I’ve learned to live a life that’s simple

Posted on 28th May 2020 by simonbeattie

As many of you may know, I also write choral music, and am always on the lookout for interesting texts to set. Early last year, a friend sent me an English translation of a poem she liked by Anna Akhmatova, thinking it may appeal. The translation didn’t rhyme and, curious, I went to find Akhmatova’s original, which was first published in 1914, in her second collection, Chetki (‘Rosary’), the book which firmly established her reputation. 

Я научилась просто, мудро жить,
Смотреть на небо и молиться Богу, 
И долго перед вечером бродить, 
Чтоб утомить ненужную тревогу. 

Когда шуршат в овраге лопухи 
И никнет гроздь рябины желто-красной, 
Слагаю я веселые стихи 
О жизни тленной, тленной и прекрасной. 

Я возвращаюсь. Лижет мне ладонь 
Пушистый кот, мурлыкает умильней, 
И яркий загорается огонь 
На башенке озерной лесопильни. 

Лишь изредка прорезывает тишь 
Крик аиста, слетевшего на крышу. 
И если в дверь мою ты постучишь, 
Мне кажется, я даже не услышу.

As I thought, Akhmatova’s original poem does rhyme, and I set about producing a rhymed English version, partly as a challenge to myself, and partly as a gift for my friend.  I tried to follow Akhmatova’s verse both in terms of rhyme scheme and metre, and hopefully retain something of the lyricism of the original, too.

The poem’s about being alone with one’s thoughts, so I thought it might be an appropriate thing to share here now, too, in these days of self-isolation and social distancing. It was published in Literary Review in February.

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6 responses to “I’ve learned to live a life that’s simple”

  1. Frank Amari says:

    To see this first thing in the morning,
    what more need be said than:
    What a wonderful way to start a day!

    Thanks for posting this (and for all your efforts and care to translate)!

  2. Lovely work! Thanks for the your efforts.

  3. Christine J says:

    Bravo Simon! Especially love бродить translated as anaesthetise.

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