When power narrows the areas of man's concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence. - John F. Kennedy

          THE FOURTH


One's memories live long and have three epochs.
The first is close, like yesterday; within
Its hallowed bower the soul enjoys repose,
And in its shade the body refuge finds.
The tears stream still, the peals of laughter linger,
The spot of ink still stains the desk, and stamped
Upon the heart, the farewell kiss remains,
Indelible... But this Is not for long...
The bower recedes, and in its place there stands
A lovely house, unswept and hung with cobwebs,
Where it is cold in winter, and in summer
Insufferably hot, where lovers' letters
Turn brown  with dust, and treasured pictures fade,
Where people come as to a grave to lay
A wreath of flowers, and afterwards, at home,
Their hands wash with great care, and brush away
A fleeting tear, and sigh, and sigh again.
But clocks tick on, and seasons come and go,
The names of cities change, events retain
No witnesses, and memories and tears
May not be shared... Unwanted and unsought,
The shades of loved ones shrink and slip away,
And we recoil in horror from the thought
That they might reappear... And then the day
Dawns when, awakening with a start, and gripped
By sickening remorse, we realise
That we no longer know where lies the path
To that lone house, and run as in a dream,
Despairing, mute, to where it stood, and lo!-
Discover that the walls, the things, the people
Are different and strange, and that we too
Are strangers there... The bitter recognition
Then comes that we must shed the hope of fitting
The past into the pattern of our lives,
For it has long withdrawn from us and is
As alien to us as to an outsider.
And then we know - know all too well, alas -
That if the dead, by any chance, returned
We would not know them, that the cherished few
With whom God chose to part us do not miss us,
That it is better so, that It is all,
So fate wills, for the best...

[English] [Russian TRANS | KOI8 | ALT | WIN | MAC | ISO5]
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Akhmatova A.A.
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