Over the water

Shepherd boy, out on the plain,

This craze will not subdue.

As I recall the cloak and cane

My agonies ensue.

If I rise, I’ll fall anew.

Little horn plays on: loo-loo!

As in a dream, we bade farewell,

I spoke: “I’ll wait for you.”

“We will meet again in hell,”

And laughing, he withdrew.

If I rise, I’ll fall anew.

Little horn plays on: loo-loo!

O deep water, all ablaze,

In the millpond, shining blue,

Not from sorrow – from disgrace,

I have come to you.

Silently, I’ll fall askew…

Distant horn plays on: loo-loo!
Anna Akhmatova
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The Garden

The ice has covered up the garden,

It sparkles and it cracks.

The one who left me is disheartened

But there’s no coming back.

The sun’s now waning face grows dim –

A window and no more,

I clandestinely know whose twin

Caressed it long ago.

All sense of peace is vanquished here

As signs of woe arise,

And footprints from last night appear

Out of the thinning ice.

The waning face bows to the ground

Over the sleeping plains,

And, in the silent sky, die down

The cries of trailing cranes.
Anna Akhmatova
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I am seeking a grave site that’s bright.

Can you help, I am tired and weary?

Open fields get so cold in the night.

Heaps of stones by the sea are so dreary.

She’s so used to the peace she knew prior,

And she loves the rays of the sun,

I will build a small hermitage by her,

As our home for the ages to come.

With two windows, a door in-between,

And an icon lamp always alight,

Like a dark heart, the icon will gleam

With a scarlet-red fire inside.

She was raving, you know, sick in bed,

Of some heavenly place in the blue,

But a monk, reproaching her, said:

“It was not made for sinners like you.”

It was then that she whispered to me,

Turning pale from pain: “Let us go.”

Now alone we are wandering free,

With our feet in the blue surf below.
Anna Akhmatova
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The park was filled with a light haze

The park was filled with a light haze,

At the gates, flames of gaslights arose,

I remembered only one gaze,

Still unknowing, calm and composed.

And your sorrow, hidden from others,

Drew me close and opened forthright,

And you saw just how much I was smothered

By the poisonous yearning inside.

How I treasure and honor that day,

I will come as soon as you call me.

Though I’m sinful and idling away,

You alone never chide me or scold me.
Anna Akhmatova
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Imitation of I. F. Annensky

And even with you we’ve parted,

My first fancy. The east grew blue.

“I will never forget you,” you uttered.

I could hardly suppose it was true.

Faces emerge and vanish again,

Dear today, but tomorrow - strange.

But what exactly caused me to bend

The corner to mark this page?

And, always, the book is opened

On this place. It’s too strange to grasp:

It’s as if, from our parting moment,

Not a year irretrievably passed.

He who said that a heart is of stone

Surely knew: it's a fiery sea...

I can't tell, were we close all along

Or were you just enamored with me?
Anna Akhmatova
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The smell of dark blue

The smell of dark blue grapes is sweet…

Intoxicating vastness calls.

Your voice is flat and downbeat.

I pity no one, not a soul.

The spiderwebs surround the berries,

Thin are the stems of supple vines,

The river’s bright blue water carries

The clouds of white like floes of ice.

The sun is bright. The sun is high.

Go tell the wave your pain’s abyss.

She’ll likely listen and reply,

And, maybe, even start to kiss.
Anna Akhmatova
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Inscription on an unfinished portrait

O, do not sigh about me, anxious,

This grief is criminal and vain,

Here, on the grayness of the canvas,

I have emerged so strange and vague.

With frenzy smiling in my eyes,

With flailing arms, the pain of fracture,

And I could not be otherwise

Before the bitter hour of rapture.

He wanted this, he ordered this

With words so dead and full of spite.

And crimson worry filled my lips,

And cheeks, like snow, were polished white.

But he is sinless, free of guilt,

He left, he’s gazing at new eyes,

But I don’t dream a thing, I wilt

In lethargy before demise.
Anna Akhmatova
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No letter came for me today

No letter came for me today:

Did he forget or go away thereafter,

The spring is like a trill of silver laughter

The boats are bobbing in the bay.

No letter came for me today…

He was with me not very long ago,

So much in love, so gentle and all mine,

But that was still the white of wintertime,

Now spring is here, with poison in its woe

He was with me not very long ago…

I hear: the fiddle bow is trembling and light,

It beats, it beats as if from deathly ache,

And I’m afraid now that my heart will break

And leave unfinished tender lines I write…
Anna Akhmatova
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He loved

He loved three things in this world:

Evensong, peacocks of white,

And old tattered maps of America.

He despised it when little kids bawled,

Hated tea with preserves, and disliked

Women acting hysterical.

… And I was his wife.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian