Author: Nekrasov, Nikolai Alekseevich, 1821-1877
Title: Who Can Be Happy and Free in Russia?
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): pomyeshchick; barin; peasants; vodka; peasant; russia; brothers goobin
Contributor(s): Soskice, Juliet M. [Translator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 54,370 words (really short) Grade range: 8-9 (grade school) Readability score: 70 (easy)
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You can also find out about how to make a donation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved. **Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts** **eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971** *****These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!***** Title: Who Can Be Happy And Free In Russia? Author: Nicholas Nekrassov Release Date: January, 2006 [EBook #9619] [Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule] [This file was first posted on October 13, 2003] Edition: 10 Language: English Character set encoding: ASCII *** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK HAPPY AND FREE IN RUSSIA? *** Produced by Jonathan Ingram, Tapio Riikonen and PG Distributed Proofreaders WHO CAN BE HAPPY AND FREE IN RUSSIA? BY NICHOLAS NEKRASSOV Translated by Juliet M. Soskice With an Introduction by Dr. David Soskice 1917 [Illustration: Nicholas Nekrassov] NICHOLAS ALEXEIEVITCH NEKRASSOV Born, near the town Vinitza, province of Podolia, November 22, 1821 Died, St. Petersburg, December 27, 1877. _'Who can be Happy and Free in Russia?' was first published in Russia in 1879. In 'The World's Classics' this translation was first published in 1917._ CONTENTS: NICHOLAS NEKRASSOV: A SKETCH OF HIS LIFE PROLOGUE PART I. CHAP. I. THE POPE II. THE VILLAGE FAIR III. THE DRUNKEN NIGHT IV. THE HAPPY ONES V. THE POMYESHCHICK PART II.--THE LAST POMYESHCHICK PROLOGUE I. THE DIE-HARD II. KLIM, THE ELDER PART III.--THE PEASANT WOMAN PROLOGUE I. THE WEDDING II. A SONG III. SAVYELI IV. DJOMUSHKA V. THE SHE-WOLF VI. AN UNLUCKY YEAR VII. THE GOVERNOR'S LADY VIII. THE WOMAN'S LEGEND PART IV.--A FEAST FOR THE WHOLE VILLAGE PROLOGUE I. BITTER TIMES--BITTER SONGS II. PILGRIMS AND WANDERERS III. OLD AND NEW EPILOGUE NICHOLAS NEKRASSOV: A SKETCH OF HIS LIFE Western Europe has only lately begun to explore the rich domain of Russian literature, and is not yet acquainted with all even of its greatest figures. Treasures of untold beauty and priceless value, which for many decades have been enlarging and elevating the Russian mind, still await discovery here. Who in England, for instance, has heard the names of Saltykov, Uspensky, or Nekrassov? Yet Saltykov is the greatest of Russian satirists; Uspensky the greatest story-writer of the lives of the Russian toiling masses; while Nekrassov, "the poet of the people's sorrow," whose muse "of grief and vengeance" has supremely dominated the minds of the Russian educated classes for the last half century, is the sole and rightful heir of his two great predecessors, Pushkin and Lermontov. Russia is a country still largely mysterious to the denizen of Western Europe, and the Russian peasant, the _moujik_, an impenetrable riddle to him. Of all the great Russian writers not one has contributed more to the interpretation of the enigmatical soul of the _moujik_ than Russia's great poet, Nekrassov, in his life-work the national epic, _Who can be Happy in Russia?_ There are few literate persons in Russia who do not know whole pages of this poem by heart. It will live as long as Russian literature exists; and its artistic value as an instrument for the depiction of Russian nature and the soul of the Russian people can be compared only with that of the great epics of Homer with regard to the legendary life of ancient Greece. Nekrassov seemed destined to dwell from his birth amid such surroundings as are necessary for the creation of a great national poet. Nicholas Alexeievitch Nekrassov was the descendant of a noble family, which in former years had been very wealthy, but subsequently had lost the greater part of its estates. His father was an officer in the army, and in the course of his peregrinations from one end of the country to the other in the fulfilment of his military duties he became acquainted with a young Polish girl, the daughter of a wealthy Polish aristocrat. She was seventeen, a type of rare Polish beauty, and the handsome, dashing Russian officer at once fell madly in love with her. The parents of the girl, however, were horrified at the notion of marrying their daughter to a "Muscovite savage," and her father threatened her with his curse if ever again she held communication with her lover. So the matter was secretly arranged between the two, and during a ball which the young Polish beauty was attending she suddenly disappeared. Outside the house the lover waited with his sledge. They sped away, and were married at the first church they reached. The bride, with her father's curse upon her, passed straight from her sheltered existence in her luxurious home to all the unsparing rigours of Russian camp-life. Bred in an atmosphere of maternal tenderness and Polish refinement she had now to share the life of her rough, uncultured Russian husband, to content herself with the shallow society of the wives of the camp officers, and soon to be crushed by the knowledge that the man for whom she had sacrificed everything was not even faithful to her. During their travels, in 1821, Nicholas Nekrassov the future poet was born, and three years later his father left military service and settled in his estate in the Yaroslav Province, on the banks of the great river Volga, and close to the Vladimirsky highway, famous in Russian history as the road along which, for centuries, chained convicts had been driven from European Russia to the mines in Siberia. The old park of the manor, with its seven rippling brooklets and mysterious shadowy linden avenues more than a century old, filled with a dreamy murmur at the slightest stir of the breeze, stretched down to the mighty Volga, along the banks of which, during the long summer days, were heard the piteous, panting songs of the _burlaki_, the barge-towers, who drag the heavy, loaded barges up and down the river. The rattling of the convicts' chains as they passed; the songs of the _burlaki_; the pale, sorrowful face of his mother as she walked alone in the linden avenues of the garden, often shedding tears over a letter she read, which was headed by a coronet and written in a fine, delicate hand; the spreading green fields, the broad mighty river, the deep blue skies of Russia,--such were the reminiscences which Nekrassov retained from his earliest childhood. He loved his sad young mother with a childish passion, and in after years he was wont to relate how jealous he had been of that letter she read so often, which always seemed to fill her with a sorrow he could not understand, making her at moments even forget that he was near her. The sight and knowledge of deep human suffering, framed in the soft voluptuous beauty of nature in central Russia, could not fail to sow the seed of future poetical powers in the soul of an emotional child. His mother, who had been bred on Shakespeare, Milton, and the other great poets and writers of the West, devoted her solitary life to the development of higher intellectual tendencies in her gifted little son. And from an early age he made attempts at verse. His mother has preserved for the world his first little poem, which he presented to her when he was seven years of age, with a little heading, roughly to the following effect: My darling Mother, look at this, I did the best I could in it, Please read it through and tell me if You think there's any good in it. The early life of the little Nekrassov was passed amid a series of contrasting pictures. His father, when he had abandoned his military calling and settled upon his estate, became the Chief of the district police. He would take his son Nicholas with him in his trap as he drove from village to village in the fulfilment of his new duties. The continual change of scenery during their frequent journeys along country roads, through forests and valleys, past meadows and rivers, the various types of people they met with, broadened and developed the mind of little Nekrassov, just as the mind of the child Ruskin was formed and expanded during his journeys with his father. But Ruskin's education lacked features with which young Nekrassov on his journeys soon became familiar. While acquiring knowledge of life and accumulating impressions of the beauties of nature, Nekrassov listened, perforce, to the brutal, blustering speeches addressed by his father to the helpless, trembling peasants, and witnessed the cruel, degrading corporal punishments he inflicted upon them, while his eyes were speedily opened to his father's addiction to drinking, gambling, and debauchery. These experiences would most certainly have demoralised and depraved his childish mind had it not been for the powerful influence the refined and cultured mother had from the first exercised upon her son. The contrast between his parents was so startling that it could not fail to awaken the better side of the child's nature, and to imbue him with pure and healthy notions of the truer and higher ideals of humanity. In his poetical works of later years Nekrassov repeatedly returns to and dwells upon the memory of the sorrowful, sweet image of his mother. The gentle, beautiful lady, with her wealth of golden hair, with an expression of divine tenderness in her blue eyes and of infinite suffering upon her sensitive lips, remained for ever her son's ideal of womanhood. Later on, during years of manhood, in moments of the deepest moral suffering and despondency, it was always of her that he thought, her tenderness and spiritual consolation he recalled and for which he craved. When Nekrassov was eleven years of age his father one day drove him to the town nearest their estate and placed him in the local grammar-school. Here he remained for six years, gradually, though without distinction, passing upwards from one class to another, devoting a moderate amount of time to school studies and much energy to the writing of poetry, mostly of a satirical nature, in which his teachers figured with unfortunate conspicuity. One day a copy-book containing the most biting of these productions fell into the hands of the headmaster, and young Nekrassov was summarily ejected from the school. His angry father, deciding in his own mind that the boy was good for nothing, despatched him to St. Petersburg to embark upon a military career. The seventeen-year-old boy arrived in the capital with a copy-book of his poems and a few roubles in his pocket, and with a letter of introduction to an influential general. He was filled with good intentions and fully prepared to obey his father's orders, but before he had taken the final step of entering the nobleman's regiment he met a young student, a former school-mate, who captivated his imagination by glowing descriptions of the marvellous sciences to be studied in the university, and the surpassing interest of student life. The impressionable boy decided to abandon the idea of his military career, and to prepare for his matriculation in the university. He wrote to his father to this effect, and received the stern and laconic reply: "If you disobey me, not another farthing shall you receive from me." The youth had made his mind up, however, and entered the university as an unmatriculated student. And that was the beginning of his long acquaintance with the hardships of poverty. "For three years," said Nekrassov in after life, "I was hungry all day, and every day. It was not only that I ate bad food and not enough of that, but some days I did not eat at all. I often went to a certain restaurant in the Morskaya, where one is allowed to read the paper without ordering food. You can hold the paper in front of you and nibble at a piece of bread behind it...." While sunk in this state of poverty, however, Nekrassov got into touch with some of the richest and most aristocratic families in St. Petersburg; for at that time there existed a complete comradeship and equality among the students, whether their budget consisted of a few farthings or unlimited wealth. Thus here again Nekrassov was given the opportunity of studying the contrasts of life. For several years after his arrival in St. Petersburg the true gifts of the poet were denied expression. The young man was confronted with a terrible uphill fight to conquer the means of bare subsistence. He had no time to devote to the working out of his poems, and it would not have "paid" him. He was obliged to accept any literary job that was offered him, and to execute it with a promptitude necessitated by the requirements of his daily bill of fare. During the first years of his literary career he wrote an amazing number of prose reviews, essays, short stories, novels, comedies and tragedies, alphabets and children's stories, which, put together, would fill thirty or forty volumes. He also issued a volume of his early poems, but he was so ashamed of them that he would not put his name upon the fly-leaf. Soon, however, his poems, "On the Road" and "My Motherland," attracted the attention of Byelinsky, when the young poet brought some of his work to show the great critic. With tears in his eyes Byelinsky embraced Nekrassov and said to him: "Do you know that you are a poet, a true poet?" This decree of Byelinsky brought fame to Nekrassov, for Byelinsky's word was law in Russia then, and his judgement was never known to fail. His approval gave Nekrassov the confidence he lacked, and he began to devote most of his time to poetry. The epoch in which Nekrassov began his literary career in St. Petersburg, the early forties of last century, was one of a great revival of idealism in Russia. The iron reaction of the then Emperor Nicholas I. made independent political activity an impossibility. But the horrible and degrading conditions of serfdom which existed at that time, and which cast a blight upon the energy and dignity of the Russian nation, nourished feelings of grief and indignation in the noblest minds of the educated classes, and, unable to struggle for their principles in the field of practical politics, they strove towards abstract idealism. They devoted their energies to philosophy, literature, and art. It was then that Tolstoy, Turgenieff, and Dostoyevsky embarked upon their phenomenal careers in fiction. It was then that the impetuous essayist, Byelinsky, with his fiery and eloquent pen, taught the true meaning and objects of literature. Nekrassov soon joined the circles of literary people dominated by the spirit of Byelinsky, and he too drank at the fountain of idealism and imbibed the gospel of altruistic toil for his country and its people, that gospel of perfect citizenship expounded by Byelinsky, Granovsky, and their friends. It was at this period that his poetry became impregnated with the sadness which, later on, was embodied in the lines: My verses! Living witnesses of tears Shed for the world, and born In moments of the soul's dire agony, Unheeded and forlorn, Like waves that beat against the rocks, You plead to hearts that scorn. Nekrassov's material conditions meanwhile began to improve, and he actually developed business capacities, and soon the greatest writers of the time were contributing to the monthly review _Sovremenik_ (the Contemporary) which Nekrassov bought in 1847. Turgenieff, Herzen, Byelinsky, Dostoyevsky gladly sent their works to him, and Nekrassov soon became the intellectual leader of his time. His influence became enormous, but he had to cope with all the rigours of the censorship which had become almost insupportable in Russia, as the effect of the Tsar's fears aroused by the events of the French Revolution of 1848. Byelinsky died in that year from consumption in the very presence of the gendarmes who had come to arrest him for some literary offence. Dostoyevsky was seized, condemned to death, and when already on the scaffold, with the rope around his neck, reprieved and sent for life to the Siberian mines. The rigours still increased during the Crimean War, and it was only after the death of Nicholas I., the termination of the war, and the accession of the liberal Tsar, Alexander II., that Nekrassov and Russian literature in general began to breathe more freely. The decade which followed upon 1855 was one of the bright periods of Russian history. Serfdom was abolished and many great reforms were passed. It was then that Nekrassov's activity was at its height. His review _Sovremenik_ was a stupendous success, and brought him great fame and wealth. During that year some of his finest poems appeared in it: "The Peasant Children," "Orina, the Mother of a Soldier," "The Gossips," "The Pedlars," "The Rail-way," and many others. Nekrassov became the idol of Russia. The literary evenings at which he used to read his poems aloud were besieged by fervent devotees, and the most brilliant orations were addressed to him on all possible occasions. His greatest work, however, the national epic, _Who can be Happy in Russia?_ was written towards the latter end of his life, between 1873 and 1877. Here he suffered from the censor more cruelly than ever. Long extracts from the poem were altogether forbidden, and only after his death it was allowed, in 1879, to appear in print more or less in its entirety. When gripped in the throes of his last painful illness, and practically on his deathbed, he would still have found consolation in work, in the dictation of his poems. But even then his sufferings were aggravated by the harassing coercions of the censor. His last great poem was written on his deathbed, and the censor peremptorily forbade its publication. Nekrassov one day greeted his doctor with the following remark: "Now you see what our profession, literature, means. When I wrote my first lines they were hacked to pieces by the censor's scissors--that was thirty-seven years ago; and now, when I am dying, and have written my last lines, I am again confronted by the scissors." For many months he lay in appalling suffering. His disease was the outcome, he declared, of the privations he had suffered in his youth. The whole of Russia seemed to be standing at his bedside, watching with anguish his terrible struggle with death. Hundreds of letters and telegrams arrived daily from every corner of the immense empire, and the dying poet, profoundly touched by these tokens of love and sympathy, said to the literary friends who visited him: "You see! We wonder all our lives what our readers think of us, whether they love us and are our friends. We learn in moments like this...." It was a bright, frosty December day when Nekrassov's coffin was carried to the grave on the shoulders of friends who had loved and admired him. The orations delivered above it were full of passionate emotion called forth by the knowledge that the speakers were expressing not only their own sentiments, but those of a whole nation. Nekrassov is dead. But all over Russia young and old repeat and love his poetry, so full of tenderness and grief and pity for the Russian people and their endless woe. Quotations from the works of Nekrassov are as abundant and widely known in Russia as those from Shakespeare in England, and no work of his is so familiar and so widely quoted as the national epic, now presented to the English public, _Who can be Happy in Russia?_ DAVID SOSKICE. PROLOGUE The year doesn't matter, The land's not important, But seven good peasants Once met on a high-road. From Province "Hard-Battered," From District "Most Wretched," From "Destitute" Parish, From neighbouring hamlets-- "Patched," "Barefoot," and "Shabby," "Bleak," "Burnt-Out," and "Hungry," From "Harvestless" also, 11 They met and disputed Of who can, in Russia, Be happy and free? Luka said, "The pope,"  And Roman, "The Pomyeshchick,"  Demyan, "The official," "The round-bellied merchant," Said both brothers Goobin, Mitrodor and Ivan. 20 Pakhom, who'd been lost In profoundest reflection, Exclaimed, looking down At the earth, "'Tis his Lordship, His most mighty Highness, The Tsar's Chief Adviser," And Prov said, "The Tsar." Like bulls are the peasants: Once folly is in them You cannot dislodge it 30 Although you should beat them With stout wooden cudgels: They stick to their folly, And nothing can move them. They raised such a clamour That those who were passing Thought, "Surely the fellows Have found a great treasure And share it amongst them!" They all had set out 40 On particular errands: The one to the blacksmith's, Another in haste To fetch Father Prokoffy To christen his baby. Pakhom had some honey To sell in the market; The two brothers Goobin Were seeking a horse Which had strayed from their herd. 50 Long since should the peasants Have turned their steps homewards, But still in a row They are hurrying onwards As quickly as though The grey wolf were behind them. Still further, still faster They hasten, contending. Each shouts, nothing hearing, And time does not wait. 60 In quarrel they mark not The fiery-red sunset Which blazes in Heaven As evening is falling, And all through the night They would surely have wandered If not for the woman, The pox-pitted "Blank-wits," Who met them and cried: "Heh, God-fearing peasants, 70 Pray, what is your mission? What seek ye abroad In the blackness of midnight?" So shrilled the hag, mocking, And shrieking with laughter She slashed at her horses And galloped away. The peasants are startled, Stand still, in confusion, Since long night has fallen, 80 The numberless stars Cluster bright in the heavens, The moon gliding onwards. Black shadows are spread On the road stretched before The impetuous walkers. Oh, shadows, black shadows, Say, who can outrun you, Or who can escape you? Yet no one can catch you, 90 Entice, or embrace you! Pakhom, the old fellow, Gazed long at the wood, At the sky, at the roadway, Gazed, silently searching His brain for some counsel, And then spake in this wise: "Well, well, the wood-devil Has finely bewitched us! We've wandered at least 100 Thirty versts from our homes. We all are too weary To think of returning To-night; we must wait Till the sun rise to-morrow." Thus, blaming the devil, The peasants make ready To sleep by the roadside. They light a large fire, And collecting some farthings 110 Send two of their number To buy them some vodka, The rest cutting cups From the bark of a birch-tree. The vodka's provided, Black bread, too, besides, And they all begin feasting: Each munches some bread And drinks three cups of vodka-- But then comes the question 120 Of who can, in Russia, Be happy and free? Luka cries, "The pope!" And Roman, "The Pomyeshchick!" And Prov shouts, "The Tsar!" And Demyan, "The official!" "The round-bellied merchant!" Bawl both brothers Goobin, Mitrodor and Ivan. Pakhom shrieks, "His Lordship, 130 His most mighty Highness, The Tsar's Chief Adviser!" The obstinate peasants Grow more and more heated, Cry louder and louder, Swear hard at each other; I really believe They'll attack one another! Look! now they are fighting! Roman and Pakhom close, 140 Demyan clouts Luka, While the two brothers Goobin Are drubbing fat Prov, And they all shout together. Then wakes the clear echo, Runs hither and thither, Runs calling and mocking As if to encourage The wrath of the peasants. The trees of the forest 150 Throw furious words back: "The Tsar!" "The Pomyeshchick!" "The pope!" "The official!" Until the whole coppice Awakes in confusion; The birds and the insects, The swift-footed beasts And the low crawling reptiles Are chattering and buzzing And stirring all round. 