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Anna Andreevna Akhmatova




see also EXPLORATION (in Russian):
THE SECRETS OF THE CRAFT

Anna Achmatova




 

The Teacher

In memory of Innokentiy Annensky

And he, the one whom I regard to be my teacher,
Passed like a shadow and didn’t leave a shadow,
Absorbed the poison, drank down all the stupor,
Awaited glory, and couldn’t wait for glory.
He was an omen and an augury,
He pitied everyone, breathed languor into all,
And suffocated, short of breath…
(1945)

Translated by Andrey Kneller

 

 

 


Anna Andreevna Akhmatova


(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

born June 11 [June 23, New Style], 1889, Bolshoy Fontan, near Odessa, Ukraine, Russian Empire
died March 5, 1966, Domodedovo, near Moscow

pseudonym of Anna Andreyevna Gorenko Russian poet recognized at her death as the greatest woman poet in Russian literature.





Akhmatova began writing verse at the age of 11 and at 21 became a member of the Acmeist group of poets, whose leader, Nikolay Gumilyov, she married in 1910 butdivorced in 1918. The Acmeists, through their periodical Apollon (“Apollo”; 1909–17), rejected the esoteric vagueness and affectations of Symbolism and sought to replace them with “beautiful clarity,” compactness, simplicity, and perfection of form—all qualities in which Akhmatova excelled from the outset. Herfirst collections, Vecher (1912; “Evening”) and Chyotki (1914; “Rosary”), especially the latter, brought her fame. While exemplifying the best kind of personal or even confessional poetry, they achieve a universal appeal deriving from their artistic and emotional integrity. Akhmatova's principal motif is love, mainly frustrated and tragic love, expressed with an intensely feminine accent andinflection entirely her own.
Later in her life she added to her main theme some civic, patriotic, and religious motifs but without sacrifice of personal intensity or artistic conscience. Her artistry and increasing control of her medium were particularly prominent in her next collections: Belaya staya (1917; “The White Flock”), Podorozhnik (1921; “Plantain”), and Anno Domini MCMXXI (1922). This amplification of her range, however, did not prevent official Soviet critics from proclaiming her “bourgeois and aristocratic,” condemning her poetry for its narrow preoccupation with love and God, and characterizing her as half nun and half harlot. The execution in 1921 of her former husband, Gumilyov, on charges of participation in an anti-Soviet conspiracy (the Tagantsev affair) further complicated her position. In 1923 she entered a period of almost complete poetic silence and literary ostracism, and no volume of her poetry was published in the Soviet Union until 1940. In that year several of her poems were published in the literary monthly Zvezda (“The Star”), and a volume of selections from her earlier work appeared under the title Iz shesti knig (“From Six Books”). A few months later, however, it was abruptly withdrawn from sale and libraries. Nevertheless, in September 1941, following the German invasion, Akhmatova was permitted to deliver an inspiring radio address to the women of Leningrad [St. Petersburg]. Evacuated to Tashkent soon thereafter, she read her poems to hospitalized soldiers and published a number of war-inspired lyrics; a small volume of selected lyrics appeared in Tashkent in 1943. At the end of the war she returned to Leningrad, where her poems began to appear in local magazines and newspapers. She gave poetic readings, and plans were made for publication of a large edition of her works.





In August 1946, however, she was harshly denounced by the Central Committee of the Communist Party for her “eroticism, mysticism, and political indifference.” Her poetrywas castigated as “alien to the Soviet people,” and she was again described as a “harlot-nun,” this time by none other than Andrey Zhdanov, Politburo member and the director of Stalin's program of cultural restriction. She was expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers; an unreleased book of her poems, already in print, was destroyed; and none of her workappeared in print for three years.
Then, in 1950, a number of her poems eulogizing Stalin and Soviet communism were printed in several issues of the illustrated weekly magazine Ogonyok (“The Little Light”) under the title Iz tsikla “Slava miru” (“From the Cycle ‘Glory to Peace' ”). This uncharacteristic capitulation to the Soviet dictator—in one of the poems Akhmatova declares: “WhereStalin is, there is Freedom, Peace, and the grandeur of the earth”—was motivated by Akhmatova's desire to propitiateStalin and win the freedom of her son, Lev Gumilyov, who had been arrested in 1949 and exiled to Siberia. The tone of these poems (those glorifying Stalin were omitted from Soviet editions of Akhmatova's works published after his death) is far different from the moving and universalized lyrical cycle, Rekviem (“Requiem”), composed between 1935 and 1940 and occasioned by Akhmatova's grief over an earlier arrest and imprisonment of her son in 1937. This masterpiece—a poetic monument to the sufferings of the Soviet peoples during Stalin's terror—was published in Moscow in 1989.



