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by Anna Akhmatova

translated from the Russian by Judith Hemschemeyer

And now you are depressed and despondent,
Renouncing fame and your dreams,
But for me you are irremediably dear,
And the darker you become, the more touching.

You drink wine, your nights are impure,
You don’t know reality from dream,
But your green eyes are tormented —
It’s clear that wine hasn’t brought you peace.

And your heart asks only for a quicker death,
Cursing the sluggishness of fate,
More and more often the west wind carries
Your reproaches and your pleas.

But could I really go back to you?
Under the pale sky of my native land,
I only know how to remember and sing,
But you don’t dare remember me.

So the days go by, and sorrows multiply,
How can I pray to the Lord for you?
You’ve guessed: my love is such
That even you can’t make it die.

July 22, 1917


Anna Akhmatova was born Anna Gorenko into an upper-class family in Odessa, Ukraine, in 1889. Although frequently confronted with official goverment opposition to her work during her lifetime, she was deeply loved and lauded by the Russian people, in part because she did not abandon her country during difficult political times. She died in Leningrad, where she had spent most of her life, in 1966.

Judith Hemschemeyer’s translations of Anna Akhmatova will be brought out by Zephyr Press this spring. (1990)

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