160 The timid grey hare Springing out of the bushes Speeds startled away; The hoarse little jackdaw Flies off to the top Of a birch-tree, and raises A harsh, grating shriek, A most horrible clamour. A weak little peewit Falls headlong in terror 170 From out of its nest, And the mother comes flying In search of her fledgeling. She twitters in anguish. Alas! she can't find it. The crusty old cuckoo Awakes and bethinks him To call to a neighbour: Ten times he commences And gets out of tune, 180 But he won't give it up.... Call, call, little cuckoo, For all the young cornfields Will shoot into ear soon, And then it will choke you-- The ripe golden grain, And your day will be ended! From out the dark forest Fly seven brown owls, And on seven tall pine-trees 190 They settle themselves To enjoy the disturbance. They laugh--birds of night-- And their huge yellow eyes gleam Like fourteen wax candles. The raven--the wise one-- Sits perched on a tree In the light of the fire, Praying hard to the devil That one of the wranglers, 200 At least, should be beaten To death in the tumult. A cow with a bell Which had strayed from its fellows The evening before, Upon hearing men's voices Comes out of the forest And into the firelight, And fixing its eyes, Large and sad, on the peasants, 210 Stands listening in silence Some time to their raving, And then begins mooing, Most heartily moos. The silly cow moos, The jackdaw is screeching, The turbulent peasants Still shout, and the echo Maliciously mocks them-- The impudent echo 220 Who cares but for mocking And teasing good people, For scaring old women And innocent children: Though no man has seen it We've all of us heard it; It lives--without body; It speaks--without tongue. The pretty white owl Called the Duchess of Moscow 230 Comes plunging about In the midst of the peasants, Now circling above them, Now striking the bushes And earth with her body. And even the fox, too, The cunning old creature, With woman's determined And deep curiosity, Creeps to the firelight 240 And stealthily listens; At last, quite bewildered, She goes; she is thinking, "The devil himself Would be puzzled, I know!" And really the wranglers Themselves have forgotten The cause of the strife. But after awhile Having pummelled each other 250 Sufficiently soundly, They come to their senses; They drink from a rain-pool And wash themselves also, And then they feel sleepy. And, meanwhile, the peewit, The poor little fledgeling, With short hops and flights Had come fluttering towards them. Pakhom took it up 260 In his palm, held it gently Stretched out to the firelight, And looked at it, saying, "You are but a mite, Yet how sharp is your claw; If I breathed on you once You'd be blown to a distance, And if I should sneeze You would straightway be wafted Right into the flames. 270 One flick from my finger Would kill you entirely. Yet you are more powerful, More free than the peasant: Your wings will grow stronger, And then, little birdie, You'll fly where it please you. Come, give us your wings, now, You frail little creature, And we will go flying 280 All over the Empire, To seek and inquire, To search and discover The man who in Russia-- Is happy and free." "No wings would be needful If we could be certain Of bread every day; For then we could travel On foot at our leisure," 290 Said Prov, of a sudden Grown weary and sad. "But not without vodka, A bucket each morning," Cried both brothers Goobin, Mitrodor and Ivan, Who dearly loved vodka. "Salt cucumbers, also, Each morning a dozen!" The peasants cry, jesting. 300 "Sour qwass, too, a jug To refresh us at mid-day!" "A can of hot tea Every night!" they say, laughing. But while they were talking The little bird's mother Was flying and wheeling In circles above them; She listened to all, And descending just near them 310 She chirruped, and making A brisk little movement She said to Pakhom In a voice clear and human: "Release my poor child, I will pay a great ransom." "And what is your offer?" "A loaf each a day And a bucket of vodka, Salt cucumbers also, 320 Each morning a dozen. At mid-day sour qwass And hot tea in the evening." "And where, little bird," Asked the two brothers Goobin, "And where will you find Food and drink for all seven?" "Yourselves you will find it, But I will direct you To where you will find it." 330 "Well, speak. We will listen." "Go straight down the road, Count the poles until thirty: Then enter the forest And walk for a verst. By then you'll have come To a smooth little lawn With two pine-trees upon it. Beneath these two pine-trees Lies buried a casket 340 Which you must discover. The casket is magic, And in it there lies An enchanted white napkin. Whenever you wish it This napkin will serve you With food and with vodka: You need but say softly, 'O napkin enchanted, Give food to the peasants!' 350 At once, at your bidding, Through my intercession The napkin will serve you. And now, free my child." "But wait. We are poor, And we're thinking of making A very long journey," Pakhom said. "I notice That you are a bird Of remarkable talent. 360 So charm our old clothing To keep it upon us." "Our coats, that they fall not In tatters," Roman said. "Our laputs, that they too May last the whole journey," Demyan next demanded. "Our shirts, that the fleas May not breed and annoy us," Luka added lastly. 370 The little bird answered, "The magic white napkin Will mend, wash, and dry for you. Now free my child." Pakhom then spread open His palm, wide and spacious, Releasing the fledgeling, Which fluttered away To a hole in a pine-tree. The mother who followed it 380 Added, departing: "But one thing remember: Food, summon at pleasure As much as you fancy, But vodka, no more Than a bucket a day. If once, even twice You neglect my injunction Your wish shall be granted; The third time, take warning: 390 Misfortune will follow." The peasants set off In a file, down the road, Count the poles until thirty And enter the forest, And, silently counting Each footstep, they measure A verst as directed. They find the smooth lawn With the pine-trees upon it, 400 They dig all together And soon reach the casket; They open it--there lies The magic white napkin! They cry in a chorus, "O napkin enchanted, Give food to the peasants!" Look, look! It's unfolding! Two hands have come floating From no one sees where; 410 Place a bucket of vodka, A large pile of bread On the magic white napkin, And dwindle away. "The cucumbers, tea, And sour qwass--where are they then?" At once they appear! The peasants unloosen Their waistbelts, and gather Around the white napkin 420 To hold a great banquet. In joy, they embrace One another, and promise That never again Will they beat one another Without sound reflection, But settle their quarrels In reason and honour As God has commanded; That nought shall persuade them 430 To turn their steps homewards To kiss wives and children, To see the old people, Until they have settled For once and forever The subject of discord: Until they've discovered The man who, in Russia, Is happy and free. They swear to each other 440 To keep this, their promise, And daybreak beholds them Embosomed in slumber As deep and as dreamless As that of the dead. PART I. CHAPTER I. THE POPE The broad sandy high-road With borders of birch-trees Winds sadly and drearily Into the distance; On either hand running Low hills and young cornfields, Green pastures, and often-- More often than any-- Lands sterile and barren. And near to the rivers 10 And ponds are the hamlets And villages standing-- The old and the new ones. The forests and meadows And rivers of Russia Are lovely in springtime, But O you spring cornfields, Your growth thin and scanty Is painful to see. "'Twas not without meaning 20 That daily the snow fell Throughout the long winter," Said one to another The journeying peasants:-- "The spring has now come And the snow tells its story: At first it is silent-- 'Tis silent in falling, Lies silently sleeping, But when it is dying 30 Its voice is uplifted: The fields are all covered With loud, rushing waters, No roads can be traversed For bringing manure To the aid of the cornfields; The season is late For the sweet month of May Is already approaching." The peasant is saddened 40 At sight of the dirty And squalid old village; But sadder the new ones: The new huts are pretty, But they are the token Of heartbreaking ruin. As morning sets in They begin to meet people, But mostly small people: Their brethren, the peasants, 50 And soldiers and waggoners, Workmen and beggars. The soldiers and beggars They pass without speaking. Not asking if happy Or grievous their lot: The soldier, we know, Shaves his beard with a gimlet, Has nothing but smoke In the winter to warm him,-- 60 What joy can be his? As evening is falling Appears on the high-road A pope in his cart. The peasants uncover Their heads, and draw up In a line on the roadway, Thus barring the passage In front of the gelding. The pope raised his head, 70 Looked inquiringly at them. "Fear not, we won't harm you," Luka said in answer. (Luka was thick-bearded, Was heavy and stolid, Was obstinate, stupid, And talkative too; He was like to the windmill Which differs in one thing Alone from an eagle: 80 No matter how boldly It waves its broad pinions It rises no higher.) "We, orthodox peasants, From District 'Most Wretched,' From Province 'Hard Battered,' From 'Destitute' Parish, From neighbouring hamlets, 'Patched,' 'Barefoot,' and 'Shabby,' 'Bleak,' 'Burnt-Out,' and 'Hungry,' 90 From 'Harvestless' also, Are striving to settle A thing of importance; A trouble torments us, It draws us away From our wives and our children, Away from our work, Kills our appetites too. Pray, give us your promise To answer us truly, 100 Consulting your conscience And searching your knowledge, Not feigning nor mocking The question we put you. If not, we will go Further on." "I will promise If you will but put me A serious question To answer it gravely, 110 With truth and with reason, Not feigning nor mocking, Amen!" "We are grateful, And this is our story: We all had set out On particular errands, And met in the roadway. Then one asked another: Who is he,--the man 120 Free and happy in Russia? And I said, 'The pope,' And Roman, 'The Pomyeshchick,' And Prov said, 'The Tsar,' And Demyan, 'The official'; 'The round-bellied merchant,' Said both brothers Goobin, Mitrodor and Ivan; Pakhom said, 'His Lordship, The Tsar's Chief Adviser.' 130 "Like bulls are the peasants; Once folly is in them You cannot dislodge it Although you should beat them With stout wooden cudgels, They stick to their folly And nothing can move them. We argued and argued, While arguing quarrelled, While quarrelling fought, 140 Till at last we decided That never again Would we turn our steps homeward To kiss wives and children, To see the old people, Until we have found The reply to our question, Until we've discovered For once and forever The man who, in Russia, 150 Is happy and free. Then say, in God's truth, Is the pope's life a sweet one? Would you, honoured father, Proclaim yourself happy?" The pope in his cart Cast his eyes on the roadway, Fell thoughtful and answered: "Then, Christians, come, hear me: I will not complain 160 Of the cross that I carry, But bear it in silence. I'll tell you my story, And you try to follow As well as you can." "Begin." "But first tell me The gifts you consider As true earthly welfare; Peace, honour, and riches,-- 170 Is that so, my children?" They answer, "It is so." "And now let us see, friends, What peace does the pope get? In truth, then, I ought To begin from my childhood, For how does the son Of the pope gain his learning, And what is the price That he pays for the priesthood? 180 'Tis best to be silent."  * * * * * "Our roadways are poor And our parishes large, And the sick and the dying, The new-born that call us, Do not choose their season: In harvest and hay-time, In dark nights of autumn, Through frosts in the winter, Through floods in the springtime, 190 Go--where they may call you. You go without murmur, If only the body Need suffer alone! But no,--every moment The heart's deepest feelings Are strained and tormented. Believe me, my children, Some things on this earth One can never get used to: 200 No heart there exists That can bear without anguish The rattle of death, The lament for the lost one, The sorrow of orphans, Amen! Now you see, friends, The peace that the pope gets." Not long did the peasants Stand thinking. They waited To let the pope rest, 210 Then enquired with a bow: "And what more will you tell us?" "Well, now let us see If the pope is much honoured; And that, O my friends, Is a delicate question-- I fear to offend you.... But answer me, Christians, Whom call you, 'The cursed Stallion breed?' Can you tell me?" The peasants stand silent 221 In painful confusion; The pope, too, is silent. "Who is it you tremble To meet in the roadway For fear of misfortune?" The peasants stand shuffling Their feet in confusion. "Of whom do you make Little scandalous stories? 230 Of whom do you sing Rhymes and songs most indecent? The pope's honoured wife, And his innocent daughters, Come, how do you treat them? At whom do you shout Ho, ho, ho, in derision When once you are past him?" The peasants cast downwards Their eyes and keep silent. 240 The pope too is silent. The peasants stand musing; The pope fans his face With his hat, high and broad-rimmed, And looks at the heavens.... The cloudlets in springtime Play round the great sun Like small grandchildren frisking Around a hale grandsire, And now, on his right side 250 A bright little cloud Has grown suddenly dismal, Begins to shed tears. The grey thread is hanging In rows to the earth, While the red sun is laughing And beaming upon it Through torn fleecy clouds, Like a merry young girl Peeping out from the corn. 260 The cloud has moved nearer, The rain begins here, And the pope puts his hat on. But on the sun's right side The joy and the brightness Again are established. The rain is now ceasing.... It stops altogether, And God's wondrous miracle, Long golden sunbeams, 270 Are streaming from Heaven In radiant splendour. * * * * * "It isn't our own fault; It comes from our parents," Say, after long silence, The two brothers Goobin. The others approve him: "It isn't our own fault, It comes from our parents." The pope said, "So be it! 280 But pardon me, Christians, It is not my meaning To censure my neighbours; I spoke but desiring To tell you the truth. You see how the pope Is revered by the peasants; The gentry--" "Pass over them, Father--we know them." 290 "Then let us consider From whence the pope's riches. In times not far distant The great Russian Empire Was filled with estates Of wealthy Pomyeshchicks. They lived and increased, And they let us live too. What weddings were feasted! What numbers and numbers 300 Of children were born In each rich, merry life-time! Although they were haughty And often oppressive, What liberal masters! They never deserted The parish, they married, Were baptized within it, To us they confessed, And by us they were buried. 310 And if a Pomyeshchick Should chance for some reason To live in a city, He cherished one longing, To die in his birthplace; But did the Lord will it That he should die suddenly Far from the village, An order was found In his papers, most surely, 320 That he should be buried At home with his fathers. Then see--the black car With the six mourning horses,-- The heirs are conveying The dead to the graveyard; And think--what a lift For the pope, and what feasting All over the village! But now that is ended, 330 Pomyeshchicks are scattered Like Jews over Russia And all foreign countries. They seek not the honour Of lying with fathers And mothers together. How many estates Have passed into the pockets Of rich speculators! O you, bones so pampered 340 Of great Russian gentry, Where are you not buried, What far foreign graveyard Do you not repose in? "Myself from dissenters (A source of pope's income) I never take money, I've never transgressed, For I never had need to; Because in my parish 350 Two-thirds of the people Are Orthodox churchmen. But districts there are Where the whole population Consists of dissenters-- Then how can the pope live? "But all in this world Is subjected to changes: The laws which in old days Applied to dissenters 360 Have now become milder; And that in itself Is a check to pope's income. I've said the Pomyeshchicks Are gone, and no longer They seek to return To the home of their childhood; And then of their ladies (Rich, pious old women), How many have left us 370 To live near the convents! And nobody now Gives the pope a new cassock Or church-work embroidered. He lives on the peasants, Collects their brass farthings, Their cakes on the feast-days, At Easter their eggs. The peasants are needy Or they would give freely-- 380 Themselves they have nothing; And who can take gladly The peasant's last farthing? "Their lands are so poor, They are sand, moss, or boggy, Their cattle half-famished, Their crops yield but twofold; And should Mother Earth Chance at times to be kinder, That too is misfortune: 390 The market is crowded, They sell for a trifle To pay off the taxes. Again comes a bad crop--- Then pay for your bread Three times higher than ever, And sell all your cattle! Now, pray to God, Christians, For this year again A great misery threatens: 400 We ought to have sown For a long time already; But look you--the fields Are all deluged and useless.... O God, have Thou pity And send a round rainbow To shine in Thy heavens!" Then taking his hat off He crossed himself thrice, And the peasants did likewise. "Our village is poor 411 And the people are sickly, The women are sad And are scantily nourished, But pious and laborious; God give them courage! Like slaves do they toil; 'Tis hard to lay hands On the fruits of such labour. "At times you are sent for 420 To pray by the dying, But Death is not really The awful thing present, But rather the living-- The family losing Their only support. You pray by the dead. Words of comfort you utter, To calm the bereaved ones; And then the old mother 430 Comes tottering towards you, And stretching her bony And toil-blistered hand out; You feel your heart sicken, For there in the palm Lie the precious brass farthings! Of course it is only The price of your praying. You take it, because It is what you must live on; 440 Your words of condolence Are frozen, and blindly, Like one deep insulted, You make your way homeward. Amen...." * * * * * The pope finished His speech, and touched lightly The back of the gelding. The peasants make way, And they bow to him deeply. 450 The cart moves on slowly, Then six of the comrades As though by agreement Attack poor Luka With indignant reproaches. "Now, what have you got?-- You great obstinate blockhead, You log of the village! You too must needs argue; Pray what did you tell us? 460 'The popes live like princes, The lords of the belfry, Their palaces rising As high as the heavens, Their bells set a-chiming All over God's world. "'Three years,' you declared, 'Did I work as pope's servant. It wasn't a life-- 'Twas a strawberry, brethren; 470 Pope's kasha is made And served up with fresh butter. Pope's stchee made with fish, And pope's pie stuffed to bursting; The pope's wife is fat too, And white the pope's daughter, His horse like a barrel, His bees are all swollen And booming like church bells.' "Well, there's your pope's life,-- 480 There's your 'strawberry,' boaster! For that you've been shouting And making us quarrel, You limb of the Devil! Pray is it because Of your beard like a shovel You think you're so clever? If so, let me tell you The goat walked in Eden With just such another 490 Before Father Adam, And yet down to our time The goat is considered The greatest of duffers!" The culprit was silent, Afraid of a beating; And he would have got it Had not the pope's face, Turning sadly upon them, Looked over a hedge 500 At a rise in the road. CHAPTER II THE VILLAGE FAIR No wonder the peasants Dislike a wet spring-tide: The peasant needs greatly A spring warm and early. This year, though he howl Like a wolf, I'm afraid That the sun will not gladden The earth with his brightness. The clouds wander heavily, Dropping the rain down 10 Like cows with full udders. The snow has departed, Yet no blade of grass, Not a tiny green leaflet, Is seen in the meadows. The earth has not ventured To don its new mantle Of brightest green velvet, But lies sad and bare Like a corpse without grave-clothes Beneath the dull heavens. 21 One pities the peasant; Still more, though, his cattle: For when they have eaten The scanty reserves Which remain from the winter, Their master will drive them To graze in the meadows, And what will they find there But bare, inky blackness? 