In the cultural “thaw” following Stalin's death, Akhmatova was slowly and ambivalently rehabilitated, and a slim volume of her lyrics, including some of her translations, was published in 1958. After 1958 a number of editions of her works, including some of her brilliant essays on Pushkin, were published in the Soviet Union (1961, 1965, two in 1976, 1977); none of these, however, contains the complete corpus of her literary productivity. Akhmatova's longest work, Poema bez geroya (“Poem Without a Hero”), on which she worked from 1940 to 1962, was not published in the Soviet Union until 1976. This difficult and complex work is a powerful lyric summation of Akhmatova's philosophy and her own definitive statement on the meaning of her life and poetic achievement.
Akhmatova executed a number of superb translations of the works of other poets, including Victor Hugo, Rabindranath Tagore, Giacomo Leopardi, and various Armenian and Korean poets. She also wrote sensitive personal memoirs on Symbolist writer Aleksandr Blok, the artist Amedeo Modigliani, and fellow Acmeist Osip Mandelshtam.
In 1964 she was awarded the Etna-Taormina prize, an international poetry prize awarded in Italy, and in 1965 she received an honorary doctoral degree from Oxford University. Her journeys to Sicily and England to receive these honours were her first travel outside her homeland since 1912. Akhmatova's works were widely translated, andher international stature continued to grow after her death. Atwo-volume edition of Akhmatova's collected works was published in Moscow in 1986, and The Complete Poems of Anna Akhmatova, also in two volumes, appeared in 1990.
 

 

 

Hands pressed together under the veil…
“What is it that makes you so pale and faint?”
I’m afraid I intoxicated him with the ale
Of bitter anguish and torturous pain.

Could I forget it? He stumbled out, wavering,
His tormented mouth was twisted and grim....
I ran down the stairs, not touching the railing,
At the end of the walkway, I caught up to him.

I yelled after him: “I was kidding and only.
If you leave me today, you’ll be doing me in.”
He turned back and smiled, so intolerably calmly
And told me: “Don’t stand in the wind.”

(1911)

 

The Muse

When, at night, I’m waiting her arrival,
Life it seems, is hanging by a thread.
Glory, youth and freedom cannot rival
The joy she brings me, with a flute in hand.

She enters, and before I can discern her,
She stares at me with an attentive eye.
“Were you,” I ask, “the cause of the Inferno
For Dante?” – And she answers: “I!”

(1924)

Translated by Andrey Kneller

 



Amedeo Modigliani
Sketch of Anna Akhmatova
, 1911

 
     

 
 


Amedeo Modigliani
Sketches of Anna Akhmatova
, 1911
 

Paris is in dark mist
And probably again Modigliani
Imperceptibly follows me.
He has a sad virtue
To bring disorder even to my dreams
And be the reason of my many misfortunes.

                                     Anna Akhmatova
 

 


Anna Akhmatova with her husband Nikolay Gumilev and son, Lev Gumilev, 1913

 

Anna Akhmatova

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Anna Akhmatova (Russian: À́ííà Àõìà́òîâà) (June 23 [O.S. June 11] 1889 — March 5, 1966) was the pen name of Anna Andreevna Gorenko (Russian: À́ííà Àíäðǻåâíà Ãîðǻíêî), a Russian poet credited with a large influence on Russian poetry.

Akhmatova's work ranges from short lyric poems to universalized, ingeniously structured cycles, such as Requiem (1935-40), her tragic masterpiece about the Stalinist terror. Her work addresses a variety of themes including time and memory, the fate of creative women, and the difficulties of living and writing in the shadow of Stalinism. She has been widely translated into many languages and is one of the most well-known Russian poets of 20th century.

Akhmatova was born at Bolshoy Fontan in Odessa to Andrey Antonovich Gorenko and Inna Erazmovna Stogova. Her childhood does not appear to have been happy; her parents separated in 1905. She was educated in Tsarskoe Selo (where she first met her future husband, Nikolay Gumilyov) and in Kyiv. Anna started writing poetry at the age of 11, inspired by her favourite poets: Racine, Pushkin, and Baratynsky. As her father did not want to see any verses printed under his "respectable" name, she chose to adopt the surname of her Tatar grandmother as a pseudonym. Many of the male Russian poets of the time declared their love for Akhmatova; she reciprocated the attentions of Osip Mandelstam, whose wife, Nadezhda Mandelstam, would eventually forgive Akhmatova in her autobiography, Hope Against Hope.

In 1910, she married the poet, Nikolay Gumilyov, who very soon left her for lion hunting in Africa, the battlefields of World War I, and the society of Parisian grisettes. Her husband did not take her poems seriously, and was shocked when Alexander Blok declared to him that he preferred her poems to his. Their son, Lev, born in 1912, was to become a famous Neo-Eurasianist historian.

In 1912, she published her first collection, entitled Evening. It contained brief, psychologically taut pieces which English readers may find distantly reminiscent of Robert Browning and Thomas Hardy. They were acclaimed for their classical diction, telling details, and the skilful use of colour.

By the time her second collection, The Rosary, appeared in 1914, there were thousands of women composing poems "in honour of Akhmatova." Her early poems usually picture a man and a woman involved in the most poignant, ambiguous moment of their relationship. Such pieces were much imitated and later parodied by Nabokov and others. Akhmatova was prompted to exclaim: "I taught our women how to speak, but don't know how to make them silent".

Together with her husband, Akhmatova enjoyed a high reputation in the circle of Acmeist poets. Her aristocratic manners and artistic integrity won her the titles "Queen of the Neva" and "Soul of the Silver Age," as the period came to be known in the history of Russian poetry. Many decades later, she would recall this blessed time of her life in the longest of her works, "Poem Without a Hero" (1940–65), inspired by Pushkin's Eugene Onegin.

