(Depressing) Russian Poetry

We are doing a poetry unit in Russian right now and all the poems are so depressing. We have read some Anna Akhmatova and next week we will read Marina Tsvetaeva’s work. Here is one of my favorite Tsvetaeva poems. The translation is not mine – I found it here and I actually approve of it. (I am exceedingly picky about translations, so I do not give my approval often!)

I like it that you’re burning not for me,
I like it that it’s not for you I’m burning
And that the heavy sphere of Planet Earth
Will underneath our feet no more be turning
I like it that I can be unabashed
And humorous and not to play with words
And not to redden with a smothering wave
When with my sleeves I’m lightly touching yours.

I like it, that before my very eyes
You calmly hug another; it is well
That for me also kissing someone else
You will not threaten me with flames of hell.
That this my tender name, not day nor night,
You will recall again, my tender love;
That never in the silence of the church
They will sing “halleluiah” us above.

With this my heart and this my hand I thank
You that – although you don’t know it –
You love me thus; and for my peaceful nights
And for rare meetings in the hour of sunset,
That we aren’t walking underneath the moon,
That sun is not above our heads this morning,
That you – alas – are burning not for me
And that – alas – it’s not for you I’m burning.

The basic background information you need to know to understand this poem is that Tsvetaeva fell in love with her sister’s husband. Nothing happened between them, as far as I know (but she did have other affairs).

Tsvetaeva is one of my favorite poets. Sometimes I think I like her more than I like Akhmatova but to be honest, I like them both equally, in different ways.

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