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Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky, 19 July [O.S. 7 July] 1893 – 14 April 1930, Russian Soviet poet, playwright, actor and revolutionary

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky, 19 July [O.S. 7 July] 1893 – 14 April 1930, Russian Soviet poet, playwright, actor and revolutionary.

 

To All and Everything (1916)

Source: 20th Century Russian Literature.

 

No.

It can’t be.

No!

You too, beloved?

Why? What for?

Darling, look –

I came,

I brought flowers,

but, but… I never took

silver spoons from your drawer!

 

Ashen-faced,

I staggered down five flights of stairs.

The street eddied round me. Blasts. Blares.

Tires screeched.

It was gusty.

The wind stung my cheeks.

Horn mounted horn lustfully.

 

Above the capital’s madness

I raised my face,

stern as the faces of ancient icons.

Sorrow-rent,

on your body as on a death-bed, its days

my heart ended.

 

You did not sully your hands with brute murder.

Instead,

you let drop calmly:

“He’s in bed.

There’s fruit and wine

On the bedstand’s palm.”

 

Love!

You only existed in my inflamed brain.

Enough!

Stop this foolish comedy

and take notice:

I’m ripping off

my toy armour,

I,

the greatest of all Don Quixotes!

 

Remember?

Weighed down by the cross,

Christ stopped for a moment,

weary.

Watching him, the mob

yelled, jeering:

“Get movin’, you clod!”

 

That’s right!

Be spiteful.

Spit upon him who begs for a rest

on his day of days,

harry and curse him.

To the army of zealots, doomed to do good,

man shows no mercy!

 

That does it!

 

I swear by my pagan strength –

gimme a girl,

young,

eye-filling,

and I won’t waste my feelings on her.

I’ll rape her

and spear her heart with a gibe

willingly.

 

An eye for an eye!

 

A thousand times over reap of revenge the crops’

Never stop!

Petrify, stun,

howl into every ear:

“The earth is a convict, hear,

his head half shaved by the sun!”

 

An eye for an eye!

 

Kill me,

bury me –

I’ll dig myself out,

the knives of my teeth by stone — no wonder!-

made sharper,

A snarling dog, under

the plank-beds of barracks I’ll crawl,

sneaking out to bite feet that smell

of sweat and of market stalls!

 

You’ll leap from bed in the night’s early hours.

“Moo!” I’ll roar.

Over my neck,

a yoke-savaged sore,

tornados of flies

will rise.

I’m a white bull over the earth towering!

 

Into an elk I’ll turn,

my horns-branches entangled in wires,

my eyes red with blood.

Above the world,

a beast brought to bay,

I’ll stand tirelessly.

 

Man can’t escape!

Filthy and humble,

a prayer mumbling,

on cold stone he lies.

What I’ll do is paint

on the royal gates,

over God’s own

the face of Razin.

 

Dry up, rivers, stop him from quenching his thirst! Scorn him!

Don’t waste your rays, sun! Glare!

Let thousands of my disciples be born

to trumpet anathemas on the squares!

And when at last there comes,

stepping onto the peaks of the ages,

chillingly,

the last of their days,

in the black souls of anarchists and killers

I, a gory vision, will blaze!

 

It’s dawning,

The sky’s mouth stretches out more and more,

it drinks up the night

sip by sip, thirstily.

The windows send off a glow.

Through the panes heat pours.

The sun, viscous, streams down onto the sleeping city.

 

O sacred vengeance!

Lead me again

above the dust without

and up the steps of my poetic lines.

This heart of mine,

full to the brim,

in a confession

I will pour out.

 

Men of the future!

Who are you?

I must know. Please!

Here am I,

all bruises and aches,

pain-scorched…

To you of my great soul I bequeath

the orchard.

 

Call To Account! (1917)

(Translated: by Lika Galkina with Jasper Goss, 2005)

 

The drum of war thunders and thunders.

It calls: thrust iron into the living.

From every country

slave after slave

are thrown onto bayonet steel.

For the sake of what?

The earth shivers

hungry

and stripped.

Mankind is vapourised in a blood bath

only so

someone

somewhere

can get hold of Albania.

