From the collection Anno Domini MCMXXI, the poem “Dark Dream” unifies two of Akhmatova’s important themes: her strength and her individuality. Moreover, it laments not only a personal loss of love but also the conflict of ideal love with the realities of a husband and wife’s relationship.
The poet laments the slow death of the marriage bond. Although it is on “the edge of the stage” she struggles to hold on to it despite its exacting cruelty: “You forbid singing and smiling// As long as we don’t separate,/ Let everything else go!” The poet learns that the love is too painful; in part 3 she describes the love as blood, gushing “from my throat onto the bed.” The fourth part is all coldness and numbness. The lover is beyond feeling pain, beyond feeling love or passion, as exemplified in the following: “If necessary—kill me// Everything your way: let it be!” The concluding part is a rebirth of the persona’s strength as she tells her husband that she will not be submissive to him. “You’re out of your mind,” she chides, to think that she will submit to his will. Ultimately saying good-bye to her husband, she resolves that they are no longer bonded together, but she feels compassion for him “because you let this pilgrim into your home.”
The poet anguishes over the death of her marriage and laments its passing in stages. By the end of the narrative, she has let go of a part of herself, a form of death, and given birth to the artist once more, who loves singing and freedom. Moreover, she is one who no longer will submit to the “hangman” and his “prison.”
The poem ends with hope as the poet says good-bye to her husband and concludes that she now has peace and good fortune, as should he for having taken her in. The bitter tone of much of the poem is replaced with one of acceptance of the end of their relationship.