And he who was righteous loomed radiant, striding/Behind the Lord’s messenger up the black hill/But she walked reluctant, alarm spoke within her.
“It is not too late, you may look on it still/Upon the vermilion-stained towers of Sodom/You spun in that court and you sang in that square/That house whose tall windows confront you with blankness/Once knew you, a bride/You bore your sons there.”
She turned to behold it/And pain was her master/Her eyes yearning toward it could no longer see/Salt-white grew her body/The blood in it withered/Firm earth held her feet/That would never go free.
And is there not one who would weep for this woman/Or one who would find her loss bitter to brook?/Alone in my heart, uneclipsed, unforgotten/Is she who gave over her life for one look.
Poem by Anna Akhmatova, composed in 1924 (based on Genesis 19.23-26). Translated from the Russian by Babette Deutsch. This poem has been set to music by the American singer and songwriter, Iris DeMent (born in 1961). It appears on her new album, The Trackless Woods, which consists entirely of settings of Akhmatova’s poems. The CD is on Flariella Records and is available from Amazon.com. Also, check out Iris DeMent at http://www.irisdement.com.
Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966) was a Russian poet. She, along with the classical composer Dimitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) was one of the artists who survived the many brutalities and cruelties of Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), the Communist dictator of the Soviet Union.