Russian poem

LevitanAnna Akhmatova never left Russia, although she had a difficult life here–persecuted, unpublished, her family and friends always at risk. Here’s an Akhmatova poem that seems to me to speak to her choice to stay. We saw this painting of her today, by Isaac Levitan, at the Russian Museum.

Lot’s Wife

And God’s luminous messenger, larger than life,
led the one righteous man along the black mountain.
But regret cried out to his wife:
“It’s not too late, you can still catch a glimpse
of Sodom, the red rooftops of home,
the square where you sang, the yard where you spun,
the tall house, its windows abandoned—
the house where your sons and daughters were born.”

She looked back—a sudden arc of pain
stripped her eyes of sight,
fused her feet to the ground—
her flesh became transparent salt.

Who will mourn this nameless woman?
She seems the least of all we lack.
Yet I, for one, can never forget
how she gave her life for one look back.

Anna Akhmatova, 1924

Лотова жена

И праведник шел за посланником бога,
Огромный и светлый, по черной горе.
Но громко жене говорила тревога:
Не поздно, ты можешь еще посмотреть
На красные башни родного Содома,
На площадь, где пела, на двор, где пряла,
На окна пустые высокого дома,
Где милому мужу детей родила.

Взглянула – и, скованы смертною болью,
Глаза ее больше смотреть не могли;
И сделалось тело прозрачною солью,
И быстрые ноги к земле приросли.

Кто женщину эту оплакивать будет?
Не меньшей ли мнится она из утрат?
Лишь сердце мое никогда не забудет
Отдавшую жизнь за единственный взгляд.

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4 Responses to Russian poem

  1. Simone Treacy-Croft says:

    That is such a lovely poem. I like her portrait, with her bangs and that poetic nose.

    • Meryl says:

      Yes, Isacc Levitan’s work was among the most interesting in the Russian Museum. And of course, Akhmatova was a much painted subject. Her beauty was said to be captivating.

  2. Tung says:

    Really enjoying armchair travelling with you. This is a wonderful poem. Is this one of your translations?

  3. Meryl says:

    Yes, it is, Tung. I’m glad you’re enjoying the travelogue.

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