Anna Akhmatova’s ‘Trade Secrets’

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Anna Akhmatova, 1889-1966

On June 20 I posted my translation of Akhmatova’s poem ‘Creation’, which she wrote in 1936 and which came eventually to form the first part of a five-part poetic cycle she would call ‘Trade Secrets’, composed of poems she began in 1936 but would not complete as a whole until 1959. The cycle focusses on how a poem is created, how the poetic Muse inspires, who the poet is and who the reader. Here is my translation of the second poem in this cycle. The poem has no separate title, but was written in 1940. Following my translation is Akhmatova’s Russian original. 

 

I have no need of odelike armies
Or the charm of elegiac fancies.
For me, all verse should be inappropriate,
Not what people expect it to be.

If you only knew from what refuse
Verses grow, shamelessly,
Like dandelions, yellow by the fence,
Like foolish burdock, goosefoot!

An angry cry, the scent of fresh tar,
Upon the wall a secret mould,
And already a verse resounds, provocative, kind,
To your joy and mine.

 

Мне ни к чему одические рати
И прелесть элегических затей.
По мне, в стихах все быть должно некстати,
Не так, как у людей.

Когда б вы знали, из какого сора
Растут стихи, не ведая стыда,
Как желтый одуванчик у забора,
Как лопухи и лебеда.

Сердитый окрик, дегтя запах свежий,
Таинственная плесень на стене…
И стих уже звучит, задорен, нежен,
На радость вам и мне.

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