Friday, March 14, 2014

Wishing For Roses

—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)

The just man followed then his angel guide
Where he strode on the black highway, hulking and bright;
But a wild grief in his wife's bosom cried,
Look back, it is not too late for a last night

Of the red towers of your native Sodom, the square
Where once you sang, the gardens you shall mourn,
And the toll house with empty windows where
You loved your husband and your babes were born.

She turned, and looking on the bitter view
Her eyes were welded shut by mortal pain;
Into transparent salt her body grew,
And her quick feet were rooted in the plain.

Who would waste tears upon her? Is she not
The least of our losses, this unhappy wife?
Yet in my heart she will not be forgot
Who, for a single glance, gave up her life.

(trans. from the Russian by Richard Wilbur)


—Anna Akhmatova

Wishing for roses, I walk through the garden
Where the world's reddest rose leans from a wall.

Where the statues still remember me as a girl.
And I recall their gestures under the Neva's water.

In that expanding silence, among the tsarist lindens,
I mistake a ship's mast for a violin.

And the swan keeps swimming across the years,
Deeply in love with his disturbing double.

And death-deep is the sleep of the hundred
Thousand marches of enemies and friends,

And a procession of shadows moves without end
From the granite vase to the portals of the palace.

There I hear my white nights of whispering of
A transcendent, secret love.

And the garden burns in pearl and jasper,
But the source of light is hidden in the leaves.

(trans. by Stephen Stepanchev)

—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Anna Akhmatova

As if somebody ordered it
the city suddenly became bright—
it came into every court
in a white, light apparition.
Their breathing is more understandable than words,
in the burning blue sky
their reflection is doomed
to lie at the bottom of the ditch.
I will remember the roof of stars
in the radiance of eternal glory,
and the small rolls of bread
in the yound hands
of dark-haired mothers.

(trans. by Richard McKane)


How can you look at the Neva,
how can you stand on the bridges? . . .
No wonder people think I grieve;
his image will not let me go.
Black angels' wings can cut one down,
I count the days till Judgment Day.
The streets are stained with lurid fires,
bonfires of roses in the snow.

—Anna Akhmatova
(trans. by Stanley Kunitz with Max Hayward)


Today's LittleNip:

He loved three things in life:
singing at vespers, white peacocks,
and worn-out maps of America.
He did not love tea with raspberries,
or feminine hysteria.
. . . And I was his wife.

—Anna Akhmatova
(trans. by Barbara Einzig)



—Photo by Cynthia Linville