30 Nor settled the weather Until it was nearing The feast of St. Nichol, And then the poor cattle Enjoyed the green pastures. The day is a hot one, The peasants are strolling Along 'neath the birch-trees. They say to each other, "We passed through one village, 40 We passed through another, And both were quite empty; To-day is a feast-day, But where are the people?" They reach a large village; The street is deserted Except for small children, And inside the houses Sit only the oldest Of all the old women. 50 The wickets are fastened Securely with padlocks; The padlock's a loyal And vigilant watch-dog; It barks not, it bites not, But no one can pass it. They walk through the village And see a clear mirror Beset with green framework-- A pond full of water; 60 And over its surface Are hovering swallows And all kinds of insects; The gnats quick and meagre Skip over the water As though on dry land; And in the laburnums Which grow on the banksides The landrails are squeaking. A raft made of tree-trunks 70 Floats near, and upon it The pope's heavy daughter Is wielding her beetle, She looks like a hay-stack, Unsound and dishevelled, Her skirts gathered round her. Upon the raft, near her, A duck and some ducklings Are sleeping together. And hark! from the water 80 The neigh of a horse comes; The peasants are startled, They turn all together: Two heads they see, moving Along through the water-- The one is a peasant's, A black head and curly, In one ear an ear-ring Which gleams in the sunlight; A horse's the other, 90 To which there is fastened A rope of some yards length, Held tight in the teeth Of the peasant beside it. The man swims, the horse swims; The horse neighs, the man neighs; They make a fine uproar! The raft with the woman And ducklings upon it Is tossing and heaving. 100 The horse with the peasant Astride has come panting From out of the water, The man with white body And throat black with sunburn; The water is streaming From horse and from rider. "Say, why is your village So empty of people? Are all dead and buried?" 110 "They've gone to Kousminsky; A fair's being held there Because it's a saint's day." "How far is Kousminsky?" "Three versts, I should fancy." "We'll go to Kousminsky," The peasants decided, And each to himself thought, "Perhaps we shall find there The happy, the free one." 120 The village Kousminsky Is rich and commercial And terribly dirty. It's built on a hill-side, And slopes down the valley, Then climbs again upwards,-- So how could one ask of it Not to be dirty? It boasts of two churches. The one is "dissenting," 130 The other "Established." The house with inscription, "The School-House," is empty, In ruins and deserted; And near stands the barber's, A hut with one window, From which hangs the sign-board Of "Barber and Bleeder." A dirty inn also There is, with its sign-board 140 Adorned by a picture: A great nosy tea-pot With plump little tea-cups Held out by a waiter, Suggesting a fat goose Surrounded by goslings. A row of small shops, too, There is in the village. The peasants go straight To the market-place, find there 150 A large crowd of people And goods in profusion. How strange!--notwithstanding There's no church procession The men have no hats on, Are standing bare-headed, As though in the presence Of some holy Image: Look, how they're being swallowed-- The hoods of the peasants. 160 The beer-shop and tavern Are both overflowing; All round are erected Large tents by the roadside For selling of vodka. And though in each tent There are five agile waiters, All young and most active, They find it quite hopeless To try to get change right. 170 Just look how the peasants Are stretching their hands out, With hoods, shirts, and waistcoats! Oh, you, thirst of Russia, Unquenchable, endless You are! But the peasant, When once he is sated, Will soon get a new hood At close of the fair.... The spring sun is playing 180 On heads hot and drunken, On boisterous revels, On bright mixing colours; The men wear wide breeches Of corduroy velvet, With gaudy striped waistcoats And shirts of all colours; The women wear scarlet; The girls' plaited tresses Are decked with bright ribbons; 190 They glide about proudly, Like swans on the water. Some beauties are even Attired in the fashion Of Petersburg ladies; Their dresses spread stiffly On wide hoops around them; But tread on their skirts-- They will turn and attack you, Will gobble like turkeys! 200 Blame rather the fashion Which fastens upon you Great fishermen's baskets! A woman dissenter Looks darkly upon them, And whispers with malice: "A famine, a famine Most surely will blight us. The young growths are sodden, The floods unabated; 210 Since women have taken To red cotton dresses The forests have withered, And wheat--but no wonder!" "But why, little Mother, Are red cotton dresses To blame for the trouble? I don't understand you." "The cotton is _French_, And it's reddened in dog's blood! 220 D'you understand now?" The peasants still linger Some time in the market, Then go further upward, To where on the hill-side Are piled ploughs and harrows, With rakes, spades, and hatchets, And all kinds of iron-ware, And pliable wood To make rims for the cart-wheels. 230 And, oh, what a hubbub Of bargaining, swearing, Of jesting and laughter! And who could help laughing? A limp little peasant Is bending and testing The wood for the wheel-rims. One piece does not please him; He takes up another And bends it with effort; 240 It suddenly straightens, And whack!--strikes his forehead. The man begins roaring, Abusing the bully, The duffer, the block-head. Another comes driving A cart full of wood-ware, As tipsy as can be; He turns it all over! The axle is broken, 250 And, trying to mend it, He smashes the hatchet. He gazes upon it, Abusing, reproaching: "A villain, a villain, You are--not a hatchet. You see, you can't do me The least little service. The whole of your life You spend bowing before me, 260 And yet you insult me!" Our peasants determine To see the shop windows, The handkerchiefs, ribbons, And stuffs of bright colour; And near to the boot-shop Is fresh cause for laughter; For here an old peasant Most eagerly bargains For small boots of goat-skin 270 To give to his grandchild. He asks the price five times; Again and again He has turned them all over; He finds they are faultless. "Well, Uncle, pay up now, Or else be off quickly," The seller says sharply. But wait! The old fellow Still gazes, and fondles 280 The tiny boots softly, And then speaks in this wise: "My daughter won't scold me, Her husband I'll spit at, My wife--let her grumble-- I'll spit at my wife too. It's her that I pity-- My poor little grandchild. She clung to my neck, And she said, 'Little Grandfather, 290 Buy me a present.' Her soft little ringlets Were tickling my cheek, And she kissed the old Grand-dad. You wait, little bare-foot, Wee spinning-top, wait then, Some boots I will buy you, Some boots made of goat-skin." And then must old Vavil Begin to boast grandly, 300 To promise a present To old and to young. But now his last farthing Is swallowed in vodka, And how can he dare Show his eyes in the village? "My daughter won't scold me, Her husband I'll spit at, My wife--let her grumble-- I'll spit at my wife too. 310 It's her that I pity-- My poor little grandchild." And then he commences The story again Of the poor little grandchild. He's very dejected. A crowd listens round him, Not laughing, but troubled At sight of his sorrow. If they could have helped him 320 With bread or by labour They soon would have done so, But money is money, And who has got tenpence To spare? Then came forward Pavloosha Varenko, The "gentleman" nicknamed. (His origin, past life, Or calling they knew not, But called him the 'Barin'.) 330 He listened with pleasure To talk and to jesting; His blouse, coat, and top-boots Were those of a peasant; He sang Russian folk-songs, Liked others to sing them, And often was met with At taverns and inns. He now rescued Vavil, And bought him the boots 340 To take home to his grandchild. The old man fled blindly, But clasping them tightly, Forgetting to thank him, Bewildered with joy. The crowd was as pleased, too, As if had been given To each one a rouble. The peasants next visit The picture and book stall; 350 The pedlars are buying Their stock of small pictures, And books for their baskets To sell on the road. "'Tis generals, _you_ want!" The merchant is saying. "Well, give us some generals; But look--on your conscience-- Now let them be real ones, Be fat and ferocious." 360 "Your notions are funny," The merchant says, smiling; "It isn't a question Of looks...." "Well, of what, then? You want to deceive us, To palm off your rubbish, You swindling impostor! D'you think that the peasants Know one from another? 370 A shabby one--he wants An expert to sell him, But trust me to part with The fat and the fierce." "You don't want officials?" "To Hell with officials!" However they took one Because he was cheap: A minister, striking In view of his stomach 380 As round as a barrel, And seventeen medals. The merchant is serving With greatest politeness, Displaying and praising, With patience unyielding,-- A thief of the first-class He is, come from Moscow. Of Bluecher he sells them A hundred small pictures, 390 As many of Fotyi The archimandrite, And of Sipko the brigand; A book of the sayings Of droll Balakireff The "English Milord," too. The books were put into The packs of the pedlars; The pictures will travel All over great Russia, 400 Until they find rest On the wall of some peasant-- The devil knows why! Oh, may it come quickly The time when the peasant Will make some distinction Between book and book, Between picture and picture; Will bring from the market, Not picture of Bluecher, 410 Not stupid "Milord," But Belinsky and Gogol! Oh, say, Russian people, These names--have you heard them? They're great. They were borne By your champions, who loved you, Who strove in your cause, 'Tis _their_ little portraits Should hang in your houses! "I'd walk into Heaven 420 But can't find the doorway!" Is suddenly shouted By some merry blade. "What door do you want, man?" "The puppet-show, brothers!" "I'll show you the way!" The puppet-show tempted The journeying peasants; They go to inspect it. A farce is being acted, 430 A goat for the drummer; Real music is playing-- No common accordion. The play is not too deep, But not stupid, either. A bullet shot deftly Right into the eye Of the hated policeman. The tent is quite crowded, The audience cracking 440 Their nuts, and exchanging Remarks with each other. And look--there's the vodka! They're drinking and looking, And looking and drinking, Enjoying it highly, With jubilant faces, From time to time throwing A right witty word Into Peterkin's speeches, 450 Which _you'd_ never hit on, Although you should swallow Your pen and your pad!... Some folk there are always Who crowd on the platform (The comedy ended), To greet the performers, To gossip and chat. "How now, my fine fellows, And where do you come from?" 460 "As serfs we used only To play for the masters, But now we are free, And the man who will treat us Alone is our Master!" "Well spoken, my brothers; Enough time you've wasted Amusing the nobles; Now play for the peasants! Here, waiter, bring vodka, 470 Sweet wine, tea, and syrup, And see you make haste!" The sweet sparkling river Comes rolling to meet them; They'll treat the musicians More handsomely, far, Than their masters of old. It is not the rushing Of furious whirlwinds, Not Mother Earth shaking-- 480 'Tis shouting and singing And swearing and fighting And falling and kissing-- The people's carouse! It seems to the peasants That all in the village Was reeling around them! That even the church With the very tall, steeple Had swayed once or twice! 490 When things are in this state, A man who is sober Feels nearly as awkward As one who is naked.... The peasants recrossing The market-place, quitted The turbulent village At evening's approach. CHAPTER III THE DRUNKEN NIGHT This village did not end, As many in Russia, In windmill or tavern, In corn-loft or barn, But in a large building Of wood, with iron gratings In small narrow windows. The broad, sandy high-road, With borders of birch-trees, Spread out straight behind it-- 10 The grim etape--prison. On week-days deserted It is, dull and silent, But now it is not so. All over the high-road, In neighbouring pathways, Wherever the eye falls, Are lying and crawling, Are driving and climbing, The numberless drunkards; 20 Their shout fills the skies. The cart-wheels are screeching, And like slaughtered calves' heads Are nodding and wagging The pates limp and helpless Of peasants asleep. They're dropping on all sides, As if from some ambush An enemy firing Is shooting them wholesale. 30 The quiet night is falling, The moon is in Heaven, And God is commencing To write His great letter Of gold on blue velvet; Mysterious message, Which neither the wise man Nor foolish can read. The high-road is humming Just like a great bee-hive; 40 The people's loud clamour Is swelling and falling Like waves in the ocean. "We paid him a rouble-- The clerk, and he gave us A written petition To send to the Governor." "Hi, you with the waggon, Look after your corn!" "But where are you off to, 50 Olyenushka? Wait now-- I've still got some cakes. You're like a black flea, girl, You eat all you want to And hop away quickly Before one can stroke you!" "It's all very fine talk, This Tsar's precious Charter, It's not writ for us!" "Give way there, you people!" 60 The exciseman dashes Amongst them, his brass plate Attached to his coat-front, And bells all a-jangle. "God save us, Parasha, Don't go to St. Petersburg! _I_ know the gentry: By day you're a maid, And by night you're a mistress. You spit at it, love...." 70 "Now, where are you running?" The pope bellows loudly To busy Pavloosha, The village policeman. "An accident's happened Down here, and a man's killed." "God pardon our sins!" "How thin you've got, Dashka!" "The spinning-wheel fattens By turning forever; 80 I work just as hard, But I never get fatter." "Heh, you, silly fellow, Come hither and love me! The dirty, dishevelled, And tipsy old woman. The f--i--ilthy o--l--d woman!" Our peasants, observing, Are still walking onwards. They see just before them 90 A meek little fellow Most busily digging A hole in the road. "Now, what are you doing?" "A grave I am digging To bury my mother!" "You fool!--Where's your mother? Your new coat you've buried! Roll into the ditch, Dip your snout in the water. 100 'Twill cool you, perhaps." "Let's see who'll pull hardest!" Two peasants are squatting, And, feet to feet pressing, Are straining and groaning, And tugging away At a stick held between them. This soon fails to please them: "Let's try with our beards!" And each man then clutches 110 The jaw of the other, And tugs at his beard! Red, panting, and writhing, And gasping and yelping, But pulling and pulling! "Enough there, you madmen!"... Cold water won't part them! And in the ditch near them Two women are squabbling; One cries, "To go home now 120 Were worse than to prison!" The other, "You braggart! In my house, I tell you, It's worse than in yours. One son-in-law punched me And left a rib broken; The second made off With my big ball of cotton; The cotton don't matter, But in it was hidden 130 My rouble in silver. The youngest--he always Is up with his knife out. He'll kill me for sure!" "Enough, enough, darling! Now don't you be angry!" Is heard not far distant From over a hillock-- "Come on, I'm all right!" A mischievous night, this; 140 On right hand, on left hand, Wherever the eye falls, Are sauntering couples. The wood seems to please them; They all stroll towards it, The wood--which is thrilling With nightingales' voices. And later, the high-road Gets more and more ugly, And more and more often 150 The people are falling, Are staggering, crawling, Or lying like corpses. As always it happens On feast days in Russia-- No word can be uttered Without a great oath. And near to the tavern Is quite a commotion; Some wheels get entangled 160 And terrified horses Rush off without drivers. Here children are crying, And sad wives and mothers Are anxiously waiting; And is the task easy Of getting the peasant Away from his drink? Just near to the sign-post A voice that's familiar 170 Is heard by the peasants; They see there the Barin (The same that helped Vavil, And bought him the boots To take home to his grandchild). He chats with the men. The peasants all open Their hearts to the Barin; If some song should please him They'll sing it through five times; 180 "Just write the song down, sir!" If some saying strike him; "Take note of the words!" And when he has written Enough, he says quietly, "The peasants are clever, But one thing is bad: They drink till they're helpless And lie about tipsy, It's painful to see." 190 They listen in silence. The Barin commences To write something down In the little black note-book When, all of a sudden, A small, tipsy peasant, Who up to that moment Has lain on his stomach And gazed at the speaker, Springs up straight before him 200 And snatches his pencil Right out of his hand: "Wait, wait!" cries the fellow, "Stop writing your stories, Dishonest and heartless, About the poor peasant. Say, what's your complaint? That sometimes the heart Of the peasant rejoices? At times we drink hard, 210 But we work ten times harder; Among us are drunkards, But many more sober. Go, take through a village A pailful of vodka; Go into the huts-- In one, in another, They'll swallow it gladly. But go to a third And you'll find they won't touch it! One family drinks, 221 While another drinks nothing, Drinks nothing--and suffers As much as the drunkards: They, wisely or foolishly, Follow their conscience; And see how misfortune, The peasants' misfortune, Will swallow that household Hard-working and sober! 230 Pray, have you seen ever The time of the harvest In some Russian village? Well, where were the people? At work in the tavern? Our fields may be broad, But they don't give too freely. Who robes them in spring-time, And strips them in autumn? You've met with a peasant 240 At nightfall, perchance, When the work has been finished? He's piled up great mountains Of corn in the meadows, He'll sup off a pea! Hey, you mighty monster! You builder of mountains, I'll knock you flat down With the stroke of a feather! "Sweet food is the peasant's! 250 But stomachs aren't mirrors, And so we don't whimper To see what we've eaten. "We work single-handed, But when we have finished Three partners are waiting To share in the profits; A fourth one there is, too, Who eats like a Tartar-- Leaves nothing behind. 260 The other day, only, A mean little fellow Like you, came from Moscow And clung to our backs. 'Oh, please sing him folk-songs' And 'tell him some proverbs,' 'Some riddles and rhymes.' And then came another To put us his questions: How much do we work for? 270 How much and how little We stuff in our bellies? To count all the people That live in the village Upon his five fingers. He did not _ask how much The fire feeds the wind with Of peasants' hard work_. Our drunkenness, maybe, Can never be measured, 280 But look at our labour-- Can that then be measured? Our cares or our woes? "The vodka prostrates us; But does not our labour, Our trouble, prostrate us? The peasant won't grumble At each of his burdens, He'll set out to meet it, And struggle to bear it; 290 The peasant does not flinch At life-wasting labour, And tremble for fear That his health may be injured. Then why should he number Each cupful of vodka For fear that an odd one May topple him over? You say that it's painful To see him lie tipsy?-- 300 Then go to the bog; You'll see how the peasant Is squeezing the corn out, Is wading and crawling Where no horse or rider, No man, though unloaded, Would venture to tread. You'll see how the army Of profligate peasants Is toiling in danger, 310 Is springing from one clod Of earth to another, Is pushing through bog-slime With backs nearly breaking! The sun's beating down On the peasants' bare heads, They are sweating and covered With mud to the eyebrows, Their limbs torn and bleeding By sharp, prickly bog-grass! 320 "Does this picture please you? You say that you suffer; At least suffer wisely. Don't use for a peasant A gentleman's judgement; We are not white-handed And tender-skinned creatures, But men rough and lusty In work and in play. "The heart of each peasant 330 Is black as a storm-cloud, Its thunder should peal And its blood rain in torrents; But all ends in drink-- For after one cupful The soul of the peasant Is kindly and smiling; But don't let that hurt you! Look round and be joyful! Hey, fellows! Hey, maidens! 