May 26, 1828 by Alexander Pushkin

Gift haphazard, unavailing,

Life, why wert thou given to me?

Why art thou to death unfailing

Sentencing by dark destiny?

 

Who in harsh despotic fashion

Once from Nothing called me out,

Filled my soul with burning passion

Vexed and shook my mind with doubt?

 

I can see no goal before me:

Empty heart and idle mind.

life monotonously o’er me

Roars, and leaves a wound behind.

 

by Александр Сергеевич Пушкин (Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin)

translated by C. M. Bowra

A Ride by Anna Akhmatova

My feather was brushing the top of the carriage

And I was looking into his eyes.

There was a pining in my heart

I could not recognise.

 

The evening was windless, chained

Solidly under a cloudbank,

As if someone had drawn the Bois de Boulogne

In an old album in black Indian ink.

 

A mingled smell of lilac and benzine,

A peaceful watchfulness.

His hand touched my knees

A second time almost without trembling.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (May, 1913)

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

‘We’re All Drunkards Here…’ by Anna Akhmatova

We’re all drunkards here. Harlots.

Joylessly we’re stuck together.

On the walls, scarlet

Flowers, birds of a feather,

 

Pine for clouds. Your black pipe

Makes strange shapes rise.

I wear my skirt tight

To my slim thighs.

 

Windows tightly shut.

What’s that? Frost? Thunder?

Did you steal your eyes, I wonder,

From a cautious cat?

 

O my heart, how you yearn

For your dying hour…

And that woman dancing there

Will eternally burn.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1 January, 1913)

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

‘It Goes On Without End…’ by Anna Akhmatova

For M. Lozinsky

It goes on without end – the day, hevy and amber!

How impossible is grief, how vain the waiting!

And with a silver voice, again the deer

Speaks in the deer-park of the Northern Lights.

And I believe that there is cool snow,

And a blue font for those whose hands are empty,

And a small sledge is being wildly ridden,

Under the ancient chimes of distant bells.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1912)

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

The Constancy of Merriment and Dirt by Daniil Kharms

Cool Water gurgles in the river

and the mountains’ shadow lies on the fields

and light fades in the sky. And birds

are already flying in dreams.

And the yardman with the black moustache

stands all night by the gate

and under his dirty hat he scratches

the back of his head with dirty hands.

And through the window come merry shouts,

the stamping of feet and the ring of bottles.

 

A day goes by, then a week,

and then the years go by

and people vanish

in neat ranks into their graves.

While the yardman with the black moustache

stands for years by the gate

and under his dirty hat he scratches

the back of his head with dirty hands.

And through the window come merry shouts,

the stamping of feet and the ring of bottles.

 

The moon and the sun have paled,

constellations have changed shape,

motion has become sticky

and time has become like sand.

While the yardman with the black moustache

stands again by the gate

and under his dirty hat he scratches

the back of his head with dirty hands.

And through the window come merry shouts,

the stamping of feet and the ring of bottles.

 

by Даниил Иванович Хармс (Daniil Kharms, 1933)

translated by Robert Chandler

I Have Come To Take Your Place Sister… by Anna Akhmatova

-I have come to take your place, sister,

At the high fire in the forest’s heart.

 

Your eyes have grown dull, your tears cloudy,

Your hair is grey.

 

You don’t understand the songs birds sing

Anymore, nor stars, nor summer lighting.

 

Don’t hear it when the women strike

The tamborine; yet you fear the silence.

 

I have come to take your place, sister,

At the high fire in the forest’s heart’…

 

-‘You’ve come to put me in the grave.

Where is your shovel and your spade?

You’re carrying just a flute.

I’m not going to blame you,

Sadly a long time ago

My voice fell mute.

 

Have my clothes to wear,

Answer my fears with silence,

Let the wind blow

Through your hair, smell of the lilac.

You have come by a hard road

To be lit up by this fire.’

 

And one went away, ceding

The place to another, wandering

Like a blind woman reading

An unfamiliar narrow path,

 

And still it seemed to her a flame

Was close… In her hand a tamborine…

And she was like a white flag,

And like the light of a beacon.

 

– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1912)

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

Spring by Afanasy Fet

I come again with greetings new,

to tell you day is well begun;

to say the leaves are fresh with dew

and dappled in the early sun;

 

to tell you how the forest stirs

in every branch of every brake,

and what an April thirst is hers,

with every whistling bird awake;

 

to say, as yesterday, once more,

with love as passionate and true,

my heart is ready as before

for serving happiness and you;

 

to tell how over every thing

delight is blowing on the air –

I know not yet what I shall sing;

I only know the song is there.

 

by Афанасий Афанасьевич Фет (Afanasy Afanasyevich Fet)

(1843)

translated by Frances Cornford and Esther Polianowsky Salaman