“He said that no one could with me compare” (“Сказал, что у меня соперниц нет”), Anna Akhmatova

Portrait by Nathan Altman of Anna Akhmatova, 1914 © 1999. George Mitrevski. Auburn University -- from web page on Russian Art at http://www.auburn.edu/academic/liberal_arts/foreign/russian/art/altman-akhmatova.html
Portrait by Nathan Altman of Anna Akhmatova, 1914 © 1999. George Mitrevski. Auburn University — from web page on Russian Art at http://www.auburn.edu/academic/liberal_arts/foreign/russian/art/altman-akhmatova.html

I have a theory about this poem. It was written in 1921 – and, I’m assuming, after 25th August, when Akhmatova’s husband, Nikolai Gumilev, was shot. I think the rules governing the sequence of tenses in Russian allow the past to be used here – it all hinges on “He said”. This seems to make sense of the despairing, truncated final line.

He said that no one could with me compare.
I was not woman of this world’s creation,
I was consoling sun’s weak winter glare
And savage song of this beloved nation.
And when I died he would not mourn for me,
“Arise!” he would not cry in desolation,
But suddenly he knows you cannot be
Without the warmth of sun or song’s elation.
…And so what now?

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

Сказал, что у меня соперниц нет.
Я для него не женщина земная,
А солнца зимнего утешный свет
И песня дикая родного края.
Когда умру, не станет он грустить,
Не крикнет, обезумевши: «Воскресни!»
Но вдруг поймет, что невозможно жить
Без солнца телу и душе без песни.
…А что теперь?

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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