Aug 062017
 
See how the orient dew,
Shed from the bosom of the morn
   Into the blowing roses,
Yet careless of its mansion new,
For the clear region where ’twas born
   Round in itself incloses:
   And in its little globe’s extent,
Frames as it can its native element.
   How it the purple flow’r does slight,
      Scarce touching where it lies,
   But gazing back upon the skies,
      Shines with a mournful light,
         Like its own tear,
Because so long divided from the sphere.
   Restless it rolls and unsecure,
      Trembling lest it grow impure,
   Till the warm sun pity its pain,
And to the skies exhale it back again.
      So the soul, that drop, that ray
Of the clear fountain of eternal day,
Could it within the human flow’r be seen,
      Remembering still its former height,
      Shuns the sweet leaves and blossoms green,
      And recollecting its own light,
Does, in its pure and circling thoughts, express
The greater heaven in an heaven less.
      In how coy a figure wound,
      Every way it turns away:
      So the world excluding round,
      Yet receiving in the day,
      Dark beneath, but bright above,
      Here disdaining, there in love.
   How loose and easy hence to go,
   How girt and ready to ascend,
   Moving but on a point below,
   It all about does upwards bend.
Such did the manna’s sacred dew distill,
White and entire, though congealed and chill,
Congealed on earth : but does, dissolving, run
Into the glories of th’ almighty sun.
Jun 222017
 

The righteous man followed God’s luminous angels
And hurried after them over the hill.
But his wife heard an anxious voice that whispered:
“It isn’t too late, not yet; you can still

Look back at the towers of the town you came from,
At the street where you sang and the room where you spun,
At the empty windows of the house you cared for
And the bed where all your children were born.”

And of course she looked back. She felt a quick pang
And then everything ended. Her eyes closed
And her body dissolved into bitter crystals.
Her small feet stopped and grew into the ground.

No one seems to have mourned this woman;
She was only a minor event in the book.
But my heart holds fast to her memory:
A woman who gave up her life for a look.

 

The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems

(New York Review Books Classics)

Translated by Paul Schmidt.

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Jun 122017
 

Something miraculous burns in music;
as you watch, its edges crystallize.
Only music speaks to me
when others turn away their eyes.

When fearful friends abandoned me
music stayed, even at my grave,
and sang like earth’s first shower of rain
or flowers suddenly everywhere alive.

 

The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems

(New York Review Books Classics)

Translated by Paul Schmidt.

 Comments Off on Anna Akhmatova: Music (For Dmitri Shostakovich)
Jun 072017
 

First, plain speech in the mother tongue.
Hearing it you should be able to see,
As if in a flash of summer lightning,
Apple trees, a river, the bend of a road.

And it should contain more than images.
Singsong lured it into being,
Melody, a daydream. Defenseless,
It was bypassed by the dry, sharp world.

You often ask yourself why you feel shame
Whenever you look through a book of poems.
As if the author, for reasons unclear to you,
Addressed the worst side of your nature,
Pushing thought aside, cheating thought.

Poetry, seasoned with satire, clowning,
Jokes, still knows how to please.
Then its excellence is much admired.
But serious combat, where life is at stake,
Is fought in prose. It was not always so.

And our regret has remained unconfessed.
Novels and essays serve but will not last.
One clear stanza can take more weight
Than a whole wagon of elaborate prose.

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May 312017
 

All I want to do is
escape the madness here.
To rise into the light
where I can disappear.

Where you can be like light –
and happiness is mine! –
and learn from every star
what it means to shine.

All I want to say is,
the whispering you hear –
that’s the sound of light
I whisper in your ear.

The thing that makes us light
the thing that makes us shine
is that I whisper words
and that this voice is mine.

 

The Stray Dog Cabaret: A Book of Russian Poems

(New York Review Books Classics)

Translated by Paul Schmidt.

 

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