We Had Thought We Were Beggars by Anna Akhmatova

We had thought we were beggars,

with nothing at all,

but as loss followed loss

and each day

became a day of memorial,

we began to make songs

about the Lord’s generosity

and our bygone wealth.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

a.k.a. Anna Gorenko

(1915, St Petersburg, Trinity Bridge)

translated by Robert Chandler

‘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

After Plodding Year After Year by Georgy Ivanov

After plodding year after year

through towns in an alien land,

we have ground enough to despair –

and despair is where we must end.

 

For despair is our final refuge –

as if, in midwinter, we had come

from Vespers in a nearby church,

through Russian snow, to our home.

 

by Георгий Владимирович Иванов (Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov)

(1958)

translated by Robert Chandler

No More Europe, No More America by Georgy Ivanov

No more Europe, no more America.

The end of Tsarskoye, of Moscow, too.

A fit of nuclear hysteria –

life atomized into a radiant blue.

 

Transparent, all-forgiving haze will stretch

over the seas. And he who could have done

something yet chose not to, will be left

in the expanse of pre-eternity, alone.

 

by Георгий Владимирович Иванов (Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov)

(1953)

by Robert Chandler

Alexander at Thebes by Anna Akhmatova

Surely the young king must have been blind to pity

As he spoke the order: ‘Destroy Thebes utterly.’

The old general gazed, and knew this place to be

No better than he remembered it, a haughty city.

 

Put it all to the fire! There were wonders – gate

And tower and temple – everywhere the king searched,

But suddenly  his face brightened with a thought:

‘Be sure that the house of the Poet is not touched.’

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova), Leningrad, 1961, October

– from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)

– translation by D. M. Thomas


I will try to upload Russian poetry, or reviews of things concerning the Russian Revolution and Soviet era, daily during this month as it is the centenary of the 1917 Russian Revolution. I might end up posting one or two other things too.