Dust smells of a sun-ray,
Girls’ breaths, – violets hold,
Freedom clings to the wild honey,
But there’s no smell to gold.
The mignonette smells of water,
Apple-tang clings to love,
But we were always taught that
Blood smells only of blood.
So it was no use the governor from Rome
Washing his hands before the howls
Of the wicked mob,
And it was in vain
That the Scottish queen washed the scarlet
Splashes from her narrow palms
In the thane’s gloomy suffocating home.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova) (1934)
translation by D. M. Thomas