Following the breakup of her marriage, Akhmatova had an affair with the mosaic artist and poet Boris Anrep (1883 - 1969) during World War I; at least 34 of her poems are about him. He in turn created mosaics in which she features. In the Cathedral of Christ the King Mullingar, Anrep’s mosaic of Saint Anne is spelt Anna. Additionally, the saint’s image bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Akhmatova in her mid-20s.

Anrep also depicted Akhmatova in a mosaic entitled Compassion, located in the National Gallery in London.

Nikolay Gumilyov was executed in 1921 for activities considered anti-Soviet; Akhmatova then married a prominent Assyriologist Vladimir Shilejko, and then an art scholar, Nikolay Punin, who died in the Stalinist Gulag camps. After that, she spurned several proposals from the married poet, Boris Pasternak.

After 1922, Akhmatova was condemned as a bourgeois element, and from 1925 to 1940, her poetry was banned from publication. She earned her living by translating Leopardi and publishing essays, including some brilliant essays on Pushkin, in scholarly periodicals. All of her friends either emigrated or were repressed.

Only a few people in the West suspected that she was still alive, when she was allowed to publish a collection of new poems in 1940. During World War II, when she witnessed the nightmare of the 900-Day Siege, her patriotic poems found their way to the front pages of Pravda. After Akhmatova returned to Leningrad following the Central Asian evacuation in 1944, she was distressed by "a terrible ghost that pretended to be my city."

Upon learning about Isaiah Berlin's visit to Akhmatova in 1946, Stalin's associate in charge of culture, Andrei Zhdanov, publicly labelled her "half harlot, half nun", had her poems banned from publication, and attempted to have her expelled from the Writers' Union, tantamount to a death sentence by starvation. Her son spent his youth in Stalinist gulags, and she even resorted to publishing several poems in praise of Stalin to secure his release. Their relations remained strained, however.

Although officially stifled, Akhmatova's work continued to circulate in samizdat form and even by word of mouth, as she became a symbol of suppressed Russian heritage.

After Stalin's death, Akhmatova's preeminence among Russian poets was grudgingly conceded, even by party officials, and a censored edition of her work was published; conspicuously absent was Requiem, which Isaiah Berlin had predicted in 1946 would never be published in the Soviet Union. Her later pieces, composed in neoclassical rhyme and mood, seem to be the voice of many she has outlived. Her dacha in Komarovo was frequented by Joseph Brodsky and other young poets, who continued Akhmatova's traditions of Saint Petersburg poetry into the 21st century.

In honor of her 75th birthday in 1964, special observances were held and new collections of her verse were published.

Akhmatova got a chance to meet some of her pre-revolutionary acquaintances in 1965, when she was allowed to travel to Sicily and England, in order to receive the Taormina prize and an honorary doctoral degree from Oxford University (she was accompanied by her life-long friend and secretary Lydia Chukovskaya). In 1962, her dacha was visited by Robert Frost. In 1968, a two volume collection of Akhmatova's prose and poetry was published by Inter-Language Literary Associates of West Germany.

Akhmatova died at the age of 76 in St. Peterburg. She was interred at Komarovo Cemetery.

Akhmatova's reputation continued to grow after her death, and it was in the year of her centenary that one of the greatest poetic monuments of the 20th century, Akhmatova's Requiem, was finally published in her homeland.

There is a museum devoted to Akhmatova at the apartment where she lived with Nikolai Punin at the garden wing of the Fountain House (more properly known as the Sheremetev Palace) on the Fontanka Embankment, where Akhmatova lived from the mid 1920s until 1952.

A minor planet 3067 Akhmatova discovered by Soviet astronomer Lyudmila Georgievna Karachkina in 1982 is named after her.

 



At Akhmatova's funeral. Brodsky stands to the right





 

 


Mandelstam and Achmatova


Anna Akhmatova  and
Boris Pasternak

 

 


Anna Akhmatova


"Requiem"
 

 


Requiem

1935-1940

Not under foreign skies protection
Or saving wings of alien birth –
I was then there – with whole my nation –
There, where my nation, alas! was.

1961

INSTEAD OF A PREFACE

In the awful days of the Yezhovschina I passed seventeen months in the outer waiting line of the prison visitors in Leningrad. Once, somebody ‘identified’ me there. Then a woman, standing behind me in the line, which, of course, never heard my name, waked up from the torpor, typical for us all there, and asked me, whispering into my ear (all spoke only in a whisper there):
“And can you describe this?”
And I answered:
“Yes, I can.”
Then the weak similarity of a smile glided over that, what had once been her face.

