Grant me years of sickness and fever;
make me sleepless for months at a time.
Take away my child and my lover
and the mysterious gift of rhyme.
As the air grows ever more sultry,
this is the prayer I recite:
and may the storm cloud over my country
be shot through with rays of light.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)
(11 May 1915, Day of the Holy Spirit), St Petersburg
translation by Robert Chandler
Impossible almost, for you were always here:
In the shade of blessed limes, in hospitals and bockades,
In the prison-cell, and where there were evil birds,
Lush grasses, and terrifying water.
How everything has changed, but you were always here,
And it seems to me that I have lost half my soul,
The half you were – in which I knew the reason why
Something important happened. Now I’ve forgotten…
But your clear voice is calling and it asks me not
To grieve, but wait for death as for a miracle.
What can I do! I’ll try.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)
-written at Komarovo, St Petersburg on 9 September 1964
– from Седьмая книга (‘The Seventh Book’)
-translation by D. M. Thomas