When a man dies
His portraits change.
His eyes look at you
Differently and his lips smile
A different smile. I noticed this
Returning from a poet’s funeral.
Since then I have seen it verified
Often and my theory is true.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova), 1940
– from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book)
– translation by D. M. Thomas
Why is our century worse than any other?
Is it that in the stupor of fear and grief
It has plunged its fingers in the blackest ulcer,
Yet cannot bring relief?
Westward the sun is dropping,
And the roofs of towns are shining in its light.
Already death is chalking doors with crosses
And calling the ravens and the ravens are in flight.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1919)
– from Подорожник (Plantain/Wayside Grass, 1921) translation by D. M. Thomas
And if you go up that way, you will meet with a man,
Leading a horse, whose eyes declare:
There is no God. Take no notice.
There will be other roads and other men
With the same creed, whose lips yet utter
Friendlier greeting, men who have learned
To pack a little of the sun’s light
In their cold eyes, whose hands are waiting
For your hand. But do not linger.
A smile is payment; the road runs on
With many turnings towards the tall
Tree to which the believer is nailed.
by R. S. Thomas
from Poetry for Supper (1958)