Song of the Old Hussar

We present this work in honor of Defense of the Fatherland Day.

Denis Davydov
Russian
1784 – 1839

 

Where are you, old friends of mine,
True hussars by avocation,
Comrades both in arms and wine,
Champions of conversation?

Grayheads, I remember you,
Dippers full, in blissful poses.
Drinking while the fire burned through,
Glowing like your own red noses!

Sprawled on hayricks for settees,
Jaunty shakoes backward tilted,
Hussar jackets to your knees,
Sabres resting, carven-hilted.

Black-stained pipes between your teeth,
Puffing, there you lay in clover,
While the smoke, wreath after wreath,
Floated lock and whisker over.

Tire re you drowsed and hugged your swords;
Not a sound, while smoke curled densely,
Not a murmur – drunk as lords,
Drunk till you were almost senseless.

But as soon as dawn arrived
Off to battle you rode daily
With your shakoes to one side,
In tire wind your jackets flailing.

Under riders horses fly,
Sabres whistle, foemen slaying…
Battle over, nightfall nigh —
Dippers once again start playing.

Mat do I see now, though? God!
War has given way to dancing;
Like officials clad and shod.
Through a waltz hussars go prancing.

They’ve grown wise, you’ll say to me…
Listen to those home-bred Frenchmen:
Jomini1 — just Jomini.
But of vodka — ne’er a mention!

Where are you, old friends of mine,
True hussars by avocation,
Comrades both in arms and wine,
Champions of conversation?

Translation by Dorian Rottenberg

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