Тень (Shade) by Anna Akhmatova

What does a certain woman know

about the hour of her death?

Osip Mandelstam

Tallest, most elegant of us, why does memory

Insist you swim up from the years, pass

Swaying down a train, searching for me,

Transparent profile through the carriage-glass?

Were you angel or bird? – how we argued it!

A poet took you for his drinking-straw.

Your Georgian eyes through sable lashes lit

With the same even gentleness, all they saw.

O shade! Forgive me, but clear sky, Flaubert,

Insomnia, the lilacs flowering late,

Have brought you – beauty of the year

’13 – and your unclouded temperate day,

Back to my mind, in memories that appear

Uncomfortable to me now. O shade!

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by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1940)

from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas

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Beneath is the original version of the poem in Cyrillic.

Тень

Что знает женщина одна о смертном часе?

О. Мандельштам

Всегда нарядней всех, всех розовей и выше,

Зачем всплываешь ты со дна погибших лет,

И память хищная передо мной колышет

Прозрачный профиль твой за стеклами карет?

Как спорили тогда — ты ангел или птица!

Соломинкой тебя назвал поэт.

Равно на всех сквозь черные ресницы

Дарьяльских глаз струился нежный свет.

О тень! Прости меня, но ясная погода,

Флобер, бессонница и поздняя сирень

Тебя — красавицу тринадцатого года —

И твой безоблачный и равнодушный день

Напомнили… А мне такого рода

Воспоминанья не к лицу. О тень!

In 1940 by Anna Akhmatova

1

When you bury an epoch

You do not sing psalms at the tomb.

Soon, nettles and thistles

Will be in bloom.

And only – bodies won’t wait! –

The gravediggers toil;

And it’s quiet, Lord, so quiet,

Time has become audible.

And one day the age will rise,

Like a corpse in a spring river –

But no mother’s son will recognize

The body of his mother.

Grandsons will bow their heads.

The moon like a pendulum swinging.

And now – over stricken Paris

Silence is winging.

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2

To the Londoners

Shakespeare’s play, his twenty-fourth –

Time is writing it impassively.

By the leaden river what can we,

Who know what such feasts are,

Do, except read Hamlet, Caesar, Lear?

Or escort Juliet to her bed, and christen

Her death, poor dove, with torches and singing;

Or peep through the window at Macbeth,

Trembling with the one who kills from greed –

Only not this one, not this one, not this one,

This one we do not have the strength to read.

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3

Shade

What does a certain woman know
about the hour of her death?
– Osip Mandelstam

Tallest, most elegant of us, why does memory

Insist you swim up from the years, pass

Swaying down a train, searching for me,

Transparent profile through the carriage-glass?

Were you angel or bird? – how we argued it!

A poet took you for his drinking-straw.

Your Georgian eyes through sable lashes lit

With the same even gentleness, all they saw.

O shade! Forgive me, but clear sky, Flaubert,

Insomnia, the lilacs flowering late,

Have brought you – beauty of the year

’13 – and your unclouded temperate day,

Back to my mind, in memories that appear

Uncomfortable to me now. O shade!

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4

I thought I knew all the paths

And precipices of insomnia,

But this is a trumpet-blast

And like a charge of cavalry.

I enter an empty house

That used to be someone’s home,

It’s quiet, only white shadows

In a stranger’s mirrors swim.

And what is that in a mist? –

Denmark? Normandy? Or some time

In the past did I live here,

And this – a new edition

Of moments lost forever.

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5

But I warn you,

I am living for the last time.

Not as a swallow, not as a maple,

Not as a reed nor as a star,

Not as water from a spring,

Not as bells in a tower –

Shall I return to trouble you

Nor visit other people’s dreams

With lamentation.

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by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(1940)

from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)

translation by D. M. Thomas

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Below are the original Russian versions of this verse in Cyrillic.

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1

Август 1940

То град твой, Юлиан!

Вяч. Иванов

.

Когда погребают эпоху,

Надгробный псалом не звучит,

Крапиве, чертополоху

Украсить ее предстоит.

И только могильщики лихо

Работают. Дело не ждет!

И тихо, так, господи, тихо,

Что слышно, как время идет.

А после она выплывает,

Как труп на весенней реке,—

Но матери сын не узнает,

И внук отвернется в тоске.

И клонятся головы ниже,

Как маятник, ходит луна.

