Anna Akhmatova
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308 Russian Anna Akhmatova (1889–1966) Under the Icon Under the icon, a threadbare rug, It’s dark in the chilly room. The wide window is overgrown With ivy, thick, dark-green. A sweet scent streams from the roses; The icon lamp creaks, barely aglow. Here are the chests, gaily painted By the craftsman’s loving hand. Near the window, the white lace frame . . . Your profile is delicate, severe. Under your shawl you conceal, ashamed, The fingers he has kissed. Your heart began to beat so wildly; It’s full of anguish now . . . And in your dishevelled braids Lurks a trace of tobacco smell. Kiev, The ancient city, as though deserted . . . My arrival is strange. Over its river Vladimir raised A black cross. Dark are the rustling lime trees, And the elms along the gardens, And the diamond needles of the stars Are lifted out toward God. Anna Akhmatova 309  Here I will finish my journey, My path of sacrifice and glory, And with me only you, My equal, my love. For Us to Lose Freshness For us to lose freshness of words and simplicity of feeling, Isn’t it the same as for a painter to lose his sight? Or an actor, his voice and the use of his body? Or a beautiful woman, her beauty? But it’s useless to try to save This heaven-sent gift for yourself. We are condemned—and we know this ourselves— Not to hoard it, but to give it away. Walk alone and heal the blind, That you may know in the heavy hour of doubt, The gloating mockery of your disciples, The indifference of the crowd. Ah! You’ve Come Back Ah! You’ve come back. You’ve come into this house And the look you give me is not the look Of an enamoured youth, but of a man, A daring, stern, inflexible man. My soul is frightened by the lull before the storm. You ask me what I’ve done with you, Forever entrusted to me by love and by fate. I have betrayed you. And to have to repeat— Oh, if only you’d get tired! This is how a dead man speaks, Disturbing the sleep of his murderer. 310 Russian This is how the Angel of Death waits by the bed. Forgive me now. The Lord has taught us to forgive. My flesh is tormented by sorrow and pain And my spirit, freed, already sleeps, serene. I remember only the garden, Tender, autumnal, so easy to walk through, The black of the fields, the cry of the cranes . . . Oh, how sweet was the earth for me with you! The Twenty-First The twenty-first. Night. Monday. The outlines of the capital are dim. Some idler invented the idea That there’s something in the world called love. And from laziness or boredom Everyone believed it and began to live As if it were so: they wait for meetings, Fear partings and sing the songs of love. But the secret, revealed, will be different, And a hush will fall on them all . . . I stumbled on this by accident And since then have been somehow unwell. Judith Hemschemeyer, 1982 From Rosary 1913 We will not drink out of one single cup, Neither water nor a sweet champagne, Nor kiss by morning as the sun comes up, Nor look by evening through one windowpane. Anna Akhmatova 311  I breathe by moonlight, you breathe by the sun, But we are living only to love one. My fond, true friend is with me every day, And with you always is your merry friend. But clear to me is fear in eyes of gray, And you are the culprit in my discontent. Our brief encounters we do not repeat, Thus it is judged for us to rest in peace. In your voice only are my verses read, And in your poetry, my own voice lingers. O, there is the fire against which neither dread Nor oblivion dares to lift a finger, And if you only knew how I love now The rosiness and dryness of your mouth! As One Falls Ill Spring 1922 As one falls ill, delirious and burning With fever, I again meet everyone Walking through the wide allée, and turning Through seaside gardens filled with wind and sun. These days, I welcome in my home the exiled, Agreeable would be a very corpse. Hand in hand, bring to me the child Whom, long ago, I found to be a...