Roots by Dannie Abse

A man with no roots is lost

like the darkness in the forest.

Heart, my heart, what red voices cry

centuries of suffering in my flowing hands?

 

Love lasts as long as there are

two people, however silent the word.

Love, my love, how may I meet your eyes,

how may I meet the eyes that I will close?

 

Future, my future, on whose arms

will my hands be planted?

Love, my love, be assured your eyes

will live after you like children.

 

by Dannie Abse

from Early Poems

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The Line Of The Horizon by Maria Petrovykh

It’s just how it is, it’s the way of the ages;

years pass away, and friends pass away

and you suddenly realize the world is changing

and the fire of your heart is fading away.

 

Once the horizon was sharp as a knife,

a clear frontier between different states,

but now low mist hangs over the earth –

and this gentle cloud is the mercy of fate.

 

Age, I suppose, with its losses and fears,

age that silently saps our strength,

has blurred with the mist of unspilt tears

that clear divide between life and death.

 

So many you loved are no longer with you,

yet you chat to them as you always did.

You forget they’re no longer among the living;

that clear frontier is now shrouded in mist.

 

The same sort of woodland, same sort of field –

you probably won’t even notice the day

you chance to wander across the border,

chatting to someone long passed away.

 

by Мария Сергеевна Петровых (Maria Sergeyevna Petrovykh)

(1957)

translated by Robert Chandler

‘That’s How I Am…’ by Anna Akhmatova

That’s how I am. I could wish for you someone other,

Better.

I trade in happiness no longer…

Charlatans, pushers at the sales! …

We stayed peacefully in Sochi,

Such nights, there, came to me,

And I kept hearing such bells!

Over Asia were spring mists, and

Tulips were carpeting with brilliance

Several hundreds of miles.

O, what can I do with this cleanness,

This simple untaintable scene? O,

What can I do with these souls!

I could never become a spectator.

I’d push myself, sooner or later,

Through every prohibited gate.

Healer of tender hurts, other women’s

Husbands’ sincerest

Friend, disconsolate

Widow of many. No wonder

I’ve a grey crown, and my sun-burn

Frightens the people I pass.

But – like her – I shall have to part with

My arrogance – like Marina the martyr –

I too must drink of emptiness.

You will come under a black mantle,

With a green and terrible candle,

Screening your face from my sight…

Soon the puzzle will be over:

Whose hand is in the white glove, or

Who sent the guest who calls by night.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1942, Tashkent)

from her Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book) era of work but not published at the time

translation by D. M. Thomas


 

In 1942 Akhmatova was flown out of Leningrad by the authorites on a whim and spent the next 3 years in Tashkent. She became seriously ill with typhus but regarded this period with a mix of joy, delirium and recognition.

Akhmatova in this poem draws a parallel between her circumstances and the fate of fellow poet Marina Tsvetaeva. Tsvetaeva had been an emigre since 1922, returning to Russia only to find out her husband was shot and her daughter arrested. She hung herself in 1941 and it had an immense effect on her peer Akhmatova as evidenced by her poetry.

Before A Map Of Russia by Teffi

In a strange house, in a far away land,

her portrait hangs on the wall;

she herself is dying like a beggar woman,

lying on straw, in pain that can’t be told.

 

But here she looks as she always did look –

she is young, rich and draped

in the luxurious green cloak

in which she was always portrayed.

 

I gaze at your counternance as if at an icon…

‘Blessed be your name slaughtered Rus!’

I quietly touch your cloak with one hand;

and with that same hand make the sign of the cross.

 

by Тэффи (Teffi) (1872 – 1952)

a.k.a. Надежда Александровна Лoхвицкая (Nadezhda Alexandrovna Lokhvitskaya)

translated by Robert Chandler

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

May 26, 1828 by Alexander Pushkin

Gift haphazard, unavailing,

Life, why wert thou given to me?

Why art thou to death unfailing

Sentencing by dark destiny?

 

Who in harsh despotic fashion

Once from Nothing called me out,

Filled my soul with burning passion

Vexed and shook my mind with doubt?

 

I can see no goal before me:

Empty heart and idle mind.

life monotonously o’er me

Roars, and leaves a wound behind.

 

by Александр Сергеевич Пушкин (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)

translated by C. M. Bowra

I Am by John Clare

I am: yet what I am none cares or knows,
My friends forsake me like a memory lost;
I am the self-consumer of my woes,
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shades in love and death’s oblivion lost;
And yet I am! and live with shadows tost

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life nor joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
And e’en the dearest–that I loved the best–
Are strange–nay, rather stranger than the rest.

I long for scenes where man has never trod;
A place where woman never smil’d or wept;
There to abide with my creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept:
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie;
The grass below–above the vaulted sky.

 

by John Clare (1793 – 1864)