Так вот — над погибшим Парижем

Такая теперь тишина.

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2

Лондонцам

И сделалась война на небе.

– Апок.

.

Двадцать четвертую драму Шекспира

Пишет время бесстрастной рукой.

Сами участники чумного пира,

Лучше мы Гамлета, Цезаря, Лира

Будем читать над свинцовой рекой;

Лучше сегодня голубку Джульетту

С пеньем и факелом в гроб провожать,

Лучше заглядывать в окна к Макбету,

Вместе с наемным убийцей дрожать,—

Только не эту, не эту, не эту,

Эту уже мы не в силах читать!

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3

Тень

Что знает женщина одна о смертном часе?

О. Мандельштам

.

Всегда нарядней всех, всех розовей и выше,

Зачем всплываешь ты со дна погибших лет,

И память хищная передо мной колышет

Прозрачный профиль твой за стеклами карет?

Как спорили тогда — ты ангел или птица!

Соломинкой тебя назвал поэт.

Равно на всех сквозь черные ресницы

Дарьяльских глаз струился нежный свет.

О тень! Прости меня, но ясная погода,

Флобер, бессонница и поздняя сирень

Тебя — красавицу тринадцатого года —

И твой безоблачный и равнодушный день

Напомнили… А мне такого рода

Воспоминанья не к лицу. О тень!

.

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4

Уж я ль не знала бессонницы

Все пропасти и тропы,

Но эта как топот конницы

Под вой одичалой трубы.

Вхожу в дома опустелые,

В недавний чей-то уют.

Всё тихо, лишь тени белые

В чужих зеркалах плывут.

И что там в тумане — Дания,

Нормандия или тут

Сама я бывала ранее,

И это — переиздание

Навек забытых минут?

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5

Но я предупреждаю вас,

Что я живу в последний раз.

Ни ласточкой, ни кленом,

Ни тростником и ни звездой,

Ни родниковою водой,

Ни колокольным звоном —

Не буду я людей смущать

И сны чужие навещать

Неутоленным стоном.

Roncesvalles by Varlam Shalamov

I was captivated straight away,

tired of the lies all around me,

by that proud, tragic tale

of a warrior’s death in the mountains.

 

And it may have been Roland’s horn

that called me, like Charlemagne,

to a silent pass where the boldest

of many bold fighters lay slain.

 

I saw a sword lying shattered

after long combat with stone –

a witness to forgotten battles

recorded by stone alone.

 

And those bitter splinters of steel

have dazzled me many a time.

That tale of helpless defeat

can’t help but overwhelm.

 

I have held that horn to my lips

and tried more than once to blow,

but I cannot call up the power

of that ballad from long ago.

 

There may be some skill I’m lacking –

or else I’m not bold enough

to blow in my shy anguish

on Roland’s rust-eaten horn.

 

by Варлам Тихонович Шаламов (Varlam Tikhonovich Shalamov)

(1950?)

translated by Robert Chandler


Fun facts: Shalamov references one of his favourite poems by Marina Tsvetaeva by mentioning Roland’s Horn calling to him.

Roncesvalles is famous in history and legend for the defeat of Charlemagne and the death of Roland in 778, during the battle of Roncevaux Pass, when Charlemagne‘s rear guard was destroyed by Basque tribes. Among those killed in the battle was a relatively obscure Frankish commander, Roland, whose death elevated him and the paladins, the foremost warriors of Charlemagne’s court, into legend, becoming the quintessential role model for knights and also greatly influencing the code of chivalry in the Middle Ages. There are numerous written works about the battle, some of which change and exaggerate events. The battle is recounted in the 11th century The Song of Roland, the oldest surviving major work of French literature, and in Orlando Furioso, one of the most celebrated works of Italian literature.

Leisure by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

 

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

 

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

 

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

 

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

 

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

 

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

 

by William Henry Davies (1871 – 1940)


William Henry Davies or W. H. Davies (3 July 1871 – 26 September 1940) was a Welsh poet and writer. Davies spent a significant part of his life as a tramp or hobo, in the United Kingdom and United States, but became one of the most popular poets of his time. The principal themes in his work are observations about life’s hardships, the ways in which the human condition is reflected in nature, his own tramping adventures and the various characters he met. Davies is usually considered one of the Georgian Poets, although much of his work is not typical of the group, in either style or theme.