She (Она), Nikolai Gumilev

Gumilev with Akhmatova and their son, Lev, 1916
Gumilev with Akhmatova and their son, Lev, 1916

Gumilev, a poet who died too soon at the hands of the Cheka, writes of his love for the woman who suffered too long from their successors’ predations.

I know a woman, silence keeping,
Exhausted bitterly by words,
Her mystery shines in blinking, peeping
Dilated pupils’ darting birds.

Her greedy soul devours only
The copper music of her verse,
She gangling stands, aloof and lonely,
When life confronts, she’s deaf and terse.

Her steps don’t hurry – they are soundless
And gently flowing, strangely coy –
To call her gorgeous would be groundless,
And yet she carries all my joy.

And when I’m tempted to be wilful
Or bold or proud, to her I turn,
To wisdom that’s so sweet and skilful
Her languid craze I gladly learn.

She lights up all my hours of longing
And clasps the lightning in her hand,
Like shadows, clear, her dreams are thronging
Upon the heavens’ fiery strand.


Я знаю женщину: молчанье,
Усталость горькая от слов,
Живет в таинственном мерцанье
Ее расширенных зрачков.

Ее душа открыта жадно
Лишь медной музыке стиха,
Пред жизнью, дольней и отрадной
Высокомерна и глуха.

Неслышный и неторопливый,
Так странно плавен шаг ее,
Назвать нельзя ее красивой,
Но в ней все счастие мое.

Когда я жажду своеволий
И смел и горд – я к ней иду
Учиться мудрой сладкой боли
В ее истоме и бреду.

Она светла в часы томлений
И держит молнии в руке,
И четки сны ее, как тени
На райском огненном песке.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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