‘Memory of sun fades in the heart’

‘Memory of sun fades in the heart’

Memory of sun fades in the heart.

Grass is less green.

Early snowflakes are fanned by the wind

Almost unseen.

Narrow canals now flow less freely –

Water thickens.

Oh nothing will ever happen here –

Nothing, ever!

On the empty sky a willow spreads

A fretted fan.

Maybe it’s better I did not become

Your wife.

Memory of sun fades in the heart.

What then? The gloom?

Perhaps! In the space of just one night

Winter can come.

 Transl. Peter France

One of Akhmatova’s earlier poems, one showing she was predisposed to gloominess even before the disasters that overtook her, the bourgeois class she belonged to and Russia as a whole. This poem evokes the point in the year (which is about now) when we become inured to the cold and darkness, and, giving up on the joys of summer, resign ourselves to winter. Of course it evokes much more than that – alluding to a point in the poet’s life at which such joy has become impossible (this is also alluded to in another Akhmatova poem I blogged about).

Apparently Akhmatova is very difficult to translate. Not speaking Russian, I can’t judge. D.M. Thomas has made some beautiful translations, whether they are faithful or not. This is a literal translation by Peter France, which may be plain, but sticks in the head I think, and the heart, gloomy as it is.

Next post, I’ll try and put something a bit cheerier up. No promises though.


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