Ukraine War Day #269: Happy Artillery Day! + Poetry Slam

Dear Readers:

Today, November 19, is celebrated in Russia as Artillery Day. More formally, Day of Rocket Troops and Artillery. This holiday was first initiated, by decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, in 1944. The day was picked for the following reason: It was on 19 November 1942 that Operation Uran commenced, a major Soviet counteroffensive that helped to break the back of the German army. This offensive began with ferocious Soviet artillery barrages, softening up the Southwest and Don fronts.

In honor of today’s commemorations, the Russian Ministry of Defense published some communications on its web site.

Including the news that all of Russia’s rocket units have been converted to the Iskander-M complex. This is considered a major milestone. The modernization of the systems took place in the course of an actual war, which is a great motivation.

Systems are supplemented by self-propelled howitzers of the type 2С19М2 Мста-С, with which the artillery units are equipped.

As reporter Anton Nikitin notes: “This fighting machine is able to produce a wall of fire, in the course of which, several shells, launched from a single weapon at different angles, can all reach their targets simultaneously; by so doing, thickening the volume of fire and securing a guaranteed strike at the opponent.”

This in reference to recent remarks coming out of Kiev, wherein the Ukrainians claim that Russia is running out of rockets. I don’t think they are, but I mean, even if they were, they can build more; because Russia still has factories and a military-industrial complex. When the Ukrainians run out, they can’t build any more, they just have to go schnorring to the Westies once again and beg for more weapons. Like they have to beg for everything else, including money: Not a good way to run a country, if you ask me.

And Now A Poem

That’s it for the artillery story. I can’t resist posting this poem, produced by a random and anonymous commenter called “Ser Gio” who penned his or her poem on Anatoly Shariy’s youtube channel. One of the great things about the Russian people, is that they can break into poetry at the drop of a hat. This is actually a really good poem, it has both rhyme and meter. And several neat puns and references. For example, the phrase парень -не лох (“the lad is no boob”), which is an allusion to something Zelensky actually said once: “I am no boob!” when debating with some thugs from one of the Nazi battalions. Another great pun is the phrase Ще нэ змэрзла (“has not yet frozen”) which is a spoof of the opening line of the Ukrainian national anthem: “Ukraine has not yet perished”. (With emphasis on the word Ще i.e., “yet”.)

In my youth I tried to translate poetry, but soon came to the conclusion that it is fruitless and impossible to translate poetry from one language to another. Prose yes, poetry no. You have to make a Sophie’s choice: Either try to mimic the rhyme/meter and come up with something clunky; or forget about rhyme/meter and just try to convey the semantics, as well as possible. Which is the tack I take here.

Ser Gio:

Однажды, в студёную зимнюю пору
я вышел из дома, был сильный мороз.
Гляжу, поднимается медленно в гору
Зеленский, и тянет валежника воз.

Хотя без штанов он, но шествует важно,
и сразу заметно что парень -не лох.
А был пианистом, я видел однажды,
но вместо лошадки он тоже не плох.

Привет КВэНщик! Ступай себе мимо!
-Уж больно ты грозен, как я погляжу.
Откуда дровишки? – С Сибири, вестимо,
Макрон с Шульцем рубят, а я отвожу.

(в лесу было слышно -ругаются двое)
-Чего они спорят? – Я зелю спросил.
-Про новые санкции, сволочи воют
дрова из Сибири таскать нету сил.

-Какие проблемы, топили бы газом…
-Так Байден куплять его нам не даёт!
Командует нами как хочет, зараза,
при этом ещё Ще нэ змэрзла поёт…

А зимнее солнце так ярко светило
Европу морозом сковала зима.
Зеленский в упряжке, и Это так мило,
нацист без штанов, президент без ума…

MY TRANSLATION:

Once, in a cold winter time,
I left my house, there was a crisp frost.
What's that? I see, trudging slowly up the hill,
Zelensky, he is pulling a cart of deadwood.

He doesn't have pants on, but still strides imperiously,
And one can see right away that this lad is no boob.
He used to play the piano, as I once saw,
And he clearly is no mean horse either.

"Greetings, KVN comedian!  Come closer!
Oh, I can see how fearsome you are.
Where did you get that wood?"  "From Siberia, obviously.
Macron and Scholz chop it, and then I cart it here."

(In the forest I hear two men arguing.)
"What are they fighting about?" I ask Zelya.
"The new sanctions. Those bastards whine
They have no strength to drag wood from Siberia."

"Shouldn't be a problem.  Just use gas heat..."
"But Biden won't let us buy it!
That piece of filth orders us around as he pleases,
While singing, Ukraine has not frozen yet..."

Then the winter sun shone so bright
That all of Europe was encased in frost.
Zelensky in a harness, and this is so fine:
A Nazi with no trousers, a President with no brain...
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14 Responses to Ukraine War Day #269: Happy Artillery Day! + Poetry Slam

  1. peter moritz says:

    “I don’t think they are,”

    I guess you are correct to think that.

