I feel my life hang by a hair
as I wait at night for the Muse;
youth, freedom, fame melt into air
as my guest appears with her flute.
She enters, tosses back her shawl;
her half-closed eyes let nothing pass.
‘So it was you who sang of Hell
to Dante?’ ‘Yes,’ she says, ‘it was.’
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)
from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book) era
translation by Robert Chandler
Fun Fact: The exact muse from Greek mythology referred to here is Euterpe who in late Classical times was named muse of lyric poetry and was often depicted holding a flute. The Dante referred to here is of course Dante Alighieri and his epic poem the Divine Comedy, in particular the Inferno section. Calliope was usually considered the muse of epic poetry but of course Akhmatova herself wrote lyric poetry thus explaining why she, to her surprise, encounters Euterpe and not Calliope.