from Lyn Coffin's translation of Anna Akhmatova's Requiem

(used by the translator's permission)

This happened when only the dead wore smiles—
they rejoiced at being safe from harm.
And Leningrad dangled from its jails
like some unnecessary arm.
And when the hosts of those convicted
marched by in mad, tormented throngs,
and railroad whistles were restricted
to singing separation songs.

The stars of death stood overhead,
and guiltless Russia, that pariah,
writhed under boots, all blood-bespattered,
and the wheels of many a black maria.


translation©1983 Lyn Coffin

This is a short excerpt from the introductory stanzas of the longer poem. Lyn Coffin's English version was published in her book Anna Akhmatova—Poems, Norton, 1983. I only have the cyrillic original and don't have an authoritative romanized version, so I've had to guess at what the romanization would be. This is to give a rough idea of the sound: for comparing Akhmatova's rhymes with Lyn's etc.

Eto bilo, kogda oolibalsya
tolko myertvii, spokoistviyoo rad.
I nyenoozhnim privyeskom boltalsya
vozlye tyoorem svoich Lyeningrad.
I kogda, obyezoomyev ot mooki,
shli oozhye osoozhdyennich polki,
i korotkooyoo pyesnyoo razlooki
parovozniye peli goodki.
Zvezdi smyerti stoyali nad nami,
i bezvinnaya korchilass Roos
pod krovavimi sapogami
i pod shinami chyernich maroos.