Saturday, May 09, 2015

Each one writes what he hears (a rose for Bulat)

If a friend were to ask me today, "Which is your favorite Bulat Okudzhava ballad?" I might have to choose, "Historical Novel."

There is a habit that particular song has of sneaking up subtly on the listener. I will provide a translation for non-Russian speakers, but the true effect, naturally, is contained in the rhythm, rhymes and word-games of the original.

The literal translation of the refrain, "Each one writes what he hears, each one hears how he breathes," hints at only a fraction of the magic of the pure falling-leaf cadence of this, when half-whispered, half-sung by Okudzhava:

"Kazhdy pishet chto on slishet, kazhdy slishet kak on dishet."

Watch Okudzhava work his tacit wizardry on the audience in this historical performance I have included below.

__________________________


I Write a Historical Novel

In a vase of dark glass
From an imported beer
A red rose bloomed
Proudly and unhurriedly


Bit by bit, I began
Writing a historical novel
Floating as if through a fog
From prologue to epilogue


Each one writes what he hears
Each one hears how he breathes
How he breathes, thus he writes
Without trying to impress

This is what nature intended
Why, is not our business
And for what, not ours to judge


There were blue horizons
There was an excess of imagination
And from my own fate
I began tugging out the threads


An outfit from the heroic past
Suggested an identity
And I imagined myself
A retired lieutenant


Each one writes what he hears
Each one hears how he breathes
How he breathes, thus he writes
Without trying to impress

This is what nature intended
Why, is not our business
And for what, not ours to judge


Imagination is not deception
The thought behind it is not ended
Give us time to finish the novel
Up until the last page


And while it is still alive,
The red rose in the bottle
Let the words be shouted out,
Which have long been collecting


Each one writes what he hears
Each one hears how he breathes...


--Bulat Okudzhava




Я пишу исторический роман

В склянке темного стекла
Из-под импортного пива
Роза красная цвела
Гордо и неторопливо

Исторический роман
Сочинял я понемногу
Пробиваясь как в туман
От пролога к эпилогу

Каждый пишет что он слышит
Каждый слышит как он дышит
Как он дышит так и пишет
Не стараясь угодить
Так природа захотела
почему не наше дело
Для чего не нам судить

Были дали голубы
Было вымысла в избытке
И из собственной судьбы
Я выдергивал по нитке

В путь героев снаряжал
Наводил о прошлом справки
И поручиком в отставке
Сам себя воображал

Каждый пишет что он слышит
Каждый слышит как он дышит
Как он дышит так и пишет
Не стараясь угодить

Так природа захотела
Почему не наше дело
Для чего не нам судить

Вымысел не есть обман
Замысел еще не точка
Дайте дописать роман
До последнего листочка

И пока еще жива
роза красная в бутылке
Дайте выкрикнуть слова
Что давно лежат в копилке

Каждый пишет что он слышит
Каждый слышит как он дышит...

--Булат Окуджава




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