To An Artist by Anna Akhmatova

Your work that my inward sight still comes,

Fruit of your graced labours:

The gold of always-autumnal limes,

The blue of today-created water-

 

Simply to think of it, the faintest drowse

Already has led me into your parks

Where, fearful of everything turning, I lose

Consciousness in a trance, seeking your tracks.

 

Shall I go under this vault, transfigured by

The movement of your hand into a sky,

To cool my shameful heat?

 

There shall I become forever blessed,

There my burning eyelids will find rest,

And I’ll regain a gift I’ve lost-to weep.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1924)

from Тростник (Reed) / Из шести книг (From the Six Books)

translation by D. M. Thomas

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Muse by Anna Akhmatova

When at night I wait for her to come,

Life, it seems, hangs by a single strand.

What are glory, youth, freedom, in comparison

With the dear welcome guest, a flute in hand?

 

She enters now. Pushing her veil aside,

She stares through me with her attentiveness.

I question her: ‘And were you Dante’s guide,

Dictating the Inferno?’ She answers: ‘Yes.’

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1924)

from Тростник (Cane) / Из шести книг (From the Six Books)

translation by D. M. Thomas

 

[ Excerpt from] Night In A Trench by Velimir Khlebnikov

We need flowers to lay on coffins,

but coffins tell us we are flowers

and last no longer than a flower.

 

by Велимир Хлебников (Velimir Khlebnikov)

a.k.a. Виктор Владимирович Хлебников

(Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov)

(1920)

translated by Robert Chandler

All Rules Are Incorrect by Boris Slutsky

All rules are incorrect,

all laws remain perverse,

until they’re firmly set

in well-wrought lines of verse.

 

An age or era will

be merely a stretch of time

without a meaning until

it’s glorified in rhyme.

 

Until the poet’s ‘Yes!’,

entrusted by his pen

to print, awards success

to this or that – till then

 

the jury will be out,

the verdict still in doubt.

 

by Борис Абрамович Слуцкий (Boris Abramovich Slutsky)

(early 1960s)

translated by Stephen Campus

Do You Forgive Me These November Days? by Anna Akhmatova

Do you forgive me these November days?

In canals around the Neva fires fragment.

Scant is tragic autumn’s finery.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

November 1913, St Petersburg

from Четки (Rosary, Beads)

translation by D. M. Thomas

8 November 1913 by Anna Akhmatova

The sun fills my room,

Yellow dust drifts aslant.

I wake up and remember:

This is your saint’s day.

 

That’s why even the snow

Outside my window is warm,

Why I, sleepless, have slept

Like a communicant.

 

by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)

(8 November 1913)

from Четки (Rosary Beads)

translation by D. M. Thomas

It’s Good That Russia Has No Tsar by Georgy Ivanov

It’s good that Russia has no Tsar,

it’s good that Russia’s just a dream,

it’s good that God has disappeared,

 

that nothing’s real, except the stars

in icy skies, the yellow gleam

of dawn, the unrelenting years.

 

It’s good that people don’t exist,

that nothingness is all there is,

that life’s as dark and cold as this;

 

until we couldn’t be more dead,

nor ever were so dark before,

and no one now can bring us aid,

nor even needs to any more.

 

by Георгий Владимирович Иванов (Georgii Vladimirovich Ivanov)

(1930)

translated by Stephen Capus