April 1, 1957; Leningrad

DEDICATION

The high crags decline before this woe,
The great river does not flow ahead,
But they’re strong – the locks of a jail, stone,
And behind them – the cells, dark and low,
And the deadly pine is spread.
For some one, somewhere, a fresh wind blows,
For some one, somewhere, wakes up a dawn –
We don’t know, we’re the same here always,
We just hear the key’s squalls, morose,
And the sentry’s heavy step alone;
Got up early, as for Mass by Easter,
Walked the empty capital along
To create the half-dead peoples’ throng.
The sun downed, the Neva got mister,
But our hope sang afar its song.
There’s a sentence… In a trice tears flow…
Now separated, cut from us,
As if they’d pulled out her heart and thrown
Or pushed down her on a street stone –
But she goes… Reels… Alone at once.
Where are now friends unwilling those,
Those friends of my two years, brute?
What they see in the Siberian snows,
In a circle of the moon, exposed?
To them I send my farewell salute.

PROLOGUE

In this time, just a dead could half-manage
A weak smile – with the peaceful state glad.
And, like some heavy, needless appendage,
Mid its prisons swung gray Leningrad.
And, when mad from the tortures’ succession,
Marched the army of those, who’d been doomed,
Sang the engines the last separation
With their whistles through smoking gloom,
And the deathly stars hanged our heads over
And our Russia writhed under the boots –
With the blood of the guiltless full-covered –
And the wheels on Black Maries’ black routes.

1

You were taken away at dawn’s mildness.
I convoyed you, as my dead-born child,
Children cried in the room’s half-grey darkness,
And the lamp by the icon lost light.
On your lips dwells the icon kiss’s cold
On your brow – the cold sweet … Don’t forget!
Like a wife of the rebel of old
On the Red Square, I’ll wail without end.

2

The quiet Don bears quiet flood,
The crescent enters in a hut.

He enters with a cap on head,
He sees a woman like a shade.

This woman’s absolutely ill,
This woman’s absolutely single.

Her man is dead, son – in a jail,
Oh, pray for me – a poor female!

3

No, ‘tis not I, ‘tis someone’s in a suffer –
I was ne’er able to endure such pain.
Let all, that was, be with a black cloth muffled,
And let the lanterns be got out ... and reign
just Night.

4

You should have seen, girl with some mocking manner,
Of all your friends the most beloved pet,
The whole Tsar Village’s a sinner, gayest ever –
What should be later to your years sent.
How, with a parcel, by The Crosses, here,
You stand in line with the ‘Three Hundredth’ brand
And, with your hot from bitterness a tear,
Burn through the ice of the New Year, dread.
The prison’s poplar’s bowing with its brow,
No sound’s heard – But how many, there,
The guiltless ones are loosing their lives now…

5

I’ve cried for seventeen long months,
I’ve called you for your home,
I fell at hangmen’ feet – not once,
My womb and hell you’re from.
All has been mixed up for all times,
And now I can’t define
Who is a beast or man, at last,
And when they’ll kill my son.
There’re left just flowers under dust,
The censer’s squall, the traces, cast
Into the empty mar…
And looks strait into my red eyes
And threads with death, that’s coming fast,
The immense blazing star.

6

The light weeks fly faster here,
What has happened I don’t know,
How, into your prison, stone,
Did white nights look, my son, dear?
How do they stare at you, else,
With their hot eye of a falcon,
Speak of the high cross, you hang on,
Of the slow coming death?

7

THE SENTENCE

The word, like a heavy stone,
Fell on my still living breast.
I was ready. I didn’t moan.
I will try to do my best.

I have much to do my own:
To forget this endless pain,
Force this soul to be stone,
Force this flesh to live again.

Just if not … The rustle of summer
Feasts behind my window sell.
Long before I’ve seen in slumber
This clear day and empty cell.

8

TO DEATH

You’ll come in any case – why not right now, therefore?
I wait for you – my strain is highest.
I have doused the light and left opened the door
For you, so simple and so wondrous.
Please, just take any sight, which you prefer to have:
Thrust in – in the gun shells’ disguises,
Or crawl in with a knife, as an experienced knave,
Or poison me with smoking typhus,
Or quote the fairy tale, grown in the mind of yours
And known to each man to sickness,
In which I’d see, at last, the blue of the hats’ tops,
And the house-manager, ‘still fearless’.
It’s all the same to me. The cold Yenisei lies
In the dense mist, the Northern Star – in brightness,
And a blue shine of the beloved eyes
Is covered by the last fear-darkness.

9

Already madness, with its wing,
Covers a half of my heart, restless,
Gives me the flaming wine to drink
And draws into the vale of blackness.

I understand that just to it
My victory has to be given,
Hearing the ravings of my fit,
Now fitting to the stranger’s living.

And nothing of my own past
It’ll let me take with self from here
(No matter in what pleas I thrust
Or how often they appear):

Not awful eyes of my dear son –
The endless suffering and patience –
Not that black day when thunder gunned,
Not that jail’s hour of visitation,

Not that sweet coolness of his hands,
Not that lime’s shade in agitation,
Not that light sound from distant lands –
Words of the final consolations.

10

CRUCIFIXION

Don’t weep for me, Mother,
seeing me in a grave.

I

The angels’ choir sang fame for the great hour,
And skies were melted in the fire’s rave.
He said to God, “Why did you left me, Father?”
And to his Mother, “Don’t weep o’er my grave…”

II

Magdalena writhed and sobbed in torments,
The best pupil turned into a stone,
But none dared – even for a moment –
To sight Mother, silent and alone.

