Sarn Rhiw by R. S. Thomas

So we know

she must have said something

to him – What language,

life? Oh, what language?

 

Thousands of years later

I inhabit a house

whose stone is the language

of its builders. Here

 

by the sea they said little.

But their message to the future

was: Build well. In the fire

of an evening I catch faces

 

staring at me. In April,

when light quickens and clouds

thin, boneless presences

flit through my room.

 

Will they inherit me

one day? What certainties

have I to hand on

like the punctuality

 

with which, at the moon’s

rising, the bay breaks

into a smile as though meaning

were not the difficulty at all?

 

by R. S. Thomas

from Experimenting with an Amen (1986)

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‘I Came Here In Idleness…’ by Anna Akhmatova

I came here in idleness.

It’s all the same where to be bored!

A small mill on a low hilltop.

The years can be silent here.

 

Softly the bee swims

Over dry convolvulus.

At the pond I call the mermaid

But the mermaid is dead.

 

The wide pond has grown shallow

And clogged with a rusty slime.

Over the trembling aspen

A light moon shines.

 

I notice everything freshly.

The poplars smell of wetness.

I am silent. Without words

I am ready to become you again, earth.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1911, Tsarskoye Selo)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas

White Night by Anna Akhmatova

I haven’t locked the door,

Nor lit the candles,

You don’t know don’t care,

That tired I haven’t the strength

 

To decide to go to bed.

Seeing the fields fade in

The sunset murk of pine-needles,

And to know all is lost,

 

That life is a cursed hell:

I’ve got drunk

On your voice in the doorway.

I was sure you’d come back.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1911, Tsarskoye Selo)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas

Song Of The Last Meeting by Anna Akhmatova

My breast grew cold and numb,

But my feet were light.

On to my right hand I fumbled

The glove to my left hand.

 

It seemed that there were many steps

-I knew there were only three.

An autumn whisper between the maples

Kept urging: ‘Die with me.

 

Change has made me weary,

Fate has cheated me of everything.’

I answered: ‘My dear, my dear!

I’ll die with you. I too am suffering.’

 

It was a song of the last meeting.

Only bedroom-candles burnt

When I looked into the dark house,

And they were yellow and indifferent.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1911, Tsarskoye Selo)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas

‘Memory Of Sun Seeps From The Heart…’ by Anna Akhmatova

Memory of sun seeps from the heart.

Grass grows yellower.

Faintly if at all the early snowflakes

Hover, hover.

 

Water becoming ice is slowing in

The narrow channels.

Nothing at all will happen here again,

Will ever happen.

 

Against the sky the willow spreads a fan

The silk’s torn off.

Maybe it’s better I did not become

Your wife.

 

Memory of sun seeps from the heart.

What is it? – Dark?

Perhaps! Winter will have occupied us

In the night.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1911, Kiev)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas

‘I Have Written Down The Words…’ by Anna Akhmatova

I have written down the words

I have long dared not to speak.

Dully the head beats,

This body is not my own.

 

The call of the horn has died.

The heart has the same puzzles.

Snowflakes, -light- autumnal,

Lie on the croquet lawn.

 

Let the last leaves rustle!

Let the last thoughts languish!

I don’t want to trouble

People used to being happy.

 

Because your lips are yours

I forgive their cruel joke…

O, tomorrow you will come

On the first sledge-ride of winter.

 

The drawing room candles will glow

More tenderly in the day.

I will bring from the conservatory

A whole bouquet of roses.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1910, Tsarskoye Selo)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas

Evening Room by Anna Akhmatova

I speak in those words suddenly

That rise once in the soul. So sharply comes

The musty odour of an old sachet,

A bee hums on a white chrysanthemum.

 

And the room, where the light strikes through slits,

Cherishes love, for here it is still new.

A bed, with a French inscription over it,

Reading: ‘Seigneur, ayez pitié de nous.’

 

Of such a lived-through legend the sad strokes

You must not touch, my soul, nor seek to do…

Of Sèvres statuettes the brilliant cloaks

I see are darkening and wearing through.

 

Yellow and heavy, one last ray has poured

Into a fresh bouquet of dahlias

And hardened there. And I hear viols play

And of a clavecin the rare accord.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1910, Tsarskoye Selo)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas