“I am air and fire…”
She has kissed lips already grown inhuman,
On her knees she has wept already before Augustus…
And her servants have betrayed her. Under the Roman
Eagle clamour the raucous trumpets, and the dusk has
Spread. And enter the last hostage to her glamour.
‘He’ll lead me, then, in triumph?’ ‘Madam, he will.
I know’t.’ Stately, he has the grace to stammer…
But the slope of her swan neck is tranquil still.
Tomorrow, her children… O, what small things rest
For her to do on earth – only to play
With this fool, and the black snake to her dark breast
Indifferently, like a parting kindness, lay.
– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova), 1940
– from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Sixth Book)
– translation by D. M. Thomas