Monday, 3 December 2012

Poems by Anna Akhmatova


I was raised in checkered silence
in the cool nursery of the young century.
Human voices did not touch me,
it was the wind whose words I heard.
I favored burdocks and nettles,
but dearest to me was the silver willow,
my long companion through the years,
whose weeping branches
fanned my insomnia with dreams.
Oddly, I have survived it:
out there a stump remains. Now other willows
with alien voices intone
under our skies.
And I am silent . . . as though a brother had died.

The Muse
All that I am hangs by a thread tonight
as I wait for her whom no one can command.
Whatever I cherish most — youth, freedom, glory —
fades before her who bears the flute in her hand.

And look! she comes . . . she tosses back her veil,
staring me down, serene and pitiless.
“Are you the one,” I ask, “whom Dante heard dictate
the lines of his Inferno?" She answers: “Yes.”


Could Beatrice have written like Dante,
or Laura have glorified love’s pain?

Anna Akhmatova, There Are Four of Us

Herewith I solemnly renounce my hoard
of earthly goods, whatever counts as chattel.
The genius and guardian angel of this place
has changed to an old tree-stump in the water.

Earth takes us in awhile as transient guests;
we live by habit, which we must unlearn.
On paths of air I seem to overhear
two friends, two voices, talking in their turn.

Did I say two? . . . There by the eastern wall,
where criss-cross shoots of brambles trail,
— O look! — that fresh dark elderberry branch
is like a letter from Marina in the mail.
— November 1961


Now nobody will want to listen to songs,
the bitter days foretold come over the hill.
I tell you, song, the world has no more marvels,
do not shatter my heart, learn to be still.

Not long ago, as free as any swallow,
you rode the mornings out, you braved their dangers
Now you must wander as a hungry beggar,
desperately knocking at the doors of strangers.

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