Human gangs bound in malice,

blow after blow strikes the world

only for

someone’s vessels

to pass without charge

through the Bosporus.

Soon

the world

won’t have a rib intact.

And its soul will be pulled out.

And trampled down

only for someone,

to lay

their hands on

Mesopotamia.

Why does

a boot

crush the Earth — fissured and rough?

What is above the battles’ sky –

Freedom?

God?

Money!

When will you stand to your full height,

you,

giving them your life?

When will you hurl a question to their faces:

Why are we fighting?

 

Attitude

    To A Miss (1920)

(Source: 20th Century Russian Literature)

 

That night was to decide

if she and I

were to be lovers.

Under cover

of darkness

no one would see, you see.

I bent over her, it’s the truth,

and as I did,

it’s the truth, I swear it,

I said

like a kindly parent:

“Passion’s a precipice –

so won’t you please

move away?

Move away,

please!”

 

You (1922)

(Source: The Bedbug and selected poetry, translated by Max Hayward and George Reavey. Meridian Books, New York, 1960)

 

You came –

determined,

because I was large,

because I was roaring,

but on close inspection

you saw a mere boy.

You seized

and snatched away my heart

and began

to play with it –

like a girl with a bouncing ball.

And before this miracle

every woman

was either a lady astounded

or a maiden inquiring:

“Love such a fellow?

Why, he’ll pounce on you!

She must be a lion tamer,

a girl from the zoo!”

But I was triumphant.

I didn’t feel it –

the yoke!

Oblivious with joy,

I jumped

and leapt about, a bride-happy redskin,

I felt so elated

and light.

 

Back Home (1925)

(Source: The Bedbug and selected poetry, translated by Max Hayward and George Reavey. Meridian Books, New York, 1960)

 

Thoughts, go your way home.

Embrace,

depths of the soul and the sea.

In my view,

it is

stupid

to be

always serene.

My cabin is the worst

of all cabins  –

All night above me

Thuds a smithy of feet.

All night,

stirring the ceiling’s calm,

dancers stampede

to a moaning motif:

“Marquita,

Marquita,

Marquita my darling,

why won’t you,

Marquita,

why won’t you love me …”

But why

Should marquita love me?!

I have

no francs to spare.

And Marquita

(at the slightest wink!)

for a hundred francs

she’d be brought to your room.

The sum’s not large  –

just live for show  –

No,

you highbrow,

ruffling your matted hair,

you would thrust upon her

a sewing machine,

in stitches

scribbling

the silk of verse.

Proletarians

arrive at communism

from below  –

by the low way of mines,

sickles,

and pitchforks  –

But I,

from poetry’s skies,

plunge into communism,

because

without it

I feel no love.

Whether

I’m self-exiled

or sent to mamma  –

the steel of words corrodes,

the brass of the brass tarnishes.

Why,

beneath foreign rains,

must I soak,

rot,

and rust?

Here I recline,

having gone oversea,

in my idleness

barely moving

my machine parts.

I myself

feel like a Soviet

factory,

manufacturing happiness.

I object

to being torn up,

like a flower of the fields,

after a long day’s work.

I want

the Gosplan to sweat

in debate,

assigning me

goals a year ahead.

I want

a commissar

with a decree

to lean over the thought of the age.

I want

the heart to earn

its love wage

at a specialist’s rate.

I want

the factory committee

to lock

My lips

when the work is done.

I want

the pen to be on a par

with the bayonet;

and Stalin

to deliver his Politbureau

reports

about verse in the making

as he would about pig iron

and the smelting of steel.

“That’s how it is,

the way it goes …

We’ve attained

the topmost level,

climbing from the workers’ bunks:

in the Union

of  Republics

the understanding of verse

now tops

the prewar norm …”

 

Good!   (fragment, chapter 14) (1927)

(Source: 20th Century Russian Literature)

 

Over those

whom sleep eternal claimed

that lean,

harsh winter

spread

a pall.

What  are words!

Words

are lame!

On the Volga sores

I refuse

to dwell.

