Purple Honey by Varlam Shalamov

From a frost-chilled

line of poetry

my anguish will drop

like a ripe berry.

 

Rosehip juice will dye

fine crystals of snow –

and a stranger will smile

on his lonely way.

 

Blending dirty sweat

with the purity of a tear,

he will carefully collect

the tinted crystals.

 

He sucks tart sweetness,

this purple honey,

and his dried mouth

twists in happiness.

 

by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов (Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)

(1954)

translated by Robert Chandler

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There are Four of Us by Anna Akhmatova

O Muse of Weeping…

– M. Tsvetaeva

 

I have turned aside from everything,

From the whole earthly store.

The spirit and guardian of this place

is an old tree-stump in water.

 

We are brief guests of the earth, as it were,

And life is a habit we put on.

On paths of air I seem to overhear

Two friendly voices, talking in turn.

 

Did I say two? … There

By the east wall’s tangle of raspberry,

Is a branch of elder, dark and fresh.

Why! It’s a letter from Marina.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1961, in delirium)

from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas


In later Soviet editions of her works this poem is entitled ‘Komarovo Sketches‘. She spent a lot of time in her last years at Komarovo, fifty miles from Leningrad (St Petersburg), on the Karelian isthmus and is buried there.

The three poets referred to are Pasternak, Mandelstam and Tsvetaeva alongside Akhmatova herself.

The epigaph is from a poem addressed to Akhmatova in 1916.