There are white churches there, and the crackle of icicles,
The cornflower eyes of my son are blossoming there.
Diamond nights above the ancient town, and yellower
Than lime-blossom honey is the moon’s sickle.
From plains beyond the river dry snow-storms fly in,
And the people, like the angels in the fields, rejoice.
They have tidied the best room, lit in the icon-case
The tiny lamps. On an oak table the Book is lying.
There stern memory, so ungiving now,
Threw open her tower-rooms to me, with a low bow;
But I did not enter, and I slammed the fearful door;
And the town rang with the news of the Child that was born.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (26 December 1921)
– from Anno Domini MCMXXI
translation by D. M. Thomas
In December 1921, during visits to her imprisoned son at Slepnyovo, Akhmatova was tormented, while passing by the ancient town of Bezhetsk nearby, with memories of happier times she shared with Gumilev when she would visit this area.