The Return (Возращение), Nikolai Gumilev

nikolai-gumilev 2

Gumilev dedicated this poem to his wife, Anna Akhmatova, in 1912. He was a leader of the Acmeist “Guild of Poets” (to which Akhmatova belonged), which famously met at The Stray Dog Café in St Petersburg. Gumilev’s style is narrative and direct – which is not to say that his poems lack a cryptic depth…

To Anna Akhmatova

With all asleep I from the house departed,
In bushes by the ditch was guide concealed.
Perhaps when morning came a search you started,
You were too late, for we were in the field.

My guide was sallow, skeletal, bent over,
Oh, how I loved him – I was out of mind!
He hid his scythe beneath his mantle’s cover.
With adder’s glinting eyes he watched and whined.

About the strange and aged he was whining,
Unfeeling ones and those who never die,
It sounded in my head like bells were chiming,
It plunged me into stupor, brought a sigh.

We saw the mountains, woods and waters gushing,
In others’ carts upon the steppe we slept,
At times it seemed to us the years were rushing,
At times it seemed that but a day had crept.

At wall of China when we were arriving,
My guide as follows took his leave of me:
“We’ve different paths, for sacred you are striving,
My only task’s to sow my rice and tea.”

On cloudy hill, above a tea plantation,
In mean pagoda Buddha sat in prayer.
I bowed to him in secretive elation.
I’ve never known such sweetness as was there.

He softly over world in need of healing
With adder’s glinting eyes did sing and sing
About the aged, strange and those unfeeling,
Undying ones – and glittering air took wing.


Анне Ахматовой

Я из дому вышел, когда все спали,
Мой спутник скрывался у рва в кустах,
Наверно, наутро меня искали,
Но было поздно, мы шли в полях.

Мой спутник был желтый, худой, раскосый,
О, как я безумно его любил!
Под пестрой хламидой он прятал косу,
Глазами гадюки смотрел и ныл.

О старом, о странном, о безбольном,
О вечном слагалось его нытье,
Звучало мне звоном колокольным,
Ввергало в истому, в забытье.

Мы видели горы, лес и воды,
Мы спали в кибитках чужих равнин,
Порою казалось – идем мы годы,
Казалось порою – лишь день один.

Когда ж мы достигли стены Китая,
Мой спутник сказал мне: “Теперь прощай.
Нам разны дороги: твоя – святая,
А мне, мне сеять мой рис и чай”.

На белом пригорке, над полем чайным,
У пагоды ветхой сидел Будда.
Пред ним я склонился в восторге тайном.
И было сладко, как никогда.

Так тихо, так тихо над миром дольным,
С глазами гадюки, он пел и пел
О старом, о странном, о безбольном,
О вечном, и воздух вокруг светлел.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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