Evening Room by Anna Akhmatova

I speak in those words suddenly

That rise once in the soul. So sharply comes

The musty odour of an old sachet,

A bee hums on a white chrysanthemum.

 

And the room, where the light strikes through slits,

Cherishes love, for here it is still new.

A bed, with a French inscription over it,

Reading: ‘Seigneur, ayez pitié de nous.’

 

Of such a lived-through legend the sad strokes

You must not touch, my soul, nor seek to do…

Of Sèvres statuettes the brilliant cloaks

I see are darkening and wearing through.

 

Yellow and heavy, one last ray has poured

Into a fresh bouquet of dahlias

And hardened there. And I hear viols play

And of a clavecin the rare accord.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1910, Tsarskoye Selo)

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

Reading Hamlet by Anna Akhmatova

A dusty waste-plot by the cemetery,

Behind it, a river flashing blue.

You said to me: ‘Go get thee to a nunnery,

Or get a fool to marry you…’

 

Well, princes are good at such speeches,

As a girl is quick to tears, –

But may those words stream like an ermine mantle

Behind him for ten thousand years.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1909, Kiev)

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

Imitation Of Annensky by Anna Akhmatova

And with you, my first vagary,

I parted. In the east it turned blue.

You said simply: ‘I won’t forget you.’

I didn’t know at first what you could mean.

 

Rise and set, the other faces,

Dear today, and tomorrow gone.

Why is it that at this page

Alone the corner is turned down?

 

And eternally the book opens

Here, as if it’s the only part

I must know. From the parting moment

The unreturning years haven’t departed.

 

O, the heart is not made of stone

As I said, it’s made of flame…

I’ll never understand it. Are you close

To me, or did you simply love me?

 

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

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

Legend On An Unfinished Portrait by Anna Akhmatova

There’s nothing to be sad about.

Sadness is a crime, a prison.

A strange impression, I have risen

From the grey canvas like a sheet.

 

Up-flying arms, with a bad break,

Tormented smile – I and the sitter

Had to become thus through the bitter

Hours of profligate give and take.

 

He willed it that it should be so,

With words that were sinister and dead.

Fear drove into my lips the red,

And into my cheeks it piled the snow.

 

No sin in him. I was his fee.

He went, and arranged other limbs,

And other draparies. Void of dreams,

I lie in mortal lethargy.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1912)

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