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Days for contemplation, looking inwards, watching old films and reading poetry. Anything Russian would fit my mood – Tarkovsky films, long Russian novels and the beautiful Everyman hardback of Russian Poets. This is is one of my favourite Christmas presents, including old favourites such as Anna Akhmatova and Osip Mandelstam but also many poets I didn’t know before, grouped by themes such as The Muse, Black Earth, Träumerei and What is the Use of Time?

Skies again are deep and bare;

Scents of spring are in the air;

Nearer, nearer every hour

Draws the bridegroom in his power.

Coffined in her icy shell,

Under some dream-woven spell,

See her sleeping, stark and cold,

Still in that enchantment’s hold.

From her lids his birds of spring

Fan the snowflakes with their wing;

Out of deathly dreams and chill

Ooze the teardrops , melting still.

‘Skies Again Are Deep And Bare’ by Afanasy Fet (1820-1875)

translated by Oliver Elton