Bulat Okudzhava - Do svidaniya, malchiki (До свидания, мальчики) (English translation)

English translation

Farewell, boys

Oh wretched war, what did you do?
Our courtyards became silent,
our kids raised their heads
and grew up far too fast.
They hardly showed at our doorsteps
and were gone, soldier after soldier...
Farewell, boys! And boys,
do what you can to come back.
Don't hide away, be great,
spare neither bullets nor grenades,
don't spare even yourselves, but still
do what you can to come back.
Oh what did you do, wretched war?
Disunion and smoke instead of weddings.
Our girls passed their white dresses
on to their younger sisters.
Sure, who doesn't wear boots nowadays?
And thinner than their shoulder pads!1
Don't pay attention to gossips, girls,
we'll settle these scores later.
Let them say you've got nothing to believe in,
claim you don't know where you're headed2...
Farewell, girls. And girls,
do what you can to come back.
  • 1. lit. "and a shoulder pad (is like a pair of) green wings". The girl's shoulders being too thin, the pads brim over and look like wings (green because of the uniform's color)
  • 2. lit. "that you're going to war at random"
This translation does not claim to be of any particular value.
Glad if you liked it, sorry if you didn't.
You can reuse it as you please.
Glad if it's for knowledge or understanding, sorry if it's just for money or fame.
Submitted by petit élève on Mon, 10/04/2017 - 02:44
Last edited by petit élève on Sun, 04/06/2017 - 00:47
Author's comments:

What a gut-wrenching song...
If I'm not mistaken, the vid uses footage from two movies of the 70's, "Only old men are going to battle" and "The dawns here are quiet".

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Do svidaniya, malchiki (До свидания, мальчики)

Alexander Laskavtsev    Mon, 10/04/2017 - 07:19

"ни... ни..." transforms into "neither... nor": "neither bullets, nor grenades"
well, these pads were of green colour, and they could be distantly comparable with wings.

petit élève    Mon, 10/04/2017 - 07:35

Agreed for "neither", that sounds better.

Now about these mysterious shoulder pads, I really can't translate them as is, that just makes no sense in English. I suppose it's some kind of gossip about girls becoming officers in the Army, like the wings symbolizing their haughtiness or something?

Alexander Laskavtsev    Mon, 10/04/2017 - 07:49

Nope, when shoulders are not very broad (when soilder is a young boy/girl so far), the edges of the shoulder-pads can protrude a little, seeming like the little wings Regular smile

petit élève    Mon, 10/04/2017 - 07:53

OK, that sounds pretty convincing. Now I just need to turn that into something that will not give English readers a headache.

Alexander Laskavtsev    Mon, 10/04/2017 - 07:25

I think "lack of faith" is not equals to "you don't have anything to believe in"

petit élève    Mon, 10/04/2017 - 07:36

Agreed, that's not a very good equivalent, but I'd like something reasonably short.
I'll think about it, but a suggestion would be very welcome.

Alexander Laskavtsev    Mon, 10/04/2017 - 08:11

Well, my version is a fruit of my own imagination. One can understand this like: "pads are the wings of carrier in army" Regular smile But my version is seeming like the most reasonable to me. Believe me, russians don't even pay any attention to this metaphor - just a nice expression with no some special meaning. Wink smile

Looks nice now, congratulations!

petit élève    Mon, 10/04/2017 - 08:18

Ah well, my Russian is not good enough to spot the difference between meaningful and meaningless bits of sentences, so I rather try to understand everything, just in case ;).

Nice teamwork. Thanks again.

sandring    Fri, 14/04/2017 - 17:55

Pierre, Alex! I don't know where the problem is. Shoulder straps are for showing your military rank. This might be translated as is "And the green wings of shoulder straps" Regular smile

Alexander Laskavtsev    Fri, 14/04/2017 - 18:32

I don't belive that the metaphor is so complicated Regular smile
But this can be accepted as an option Wink smile
And why then "green"? Not "golden" or "red"?

sandring    Fri, 14/04/2017 - 21:48

We translate what we see in the text. We can't ask the author anyway, but the song is touching, isn't it? 0)

petit élève    Sat, 15/04/2017 - 19:42

Indeed, one of my favourite.

As for the meaning of these mysterious shoulder pads, I just suppose it's a kind of jeer, maybe just the fact that girls could become officers, or maybe the image of their shoulders being too narrow. After Stalin reintroduced them in 1942, shoulder pads were indeed quite wide.

sandring    Sat, 15/04/2017 - 04:07

I don't think this metaphor is complicated. First of all, they were GIs, their uniform was green, so the author compares them with young angels (green has the same meaning in Russian, i.e. young, inexperienced) So " the green wings of shoulder straps" gets the message across all right.

Green_Sattva    Sat, 15/04/2017 - 05:50

Пьер, большое спасибо за то, что снова вернулся к этому переводу ;-)
Я вижу, значение выражения "до поры" ты хорошо запомнил :-)

petit élève    Mon, 17/04/2017 - 03:16

Yep, I think this translation helped me to improve my Russian quite a bit.
Among other things, it made me understand better what "пора" means.

Green_Sattva    Sat, 15/04/2017 - 05:51

I think, this is good translation.