‘Freshness Of Words…’ by Anna Akhmatova

Freshness of words, simplicity of emotions,

If we lost these, would it not be as though

Blindness had stricken Fra Angelico,

Or an actor lost his power of voice and motion?

 

But don’t behave as if you own

What has been given you by the Saviour:

We ourselves know, we are condemned to squander

Our wealth, and not to save. Alone

 

Go out and heal the cataract,

And later, witness your own disciples’

Malice and jeers, and see the people’s

Stolid indifference to the act.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1915)

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

‘The Road Is Black…’ by Anna Akhmatova

The road is black by the beach –

Garden. Lamps yellow and fresh.

I’m very calm.

I’d rather not talk about him.

 

I’ve a lot of feelings for you. You’re kind.

We’ll kiss, grow old, walk around.

Light months will fly over us.

Like snowy stars.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1914)

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

Love (III) by George Herbert

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,
Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-eyed Love, observing me grow slack
From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,
If I lack’d any thing.

‘A guest’, I answer’d, ‘worthy to be here:’
Love said, ‘You shall be he.’
‘I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah my dear,
I cannot look on thee.’
Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,
‘Who made the eyes but I?’

‘Truth Lord, but I have marr’d them: let my shame
Go where it doth deserve.’
‘And know you not,’ says Love, ‘Who bore the blame?’
‘My dear, then I will serve.’
‘You must sit down,’ says Love, ‘and taste my meat.’
So I did sit and eat.

 

by George Herbert (1593 – 1633)

‘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

‘So Many Requests, Always, From A Lover…’ by Anna Akmatova

So many requests, always, from a lover!

None when they fall out of love.

I’m glad the water does not move

Under the colourless ice of the river.

 

And I’ll stand – God help me! – on this ice,

However light and brittle it is,

And you… take care of our letters,

That our descendants not misjudge us,

 

That they may read and understand

More clearly what you are, wise, brave.

In your glorious biography

No row of dots should stand.

 

Earth’s drink is much too sweet,

Love’s nets too close together.

May my name be in the textbooks

Of children playing in the street.

 

When they’ve read my grievous story,

May they smile behind their desklids…

If I can’t have love, if I can’t find peace,

Give me a bitter glory.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1913)

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

Bloody Men by Wendy Cope

Bloody men are bloody buses –

You wait for about a year

And as soon as one approaches your stop

Two or three others appear.

 

You look at them flashing their indicators,

Offering you a ride.

You’re trying to read the destinations,

You haven’t much time to decide.

 

If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.

Jump off, and you’ll stand there and gaze

While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by

And the minutes, the hours, the days.

 

by Wendy Cope

The Sunlight On The Garden by Louis MacNeice

The sunlight on the garden

Hardens and grows cold,

We cannot cage the minute

Within its nets of gold,

When all is told

We cannot beg for pardon.

 

Our freedom as free lances

Advances towards its end;

The earth compels, upon it

Sonnets and birds descend;

And soon, my friend,

We shall have no time for dances.

 

The sky was good for flying

Defying the church bells

And every evil iron

Siren and what it tells:

The earth compels,

We are dying, Egypt, dying

 

And not expecting pardon,

Hardened in heart anew,

But glad to have sat under

Thunder and rain with you,

And grateful too

For sunlight on the garden.

 

by Louis MacNeice (1907 – 1963)