Февраль. Достать чернил и плакать! (February. Get ink and weep!) by Boris Pasternak

 February. Get ink and weep!
Burst into sobs – to write and write
of February, while thundering slush
burns like black spring.

For half a rouble hire a cab,
ride through chimes and the wheel's cry
to where the drenching rain is black,
louder than tears or ink -

where like thousands of charred pears
rooks will come tearing out of trees
straight into puddles, an avalanche,
dry grief to the ground of eyes.

Beneath it – blackening spots of thaw,
and all the wind is holed by shouts,
and poems – the randomer the truer -
take form, as sobs burst out.


By Бори́с Леони́дович Пастерна́к
(Boris Leonidovich Pasternak)
(1913)
translated by Angela Livingstone

An alternate to Jon Stallworthy and Peter France’s translation of the poem ‘It’s February. Weeping take ink!‘ provided elsewhere on this site. The Original doesn’t have a specific title and is usually referred to by it’s first line, as is the case with many untitled poems, but my source for this translation titled it as ‘February’. Also of note this translation gives the date as 1913 but my research of Russian sources all agree to it being published, or at least written, in 1912. The discrepancy may be due to the date it was initially published in a collection of poetry or journal possibly.

A recital of the Russian version read by Sergei Yursky (a Russian actor who died on 8th February this year sadly) set to music by Chopin:

The original Russian Cyrillic version of the poem:

 Февраль. Достать чернил и плакать!
Писать о феврале навзрыд,
Пока грохочущая слякоть
Весною черною горит.

Достать пролетку. За шесть гривен,
Чрез благовест, чрез клик колес,
Перенестись туда, где ливень
Еще шумней чернил и слез.

Где, как обугленные груши,
С деревьев тысячи грачей
Сорвутся в лужи и обрушат
Сухую грусть на дно очей.

Под ней проталины чернеют,
И ветер криками изрыт,
И чем случайней, тем вернее
Слагаются стихи навзрыд.
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Do You Forgive Me These November Days? by Anna Akhmatova

Do you forgive me these November days?

In canals around the Neva fires fragment.

Scant is tragic autumn’s finery.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

November 1913, St Petersburg

from Четки (Rosary, Beads)

translation by D. M. Thomas

8 November 1913 by Anna Akhmatova

The sun fills my room,

Yellow dust drifts aslant.

I wake up and remember:

This is your saint’s day.

 

That’s why even the snow

Outside my window is warm,

Why I, sleepless, have slept

Like a communicant.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(8 November 1913)

from Четки (Rosary Beads)

translation by D. M. Thomas

‘We’re All Boozers And Floozies Here’ by Anna Akhmatova

We’re all boozers and floozies here,

altogether a joyless crowd!

On the walls, the flowers and birds

yearn for clouds.

 

You sit puffing your black pipe;

smoke is rising; strange and dim.

This tight skirt makes me look

slimmer than slim.

 

The windows boarded up for good –

what’s out there? Lightning? Snow?

Like those of a cautious cat

your eyes glow.

 

What is my heart longing for?

Am I waiting for Death’s knell?

And the woman dancing now

is bound for Hell.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

a.k.a. Anna Gorenko

(1913)

translated by  Margo Shohl Rosen

‘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