Leningrad, March 1941 (Ленинград в марте 1941 года), Anna Akhmatova

(photo by Ian Mac Eochagáin)
(photo by Ian Mac Eochagáin)

Akhmatova’s title supplies menace to the atmosphere: March 1941 was just before the siege of Leningrad began. Somehow, Akhmatova feels, the city’s grip upon her will save her.

It was impossible to keep “at the Menshikov Palace” (“на Меньшиковом доме“) and retain the metre; and Akhmatova’s use of “cardan solaire” for “sundial” is perhaps a reflection of the lingering hold of French among the educated classes of Leningrad that would be lost in duplication.

The sundial traces passing time in shadow.
And through the waves there cuts a passing ship.
And I know nothing better than this tableau –
The sheen of spires, the gleam of waters’ grip!
Lane narrows like a slit as it grows darker.
The sparrows perch upon the trolley wires.
My salty-savoured walks become my marker –
And thus it is no tragedy transpires.

:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Cardan solaire на Меньшиковом доме.
Подняв волну, проходит пароход.
О, есть ли что на свете мне знакомей,
Чем шпилей блеск и отблеск этих вод!
Как щелочка, чернеет переулок.
Садятся воробьи на провода.
У наизусть затверженных прогулок
Соленый привкус — тоже не беда.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

 

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