Konstantin Simonov

The House at Vyazma

In Vyazma is an ancient house
Which once one night was home to us.

That night we ate whatever came,
The source of drink was much the same.

At dawn, we went away to fight
And one of us lived not till night.

But this I know, that as he died,
We and the house were in his mind.

That night, as we prepared to die
We had forgotten how to lie,

How to betray, how to be mean,
How to cling on to what is mine.

That night it was revealed to us
That life is sharing, bread and house.

In Vyazma is an ancient house
We'll search for it in days of peace

We'll find the traces of it there
Where stoves and bricks are burned and bare.

And putting all we have in one,
We'll build again that ancient home

With the same table, stove and pipe
And window stretched across with tape*

In every detail just and right
As on that memorable night.

And if there's one who at the end
Won't give his shirt up to his friend,

Who will not share the bread he has
Who lies to us or who betrays,

Or reaching the exalted ranks
Of former friends no longer thinks,

We'll make a court to judge his case
And send him back into the house

There let him sit alone as if
Tomorrow battle comes and death,

And if tonight a lie has passed
His lips, it yet may be the last.

As if he will not share his bread
With one who shortly will lie dead,

Or greet with cold and formal breath
The man who'll rescue him from death,

Instead of us, let bitter shame
Sit with him there in our old home.

And when we see him, we shall know
Whether he has been there or no.

And if he has not, then the mass
Of friends, will be by one the less.

But if he has, then not a thing
We'll say about it more to him.

Once more till death he will be dear,
If once he tells us "I was there."


*Against blast. The X on every window became a symbol of the war.