Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘Boris Godunov’
By Alexander Pushkin (1799–1837)
Time, 1603.  Night.  Scene: A cell in the Chudov (Miracles) Monastery.  Father Pimen, and Grigory asleep.

FATHER PIMEN—Only one more, one final narrative,
And then my chronicle is ended;
The duty laid on me, a sinful man,
By God, is done. Not vainly did the Lord
For many years set me as witness,        5
And give me understanding of the bookish art….
I live a new, fresh life in ancient days;
The vanished past flits clear before my eyes:
Some men, a few, my memory hath retained,
Some words, few also, have come down to me;        10
The rest is lost, lost irretrievably.
But dawn draws nigh; my shrine-lamp waxes dim:
Now one last record, and the very last.
  Grigory  [waking]—That dream again! Is’t possible? For the third time
That cursèd dream! And still before his lamp        15
The old man sits and writes, and all the night
He has not closed an eye in doze or slumber.
How I do love his tranquil mien,
When, buried in the past, with all his soul
He writes his chronicles; and often, often        20
I have so longed to guess of what he writes.
*        *        *        *        *
  Pimen—Thou hast awakened, brother?
  Grigory—Bless me, reverend father.
  Pimen—May the Lord bless thee
Both now and ever and forever more….        25
  Grigory—Most reverend father, lo, this many a day
I have desired to ask thee of the death
Of Dmitry the Tzarévitch; at that time
’Tis said, thou wert in Uglitch.
  Pimen—Ah, I remember: God let me see a crime,        30
A bloody deed. That day I was in Uglitch,
In distant Uglitch, sent upon a mission.
At night I came: at morn, when mass was due,
I heard the sudden bells; they pealed alarm:
Shouts, noise,—out ran the royal maidens;        35
Out ran I also; all the town was there.
I look: with gaping throat there lies
The dead Tzarévitch. Then the crowd pursued
The three assassins fleeing,
And brought them to the still, wan body of the child;        40
Whereon a marvel,—the dead body quivered.
“Repent, confess!” the people roared at them;
And in their terror, there beneath the axe,
The villains spoke and said Borís had sent them.
  Grigory—What age had then the slain Dmitry?        45
  Pimen—Seven years—he would be now—
(Ten years have passed since then—nay, more:
Twelve years)—he’d be about thy age,
And now would reign; but God willed otherwise.—
But I must rest,—’tis time,—        50
And quench my lamp. The bells are calling
To matin prayers. May the Lord bless
His servants. Give me my crutch, Grigory.  [Exit.]
  Grigory—Borís, Borís, all trembles now before thee,
And not one dares so much as hint to thee        55
The fate of that unhappy lad.
Yet here, in his dark cell, the anchorite
Records a fearful charge against thee,
And thou shalt not escape the blame of men,
As thou from God’s just wrath shalt not escape….        60
Scene: The Imperial Palace.
  The Tzar  [entering]—                I’ve reached the highest power;
’Tis six years now that I have reigned in peace;
But there’s no happiness within my soul.
Is’t not thus—in youth we thirst and crave
The joys of love; but once we’ve quenched        65
Our hungry heart with brief possession,
We’re tired, and cold, and weary on the spot!
The sorcerers in vain predict long life,
And promise days of undisturbèd power.
Nor power, nor life, nor aught doth cheer my heart;        70
My soul forebodeth heaven’s wrath and woe.
I am not happy. I did think to still
With plenty and with fame my people here;
To win for aye their love with bounties free.
But wasted are my cares and empty toils:        75
A living power is hated by the herd;
They love the dead alone, only the dead.
What fools we are when popular applause
Or the loud shout of masses thrills our heart!
God sent down famine on this land of ours;        80
The people howled, gave up the ghost in torture:
I threw the granaries open, and my gold
I showered upon them; sought out work for them:
Made mad by suffering, they turned and cursed me!
By conflagrations were their homes destroyed;        85
I built for them then dwellings fair and new;
And they accused me—said I set the fires!
That’s the Lord’s judgment;—seek its love who will!
Then thought I bliss in my own home to find;
I thought to make my daughter blest in wedlock:        90
Death, like a whirlwind, snatched her betrothed away,
And rumor craftily insinuates
That I am author of my child’s widowhood,—
I, I, unhappy father that I am!
Let a man die—I am his secret slayer:        95
I hastened on the end of Feódor;
I gave my sister, the Tzaritza, poison;
I poisoned her, the lowly nun—still I!
Ah, I know it: naught can give us calm
Amid the sorrows of this present world;        100
Conscience alone, mayhap:
Thus, when ’tis pure it triumphs
O’er bitter malice, o’er dark calumny;
But if there be in it a single stain,
One, only one, by accident contracted,        105
Why then, alas! all’s done; as with foul plague
The soul consumes, the heart is filled with gall,
Reproaches beat like hammers in the ears,
The man turns sick, his head whirls dizzily,
And bloody children float before my eyes.        110
I’d gladly flee—yet whither?—horrible!
Yea, sad his state whose conscience is not clean….
Scene: Moscow, Schuisky’s house.  Present: Schuisky and numerous guests.
  Pushkin—’Tis wondrous news my nephew writes me here.
The son of our Tzar Terrible—but wait,—  [Goes to the door and looks about.]
The royal child slain by Tzar Borís’ rage—        115
  Schuisky—But that’s no news.
