A Picture of Childhood (Картинка детства), Yevgeny Yevtushenko

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Yevtushenko doesn’t pull his punches – even when he tells us he wants to… It’s quite a challenge to reproduce the brutality of the imagery here.

.
With flailing elbows headlong we were dashing –
for in bazaar they someone’s face were smashing.
How could we miss a chance to take a gawk!
And, running din-wards, we accelerated,
our boots the splashing puddles saturated,
we failed to wipe away our snotty hawk.

And froze. And hearts became a tad conflicted,
for seeing now the crowded ring constricted
of sheepskin jackets, wolf-skin coats and hats,
and midst the fruit and veg a fellow standing
as on his head and shoulders blows were landing,
and pokes and kicks and spits and swinging bats.

And from the right by someone he was battered,
while lump of ice from left his forehead clattered.
The blood was flowing, rabble piling in.
They all joined in, and all of them were shouting,
with staves and reins they were their victim clouting,
with pins from wheels they swung amidst the din.

In vain he croaked: “My brothers, you’re my brothers…” –
To no avail. He couldn’t stop their smothers,
and in their rage the rabble couldn’t hear.
They scolded those who would not beat him badly,
on something like a corpse they trampled madly,
in muddy snow they made it disappear.

With gleeful art they beat him. Blood flowed nicely.
I saw how deftly, even more, precisely,
another’s muddy flapping boots with kick
were adding all the more to bloody beating
of sprawling victim, who with breath now fleeting
in mire and shitty slurry seemed to stick.

The owner of those boots was honest-seeming,
possessed of dreadful pride, with smile a-beaming –
and as he hit, he sentence passed: “You shit!”
He weighed his blows, he certain was of rightness,
and sweating, red-faced, full of cheery brightness,
he shouted to me: “Come, lad, give a hit!”

I don’t recall how many beaters were there.
Perhaps a hundred, maybe there were more there,
But I, a little boy, ashamed did weep.
And if again a hundred scream robustly,
and beat a man to pulp – however justly –
I won’t become another bloody sheep!

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

Работая локтями, мы бежали,-
кого-то люди били на базаре.
Как можно было это просмотреть!
Спеша на гвалт, мы прибавляли ходу,
зачерпывая валенками воду
и сопли забывали утереть.

И замерли. В сердчишках что-то сжалось,
когда мы увидали, как сужалось
кольцо тулупов, дох и капелюх,
как он стоял у овощного ряда,
вобравши в плечи голову от града
тычков, пинков, плевков и оплеух.

Вдруг справа кто-то в санки дал с оттяжкой.
Вдруг слева залепили в лоб ледяшкой.
Кровь появилась. И пошло всерьез.
Все вздыбились. Все скопом завизжали,
обрушившись дрекольем и вожжами,
железными штырями от колес.

Зря он хрипел им: “Братцы, что вы, братцы…” –
толпа сполна хотела рассчитаться,
толпа глухою стала, разъярясь.
Толпа на тех, кто плохо бил, роптала,
и нечто, с телом схожее, топтала
в снегу весеннем, превращенном в грязь.

Со вкусом били. С выдумкою. Сочно.
Я видел, как сноровисто и точно
лежачему под самый-самый дых,
извожены в грязи, в навозной жиже,
всё добавляли чьи-то сапожищи,
с засаленными ушками на них.

Их обладатель – парень с честной мордой
и честностью своею страшно гордый –
все бил да приговаривал: “Шалишь!…”
Бил с правотой уверенной, весомой,
и, взмокший, раскрасневшийся, веселый,
он крикнул мне: “Добавь и ты, малыш!”

Не помню, сколько их, галдевших, било.
Быть может, сто, быть может, больше было,
но я, мальчишка, плакал от стыда.
И если сотня, воя оголтело,
кого-то бьет,- пусть даже и за дело! –
сто первым я не буду никогда!

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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