EPILOGUE

I

I’ve known how, at once, shrink back the faces,
How fear peeps up from under the eyelids,
How suffering creates the scriptural pages
On the pale cheeks its cruel reigning midst,
How the shining raven or fair ringlet
At once is covered by the silver dust,
And a smile slackens on the lips, obedient,
And deathly fear in the dry snicker rustles.
And not just for myself I pray to Lord,
But for them all, who stood in that line, hardest,
In a summer heat and in a winter cold,
Under the wall, so red and so sightless.

II

Again a memorial hour is near,
I can now see you and feel you and hear:

And her, who’d been led to the air in a fit,
And her – who no more touches earth with her feet.

And her – having tossed with her beautiful head –
She says, “I come here as to my homestead.”

I wish all of them with their names to be called;
But how can I do that? I have not the roll.

The wide common cover I’ve wov’n for their lot –
From many a word, that from them I have caught.

Those words I’ll remember as long as I live,
I’d not forget them in a new awe or grief.

And if will be stopped my long-suffering mouth –
Through which always shout our people’s a mass –

Let them pray for me, like for them I had prayed,
Before my remembrance day, quiet and sad.

And if once, whenever in my native land,
They’d think of the raising up my monument,

I give my permission for such good a feast,
But with one condition – they have to place it

Not near the sea, where I once have been born –
All my warm connections with it had been torn,

Not in the tsar’s garden near that tree-stump, blessed,
Where I am looked for by the doleful shade,

But here, where three hundred long hours I stood for
And where was not opened for me the hard door.

Since e’en in the blessed death, I shouldn’t forget
The deafening roar of Black Maries’ black band,

I shouldn’t forget how flapped that hateful door,
And wailed the old woman, like beast, it before.

And let from the bronze and unmoving eyelids,
Like some melting snow flow down the tears,

And let a jail dove coo in somewhat afar
And let the mute ships sail along the Neva.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver


Requiem


Not under foreign skies
Nor under foreign wings protected -
I shared all this with my own people
There, where misfortune had abandoned us.
[1961]

INSTEAD OF A PREFACE

During the frightening years of the Yezhov terror, I
spent seventeen months waiting in prison queues in
Leningrad. One day, somehow, someone 'picked me out'.
On that occasion there was a woman standing behind me,
her lips blue with cold, who, of course, had never in
her life heard my name. Jolted out of the torpor
characteristic of all of us, she said into my ear
(everyone whispered there) - 'Could one ever describe
this?' And I answered - 'I can.' It was then that
something like a smile slid across what had previously
been just a face.
[The 1st of April in the year 1957. Leningrad]

DEDICATION

Mountains fall before this grief,
A mighty river stops its flow,
But prison doors stay firmly bolted
Shutting off the convict burrows
And an anguish close to death.
Fresh winds softly blow for someone,
Gentle sunsets warm them through; we don't know this,
We are everywhere the same, listening
To the scrape and turn of hateful keys
And the heavy tread of marching soldiers.
Waking early, as if for early mass,
Walking through the capital run wild, gone to seed,
We'd meet - the dead, lifeless; the sun,
Lower every day; the Neva, mistier:
But hope still sings forever in the distance.
The verdict. Immediately a flood of tears,
Followed by a total isolation,
As if a beating heart is painfully ripped out, or,
Thumped, she lies there brutally laid out,
But she still manages to walk, hesitantly, alone.
Where are you, my unwilling friends,
Captives of my two satanic years?
What miracle do you see in a Siberian blizzard?
What shimmering mirage around the circle of the moon?
I send each one of you my salutation, and farewell.
[March 1940]

INTRODUCTION
[PRELUDE]

It happened like this when only the dead
Were smiling, glad of their release,
That Leningrad hung around its prisons
Like a worthless emblem, flapping its piece.
Shrill and sharp, the steam-whistles sang
Short songs of farewell
To the ranks of convicted, demented by suffering,
As they, in regiments, walked along -
Stars of death stood over us
As innocent Russia squirmed
Under the blood-spattered boots and tyres
Of the black marias.

I

You were taken away at dawn. I followed you
As one does when a corpse is being removed.
Children were crying in the darkened house.
A candle flared, illuminating the Mother of God. . .
The cold of an icon was on your lips, a death-cold
sweat
On your brow - I will never forget this; I will gather

To wail with the wives of the murdered streltsy (1)
Inconsolably, beneath the Kremlin towers.
[1935. Autumn. Moscow]

II

Silent flows the river Don
A yellow moon looks quietly on
Swanking about, with cap askew
It sees through the window a shadow of you
Gravely ill, all alone
The moon sees a woman lying at home
Her son is in jail, her husband is dead
Say a prayer for her instead.

III

It isn't me, someone else is suffering. I couldn't.
Not like this. Everything that has happened,
Cover it with a black cloth,
Then let the torches be removed. . .
Night.

