Together through the wintry woodland
All day we wandered without pause.
How come, then, that beside my footprints
I cannot see a print of yours?

Were not the trees just now repeating
Your songs of overwhelming charm?
And when your fingers lost their feeling,
Did not I warm them in my palm?

Did you not run behind a fir tree
And cry: «Give chase! I’m not afraid!»?
If you were not the other person,
Who was it heard my verse tirade?

Was it not you who laughed, grew angry,
Who said that I was in the wrong?
Was it not you saw my surrender
When your persuasion proved too strong?

Through virgin snow you strode beside me.
Where are your tracks? I do not know.
I walk alone. Thought flutters wildly
But leaves no footprint in the snow.

* * *

Zest for life, the quest for truth
Are a sign, they say, of youth.
Holy wrath is wont to cool
Shortly after leaving school.
Both the wish and will to fight
Vanish almost overnight.
On life’s road, they say, you’ll tire.
Lose all interest, retire
At a solemn, stately pace.
Blind to honour and disgrace,
Equal courtesies you’ll show
To a friend and to a foe…
If this prophecy be true,
There’s but one escape for you:
Choose a clifftop, say: «Goodbye!’’
Take a running jump—and die!


I met a rider in the hills
Who bore himself with pride.
A cigarette clung to his lips,
A whip hung at his side.
Beside him with a sleeping child
A weary woman stepped
And so profusely she perspired
It seemed as if she wept.
I stood and watched them out of sight
And felt a burning shame,
For thirty years the equal right
Of women we proclaim!
Here lyric verse is not enough,
Let lines of wrath begin
So mountain folk need never blush
For any of their kin!

* * *

If every loving thought and look
Became a lyric line,
There’d be no bigger poetry book
On themes of love, than mine.
But still the book is small—what’s worse,
I’m writing nothing new:
Whatever time I have for verse
I’d rather spend with you.


Like water, I have drunk the sun.
I’ve climbed year after year
To see its orb of scarlet rise,
And set, as night draws near.

I’ve drunk the stars from mountain streams,
From sources crisp and cold,
In regions where each summit gleams
And hearts are proud and bold.

I’ve taken the blue heaven’s cup
In meadows where I’ve drowsed,
To drink the air that filters there
Through sweet, refreshing clouds.

I’ve drunk pure snow where footpaths go
Beside a sheer abyss,
And I have felt the soft flakes fall
And melt upon my lips.

I’ve ‘drunk the Spring while sowing seed,
When time cannot be lost.
In deep degrees of Arctic freeze
I’ve drunk, like vodka, frost.

When I’ve drunk storms, that cast upon
The Earth their shadow grim,
Many a rainbow bright has shone
Around the beaker’s rim.

When brier roses bloomed again
And hops grew succulent,
I’ve scrambled up a rocky glen
To drink their heady scent.

Enamoured of the grace sublime
That to fair Earth belongs,
I’ve lost my heart many a time,
As wine I relish songs.

The soul of Man is hard to span:
I’ve drunk with friends of mine
In times of gladness—honeymead,
In sad times—bitter wine.

I drank with all my heart, and not
For fun, to cut a dash:
I’ve heard the world’s youth sing, I’ve seen
The Hiroshima ash.

I’ve relished life as I take Ijeer:
The froth away I blew
And drank a life of toil and strife
That is not false—but true.

I love each day and, come what may,
I drain it to the dregs.
It’s life herself who is to blame
If my great thirst still begs.

I do not care if, thirst unslaked,
This world I have to quit—
Provided men, while Earth rotates,
Remain to thirst on it!

* * *

To faraway stars with soaring thrust
Rockets galore we fire.
People are lofty stars and just
To reach them is my desire.


To my friend
Musa Magomedov

Let us go where girls entrance us—
To Akhvakh return!
Are we handsome? Our advances
Shall they greet or spurn?

We’ll observe the age-old rite,
Setting hearts aglow.
Through a maiden’s window wide
Furry caps we’ll throw.

We’ll discover straightaway
Who the favourite is:
From her window back shall come
Every cap but his.

Palest moonlight I recall…
Silent streets below,
Where we argued life and love
All so long ago!

