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Margarita

Маргарита

Valentine to the tavern students boasts
Of his sister’s charms and face,
While on Margarita’s left hand
A costly ring is placed.

At Margarita’s, a casket lies
With rings for fingers and ears.
While in ivy, hid beneath her window,
The red caped trickster sneers.

At Gretchen’s upper chamber window,
The trickster’s ladder is placed,
While bells ring out in the street below
And students sing Gretchen’s praise.

The rubies, too bright in the April light,
Where she set them aside — are ignored...
But Martha grabs a few in her purse
As she draws her lover indoors.

Valentine, Valentine forget the shame,
Who visits this summer night?
Like Rigoletto the hunchback clown**
Who scoffed at his daughter’s plight,

How vain to challenge to fight with Faust —
The dream of a girl disgraced.
Instead you’ll meet the red caped trickster
And then... be... dead.
___
* Gumilev’s volume Alien Sky is in four sections, the second of which is “Poems dedicated to Anna Akhmatova” who was his wife at the time. ”Margarita” is in this section and borrows details from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s (1749-1832) drama Faust: Part One (1805) but does so via the widely popular opera version (1859) by Charles Gounod (1818-1893). Margarita is referred in the diminutive Gretchen as well. Her neighbor Martha is wooed by Mephistopheles, the red-caped trickster, while Faust woes the virginal Margarita. Akhmatova comments on this poem in the prose drafts translated in the second section of this collection.
** Rigoletto is the tragic protagonist of Giuseppe Verdi’s (1813-1901) popular opera of the same name (1851). Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda is seduced and then cast off by the philandering Duke. In revenge Rigoletto arranges for the Duke assassination but due to a substitution the body delivered to him to be drowned is actually Gilda whom he discovers just as she expires.

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