The Complete Poems - Anna Akhmatova, Judith Hemschemeyer, Roberta Reeder Don't have anything terribly profound to say about Akhmatova. Overall, the collection here merits three stars. I find that I prefer her earlier stuff, pre-Revolution and from the early '20s (before Stalin solidified his control), but there are some very affecting stuff from the period when her son was in a gulag (I'm thinking here, though I can't remember the specific poem, of the image of the women waiting in line to hear news of their husbands, lovers, sons, etc.).

Some of the more memorable verses (for me):

Now, like a little snake it curls into a ball,
Bewitching your heart,
Then for days it will coo like a dove
On the little white windowsill.

Or it will flash as bright frost,
Drowse like a gillyflower...
But surely and stealthily it will lead you away
From joy and from tranquility.

It knows how to sob so sweetly
In the prayer of a yearning violin,
And how fearful to divine it
In a still unfamiliar smile.
p. 81

There is a sacred boundary between those who are close,
And it cannot be crossed by passion or love -
Though lips fuse in dreadful silence
And the heart shatters to pieces with love.

Friendship is helpless here, and years
Of exalted and ardent happiness,
When the soul is free and a stranger
To the slow languor of voluptuousness.

Those who strive to reach it are mad, and those
Who reach it - stricken by grief...
Now you understand why my heart
Does not beat faster under your hand.
p. 181

Damned if I will. Neither by glance nor by groan
Will I touch your cursed soul,
But I vow to you by the garden of angels,
By the miraculous icon I vow
And by the fiery passion of our nights -
I will never return to you.
p. 285

That was when the ones who smiled
Were the dead, glad to be at rest....
p. 386

A sky white with a frightful whiteness,
And the earth like coal and granite.
Under this withered moon
Nothing shines anymore.

A woman's voice, hoarse and impassioned,
Doesn't sing, but yells, yells.
On the black poplar right above me
Not a single leaf rustles.

Was this why I kissed you?
Was this why I tormented myself, loving?
To remember you now, calmly and wearily,
With loathing?
p. 643

O God, for myself I could forgive everything,
But I would rather be a hawk clawing a lamb,
Or a serpent biting someone sleeping in the field,
Than be a human and be forced to see
What people do, and from putrid shame,
Not dare to raise my eyes to the heavens on high.
p. 647