When at night I wait for her to come,
Life, it seems, hangs by a single strand.
What are glory, youth, freedom, in comparison
With the dear welcome guest, a flute in hand?
She enters now. Pushing her veil aside,
She stares through me with her attentiveness.
I question her: ‘And were you Dante’s guide,
Dictating the Inferno?’ She answers: ‘Yes.’
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1924)
translation by D. M. Thomas