Barely grown to manhood then
I was never shy
In the company of men
Older then than I.

That spring night I found myself
Near a house, all set
To display the forwardness
I do not regret.

Plane trees murmured like the surf.
In an upper room
Was the girl whose song we heard…
Palely shone the moon.

Of the sun and stars she sang
And about her lover,
Urging him to hasten lest
She should find another.

As I felt my knees collapse
And my senses spin,
My companions doffed their caps
And sent them flying in.

This could easily be done,
So my courage grew:
Hard upon a furry one
My cloth cap I threw.

How my pounding heart did leap,
My breathing quicken, when
Caps came hurtling back, like sheep
Escaping from a pen!

When my cap with broken peak—
A duck with broken wing—
Hit the dust, I could not speak
Nor think of anything.

The girl, however, pitied me:
«You’ve come too soon, my dear!
But wait awhile» (she gaily smiled),
«Come back another year!»

I departed, broken-hearted,
And in anguish wept.
From the roof the favoured one
Through her window crept.

Many freezing winters passed,
Many summers burned
Hill and field, before at last
Thither I returned.

Mountain maids… How would I fare?
Would I catch their eye?
Of the other suitors there,
None was as old as I.

As before, a pale moon beamed
On the roof-tops flat
And the selfsame girl, it seemed,
At the window eat.

When the men their fur caps threw
In hope her love to share,
I sent my own hat sailing through
The open window there.

Some young suitors mourned their lack
Of luck and stood nonplussed
When their caps came sailing back,
Raising clouds of dust.

Like a crow, that’s shot first go,
So short-lived its fate,
My broad hat flew out and skimmed
To the very gate.

Once again I heard the girl
Break off her merry song:
«You should have come earlier!
Where have you been so long!»

All was as before—the sky
And stars the same… except
It was a younger man than I
That through her window crept.

So all my life I seek the boon
Of love. But cruel Fate
Decrees I either come too soon
Or else arrive too late.


Our ancients have great dignity,
Few men more sagely speak.
Their honour they rate higher than
The highest mountain peak.

And nobody can ruffle them:
So piercing is their gaze
They only need a single glance
A stranger to appraise.

For centuries they have foreseen
The outcome of a fight,
Known who would fall upon his knees
Or stand, like rock, upright.

A falsehood they at once detect,
No matter from whose lips,
No matter how the lie be decked,
Gilded or honey-dipped.

These white-haired veterans, who wear
Warm sheepskin all year round,
Know how to coin a phrase that is
Both pithy and profound.

Hill ancients! Men of high renown
Your reputation swell,
For you advise ambassadors
And generals, as well.

A rider, coming into view,
Has hardly made a sound,
Yet rightaway, and rightly, too,
You know whither he’s bound;

You know the purpose of his trip
And whether he intends
To woo a pretty village girl
Or just look up his friends.

When Kamalil Bashir of Chokh 
Was in his tender years,
An aged neighbour prophesied
He’d be the cause of tears,

For he would steal the womenfolk
Of hillmen and be slain
By his own father’s hand at last
To end the people’s shame.

When proud Shamil was downy-lipped,
When all his guns were toys
And all he had at his command
Was a gang of barefoot boys,

There was an old man said of him:
«One day with powder he’ll
Contrive such thunder as shall make
The very mountain reel.»

A veteran who heard Makhmud 
His early verse declaim,
Said he would certainly be shot
For a fair woman’s name.

So with embarrassment do I
Await what shall be said
Not by the connoisseurs, but by
The old hillmen instead.

Not from vainglory springs their pride,
For they without a doubt
Know very well exactly what
The stars converse about.

Not from vainglory springs their pride,
Their fame is merited:
I pause on paths to let them pass
And humbly bow my head.


Stars of night, stars of night,
At my verses peer
Like the eyes, like the eyes
Of men no longer here.

In the hour of night repose
I can hear them say:
«Be the conscience bright of those
The war years took away!»

A hillman, true to Daghestan,
No easy path is mine.
Who knows, perhaps, who knows, perhaps
I’ll be a star sometime?

Then at another’s verse I’ll peer,
An earth-committed star,
The conscience bright of those who my
Contemporaries are.


