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Mayakovsky in 1913

Anna Akhmatova

I never knew you in the days of your glory,

Your turbulent dawn in all I know;

But perhaps I’m qualified to tell your story

At last of that day from long ago.

The lines of your powerful verse were filled with

Strange new voices we’d never heard . . .

And your youthful hands were never still as

You raised up a terrible scaffold of words.

Whatever you touched was no longer the same as

The thing it had been before that time,

All that you censured and covered in shame was

Condemned to death in your thunderous lines.

So often alone and disaffected,

You impatiently tried to seep up fate,

For already you freely, gladly accepted

That soon you must go and take part in the great

Struggle. And as you read an answer

Of rumbling dissent could be heard all round

And the angry rain eyed you askance as

You debated at length with the outraged town.

And now a name, unknown, obscure,

Was flashing around the stuffy hall,

And all through the land today it endures,

Reverberates still like a warrior’s call.

Translated from Russian by Stephen Capus. From Modern Poetry in Translation, New Series no. 18, 2001

Stephen Capus studied Russian literature at the Universities of Birmingham and London. He has published poems and translations in various magazines, including Acumen and Thumbscrew