I Taught Myself to Live Simply by Anna Akhmatova

This poem, I Taught Myself to Live Simply, is beautiful and simple,  just like the life it’s author promotes. Anna Akhmatova, a famous Russian author, penned these beautiful lines that celebrate the small pleasures in life. She reveals an ability to reflect and ponder life and it’s meaning. This truly unique poem portrays a positive outlook on life. Although Akhmatova was not without her share of trials in life, she writes about the pleasures she experiences on a day to day basis. She writes about the joy the sunset brings to her heart. She writes about the solace she finds in her home, and she writes about the beauty of life. You can read the poem in full here.


I Taught Myself to Live Simply Analysis

Line 1

The first line of I Taught Myself to Live Simply renewals something of human nature;  namely that it is not natural to live simply and wisely. If it were natural,  the speaker would not have had to teach herself how.  Human beings,  in their natural state,  seem to be driven by their own desires for gaining wealth.  This author saw that flaw in people,  and wanted to fight against it and love a different kind of life. This is why she says,  “I taught myself to live simply and wisely”.


Line 2

The second and third lines of I Taught Myself to Live Simply serve to describe practical ways in which she lives simply.  The first activity that she mentions us looking at the sky.  People everywhere seek entertainment and beauty in living a high lifestyle,  finding beauty and entertainment in a variety of activities that cost money and require a rather lucrative lifestyle. This speaker contrasts her down of entertainment with that of the majority of the population by stating that in teaching herself to live simply and wisely,  she has made a practice of looking up at the sky to enjoy it’s beauty,  beauty that is there for everyone to enjoy free of charge,  if they would only take the time to stop and look.  


Line 3

The following line reveals another source of her ability to live simply. She says that she has taught herself to pray to God. This reveals her desire to know about more than the here and the now. Her simple life style is contrasted with the busy lives if those steps her,  and she deliberate stops to pray to God. God is her ability to recognize that there is more out there. It is her acknowledgement that there is more to live for than this lodge alone. It is her reason for slowing down and living simply rather than striving for money,  entertainment and fun.  She realizes that life is short,  but she also knows that there is value in the simple life because it allows her to stop and think and he aware of her God and reflect upon her life and ponder her meaning and purpose.

She reveals that she has taught herself to “wander” for long hours.  This speaker has discovered the importance of reflection and thought. She has not let her life get so busy that she has no time to think and ponder. Rather, she goes for long walks before evening sets in,  and she thinks about life and death,  purpose and life after death.  She has found solace in her thoughts.


Line 4

The fourth line reveals an even more important discovery, she has learned not to worry.  She claims that on the long walks that she takes,  admiring the sky and talking with God, she’s set aside her “superfluous worries”. This reveals two things,  first that she has learned how to set aside her worries, and second that she has acknowledged her worries as “superfluous” which reveals that her understanding of the important things in life make all her worries seem almost silly.  


Lines 5-6

In the fifth and sixth lines,  she goes into a vivid description of her calming surroundings, and the effect they have on her.  She describes the “burdock rustle in the ravine” and the way the “yellow-red rowan berry cluster droops”. These descriptions further renewal her ability to so and fully admire nature’s beauty.  


Line 7

In line seven of I Taught Myself to Live Simply she claims that in the midst of nature’s beauty, she “composes happy verses”. This is rather unique for a poet. Many famous poets were driven to write as a way to express and release their sorrow and suffering. Anna Akhmatova, on the other hand,  was driven to write this poem out of the joy and pleasure she experienced when she stopped to enjoy the sunset and the nature all around her. For this reason,  she is able to compose happy verses,  unlike many of her counterparts.


Line 8

The following line reveals what her verses are written about. This line is quite shocking,  as she reveals that she has written “happy verses about life’s decay”. Whereas most people become despondent when they think about adding and the way that life decay’s, this speaker is able to think if aging with joy, likely because she has discovered how to enjoy her life to the fullest.


Line 9

The next line begins with,  “I come back”. This reveals that she does have a real life to come back to. It serves to make her poem more relatable. Although she has times of solace and reflection, she also has a life of responsibility and reality to attend to.  This is further revealed by her description of the cat kicking her hand.  She says,  “ the fluffy cat like my Palm,  purrs so sweetly”. This renewals that the speaker has some responsibility in life,  at least the responsibility of caring for a pet,  but she also enjoys the fruits of her responsibility by enjoying her purr and her affection.  


Lines 10-16

The next line of I Taught Myself to Live Simply she enjoys the warmth of the fireplace. This further reveals that the speaker does have real life responsibility such as caring for a pretty,  and making sure she has wood for a fire to keep her warm.  But her poem does not focus on the work it took to create a warm place and to provide a roof over their heads,  rather it focuses on the times of rest and pleasure she was able to enjoy as a result of her work.  She focuses on the crane that lands on the rooftop and let’s out a cry to break the silence. Notice she has a roof over her head,  but I Taught Myself to Live Simply is not about the work or money it  took to put the rod there. This speaker keeps her focus on being thankful for the little pleasures in life.  She does not focus on the struggle or toils if life,  although the readers know they are there, for she has mentioned her worries, and made it clear that she has responsibility,  yet those things never seem cumbersome, but rather mere necessities, the fruit of which is to be enjoyed.  

The following lines serve to renewal how thoroughly she enjoys her solace and her home. She can hear the crane cry, but she is not confident that she would hear a knock at the door.  This is very interesting,  as the speaker seems to be far more in tune with nature than her social worlds. She does not mention another person in this poem. She mentions God, nature,  and animals as the things that have her attention. A knock at the door,  she is not sure she would hear.

This poem reveals one woman’s ability to enjoy God, nature, and animals.  It reveals her ability to forget her worries and focus on the small pleasures in life.  This poem is an inspiration to readers to take time to find a place of solace, enjoy a sunset, talk to God, forget their worries, and begin to enjoy life for its small pleasures.


Anna Akhmatova Background

Anna Akhmatova is revered in Russia as an incredible poet. Akhmatova lived through intense political persecution, totalitarian reign, and war. This knowledge of her life makes this particular poem all the more intriguing. Akhmatova was not able to “live simply and wisely” merely because she had a simple life. On the contrary, she lived through countless perils, and yet was still able to stop and enjoy the sunset, her cat, the warm fire, and the roof over her head. This poem is truly a call to rise above circumstances to find peace and happiness.

Works Cited:

  • “Anna Akhmatova – Poems, Biography, Quotes.” Anna Akhmatova – Poems, Biography, Quotes. Famous Poets and Poems, 2006. Web. 11 Feb. 2016.
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