IV

Giggling, poking fun, everyone's darling,
The carefree sinner of Tsarskoye Selo (2)
If only you could have foreseen
What life would do with you -
That you would stand, parcel in hand,
Beneath the Crosses (3), three hundredth in
line,
Burning the new year's ice
With your hot tears.
Back and forth the prison poplar sways
With not a sound - how many innocent
Blameless lives are being taken away. . .
[1938]

V

For seventeen months I have been screaming,
Calling you home.
I've thrown myself at the feet of butchers
For you, my son and my horror.
Everything has become muddled forever -
I can no longer distinguish
Who is an animal, who a person, and how long
The wait can be for an execution.
There are now only dusty flowers,
The chinking of the thurible,
Tracks from somewhere into nowhere
And, staring me in the face
And threatening me with swift annihilation,
An enormous star.
[1939]

VI

Weeks fly lightly by. Even so,
I cannot understand what has arisen,
How, my son, into your prison
White nights stare so brilliantly.
Now once more they burn,
Eyes that focus like a hawk,
And, upon your cross, the talk
Is again of death.
[1939. Spring]

VII
THE VERDICT

The word landed with a stony thud
Onto my still-beating breast.
Nevermind, I was prepared,
I will manage with the rest.

I have a lot of work to do today;
I need to slaughter memory,
Turn my living soul to stone
Then teach myself to live again. . .

But how. The hot summer rustles
Like a carnival outside my window;
I have long had this premonition
Of a bright day and a deserted house.
[22 June 1939. Summer. Fontannyi Dom (4)]

VIII
TO DEATH

You will come anyway - so why not now?
I wait for you; things have become too hard.
I have turned out the lights and opened the door
For you, so simple and so wonderful.
Assume whatever shape you wish. Burst in
Like a shell of noxious gas. Creep up on me
Like a practised bandit with a heavy weapon.
Poison me, if you want, with a typhoid exhalation,
Or, with a simple tale prepared by you
(And known by all to the point of nausea), take me
Before the commander of the blue caps and let me
glimpse
The house administrator's terrified white face.
I don't care anymore. The river Yenisey
Swirls on. The Pole star blazes.
The blue sparks of those much-loved eyes
Close over and cover the final horror.
[19 August 1939. Fontannyi Dom]

IX

Madness with its wings
Has covered half my soul
It feeds me fiery wine
And lures me into the abyss.

That's when I understood
While listening to my alien delirium
That I must hand the victory
To it.

However much I nag
However much I beg
It will not let me take
One single thing away:

Not my son's frightening eyes -
A suffering set in stone,
Or prison visiting hours
Or days that end in storms

Nor the sweet coolness of a hand
The anxious shade of lime trees
Nor the light distant sound
Of final comforting words.
[14 May 1940. Fontannyi Dom]

X
CRUCIFIXION

Weep not for me, mother.
I am alive in my grave.

1.
A choir of angels glorified the greatest hour,
The heavens melted into flames.
To his father he said, 'Why hast thou forsaken me!'
But to his mother, 'Weep not for me. . .'
[1940. Fontannyi Dom]

2.
Magdalena smote herself and wept,
The favourite disciple turned to stone,
But there, where the mother stood silent,
Not one person dared to look.
[1943. Tashkent]

EPILOGUE

1.
I have learned how faces fall,
How terror can escape from lowered eyes,
How suffering can etch cruel pages
Of cuneiform-like marks upon the cheeks.
I know how dark or ash-blond strands of hair
Can suddenly turn white. I've learned to recognise
The fading smiles upon submissive lips,
The trembling fear inside a hollow laugh.
That's why I pray not for myself
But all of you who stood there with me
Through fiercest cold and scorching July heat
Under a towering, completely blind red wall.

2.
The hour has come to remember the dead.
I see you, I hear you, I feel you:
The one who resisted the long drag to the open window;
The one who could no longer feel the kick of familiar
soil beneath her feet;
The one who, with a sudden flick of her head, replied,

'I arrive here as if I've come home!'
I'd like to name you all by name, but the list
Has been removed and there is nowhere else to look.
So,
I have woven you this wide shroud out of the humble
words
I overheard you use. Everywhere, forever and always,
I will never forget one single thing. Even in new
grief.
Even if they clamp shut my tormented mouth
Through which one hundred million people scream;
That's how I wish them to remember me when I am dead
On the eve of my remembrance day.
If someone someday in this country
Decides to raise a memorial to me,
I give my consent to this festivity
But only on this condition - do not build it
By the sea where I was born,
I have severed my last ties with the sea;
Nor in the Tsar's Park by the hallowed stump
Where an inconsolable shadow looks for me;
Build it here where I stood for three hundred hours
And no-one slid open the bolt.
Listen, even in blissful death I fear
That I will forget the Black Marias,
Forget how hatefully the door slammed and an old woman
Howled like a wounded beast.
Let the thawing ice flow like tears
From my immovable bronze eyelids
And let the prison dove coo in the distance
While ships sail quietly along the river.
[March 1940. Fontannyi Dom]

 

FOOTNOTES

1 An elite guard which rose up in rebellion
against Peter the Great in 1698. Most were either
executed or exiled.
2 The imperial summer residence outside St
Petersburg where Ahmatova spent her early years.
3 A prison complex in central Leningrad near the
Finland Station, called The Crosses because of the
shape of two of the buildings.
4 The Leningrad house in which Ahmatova lived.


