3 of my favourite Anna Akhmatova’s poems
Anna Akhmatova is one of the greatest female poets in Russian literature. Her extraordinary talent for poetry, her beauty and sensibility contributed to make her a key-figure in the cultural and artistic world of imperial Petersburg and one of the most important poets of the 20th century.
I started reading Akhmatova’s poems by chance, just because I wanted to read poems in Russian. Then my interest in her poetry grew poem after poem. I love the way she writes, I think she can express her pain and feelings never losing her fierce dignity. Here are my favourite Akhmatova’s poems in Russian and English. I hope you enjoy them!
Сжала руки под тёмной вуалью (1911)
Сжала руки под тёмной вуалью…
“Отчего ты сегодня бледна?”
– Оттого, что я терпкой печалью
Напоила его допьяна.
Как забуду? Он вышел, шатаясь,
Искривился мучительно рот…
Я сбежала, перил не касаясь,
Я бежала за ним до ворот.
Задыхаясь, я крикнула: “Шутка
Всё, что было. Уйдешь, я умру.”
Улыбнулся спокойно и жутко
И сказал мне: “Не стой на ветру”.
Under a dark veil she wrung her hands… (1911)
Under a dark veil she wrung her hands…
‘What makes you grieve like this?’
I have made my lover drunk
With a bitter sadness.
I’ll never forget it. He left, reeling,
His mouth twisted, desolate…
I ran downstairs, ran into the courtyard,
Managed to catch him opening the gate
And begged him: ‘It was all a joke, don’t leave,
Please… I will lose my mind!’
But he only smiled, calmly, terribly,
And said to me: ‘Get inside out of the wind.’
(Translated by Colette Bryce)
Я – голос ваш, жар вашего дыханья,
Я – отраженье вашего лица.
Напрасных крыл напрасны трепетанья, —
Ведь все равно я с вами до конца.
Вот отчего вы любите так жадно
Меня в грехе и в немощи моей,
Вот отчего вы дали неоглядно
Мне лучшего из ваших сыновей,
Вот отчего вы даже не спросили
Меня ни слова никогда о нем
И чадными хвалами задымили
Мой навсегда опустошенный дом.
И говорят – нельзя теснее слиться,
Нельзя непоправимее любить…
Как хочет тень от тела отделиться,
Как хочет плоть с душою разлучиться,
Так я хочу теперь – забытой быть.
To the Many (1922)
I — am your voice, the warmth of your breath,
I — am the reflection of your face,
The futile trembling of futile wings,
I am with you to the end, in any case.
That’s why you so fervently love
Me in my weakness and in my sin;
That’s why you impulsively gave
Me the best of your sons;
That’s why you never even asked
Me for any word of him
And blackened my forever-deserted home
With fumes of praise.
And they say — it’s impossible to fuse more closely,
Impossible to love more abandonedly…
As the shadow from the body wants to part,
As the flesh from the soul wants to separate,
So I want now — to be forgotten.
(Translated by Judith Hemschemeyer)
Почти в альбом (1961)
Услышишь гром и вспомнишь обо мне,
Подумаешь: она грозы желала…
Полоска неба будет твердо-алой,
А сердце будет как тогда – в огне.
Случится это в тот московский день,
Когда я город навсегда покину
И устремлюсь к желанному притину,
Свою меж вас еще оставив тень.
You will hear thunder (1961)
You will hear thunder and remember me,
And think: she wanted storms. The rim
Of the sky will be the colour of hard crimson,
And your heart, as it was then, will be on fire.
That day in Moscow, it will all come true,
When, for the last time, I take my leave,
And hasten to the heights that I have longed for,
Leaving my shadow still to be with you.
(Translated by D.M. Thomas)
If you want to know more about Anna Akhmatova…
Anna Andreevna Akhmatova (Gorenko) was born in Odessa in 1889. When her father found out about her interest in poetry, he told her not to shame the family name by becoming a “decadent poetess”. He forced her to take a pseudonym, and she chose the last name of her maternal great-grandmother. When she was 21 she joined a group of St. Petersburg poets, the Acmeists. In 1910 she married Nikolai Gumilyov, the leader of the group. Their son, Lev, was born in 1912; in the same year she published “Evening” and became a cult figure among the intelligentsia and part of the literary scene in St. Petersburg.
Akhmatova’s main theme was frustrated and tragic love but following the Revolution of 1917 and World War I, she added civic, patriotic and religious motifs.
In 1918, Akhmatova and Gumilyov divorced. The latter was executed in 1921 , accused of participating in an anti-soviet conspiracy; as a result, it was very difficult for Akhmatova to find a publisher. Since she didn’t conform the requirements of Soviet literature, none of her poetry appeared in the Soviet Union until 1940.
The 1930s were especially hard for Akhmatova. Her son Lev and her third husband Nikolay Punin were arrested for political deviance in 1935. Both were soon released, but her son was arrested again in 1938 and condemned to the Gulag for 5 years.
In 1946 Akhmatova was expelled from the Union of Soviet Writers, in 1949 her son was arrested again and exiled to Siberia.
Only in the last years of her life, during Khrushchev’s Thaw, Akhmatova was officially rehabilitated. She died in 1966. Following her death, she was recognized as the greatest female poet in Russian literature.
Last but not least! Not only those who love poetry, but also those who like history will find Anna Akhmatova’s museum very interesting, since she experienced both pre-revolutionary and Soviet Russia. You can find the museum at Liteiny Prospekt, 53, St. Petersburg (metro station Vladimirskaya/Dostoevskaya or Mayakovskaya). It will be worth it!