It happens thus: some kind of indolence;
The clock strike never ceases in the ears;
From afar comes a waning thunderclap.
I sense the complaining and groaning
Of anonymous captive voices.
A kind of clandestine circle narrows.
In this abyss of whispers and ringing
A single all-conquering sound emanates.
There’s such a complete silence around it
That you could hear the grass grow in the woods
Evil traveling the earth with a knapsack…1
Words are already becoming audible
And now the signaling chimes of light rhymes,--
Then I begin to understand it all,
And the dictated lines lie down
Easily on the snow-white page.
Anna Akhmatova, November 5, 1936
Translated by John Cobley
1. This line uses images from Russian folklore.