Если б все, кто помощи душевной (‘If all who have begged help…’) by Anna Akhmatova

If all who have begged help

From me in this world,

All the holy innocents,

Broken wives, and cripples,

The imprisoned, the suicidal –

If they had sent me one kopeck

I should have become ‘richer

Than all Egypt’…

But they did not send me kopecks,

Instead they shared with me their strength,

And so nothing in the world

Is stronger than I,

And I can bear anything, even this.

.

.

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1961)

from the time Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book) was published but not present in that collection

translation by D. M. Thomas

.

A line omitted in this translation is ‘… as the late Kuzmin would say.’ referring to Mikhail Alekseevich Kuzmin (Михаи́л Алексе́евич Кузми́н) . I don’t know why it was omitted except in an effort to not distract a reader, one unfamiliar with the poet Kuzmin, from enjoying the poem.

Below is the original Russian version in Cyrillic.

.

Если б все, кто помощи душевной

Если б все, кто помощи душевной
У меня просил на этом свете, —
Все юродивые и немые,
Брошенные жены и калеки,
Каторжники и самоубийцы, —
Мне прислали по одной копейке,
Стала б я ‘богаче всех в Египте’,
Как говаривал Кузмин покойный…
Но они не слали мне копейки,
А со мной своей делились силой,
И я стала всех сильней на свете,
Так, что даже это мне не трудно.

Judgement Day by R. S. Thomas

Yes, that's how I was,
I know that face,
That bony figure
Without grace
Of flesh or limb;
In health happy,
Careless of the claim
Of the world's sick
Or the world's poor;
In pain craven -
Lord, breathe once more
On that sad mirror,
Let me be lost
In mist for ever
Rather than own
Such bleak reflections,
Let me go back
On my two knees
Slowly to undo
The knot of life
That was tied there.

By R. S. Thomas
from Tares (1961)

‘Услышишь гром и вспомнишь обо мне’ a.k.a. ‘You will hear thunder and remember me’ by Anna Akhmatova

You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.

That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
When, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.


by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)
(1961 - 1963)
from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)
translation by D. M. Thomas

Below is the original Russian version in cyrillic.

Услышишь гром и вспомнишь обо мне,
Подумаешь: она грозы желала...
Полоска неба будет твердо-алой,
А сердце будет как тогда - в огне.
Случится это в тот московский день,
Когда я город навсегда покину
И устремлюсь к желанному притину,
Свою меж вас еще оставив тень.

Баллада о немецком цензоре (The Ballad of a German Censor) by David Samoylov

In Germany once lived a censor

of lowly rank and title.

He blotted, struck and cancelled

and knew no other no other calling.

 

He sniffed out harmful diction

and smeared it with Indian ink.

He guarded minds from infection

and his bosses valued his work.

 

On a winter day in forty-three

he was dispatched ‘nach Osten’.

And he stared from the train car’s window

at fields, graveyards, snowstorms.

 

It was cold without a fur coat.

He saw hamlets without homes or people.

Only charred chimneys were left,

creeping by, like lizards or camels.

 

And it seemed to him that Russia

was all steppe, Mongoloid, bare.

And he thought he was feeling ‘nostalgia’,

but it was really just the chill and fear.

 

He arrived at his field post office:

such-and-such region and number.

Table, chair, iron cot and mattress,

three walls – in the fourth, a window.

 

Russia’s short on Gemütlichkeit!

He had to climb over snowdrifts.

And the work? No shortage of that:

cutting, deleting, smearing.

 

Before him lay piles of letters,

lines and lines – some straight, some wavy.

Generals wrote to their comrades,

soldiers wrote to their families.

 

There were letters, messages, queries

from the living, from those who’d been killed.

There were words he judged ‘non-Aryan’,

but it was really just fear and chill.

 

He would read nearly all day round,

forgetting to eat or shave.

And inside his tired mind

something strange began to take place.

 

Words he’d blotted and excised

would come and torment him at night,

and, like some eerie circus,

would parade there before his eyes…

 

Lines, killed by black ink,

turned tyrannical, like a tirade:

‘In the East, the East, the East,

we will not, will not be spared…’

 

The text was composed of black mosaics;

each word clung fast to the next.

Not the greatest master of prose

could have come up with such a text.

 

Long thoughts, like wagon trains,

shook the joints and ridges

of his tired and weakened brain;

battered its fragile bridges.

 

He turned unfriendly to all his friends

and grew brusque, unsociable, sad.

He was brilliant for a few days

and then broke down and went bad.

 

He awoke, from the fear and chill…

with a wild, choking feeling.

The dark was impenetrable –

the window blacked out with ink.

 

He realised that bravado leads nowhere,

that existence is fragile,

and the black truth invaded his soul

and wiped away the white lie.

 

The poor censor was born a pedant.

He reached for a small notebook

and truthfully – that is, with talent –

set everything down, in order.

 

The next morning he took up, with seal,

his… No – a different task:

he underlined all that was real

and crossed out everything else.

 

Poor censor, he’d lost his mind!

Little man, like a grain of millet!

He informed on himself in a day

and was taken away that minute…

 

There once lived a censor in Germany.

His rank and title were low.

He died and was promptly buried,

and his grave fell under the plough.

 

by Давид Самойлов (David Samoylov)

pseudonym of Давид Самуилович Кауфман (David Samuilovich Kaufman)

(1961)

translated by Boris Dralyuk


Additional information: David Samoylov (Давид Самойлов), pseudonym of David Samuilovich Kaufman ( Давид Самуилович Кауфман; 1 June 1920 in Moscow — 23 February 1990 in Tallinn) was a notable poet of the War generation of Russian poets, considered one of the most important Russian poets of the post-World War II era as well.