Helene Mass (German, born 1871). Woodblock Print. Private Collection.
Here is my English translation of Part 4 of Anna Akhmatova’s Russian poem ‘Tricks of the Trade’, which she composed at various times between 1936 and 1959. This section, entitled ‘The Poet’, was written in the summer of 1959. The poem as a whole deals with different aspects of the process of creation. My translations of the first three parts of the poem appear elsewhere on this blog.
You may think this is work
But it’s a carefree life:
To overhear someone’s song
And pass it off as your own.
To take someone’s joyful scherzo
And lay it out in lines,
To swear that a pitiful heart
Groans amid the shining corn.
And then to listen in the forest
To the silent, nun-like pines
While everywhere the fog stands thickly
Like a screen, a curtain of smoke.
I take from left and right
And, even without feeling of shame,
A little from cunning life
And all from the silence of night.