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(23 June 1889 – 5 March 1966 / Odessa)

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For Osip Mandelstam

And the town is frozen solid in a vice,
Trees, walls, snow, beneath a glass.
Over crystal, on slippery tracks of ice,
the painted sleighs and I, together, pass.
And over St Peter’s there are poplars, crows
there’s a pale green dome there that glows,
dim in the sun-shrouded dust.
The field of heroes lingers in my thought,
Kulikovo’s barbarian battleground.
The frozen poplars, like glasses for a toast,
clash now, more noisily, overhead.
As though it was our wedding, and the crowd
were drinking to our health and happiness.
But Fear and the Muse take turns to guard
the room where the exiled poet is banished,
and the night, marching at full pace,
of the coming dawn, has no knowledge.

Submitted: Tuesday, January 21, 2003


Read poems about / on: wedding, happiness, snow, together, green, fear, sun, night, hero, tree

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  • Suchaita Tenneti (5/30/2009 12:40:00 PM)

    This is probably one of the most picturesque poems by Akhmatova and nature plays a crucial role in the politically tensed atmosphere of Akhmatova's Russia. Imagery of frigidity, sterility and barrenness testify to the trapped and claustrophobic condition of those living under the aegis of Stalinist terror. 'the painted sleighs' hence form a stark contrast to the bleakness around. The potential for happiness and gaiety is only momentary and once again plunges into irrevocable. One of the best by Akhmatova!

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