340 You know how to foot it! Their bones may be aching, Their limbs have grown weary, But youth's joy and daring Is not quite extinguished, It lives in them yet!" The peasant is standing On top of a hillock, And stamping his feet, And after being silent 350 A moment, and gazing With glee at the masses Of holiday people, He roars to them hoarsely. "Hey you, peasant kingdom! You, hatless and drunken! More racket! More noise!" "Come, what's your name, uncle?" "To write in the note-book? Why not? Write it down: 360 'In Barefoot the village Lives old Jacob Naked, He'll work till he's taken, He drinks till he's crazed.'" The peasants are laughing, And telling the Barin The old fellow's story: How shabby old Jacob Had lived once in Peter, And got into prison 370 Because he bethought him To get him to law With a very rich merchant; How after the prison He'd come back amongst them All stripped, like a linden, And taken to ploughing. For thirty years since On his narrow allotment He'd worked in all weathers, 380 The harrow his shelter From sunshine and storm. He lived with the sokha, And when God would take him He'd drop from beneath it Just like a black clod. An accident happened One year to old Jacob: He bought some small pictures To hang in the cottage 390 For his little son; The old man himself, too, Was fond of the pictures. God's curse had then fallen; The village was burnt, And the old fellow's money, The fruit of a life-time (Some thirty-five roubles), Was lost in the flames. He ought to have saved it, 400 But, to his misfortune, He thought of the pictures And seized them instead. His wife in the meantime Was saving the icons. And so, when the cottage Fell in, all the roubles Were melted together In one lump of silver. Old Jacob was offered 410 Eleven such roubles For that silver lump. "O old brother Jacob, You paid for them dearly, The little chap's pictures! I warrant you've hung them Again in the new hut." "I've hung them--and more," He replied, and was silent. The Barin was looking, 420 Examining Jacob, The toiler, the earth-worm, His chest thin and meagre, His stomach as shrunk As though something had crushed it, His eyes and mouth circled By numberless wrinkles, Like drought-shrivelled earth. And he altogether Resembled the earth, 430 Thought the Barin, while noting His throat, like a dry lump Of clay, brown and hardened; His brick-coloured face; His hands--black and horny, Like bark on the tree-trunk; His hair--stiff and sandy.... The peasants, remarking That old Jacob's speech Had not angered the Barin, 440 Themselves took his words up: "Yes, yes, he speaks truly, We must drink, it saves us, It makes us feel strong. Why, if we did not drink Black gloom would engulf us. If work does not kill us Or trouble destroy us, We shan't die from drink!" "That's so. Is it not, sir?" 450 "Yes, God will protect us!" "Come, drink with us, Barin!" They go to buy vodka And drink it together. To Jacob the Barin Has offered two cups. "Ah, Barin," says Jacob, "I see you're not angry. A wise little head, yours, And how could a wise head 460 Judge falsely of peasants? Why, only the pig Glues his nose to the garbage And never sees Heaven!" Then suddenly singing Is heard in a chorus Harmonious and bold. A row of young fellows, Half drunk, but not falling, Come staggering onwards, 470 All lustily singing; They sing of the Volga, The daring of youths And the beauty of maidens ... A hush falls all over The road, and it listens; And only the singing Is heard, broadly rolling In waves, sweet and tuneful, Like wind-ruffled corn. 480 The hearts of the peasants Are touched with wild anguish, And one little woman Grows pensive and mournful, And then begins weeping And sobs forth her grief: "My life is like day-time With no sun to warm it! My life is like night With no glimmer of moon! 490 And I--the young woman-- Am like the swift steed On the curb, like the swallow With wings crushed and broken; My jealous old husband Is drunken and snoring, But even while snoring He keeps one eye open, And watches me always, Me--poor little wife!" 500 And so she lamented, The sad little woman; Then all of a sudden Springs down from the waggon! "Where now?" cries her husband, The jealous old man. And just as one lifts By the tail a plump radish, He clutches her pig-tail, And pulls her towards him. 510 O night wild and drunken, Not bright--and yet star-lit, Not hot--but fanned softly By tender spring breezes, You've not left our peasants Untouched by your sweetness; They're thinking and longing For their little women. And they are quite right too; Still sweeter 'twould be 520 With a nice little wife! Cries Ivan, "I love you," And Mariushka, "I you!" Cries Ivan, "Press closer!" And Mariushka, "Kiss me!" Cries Ivan, "The night's cold," And Mariushka, "Warm me!" They think of this song now, And all make their minds up To shorten the journey. 530 A birch-tree is growing Alone by the roadside, God knows why so lonely! And under it spreading The magic white napkin, The peasants sit round it: "Hey! Napkin enchanted! Give food to the peasants!" Two hands have come floating From no one sees where, 540 Place a bucket of vodka, A large pile of bread, On the magic white napkin, And dwindle away. The peasants feel strengthened, And leaving Roman there On guard near the vodka, They mix with the people, To try to discover The one who is happy. 550 They're all in a hurry To turn towards home. CHAPTER IV THE HAPPY ONES In crowds gay and noisy Our peasants are mixing, Proclaiming their mission: "Let any man here Who esteems himself happy Stand forth! If he prove it A pailful of vodka Is at his disposal; As much as he wishes So much he shall have!" 10 This fabulous promise Sets sober folk smiling; The tipsy and wise ones Are ready to spit In the beards of the pushing Impertinent strangers! But many are willing To drink without payment, And so when our peasants Go back to the birch-tree 20 A crowd presses round them. The first to come forward, A lean discharged deacon, With legs like two matches, Lets forth a great mouthful Of indistinct maxims: That happiness lies not In broad lands, in jewels, In gold, and in sables-- "In what, then?" 30 A peaceful And undisturbed conscience. That all the dominions Of land-owners, nobles, And Tsars are but earthly And limited treasures; But he who is godly Has part in Christ's kingdom Of boundless extent: "When warm in the sun, 40 With a cupful of vodka, I'm perfectly happy, I ask nothing more!" "And who'll give you vodka?" "Why, you! You have promised." "Be off, you lean scamp!" A one-eyed old woman Comes next, bent and pock-marked, And bowing before them She says she is happy; 50 That in her allotment A thousand fine turnips Have grown, this last autumn. "Such turnips, I tell you! Such monsters! and tasty! In such a small plot, too, In length only one yard, And three yards in width!" They laugh at the woman, But give her no vodka; 60 "Go, get you home, Mother! You've vodka enough there To flavour the turnips!" A soldier with medals, Quite drunk but still thirsty, Says firmly, "I'm happy!" "Then tell us, old fellow, In what he is happy-- The soldier? Take care, though, To keep nothing back!" 70 "Well, firstly, I've been Through at least twenty battles, And yet I'm alive. And, secondly, mark you (It's far more important), In times of peace, too, Though I'm always half-famished, Death never has conquered! And, third, though they flogged me For every offence, 80 Great or small, I've survived it!" "Here, drink, little soldier! With you one can't argue; You're happy indeed!" Then comes a young mason, A huge, weighty hammer Swung over his shoulder: "I live in content," He declares, "with my wife And beloved old mother; 90 We've nought to complain of." "In what are you happy?" "In this!"--like a feather He swings the great hammer. "Beginning at sunrise And setting my back straight As midnight draws near, I can shatter a mountain! Before now, it's happened That, working one day, 100 I've piled enough stones up To earn my five roubles!" Pakhom tries to lift it-- The "happiness." After Prodigiously straining And cracking all over, He sets it down, gladly, And pours out some vodka. "Well, weighty it is, man! But will you be able 110 To bear in old age Such a 'happiness,' think you?" "Don't boast of your strength!" Gasped a wheezing old peasant, Half stifled with asthma. (His nose pinched and shrivelled Like that of a dead man, His eyes bright and sunken, His hands like a rake-- Stiffened, scraggy, and bony, 120 His legs long and narrow Like spokes of a wheel, A human mosquito.) "I was not a worse man Than he, the young mason, And boasted of _my_ strength. God punished me for it! The manager knew I was simple--the villain! He flattered and praised me. 130 I was but a youngster, And pleased at his notice I laboured like four men. One day I had mounted Some bricks to my shoulder, When, just then, the devil Must bring him in sight. "'What's that!' he said laughing, 'Tis surely not Trifon With such a light burden? 140 Ho, does it not shame Such a strapping young fellow?' 'Then put some more bricks on, I'll carry them, master,' Said I, sore offended. For full half an hour I stood while he piled them, He piled them--the dog! I felt my back breaking, But would not give way, 150 And that devilish burden I carried right up To the high second story! He stood and looked on, He himself was astounded, And cried from beneath me: 'Well done, my brave fellow! You don't know yourself, man, What you have been doing! It's forty stone, Trifon, 160 You've carried up there!' "I _did_ know; my heart Struck my breast like a hammer, The blood stood in circles Round both of my eyeballs; My back felt disjointed, My legs weak and trembling ... 'Twas then that I withered. Come, treat me, my friends!" "But why should we treat you? In what are you happy? 171 In what you have told us?" "No, listen--that's coming, It's this: I have also, Like each of us peasants, Besought God to let me Return to the village To die. And when coming From Petersburg, after The illness I suffered 180 Through what I have told you, Exhausted and weakened, Half-dazed, half-unconscious, I got to the station. And all in the carriage Were workmen, as I was, And ill of the fever; And all yearned for one thing: To reach their own homes Before death overcame them. 190 'Twas then I was lucky; The heat then was stifling, And so many sick heads Made Hell of the waggon. Here one man was groaning, There, rolling all over The floor, like a lunatic, Shouting and raving Of wife or of mother. And many such fellows 200 Were put out and left At the stations we came to. I looked at them, thinking, Shall I be left too? I was burning and shaking, The blood began starting All over my eyeballs, And I, in my fever, Half-waking, was dreaming Of cutting of cocks' throats 210 (We once were cock-farmers, And one year it happened We fattened a thousand). They came to my thoughts, now, The damnable creatures, I tried to start praying, But no!--it was useless. And, would you believe me? I saw the whole party In that hellish waggon 220 Come quivering round me, Their throats cut, and spurting With blood, and still crowing, And I, with the knife, shrieked: 'Enough of your noise!' And yet, by God's mercy, Made no sound at all. I sat there and struggled To keep myself silent. At last the day ended, 230 And with it the journey, And God had had pity Upon His poor orphan; I crawled to the village. And now, by His mercy, I'm better again." "Is that what you boast of-- Your happiness, peasant?" Exclaims an old lackey With legs weak and gouty. 240 "Treat me, little brothers, I'm happy, God sees it! For I was the chief serf Of Prince Peremeteff, A rich prince, and mighty, My wife, the most favoured By him, of the women; My daughter, together With his, the young lady, Was taught foreign languages, 250 French and some others; And she was permitted To _sit_, and not stand, In her mistress's presence. Good Lord! How it bites!" (He stoops down to rub it, The gouty right knee-cap.) The peasants laugh loudly! "What laugh you at, stupids?" He cries, getting angry, 260 "I'm ill, I thank God, And at waking and sleeping I pray, 'Leave me ever My honoured complaint, Lord! For that makes me noble!' I've none of your low things, Your peasants' diseases, My illness is lofty, And only acquired By the most elevated, 270 The first in the Empire; I suffer, you villains, From gout, gout its name is! It's only brought on By the drinking of claret, Of Burgundy, champagne, Hungarian syrup, By thirty years' drinking! For forty years, peasants, I've stood up behind it-- 280 The chair of His Highness, The Prince Peremeteff, And swallowed the leavings In plates and in glasses, The finest French truffles, The dregs of the liquors. Come, treat me, you peasants!" "Excuse us, your Lordship, Our wine is but simple, The drink of the peasants! 290 It wouldn't suit _you_!" A bent, yellow-haired man Steals up to the peasants, A man from White Russia. He yearns for the vodka. "Oh, give me a taste!" He implores, "I am happy!" "But wait! You must tell us In what you are happy." "In bread I am happy; 300 At home, in White Russia, The bread is of barley, All gritty and weedy. At times, I can tell you, I've howled out aloud, Like a woman in labour, With pains in my stomach! But now, by God's mercy, I work for Gubonine, And there they give rye-bread, 310 I'm happy in that." A dark-looking peasant, With jaw turned and twisted, Which makes him look sideways, Says next, "I am happy. A bear-hunter I am, And six of my comrades Were killed by old Mishka; On me God has mercy." "Look round to the left side." 320 He tries to, but cannot, For all his grimaces! "A bear knocked my jaw round, A savage young female." "Go, look for another, And give her the left cheek, She'll soon put it straight!" They laugh, but, however, They give him some vodka. Some ragged old beggars 330 Come up to the peasants, Drawn near by the smell Of the froth on the vodka; They say they are happy. "Why, right on his threshold The shopman will meet us! We go to a house-door, From there they conduct us Right back to the gate! When we begin singing 340 The housewife runs quickly And brings to the window A loaf and a knife. And then we sing loudly, 'Oh, give us the whole loaf, It cannot be cut And it cannot be crumbled, For you it is quicker, For us it is better!'" The peasants observe 350 That their vodka is wasted, The pail's nearly empty. They say to the people, "Enough of your chatter, You, shabby and ragged, You, humpbacked and corny, Go, get you all home!" "In your place, good strangers," The peasant, Fedocy, From "Swallow-Smoke" village, 360 Said, sitting beside them, "I'd ask Ermil Girin. If he will not suit you, If he is not happy, Then no one can help you." "But who is this Ermil, A noble--a prince?" "No prince--not a noble, But simply a peasant." "Well, tell us about him." 370 "I'll tell you; he rented The mill of an orphan, Until the Court settled To sell it at auction. Then Ermil, with others, Went into the sale-room. The small buyers quickly Dropped out of the bidding; Till Ermil alone, With a merchant, Alternikoff, 380 Kept up the fight. The merchant outbid him, Each time by a farthing, Till Ermil grew angry And added five roubles; The merchant a farthing And Ermil a rouble. The merchant gave in then, When suddenly something Unlooked for occurred: 390 The sellers demanded A third of the money Paid down on the spot; 'Twas one thousand roubles, And Ermil had not brought So much money with him; 'Twas either his error, Or else they deceived him. The merchant said gaily, 'The mill comes to me, then?' 400 'Not so,' replied Ermil; He went to the sellers; 'Good sirs, will you wait Thirty minutes?' he asked. "'But how will that help you?' 'I'll bring you the money.' "'But where will you find it? You're out of your senses! It's thirty-five versts To the mill; in an hour now 410 The sales will be finished.' "'You'll wait half an hour, sirs?' 'An hour, if you wish.' Then Ermil departed, The sellers exchanging Sly looks with the merchant, And grinning--the foxes! But Ermil went out And made haste to the market-place Crowded with people 420 ('Twas market-day, then), And he mounted a waggon, And there he stood crossing Himself, and low bowing In all four directions. He cried to the people, 'Be silent a moment, I've something to ask you!' The place became still And he told them the story: 430 "'Since long has the merchant Been wooing the mill, But I'm not such a dullard. Five times have I been here To ask if there _would_ be A second day's bidding, They answered, 'There will.' You know that the peasant Won't carry his money All over the by-ways 440 Without a good reason, So I have none with me; And look--now they tell me There's no second bidding And ask for the money! The cunning ones tricked me And laughed--the base heathens! And said to me sneering: 'But, what can you do In an hour? Where find money?' 450 "'They're crafty and strong, But the people are stronger! The merchant is rich-- But the people are richer! Hey! What is _his_ worth To _their_ treasury, think you? Like fish in the ocean The wealth of the people; You'll draw it and draw it-- But not see its end! 460 Now, brother, God hears me, Come, give me this money! Next Friday I'll pay you The very last farthing. It's not that I care For the mill--it's the insult! Whoever knows Ermil, Whoever believes him, Will give what he can.' "A miracle happened; 470 The coat of each peasant Flew up on the left As though blown by a wind! The peasants are bringing Their money to Ermil, Each gives what he can. Though Ermil's well lettered He writes nothing down; It's well he can count it So great is his hurry. 480 They gather his hat full Of all kinds of money, From farthings to bank-notes, The notes of the peasant All crumpled and torn. He has the whole sum now, But still the good people Are bringing him more. "'Here, take this, too, Ermil, You'll pay it back later!' 490 "He bows to the people In all four directions, Gets down from the waggon, And pressing the hat Full of money against him, Runs back to the sale-room As fast as he can. "The sellers are speechless And stare in amazement, The merchant turns green 500 As the money is counted And laid on the table. "The sellers come round him All craftily praising His excellent bargain. But Ermil sees through them; He gives not a farthing, He speaks not a word. "The whole town assembles At market next Friday, 510 When Ermil is paying His debt to the people. How can he remember To whom he must pay it? No murmur arises, No sound of discussion, As each man tells quietly The sum to be paid him. "And Ermil himself said, That when it was finished 520 A rouble was lying With no one to claim it; And though till the evening He went, with purse open, Demanding the owner, It still was unclaimed. The sun was just setting When Ermil, the last one To go from the market, Assembled the beggars 530 And gave them the rouble." ... "'Tis strange!" say the peasants, "By what kind of magic Can one single peasant Gain such a dominion All over the country?" "No magic he uses Save truthfulness, brothers! But say, have you ever Heard tell of Prince Yurloff's 540 Estate, Adovshina?" "We have. What about it?" "The manager there Was a Colonel, with stars, Of the Corps of Gendarmes. He had six or seven Assistants beneath him, And Ermil was chosen As principal clerk. He was but a boy, then, 550 Of nineteen or twenty; And though 'tis no fine post, The clerk's--to the peasants The clerk is a great man; To him they will go For advice and with questions. Though Ermil had power to, He asked nothing from them; And if they should offer He never accepted. 560 (He bears a poor conscience, The peasant who covets The mite of his brother!) Well, five years went by, And they trusted in Ermil, When all of a sudden The master dismissed him For sake of another. And sadly they felt it. The new clerk was grasping; 570 He moved not a finger Unless it was paid for; A letter--three farthings! A question--five farthings! Well, he was a pope's son And God placed him rightly! But still, by God's mercy, He did not stay long: "The old Prince soon died, And the young Prince was master. 580 He came and dismissed them-- The manager-colonel, The clerk and assistants, And summoned the peasants To choose them an Elder. They weren't long about it! And eight thousand voices Cried out, 'Ermil Girin!' As though they were one. Then Ermil was sent for 590 To speak with the Barin, And after some minutes The Barin came out On the balcony, standing In face of the people; He cried, 'Well, my brothers, Your choice is elected With my princely sanction! But answer me this: Don't you think he's too youthful?' 600 "'No, no, little Father! He's young, but he's wise!' "So Ermil was Elder, For seven years ruled In the Prince's dominion. Not once in that time Did a coin of the peasants Come under his nail, Did the innocent suffer, The guilty escape him, 610 He followed his conscience." "But stop!" exclaimed hoarsely A shrivelled grey pope, Interrupting the speaker, "The harrow went smoothly Enough, till it happened To strike on a stone, Then it swerved of a sudden. In telling a story Don't leave an odd word out 620 And alter the rhythm! Now, if you knew Ermil You knew his young brother, Knew Mityenka, did you?" The speaker considered, Then said, "I'd forgotten, I'll tell you about it: It happened that once Even Ermil the peasant Did wrong: his young brother, 630 Unjustly exempted From serving his time, On the day of recruiting; And we were all silent, And how could we argue When even the Barin Himself would not order The Elder's own brother To unwilling service? And only one woman, 640 Old Vlasevna, shedding Wild tears for her son, Went bewailing and screaming: 'It wasn't our turn!' Well, of course she'd be certain To scream for a time, Then leave off and be silent. But what happened then? The recruiting was finished, But Ermil had changed; 650 He was mournful and gloomy; He ate not, he drank not, Till one day his father Went into the stable And found him there holding A rope in his hands. Then at last he unbosomed His heart to his father: 'Since Vlasevna's son Has been sent to the service, 660 I'm weary of living, I wish but to die!' His brothers came also, And they with the father Besought him to hear them, To listen to reason. But he only answered: 'A villain I am, And a criminal; bind me, And bring me to justice!' 