CIVT 200: Looney
Explication 1: “Epilogue I”
Requiem: a Mass for the repose of the souls of the dead— a token of remembrance. Anna Akhmatova’s Requiem is a lamentation, a narration of grief-stricken oppressed during Stalin’s reign of terror. It is difficult to analyze single parts of Requiem, as each poem is vital to the other—one cohesive tale. The main body of Akhmatova’s Requiem is individual, Akhmatova focusing on the torment caused by her son’s imprisonment. Yet “Epilogue I” pulls the community in—the shared suffering. In “Epilogue I,” Akhmatova serves as a witness to the people, a witness to the faces that would otherwise be blurred and devoid of humanity.
“I have learned how faces fall, / How terror can escape from lowered eyes” (Soldatow 8). Akhmatova and the crowds endured 17 months of standing, waiting, and hoping outside a prison praying for what seemed impossible: the release or even a glimpse of their loved ones. With each passing day, disbelief of the imprisonment grew and hopes died. Akhmatova became accustomed to this scene, learning to recognize the dire hopelessness of the weary faces. The people could only stay strong and keep their faces up towards hope for so long. But after some time of seeing only a prison wall and sorrowed people, despair sets in and keeping faces up becomes too much to bear. So the faces fall and eyes lower, but the terror and anguish escapes the victims regardless. How could it be possible to conceal such traumatizing emotion?
“How suffering can etch cruel pages / Of cuneiform-like marks upon the cheeks. / I know how dark or ash-blond strands of hair / can suddenly turn white . . .” (Soldatow 8). The suffering works on levels, tearing the wives, mothers, and daughters apart from the inside out like a cancer. Starting with their emotion and psyche, the grief and torture ate its way through the surface: it grayed their hair, wrinkled their faces, faded smiles. But...