The Last Mammoth (Последний мамонт), Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Yevtushenko wrote this in 1956, when he was 23. It was the year of the 20th Party Congress, which had addressed the crimes of Stalin and which presaged a time of relative freedom of expression under Khrushchev. So is this poem just about the last mammoth?

Along the spur the mammoth plodded
above the river, frozen fast.
They had before been
proud and
but of his kind he was the last.
And he whom storm had never tested,
today was weakened – cursèd fate.
For now, in hide
embedding arrows
became for him a heavy weight.
He weakly tried to blow his trumpet –
to plant its echo far away –
but with a wheeze the mammoth crumpled,
as arrows
pierced their prey.
Already then, a shadow trembled,
and skilful hand was poised to cut,
as meat was hacked for distribution
a blunt stone blade now sliced his gut.
If they’d but known, those ancient hunters –
this mammoth,
dreaded and severe,
would animate more their descendants
than Party’s elephants now here,
that such a beast by battle proven,
as proud he’d dashed in headlong race,
who never did his tusks surrender,
would one day grace museum case!


Ступал он трудно по отрогу
над ледовитою рекой.
Их было раньше,
и был последний он такой.
Не раз испробованный в буре,
сегодня сдал он, как назло.
Ему от стрел,
торчащих в шкуре,
внезапно стало тяжело.
Он затрубить пытался слабо,
чтоб эхо вздрогнуло вдали,
но повалился с хрипом набок,
и стрелы
в бок вошли.
Уже над шкурой кто-то трясся,
и, занимаясь дележом,
умело кто-то резал мясо
тяжелым каменным ножом.
О, знали б люди эти если,
что мамонт,
грозен и суров,
потомкам будет интересней
всех исполнительных слонов
и что испытанные в битве,
когда он мчался напролом,
еще не сдавшиеся бивни
храниться будут под стеклом!..

Translation by Rupert Moreton

One thought on “The Last Mammoth (Последний мамонт), Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s