670 And they, fearing worse things, Obeyed him and bound him. The commune assembled, Exclaiming and shouting; They'd never been summoned To witness or judge Such peculiar proceedings. "And Ermil's relations Did not beg for mercy And lenient treatment, 680 But rather for firmness: 'Bring Vlasevna's son back Or Ermil will hang himself, Nothing will save him!' And then appeared Ermil Himself, pale and bare-foot, With ropes bound and handcuffed, And bowing his head He spoke low to the people: 'The time was when I was 690 Your judge; and I judged you, In all things obeying My conscience. But I now Am guiltier far Than were you. Be my judges!' He bowed to our feet, The demented one, sighing, Then stood up and crossed himself, Trembling all over; It pained us to witness 700 How he, of a sudden, Fell down on his knees there At Vlasevna's feet. Well, all was put right soon, The nobles have fingers In every small corner, The lad was brought back And young Mityenka started; They say that his service Did not weigh too heavy, 710 The prince saw to that. And we, as a penance, Imposed upon Ermil A fine, and to Vlasevna One part was given, To Mitya another, The rest to the village For vodka. However, Not quickly did Ermil Get over his sorrow: 720 He went like a lost one For full a year after, And--though the whole district Implored him to keep it-- He left his position. He rented the mill, then, And more than of old Was beloved by the people. He took for his grinding No more than was honest, 730 His customers never Kept waiting a moment, And all men alike: The rich landlord, the workman. The master and servant, The poorest of peasants Were served as their turn came; Strict order he kept. Myself, I have not been Since long in that district, 740 But often the people Have told me about him. And never could praise him Enough. So in your place I'd go and ask Ermil." "Your time would be wasted," The grey-headed pope, Who'd before interrupted, Remarked to the peasants, "I knew Ermil Girin, 750 I chanced in that district Some five years ago. I have often been shifted, Our bishop loved vastly To keep us all moving, So I was his neighbour. Yes, he was a peasant Unique, I bear witness, And all things he owned That can make a man happy: 760 Peace, riches, and honour, And that kind of honour Most valued and precious, Which cannot be purchased By might or by money, But only by righteousness, Wisdom and kindness. But still, I repeat it, Your time will be wasted In going to Ermil: 770 In prison he lies." "How's that?" "God so willed it. You've heard how the peasants Of 'Log' the Pomyeshchick Of Province 'Affrighted,' Of District 'Scarce-Breathing,' Of village 'Dumbfounded,' Revolted 'for causes Entirely unknown,' 780 As they say in the papers. (I once used to read them.) And so, too, in this case, The local Ispravnik, The Tsar's high officials, And even the peasants, 'Dumbfounded' themselves. Never fathomed the reason Of all the disturbance. But things became bad, 790 And the soldiers were sent for, The Tsar packed a messenger Off in a hurry To speak to the people. His epaulettes rose To his ears as he coaxed them And cursed them together. But curses they're used to, And coaxing was lost, For they don't understand it: 800 'Brave orthodox peasants!' 'The Tsar--Little Father!' 'Our dear Mother Russia!' He bellowed and shouted Until he was hoarse, While the peasants stood round him And listened in wonder. "But when he was tired Of these peaceable measures Of calming the riots, 810 At length he decided On giving the order Of 'Fire' to the soldiers; When all of a sudden A bright thought occurred To the clerk of the Volost: 'The people trust Girin, The people will hear him!' "'Then let him be brought!'"  * * * * * A cry has arisen 820 "Have mercy! Have mercy!" A check to the story; They hurry off quickly To see what has happened; And there on a bank Of a ditch near the roadside, Some peasants are birching A drunken old lackey, Just taken in thieving. A court had been summoned, 830 The judges deciding To birch the offender, That each of the jury (About three and twenty) Should give him a stroke Turn in turn of the rod.... The lackey was up And made off, in a twinkling, He took to his heels Without stopping to argue, 840 On two scraggy legs. "How he trips it--the dandy!" The peasants cry, laughing; They've soon recognized him; The boaster who prated So much of his illness From drinking strange liquors. "Ho! where has it gone to, Your noble complaint? Look how nimble he's getting!" 850 "Well, well, Little Father, Now finish the story!" "It's time to go home now, My children,--God willing, We'll meet again some day And finish it then...." The people disperse As the dawn is approaching. Our peasants begin To bethink them of sleeping, 860 When all of a sudden A "troika"  comes flying From no one sees where, With its silver bells ringing. Within it is sitting A plump little Barin, His little mouth smoking A little cigar. The peasants draw up In a line on the roadway, 870 Thus barring the passage In front of the horses; And, standing bareheaded, Bow low to the Barin. CHAPTER V THE POMYESHCHICK The "troika" is drawing The local Pomyeshchick-- Gavril Afanasich Obolt-Oboldooeff. A portly Pomyeshchick, With long grey moustaches, Some sixty years old. His bearing is stately, His cheeks very rosy, He wears a short top-coat, 10 Tight-fitting and braided, Hungarian fashion; And very wide trousers. Gavril Afanasich Was probably startled At seeing the peasants Unflinchingly barring The way to his horses; He promptly produces A loaded revolver 20 As bulky and round As himself; and directs it Upon the intruders: "You brigands! You cut-throats! Don't move, or I shoot!" "How can we be brigands?" The peasants say, laughing, "No knives and no pitchforks, No hatchets have we!" "Who are you? And what 30 Do you want?" said the Barin. "A trouble torments us, It draws us away From our wives, from our children, Away from our work, Kills our appetites too, Do give us your promise To answer us truly, Consulting your conscience And searching your knowledge, 40 Not sneering, nor feigning The question we put you, And then we will tell you The cause of our trouble." "I promise. I give you The oath of a noble." "No, don't give us that-- Not the oath of a noble! We're better content With the word of a Christian. 50 The nobleman's oaths-- They are given with curses, With kicks and with blows! We are better without them!" "Eh-heh, that's a new creed! Well, let it be so, then. And what is your trouble?" "But put up the pistol! That's right! Now we'll tell you: We are not assassins, 60 But peaceable peasants, From Government 'Hard-pressed,' From District 'Most Wretched,' From 'Destitute' Parish, From neighbouring hamlets,-- 'Patched,' 'Bare-Foot,' and 'Shabby,' 'Bleak,' 'Burnt-out,' and 'Hungry.' From 'Harvestless,' too. We met in the roadway, And one asked another, 70 Who is he--the man Free and happy in Russia? Luka said, 'The pope,' And Roman, 'The Pomyeshchick,' Demyan, 'The official.' 'The round-bellied merchant,' Said both brothers Goobin, Mitrodor and Ivan; Pakhom said, 'His Highness, The Tsar's Chief Adviser,' 80 And Prov said, 'The Tsar.' "Like bulls are the peasants; Once folly is in them You cannot dislodge it, Although you should beat them With stout wooden cudgels, They stick to their folly, And nothing can move them! We argued and argued, While arguing quarrelled, 90 While quarrelling fought, Till at last we decided That never again Would we turn our steps homeward To kiss wives and children, To see the old people, Until we have settled The subject of discord; Until we have found The reply to our question-- 100 Of who can, in Russia, Be happy and free? "Now tell us, Pomyeshchick, Is your life a sweet one? And is the Pomyeshchick Both happy and free?" Gavril Afanasich Springs out of the "troika" And comes to the peasants. He takes--like a doctor-- 110 The hand of each one, And carefully feeling The pulse gazes searchingly Into their faces, Then clasps his plump sides And stands shaking with laughter. The clear, hearty laugh Of the healthy Pomyeshchick Peals out in the pleasant Cool air of the morning: 120 "Ha-ha! Ha-ha-ha!" Till he stops from exhaustion. And then he addresses The wondering peasants: "Put on your hats, _gentlemen_, Please to be seated!" (He speaks with a bitter And mocking politeness.) "But we are not gentry; We'd rather stand up 130 In your presence, your worship." "Sit down, worthy _citizens_, Here on the bank." The peasants protest, But, on seeing it useless, Sit down on the bank. "May I sit beside you? Hey, Proshka! Some sherry, My rug and a cushion!" He sits on the rug. 140 Having finished the sherry, Thus speaks the Pomyeshchick: "I gave you my promise To answer your question.... The task is not easy, For though you are highly Respectable people, You're not very learned. Well, firstly, I'll try To explain you the meaning 150 Of Lord, or Pomyeshchick. Have you, by some chance, Ever heard the expression The 'Family Tree'? Do you know what it means?" "The woods are not closed to us. We have seen all kinds Of trees," say the peasants. "Your shot has miscarried! I'll try to speak clearly; 160 I come of an ancient, Illustrious family; One, Oboldooeff, My ancestor, is Amongst those who were mentioned In old Russian chronicles Written for certain Two hundred and fifty Years back. It is written, ''Twas given the Tartar, 170 Obolt-Oboldooeff, A piece of cloth, value Two roubles, for having Amused the Tsaritsa Upon the Tsar's birthday By fights of wild beasts, Wolves and foxes. He also Permitted his own bear To fight with a wild one, Which mauled Oboldooeff, 180 And hurt him severely.' And now, gentle peasants, Did you understand?" "Why not? To this day One can see them--the loafers Who stroll about leading A bear!" "Be it so, then! But now, please be silent, And hark to what follows: 190 From this Oboldooeff My family sprang; And this incident happened Two hundred and fifty Years back, as I told you, But still, on my mother's side, Even more ancient The family is: Says another old writing: 'Prince Schepin, and one 200 Vaska Gooseff, attempted To burn down the city Of Moscow. They wanted To plunder the Treasury. They were beheaded.' And this was, good peasants, Full three hundred years back! From these roots it was That our Family Tree sprang." "And you are the ... as one 210 Might say ... little apple Which hangs on a branch Of the tree," say the peasants. "Well, apple, then, call it, So long as it please you. At least you appear To have got at my meaning. And now, you yourselves Understand--the more ancient A family is 220 The more noble its members. Is that so, good peasants?" "That's so," say the peasants. "The black bone and white bone Are different, and they must Be differently honoured." "Exactly. I see, friends, You quite understand me." The Barin continued: "In past times we lived, 230 As they say, 'in the bosom Of Christ,' and we knew What it meant to be honoured! Not only the people Obeyed and revered us, But even the earth And the waters of Russia.... You knew what it was To be One, in the centre Of vast, spreading lands, 240 Like the sun in the heavens: The clustering villages Yours, yours the meadows, And yours the black depths Of the great virgin forests! You pass through a village; The people will meet you, Will fall at your feet; Or you stroll in the forest; The mighty old trees 250 Bend their branches before you. Through meadows you saunter; The slim golden corn-stems Rejoicing, will curtsey With winning caresses, Will hail you as Master. The little fish sports In the cool little river; Get fat, little fish, At the will of the Master! 260 The little hare speeds Through the green little meadow; Speed, speed, little hare, Till the coming of autumn, The season of hunting, The sport of the Master. And all things exist But to gladden the Master. Each wee blade of grass Whispers lovingly to him, 270 'I live but for thee....' "The joy and the beauty, The pride of all Russia-- The Lord's holy churches-- Which brighten the hill-sides And gleam like great jewels On the slopes of the valleys, Were rivalled by one thing In glory, and that Was the nobleman's manor. 280 Adjoining the manor Were glass-houses sparkling, And bright Chinese arbours, While parks spread around it. On each of the buildings Gay banners displaying Their radiant colours, And beckoning softly, Invited the guest To partake of the pleasures 290 Of rich hospitality. Never did Frenchmen In dreams even picture Such sumptuous revels As we used to hold. Not only for one-day, Or two, did they last-- But for whole months together! We fattened great turkeys, We brewed our own liquors, 300 We kept our own actors, And troupes of musicians, And legions of servants! Why, I kept five cooks, Besides pastry-cooks, working, Two blacksmiths, three carpenters, Eighteen musicians, And twenty-two huntsmen.... My God!"... The afflicted 310 Pomyeshchick broke down here, And hastened to bury His face in the cushion.... "Hey, Proshka!" he cried, And then quickly the lackey Poured out and presented A glassful of brandy. The glass was soon empty, And when the Pomyeshchick Had rested awhile, 320 He again began speaking: "Ah, then, Mother Russia, How gladly in autumn Your forests awoke To the horn of the huntsman! Their dark, gloomy depths, Which had saddened and faded, Were pierced by the clear Ringing blast, and they listened, Revived and rejoiced, 330 To the laugh of the echo. The hounds and the huntsmen Are gathered together, And wait on the skirts Of the forest; and with them The Master; and farther Within the deep forest The dog-keepers, roaring And shouting like madmen, The hounds all a-bubble 340 Like fast-boiling water. Hark! There's the horn calling! You hear the pack yelling? They're crowding together! And where's the red beast? Hoo-loo-loo! Hoo-loo-loo! And the sly fox is ready; Fat, furry old Reynard Is flying before us, His bushy tail waving! 350 The knowing hounds crouch, And each lithe body quivers, Suppressing the fire That is blazing within it: 'Dear guests of our hearts, _Do_ come nearer and greet us, We're panting to meet you, We, hale little fellows! Come nearer to us And away from the bushes!' 360 "They're off! Now, my horse, Let your swiftness not fail me! My hounds, you are staunch And you will not betray me! Hoo-loo! Faster, faster! Now, _at him_, my children!"... Gavril Afanasich Springs up, wildly shouting, His arms waving madly, He dances around them! 370 He's certainly after A fox in the forest! The peasants observe him In silent enjoyment, They smile in their beards.... "Eh ... you, mad, merry hunters! Although he forgets Many things--the Pomyeshchick-- Those hunts in the autumn Will not be forgotten. 380 'Tis not for our own loss We grieve, Mother Russia, But you that we pity; For you, with the hunting Have lost the last traces Of days bold and warlike That made you majestic.... "At times, in the autumn, A party of fifty Would start on a hunting tour; 390 Then each Pomyeshchick Brought with him a hundred Fine dogs, and twelve keepers, And cooks in abundance. And after the cooks Came a long line of waggons Containing provisions. And as we went forward With music and singing, You might have mistaken 400 Our band for a fine troop Of cavalry, moving! The time flew for us Like a falcon." How lightly The breast of the nobleman Rose, while his spirit Went back to the days Of Old Russia, and greeted The gallant Boyarin. ... "No whim was denied us. 410 To whom I desire I show mercy and favour; And whom I dislike I strike dead on the spot. The law is my wish, And my fist is my hangman! My blow makes the sparks crowd, My blow smashes jaw-bones, My blow scatters teeth!"... Like a string that is broken, 420 The voice of the nobleman Suddenly ceases; He lowers his eyes To the ground, darkly frowning ... And then, in a low voice, He says: "You yourselves know That strictness is needful; But I, with love, punished. The chain has been broken, 430 The links burst asunder; And though we do not beat The peasant, no longer We look now upon him With fatherly feelings. Yes, I was severe too At times, but more often I turned hearts towards me With patience and mildness. "Upon Easter Sunday 440 I kissed all the peasants Within my domain. A great table, loaded With 'Paska' and 'Koolich' And eggs of all colours, Was spread in the manor. My wife, my old mother, My sons, too, and even My daughters did not scorn To kiss the last peasant: 450 'Now Christ has arisen!' 'Indeed He has risen!' The peasants broke fast then, Drank vodka and wine. Before each great holiday, In my best staterooms The All-Night Thanksgiving Was held by the pope. My serfs were invited With every inducement: 460 'Pray hard now, my children, Make use of the chance, Though you crack all your foreheads!' The nose suffered somewhat, But still at the finish We brought all the women-folk Out of a village To scrub down the floors. You see 'twas a cleansing Of souls, and a strengthening 470 Of spiritual union; Now, isn't that so?" "That's so," say the peasants, But each to himself thinks, "They needed persuading With sticks though, I warrant, To get them to pray In your Lordship's fine manor!" "I'll say, without boasting, They loved me--my peasants. 480 In my large Surminsky Estate, where the peasants Were mostly odd-jobbers, Or very small tradesmen, It happened that they Would get weary of staying At home, and would ask My permission to travel, To visit strange parts At the coming of spring. 490 They'd often be absent Through summer and autumn. My wife and the children Would argue while guessing The gifts that the peasants Would bring on returning. And really, besides Lawful dues of the 'Barin' In cloth, eggs, and live stock, The peasants would gladly 500 Bring gifts to the family: Jam, say, from Kiev, From Astrakhan fish, And the richer among them Some silk for the lady. You see!--as he kisses Her hand he presents her A neat little packet! And then for the children Are sweetmeats and toys; 510 For me, the old toper, Is wine from St. Petersburg-- Mark you, the rascal Won't go to the Russian For that! He knows better-- He runs to the Frenchman! And when we have finished Admiring the presents I go for a stroll And a chat with the peasants; 520 They talk with me freely. My wife fills their glasses, My little ones gather Around us and listen, While sucking their sweets, To the tales of the peasants: Of difficult trading, Of places far distant, Of Petersburg, Astrakhan, Kazan, and Kiev.... 530 On such terms it was That I lived with my peasants. Now, wasn't that nice?" "Yes," answer the peasants; "Yes, well might one envy The noble Pomyeshchick! His life was so sweet There was no need to leave it." "And now it is past.... It has vanished for ever! 540 Hark! There's the bell tolling!" They listen in silence: In truth, through the stillness Which settles around them, The slow, solemn sound On the breeze of the morning Is borne from Kusminsky.... "Sweet peace to the peasant! God greet him in Heaven!" The peasants say softly, 550 And cross themselves thrice; And the mournful Pomyeshchick Uncovers his head, As he piously crosses Himself, and he answers: "'Tis not for the peasant The knell is now tolling, It tolls the lost life Of the stricken Pomyeshchick. Farewell to the past, 560 And farewell to thee, Russia, The Russia who cradled The happy Pomyeshchick, Thy place has been stolen And filled by another!... Heh, Proshka!" (The brandy Is given, and quickly He empties the glass.) "Oh, it isn't consoling To witness the change 570 In thy face, oh, my Motherland! Truly one fancies The whole race of nobles Has suddenly vanished! Wherever one goes, now, One falls over peasants Who lie about, tipsy, One meets not a creature But excise official, Or stupid 'Posrednik,' 580 Or Poles who've been banished. One sees the troops passing, And then one can guess That a village has somewhere Revolted, 'in thankful And dutiful spirit....' In old days, these roads Were made gay by the passing Of carriage, 'dormeuse,' And of six-in-hand coaches, 590 And pretty, light troikas; And in them were sitting The family troop Of the jolly Pomyeshchick: The stout, buxom mother, The fine, roguish sons, And the pretty young daughters; One heard with enjoyment The chiming of large bells, The tinkling of small bells, 600 Which hung from the harness. And now?... What distraction Has life? And what joy Does it bring the Pomyeshchick? At each step, you meet Something new to revolt you; And when in the air You can smell a rank graveyard, You know you are passing A nobleman's manor! 610 My Lord!... They have pillaged The beautiful dwelling! They've pulled it all down, Brick by brick, and have fashioned The bricks into hideously Accurate columns! The broad shady park Of the outraged Pomyeshchick, The fruit of a hundred years' Careful attention, 620 Is falling away 'Neath the axe of a peasant! The peasant works gladly, And greedily reckons The number of logs Which his labour will bring him. His dark soul is closed To refinement of feeling, And what would it matter To him, if you told him 630 That this stately oak Which his hatchet is felling My grandfather's hand Had once planted and tended; That under this ash-tree My dear little children, My Vera and Ganushka, Echoed my voice As they played by my side; That under this linden 640 My young wife confessed me That little Gavrioushka, Our best-beloved first-born, Lay under her heart, As she nestled against me And bashfully hid Her sweet face in my bosom As red as a cherry.... It is to his profit To ravish the park, 650 And his mission delights him. It makes one ashamed now To pass through a village; The peasant sits still And he dreams not of bowing. One feels in one's breast Not the pride of a noble But wrath and resentment. The axe of the robber Resounds in the forest, 660 It maddens your heart, But you cannot prevent it, For who can you summon To rescue your forest? The fields are half-laboured, The seeds are half-wasted, No trace left of order.... O Mother, my country, We do not complain For ourselves--of our sorrows, 670 Our hearts bleed for thee: Like a widow thou standest In helpless affliction With tresses dishevelled And grief-stricken face.... They have blighted the forest, The noisy low taverns Have risen and flourished. They've picked the most worthless And loose of the people, 680 And given them power In the posts of the Zemstvos; They've seized on the peasant And taught him his letters-- Much good may it do him! Your brow they have branded, As felons are branded, As cattle are branded, With these words they've stamped it: 'To take away with you 690 Or drink on the premises.' Was it worth while, pray, To weary the peasant With learning his letters In order to read them? The land that we keep Is our mother no longer, Our stepmother rather. And then to improve things, These pert good-for-nothings, 700 These impudent writers Must needs shout in chorus: 'But whose fault, then, is it, That you thus exhausted And wasted your country?' But I say--you duffers! Who _could_ foresee this? They babble, 'Enough Of your lordly pretensions! It's time that you learnt something, 710 Lazy Pomyeshchicks! Get up, now, and work!' "Work! To whom, in God's name, Do you think you are speaking? I am not a peasant In 'laputs,' good madman! I am--by God's mercy-- A Noble of Russia. You take us for Germans! We nobles have tender 720 And delicate feelings, Our pride is inborn, And in Russia our classes Are not taught to work. Why, the meanest official Will not raise a finger To clear his own table, Or light his own stove! I can say, without boasting, That though I have lived 730 Forty years in the country, And scarcely have left it, I could not distinguish Between rye and barley. And they sing of 'work' to me! "If we Pomyeshchicks Have really mistaken Our duty and calling, If really our mission Is not, as in old days, 740 To keep up the hunting, To revel in luxury, Live on forced labour, Why did they not tell us Before? Could I learn it? For what do I see? I've worn the Tsar's livery, 'Sullied the Heavens,' And 'squandered the treasury Gained by the people,' 750 And fully imagined To do so for ever, And now ... God in Heaven!"