Anna Akhmatova

Another poet who knocked me down, even when translated! Now that I check wikipedia, I come to know that Anna Akhmatova was “the leader and the heart and soul of St Petersburg tradition of Russian poetry in the course of half a century…” Goes to show again that I am a novice when it comes to poetry.

Her biography on wikipedia is very interesting in itself…

During the whole period from 1925 to 1952, Akhmatova was effectively silenced, unable to publish poetry. She earned her living by translating Leopardi and publishing some brilliant essays on Pushkin in scholarly periodicals. All of her friends either emigrated or were repressed.Upon learning about Isaiah Berlin’s visit to Akhmatova in 1946, Stalin’s associate Andrei Zhdanov publicly labelled her “half harlot, half nun”, and had her poems banned from publication. Her son spent his youth in Stalinist gulags, and she even resorted to publishing several poems in praise of Stalin to secure his release. Their relations remained strained, however.

Anyways, back to poetry: Here is one short poem that speaks so much in so few a words…

One Goes In Straightforward WaysOne goes in straightforward ways,
One in a circle roams:
Waits for a girl of his gone days,
Or for returning home.

But I do go — and woe is there —
By a way nor straight, nor broad,
But into never and nowhere,
Like trains — off the railroad.

And then this:

And As It’s Going…And as it’s going often at love’s breaking,
The ghost of first days came again to us,
The silver willow through window then stretched in,
The silver beauty of her gentle branches.
The bird began to sing the song of light and pleasure
To us, who fears to lift looks from the earth,
Who are so lofty, bitter and intense,
About days when we were saved together.

But the most poignant, is her Reqieum, which I had missed in my first scan, but the wikipedia entry made me seach for it.

RequiemFor some one, somewhere, a fresh wind blows,
For some one, somewhere, wakes up a dawn –
We don’t know, we’re the same here always…

[This reminded me of a Marathi poem written by a (so called) Dalit (or untouchable) poet (I have now forgotten the name), which says:

kaalcha paus aamchya gaawat aalach naahi
aamhi sadarhu pike aaswaanwarach kaadhali

Loosely translated this means: it didn’t rain in our parts yesterday (where yesterday isn’t just a day before, but years and years), we watered (irrigated is too technical) the fields with our tears.

Of course that’s in a very different context, but couldn’t go on without mentioning it]

In this time, just a dead could half-manage
A weak smile – with the peaceful state glad.

I’m lost for Words, but then I’ve found the poetry of Anna Akhmatova…


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