Translated by Sasha Soldatow
 

 



 

 


Poems

 

 

 

Alexander By Thebes
(From "The Little Antic Poems")
1961

I think, the king was fierce, though young,
When he proclaimed, “You’ll level Thebes with ground.”
And the old chief perceived this city proud,
He’d seen in times that are in sagas sung.
Set all to fire! The king listed else
The towers, the gates, the temples – rich and thriving…
But sank in thoughts, and said with lighted face,
“You just provide the Bard Home’s surviving.”

Translated by Tanya Karshtedt

 

 

 

 

 

"Along the Hard Crust..."
1917

Along the hard crust of deep snows,
To the secret, white house of yours,
So gentle and quiet – we both
Are walking, in silence half-lost.
And sweeter than all songs, sung ever,
Are this dream, becoming the truth,
Entwined twigs’ a-nodding with favor,
The light ring of your silver spurs...

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

"And As It's Going..."
1907

An as it's going often at love's breaking,
The ghost of first days came again to us,
The silver willow through window then stretched in,
The silver beauty of her gentle branches.
The bird began to sing the song of light and pleasure
To us, who fears to lift looks from the earth,
Who are so lofty, bitter and intense,
About days when we were saved together.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

"And Pushkin's Exile Had..."
1927

And Pushkin's exile had begun right here,
And Lermontov's expulsion had been "canceled."
There is the easy grasses' scent on highland.
And only once it chanced to me to see it --
Near the lake, where shades of plane-trees hover,
In that doom hour before the evening thrusts,--
The dazzling light of the desirous eyes
Of Tamara's forever living lover.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

"As a White Stone..."
1916

As a white stone in the well's cool deepness,
There lays in me one wonderful remembrance.
I am not able and don't want to miss this:
It is my torture and my utter gladness.

I think, that he whose look will be directed
Into my eyes, at once will see it whole.
He will become more thoughtful and dejected
Than someone, hearing a story of a dole.

I knew: the gods turned once, in their madness,
Men into things, not killing humane senses.
You've been turned in to my reminiscences
To make eternal the unearthly sadness.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

The Grey-Eyed King
1910

Hail! Hail to thee, o, immovable pain!
The young grey-eyed king had been yesterday slain.

This autumnal evening was stuffy and red.
My husband, returning, had quietly said,

"He'd left for his hunting; they carried him home;
They'd found him under the old oak's dome.

I pity the queen. He, so young, past away!...
During one night her black hair turned to grey."

He found his pipe on a warm fire-place,
And quietly left for his usual race.

Now my daughter will wake up and rise --
Mother will look in her dear grey eyes...

And poplars by windows rustle as sing,
"Never again will you see your young king..."


Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

"I Don't Like Flowers..."

I don't like flowers - they do remind me often
Of funerals, of weddings and of balls;
Their presence on tables for a dinner calls.

But sub-eternal roses' ever simple charm
Which was my solace when I was a child,
Has stayed - my heritage - a set of years behind,
Like Mozart's ever-living music's hum.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

"If the Moon On the Skies..."

If the moon on the skies does not roam,
But cools, like a seal above,
My dead husband enters the home
To read the letters of love.

He remembers the box, made of oak,
With the lock, very secret and odd,
And spreads through a floor the stroke
Of his feet in the iron bond.

He watches the times of the meetings
And the signatures' blurry set.
Hasn't had he sufficiently grievings
And pains in this word until that?

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

In the Evening
1913

The garden's music ranged to me
With dole that's beyond expression.
The frozen oysters smelled with freshness
And sharpness of the northern sea.

He told me, "I'm the best of friends!",
And gently touched my gown's laces.
Oh, how differs from embraces
The easy touching of these hands.

Like that they pet a cat, a bird...
Or watch the girls that run the horses....
And just a quiet laughter poses
Under his lashes' easy gold.

And the distressing fiddles' voice
Sings me from haze that's low flowed,
"Thank holly heaven and rejoice --
You are first time with your beloved."

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

"In Human Closeness There..."

In human closeness there is a secret edge,
Nor love nor passion can pass it above,
Let lips with lips be joined in silent rage,
And hearts be burst asunder with the love.

And friendship, too, is powerless plot,
And so years of bliss with noble tends,
When your heart is free and known not,
The slow languor of the earthy sense.

And they who strive to reach this edge are mad,
But they who reached are shocked with anguish hard --
Now you know why beneath your hand
You do not feel the beating of my heart.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

"A Widow in Black..."
1921

A widow in black -- the crying fall
Covers all hearts with a depressing cloud...
While her man's words are clearly recalled,
She will not stop her lamentations loud.
It will be so, until the snow puff
Will give a mercy to the pined and tired.
Forgetfulness of suffering and love --
Though paid by life -- what more could be desired?

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

"You, Who Was Born..."
1956

You, who was born for poetry’s creation,
Do not repeat the sayings of the ancients.
Though, maybe, our Poetry, itself,
Is just a single beautiful citation.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

To Boris Pasternak
1960

The echo-bird will give me answer
B.P.

It ceased – the voice, inimitable here,
The peer of groves left forever us,
He changed himself into eternal ear...
Into the rain, of that sang more than once.

