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Traduttore, Traditore

Dmitry Bykov

Literal (Google Translate) Version

How lucky is he who believes that there is no God.

A young Voltairean in the gardens of the Lyceum,

he blooms himself, and is red, like a poppy flower,

and does not know the word "theodicy".

World matter, the general mayhem, everything rejoices around him in various ways,

and he does not need to reconcile anything with anything,

for all the same, and everything is protoplasm.

For he who is in doubt, everything is tip-top as well:

all his life he tosses a coin, kisses ass, drives a stanza with an antistrophe:

sometimes - it works, sometimes - it doesn't.

His life is good, and his recipe is simple - to understand a little about a little.

The universe obediently catches his mood: an hour ago - there is no God, and now there is God.

The worst off is the one who hears the music of the spheres, 

the insatiable rattle of the Lord's mills, 

the whistle and the roar that sounds like "RSFSR" or "Reichsfuehrer", as a German would say;

oily grinding of gears, interruptions of squeak and rattling.

And neither the bone crunch nor the crushed crying of children can be attributed to hearing defects.

Show the greatness of the spirit, the executioner orders. Okay, let's show the greatness of the spirit.

This is the kind of music of the spheres, my little doubting friend, these are the cars spinning there.

Sometimes a heavenly sound is heard from there, but it is immediately muffled by jammers.

And now, when you have heard everything, go and reconcile this age that you have lived, and lichen walls, and rusty wastelands

with the fact that here it is, it is here and cannot be,

because both the poisonous mite, which is ominous,

and the flexible snake cartilage, which is crunchy,

and the thorny curly ivy, which creeps along the dry ash tree by the road,

and even this poor pimple on humanity, which is poor and smells like a hundred goats --

all about God, always about God.

And me, from whom He, one might say, does not take his eyes off,

penetrates right through my blood and lymph,

sends me a couple of lines once a week - sometimes without rhyme, but more often with rhyme.


Blessed are those who think there is no God.
A dewy youth roams Lyceum’s gardens,
Devoted to Voltaire, so innocent, completely unflawed,
He has no concept of Evil needing a pardon.
Cosmic matter, moronic chatter, Bakhtin’s carnival to the letter,
there is quite a deep, rather obvious chasm
Between him and the rest, and it doesn’t matter
Because nothing is real, and it’s all protoplasm.

Blessed are those who drown in doubt.
Always something to play with along the road.
Verse followed by antiverse, dithering, holding out,
First yes, then no; adjustable mode.
Blessed they are indeed, and the recipe’s simple:
Learn little of little, don’t rely on reason.
And the universe, sensitive to the big swindle,
Signals: today — with God, tomorrow — a heathen.

Cursed are those who hear musica universalis --
Greedy screech of God’s mills grinding slowly.
Whistling of wings, hissing “USSR” with surprising malice,
or Reichsführer-SS (in German only).
Oily rasping of gears, knocking, squeaking, and crunching bones,
Children’s smothered tears — don’t pretend you can’t hear it.
It’s hard to attribute to hearing problems.
Show the greatness of spirit, the torturer says,

So let’s show the greatness of spirit.

That’s your musica universalis, my doubting Thomas,
The celestial mechanism, set here in motion.
Every now and then heavens’ voice reaches out to us,
But it’s usually muffled, no chance for a proper emotion.

And now when you’ve lived your life and you heard it all
And you try so desperately to reconcile
This with the rusty lands and the lichen walls,
And the fact that He is, He will always be, and has been here for more than awhile.
And this nasty tick that will make me sick, and the slithering snake that keeps me awake,

and the curly ivy as green as envy that climbs around the entrance,
And even this lonely, malodorous zit on humanity’s face that just won’t quit,
All of this is God,  it’s about God, nothing but Him, and it requires acceptance.

As for me, you might say He’s rather obsessed.
He inspects my blood, and my lymph, all my fluids, time after time.
He sends me a few lines a week, my personal quest,
Sometimes free verse, but usually with a rhyme.

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