Akhmatova: Cleopatra (From Russian)

By Anna Akhmatova
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

A honeyed shade has covered
The Alexandrian halls

She has kissed Anthony's dead lips already,
Already knelt and wept at Cæsar's feet.
Servants betrayed her. In the sprawling darkness
Rome's Eagle screams and trumpets her defeat.

In comes the last man captive to her beauty,
Stately and tall. He stammers to his queen:
"He will parade you, as a slave, in triumph”
And even so the swan neck bends serene.

Come dawn, they'll chain her children. Precious little
Is left on earth for her: joke with this man
Then set the serpent like a final mercy
Black on her dark breast with a casual hand.

The Original:

А. Ахматова

Александрийские чертоги
Покрыла сладостная тень.

Уже целовала Антония мертвые губы,
Уже на коленях пред Августом слезы лила...
И предали слуги. Грохочут победные трубы
Под римским орлом, и вечерняя стелется мгла.

И входит последний плененный ее красотою,
Высокий и статный, и шепчет в смятении он:
"Тебя – как рабыню... в триумфе пошлет пред собою..."
Но шеи лебяжьей все так же спокоен наклон.

А завтра детей закуют. О, как мало осталось
Ей дела на свете – еще с мужиком пошутить
И черную змейку, как будто прощальную жалость,
На смуглую грудь равнодушной рукой положить.

1 comment:

  1. This poem may be entitled “P. S.”. Author
    is Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966), a Russian outstanding poet. The poem is Dedication from the epic Poem Without a Hero (1940–65). The liberal translation is mine (Larisa Biyuts)--

    "P. S."

    …as my paper has run out,

    I continue writing on a draft.

    But someone’s word is showing through,

    and like a snowflake on a hand,

    it’s thawing trustfully, without a reproach.

    And Antinous’ dark eyelashes up--

    an endless green expanse is in his eyes,

    and our homeland winds are blowing.

    Is it the sea? No, it’s sepulchral fir-needles.

    And through this vast billowing green,

    closer and closer… Marche funebre… Chopin.