March 01, 2015

The Stray Dog Cabaret

March 3, 1915 marked the end of the Stray Dog Cabaret in St. Petersburg, a renowned bohemian watering hole. The cabaret’s logo features a scraggly pooch with its paw resting on a theatrical mask, a symbol created by the artist Mstislav Dobuzhinsky to reflect the founders’ image of the solitary artist. It is hard to imagine Russia’s Silver Age without the Stray Dog. One of its most eloquent eulogizers was Anna Akhmatova, who, like other patrons, felt as if being there transported her into another dimension:

We are all carousers and loose women here;
How unhappy we are together!
The flowers and birds on the wall
Yearn for the clouds.
You are smoking a black pipe,
The puff of smoke has a funny shape.
I’ve put on my tight skirt
To make myself look still more svelte.
The windows are sealed tight.
What’s out there — hoarfrost or a storm?
You gaze with the eyes
Of a cautious cat.
Oh, I am sick at heart!
Isn’t it the hour of death I await?
But that woman dancing now
Will be in hell, no doubt.

Все мы бражники здесь, блудницы,
Как невесело вместе нам!
На стенах цветы и птицы
Томятся по облакам.
Ты куришь черную трубку,
Так странен дымок над ней.
Я надела узкую юбку,
Чтоб казаться еще стройней.
Навсегда забиты окошки:
Что там, изморозь или гроза?
На глаза осторожной кошки
Похожи твои глаза.
О, как сердце мое тоскует!
Не смертного ль часа жду?
А та, что сейчас танцует,
Непременно будет в аду.

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