O make me a mask and a wall to shut from your spies
Of the sharp, enamelled eyes and the spectacled claws
Rape and rebellion in the nurseries of the face,
Gag of a dumbstruck tree to block from bare enemies
The bayonet tongue in this undefended prayerpiece,
The present mouth, and the sweetly blown trumpet of lies,
Shaped in old armour and oak the counternance of a dunce
To shield the glistening brain and blunt the examiners,
And a tear-stained widower grief drooped from the lashes
To veil belladonna and let the dry eyes perceive
Others betray the lamenting lies of their losses
By the curve of the nude mouth or the laugh up the sleeve.
by Dylan Thomas
(Notebook version March 1933; rephrased and severely shortened November 1937)
He seeks to defend his inner privacy against the sharp examination of strangers and critics.
“I am air and fire…”
She has kissed lips already grown inhuman,
On her knees she has wept already before Augustus…
And her servants have betrayed her. Under the Roman
Eagle clamour the raucous trumpets, and the dusk has
Spread. And enter the last hostage to her glamour.
‘He’ll lead me, then, in triumph?’ ‘Madam, he will.
I know’t.’ Stately, he has the grace to stammer…
But the slope of her swan neck is tranquil still.
Tomorrow, her children… O, what small things rest
For her to do on earth – only to play
With this fool, and the black snake to her dark breast
Indifferently, like a parting kindness, lay.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova), 1940
– from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book)
– translation by D. M. Thomas
He did not return, even after his death, to
That ancient city he was rooted in.
Going away, he did not pause for breath
Nor look back. My song is for him.
Torches, night, a last embrace,
Fate, a wild howl, at his threshold.
Out of hell he sent her his curse
And in heaven could not forget her.
But never in a penitential shirt did
He walk with a lighted candle and barefoot
Through beloved Florence he could not betray,
Perfidious, base, and self-deserted.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)
from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book)
translation by D. M. Thomas