In Memory of Sergei Yesenin (Памяти Сергея Есенина), Anna Akhmatova

There are some who think Yesenin was murdered, but it is generally accepted that he killed himself. However he died, he lived a chaotic life. Although Akhmatova’s life was tragic, she survived into old age, achieving the banal death that Yesenin, like his idol Pushkin, avoided. More than anything else, I think this poem is an expression of Akhmatova’s anger.

A death is often quite a simple business,
Without a thought or illness life can end.
But fate for Russian bard’s a fickle mistress –
To him a shining death she doesn’t send.

For flighty soul a bullet’s so much better
To prise the gates to heaven’s realm apart,
Or shrieking horror’s paw, without a fetter
To squeeze the vital force from sponge-like heart.


Так просто можно жизнь покинуть эту,
Бездумно и безбольно догореть.
Но не дано Российскому поэту
Такою светлой смертью умереть.

Всего верней свинец душе крылатой
Небесные откроет рубежи,
Иль хриплый ужас лапою косматой
Из сердца, как из губки, выжмет жизнь.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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