Anna Akhmatova

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 its 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 I Taught Myself to Live Simply here.

I Taught Myself to Live Simply by Anna Akhmatova



‘I Taught Myself to Live Simply’ by Anna Akhmatova is a beautiful poem about the beauty of nature and the simplicity of life.

‘I Taught Myself to Live Simply’ by Anna Akhmatova is a poem celebrating the simplicity of life. “Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife”, reigns the calm and serene nature. It soothes every soul that passes by. The poetic persona has taught herself to enjoy nature in its entirety. Life seems more enjoyable if one knows how to live it with simplicity. There is no need to worry about the past and present. The moment, and only the present moment is the key to all happiness. So, the speaker in the poem forgets her “superfluous worries” of life and enjoys the rustle of burdocks, purring of a “fluffy cat”, the flare of bright fire from the saw-mill nearby, and the “cry of a stork”. If anyone comes to knock at her mind’s door, she may not even hear the sound in this soothing environment.



‘I Taught Myself to Live Simply’ by Anna Akhmatova presents her deep love for nature. Her poetic persona is calm and in a state of trance. Her tone is mild like the breeze of autumn. It gives pleasure but not makes the soul perplexed. Her soft and embalmed tone tends to please readers with the simplicity of the things she observes. The mood of the poem thus reflects a meditative state of mind. The poetic persona is meditating upon the simple things of nature that cheers her worrisome heart. However, by adopting such a lucid tone the poet attempts to create a poetic environment of simplicity and calmness. The mood of the poem follows the tone to create an organic ambiance. The poet does not use unnecessary words or poetic devices. It makes the tone of the poem more direct and precise.


Figurative Language

‘I Taught Myself to Live Simply’ by Anna Akhmatova contains several important figurative devices. The figurative language helps the poet to say more in using less. Likewise, the first figurative language appears in the first line. It is an antithesis. Here “simply” and “wisely” create a contrast. The underlying meaning reflects that thinking simply is the only way to live wisely. In “superfluous worries” the poet uses a metaphor. Here, the sense somehow gets connected with the concept of clothes or worldly things. The poet uses an onomatopoeia by referring to the “rustle” of burdocks.

There is a personification in this line, “the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops”. The poet uses a personal metaphor in the phrase “happy verses”. The word “decay” gets repeated in this line, “about life’s decay, decay and beauty.” It is a palilogy. The poet refers to the “purr” of the fluffy cat and the “cry of a stork”. These are again examples of onomatopoeia.


I Taught Myself to Live Simply Analysis

Line 1

I taught myself to live simply and wisely,

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 its beauty, the beauty that is there for everyone to enjoy free of charge if they would only take the time to stop and look.  


Line 3

and to wander long before evening

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 lifestyle is contrasted with the busy lives if those steps and she deliberate stops to pray to God. God is her ability to recognize that there is more out there. It is her acknowledgment 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 be aware of her God and reflects 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 makes all her worries seem almost silly.  


Lines 5-6

When the burdocks rustle in the ravine
and the yellow-red rowanberry cluster droops

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 nature all around her. For this reason,  she is able to compose happy verses,  unlike many of her counterparts.


Line 8

about life’s decay, decay and beauty.

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 decays, 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 renewal 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

licks my palm, purrs so sweetly
and the fire flares bright
If you knock on my door
I may not even hear.

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 lets 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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Allisa Corfman Poetry Expert
Allisa graduated with a degree in Secondary Education and English and taught World Literature and Composition at the high school level. She has always enjoyed writing, reading, and analysing literature.
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