As a boy
I was unruly,
Many a rebuke I earned.
But with adult firmness, coolly,
All remonstrances I spurned.

Rating my own powers highly,
Never have I run from fate.
Yet I now approach you shyly,
Like a child, and hesitate.

Now we are alone together,
My heart’s anguish I’ll confess,
And a head that’s grey and weathered
Into your soft palm I’ll press.

I have been a rash, ungracious
Prisoner of vanity!
Not enough consideration,
Mother, have you had from me!

I was gaily pirouetting
When I heard a deep heart’s groan:
Could I really be forgetting
My old mother, left alone?

Anxiously, but without censure,
Lovingly you glance at me,
Heave a sigh and let a gentle
Tear fall accidentally.

As a star on the horizon
To its final goal has sped,
In your palm your boy contritely
Lays his weary, greying head.


Such follies trouble us in sleep—
Last night I dreamt I died:
In a deep ravine I lie unseen,
A bullet in my side.

A stream is thundering nearby.
In vain I wait for help.
Upon the dusty earth I lie,
Soon to be dust myself,

For no one knows that here I die,
And nothing conies in view
But eagles wheeling in the sky,
A shy young deer or two.

To mourn my most untimely death
And weep in solemn chorus
Come neither mother, wife, nor friend,
None of the village mourners.

Yet just as I prepare to die
Unnoticed and unsung,
I hear two men go passing by
Who speak my native tongue.

In a deep ravine I lie unseen,
I pine, but they with glee
Relate the wiles of one Hasan,
The intrigues of Ali.

And, as I hear the Avar speech,
My strength comes flowing back—
This is a cure no scholars teach,
A balm the doctors lack.

May other tongues cure other men
In their particular way,
But if tomorrow Avar die,
I’d rather die today!

No matter if it’s hardly used
For high affairs of state,
It is the language that I choose—
To me Avar is great!

Shall my successors only read
Translations of Makhmud?
Am I the last Avar to write
And still be understood?

I love this life, the whole wide world
I view with loving gaze.
But best I love the Soviet land
Which I—in Avar—praise.

I’d die for this free land of toil
That ranges East and West.
But let it be on Avar soil
That in my grave I rest,

And let it be in Avar words
That Avars meeting there
Speak of Rasul, their kinsman, poet.
A poet’s son and heir!

* * *
Father, I do not read to you
New verse that you should know it,
Because from you I’ve learned the true
Behaviour of a poet.

To act as spokesman for new verse
Is not his proper labour
And he prefers to hear it first
Recited by a neighbour.


For the singer Mui Gasanova

My father left us all too soon,
One bitter day he died.
My mother by the rising moon
Did rock my cot and softly croon
And, as she sang, she cried.

I thought my love an honest man
And wished to be his bride.
He broke his vow to me and ran.
«You’re well rid of that ruffian!»
My mother said, and cried.

So then I took my tambourine
And on the mountainside
I danced and sang with merry mien.
My anxious mother watched the scene
And, as she watched, she cried.

My mother died not long ago.
A mourning scarf I tied
Around my head and, bowing low,
Kept watch until the dawn’s first glow,
And all the time I cried.


Gentle showers drip, drop
From the branches bare.
Yellow leaves flip-flop
Here and everywhere.

Lusty, gusty Autumn
Drives them down the street,
Unbeloved orphans,
Beating a retreat.

People passing mutely
Trample in the mire
Flimsy leaves whose beauty
Once they did admire.

Trees, of course, create
New foliage in Spring.
Still, the law of Nature
Seems a cruel thing.


Where are you, Heart?
«At the window up there!»
How my breast hurts,
Robbed of heart, full of care!

Where are you, Dreams?
«At the window up there!»
How cold the room seems
To me in despair!

Where are you, Eyes?
«At the window up there!»
My empty sockets
Tearfully stare.

Where are you, Verse?
What rivets you so?
Whither so fast?
«To the window I go!»

Where are you, Thoughts?
«At the window up there!»
Who are those people?
«A fortunate pair.»

«Why so forlorn?»
Once my heart she did snare…
I watched the dawn
From the window up there.


