In Memory of M. A. Bulgakov (Памяти М. А. Булгакова), Anna Akhmatova

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Akhmatova wrote this on hearing of Bulgakov’s death in 1940. It was her fate to survive as so many of her contemporaries died prematurely. Bulgakov was unusual – he died of natural causes.

In place of burial roses, this is what I bring,
No less instead of censers’ fragrance;
Your life was lived severely, and in everything
You offered excellent defiance.

As no one else you quipped, you drank your wine,
Between close walls you suffocated,
Invited unknown guest to come inside and dine,
Alone with her inside you waited.

And now you’re gone, and all to silence falls,
No mention made of sad life vaunted,
My voice alone, like flute, now shrilly calls
At silent funeral feast, undaunted.

And who would dare to think to one, who’s half-insane,
To one, who at lost days is shrieking,
To one, enwrapped by flame in smouldering pain,
Who’s lost it all, abandoned seeking,

Would fall the task to honour one so full of life,
Of brilliant thoughts and wilful power,
Who yesterday addressed my elemental strife,
As trembling you denied death’s hour?

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

Вот это я тебе, взамен могильных роз,
Взамен кадильного куренья;
Ты так сурово жил и до конца донёс
Великолепное презренье.

Ты пил вино – ты как никто шутил
И в душных стенах задыхался,
И гостью страшную ты сам к себе впустил
И с ней наедине остался.

И нет тебя, и всё вокруг молчит
О скорбной и высокой жизни,
Лишь голос мой, как флейта, прозвучит
И на твоей безмолвной тризне.

И кто подумать смел, что полоумной мне,
Мне, плакальщице дней погибших,
Мне, тлеющей на медленном огне,
Вcex потерявшей, всё забывшей,

Придётся вспоминать того, кто, полный сил,
И светлых замыслов, и воли,
Всё кажется, вчера со мною говорил,
Скрывая дрожь предсмертной боли.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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