And all the flowers, that grow under heavens,
Began to flourish – to meet the going death…
But suddenly it got the silent one and saddened –
The planet, bearing the humble name, the Earth.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

Muse
1924

When, in the night, I wait for her, impatient,
Life seems to me, as hanging by a thread.
What just means liberty, or youth, or approbation,
When compared with the gentle piper's tread?

And she came in, threw out the mantle's edges,
Declined to me with a sincere heed.
I say to her, "Did you dictate the Pages
Of Hell to Dante?" She answers, "Yes, I did."

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

Lot's Wife
1922 - 1924

Lot's wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt.
Genesis

Holy Lot was a-going behind God's angel,
He seemed huge and bright on a hill, huge and black.
But the heart of his wife whispered stronger and stranger:
"It's not very late, you have time to look back
At these rose turrets of your native Sodom,
The square where you sang, and the yard where you span,
The windows looking from your cozy home
Where you bore children for your dear man."
She looked -- and her eyes were instantly bound
By pain -- they couldn't see any more at all:
Her fleet feet grew into the stony ground,
Her body turned into a pillar of salt.

Who'll mourn her as one of Lot's family members?
Doesn't she seem the smallest of losses to us?
But deep in my heart I will always remember
One who gave her life up for one single glance.



Translated from Russian by Tanya Karshtedt

 

 

 

 

 

"Why Is This Century Worse..."
1919

Why is this century worse than those others?
Maybe, because, in sadness and alarm,
It only touched the blackest of the ulcers,
But couldn't heal it in its span of time.

Else, in the West, the earthly sun endows
The roofs of cities with the morning light,
But, here, the White already marks a house,
And calls for crows, and the crows fly.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

Music
1958

Something of heavens ever burns in it,
I like to watch its wondrous facets' growth.
It speaks with me in fate's non-seldom fits,
When others fear to approach close.

When the last of friends had looked away
From me in grave, it lay to me in silence,
And sang as sing a thunderstorm in May,
As if all flowers began to talk in gardens.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

"I Was Born In the Right Time..."
1913

I was born in the right time, in whole,
Only this time is one that is blessed,
But great God did not let my poor soul
Live without deceit on this earth.

And therefore, it's dark in my house,
And therefore, all of my friends,
Like sad birds, in the evening aroused,
Sing of love, that was never on land.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

"They Didn't Meet Me..."
1913

They didn't meet me, roamed,
On steps with lanterns bright.
I entered quiet home
In murky, pail moonlight.

Under a lamp's green halo,
With smile of kept in rage,
My friend said, "Cinderella,
Your voice is very strange..."

A cricket plays its fiddle;
A fire-place grew black.
Oh, someone took my little
White shoe as a keep-sake,

And gave me three carnations,
While casting dawn eyes --.
My sins for accusations,
You couldn't be disguised.

And heart hates to believe in
The time, that's close too,
When he will ask for women
To try on my white shoe.

Translated by Tanya Karshtedt

 

 

 

 

 

"You'll Live, But I'll Not..."
1959

You'll live, but I'll not; perhaps,
The final turn is that.
Oh, how strongly grabs us
The secret plot of fate.

They differently shot us:
Each creature has its lot,
Each has its order, robust, --
A wolf is always shot.

In freedom, wolves are grown,
But deal with them is short:
In grass, in ice, in snow, --
A wolf is always shot.

Don't cry, oh, friend my dear,
If, in the hot or cold,
From tracks of wolves, you'll hear
My desperate recall.

Translated by Yevgeny Bonver

 

 

 

 

 

Reading 'Hamlet'

1

The lot by the graves was a dusty hot land;
The river behind -- blue and cool.
You told me, "Well, go to a convent,
Or go marry a fool..."
Princes always say that, being placid or fierce,
But I cherish this speech, short and poor --
Let it flow and shine through a thousand years,
Like from shoulders do mantles of fur.

2

And, as if in wrong occasion,
I said, "Thou," else...
And an easy smile of pleasure
Lit up dear face.

From such lapses, told or mental,
Every cheek would blaze.
I love you as forty gentle
Sisters love and bless.

Translated by Tanya Karshtedt

 

 

 

 

 

For Osip Mandelstam


And the town is frozen solid in a vice,
Trees, walls, snow, beneath a glass.
Over crystal, on slippery tracks of ice,
the painted sleighs and I, together, pass.
And over St Peter’s there are poplars, crows
there’s a pale green dome there that glows,
dim in the sun-shrouded dust.
The field of heroes lingers in my thought,
Kulikovo’s barbarian battleground.
The frozen poplars, like glasses for a toast,
clash now, more noisily, overhead.
As though it was our wedding, and the crowd
were drinking to our health and happiness.
But Fear and the Muse take turns to guard
the room where the exiled poet is banished,
and the night, marching at full pace,
of the coming dawn, has no knowledge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Twenty-First. Night. Monday


Twenty-first. Night. Monday.
Silhouette of the capitol in darkness.
Some good-for-nothing -- who knows why--
made up the tale that love exists on earth.

People believe it, maybe from laziness
or boredom, and live accordingly:
they wait eagerly for meetings, fear parting,
and when they sing, they sing about love.

But the secret reveals itself to some,
and on them silence settles down...
I found this out by accident
and now it seems I'm sick all the time.

 



 

 
 

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