Reading Hamlet


The graveyard, wasteland, then the shore,

Where the river shines cool and blue.

You told me: “Get thee to a nunnery or

Find a fool to marry you…”

That’s the sort of thing princes say, I know,

But I’ll never forget this one, –

Like an ermine mantle let your words shine and flow

For many years, and on, and on.

1909 Kiev


As if by mistake, beguiled,

I used the familiar “You…”

A flashing shadow of a smile

Lit up your face anew.

When one blunders so absurdly,

Gazes will alight…

Still I love you, like some forty

Tender sisters might.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

Two Poems


The pillow is already hot

On both its sides.

The second candle’s at

Its end, and ravens’ cries

Are now resounding near.

I didn’t sleep this night,

Too late for sleep I fear,

Oh, how unbearably white

Is this curtain here.



The same voice and gaze aglow,

That same flaxen hair.

As it was a year ago.

Light-rays streaming through the air

Colors on white walls bestow…

Fragrances of lilies flow

And the simple words you share
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

To the beam of light I pray

To the beam of light I pray –

Straight, thin and pale, and suspended,

I’m silent since the break of day,

My heart – is all fragmented.

My washstand’s copper is all green

And yet the playing light

Makes it a wonder to be seen,

A pleasure to my sight.

It’s plain and innocent and bold,

In setting sun’s tranquility,

But in this temple, bare and cold,

As though a holiday of gold,

A comfort unto me.
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

Three times she tortured me like this

Three times she tortured me like this.

I awoke with an anguished moan

And saw her thin pale hands

And mouth, scathing and black.

“Who were you kissing at dawn,

As you swore that you’d die if it ends,

And hiding your burning bliss,

Sobbed by the gate near the shack?

You walked him to death’s abyss,

He will die soon, and never come back.”

A falcon’s cry that rang so tensely,

That voice was strangely like another.

My body was wringing in pain,

With a chill that comes as you die.

And the spider web, woven so densely,

Fell down on the bed like a cover…

Oh, you weren’t laughing in vain,

My unforgiven merciless lie!
Anna Akhmatova
Read in English and Russian

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
Read in English and Russian

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
Read in English and Russian


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
Read in English and Russian

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
Read in English and Russian

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
Read in English and Russian