Of a string of days

I choose

to speak,

akin

to a thousand others,

bleak,

pushed on

by the years,

oarsmen eager,

not over-fat

nor

over-meagre.

If ever

something of worth

I wrote

it was all

the  fault

of a pair

of eyes-

bottomless skies,

my  beloved’s eyes.

Huge  they are,

round,

dark brown,

with a speck

of hazel,

coal-hot,

blazing.

The  phone’s gone

stark-raving mad,

an axe’s

blunt edge

striking the ear:

wham!

Round  the huge brown  eyes –

pads:

hunger’s

to blame.

Doctor’s orders:

for the eyes

to be able

to eye

the world,

 

heat the place,

put greens

on the table.

By their curly green tails –

behold!-

I’m holding

two  carrots

crunchy.

They’re not

for my stew:

I’m taking them to

my sweetheart,

for her

to munch.

Boxes of sweets

and flowers

freely

I handed  out,

but

I recall

that those carrots

plus firewood

(half a billet)

were

the most precious

gift

of all.

Thrust under my arm

are

damp pieces of wood:

knobby sticks,

eyebrow-thick.

Face puffy,

eyes-splits:

it’s

malnutrition.

Greens and care –

eyes clear.

Bigger than saucers,

they eye

the Revolution.

Easier for me

than for most

(it’s no boast!)

Because I’m

Mayakovsky.

 

I sit and chew

a fresh

piece of horse flesh.

The door whines.

My kid sister.

“Hullo!”

“Hullo!”

“Volodya, listen,

it’s New Year’s tomorrow.

Got some salt

I could borrow?”

“A pinch,

Wet  too.

Here,

let’s divide it in two.”

Wading through snow,

fighting fear,

with an

“Oh, dear,

how’ll I keep on my feet!”

Olga  stumbles along

the icy,

three-mile long

Presnya Street.

Home

to salt her potatoes

she hastens.

Frost

walks

beside her,

grows fierce,

inches

closer,

tickles

and  pinches.

“Gimme it!

Isn’t that salt

you’re hiding?”

Home at last,

and didn’t lose it.

But how use it?

To her fingers

it’s frozen fast.

Behind the wall

shuffling feet.

“Here, wife,

we gotta eat.

Trade my  coat

for millet,

will ye?”

Look  through the pane-

it’s snowing again.

The snow  falls,

covering all.

Soft its step,

yes,

and light.

Moscow’s

a cliff,

bare

and white.

Snow lies

in banks

and drifts.

Of forests

the skeleton clings

to the cliff.

Daybreak.

Into the sky’s thick shawl

the sun,

a louse,

crawls.

December’s late dawn,

worn out,

shivery,

hangs

over Moscow

like typhus fever.

Storm clouds vagrant

to fat lands migrate.

Wrapped in haze,

its chest sticking out,

America lies.

What is it doing? –

Lapping up

coffee

and cocoa

by the cup.

Into your face,

thick as the snout

of a good-sized pig,

than a round tray rounder,

from this hungering land of ours

I shout:

My love

for my land

is boundless!

 

You can forget

when

and where

you stuffed

your craw

and your belly,

but

the land

you hungered with

you can never

as long as you live and breathe

forget!

 

Conversation

       with Comrade Lenin (1929)

(Source: 20th Century Russian Literature)

 

Awhirl with events,

packed with jobs one too many,

the day slowly sinks

as the night shadows fall.

There are two in the room:

I

and Lenin-

a photograph

on the whiteness of wall.

 

The stubble slides upward

above his lip

as his mouth

jerks open in speech.

The  tense

creases of brow

hold thought

in their grip,

immense brow

matched by thought immense.

A forest of flags,

raised-up hands thick as grass…

Thousands are marching

beneath him…

Transported,

alight with joy,

I rise from my place,

eager to see him,

hail him,

report to him!

“Comrade  Lenin,

I report to you –

(not a dictate of office,

the heart’s prompting alone)

 

This hellish work

that we’re out to do

 

will be done

and  is already being done.

We  feed and we clothe

and give light to the needy,

 

the quotas

for coal

and for iron

fulfill,

but there is

any amount

of bleeding

muck

and rubbish

around us still.

