I Have Come To Take Your Place Sister… by Anna Akhmatova

-I have come to take your place, sister,

At the high fire in the forest’s heart.

 

Your eyes have grown dull, your tears cloudy,

Your hair is grey.

 

You don’t understand the songs birds sing

Anymore, nor stars, nor summer lighting.

 

Don’t hear it when the women strike

The tamborine; yet you fear the silence.

 

I have come to take your place, sister,

At the high fire in the forest’s heart’…

 

-‘You’ve come to put me in the grave.

Where is your shovel and your spade?

You’re carrying just a flute.

I’m not going to blame you,

Sadly a long time ago

My voice fell mute.

 

Have my clothes to wear,

Answer my fears with silence,

Let the wind blow

Through your hair, smell of the lilac.

You have come by a hard road

To be lit up by this fire.’

 

And one went away, ceding

The place to another, wandering

Like a blind woman reading

An unfamiliar narrow path,

 

And still it seemed to her a flame

Was close… In her hand a tamborine…

And she was like a white flag,

And like the light of a beacon.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1912)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), 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

Loss by Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1932 – 2017)

Russia has lost Russia in Russia.

Russia searches for itself

like a cut finger in the snow,

a needle in a haystack,

like an old blind woman madly stretching her hand in fog,

searching with hopeless incantation for her lost milk cow.

 

We buried our icons.

We didn’t believe in our own great books.

We fight only with alien grievances.

 

Is it true we didn’t survive under our own yoke,

becoming for ourselves worse than foreign enemies?

Is it true that we are doomed to live only in the silk

nightgown of dreams, eaten by moths? –

Or in numbered prison robes?

 

Is it true that epilepsy is our national character?

Or convulsions of pride?

Or convulsions of self-humiliation?

Ancient rebellions against new copper kopeks,

againsy such foreign fruits as potatoes are

now only a harmless dream.

 

Today’s rebellion swamps the entire Kremlin

like a mortal tide –

Is it true that we Russians have only one unhappy choice?

The ghost of Tsar Ivan the Terrible?

Or the ghost of Tsar Chaos?

So many imposters. Such ‘imposterity’.

 

Everyone is a leader, but no one leads.

We are confused as to which banners and

slogans to carry.

And such a fog in our heads

that everyone is wrong

and everyone is guilty in everything.

 

We already have walked enough in such fog,

in blood up to our knees.

Lord, you’ve already punished us enough.

Forgive us, pity us.

 

Is it true we no longer exist?

Or are we not yet born?

We are birthing now,

but it’s so painful to be born again.

 

by Евгений Александрович Евтушенко

Yevgeny Aleksandrovich Yevtushenko (18 July 1932 – 1 April 2017)

Потеря / Loss – first published 13 March 1991

translation by James Ragan and Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Reading Hamlet by Anna Akhmatova

A dusty waste-plot by the cemetery,

Behind it, a river flashing blue.

You said to me: ‘Go get thee to a nunnery,

Or get a fool to marry you…’

 

Well, princes are good at such speeches,

As a girl is quick to tears, –

But may those words stream like an ermine mantle

Behind him for ten thousand years.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1909, Kiev)

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

Legend On An Unfinished Portrait by Anna Akhmatova

There’s nothing to be sad about.

Sadness is a crime, a prison.

A strange impression, I have risen

From the grey canvas like a sheet.

 

Up-flying arms, with a bad break,

Tormented smile – I and the sitter

Had to become thus through the bitter

Hours of profligate give and take.

 

He willed it that it should be so,

With words that were sinister and dead.

Fear drove into my lips the red,

And into my cheeks it piled the snow.

 

No sin in him. I was his fee.

He went, and arranged other limbs,

And other draparies. Void of dreams,

I lie in mortal lethargy.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1912)

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