In the Evening, Anna Akhmatova

lingua fennica

Anna Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) was unusual for a poet of the Silver Age in surviving to old age. But her life was full of tragedy. Her first husband, the poet Nikolai Gumilev, was executed in 1921; their son, Lev, spent years in the Gulag, where her lover, Nikolai Punin, perished. Her greatest poem, Requiem, describes these experiences in agonising detail. This early poem, from 1913, is lighter, describing the young Akhmatova’s early flirtations, presumably with Gumilev.

I have been hesitant to tackle this greatest of twentieth century Russian poets. I have again striven to stick with her metre and rhyme scheme – with the resulting – and perhaps desperate – “hooked on/Me”, and the native Londoner’s slip in rhyming “smother” with “lover”. Sometimes metre requires additions in translation – there’s no “scraping” in the original, for example, but at least the onomatopoeia reflects “скрипок”. For comparison, here’s a translation that makes no…

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