Nikolay Gumilev
Semiramide

To the blessed memory of I. F. Annenskii**

My fortune rises from a lofty power,
Not even gods are so proud.
Marble columns beneath burning skies
Bring shelter into my garden.

Wells in the grove flow out to rosy pools
With delicate azure moss,
While slaves, dancers, priests attend the king
Of earth, air, water, and wind.

From far and near they bow in awe,
Stifling their fear in the hush,
But the countenance of the moon each midnight
Bends down strange and low.

In dread of the moon’s light, steady and strong,
And its countenance so close,
I long to fly beyond the garden’s bonds
Seven hundred ells.***
___
* Semiramide or Semiramis was the legendary 9th century BC Queen of Assyria known for her beauty, wisdom and sexual excess. Gumilyov’s monologue offers her as the admired and beautiful consort of a powerful king, but she is also like a frightened girl; therefore somewhat the opposite of Feodora. The editors of Anna Akhmatova’s Собрание Сочинеий В Восьми Томах (1, 706) suggest in a note to 61 of “Prose About the Poema: Pro Domo Mea” that Akhmatova believed this poem to refer to her. They quote a conversation with her much later in her life when she said “Adele Nikolia Stepanovich [said] I was a thing half way between Semiramide and Feodora.”.

** Innokentii Annenskii (1855-1909) was a highly regarded schoolmaster (see related endnote), poet and translator of Euripides. His single volume, The Cypress Chest, was regarded by the Acmeist group (Gumilev and Mandel’shtam in particular) as a model of the kind of anti-symbolist poems that sought to produce.

*** An ell was a measure used in various European countries based on the length from the elbow to the tip of an outstretched palm, originally used for measuring lengths of fabric. In England it came to be standardized as 45 inches.

Translated by Don Mager
(Nikolay Gumilev`s site)

Николай Гумилёв
Семирамида

Светлой памяти И. Ф. Анненского

Для первых властителей завиден мой жребий,
И боги не так горды.
Столпами из мрамора в пылающем небе
Укрепились мои сады.

Там рощи с цистернами для розовой влаги,
Голубые, нежные мхи,
Рабы и танцовщицы, и мудрые маги,
Короли четырех стихий.

Всё манит и радует, всё ясно и близко,
Всё таит восторг тишины,
Но каждою полночью так страшно и низко
Наклоняется лик луны.

И в сумрачном ужасе от лунного взгляда,
От цепких лунных сетей,
Мне хочется броситься из этого сада
С высоты семисот локтей.

Стихотворение Николая Гумилёва «Семирамида» на английском.
(Nikolay Gumilev in english).
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