Honestly, there's just too much here I don't understand. And Russian history is not high on my list of topics to study - not because it's unworthy of study, of course. It's too far removed from my own life and is not often referenced and alluded to in most of what I read. Anyway, it would take a lot of time and effort - researching reference after reference and allusion after allusion - for me to really understand these poems. What more, Akhmatova admits "Poem Without a Hero" is difficult for people to understand when she says, "I frequently hear of certain absurd interpretations of Poem Without a Hero
. And I have been advised to make it clearer." This she declined to do, so I don't feel too bad saying I find parts of it unclear and difficult to understand.
Regardless, some of the beauty of these poems is apparent. Some of the content is explained well enough in the introduction, and some ideas provoke emotion because they are universal. For instance, I think we can all understand and respond to the lines (from "Poem Without a Hero"):
As in the gut of the dolphin
I saved myself from the shark
Even if our dolphin is not her dolphin, and our shark is not her shark, we all have our own sharks and dolphins. And these lines from "Requiem" are clear, haunting and transportive.
There I learned how faces fall apart,
How fear looks out from under the eyelids,
How deep are the hieroglyphics
Cut by suffering on people's cheeks.
Like the hieroglyphics on the cheeks of the suffering, her words leave their mark on the reader.