Yevgeny Yevtushenko (18 July 1933 / Zima Junction, Siberia)
Tsars, Kings, Emperors,
sovereigns of all the earth,
have commanded many a parade,
but they could not command humor.
When Aesop, the tramp, came visiting
the palaces of eminent personages
ensconced in sleek comfort all day,
they struck him as paupers.
In houses, where hypocrites have
left the smear of their puny feet,
there Hodja-Nasr-ed-Din, with his jests,
swept clean all meanness
like a board of chessmen!
They tried to commission humor-
but humor is not to be bought!
They tried to murder humor,
but humor thumbed his nose at them!
It’s hard to fight humor.
They executed him time and again.
His hacked-off head
was stuck on the point of a pike.
But as soon as the mummer’s pipes
began their quipping tale,
humor defiantly cried:
'I’m back, I’m here! ',
and started to foot a dance.
in an overcoat, shabby and short,
with eyes cast down and a mask of repentance,
he, a political criminal,
now under arrest, walked to his execution.
He appeared to submit in every way,
accepting the life-beyond,
but of a sudden he wriggled out of his coat,
and, waving his hand, did a bolt.
Humor was shoved into cells,
but much good that did.
Humor went straight through
prison bars and walls of stone.
Coughing from the lungs
like any man in the ranks,
he marched singing a popular ditty,
rifle in hand upon the Winter Palace.
He’s accustomed to frowning looks,
but they do him no harm;
and humor at times with humor
glances at himself.
He’s everpresent. Nimble and quick,
he’ll slip through anything, through everyone.
So- glory be to humor.
He- is a valiant man.
Translated by George Reavey
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