And the town is frozen solid, leaden with ice.
Trees, walls, snow, seem to be under glass.
Cautiously I tread on crystals.
The painted sleighs can’t get a grip.
And over the statue of Peter-in-Voronezh
Are crows, and populars, and a pale-green dome
Washed-out and muddy in the sun-motes.
The mighty slopes of the Field of Kulikovo
Tremble still with the slaughter of barbarians.
And all at once the poplars, like lifted chalices,
Enmesh more boisterously overhead
Like thousands of wedding-guests feasting
And drinking toasts to our happiness.
And in the room of the banished poet
Fear and the Muse take turns at watch,
And the night comes
When there will be no sunrise.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1936)
from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book)
translation by D. M. Thomas
O.M. refers to the poet Osip Mandelstam who was living in the city of Voronezh when Akhmatova visited him in February 1936. Peter the Great built a flotilla here and the Field of Kulikovo, where the Tartars were defeated in 1380 isn’t far away.