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Anna Akhmatova: a leading light of modern Russian poetry

Author of Requiem, which highlighted the persecution and oppression of Russians under Soviet rule.

  • Memory of Sun
  • Memory of sun seeps from the heart. 
  • Grass grows yellower. 
  • Faintly if at all the early snowflakes 
  • Hover, hover. 
  • Water becoming ice is slowing in 
  • The narrow channels. 
  • Nothing at all will happen here again, 
  • Will ever happen. 
  • Against the sky the willow spreads a fan 
  • The silk’s torn off. 
  • Maybe it’s better I did not become 
  • Your wife. 
  • Memory of sun seeps from the heart. 
  • What is it? — Dark? 
  • Perhaps! Winter will have occupied us 
  • In the night.
  • March Elegy
  • I have enough treasures from the past 
  • to last me longer than I need, or want. 
  • You know as well as I . . . malevolent memory 
  • won’t let go of half of them:
  • a modest church, with its gold cupola 
  • slightly askew; a harsh chorus 
  • of crows; the whistle of a train; 
  • a birch tree haggard in a field 
  • as if it had just been sprung from jail; 
  • a secret midnight conclave 
  • of monumental Bible-oaks; 
  • and a tiny rowboat that comes drifting out 
  • of somebody’s dreams, slowly foundering. 
  • Winter has already loitered here, 
  • lightly powdering these fields, 
  • casting an impenetrable haze 
  • that fills the world as far as the horizon. 
  • I used to think that after we are gone 
  • there’s nothing, simply nothing at all. 
  • Then who’s that wandering by the porch 
  • again and calling us by name? 
  • Whose face is pressed against the frosted pane? 
  • What hand out there is waving like a branch? 
  • By way of reply, in that cobwebbed corner 
  • a sunstruck tatter dances in the mirror.
  • Sunbeam
  • I pray to the sunbeam from the window - 
  • It is pale, thin, straight. 
  • Since morning I have been silent, 
  • And my heart — is split. 
  • The copper on my washstand 
  • Has turned green, 
  • But the sunbeam plays on it 
  • So charmingly. 
  • How innocent it is, and simple, 
  • In the evening calm, 
  • But to me in this deserted temple 
  • It’s like a golden celebration, 
  • And a consolation.
Anna Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) was a Russian poet and a leading light of modern Russian poetry of the 20th century. Condemned and censored by the Stalinist regime, her poetry was outspoken in its criticism of Soviet totalitarianism. She wrote many short lyrics and also a longer cycle of poems, Requiem, which highlighted the persecution and oppression of Russians under Soviet rule. While she had an opportunity to flee her native country, Akhmatova chose to stay as a witness to the tyranny under which she and her fellow countrymen suffered. Her first husband, fellow poet Nikolay Gumilyov (1886-1921), was executed by the Soviet secret police, and her son and second husband were exiled to the Gulag work camps. In the 1960s, her reputation was resuscitated and she was allowed to travel more freely, thereby affording the West greater access to her work. Her poems and life both stand as a testament to all nations which seek the easy path of state control over human freedom, groupthink and fake news over conscience and the truth.

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  • Memory of Sun
  • Memory of sun seeps from the heart. 
  • Grass grows yellower. 
  • Faintly if at all the early snowflakes 
  • Hover, hover. 
  • Water becoming ice is slowing in 
  • The narrow channels. 
  • Nothing at all will happen here again, 
  • Will ever happen. 
  • Against the sky the willow spreads a fan 
  • The silk’s torn off. 
  • Maybe it’s better I did not become 
  • Your wife. 
  • Memory of sun seeps from the heart. 
  • What is it? — Dark? 
  • Perhaps! Winter will have occupied us 
  • In the night.
  • March Elegy
  • I have enough treasures from the past 
  • to last me longer than I need, or want. 
  • You know as well as I . . . malevolent memory 
  • won’t let go of half of them:
  • a modest church, with its gold cupola 
  • slightly askew; a harsh chorus 
  • of crows; the whistle of a train; 
  • a birch tree haggard in a field 
  • as if it had just been sprung from jail; 
  • a secret midnight conclave 
  • of monumental Bible-oaks; 
  • and a tiny rowboat that comes drifting out 
  • of somebody’s dreams, slowly foundering. 
  • Winter has already loitered here, 
  • lightly powdering these fields, 
  • casting an impenetrable haze 
  • that fills the world as far as the horizon. 
  • I used to think that after we are gone 
  • there’s nothing, simply nothing at all. 
  • Then who’s that wandering by the porch 
  • again and calling us by name? 
  • Whose face is pressed against the frosted pane? 
  • What hand out there is waving like a branch? 
  • By way of reply, in that cobwebbed corner 
  • a sunstruck tatter dances in the mirror.
  • Sunbeam
  • I pray to the sunbeam from the window - 
  • It is pale, thin, straight. 
  • Since morning I have been silent, 
  • And my heart — is split. 
  • The copper on my washstand 
  • Has turned green, 
  • But the sunbeam plays on it 
  • So charmingly. 
  • How innocent it is, and simple, 
  • In the evening calm, 
  • But to me in this deserted temple 
  • It’s like a golden celebration, 
  • And a consolation.
Anna Akhmatova

Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) was a Russian poet and a leading light of modern Russian poetry of the 20th century. Condemned and censored by the Stalinist regime, her poetry was outspoken in its criticism of Soviet totalitarianism. She wrote many short lyrics and also a longer cycle of poems, Requiem, which highlighted the persecution and oppression of Russians under Soviet rule. While she had an opportunity to flee her native country, Akhmatova chose to stay as a witness to the tyranny under which she and her fellow countrymen suffered. Her first husband, fellow poet Nikolay Gumilyov (1886-1921), was executed by the Soviet secret police, and her son and second husband were exiled to the Gulag work camps. In the 1960s, her reputation was resuscitated and she was allowed to travel more freely, thereby affording the West greater access to her work. Her poems and life both stand as a testament to all nations which seek the easy path of state control over human freedom, groupthink and fake news over conscience and the truth.

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