The courage of the poet is to keep ajar the door that leads to madness. - Christopher Morley


     THE COMMANDER'S FOOTSTEPS

                            To V. A. Zorgenfrei

Fog beyond the dim, benighted window.
    Heavy hangings at the door.
You have learned what fear is, Don Juan, and freedom -
    You don't need your freedom any more.

Empty, cold the bedroom. Not a whisper
    Can be heard. The servants doze.
From an unknown land, a far-off land and blissful,
    Comes a rooster's crowing. Dawn is close.

What is rapture to a faithless being?..
     Nothing!.. Life is quick to end.
Arms crossed on her breast, and dreams unearthly seeing,
     Dona Anna steeps, to silence wed.

Whose harsh features, caught by mirrors, freeze there,
     In that strange, that glassy deep?
Is there sweetness. Dona Anna, is there,
     In your graveyard dreams and graveyard sleep?

Life is mad, it's empty and abysmal...
     Into battle, fate, let us make war!
In reply, through storm and blinding blizzard,
     Comes a horn's triumphant, tender call.

With a spray of light the blackness laving,
    Like an owl a motor flits, and hark!-
The Commander's steps, his footsteps heavy
    Fill the empty house and dark.

Doors flung open. Wind. Those steps unhurried.
    Like a clock's hoarse chimes, its midnight chimes:
"You invited me to supper. Are you
    Ready? Speak! For I am here. On time."

Scathing, scorching questioni To it only
     Silence answer makes. A deep
Fear has gripped the room. A cold and lonely
     Dawn steals up. The servants are asleep.

Pallid twilight. Night is waning, waning.
     Night at dawn is strangely chill.
Maid of Light! Where are you, Dona  Anna?
     Anna! Anna!- All is still.

Grim the ghostly, greyish fog of morning.
     Hear the clock's last, bitter chimes.
Doha Anna sleeps, but she is stirring.
     When your hour of death comes she will rise.

1912
[English] [Russian TRANS | KOI8 | ALT | WIN | MAC | ISO5]
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Akhmatova A.A.
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Ivanov V.I.
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Krandievskaya-Tolstaya N.V.
Mandelshtam O.A.
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