"Some soup, good neighbor mine?
Dine well, and I'll be grateful!"
"Good neighbor, I am full to bursting." "Never mind,
You'll not decline another plateful.
Delicious soup, I'd say the best soup in your life."
"That helping was my third! " "Now, now, no mathematics!
It's willingness that matters.
When did you ever contemplate
Such amber fat - so thick you almost need a knife!
Oblige me, my dear friend! Now stir it,
There's bream here, innards too. Look, there's a piece of sturgeon!
Just one more spoonful, please! Give him a helping, wife."
In this wise was Demyan his neighbour Foka regaling,
Not giving him a moment's rest, his will prevailing;
Like hailstones down Foka's brow came rolling beads of sweat.
Yet all the same another plateful he accepts;
And making one supreme last effort
He puts it all away. "I like such friends as these!"
Exclaims Demyan. "I cannot stand formalities!
Now just a teeny-weeny plateful more, dear fellow!"
My poor friend Foka! Although
He really loved fish soup, escaping from such woe,
His hat and waistband
He grabbed and hastened
Off home as fast as he could go -
Himself at Demyan's door no more to show.
*** Outspokenness may bless an author in his labors,
But, if to shut your mouth in good time you're unable
And do not spare the ears of friends and neighbors,
Take note: your prose and verse will be to every man
No less repulsive than the fish soup of Demyan.
Translated by Peter Tempest