Diary of the Plague Year: Day 15 30 March 2020: Quotidian Poetry Anna Akhmatova – some words


And the marsh rusalka,
Mistress of those parts,
Gazes, sighing, up at
The bell-tower cross.

Rusalka: In Slavic folklore, the rusalka is a female entity, often malicious toward mankind and frequently associated with water. Folklorists have proposed a variety of origins for the entity, including that they may originally stem from Slavic paganism, where they may have been seen as benevolent spirits.


Sun baked the well’s depths
Grilled scolopendras on stone, …

Scolopendra: Scolopendra is a species-rich genus of large tropical centipedes of the family Scolopendridae.

From: By the Seashore (1914)

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 15 30 March 2020: Quotidian Poetry Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)


The reading light is on. Today’s poet is Anna Akhmatova.

Anna Akhmatova

Selected Poems
Penguin Twentieth Century Classics

I won’t beg for your love: it’s laid
Safely to rest, let the earth settle …
Don’t expect my jealous letters
But let me nevertheless advise you:
Give her my poems to read in bed,
Give her my portraits to keep – it’s wise to
Be kind like that when newly-wed.
For it’s more needful to such geese
To know that they have won completely
Than to have converse light and sweet or
Honeymoons of remembered bliss …
When you have spent your kopeck’s worth
Of happiness with your new friend,
And like a taste that sates in the mouth
Your soul has recognized the end –
Don’t come crawling like a whelp
Into my bed of loneliness.
I don’t know you. Nor could I help.
I’m not yet cured of happiness.



Diary of the Plague Year: Day 14 29 March 2020: Quotidian Poetry Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)

We’re all drunkards here. Harlots.
Joylessly we’re stuck together.
On the walls, scarlet
Flowers, birds of a feather,

Pine for clouds. Your black pipe
Makes strange shapes rise.
I wear my skirt tight
to my slim thighs.

Windows tightly shut.
What’s that? Frost? Thunder?
Did you steal your eyes, I wonder,
From a cautious cat?

Oh my heart, how you yearn
For your dying hour …
And that woman dancing there
Will eternally burn.

1 January, 1913

From:     Anna Akmatova
                Selected Poems

Translated by D M Thomas
Penguin Twentieth Century Classics

Diary of the Plague Year: Day 14 29 March 2020: Quotidian Poetry Osip Mandelstam (1891-1937)

The idle life has sent us insane.
Wine in the morning, hungover by night,
How can pointless gaiety be restrained,
Your flushing face, plague-drunk again?

In handshakes at parting lies a torturing rite,
And kisses in the street at night
When heavily the rivers flow
And streetlamps like ancient torches glow.

We lie in wait for death like a wolf of myth,
But I fear the one who’ll first be dead
Is he whose lips are a care-racked red
And over whose eyes a long curl twists.

November, 1913

Poem No 2

Written in response to Anna Akhmatova – “We’re all drunkards here. …”

From:          Osip Mandelstam
                     50 Poems

Translated by Bernard Meares
New York