Legend On An Unfinished Portrait by Anna Akhmatova

There’s nothing to be sad about.

Sadness is a crime, a prison.

A strange impression, I have risen

From the grey canvas like a sheet.


Up-flying arms, with a bad break,

Tormented smile – I and the sitter

Had to become thus through the bitter

Hours of profligate give and take.


He willed it that it should be so,

With words that were sinister and dead.

Fear drove into my lips the red,

And into my cheeks it piled the snow.


No sin in him. I was his fee.

He went, and arranged other limbs,

And other draparies. Void of dreams,

I lie in mortal lethargy.


– by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1912)

– from Вечер (Evening, 1912), translation by D. M. Thomas