 

Without you,

there’s many

have got out of hand,

 

all the sparring

and squabbling

does one in.

There’s scum

in plenty

hounding our land,

 

outside the borders

and also

within.

 

Try to

count ’em

and

tab ’em –

it’s no go,

 

there’s all kinds,

and they’re

thick as nettles:

kulaks,

red tapists,

and,

down the row,

drunkards,

sectarians,

lickspittles.

They strut around

proudly

as peacocks,

badges and fountain pens

studding their chests.

We’ll lick the lot of ’em-

but

to lick ’em

is no easy job

at the very best.

On snow-covered lands

and on stubbly fields,

in smoky plants

and on factory sites,

with you in our hearts,

Comrade  Lenin,

we  build,

we think,

we breathe,

we live,

and we fight!”

Awhirl with events,

packed with jobs one too many,

the day slowly sinks

as the night shadows fall.

There are two in the room:

I

and Lenin –

a photograph

on the whiteness of wall.

 

My Soviet Passport (1929)

(Source: Sputnik no.12/1982, translated by Herbert Marshall)

 

I’d tear

like a wolf

at bureaucracy.

For mandates

my respect’s but the slightest.

To the devil himself

I’d chuck without mercy

every red-taped paper.

But this …

Down the long front

of coupés and cabins

File the officials

politely.

They gather up passports

and I give in

My own vermilion booklet.

For one kind of passport –

smiling lips part

For others –

an attitude scornful.

They take

with respect, for instance,

the passport

From a sleeping-car

English Lionel.

The good fellows eyes

almost slip like pips

when,

bowing as low as men can,

they take,

as if they were taking a tip,

the passport

from an American.

At the Polish,

they dolefully blink and wheeze

in dumb

police elephantism –

where are they from,

and what are these

geographical novelties?

And without a turn

of their cabbage heads,

their feelings

hidden in lower regions,

they take without blinking,

the passports from Swedes

and various

old Norwegians.

Then sudden

as if their mouths were

aquake

those gentlemen almost

whine

Those very official gentlemen

take

that red-skinned passport

of mine.

Take-

like a bomb

take – like a hedgehog,

like a razor

double-edge stropped,

take –

like a rattlesnake huge and long

with at least

20 fangs

poison-tipped.

The porter’s eyes

give a significant flick

(I’ll carry your baggage

for nix,

mon ami…)

The gendarmes enquiringly

look at the tec,

the tec, –

at the gendarmerie.

With what delight

that gendarme caste

would have me

strung-up and whipped raw

because I hold

in my hands

hammered-fast

sickle-clasped

my red Soviet passport.

I’d tear

like a wolf

at bureaucracy.

For mandates

my respect’s but the slightest.

To the devil himself

I’d chuck

without mercy

every red-taped paper,

But this …

I pull out

of my wide trouser-pockets

duplicate

of a priceless cargo.

You now:

read this

and envy,

I’m a citizen

of the Soviet Socialist Union!

 

At the Top of My voice

First Prelude to the Poem (1930)

(Source: The bedbug and Selected poetry, translated by Max Hayward and George Reavey. Meridian Books, New York, 1960)

 

My most respected

comrades of posterity!

Rummaging among

these days’

petrified crap,

exploring the twilight of our times,

you,

possibly,

will inquire about me too.

 

And, possibly, your scholars

will declare,

with their erudition overwhelming

a swarm of problems;

once there lived

a certain champion of boiled water,

and inveterate enemy of raw water.

 

Professor,

take off your bicycle glasses!

I myself will expound

those times

and myself.

 

I, a latrine cleaner

and water carrier,

by the revolution

mobilized and drafted,

went off to the front

from the aristocratic gardens

of poetry –

the capricious wench

She planted a delicious garden,

the daughter,

cottage,

pond

and meadow.

 

Myself a garden I did plant,

myself with water sprinkled it.

some pour their verse from water cans;

others spit water

from their mouth –

the curly Macks,

the clever jacks –

but what the hell’s it all about!

