In Memory of Mikhail Bulgakov

Akhmatova, Anna

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Jan-24-2003


This poem--"not graveyard roses"--is the poet's gift to her dead friend Bulgakov. He was defiant and steadfast in the face of all the tragedies of his "high, stricken life." While others may not raise their voices to praise Bulgakov (because of the danger of doing so in Stalinist Russia), "one voice at least / Must break that silence, like a flute." The poet remarks how amazing it is that she who has lost so much in her life should now be eulogizing "one so full of energy / And will" who "only yesterday" was "hiding the illness crucifying him." [20 lines]


Akhmatova was, along with Osip Mandelstam, Marina Tsvetaeva, and Boris Pasternak, one of the four great Russian poets of the 20th century. In this poem she refers to her own persecution ("I who have been tossed / On a slow fire to smolder . . . ") and to the imprisonment of her son ("weeping mother"). Akhmatova's integrity was unbreakable. Here she honors another great writer who suffered under the Soviet regime. Bulgakov was also a physician, although he gave up medical practice early in the 1920's to pursue his writing career. See entries in this database for his collection of stories, A Country Doctor's Notebook, and the individual stories, Baptism by Rotation, The Embroidered Towel, Morphine, The Murderer, and The Steel Windpipe.


First published in From Six Books in Russia, in 1940. Translated by D. M. Thomas.

Primary Source

Way of All the Earth


Secker & Warburg

Place Published