‘I Came To Him As A Guest…’ by Anna Akhmatova

For Alexander Blok

 

I came to him as a guest.

Precisely at noon. Sunday.

In the large room there was quiet,

And beyond the window, frost

 

And a sun like raspberry

Over the bluish-grey smoke-tangles.

How the reticent master

Concentrates as he looks!

 

His eyes are of the kind that

Nobody can forget. I’d

Better look out, better

Not look at them at all.

 

But I remember our talk,

Smoky noon of a Sunday,

In the poet’s high grey house

By the sea-gates of the Neva.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (January, 1914)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

‘I Won’t Beg For Your Love…’ by Anna Akhmatova

I won’t beg for you love: it’s laid

Safely to rest, let the earth settle…

Don’t expect my jealous letters

Pouring in to plague your bride.

But let me, nevertheless, advise you:

Give her my poems to read in bed,

Give her my portraits to keep – it’s wise to

Be kind like that when newly-wed.

For it’s more needful to such geese

To know that they have won completely

Than to have converse light and sweet or

Honeymoons of remembered bliss…

When you have spent your kopeck’s worth

Of happiness with your new friend,

And like a taste that sates the mouth

Your soul has recognized the end –

Don’t come crawling like a whelp

Into my bed of lonliness.

I don’t know you. Nor could I help.

I’m not yet cured of happiness.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1914)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

The Guest by Anna Akhmatova

Nothing is different: thin snow beats

Against the dining-room window-pane.

I am totally unchanged,

but a man came to see me.

 

I asked: ‘What do you want?’

He said: ‘To be with you in hell.’

I laughed, ‘Ah, there I can’t

Oblige you, you’d wish us ill.’

 

His dry hand touched a petal

With a light caress.

‘Tell me how they kiss you,

Tell me how you kiss.’

 

And his eyes, glinting dully,

Never slid from my ring;

Never a single muscle

Moved under his snakeskin.

 

O I know: his joy, his greed,

Is to know intensely, eye to eye,

There’s nothing that he needs,

Nothing I can deny.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1 January 1914)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

‘Blue Heaven, But The High…’ by Anna Akhmatova

Blue heaven, but the high

Catholic domes are more blue.

Forgive me, happy boy,

The death I brought you.

 

For the roses from the stall,

For the foolish letters you sent,

That your dark and impudent

Face grew pale.

 

I thought, a cadet’s pride

At becoming adult.

I thought, objects of the cult

Aren’t loved like brides.

 

But it happens to be real.

Into the freezing days,

Already listless, you follow me

Everywhere and always.

 

As though you wanted to see

Court-evidence

I didn’t love you. Forgive me!

Vowed yourself to martyrdom.

 

And death held out his hand to you…

But why? Why did ou take it?

I didn’t know how frail the naked

Throat under the high blue

 

Collar. Happy boy… tortured

Owlet… Forgive me.

I find it hard today

To leave the church.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1913, November)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

 

The Voice Of Memory by Anna Akhmatova

For O. A. Glebova-Sudeikina

 

What do you see on the wall, your eyes screwed up,

When in the sky the sunset’s burning late?

 

Do you see a seagull on the water’s blue

Cloth, or gardens by the Arno?

 

Or the great lake of Tsarkoye Selo

Where terror stepped in front of you?

 

Or the young man who left your captivity, left

You by walking into death like a white knight?

 

No, I am looking only at the wall’s

Reflections of the dying heavenly fires.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1913, June, Slepnyovo)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

‘So Many Requests, Always, From A Lover…’ by Anna Akmatova

So many requests, always, from a lover!

None when they fall out of love.

I’m glad the water does not move

Under the colourless ice of the river.

 

And I’ll stand – God help me! – on this ice,

However light and brittle it is,

And you… take care of our letters,

That our descendants not misjudge us,

 

That they may read and understand

More clearly what you are, wise, brave.

In your glorious biography

No row of dots should stand.

 

Earth’s drink is much too sweet,

Love’s nets too close together.

May my name be in the textbooks

Of children playing in the street.

 

When they’ve read my grievous story,

May they smile behind their desklids…

If I can’t have love, if I can’t find peace,

Give me a bitter glory.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1913)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

‘Nobody Came To Meet Me…’ by Anna Akhmatova

Nobody came to meet me

with a lantern,

Had to find my way up

the steps by weak moonlight

 

And there he was, under

the green lamp, and

With a corpse’s smile

he whispered, ‘Your voice

 

Is strange Cinderella…’

Fire dying in the hearth,

Cricket chirping. Ah!

someone’s taken my shoe

 

As a souvenir, and with

lowered eyes given me

Three carnations.

Dear mementoes,

 

Where can I hide you?

And it’s a bitter thought

That my little white shoe

will be tried by everyone.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1913)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas