Adelaide Literary Magazine


ADELAIDE Independent Bimonthly Literary Magazine / Revista Literária Independente Bimensal, New York / Lisboa, Online Edition  









Translated by Don Mager








To Vera Ivanova-Shvarsalon

Mist lightly filled the park,
And a gaslight flared at the gate.
I only remember a certain look,
Eyes oblivious and sedate.

To others your sadness was not clear,
But right away attracted me,
And you discerned that some despair
Was choking and poisoning me.

I love this day’s pure indolence,
And will come to you if you call,
My waywardness and indolence,
You’ve not rebuked, nor will.

April 1911


Vera Ivanova-Shvarsalon (1890-1920) was an acquaintance of Akhmatova’s and 21 years old at the time of this poem.  Her mother, the novelist Lidiia Zinov’eva-Annibal, married to the poet Viacheslav Ivanov was recently deceased.  Vera’s father was from Lidiia’s first marriage.  In 1913 Vera became her stepfather’s third wife.    In later years Akhmatova referred to the family as incestuous.



Анны Ахматовой


Вера Ивановой-Шварсалон

Туманом легким парк наполнился,
И вспыхнул на воротах газ.
Мне только взгляд один запомнился
Незнающих, спокойных глаз.

Твоя печаль, для всех неявная,
Мне сразу сделалась близка,
И поняла ты, что отравная
И душная во мне тоска.

Я этот день люблю и праздную,
Приду, как только позовешь.
Меня, и грешную и праздную,
Лушь ты одна не упрекнешь.

Апрель 1911


Ахматова, Анна Андреевна.  Сование Сочнеий В Шести Томах. [Akhmatova, Anna Andreevna.  Complete Works in Six Volumes.]  Ed. T. A. Gorkova.  Moscow: Ellis-Lak [Эллис Лак], 1998-2005: 4, 319-320: 1, 66.







We are all tramps and floozies here,
Together how unhappy we are!
On the wall, flowers and birds
Continue to pine for clouds.

The pipe you puff is black,
Above you, an odd drift of smoke.
I slipped on a tight skirt,
It shows me off just right.

The windows are sealed.  That sound?
Frost?  Storm coming on?
Like unblinking cat eyes,
Peering out are your eyes.

O my anxious heart,
Is it death or time I wait?
But she who dances now will
Not fail to be in hell.


1 January 1913

In one of the poet’s most often cited early poems, the poet describes the very Petersburg cabaret, The Stray Dog, which was a popular gathering place for writers, musicians and social celebrities during the 1910s.  She often read her poems there.




  Анны Ахматовой


Вce  мы  бражники  здесы,  блудницы,

Как невесело вместе нам!
На стенах цветы и птицы 

Томятся  по облакам.

Ты  куришь черную трубку,
Так cтранен дымок над ней.
Я надела узкую юбку,
Чтоб казаться еще стройней.

Навсегда  забиты окошки:
Что  там, изморозь иль гроза?
На глаза  осторожной  кошки
Похожи твои глаза.

O, как сердце мое тоскует!

Не смертельного ль часа жду?
А та, что сейчас танцует,
Непременно будет в аду.


1 январа  1913 


Ахматова, Анна Андреевна.  Сование Сочнеий В Шести Томах. [Akhmatova, Anna Andreevna.  Complete Works in Six Volumes.]  Ed. T. A. Gorkova.  Moscow: Ellis-Lak [Эллис Лак], 1998-2005: 4, 319-320:1, 113.







I knew you were dreaming me
For I could not fall asleep.
From the dim blue lamp
My way revealed itself.

You saw the tsarina’s garden,
The ornamented white palace
And black wrought iron fences
Around deserted stone porches.

Not knowing the way, you went on
Assuming: “O, quick, quick,
If only I can find her,
For our meeting, no yet awake.”

And the guard at the red gate
Hailed to you: “Where to!”
The ice cracked and broke,
Black water underfoot.

“This is the lake,” you assumed.
“In the lake is a small island . . .”
And suddenly out of the dark
A small blue light showed itself.

In the harsh light of a meager day,
Waking up, you groaned
And identified me out loud
For the first time, by name.






Я знала, я снюсь тебе,
Отттого не могла заснуть.
Мутный фонарь голубел
И мне указывал путь.

Ты видел царицын сад,
Затейливый белый дворец
И черный узор оград
У каменных гулких крылец.

Ты шел, не зная пути,
И думал: «Скорей, скорей,
О, только б ее найти,
Не проснуться до встречи с ней».

А сторож у красных ворот
Окликнул тебя: «Куда!»
Хрустел и ломался лед,
Под ногой чкрнела вода.

«Это озеро,—думал ты,—
На озере есть островок . . .»
И вдруг из темноты
Поглядел голубой огонек.

В жестьком свете скудного дня
Проснувшись, ты застонал
И в первый раз меня
По имени громко назвал.



Ахматова, Анна Андреевна.  Сование Сочнеий В Шести Томах. [Akhmatova, Anna Andreevna.  Complete Works in Six Volumes.]  Ed. T. A. Gorkova.  Moscow: Ellis-Lak [Эллис Лак], 1998-2005: 1, 120-121)







"And Michal the daughter of Saul loved David,
And Saul said: I will give her to him, and she will be a snare."
Book of Kings

And the young lad plays for the mad king,
And he smites the pitilessness of night,
And he loudly hails the triumph of dawn,
And he stifles dread phantoms that lying in wait.
And the king with favor speaks to him:
“In you, youth, burns a wondrous flame,
And for such a medicine’s rare balm
I give both my daughter and my kingdom.”
At the singer, the king’s daughter looks down
She has need of neither singing nor crown,
In her soul is grief and resentment,
And yet, Michal wants—David.
Paler than death, her lips are clenched.
In her eyes, green, frenzy thrills and glints,
Garments are aglow, and harmony rings
On her wrist, with her every movement.
Like secret, like dream, like foremother Lilith!
Words are spoken deeper than her will:
“Most likely, they gave poison in my drink,
And disoriented my soul with darkness
My sauciness—now my shamefulness!
A vagrant, an upstart, a shepherd!
Not one of the grandees and courtiers,
Can compare, alas, to him!
And the sun’s beams . . . and the night’s stars . . .
And this trembling cold . . .”                                                                       


             The first and second books of Samuel are named Kings in the Russian Bible.  In the King James Version the verse is 1 Samuel 18:20-21.

             In ancient Semitic folklore, Lilith was a female demon that lived in desolate spaces; by the Middle Ages, in Jewish folklore, she became Adam’s first wife, therefore foremother, before God created Eve.  Her name in Hebrew and Assyrian means “of the night.”



Анна Ахматова

И возлюби Мелхола, дочь Саулова Давида,
И рече Саул: дам ему ю, и будет ему в соблазн.
Книга Царств

И отрок играет безумцу царю,
И ночь беспощадную рушит,
И громко победную кличет зарю,
И призраки ужаса душит.
И уарь благосклонно ему говорит:
«Огонь в тебе, юноша, дивный горит,
И я за такое лекарство
Отдам тебе дочку и царство».
А царская дочка глядит на певца,
Ей песен не нужно, не нужно венца,
В душе ее скоробь и обида,
Но хочет Мелхола—Давида.
Бледнее, чем мертвая, рот ее сжат.
В зеленых глазах исступленье,
Сияют одежды, и стройно звенят
Запястья при каждом движеньи.
Как тайна, как сон, как праматерь Лилит!
Не волей своею она говорит:
«Наверно, с отравой мне дали питье,
И мой помрачается дух,
Бесстыдство мое—униженье мое,
Бродяга, разбойник, пастух!
Зачем же никто из придворных вельмож,
Увы, на него не похож! . .
А солнца лучи . . .  а звезды в ночи . . .
А эта хоолодная дрожь . . .»



Ахматова, Анна Андреевна.  Сование Сочнеий В Шести Томах. [Akhmatova, Anna Andreevna.  Complete Works in Six Volumes.]  Ed. T. A. Gorkova.  Moscow: Ellis-Lak [Эллис Лак], 1998-2005: 4, 319-320:  6.446-7.






To the Poema

". . . And turn words back to music."

O. M<andelstam>

You grow, you flourish, you—take voice.
To new torments, I
Resurrected you—gave you to the enemy . . .
Eight thousand miles is no obstruction,
As if song resounded in the garden,
I can sense every sigh.
And I know—he can do the same,
Nor can I be indignant and chide him,
This bond is stronger than either of our wills,—
Neither of us is guilty of any charge,
We, the bloodless sacrifices—
I forgot, and he—forgot.

20 September 1960

             The line comes from Mandelstam’s “Silentium”(1910).  

             The poem is addressed to the poet’s masterpiece, the poema Poem Without A Hero—which underwent many revisions and additions over 20 years and was not published during her life.  The “he” would seem to be Mandelstam who had been dead some twenty years at this point.



". . . и слово в музыку вернись."

О. М <андельштам>

Ты растешь, ты цветешь, ты—в звуке.
Я тебя на новые муки
Воскресила—дала врагу . . .
Восемь тысяч миль не преграда,
Песня словно звучит из сада,
Каждый вздох проверить могу.
И я знаю—с ним ровно то же,
Мне его попрекать негоже,
Эта связь выше наших сил,—
Оба мы ни в чем не виновны,
Были наши жертвы бескровны—
Я забыла, и он—забыл.

20 сентября 1960



Ахматова, Анна Андреевна.  Сование Сочнеий В Шести Томах. [Akhmatova, Anna Andreevna.  Complete Works in Six Volumes.]  Ed. T. A. Gorkova.  Moscow: Ellis-Lak [Эллис Лак], 1998-2005: 42, 80.





About the Author:

Anna Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova’s early Acmeist poems were sensationally popular during the teens and 20s of the twentieth century. After the Bolshevik revolution her personal life and public career went from crisis to crisis. She was effectively barred from publishing. She continued to write “for the bottom of her chest” as she said. Her third husband and adult son were imprisoned and sent to Siberia during the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. Her great poem “Requiem” reflects this experience. It circulated among friends and later in samizdat, but was not published in the Soviet Union until the “thaw” in the 1950s. This was followed by a second long political poem “The Way of All the World.” In 1942 she began her long masterpiece Poem Without a Hero, which occupied her for much of the rest of her life. After Stalin’s death, she was gradually rehabilitated and her work was again widely published in the Soviet Union. In 1998 Ellis Lak Publishers began a comprehensive collected edition of her works including, drafts, sketches and variant. The eighth and final volume came out in 2005. It supersedes all previous editions both in the West and in Russia.


About translator:


Don Mager’s chapbooks and volumes of poetry are: To Track The Wounded One, Glosses, That Which Is Owed to Death, Borderings, Good Turns, The Elegance of the Ungraspable, Birth Daybook, Drive Time and Russian Riffs.  He is retired and was the Mott University Professor of English at Johnson C. Smith University where he also served as Dean of the College of Arts and Letters (2005-2011).  As well as a number of scholarly articles, he has published over 200 poems and translations from German, Czech and Russian.   He lives in Charlotte, NC with his partner of 36 years, Bill.
Us Four Plus Four is an anthology of translations from eight major Soviet-era Russian poets. It is unique because it tracks almost a half century of their careers by simply placing the poems each wrote to the others in chronological order. The 85 poems represent one of the most fascinating conversations in poems produced by any group of poets in any language or time period. From poems and infatuation and admiration to anger and grief and finally to deep tribute, this anthology invites readers into the unfolding lives of such inimitable creative forces as Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak, Marina Tsvetaeva and Osip Mandelstam.













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