    “Russia’s production of the stand-off weapons, namely 3M14 Kalibr and X-101 cruise missiles family was running something on the order of, depending on the source anywhere from 30 a month to 60 per quarter. Even if we assume the more modest number of 60 per quarter, even WITHOUT well documented and publicized dramatic increase of manufacturing as early as 2016, we still get this number: 4 quarters per year x 7 years x 60 missiles per quarter = 28 x 60 = 1,680 missiles of Kalibr and X-101 family at a minimum. But we also know that production was dramatically increased with practically all massive Russia’s military-industrial complex plant working three shifts every day since January at least.”
    https://smoothiex12.blogspot.com/2022/11/nyt-again.html

    And so far, they just fired several hundred of those. A hundred here, a hundred there, and by that time the new production has caught up already….

    Liked by 1 person

  2. olavleivar says:

    TRUE ,,, to translate Poetry is very difficult.. and sometimes impossible
    Still sometimes possible and even … sometimes .. better than in the original language

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      The only example I can think of, off the top of my head, is Edward FitzGerald’s “translation” of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, from Persian to English.

      I don’t know Persian, but I have heard that his “translation” is more like an original work, based loosely on the source material.
      Well, that’s how it goes with artistic interpretation! Kudos to people who are willing to venture so far…

      Like

      • yalensis says:

        LIX.

        Listen again. One Evening at the Close
        Of Ramazán, ere the better Moon arose,
        ⁠In that old Potter’s Shop I stood alone
        With the clay Population round in Rows.

        LX.

        And strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot
        Some could articulate, while others not:
        ⁠And suddenly one more impatient cried—
        “Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?”

        Like

  3. daniel_s says:

    And as Aurelien in his blog puts it:
    “The Shadow of the Missile: They can hurt us, but we can’t hurt them. ”

    Where he elaborates on the reason why the West’s fighter jets are not exactly in good position against Russian air defence and missile strikes in the European “theater”

    https://aurelien2022.substack.com/p/the-shadow-of-the-missile

    Like

  4. square coats says:

    That’s a really interesting poem! Although I severely dislike rhyming poetry, unfortunately, so I’m happy to keep with your translation.

    When I was still in school a number of years ago, I used to try to painstakingly translate english poems into russian on my cigarette breaks while pulling all-nighters. I have to say I did a terrible job! 🙂

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      I myself like rhyme and meter. It has to be done right, of course, and not cheesily, with cheap rhymes. Russian is a better language for rhyming, because of all the inflected endings. And yet there were quite a lot of English poets who didn’t do so badly at all, back in the day!

      Like

  5. Not a Boob

    Zelensky’s not the boob that some suppose.
    Don’t judge him by the shirt he never changes!
    What clever leaders know, Zelensky knows.
    Through many disciplines his knowledge ranges—
    And wise men far and wide are on his side:
    To Russian they extend no toleration.
    This clear advantage cannot be denied.
    It augments his insightful cogitation.
    To call him boob is far beyond the pale.
    Let that abusive word now be discarded!
    He is our global hero, folks: all hail!
    He isn’t talking shit. He’s barely farted!
    He’s not a boob, his allies all agree.
    Nevertheless, he plays one on TV.

    TR

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      Brilliant! Seraphim, as I was reading your very good poem, I realize that it almost perfectly scans with the music from Fantine’s aria from the Broadway show Les Miserables. I had just recently heard that on my car radio, and the tune had stuck in my head like they do sometimes, that’s why I noticed when I started reading your poem.
      Try it yourself, your poem meshes at the line when Fantine starts to belt out :

      “I dreamed a dream…”/”Zelensky’s not the boob…”

      Like

  6. Nabokov discusses the problem of translating poetry extensively in the introduction to his translation of “Eugene Onegin.” He makes a point of demonstrating that he can write a perfectly-competent Pushkin sonnet in English. But like you, Yalensis, he opts to translate “Onegin” without rhyme and meter and with perfect attention to the literal sense.

    Other translations that became classics in their own right, in English, include Pope’s “Iliad” and “Odyssey” and Dryden’s “Aeneid.”

    When is your translation of Pushkin coming out?

    Like

    • yalensis says:

      My translation of Pushkin? Oho! I would never dare attempt, I would be laughed out of this part of the galaxy…
      Griboedov, though, maybe that’s a possibility.

      Speaking of Griboedov, I hate to toot my own horn, but way back in 2016 I wrote a 6-part review of Grib’s most famous work, if you are interested in Russian literature you might take a look. I personally think my post is pretty good.

      In the course of writing this review of Grib’s play, I became so familiar with the plot and characters that I imagine I could do a credible translation. The only other translation into English that I heard of, is not very good. The translator made the classic mistake of trying to match the rhymes.

      Like

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