There’s no damming all this up –

beneath the walls they mandoline:

“Tara-tina, tara-tine,

tw-a-n-g…”

It’s no great honor, then,

for my monuments

to rise from such roses

above the public squares,

where consumption coughs,

where whores, hooligans and syphilis

walk.

 

Agitprop

sticks

in my teeth too,

and I’d rather

compose

romances for you –

more profit in it

and more charm.

 

But I

subdued

myself,

setting my heel

on the throat

of my own song.

Listen,

comrades of posterity,

to the agitator

the rabble-rouser.

 

Stifling

the torrents of poetry,

I’ll skip

the volumes of lyrics;

as one alive,

I’ll address the living.

I’ll join you

in the far communist future,

I who am

no Esenin super-hero.

 

My verse will reach you

across the peaks of ages,

over the heads

of governments and poets.

 

My verse

will reach you

not as an arrow

in a cupid-lyred chase,

not as worn penny

Reaches a numismatist,

not as the light of dead stars reaches you.

 

My verse

by labor

will break the mountain chain of years,

and will present itself

ponderous,

crude,

tangible,

as an aqueduct,

by slaves of Rome

constructed,

enters into our days.

 

When in mounds of books,

where verse lies buried,

you discover by chance the iron filings of lines,

touch them

with respect,

as you would

some antique

yet awesome weapon.

 

It’s no habit of mine

to caress

the ear

with words;

a maiden’s ear

curly-ringed

will not crimson

when flicked by smut.

 

In parade deploying

the armies of my pages,

I shall inspect

the regiments in line.

 

Heavy as lead,

my verses at attention stand,

ready for death

and for immortal fame.

 

The poems are rigid,

pressing muzzle

to muzzle their gaping

pointed titles.

 

The favorite

of all the armed forces

the cavalry of witticisms

ready

to launch a wild hallooing charge,

reins its chargers still,

raising

the pointed lances of the rhymes.

and all

these troops armed to the teeth,

which have flashed by

victoriously for twenty years,

all these,

to their very last page,

I present to you,

the planet’s proletarian.

 

The enemy

of the massed working class

is my enemy too

inveterate and of long standing.

 

Years of trial

and days of hunger

ordered us

to march

under the red flag.

 

We opened

each volume

of Marx

as we would open

the shutters

in our own house;

but we did not have to read

to make up our minds

which side to join,

which side to fight on.

 

Our dialectics

were not learned

from Hegel.

In the roar of battle

it erupted into verse,

when,

under fire,

the bourgeois decamped

as once we ourselves

had fled

from them.

Let fame

trudge

after genius

like an inconsolable widow

to a funeral march –

die then, my verse,

die like a common soldier,

like our men

who nameless died attacking!

I don’t care a spit

for tons of bronze;

I don’t care a spit

for slimy marble.

We’re men of  kind,

we’ll come to terms about our fame;

let our

common monument be

socialism

built

in battle.

Men of posterity

examine the flotsam of dictionaries:

out of Lethe

will bob up

the debris of such words

as “prostitution,”

“tuberculosis,”

“blockade.”

For you,

who are now

healthy and agile,

the poet

with the rough tongue

of his posters,

has licked away consumptives’ spittle.

With the tail of my years behind me,

I begin to resemble

those monsters,

excavated dinosaurs.

Comrade life,

let us

march faster,

march

faster through what’s left

of the five-year plan.

My verse

has brought me

no rubles to spare:

no craftsmen have made

mahogany chairs for my house.

In all conscience,

I need nothing

except

a freshly laundered shirt.

When I appear

before the CCC

of the coming

bright years,

by way of my Bolshevik party card,

I’ll raise

above the heads

of a gang of self-seeking

poets and rogues,

all the hundred volumes

of my

communist-committed books.

 

 

Source:

Vladimir Mayakovsky Archive, From The Marxist Internet Archive:

https://www.marxists.org/subject/art/literature/mayakovsky/index.htm

All material within these Archives, unless noted otherwise, is public domain. MIA-created material is protected by the Creative Commons License.

 

Image: Mayakovsky, 1915

By Unknown Photograph [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/18/Mayakovsky_1915.jpg

 

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