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

Lot’s Wife by Anna Akhmatova

And the just man trailed God’s messenger,

His huge, light shape devoured the black hill.

But uneasiness shadowed his wife and spoke to her:

‘it’s not too late, you can look back still

 

At the red towers of Sodom, the place that bore you,

The square in which you sang, the spinning-shed,

At the empty windows of that upper storey

Where children blessed your happy marriage-bed.’

 

Her eyes that were still turning when a bolt

Of pain shot through them, were instantly blind;

Her body turned into transparent salt,

And her swift legs were rooted to the ground.

 

Who mourns one woman in a holocaust?

Surely her death has no significance?

Yet in my heart she never will be lost,

She who gave up her life to steal one glance.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1922-1924)

– from Anno Domini MCMXXI translation by D. M. Thomas

‘To Fall Ill As One Should…’ by Anna Akhmatova

To fall ill as one should, deliriously

Hot, meet everyone again,

To stroll broad avenues in the seashore garden

Full of the wind and the sun.

 

Even the dead, today, have agreed to come,

And the exiles, into my house.

Lead the child to me by the hand.

Long I have missed him.

 

I shall eat blue grapes with those who are dead,

Drink the iced

Wine, and watch the grey waterfall pour

On to the damp flint bed.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1922)

– from Anno Domini MCMXXI translation by D. M. Thomas

‘I Don’t Know If You’re Alive Or Dead…’ by Anna Akhmatova

I don’t know if you’re alive or dead.

Can you on earth be sought,

Or only when the sunsets fade

Be mourned serenely in my thought?

 

All is for you: the daily prayer,

The sleepless heat at night,

And of my verses, the white

Flock, and of my eyes, the blue fire.

 

No-one was more cherished, no-one tortured

Me more, not

Even the one who betrayed me to torture,

Not even the one who caressed me and forgot.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1915)

– from Белая стая (White Flock, 1917) translation by D. M. Thomas

‘I Won’t Beg For Your Love…’ by Anna Akhmatova

I won’t beg for you love: it’s laid

Safely to rest, let the earth settle…

Don’t expect my jealous letters

Pouring in to plague your bride.

But let me, nevertheless, advise you:

Give her my poems to read in bed,

Give her my portraits to keep – it’s wise to

Be kind like that when newly-wed.

For it’s more needful to such geese

To know that they have won completely

Than to have converse light and sweet or

Honeymoons of remembered bliss…

When you have spent your kopeck’s worth

Of happiness with your new friend,

And like a taste that sates the mouth

Your soul has recognized the end –

Don’t come crawling like a whelp

Into my bed of lonliness.

I don’t know you. Nor could I help.

I’m not yet cured of happiness.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1914)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

‘Nobody Came To Meet Me…’ by Anna Akhmatova

Nobody came to meet me

with a lantern,

Had to find my way up

the steps by weak moonlight

 

And there he was, under

the green lamp, and

With a corpse’s smile

he whispered, ‘Your voice

 

Is strange Cinderella…’

Fire dying in the hearth,

Cricket chirping. Ah!

someone’s taken my shoe

 

As a souvenir, and with

lowered eyes given me

Three carnations.

Dear mementoes,

 

Where can I hide you?

And it’s a bitter thought

That my little white shoe

will be tried by everyone.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1913)

– from Четки (Rosary, 1914), translation by D. M. Thomas

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