  Pushkin—                Defer your judgment:
Dmitry lives.
  Schuisky—            Well, now, that’s news!
The heir alive! That’s marvelous, in sooth!
Is that all?
  Pushkin—            Wait till you hear the end:
Whoe’er he be,—the young Tzarévitch saved,        120
Or but a phantom in his semblance clad,
Or bold adventurer, aspirant without shame,—
The fact remains: Dmitry hath appeared—
*        *        *        *        *
  Schuisky—It cannot be!
  Pushkin—            Pushkin’s own eyes have seen him,
When first he came there to the palace,        125
And entered in through ranks of Lithuanian nobles
Straight to the privy chamber of the King.
  Schuisky—Whence comes the man? Who is he?
  Pushkin—                            That none knows.
’Tis only known he was a serving-man
At Vishnevetzky’s; on his bed of sickness        130
The menial told a priest, under confession’s seal:
That haughty lord, learning this secret truth,
Went to him, raised him from his squalid bed,
And led him straight to Sigismund the King.
  Schuisky—All this, my friend, is such a tangled web,        135
That, struggle as one will, the brain doth reel.
We cannot doubt this man is a Pretender;
But I admit, the danger is not small.
Most weighty news, in sooth! And if the herd
Once come to hear it, great will be the crash!        140
  Pushkin—So great, indeed, that scarce can Tzar Borís
Retain the crown upon his clever head.
And serve him right: doth he not rule us now
Like Tzar Ivan? (mention him not near night!)
What matters it that public executions cease?        145
That we, before the world, on bloody stake, no more
To the Lord Christ chant canons of the Church?
That we’re not burned upon the public square
While the Tzar stirs the ashes with his staff?
What safety have we yet for our poor lives?        150
Exile awaits us every day that dawns,
Siberia, prison, fetters or the cowl of monk;
Then, in the wilds, starvation or a noose….
Scene: Castle of Voevod Mnishek, in Sambor.  Night.  A garden.  A fountain.  Present: The Pretender, Marina Mnishek.
  Marina—Hour by hour your difficulties, dangers,
Become more dangerous, more difficult.        155
Already many doubtful rumors fly about:
One novelty usurps another’s place,
And Godunov is active, takes his measures—
  Pretender—What’s Godunov to me? Has Borís power
Over thy love, my only source of bliss?        160
No, no! Indifferently now I look
Upon his throne, upon his royal state.
Thy love—what’s life to me without it now,
And glory’s halo and the Russian crown?
On the wild steppe, in poor mud-hovel, thou        165
Of royal diadem for me dost take the place,
Thy love—
  Marina—        Shame on thee! Dare not to forget
Thy lofty, holy, heavenly vocation!
Thy rank should be unto thee dearer far
Than any joy or flattering dreams of life.        170
With it there’s nothing that thou mayest compare.
Not to the youth with foolish passion burning,
Not to the captive of my beauty’s power,
But to the heir of Moscow’s royal throne,
To the Tzarévitch, saved from death by fate,        175
This hand I’ll give. Then hear, and mark me well.
  Pretender—Torture me not thus, my Marina fair;
Say not it is my rank and not myself
Which thou hast chosen! Dear, thou knowest not
How deeply thou dost wound my heart thereby.        180
What—what if—oh, cruel doubt most keen!—
Tell me: if something less than royal purple
Had Fate the blind bestowed on me at birth,
And were I not in truth the son of Ivan,
Not that young child, by all men long forgot,        185
Then—then—wouldst thou then love me still?
  Marina—Thou art Dmitry and canst be no other;
None other can I love.
  Pretender—                    Nay, ’tis enough!
I will not share my mistress with the dead,
The mistress who belongs in truth to him.        190
No, I have feigned enough. Now will I tell
The truth, the whole! Thy Dmitry, heed me well,
Is dead, is buried, will not rise again;
But wouldst thou know who I am?
So be it! hark! A poor monk, nothing more.        195
Tired of imprisonment, of monastery life,
A daring thought beneath my sombre cowl
Engendered; I prepared the world a marvel—
And fled from out my cell, fled forth at last.
Within their camp the riotous men of Ukraine        200
Taught me to ride a horse and wield the sword;
I came to you and called myself Dmitry,
And so did fool them all, these witless Poles.
Haughty Marina, what is thy verdict now?
Doth my confession satisfy thy heart?        205
Why art thou dumb?
  Marina—                    Oh, shame and woe to me!
*        *        *        *        *
What if to all I show thy insolent deceit?
  Pretender—Think’st thou I fear thee?
That men will rather trust a Polish maid
Than Russian Tzarévitch? Nay, you must know        210
That neither king nor noble nor grandee
Careth one jot for truth of that I say.
I am Dmitry, or I’m not—what’s that to them?
Still, I’m a pretext for their strife, for war:
That’s all they need or reck; and as for you,        215
Trust me, rebellious maid, they’ll silence you.
  Marina—        Nay, stay, Tzarévitch! Now
At last I hear the man speak, not the boy.
Heed me: awake! ’tis time; delay not!
Lead thy troops quickly into Moscow town,        220
Clear out the Kremlin, mount the Moscow throne—
Then send for me the wedding messenger;
But—God in heaven hears me—till thy foot
Upon the steps of that great throne doth rest,
And Godunov hath been dethroned by thee,        225
I’ll listen to no further word of love. Enough.  [Exit.]

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