorca’s death they would not
accept, those toys’ committees.

So let them reign, the foolish
and silly fortune tellers,
and hopeful be, not ghoulish,
you toyshop’s noble dwellers!

Amidst the tawdry baubles
they waved – a gesture valiant –
their swords with spindly wobbles,
and cried “Oh, where is Lorca?

For neither elm nor willow
can scrub you from the record.
You really are immortal –
you’re one of us Quixotes!”

The brittle grass was singing,
and raucous cranes were hooting,
denying Lorca’s killing
in face of poet’s shooting.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Когда убили Лорку,-
а ведь его убили!-
жандарм дразнил молодку,
красуясь на кобыле.

Когда убили Лорку,-
а ведь его убили!-
сограждане ни ложку,
ни миску не забыли.

Поубиваясь малость,
Кармен в наряде модном
с живыми обнималась –
ведь спать не ляжешь с мертвым.

Знакомая гадалка
слонялась по халупам.
Ей Лорку было жалко,
но не гадают трупам.

Жизнь оставалась жизнью –
и запивохи рожа,
и свиньи в желтой жиже,
и за корсажем роза.

Остались юность, старость,
и нищие, и лорды.
На свете все осталось –
лишь не осталось Лорки.

И только в пыльной лавке
стояли, словно роты,
не веря смерти Лорки
игрушки-донкихоты.

Пусть царят невежды
и лживые гадалки,
а ты живи надеждой,
игрушечный гидальго!

Средь сувенирной швали
они, вздымая горько
смешные крошки-шпаги,
кричали: “Где ты, Лорка?

Тебя ни вяз, ни ива
не скинули со счетов.
Ведь ты бессмертен,- ибо
из нас, из донкихотов!”

И пели травы ломко,
и журавли трубили,
что не убили Лорку,
когда его убили.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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