... The Barin is sobbing!... The kind-hearted peasants Can hardly help crying Themselves, and they think: "Yes, the chain has been broken, The strong links have snapped, And the one end recoiling 760 Has struck the Pomyeshchick, The other--the peasant." PART II. THE LAST POMYESHCHICK PROLOGUE The day of St. Peter-- And very hot weather; The mowers are all At their work in the meadows. The peasants are passing A tumble-down village, Called "Ignorant-Duffers," Of Volost "Old-Dustmen," Of Government "Know-Nothing.' They are approaching 10 The banks of the Volga. They come to the river, The sea-gulls are wheeling And flashing above it; The sea-hens are walking About on the sand-banks; And in the bare hayfields, Which look just as naked As any youth's cheek After yesterday's shaving, 20 The Princes Volkonsky Are haughtily standing, And round them their children, Who (unlike all others) Are born at an earlier Date than their sires. "The fields are enormous," Remarks old Pakhom, "Why, the folk must be giants." The two brothers Goobin 30 Are smiling at something: For some time they've noticed A very tall peasant Who stands with a pitcher On top of a haystack; He drinks, and a woman Below, with a hay-fork, Is looking at him With her head leaning back. The peasants walk on 40 Till they come to the haystack; The man is still drinking; They pass it quite slowly, Go fifty steps farther, Then all turn together And look at the haystack. Not much has been altered: The peasant is standing With body bent back As before,--but the pitcher 50 Has turned bottom upwards.... The strangers go farther. The camps are thrown out On the banks of the river; And there the old people And children are gathered, And horses are waiting With big empty waggons; And then, in the fields Behind those that are finished, 60 The distance is filled By the army of workers, The white shirts of women, The men's brightly coloured, And voices and laughter, With all intermingled The hum of the scythes.... "God help you, good fellows!" "Our thanks to you, brothers!" The peasants stand noting 70 The long line of mowers, The poise of the scythes And their sweep through the sunshine. The rhythmical swell Of melodious murmur. The timid grass stands For a moment, and trembles, Then falls with a sigh.... On the banks of the Volga The grass has grown high 80 And the mowers work gladly. The peasants soon feel That they cannot resist it. "It's long since we've stretched ourselves, Come, let us help you!" And now seven women Have yielded their places. The spirit of work Is devouring our peasants; Like teeth in a ravenous 90 Mouth they are working-- The muscular arms, And the long grass is falling To songs that are strange To this part of the country, To songs that are taught By the blizzards and snow-storms, The wild savage winds Of the peasants' own homelands: "Bleak," "Burnt-Out," and "Hungry," 100 "Patched," "Bare-Foot," and "Shabby," And "Harvestless," too.... And when the strong craving For work is appeased They sit down by a haystack. "From whence have you come?" A grey-headed old peasant (The one whom the women Call Vlasuchka) asks them, "And where are you going?" 110 "We are--" say the peasants, Then suddenly stop, There's some music approaching! "Oh, that's the Pomyeshchick Returning from boating!" Says Vlasuchka, running To busy the mowers: "Wake up! Look alive there! And mind--above all things, Don't heat the Pomyeshchick 120 And don't make him angry! And if he abuse you, Bow low and say nothing, And if he should praise you, Start lustily cheering. You women, stop cackling! And get to your forks!" A big burly peasant With beard long and bushy Bestirs himself also 130 To busy them all, Then puts on his "kaftan,"  And runs away quickly To meet the Pomyeshchick. And now to the bank-side Three boats are approaching. In one sit the servants And band of musicians, Most busily playing; The second one groans 140 'Neath a mountainous wet-nurse, Who dandles a baby, A withered old dry-nurse, A motionless body Of ancient retainers. And then in the third There are sitting the gentry: Two beautiful ladies (One slender and fair-haired, One heavy and black-browed) 150 And two moustached Barins And three little Barins, And last--the Pomyeshchick, A very old man Wearing long white moustaches (He seems to be all white); His cap, broad and high-crowned, Is white, with a peak, In the front, of red satin. His body is lean 160 As a hare's in the winter, His nose like a hawk's beak, His eyes--well, they differ: The one sharp and shining, The other--the left eye-- Is sightless and blank, Like a dull leaden farthing. Some woolly white poodles With tufts on their ankles Are in the boat too. 170 The old man alighting Has mounted the bank, Where for long he reposes Upon a red carpet Spread out by the servants. And then he arises To visit the mowers, To pass through the fields On a tour of inspection. He leans on the arm-- 180 Now of one of the Barins, And now upon those Of the beautiful ladies. And so with his suite-- With the three little Barins, The wet-nurse, the dry-nurse, The ancient retainers, The woolly white poodles,-- Along through the hayfields Proceeds the Pomyeshchick. 190 The peasants on all sides Bow down to the ground; And the big, burly peasant (The Elder he is As the peasants have noticed) Is cringing and bending Before the Pomyeshchick, Just like the Big Devil Before the high altar: "Just so! Yes, Your Highness, 200 It's done, at your bidding!" I think he will soon fall Before the Pomyeshchick And roll in the dust.... So moves the procession, Until it stops short In the front of a haystack Of wonderful size, Only this day erected. The old man is poking 210 His forefinger in it, He thinks it is damp, And he blazes with fury: "Is this how you rot The best goods of your master? I'll rot you with barschin, I'll make you repent it! Undo it--at once!" The Elder is writhing In great agitation: 220 "I was not quite careful Enough, and it _is_ damp. It's my fault, Your Highness!" He summons the peasants, Who run with their pitchforks To punish the monster. And soon they have spread it In small heaps around, At the feet of the master; His wrath is appeased. 230 (In the meantime the strangers Examine the hay--It's like tinder--so dry!) A lackey comes flying Along, with a napkin; He's lame--the poor man! "Please, the luncheon is served." And then the procession, The three little Barins, The wet-nurse, the dry-nurse, 240 The ancient retainers, The woolly white poodles, Moves onward to lunch. The peasants stand watching; From one of the boats Comes an outburst of music To greet the Pomyeshchick. The table is shining All dazzlingly white On the bank of the river. 250 The strangers, astonished, Draw near to old Vlasuchka; "Pray, little Uncle," They say, "what's the meaning Of all these strange doings? And who is that curious Old man?" "Our Pomyeshchick, The great Prince Yutiatin." "But why is he fussing 260 About in that manner? For things are all changed now, And he seems to think They are still as of old. The hay is quite dry, Yet he told you to dry it!" "But funnier still That the hay and the hayfields Are not his at all." "Then whose are they?" 270 "The Commune's." "Then why is he poking His nose into matters Which do not concern him? For are you not free?" "Why, yes, by God's mercy The order is changed now For us as for others; But ours is a special case." "Tell us about it." 280 The old man lay down At the foot of the haystack And answered them--nothing. The peasants producing The magic white napkin Sit down and say softly, "O napkin enchanted, Give food to the peasants!" The napkin unfolds, And two hands, which come floating From no one sees where, 291 Place a bucket of vodka, A large pile of bread On the magic white napkin, And dwindle away.... The peasants, still wishing To question old Vlasuchka, Wisely present him A cupful of vodka: "Now come, little Uncle, 300 Be gracious to strangers, And tell us your story." "There's nothing to tell you. You haven't told me yet Who _you_ are and whence You have journeyed to these parts, And whither you go." "We will not be surly Like you. We will tell you. We've come a great distance, 310 And seek to discover A thing of importance. A trouble torments us, It draws us away From our work, from our homes, From the love of our food...." The peasants then tell him About their chance meeting, Their argument, quarrel, Their vow, and decision; 320 Of how they had sought In the Government "Tight-Squeeze" And Government "Shot-Strewn" The man who, in Russia, Is happy and free.... Old Vlasuchka listens, Observing them keenly. "I see," he remarks, When the story is finished, "I see you are very 330 Peculiar people. We're said to be strange here, But you are still stranger." "Well, drink some more vodka And tell us your tale." And when by the vodka His tongue becomes loosened, Old Vlasuchka tells them The following story. I THE DIE-HARD "The great prince, Yutiatin, The ancient Pomyeshchick, Is very eccentric. His wealth is untold, And his titles exalted, His family ranks With the first in the Empire. The whole of his life He has spent in amusement, Has known no control 10 Save his own will and pleasure. When we were set free He refused to believe it: 'They lie! the low scoundrels!' There came the posrednik And Chief of Police, But he would not admit them, He ordered them out And went on as before, And only became 20 Full of hate and suspicion: 'Bow low, or I'll flog you To death, without mercy!' The Governor himself came To try to explain things, And long they disputed And argued together; The furious voice Of the prince was heard raging All over the house, 30 And he got so excited That on the same evening A stroke fell upon him: His left side went dead, Black as earth, so they tell us, And all over nothing! It wasn't his pocket That pinched, but his pride That was touched and enraged him. He lost but a mite 40 And would never have missed it." "Ah, that's what it means, friends, To be a Pomyeshchick, The habit gets into The blood," says Mitrodor, "And not the Pomyeshchick's Alone, for the habit Is strong in the peasant As well," old Pakhom said. "I once on suspicion 50 Was put into prison, And met there a peasant Called Sedor, a strange man, Arrested for horse-stealing, If I remember; And he from the prison Would send to the Barin His taxes. (The prisoner's Income is scanty, He gets what he begs 60 Or a trifle for working.) The others all laughed at him; 'Why should you send them And you off for life To hard labour?' they asked him. But he only said, 'All the same ... it is better.'" "Well, now, little Uncle, Go on with the story." "A mite is a small thing, 70 Except when it happens To be in the eye! The Pomyeshchick lay senseless, And many were sure That he'd never recover. His children were sent for, Those black-moustached footguards (You saw them just now With their wives, the fine ladies), The eldest of them 80 Was to settle all matters Concerning his father. He called the posrednik To draw up the papers And sign the agreement, When suddenly--there Stands the old man before them! He springs on them straight Like a wounded old tiger, He bellows like thunder. 90 It was but a short time Ago, and it happened That I was then Elder, And chanced to have entered The house on some errand, And I heard myself How he cursed the Pomyeshchicks; The words that he spoke I have never forgotten: 'The Jews are reproached 100 For betraying their Master; But what are _you_ doing? The rights of the nobles By centuries sanctioned You fling to the beggars!' He said to his sons, 'Oh, you dastardly cowards! My children no longer! It is for small reptiles-- The pope's crawling breed-- 110 To take bribes from vile traitors, To purchase base peasants, And they may be pardoned! But you!--you have sprung From the house of Yutiatin, The Princes Yu-tia-tin You are! Go!... Go, leave me! You pitiful puppies!' The heirs were alarmed; How to tide matters over 120 Until he should die? For they are not small items, The forests and lands That belong to our father; His money-bags are not So light as to make it A question of nothing Whose shoulders shall bear them; We know that our father Has three 'private' daughters 130 In Petersburg living, To Generals married, So how do we know That they may not inherit His wealth?... The Pomyeshchick Once more is prostrated, His death is a question Of time, and to make it Run smoothly till then An agreement was come to, 140 A plan to deceive him: So one of the ladies (The fair one, I fancy, She used at that time To attend the old master And rub his left side With a brush), well, she told him That orders had come From the Government lately That peasants set free 150 Should return to their bondage. And he quite believed it. (You see, since his illness The Prince had become Like a child.) When he heard it He cried with delight; And the household was summoned To prayer round the icons; And Thanksgiving Service Was held by his orders 160 In every small village, And bells were set ringing. And little by little His strength returned partly. And then as before It was hunting and music, The servants were caned And the peasants were punished. The heirs had, of course, Set things right with the servants, 170 A good understanding They came to, and one man (You saw him go running Just now with the napkin) Did not need persuading--- He so loved his Barin. His name is Ipat, And when we were made free He refused to believe it; 'The great Prince Yutiatin 180 Be left without peasants! What pranks are you playing?' At last, when the 'Order Of Freedom' was shown him, Ipat said, 'Well, well, Get you gone to your pleasures, But I am the slave Of the Princes Yutiatin!' He cannot get over The old Prince's kindness 190 To him, and he's told us Some curious stories Of things that had happened To him in his childhood, His youth and old age. (You see, I had often To go to the Prince On some matter or other Concerning the peasants, And waited and waited 200 For hours in the kitchens, And so I have heard them A hundred times over.) 'When I was a young man Our gracious young Prince Spent his holidays sometimes At home, and would dip me (His meanest slave, mind you) Right under the ice In the depths of the Winter. 210 He did it in such A remarkable way, too! He first made two holes In the ice of the river, In one he would lower Me down in a net-- Pull me up through the other!' And when I began To grow old, it would happen That sometimes I drove 220 With the Prince in the Winter; The snow would block up Half the road, and we used To drive five-in-a-file. Then the fancy would strike him (How whimsical, mark you!) To set me astride On the horse which was leading, Me--last of his slaves! Well, he dearly loved music, 230 And so he would throw me A fiddle: 'Here! play now, Ipat.' Then the driver Would shout to the horses, And urge them to gallop. The snow would half-blind me, My hands with the music Were occupied both; So what with the jolting, The snow, and the fiddle, 240 Ipat, like a silly Old noodle, would tumble. Of course, if he landed Right under the horses The sledge must go over His ribs,--who could help it? But that was a trifle; The cold was the worst thing, It bites you, and you Can do nothing against it! 250 The snow lay all round On the vast empty desert, I lay looking up At the stars and confessing My sins. But--my friends, This is true as the Gospel-- I heard before long How the sledge-bells came ringing, Drew nearer and nearer: The Prince had remembered, 260 And come back to fetch me!' "(The tears began falling And rolled down his face At this part of the story. Whenever he told it He always would cry Upon coming to this!) 'He covered me up With some rugs, and he warmed me, He lifted me up, 270 And he placed me beside him, Me--last of his slaves-- Beside his Princely Person! And so we came home.'" They're amused at the story. Old Vlasuchka, when He has emptied his fourth cup, Continues: "The heirs came And called us together-- The peasants and servants; 280 They said, 'We're distressed On account of our father. These changes will kill him, He cannot sustain them. So humour his weakness: Keep silent, and act still As if all this trouble Had never existed; Give way to him, bow to him Just as in old days. 290 For each stroke of barschin, For all needless labour, For every rough word We will richly reward you. He cannot live long now, The doctors have told us That two or three months Is the most we may hope for. Act kindly towards us, And do as we ask you, 300 And we as the price Of your silence will give you The hayfields which lie On the banks of the Volga. Think well of our offer, And let the posrednik Be sent for to witness And settle the matter.' "Then gathered the commune To argue and clamour; 310 The thought of the hayfields (In which we are sitting), With promises boundless And plenty of vodka, Decided the question: The commune would wait For the death of the Barin. "Then came the posrednik, And laughing, he said: 'It's a capital notion! 320 The hayfields are fine, too, You lose nothing by it; You just play the fool And the Lord will forgive you. You know, it's forbidden To no one in Russia To bow and be silent.' "But I was against it: I said to the peasants, 'For you it is easy, 330 But how about me? Whatever may happen The Elder must come To accounts with the Barin, And how can I answer His babyish questions? And how can I do His nonsensical bidding?' "'Just take off your hat And bow low, and say nothing, 340 And then you walk out And the thing's at an end. The old man is ill, He is weak and forgetful, And nothing will stay In his head for an instant.' "Perhaps they were right; To deceive an old madman Is not very hard. But for my part, I don't want 350 To play at buffoon. For how many years Have I stood on the threshold And bowed to the Barin? Enough for my pleasure! I said, 'If the commune Is pleased to be ruled By a crazy Pomyeshchick To ease his last moments I don't disagree, 360 I have nothing against it; But then, set me free From my duties as Elder.' "The whole matter nearly Fell through at that moment, But then Klimka Lavin said, 'Let _me_ be Elder, I'll please you on both sides, The master and you. The Lord will soon take him, 370 And then the fine hayfields Will come to the commune. I swear I'll establish Such order amongst you You'll die of the fun!' "The commune took long To consider this offer: A desperate fellow Is Klimka the peasant, A drunkard, a rover, 380 And not very honest, No lover of work, And acquainted with gipsies; A vagabond, knowing A lot about horses. A scoffer at those Who work hard, he will tell you: 'At work you will never Get rich, my fine fellow; You'll never get rich,-- 390 But you're sure to get crippled!' But he, all the same, Is well up in his letters; Has been to St. Petersburg. Yes, and to Moscow, And once to Siberia, too, With the merchants. A pity it was That he ever returned! He's clever enough, 400 But he can't keep a farthing; He's sharp--but he's always In some kind of trouble. He's picked some fine words up From out of his travels: 'Our Fatherland dear,' And 'The soul of great Russia,' And 'Moscow, the mighty, Illustrious city!' 'And I,' he will shout, 410 'Am a plain Russian peasant!' And striking his forehead He'll swallow the vodka. A bottle at once He'll consume, like a mouthful. He'll fall at your feet For a bottle of vodka. But if he has money He'll share with you, freely; The first man he meets 420 May partake of his drink. He's clever at shouting And cheating and fooling, At showing the best side Of goods which are rotten, At boasting and lying; And when he is caught He'll slip out through a cranny, And throw you a jest, Or his favourite saying: 430 'A crack in the jaw Will your honesty bring you!' "Well, after much thinking The commune decided That I must remain The responsible Elder; But Klimka might act In my stead to the Barin As though he were Elder. Why, then, let him do it! 440 The right kind of Elder He is for his Barin, They make a fine pair! Like putty his conscience; Like Meenin's his beard, So that looking upon him You'd think a sedater, More dutiful peasant Could never be found. The heirs made his kaftan, 450 And he put it on, And from Klimka the 'scapegrace' He suddenly changed Into Klim, Son-of-Jacob, Most worthy of Elders. So that's how it is;-- And to our great misfortune The Barin is ordered A carriage-drive daily. Each day through the village 460 He drives in a carriage That's built upon springs. Then up you jump, quickly, And whip off your hat, And, God knows for what reason, He'll jump down your throat, He'll upbraid and abuse you; But you must keep silent. He watches a peasant At work in the fields, 470 And he swears we are lazy And lie-abed sluggards (Though never worked peasant With half such a will In the time of the Barin). He has not a notion That they are not _his_ fields, But ours. When we gather We laugh, for each peasant Has something to tell 480 Of the crazy Pomyeshchick; His ears burn, I warrant, When we come together! And Klim, Son-of-Jacob, Will run, with the manner Of bearing the commune Some news of importance (The pig has got proud Since he's taken to scratching His sides on the steps 490 Of the nobleman's manor). He runs and he shouts: 'A command to the commune! I told the Pomyeshchick That Widow Terentevna's Cottage had fallen. And that she is begging Her bread. He commands you To marry the widow To Gabriel Jockoff; 500 To rebuild the cottage, And let them reside there And multiply freely.' "The bride will be seventy, Seven the bridegroom! Well, who could help laughing? Another command: 'The dull-witted cows, Driven out before sunrise, Awoke the Pomyeshchick 510 By foolishly mooing While passing his courtyard. The cow-herd is ordered To see that the cows Do not moo in that manner!'" The peasants laugh loudly. "But why do you laugh so? We all have our fancies. Yakutsk was once governed, I heard, by a General; 520 He had a liking For sticking live cows Upon spikes round the city, And every free spot Was adorned in that manner, As Petersburg is, So they say, with its statues, Before it had entered The heads of the people That he was a madman. 