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Zapad klevetal i sam zhe veril… (Запад клеветал и сам же верил...)

Original Text

Запад клеветал и сам же верил,

И роскошно предавал Восток,

Юг мне воздух очень скупо мерял,

Усмехаясь из-за бойких строк.

Но стоял как на коленях клевер,

Влажный ветер пел в жемчужный рог,

Так мой старый друг, мой верный Север

Утешал меня, как только мог.

В душной изнывала я истоме,

Задыхалась в смраде и крови,

Не могла я больше в этом доме...

Вот когда железная Суоми

Молвила: "Ты все узнаешь, кроме

Радости. А ничего, живи!"

 

30 июня 1963 Комарово

English

The slandering West believed its own lies

Translated by Alistair Noon

 

The slandering West believed its own lies,

and the East was lavish with betrayal;

as it measured out air, the South was a miser,

and mocked me behind its witty statements.

But the sea wind sang through its pearly horn,

and there on its knees, the clover remained;

faithful it was, my old friend, the North,

and gave, as only it could, consolation.

I was longing away, and stifled, exhausted,

gasping, surrounded by blood and stink,

in a house I couldn't stand one instant more.

And then the iron figure of Finland

uttered its prayer: “You'll get to see it all,

except joy. So what. Life is the thing.”

 

30 June 1963 Komarovo

  • Country in which the text is set
    Russia
  • Featured locations

    Ленинград (Leningrad, Petrograd, Saint Petersburg)

  • Impact

    This poem written in Komarovo in 1964 is a symbolic homage to the North as compared to the East, the South and the West, which all betrayed Akhmatova the poet in different ways. By the North she means the village of Komarovo situated 44 kilometers north of Leningrad where she found her last home after being forced to leave her apartment in Fountain House. She writes that the very air in Fountain House has become suffocating and that she could not stay there any longer tortured by the blood and stench of the past. It is finally “the Iron Soumi” who let her in (the village of Komarovo was a part of Finland before 1940) and give her the chance to live although without promising her any joy.

    Anna Akhmatova is considered one of the most important Russian poets of the twentieth century. Her significance is also based on her role as the poet who experienced the fate and history of Saint-Petersburg-Petrograd-Leningrad as it unfolded during the twentieth century in all its tragedy and all its glory. Even during the harshest years of Soviet history when publication of her work was banned, she retained her reputation as a master stylist and a truly original poetic voice.

    Akhmatova’s verse has been translated into all European languages. The poet she most admired was Pushkin. Her oeuvre encompasses the tradition of the Russian (and St.Petersburg) poetry of the twentieth century (the Golden Age), to which she added new imagery and unsurpassed new depth, earning her the reputation of queen of the so-called Silver Age.

    She also absorbed currents from French poetry of the first two decades of the twentieth century and introduced them to Russia between the wars. The impact of her person and oeuvre during these decades is illustrated by the emergence of a whole group of young female poets who were called “podakhmatovkis”, e.g. those trying to compose verse like Anna the Great. Being a beautiful woman she enthralled the many talented men of her time, among them Amedeo Modigliani and Isaiah Berlin. Having spent the greater part of her life in the “Fountain House” in the center of Leningrad, she has become its legend and a symbol of the spirit of freedom that refused to bow before the horrors of the Stalinist age. Though many of her loved ones were sent to prisons and labor camps she refused to consider emigrating to the West. In the 1960s Akhmatova was granted the title of the Honorary Doctor by Oxford University and was given permission to go to England for the ceremony.

  • Balticness

    Akhmatova lived the major part of her life in Saint Petersburg (Petrograd, Leningrad) and became the city’s poet. However, she spent the last 10 years of her life in a little cottage in the Finnish village of Komarovo (Finnish name Kellomäki) by the shore of the Gulf of Finland. She devoted a great deal of her later lyrical verse to the humble beauty of this landscape. Her Komarovo cottage became something of a literary Mecca, and its visitors included Andrey Voznesensky, Joseph Brodsky and many other young poets, all of them seeking her opinion and approval. Akhmatova is buried in the Komarovo cemetery and the little town remains famous throughout the world because of her association with it.

    Polina Lisovskaya

  • Bibliographic information

    All seven poems are parts of different collections and for the most part were published long after they were written, either posthumously or after the advent of Perestroika.

  • Year of first publication
    1950s–1990s
  • Place of first publication
    Moscow, Leningrad