Russian Silver Age poetry translation series, 47/?
I love my second-rank Silver Agers. Really, I do. I love reading their poetry and finding out about the dramas of their fascinating interlaced lives against the background of a dying autocracy and a rising revolution in both governments and societies. They were many. They loved and believed and were passionate and they deserve to be known.
But it takes picking up a random eight-line poem on Wikisource to make it clear that the reason that even the quiz bowl aficionados among you, dear friends, have not heard of them and have heard of Anna Akhmatova — is that Anna Andreevna Akhmatova really was frickin’ good, as they say about Shakespeare, despite all the people who say she is frickin’ good.
Her dedicatee here, Tamara Karsavina (1885-1978), was the principal dancer of Serge Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and previously of the Imperial Russian Ballet. She pioneered the leading roles in Petroushka and The Firebird. Later, she would emigrate to England and help found the Royal Ballet and the Royal Academy of Dance.
To Tamara Karsavina
Your light dance, you are like a song composing —
It told us of glory high —
And on your pale cheeks your blush grows more rosy
And darker and darker your eye
And more and more captives with every minute
Forget their own lives mundane,
And in the sounds of the sacred, in it,
Your supple form bends again.
Anna Akhmatova, March 26, 1914; translation by Tamara Vardomskaya, September 9, 2019.