‘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

‘We’re All Drunkards Here…’ by Anna Akhmatova

We’re all drunkards here. Harlots.

Joylessly we’re stuck together.

On the walls, scarlet

Flowers, birds of a feather,

 

Pine for clouds. Your black pipe

Makes strange shapes rise.

I wear my skirt tight

To my slim thighs.

 

Windows tightly shut.

What’s that? Frost? Thunder?

Did you steal your eyes, I wonder,

From a cautious cat?

 

O my heart, how you yearn

For your dying hour…

And that woman dancing there

Will eternally burn.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1 January, 1913)

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

‘It Goes On Without End…’ by Anna Akhmatova

For M. Lozinsky

It goes on without end – the day, hevy and amber!

How impossible is grief, how vain the waiting!

And with a silver voice, again the deer

Speaks in the deer-park of the Northern Lights.

And I believe that there is cool snow,

And a blue font for those whose hands are empty,

And a small sledge is being wildly ridden,

Under the ancient chimes of distant bells.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1912)

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

I Have Come To Take Your Place Sister… by Anna Akhmatova

-I have come to take your place, sister,

At the high fire in the forest’s heart.

 

Your eyes have grown dull, your tears cloudy,

Your hair is grey.

 

You don’t understand the songs birds sing

Anymore, nor stars, nor summer lighting.

 

Don’t hear it when the women strike

The tamborine; yet you fear the silence.

 

I have come to take your place, sister,

At the high fire in the forest’s heart’…

 

-‘You’ve come to put me in the grave.

Where is your shovel and your spade?

You’re carrying just a flute.

I’m not going to blame you,

Sadly a long time ago

My voice fell mute.

 

Have my clothes to wear,

Answer my fears with silence,

Let the wind blow

Through your hair, smell of the lilac.

You have come by a hard road

To be lit up by this fire.’

 

And one went away, ceding

The place to another, wandering

Like a blind woman reading

An unfamiliar narrow path,

 

And still it seemed to her a flame

Was close… In her hand a tamborine…

And she was like a white flag,

And like the light of a beacon.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1912)

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

‘I Came Here In Idleness…’ by Anna Akhmatova

I came here in idleness.

It’s all the same where to be bored!

A small mill on a low hilltop.

The years can be silent here.

 

Softly the bee swims

Over dry convolvulus.

At the pond I call the mermaid

But the mermaid is dead.

 

The wide pond has grown shallow

And clogged with a rusty slime.

Over the trembling aspen

A light moon shines.

 

I notice everything freshly.

The poplars smell of wetness.

I am silent. Without words

I am ready to become you again, earth.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1911, Tsarskoye Selo)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas

White Night by Anna Akhmatova

I haven’t locked the door,

Nor lit the candles,

You don’t know don’t care,

That tired I haven’t the strength

 

To decide to go to bed.

Seeing the fields fade in

The sunset murk of pine-needles,

And to know all is lost,

 

That life is a cursed hell:

I’ve got drunk

On your voice in the doorway.

I was sure you’d come back.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1911, Tsarskoye Selo)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas

Song Of The Last Meeting by Anna Akhmatova

My breast grew cold and numb,

But my feet were light.

On to my right hand I fumbled

The glove to my left hand.

 

It seemed that there were many steps

-I knew there were only three.

An autumn whisper between the maples

Kept urging: ‘Die with me.

 

Change has made me weary,

Fate has cheated me of everything.’

I answered: ‘My dear, my dear!

I’ll die with you. I too am suffering.’

 

It was a song of the last meeting.

Only bedroom-candles burnt

When I looked into the dark house,

And they were yellow and indifferent.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1911, Tsarskoye Selo)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas