Northern Elegies Ė The Fifth



I, like a river,

Have been turned aside by this harsh age.

I am a substitute. My life has flowed

Into another channel

And I do not recognise my shores.

O, how many fine sights I have missed,

How many curtains have risen without me

And fallen too. How many of my friends

I have not met even once in my life,

How many city skylines

Could have drawn tears from my eyes,

I who know only the one city

And by touch, in my sleep, I could find it ...

And how many poems I have not written,

Whose secret chorus sweils around my head

And possibly one day

Will stifle me ...

I know the beginnings and the ends of things,

And life after the end, and something

It isnít necessary to remember now.

And another woman has usurped

The place that ought to have been mine,

And bears my rightful name,

Leaving me a nickname, with which Iíve done,

I like to think, all that was possible.

But I, alas, wonít lie in my own grave.


But sometimes a madcap air in spring,

Or a combination of words in a chance book

Or somebodyís smile, suddenly

Draws me into that non-existent life.

In such a year would such have taken place,

Something else in another: travelling, seeing,

Thinking, remembering, entering a new love

Like entering a mirror, with a dull sense

Of treason, and a wrinkle that only yesterday

Was absent ...

But if, from that life, I could step aside,

And see my life such as it is, today,

Then at last Iíd know what envy means ...


Anna Akhmatova††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††

(Northern Elegies, Leningrad, 1944)†††††