530 "Another strict order Was sent to the commune: 'The dog which belongs To Sofronoff the watchman Does not behave nicely, It barked at the Barin. Be therefore Sofronoff Dismissed. Let Evremka Be watchman to guard The estate of the Barin.' 540 (Another loud laugh, For Evremka, the 'simple,' Is known as the deaf-mute And fool of the village). But Klimka's delighted: At last he's found something That suits him exactly. He bustles about And in everything meddles, And even drinks less. 550 There's a sharp little woman Whose name is Orevna, And she is Klim's gossip, And finely she helps him To fool the old Barin. And as to the women, They're living in clover: They run to the manor With linen and mushrooms And strawberries, knowing 560 The ladies will buy them And pay what they ask them And feed them besides. We laughed and made game Till we fell into danger And nearly were lost: There was one man among us, Petrov, an ungracious And bitter-tongued peasant; He never forgave us 570 Because we'd consented To humour the Barin. 'The Tsar,' he would say, 'Has had mercy upon you, And now, you, yourselves Lift the load to your backs. To Hell with the hayfields! We want no more masters!' We only could stop him By giving him vodka 580 (His weakness was vodka). The devil must needs Fling him straight at the Barin. One morning Petrov Had set out to the forest To pilfer some logs (For the night would not serve him, It seems, for his thieving, He must go and do it In broadest white daylight), 590 And there comes the carriage, On springs, with the Barin! "'From whence, little peasant, That beautiful tree-trunk? From whence has it come?' He knew, the old fellow, From whence it had come. Petrov stood there silent, And what could he answer? He'd taken the tree 600 From the Barin's own forest. "The Barin already Is bursting with anger; He nags and reproaches, He can't stop recalling The rights of the nobles. The rank of his Fathers, He winds them all into Petrov, like a corkscrew. "The peasants are patient, 610 But even their patience Must come to an end. Petrov was out early, Had eaten no breakfast, Felt dizzy already, And now with the words Of the Barin all buzzing Like flies in his ears-- Why, he couldn't keep steady, He laughed in his face! 620 "'Have done, you old scarecrow!' He said to the Barin. 'You crazy old clown!' His jaw once unmuzzled He let enough words out To stuff the Pomyeshchick With Fathers and Grandfathers Into the bargain. The oaths of the lords Are like stings of mosquitoes, 630 But those of the peasant Like blows of the pick-axe. The Barin's dumbfounded! He'd safely encounter A rain of small shot, But he cannot face stones. The ladies are with him, They, too, are bewildered, They run to the peasant And try to restrain him. 640 "He bellows, 'I'll kill you! For what are you swollen With pride, you old dotard, You scum of the pig-sty? Have done with your jabber! You've lost your strong grip On the soul of the peasant, The last one you are. By the will of the peasant Because he is foolish 650 They treat you as master To-day. But to-morrow The ball will be ended; A good kick behind We will give the Pomyeshchick, And tail between legs Send him back to his dwelling To leave us in peace!' "The Barin is gasping, 'You rebel ... you rebel!' 660 He trembles all over, Half-dead he has fallen, And lies on the earth! "The end! think the others, The black-moustached footguards, The beautiful ladies; But they are mistaken; It isn't the end. "An order: to summon The village together 670 To witness the punishment Dealt to the rebel Before the Pomyeshchick.... The heirs and the ladies Come running in terror To Klim, to Petrov, And to me: 'Only save us!' Their faces are pale, 'If the trick is discovered We're lost!' 680 It is Klim's place To deal with the matter: He drinks with Petrov All day long, till the evening, Embracing him fondly. Together till midnight They pace round the village, At midnight start drinking Again till the morning. Petrov is as tipsy 690 As ever man was, And like that he is brought To the Barin's large courtyard, And all is perfection! The Barin can't move From the balcony, thanks To his yesterday's shaking. And Klim is well pleased. "He leads Petrov into The stable and sets him 700 In front of a gallon Of vodka, and tells him: 'Now, drink and start crying, ''Oh, oh, little Fathers! Oh, oh, little. Mothers! Have mercy! Have mercy!''' "Petrov does his bidding; He howls, and the Barin, Perched up on the balcony, Listens in rapture. 710 He drinks in the sound Like the loveliest music. And who could help laughing To hear him exclaiming, 'Don't spare him, the villain! The im-pu-dent rascal! Just teach him a lesson!' Petrov yells aloud Till the vodka is finished. Of course in the end 720 He is perfectly helpless, And four peasants carry him Out of the stable. His state is so sorry That even the Barin Has pity upon him, And says to him sweetly, 'Your own fault it is, Little peasant, you know!'" "You see what a kind heart 730 He has, the Pomyeshchick," Says Prov, and old Vlasuchka Answers him quietly, "A saying there is: 'Praise the grass--in the haystack, The lord--in his coffin.' "Twere well if God took him. Petrov is no longer Alive. That same evening He started up, raving, 740 At midnight the pope came, And just as the day dawned He died. He was buried, A cross set above him, And God alone knows What he died of. It's certain That we never touched him, Nay, not with a finger, Much less with a stick. Yet sometimes the thought comes: Perhaps if that accident 751 Never had happened Petrov would be living. You see, friends, the peasant Was proud more than others, He carried his head high, And never had bent it, And now of a sudden-- Lie down for the Barin! Fall flat for his pleasure! 760 The thing went off well, But Petrov had not wished it. I think he was frightened To anger the commune By not giving in, And the commune is foolish, It soon will destroy you.... The ladies were ready To kiss the old peasant, They brought fifty roubles 770 For him, and some dainties. 'Twas Klimka, the scamp, The unscrupulous sinner, Who worked his undoing.... "A servant is coming To us from the Barin, They've finished their lunch. Perhaps they have sent him To summon the Elder. I'll go and look on 780 At the comedy there." II KLIM, THE ELDER With him go the strangers, And some of the women And men follow after, For mid-day has sounded, Their rest-time it is, So they gather together To stare at the gentry, To whisper and wonder. They stand in a row At a dutiful distance 10 Away from the Prince.... At a long snowy table Quite covered with bottles And all kinds of dishes Are sitting the gentry, The old Prince presiding In dignified state At the head of the table; All white, dressed in white, With his face shrunk awry, 20 His dissimilar eyes; In his button-hole fastened A little white cross (It's the cross of St. George, Some one says in a whisper); And standing behind him, Ipat, the domestic, The faithful old servant, In white tie and shirt-front Is brushing the flies off. 30 Beside the Pomyeshchick On each hand are sitting The beautiful ladies: The one with black tresses, Her lips red as beetroots, Each eye like an apple; The other, the fair-haired, With yellow locks streaming. (Oh, you yellow locks, Like spun gold do you glisten 40 And glow, in the sunshine!) Then perched on three high chairs The three little Barins, Each wearing his napkin Tucked under his chin, With the old nurse beside them, And further the body Of ancient retainers; And facing the Prince At the foot of the table, 50 The black-moustached footguards Are sitting together. Behind each chair standing A young girl is serving, And women are waving The flies off with branches. The woolly white poodles Are under the table, The three little Barins Are teasing them slyly. 60 Before the Pomyeshchick, Bare-headed and humble, The Elder is standing. "Now tell me, how soon Will the mowing be finished?" The Barin says, talking And eating at once. "It soon will be finished. Three days of the week Do we work for your Highness; 70 A man with a horse, And a youth or a woman, And half an old woman From every allotment. To-day for this week Is the Barin's term finished." "Tut-tut!" says the Barin, Like one who has noticed Some crafty intent On the part of another. 80 "'The Barin's term,' say you? Now, what do you mean, pray?" The eye which is bright He has fixed on the peasant. The Elder is hanging His head in confusion. "Of course it must be As your Highness may order. In two or three days, If the weather be gracious, 90 The hay of your Highness Can surely be gathered. That's so,--is it not?" (He turns his broad face round And looks at the peasants.) And then the sharp woman, Klim's gossip, Orevna, Makes answer for them: "Yes, Klim, Son-of-Jacob, The hay of the Barin 100 Is surely more precious Than ours. We must tend it As long as the weather lasts; Ours may come later." "A woman she is, But more clever than you," The Pomyeshchick says smiling, And then of a sudden Is shaken with laughter: "Ha, ha! Oh, you blockhead! 110 Ha? ha! fool! fool! fool! It's the 'Barin's term,' say you? Ha, ha! fool, ha, ha! The Barin's term, slave, Is the whole of your life-time; And you have forgotten That I, by God's mercy, By Tsar's ancient charter, By birth and by merit, Am your supreme master!" 120 The strangers remark here That Vlasuchka gently Slips down to the grass. "What's that for?" they ask him. "We may as well rest now; He's off. You can't stop him. For since it was rumoured That we should be given Our freedom, the Barin Takes care to remind us 130 That till the last hour Of the world will the peasant Be clenched in the grip Of the nobles." And really An hour slips away And the Prince is still speaking; His tongue will not always Obey him, he splutters And hisses, falls over His words, and his right eye 140 So shares his disquiet That it trembles and twitches. The left eye expands, Grows as round as an owl's eye, Revolves like a wheel. The rights of his Fathers Through ages respected, His services, merits, His name and possessions, The Barin rehearses. 150 God's curse, the Tsar's anger, He hurls at the heads Of obstreperous peasants. And strictly gives order To sweep from the commune All senseless ideas, Bids the peasants remember That they are his slaves And must honour their master. "Our Fathers," cried Klim, 160 And his voice sounded strangely, It rose to a squeak As if all things within him Leapt up with a passionate Joy of a sudden At thought of the mighty And noble Pomyeshchicks, "And whom should we serve Save the Master we cherish? And whom should we honour? 170 In whom should we hope? We feed but on sorrows, We bathe but in tear-drops, How can we rebel? "Our tumble-down hovels, Our weak little bodies, Ourselves, we are yours, We belong to our Master. The seeds which we sow In the earth, and the harvest, 180 The hair on our heads-- All belongs to the Master. Our ancestors fallen To dust in their coffins, Our feeble old parents Who nod on the oven, Our little ones lying Asleep in their cradles Are yours--are our Master's, And we in our homes 190 Use our wills but as freely As fish in a net." The words of the Elder Have pleased the Pomyeshchick, The right eye is gazing Benignantly at him, The left has grown smaller And peaceful again Like the moon in the heavens. He pours out a goblet 200 Of red foreign wine: "Drink," he says to the peasant. The rich wine is burning Like blood in the sunshine; Klim drinks without protest. Again he is speaking: "Our Fathers," he says, "By your mercy we live now As though in the bosom Of Christ. Let the peasant 210 But try to exist Without grace from the Barin!" (He sips at the goblet.) "The whole world would perish If not for the Barin's Deep wisdom and learning. If not for the peasant's Most humble submission. By birth, and God's holy Decree you are bidden 220 To govern the stupid And ignorant peasant; By God's holy will Is the peasant commanded To honour and cherish And work for his lord!" And here the old servant, Ipat, who is standing Behind the Pomyeshchick And waving his branches, 230 Begins to sob loudly, The tears streaming down O'er his withered old face: "Let us pray that the Barin For many long years May be spared to his servants!" The simpleton blubbers, The loving old servant, And raising his hand, Weak and trembling, he crosses 240 Himself without ceasing. The black-moustached footguards Look sourly upon him With secret displeasure. But how can they help it? So off come their hats And they cross themselves also. And then the old Prince And the wrinkled old dry-nurse Both sign themselves thrice, 250 And the Elder does likewise. He winks to the woman, His sharp little gossip, And straightway the women, Who nearer and nearer Have drawn to the table, Begin most devoutly To cross themselves too. And one begins sobbing In just such a manner 260 As had the old servant. ("That's right, now, start whining, Old Widow Terentevna, Sill-y old noodle!" Says Vlasuchka, crossly.) The red sun peeps slyly At them from a cloud, And the slow, dreamy music Is heard from the river.... The ancient Pomyeshchick 270 Is moved, and the right eye Is blinded with tears, Till the golden-haired lady Removes them and dries it; She kisses the other eye Heartily too. "You see!" then remarks The old man to his children, The two stalwart sons And the pretty young ladies; 280 "I wish that those villains, Those Petersburg liars Who say we are tyrants, Could only be here now To see and hear this!" But then something happened Which checked of a sudden The speech of the Barin: A peasant who couldn't Control his amusement 290 Gave vent to his laughter. The Barin starts wildly, He clutches the table, He fixes his face In the sinner's direction; The right eye is fierce, Like a lynx he is watching To dart on his prey, And the left eye is whirling. "Go, find him!" he hisses, 300 "Go, fetch him! the scoundrel!" The Elder dives straight In the midst of the people; He asks himself wildly, "Now, what's to be done?" He makes for the edge Of the crowd, where are sitting The journeying strangers; His voice is like honey: "Come one of you forward; 310 You see, you are strangers, He wouldn't touch _you_." But they are not anxious To face the Pomyeshchick, Although they would gladly Have helped the poor peasants. He's mad, the old Barin, So what's to prevent him From beating them too? "Well, you go, Roman," 320 Say the two brothers Goobin, "_You_ love the Pomyeshchicks." "I'd rather you went, though!" And each is quite willing To offer the other. Then Klim looses patience; "Now, Vlasuchka, help us! Do something to save us! I'm sick of the thing!" "Yes! Nicely you lied there!" 330 "Oho!" says Klim sharply, "What lies did I tell? And shan't we be choked In the grip of the Barins Until our last day When we lie in our coffins? When we get to Hell, too, Won't they be there waiting To set us to work?" "What kind of a job 340 Would they find for us there, Klim?" "To stir up the fire While they boil in the pots!" The others laugh loudly. The sons of the Barin Come hurrying to them; "How foolish you are, Klim! Our father has sent us, He's terribly angry That you are so long, 350 And don't bring the offender." "We can't bring him, Barin; A stranger he is, From St. Petersburg province, A very rich peasant; The devil has sent him To us, for our sins! He can't understand us, And things here amuse him; He couldn't help laughing." 360 "Well, let him alone, then. Cast lots for a culprit, We'll pay him. Look here!" He offers five roubles. Oh, no. It won't tempt them. "Well, run to the Barin, And say that the fellow Has hidden himself." "But what when to-morrow comes? Have you forgotten 370 Petrov, how we punished The innocent peasant?" "Then what's to be done?" "Give me the five roubles! You trust me, I'll save you!" Exclaims the sharp woman, The Elder's sly gossip. She runs from the peasants Lamenting and groaning, And flings herself straight 380 At the feet of the Barin: "O red little sun! O my Father, don't kill me! I have but one child, Oh, have pity upon him! My poor boy is daft, Without wits the Lord made him, And sent him so into The world. He is crazy. Why, straight from the bath 390 He at once begins scratching; His drink he will try To pour into his laputs Instead of the jug. And of work he knows nothing; He laughs, and that's all He can do--so God made him! Our poor little home, 'Tis small comfort he brings it; Our hut is in ruins, 400 Not seldom it happens We've nothing to eat, And that sets him laughing-- The poor crazy loon! You may give him a farthing, A crack on the skull, And at one and the other He'll laugh--so God made him! And what can one say? From a fool even sorrow 410 Comes pouring in laughter." The knowing young woman! She lies at the feet Of the Barin, and trembles, She squeals like a silly Young girl when you pinch her, She kisses his feet. "Well ... go. God be with you!" The Barin says kindly, "I need not be angry 420 At idiot laughter, I'll laugh at him too!" "How good you are, Father," The black-eyed young lady Says sweetly, and strokes The white head of the Barin. The black-moustached footguards At this put their word in: "A fool cannot follow The words of his masters, 430 Especially those Like the words of our father, So noble and clever." And Klim--shameless rascal!-- Is wiping his eyes On the end of his coat-tails, Is sniffing and whining; "Our Fathers! Our Fathers! The sons of our Father! They know how to punish, 440 But better they know How to pardon and pity!" The old man is cheerful Again, and is asking For light frothing wine, And the corks begin popping And shoot in the air To fall down on the women, Who fly from them, shrieking. The Barin is laughing, 450 The ladies then laugh, And at them laugh their husbands, And next the old servant, Ipat, begins laughing, The wet-nurse, the dry-nurse, And then the whole party Laugh loudly together; The feast will be merry! His daughters-in-law At the old Prince's order 460 Are pouring out vodka To give to the peasants, Hand cakes to the youths, To the girls some sweet syrup; The women drink also A small glass of vodka. The old Prince is drinking And toasting the peasants; And slyly he pinches The beautiful ladies. 470 "That's right! That will do him More good than his physic," Says Vlasuchka, watching. "He drinks by the glassful, Since long he's lost measure In revel, or wrath...." The music comes floating To them from the Volga, The girls now already Are dancing and singing, 480 The old Prince is watching them, Snapping his fingers. He wants to be nearer The girls, and he rises. His legs will not bear him, His two sons support him; And standing between them He chuckles and whistles, And stamps with his feet To the time of the music; 490 The left eye begins On its own account working, It turns like a wheel. "But why aren't you dancing?" He says to his sons, And the two pretty ladies. "Dance! Dance!" They can't help themselves, There they are dancing! He laughs at them gaily, He wishes to show them 500 How things went in _his_ time; He's shaking and swaying Like one on the deck Of a ship in rough weather. "Sing, Luiba!" he orders. The golden-haired lady Does not want to sing, But the old man will have it. The lady is singing A song low and tender, 510 It sounds like the breeze On a soft summer evening In velvety grasses Astray, like spring raindrops That kiss the young leaves, And it soothes the Pomyeshchick. The feeble old man: He is falling asleep now.... And gently they carry him Down to the water, 520 And into the boat, And he lies there, still sleeping. Above him stands, holding A big green umbrella, The faithful old servant, His other hand guarding The sleeping Pomyeshchick From gnats and mosquitoes. The oarsmen are silent, The faint-sounding music 530 Can hardly be heard As the boat moving gently Glides on through the water.... The peasants stand watching: The bright yellow hair Of the beautiful lady Streams out in the breeze Like a long golden banner.... "I managed him finely, The noble Pomyeshchick," 540 Said Klim to the peasants. "Be God with you, Barin! Go bragging and scolding, Don't think for a moment That we are now free And your servants no longer, But die as you lived, The almighty Pomyeshchick, To sound of our music, To songs of your slaves; 550 But only die quickly, And leave the poor peasants In peace. And now, brothers, Come, praise me and thank me! I've gladdened the commune. I shook in my shoes there Before the Pomyeshchick, For fear I should trip Or my tongue should betray me; And worse--I could hardly 560 Speak plain for my laughter! That eye! How it spins! And you look at it, thinking: 'But whither, my friend, Do you hurry so quickly? On some hasty errand Of yours, or another's? Perhaps with a pass From the Tsar--Little Father, You carry a message 570 From him.' I was standing And bursting with laughter! Well, I am a drunken And frivolous peasant, The rats in my corn-loft Are starving from hunger, My hut is quite bare, Yet I call God to witness That I would not take Such an office upon me 580 For ten hundred roubles Unless I were certain That he was the last, That I bore with his bluster To serve my own ends, Of my own will and pleasure." Old Vlasuchka sadly And thoughtfully answers, "How long, though, how long, though, Have we--not we only 590 But all Russian peasants-- Endured the Pomyeshchicks? And not for our pleasure, For money or fun, Not for two or three months, But for life. What has changed, though? Of what are we bragging? For still we are peasants." The peasants, half-tipsy, Congratulate Klimka. 600 "Hurrah! Let us toss him!" And now they are placing Old Widow Terentevna Next to her bridegroom, The little child Jockoff, Saluting them gaily. They're eating and drinking What's left on the table. Then romping and jesting They stay till the evening, 610 And only at nightfall Return to the village. And here they are met By some sobering tidings: The old Prince is dead. From the boat he was taken, They thought him asleep, But they found he was lifeless. The second stroke--while He was sleeping--had fallen! 