Vladimir Mayakovsky | Order to the Army of the Arts

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Order to the Army of the Arts [1] (1918)

Threadbare men of the old brigade
bore on about this and that.
Comrades! To the barricades!
Barricades of minds and hearts.
Only those who have burnt their boats
are true communists.
You can’t just stroll on, you futurists,
the Future requires a leap!
It’s not enough just to build the engine —
you need a head of steam: wheels turn, we’re off.
If there’s no music to lead us on,
why bother with AC or DC?
Pile
sound on sound
and for the lyrics
we’ve some great phonemes in Russian:
uh,
rh,
sha,
shcha.
It’s not enough to form ranks,
cavalry twill with red piping.
No bureaucrat will move armies,
if a band doesn’t strike up a march.
Drag the grand pianos onto the streets,
let drums bay from windows!
Drum,
show the pianos their forte,
is that you roaring,
or thunder?
Timely — to inspect factories,
bedaub physogs with soot,
and, tired,
to blink blearily
at dubious luxury.
Enough of cheap truisms.
Wipe the old from your hearts.
Street-brooms our brushes,
and public places our palettes.
The Book of Time,
a thousand years long,
hasn’t yet hymned revolutionary days.
Onto the streets, futurists,
percussionists and poets!

 

 

 

Order no. 2 to the Armies of the Arts (1921)

This’s yours —
gastronome baritones —
who from Adam
to these times
have shaken those brothels called theatres
with Romeo-and-Julietting arias.

This’s yours —
peintres
grown podgy as carthorses,
the gnawing and neighing pride of Russia,
skulking in studios
and (as of yore) draconianising
flowers and figures.

This’s yours —
draped in the fig-leaves of mysticism,
foreheads wrinkle-furrowed — futurists,
imaginists,
acmeists,
muddled in a tangle of rhymes.

This’s yours —
who’ve swapped rumpled hair
for pomaded fore-locks,
cheap shoes
for patent-leather pumps,
Proletarian-aller-landers
putting elbow-patches
on Pushkin’s faded tux.

This’s yours —
dancing to boybands
selling yourselves openly
yet sinning in secret
picturing your futures
as oversized Academicians.

To you I speak,
I —
ingenious or not ingenious,
who have set aside piffle
to agitate-properly,
to you I speak,
before you’re dispersed with butts: sling it!

Sling it all!
Forget it!
Spit
on rhymes
and on arias,
and on bouquets
and other nonsense
from the stockroom of the arts.
Who gives a toss
about tortured young artistes,
loving
neither wisely nor well?
Makers,
not Scientological Ra-ra-rasputins,
these are what’s needed.
Listen!
The lonesome whistle blows,
steam and smoke come through crannies:
“Give us coal from Wales!
Foundrymen
and mechanics for depots!”
In the river-basins,
laid-up and in need of repair,
steamships hoot at the docks:
“Give us North Sea oil!”

Whilst we dawdle and quarrel
rooting out arcana,
everything tells us:
“Give us NEW FORMS!”
There’s no-one daft enough
to hover, slack-jawed,
waiting for tips from some Maestro.
Comrades,
give us new modes of art —
such
as will get us out of this mess.

 

 

 

‘Part One Decree No. 3’ from Fifth International (1922)

To be read to all squadrons of futurists,
to
 the forts of the classics, the gas units
of the symbolists, the realist transport units
and the kitchen details of the imaginists.

 

So where
— except in Hay-o-Why —
can one be in alt on poetic stilts?
So provincial . . .!
“Oh, how poetical . . .
how toploftical . . .
Oh!”
I’ve not been to church in twenty years.
And I’m not planning to either.
Not even to blasted Basil’s Basilica.
It hasn’t put me out.
I rejoiced
at the cannon’s call.
Am I
to assay alliterative nimbuses
to the deity of poesy, with posies of poeticisation?
Poetry — slouching whingeing about roses.
(For me,
what’s intolerable
is that I didn’t invent roses.

For 28 years I’ve reared this brain
not for sniffing at
but inventing roses.)
Larking,
it isn’t jealousy
that makes me raise higher than you
this,
my verbstroika, my structure of words.
I want to be
counted
along with Edison,
of Lenin’s number,
added to the Einsteins.
For a long time I ate too much.
I overdid delikat-eating.
These days:
my system is clean.
Language is my end.
I speak straightforwardly
in phrases from Fowler’s.

I
permit poetry
only one resolved form:
concision,
the exactitude of mathematical formulae.
I’d got too used to poetic twaddle,
got accustomed to verse, not talking straight.
But if
I say:
“A!”
that ‘a’ is a clarion announcing humanity’s attack.
I fI say:
“B!”
that’s  a new BLAST in humanity’s struggle.

 

 

 

‘It’s Impossible’, from I LOVE (1920)

Alas, I can’t
move the grand piano solo
(nor, particularly,
the Fireproof safe).
And if I’m not safe with a safe,
nor, less grandly, with a piano,
is it possible I
could take away my heart, that I got back from you.
Bankers know:
“We ‘re limitlessly rich, bullet-proof.
If we run out of my money-bags,
then we put it in the ‘Fireproof’.”
My love’s
inside you —
steel-plated, its riches —
that hidden,
I strut
pleased as Croesus.
And if
I need it very badly,
I can withdraw a smile,
or half-a-smile
or less
schmooze in bad company
and waste by midnight
thirty pieces of lyrical silver.

 

 

 

Called to Account (1917)

Barabam! The drum war-mongers.
Kebab the living on spits.
in every country
a bayonet
has a worker on each end of it.
For what?
The earth shivers,
hungry,
and in rags.
Men are nihilated in a blood-bath
simply so that
someone
somewhere
can get hold of Albania.
Men are ganged in packs,
blow after blow lands on the world
simply so that
someone’s ships
can pass toll-free
through the Bosphorus.
Soon
the world
won’t have an unbroken bone.
The soul, too,
eviscerated.
Simply so that
someone
can get their hands on
Mesopotamia (to the Iraq).
In whose name
do military boots
tramp roughly through city streets?
What illuminates the sky of battles —
Freedom?
God?

The rouble!
You,
whose whole lives pay for this,
when will you rise to your full height?
When will you throw this question in their faces:
What are we fighting for?

 

 

 

Left March – for the Soviet marines (1918)

Detail — FORWARD MARCH!
This is no place for chat.
Put a sock in it, orators!
The floor
is yours,
Comrade Lüger.
Enough of frameworks and laws
dating back to Adam and Eve.
It’s for us to break the wind of History’s horse.
Left!
Left!
Left!

Ahoy, blue-jackets!
Haul anchor!
Cross the ocean!
Or
at inspection
would your keels still be stepped?
Baring his crowned teeth
let
the British lion whine.
‘The Commune shall never fall’!
Left!
Left!
Left!

There,
behind ramparts of fire
uncharted sunny uplands.
Against famine,
against a sea of ills,
millions are on the march!
Hireling armies surround us,
steelily armed:
this uncordial Entente shall not conquer!
Left!
Left!
Left!

Can the eagle’s eye grow dim?
Will we in old age grow myopic?
Or grasp
the world’s throat
with proletarian fingers!
Chests out, mes braves!
Deck the sky with banners!
Who’s that heading right?
Left!
Left!
Left!

 

 

 

 

 

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FOR BRITISH WORKERS
VERSIONS OF VLADIMIR MAYAKOVSKY
HARRY GILONIS
BARQUE PRESS 2015

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