Home > Uncategorized > Rasul Gamzatov: For women war is never over

Rasul Gamzatov: For women war is never over


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

Russian writers on war


Rasul Gamzatov
From Octaves
Translated by Peter Tempest

So many men were torn away
From us in war’s dread sweep…
Remembrance of it to this day
Makes wives and mothers weep.

New grass has grown, and grown are now
The sons of those who died,
And new fears flicker on the brow
Of mother and of bride.


There are three songs people treasure,
Songs to which they smile or cry;
First, a song of deep-felt pleasure,
Is a mother’s lullaby.

Second is the song that, stroking
Her dead son’s cold cheek and breast,
A mother sings, from sorrow choking…
Third and last – come all the rest.


Woman, wear your gayest dresses,
Put away old scarves and frocks!
“Fine attire my heart distresses
And I keep it in my box.”

Would you spoil your fine apparel?
Was that what you bought it for?
“No, the man for whom I’d wear it
Never came back from the war.”


A new dawn breaks in soft grey light
Without the sun, for thick mist drowns
The field where, ageing overnight,
The earth, forlorn and sodden, frowns.

The earth with clouded brow recalls
A mother who in fond hope waits
To greet her son, but sees his horse
Come empty-saddled through the gates.


The twentieth century is grim with rage,
We are disgraceful children in her eyes:
Never before in any time or age
Have men shed so much blood and told such lies.

The twentieth century is tired: she may
Deservedly her children eulogize:
Never so forcefully as in our day
Have men been fighting wickedness and lies.


Folk in Hiroshima city
Are convinced, as I have heard,
That death spares the stricken if they
Cut a thousand paper birds.

Sick world, come take up your scissors!
This I beg you understand:
Do not die as that poor girl did
With the last but one in hand.


Already twenty years have passed
Since my two brothers died.
And I – the third – in bitter dreams
Shed tears at their graveside.

I’ve learned from travelling to far
And unfamiliar shores:
All living men third brothers are
Of those who died in war.

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