The smiles of summer are simply indistinct
And winter is too clear,
But I can unerringly pick out
Three autumns in each year.
The first is a holiday chaos
Spiting the summer of yesterday.
Leaves fly like a schoolboy’s notes,
Like incense, the smell of smoke,
Everything moist, motley, gay.
First into the dance are the birches,
They put on their transparent attire
Hastily shaking off their fleeting tears
On to the neighbour next door.
But as it happens, the story’s just begun.
A moment, a minute – and here
Comes the second, passionless as conscience,
Sombre as an air raid.
Everything suddenly seems paler, older,
Summer’s comfort is plundered,
Through the scented fog float
Far-off marches played on golden trumpets…
A flagstone covers the sky vault. Cold waves
Of incense. But the wind’s started to blow
Everything clean open, and straightway
It’s clear that this is the end of the play,
This is not the third autumn but death.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)
translated by D. M. Thomas