Posts Tagged ‘Anna Akhmatova’

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,
to look at the sky and pray to God,
and to wander long before evening
to tire my superfluous worries.
When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops,
I compose happy verses
about life’s decay, decay and beauty.
I come back. The fluffy cat
licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
on the saw-mill turret by the lake.
Only the cry of a stork landing on the roof
occasionally breaks the silence.
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

Anna Akhmatova

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My white nights whisper there
about some grand and mysterious love.

And everything glows like jasper and mother-of-pearl,
but the source of the light is mysteriously veiled.

Anna Akhmatova
from “The Summer Garden” (1959)

(trans. Judith Hemschemeyer)

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When at night I await the beloved guest,
Life seems to hang by a thread.  “What is youth?” I demand
Of the room.  “What is honor, freedom, the rest, 
In the Presence of her who holds the flute in her hand?”

But now she is here.  Tossing aside her veil,
She considers me.  “Are you the one who came
To Dante, who dictated the pages of Hell
To him?” I ask her.  She replies, “I am.”

Anna Akhmatova (1924)
Trans. Lyn Coffin

Commentary:  Tomorrow, I’ll teach Dante’s Inferno for the 10th time. I will descend into hell again. In the role of Virgil, I will lead many pilgrims on the journey.

Every time I go down, I learn. Sometimes a lesson must be learned over and over again to be learned at all. There is a terrible sadness in that truth, and in that truth, a terrible gift.

I didn’t find the secret ring.
For days, I waited and guessed.
That tender captive, a song to sing,
Perished inside my breast.

Anna Akhmatova (1917)
Trans. Lyn Coffin

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