“To me the whole world promised him” (“Все обещало мне его”), Anna Akhmatova

Akhmatova wrote this in 1916, when she was in love with the artist Boris Anrep. This poem is addressed to him. Anrep was in London during the Revolution and never returned. They were reunited in 1965, when Akhmatova visited him in Paris on her way back to St Petersburg from Oxford, where she had been to receive an honorary doctorate.

To me the whole world promised him:
The dusty scarlet heavens’ border,
At Christmas, gentle dreaming’s whim,
And Easter’s rowdy wind’s disorder,

And vine’s red switches as they rise,
And waterfalls in summer gardens,
And two enormous dragonflies
On cast-iron fence, where rust-patch hardens.

And I could simply not believe
That we, as friends, would be together,
As down the hills my way did weave
Along stone paths through sun-warmed heather.


Все обещало мне его:
Край неба, тусклый и червонный,
И милый сон под Рождество,
И Пасхи ветер многозвонный,

И прутья красные лозы,
И парковые водопады,
И две большие стрекозы
На ржавом чугуне ограды.

И я не верить не могла,
Что будет дружен он со мною,
Когда по горным склонам шла
Горячей каменной тропою.

Translation by Rupert Moreton

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