March 19 in Russian history. He didn't return from the battle.


The "Soviet Youth" newspaper (Riga, Latvia) published the song "He didn't return from the battle" by Vladimir Vysotsky, one of the best Russian poets, who always managed to find the right words to get straight to the heart of the audience.

He didn't return from the battle

Why is everything wrong? Yet it seems just as fine:
The same sky, just as blue as before;
The same air, the same water, same forest of pine -
But he didn't come back from the war.

Who was right, who was wrong, I have no idea now,
In our ongoing quarrels and faction.
They wearied me then, now I long for a row,
Since he's been posted missing in action.

He'd go suddenly quiet. He would sing out of tune,
And his voice had a harsh kind of rattle.
He would keep me awake, then he'd get up too soon -
But he didn't return from the battle.

The loneliness isn't just all it's about.
I've just realised, we two made a pair.
It's as if the wind suddenly blew the fire out,
Now I know that he's no longer there.

With the spring blooming out now, in colourful riot,
I called him this morning, forgetting.
"Hey, leave me a dog-end!" No answer. Dead quiet -
For he didn't come back from the fighting.

Our dead will not leave us behind in the lurch.
The fallen still guard us forever.
The trees reach aloft like the nave of a church -
But my friend will return to me never.

There is plenty of room in the dugout below,
But it's time for us both now to yield.
I've the place to myself, yet I feel that I know
It is I who was killed in that field.

This very good translation by Jack Doughty was taken from this page. See here for more songs.

PS: There are some topics I'd like to write about, but as soon as I start, I understand that I just can't. I don't have the right words. Even in Russian. Vysotsky and his poetry is one of such topics. After all, do I have to write about him? He has written everything we should know.

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