The village cemetery…
Lie neighbours, in earth’s bosom sealed,
Who can’t go home though home is near,
As I come home from far afield.

Few friends of my young days remain
In Tsada now, and fewer kin…
Dear niece, my brother’s child, in vain
Today I sought your welcome grin.

How come? You were so free and gay.
Now Time has lost authority:
Your friends left school the other day
But always in the Fifth you’ll be.

So strange it seemed—no, more—absurd
That on an empty hillside mute
Here at his graveside should be heard
My friend Biyaslan’s merry lute.

Again I heard Abusamat’s
Quick-tapping, trembling tambourine,
And once again, it seemed, the lads
Were off to grace a wedding scene.

No… Here no revellers are found
Who hail you with a laugh or smile.
All silent is this burial ground,
My people’s final domicile.

The stones within your bounds sedate
More crowded grow with every year.
I know full well that soon or late
My time shall come to settle here.

Wherever our life paths may wind,
Here we assemble in this row.
Yet many names I do- not find
Of men who perished long ago.

Both old and young did not come back
But far from home did meet their end.
Where were you laid to rest, Iskhak,
And Hadji-Magoma, my friend?

And you, my dear dead brothers, speak!
Where can I find your burial mound?
Your soldier graves I cannot seek
In Tsada’s cemetery ground.

On fields of battle faraway
Courageously you fought and died…
How far, Tsada, your children stray
Whose graves are scattered far and wide!

In lands where blizzards howl and reel,
Where scorching sun the earth engraves,
Women, who are not Avars, kneel
To lay fresh flowers on their graves.


I take from the wall this old dagger of mine,
A weapon I clumsily handle…
My belt I have never with you, dagger, lined
And ridden full tilt into battle.

I may have disturbed you by taking a rag
And wiping the dust from your surface.
But blood never tainted you, neither of man
Nor of animal, feathered or furry.

You hang like a toy there, and yet I succumb
To small voices, prompting me ever
To test your keen edge on the skin of my thumb
And see if a hair you can sever.

Life gave me a different weapon—for peace,
And different duties I set it.
Why then should I draw this blade out from its sheath
And, stroking the edge lightly, whet it?

Perhaps as a peaceable poet I should
Get rid of this blade at the fountain?
My dagger would say in reply, if it could:
«Oh no, you’re a man of the mountain!»


It’s time for me to go, my darling.
I shall pack no things.
I leave the song of joy the starling
In the morning sings.

I leave the moonlit night, the breeze,
The flowers in the grass,
The murmuring of distant seas,
The torrent’s mighty bass,

The gorges wind and rain have carved
In rugged mountain peaks,
As dear as my own mother’s scarred
And weather-beaten cheeks.

I shall not take the river’s lustre,
Nor the lazy glow
Of rays that round your shoulders cluster
When the sun is low.

I shall not take what’s mine from birth
As much as flesh and bone:
The winding path, the scent of earth
When hay is newly mown.

I leave the cooling rain, the baking
Sun, the sky above…
Far more than this, my dear, I’m taking,
For I take your love.

* * *

Darling, I see you are shivering, trembling.
Sit by the fire and give me your hand.
Why are you sighing for may time and summer?
Why do you shun me? I don’t understand.

How can you think I’m a bird that is willing
Only in springtime to cheer you with song?
I’m not the sun, its warm duties fulfilling
Only in springtime and all summer long.

Darling, I love you whatever the weather,
In midwinter frost and in kindlier June.
I sing songs of love and of happy endeavour
And travel the world with this comforting tune.

If my glad song is unable to warm you,
If on this cold winter night you still freeze,
Then there is nothing—not spring and not summer—
Able to make this a song that shall please.

* * *

Afraid of all things,
I am fearful that maybe
I shall be unable to shield you from harm,
That maybe a passer-by or an acquaintance
Shall slight or ill-treat you or cause you alarm.

I fear lest a storm, bursting in of a sudden,
May shatter the delicate bond that we make,
I fear lest our happiness prove to be crystal:
The larger a glass is, the simpler to break.

I fear lest much sorrow and care, like an ocean,
May seize you and in its mad whirpool enthrall.
I fear lest among the salt waves in commotion
A single salt tear of your weeping should fall.


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