620 The peasants are sobered, They look at each other, And silently cross themselves. Then they breathe deeply; And never before Did the poor squalid village Called "Ignorant-Duffers," Of Volost "Old-Dustmen," Draw such an intense And unanimous breath.... 630 Their pleasure, however, Was not very lasting, Because with the death Of the ancient Pomyeshchick, The sweet-sounding words Of his heirs and their bounties Ceased also. Not even A pick-me-up after The yesterday's feast Did they offer the peasants. 640 And as to the hayfields-- Till now is the law-suit Proceeding between them, The heirs and the peasants. Old Vlasuchka was By the peasants appointed To plead in their name, And he lives now in Moscow. He went to St. Petersburg too, But I don't think 650 That much can be done For the cause of the peasants. PART III. THE PEASANT WOMAN PROLOGUE "Not only to men Must we go with our question, We'll ask of the women," The peasants decided. They asked in the village "Split-up," but the people Replied to them shortly, "Not here will you find one. But go to the village 'Stripped-Naked'--a woman 10 Lives there who is happy. She's hardly a woman, She's more like a cow, For a woman so healthy, So smooth and so clever, Could hardly be found. You must seek in the village Matrona Korchagin-- The people there call her 'The Governor's Lady.'" 20 The peasants considered And went.... Now already The corn-stalks are rising Like tall graceful columns, With gilded heads nodding, And whispering softly In gentle low voices. Oh, beautiful summer! No time is so gorgeous, 30 So regal, so rich. You full yellow cornfields, To look at you now One would never imagine How sorely God's people Had toiled to array you Before you arose, In the sight of the peasant, And stood before him, Like a glorious army 40 n front of a Tsar! 'Tis not by warm dew-drops That you have been moistened, The sweat of the peasant Has fallen upon you. The peasants are gladdened At sight of the oats And the rye and the barley, But not by the wheat, For it feeds but the chosen: 50 "We love you not, wheat! But the rye and the barley We love--they are kind, They feed all men alike." The flax, too, is growing So sweetly and bravely: "Ai! you little mite! You are caught and entangled!" A poor little lark In the flax has been captured; 60 It struggles for freedom. Pakhom picks it up, He kisses it tenderly: "Fly, little birdie!" ... The lark flies away To the blue heights of Heaven; The kind-hearted peasants Gaze lovingly upwards To see it rejoice In the freedom above.... 70 The peas have come on, too; Like locusts, the peasants Attack them and eat them. They're like a plump maiden-- The peas--for whoever Goes by must needs pinch them. Now peas are being carried In old hands, in young hands, They're spreading abroad Over seventy high-roads. 80 The vegetables--how They're flourishing also! Each toddler is clasping A radish or carrot, And many are cracking The seeds of the sunflower. The beetroots are dotted Like little red slippers All over the earth. Our peasants are walking, 90 Now faster--now slower. At last they have reached it-- The village 'Stripped-Naked,' It's not much to look at: Each hut is propped up Like a beggar on crutches; The thatch from the roofs Has made food for the cattle; The huts are like feeble Old skeletons standing, 100 Like desolate rooks' nests When young birds forsake them. When wild Autumn winds Have dismantled the birch-trees. The people are all In the fields; they are working. Behind the poor village A manor is standing; It's built on the slope Of a hill, and the peasants 110 Are making towards it To look at it close. The house is gigantic, The courtyard is huge, There's a pond in it too; A watch-tower arises From over the house, With a gallery round it, A flagstaff upon it. They meet with a lackey 120 Near one of the gates: He seems to be wearing A strange kind of mantle; "Well, what are you up to?" He says to the friends, "The Pomyeshchick's abroad now, The manager's dying." He shows them his back, And they all begin laughing: A tiger is clutching 130 The edge of his shoulders! "Heh! here's a fine joke!" They are hotly discussing What kind of a mantle The lackey is wearing, Till clever Pakhom Has got hold of the riddle. "The cunning old rascal, He's stolen a carpet, And cut in the middle 140 A hole for his head!" Like weak, straddling beetles Shut up to be frozen In cold empty huts By the pitiless peasants. The servants are crawling All over the courtyard. Their master long since Has forgotten about them, And left them to live 150 As they can. They are hungry, All old and decrepit, And dressed in all manners, They look like a crowd In a gipsy encampment. And some are now dragging A net through the pond: "God come to your help! Have you caught something, brothers?" "One carp--nothing more; 160 There used once to be many, But now we have come To the end of the feast!" "Do try to get five!" Says a pale, pregnant woman, Who's fervently blowing A fire near the pond. "And what are those pretty Carved poles you are burning? They're balcony railings, 170 I think, are they not?" "Yes, balcony railings." "See here. They're like tinder; Don't blow on them, Mother! I bet they'll burn faster Than you find the victuals To cook in the pot!" "I'm waiting and waiting, And Mityenka sickens Because of the musty 180 Old bread that I give him. But what can I do? This life--it is bitter!" She fondles the head Of a half-naked baby Who sits by her side In a little brass basin, A button-nosed mite. "The boy will take cold there, The basin will chill him," 190 Says Prov; and he wishes To lift the child up, But it screams at him, angry. "No, no! Don't you touch him," The mother says quickly, "Why, can you not see That's his carriage he's driving? Drive on, little carriage! Gee-up, little horses! You see how he drives!" 200 The peasants each moment Observe some new marvel; And soon they have noticed A strange kind of labour Proceeding around them: One man, it appears, To the door has got fastened; He's toiling away To unscrew the brass handles, His hands are so weak 210 He can scarcely control them. Another is hugging Some tiles: "See, Yegorshka, I've dug quite a heap out!" Some children are shaking An apple-tree yonder: "You see, little Uncles, There aren't many left, Though the tree was quite heavy." "But why do you want them? 220 They're quite hard and green." "We're thankful to get them!" The peasants examine The park for a long time; Such wonders are seen here, Such cunning inventions: In one place a mountain Is raised; in another A ravine yawns deep! A lake has been made too; 230 Perhaps at one time There were swans on the water? The summer-house has some Inscriptions upon it, Demyan begins spelling Them out very slowly. A grey-haired domestic Is watching the peasants; He sees they have very Inquisitive natures, 240 And presently slowly Goes hobbling towards them, And holding a book. He says, "Will you buy it?" Demyan is a peasant Acquainted with letters, He tries for some time But he can't read a word. "Just sit down yourself On that seat near the linden, 250 And read the book leisurely Like a Pomyeshchick!" "You think you are clever," The grey-headed servant Retorts with resentment, "Yet books which are learned Are wasted upon you. You read but the labels On public-house windows, And that which is written 260 On every odd corner: 'Most strictly forbidden.'" The pathways are filthy, The graceful stone ladies Bereft of their noses. "The fruit and the berries, The geese and the swans Which were once on the water, The thieving old rascals Have stuffed in their maws. 270 Like church without pastor, Like fields without peasants, Are all these fine gardens Without a Pomyeshchick," The peasants remark. For long the Pomyeshchick Has gathered his treasures, When all of a sudden.... (The six peasants laugh, But the seventh is silent, 280 He hangs down his head.) A song bursts upon them! A voice is resounding Like blasts of a trumpet. The heads of the peasants Are eagerly lifted, They gaze at the tower. On the balcony round it A man is now standing; He wears a pope's cassock; 290 He sings ... on the balmy Soft air of the evening, The bass, like a huge Silver bell, is vibrating, And throbbing it enters The hearts of the peasants. The words are not Russian, But some foreign language, But, like Russian songs, It is full of great sorrow, 300 Of passionate grief, Unending, unfathomed; It wails and laments, It is bitterly sobbing.... "Pray tell us, good woman, What man is that singing?" Roman asks the woman Now feeding her baby With steaming ukha. "A singer, my brothers, 310 A born Little Russian, The Barin once brought him Away from his home, With a promise to send him To Italy later. But long the Pomyeshchick Has been in strange parts And forgotten his promise; And now the poor fellow Would be but too glad 320 To get back to his village. There's nothing to do here, He hasn't a farthing, There's nothing before him And nothing behind him Excepting his voice. You have not really heard it; You will if you stay here Till sunrise to-morrow: Some three versts away 330 There is living a deacon, And he has a voice too. They greet one another: Each morning at sunrise Will our little singer Climb up to the watch-tower, And call to the other, 'Good-morrow to Father Ipat, and how fares he?' (The windows all shake 340 At the sound.) From the distance The deacon will answer, 'Good-morrow, good-morrow, To our little sweet-throat! I go to drink vodka, I'm going ... I'm going....' The voice on the air Will hang quivering around us For more than an hour, 350 Like the neigh of a stallion." The cattle are now Coming home, and the evening Is filled with the fragrance Of milk; and the woman, The mother of Mityenka, Sighs; she is thinking, "If only one cow Would turn into the courtyard!" But hark! In the distance 360 Some voices in chorus! "Good-bye, you poor mourners, May God send you comfort! The people are coming, We're going to meet them." The peasants are filled With relief; because after The whining old servants The people who meet them Returning from work 370 In the fields seem such healthy And beautiful people. The men and the women And pretty young girls Are all singing together. "Good health to you! Which is Among you the woman Matrona Korchagin?" The peasants demand. "And what do you want 380 With Matrona Korchagin?" The woman Matrona Is tall, finely moulded, Majestic in bearing, And strikingly handsome. Of thirty-eight years She appears, and her black hair Is mingled with grey. Her complexion is swarthy, Her eyes large and dark 390 And severe, with rich lashes. A white shirt, and short Sarafan she is wearing, She walks with a hay-fork Slung over her shoulder. "Well, what do you want With Matrona Korchagin?" The peasants are silent; They wait till the others Have gone in advance, 400 And then, bowing, they answer: "We come from afar, And a trouble torments us, A trouble so great That for it we've forsaken Our homes and our work, And our appetites fail. We're orthodox peasants, From District 'Most Wretched,' From 'Destitute Parish,' 410 From neighbouring hamlets-- 'Patched,' 'Barefoot,' and 'Shabby,' 'Bleak,' 'Burnt-Out,' and 'Hungry,' And 'Harvestless,' too. We met in the roadway And argued about Who is happy in Russia. Luka said, 'The pope,' And Demyan, 'The Pomyeshchick,' And Prov said, 'The Tsar,' 420 And Roman, 'The official.' 'The round-bellied merchant,' Said both brothers Goobin, Mitrodor and Ivan. Pakhom said, 'His Highness, The Tsar's Chief Adviser.' Like bulls are the peasants: Once folly is in them You cannot dislodge it Although you should beat them 430 With stout wooden cudgels, They stick to their folly And nothing will move them. We argued and quarrelled, While quarrelling fought, And while fighting decided That never again Would we turn our steps homewards To kiss wives and children, To see the old people, 440 Until we have found The reply to our question, Of who can in Russia Be happy and free? We've questioned the pope, We've asked the Pomyeshchick, And now we ask you. We'll seek the official, The Minister, merchant, We even will go 450 To the Tsar--Little Father, Though whether he'll see us We cannot be sure. But rumour has told us That _you're_ free and happy. Then say, in God's name, If the rumour be true." Matrona Korchagin Does not seem astonished, But only a sad look 460 Creeps into her eyes, And her face becomes thoughtful. "Your errand is surely A foolish one, brothers," She says to the peasants, "For this is the season Of work, and no peasant For chatter has time." "Till now on our journey Throughout half the Empire 470 We've met no denial," The peasants protest. "But look for yourselves, now, The corn-ears are bursting. We've not enough hands." "And we? What are we for? Just give us some sickles, And see if we don't Get some work done to-morrow!" The peasants reply. 480 Matrona sees clearly Enough that this offer Must not be rejected; "Agreed," she said, smiling, "To such lusty fellows As you, we may well look For ten sheaves apiece." "You give us your promise To open your heart to us?" "I will hide nothing." 490 Matrona Korchagin Now enters her cottage, And while she is working Within it, the peasants Discover a very Nice spot just behind it, And sit themselves down. There's a barn close beside them And two immense haystacks, A flax-field around them; 500 And lying just near them A fine plot of turnips, And spreading above them A wonderful oak-tree, A king among oaks. They're sitting beneath it, And now they're producing The magic white napkin: "Heh, napkin enchanted, Give food to the peasants!" 510 The napkin unfolds, Two hands have come floating From no one sees where, Place a pailful of vodka, A large pile of bread On the magic white napkin, And dwindle away. The two brothers Goobin Are chuckling together, For they have just pilfered 520 A very big horse-radish Out of the garden-- It's really a monster! The skies are dark blue now, The bright stars are twinkling, The moon has arisen And sails high above them; The woman Matrona Comes out of the cottage To tell them her tale. 530 CHAPTER I THE WEDDING "My girlhood was happy, For we were a thrifty Arid diligent household; And I, the young maiden, With Father and Mother Knew nothing but joy. My father got up And went out before sunrise, He woke me with kisses And tender caresses; 10 My brother, while dressing, Would sing little verses: 'Get up, little Sister, Get up, little Sister, In no little beds now Are people delaying, In all little churches The peasants are praying, Get up, now, get up, It is time, little Sister. 20 The shepherd has gone To the field with the sheep, And no little maidens Are lying asleep, They've gone to pick raspberries, Merrily singing. The sound of the axe In the forest is ringing.' "And then my dear mother, When she had done scouring 30 The pots and the pans, When the hut was put tidy, The bread in the oven, Would steal to my bedside, And cover me softly And whisper to me: "'Sleep on, little dove, Gather strength--you will need it-- You will not stay always With Father and Mother, 40 And when you will leave them To live among strangers Not long will you sleep. You'll slave till past midnight, And rise before daybreak; You'll always be weary. They'll give you a basket And throw at the bottom A crust. You will chew it, My poor little dove, 50 And start working again....' "But, brothers, I did not Spend much time in sleeping; And when I was five On the day of St. Simon, I mounted a horse With the help of my father, And then was no longer A child. And at six years I carried my father 60 His breakfast already, And tended the ducks, And at night brought the cow home, And next--took my rake, And was off to the hayfields! And so by degrees I became a great worker, And yet best of all I loved singing and dancing; The whole day I worked 70 In the fields, and at nightfall Returned to the cottage All covered with grime. But what's the hot bath for? And thanks to the bath And boughs of the birch-tree, And icy spring water, Again I was clean And refreshed, and was ready To take out my spinning-wheel, 80 And with companions To sing half the night. "I never ran after The youths, and the forward I checked very sharply. To those who were gentle And shy, I would whisper: 'My cheeks will grow hot, And sharp eyes has my mother; Be wise, now, and leave me 90 Alone'--and they left me. "No matter how clever I was to avoid them, The one came at last I was destined to wed; And he--to my bitter Regret--was a stranger: Young Philip Korchagin, A builder of ovens. He came from St. Petersburg. 100 Oh, how my mother Did weep: 'Like a fish In the ocean, my daughter, You'll plunge and be lost; Like a nightingale, straying Away from its nest, We shall lose you, my daughter! The walls of the stranger Are not built of sugar, Are not spread with honey, 110 Their dwellings are chilly And garnished with hunger; The cold winds will nip you, The black rooks will scold you, The savage dogs bite you, The strangers despise you.' "But Father sat talking And drinking till late With the 'swat.' I was frightened. I slept not all night.... 120 "Oh, youth, pray you, tell me, Now what can you find In the maiden to please you? And where have you seen her? Perhaps in the sledges With merry young friends Flying down from the mountain? Then you were mistaken, O son of your father, It was but the frost 130 And the speed and the laughter That brought the bright tints To the cheeks of the maiden. Perhaps at some feast In the home of a neighbour You saw her rejoicing And clad in bright colours? But then she was plump From her rest in the winter; Her rosy face bloomed 140 Like the scarlet-hued poppy; But wait!--have you been To the hut of her father And seen her at work Beating flax in the barn? Ah, what shall I do? I will take brother falcon And send him to town: 'Fly to town, brother falcon, And bring me some cloth 150 And six colours of worsted, And tassels of blue. I will make a fine curtain, Embroider each corner With Tsar and Tsaritsa, With Moscow and Kiev, And Constantinople, And set the great sun Shining bright in the middle, And this I will hang 160 In the front of my window: Perhaps you will see it, And, struck by its beauty, Will stand and admire it, And will not remember To seek for the maiden....' "And so till the morning I lay with such thoughts. 'Now, leave me, young fellow,' I said to the youth 170 When he came in the evening; 'I will not be foolish Enough to abandon My freedom in order To enter your service. God sees me--I will not Depart from my home!' "'Do come,' said young Philip, 'So far have I travelled To fetch you. Don't fear me-- 180 I will not ill-treat you.' I begged him to leave me, I wept and lamented; But nevertheless I was still a young maiden: I did not forget Sidelong glances to cast At the youth who thus wooed me. And Philip was handsome, Was rosy and lusty, 190 Was strong and broad-shouldered, With fair curling hair, With a voice low and tender.... Ah, well ... I was won.... "'Come here, pretty fellow, And stand up against me, Look deep in my eyes-- They are clear eyes and truthful; Look well at my rosy Young face, and bethink you: 200 Will you not regret it, Won't my heart be broken, And shall I not weep Day and night if I trust you And go with you, leaving My parents forever?' "'Don't fear, little pigeon, We shall not regret it,' Said Philip, but still I was timid and doubtful. 210 'Do go,' murmured I, and he, 'When you come with me.' Of course I was fairer And sweeter and dearer Than any that lived, And his arms were about me.... Then all of a sudden I made a sharp effort To wrench myself free. 219 'How now? What's the matter? You're strong, little pigeon!' Said Philip astonished, But still held me tight. 'Ah, Philip, if you had Not held me so firmly You would not have won me; I did it to try you, To measure your strength; You were strong, and it pleased me.' We must have been happy 230 In those fleeting moments When softly we whispered And argued together; I think that we never Were happy again.... "How well I remember.... The night was like this night, Was starlit and silent ... Was dreamy and tender Like this...." 240 And the woman, Matrona, sighed deeply, And softly began-- Leaning back on the haystack-- To sing to herself With her thoughts in the past: "'Tell me, young merchant, pray, Why do you love me so-- Poor peasant's daughter? I am not clad in gold, 250 I am not hung with pearls, Not decked with silver.' "'Silver your chastity, Golden your beauty shines, O my beloved, White pearls are falling now Out of your weeping eyes, Falling like tear-drops.' "My father gave orders To bring forth the wine-cups, 260 To set them all out On the solid oak table. My dear mother blessed me: 'Go, serve them, my daughter, Bow low to the strangers.' I bowed for the first time, My knees shook and trembled; I bowed for the second-- My face had turned white; And then for the third time 270 I bowed, and forever The freedom of girlhood Rolled down from my head...." "Ah, that means a wedding," Cry both brothers Goobin, "Let's drink to the health Of the happy young pair!" "Well said! We'll begin With the bride," say the others. "Will you drink some vodka, 280 Matrona Korchagin?" "An old woman, brothers, And not drink some vodka?" CHAPTER II A SONG Stand before your judge-- And your legs will quake! Stand before the priest On your wedding-day,-- How your head will ache! How your head will ache! You will call to mind Songs of long ago, Songs of gloom and woe: Telling how the guests 10 Crowd into the yard, Run to see the bride Whom the husband brings Homeward at his side. How his parents both Fling themselves on her; How his brothers soon Call her "wasteful one"; How his sisters next Call her "giddy one"; 20 How his father growls, "Greedy little bear!" How his mother snarls, "Cannibal!" at her. She is "slovenly" And "disorderly," She's a "wicked one"! "All that's in the song Happened now to me. Do you know the song? 30 Have you heard it sung?" "Yes, we know it well; Gossip, you begin, We will all join in." _Matrona_ So sleepy, so weary I am, and my heavy head Clings to the pillow. But out in the passage My Father-in-law Begins stamping and swearing. 40 _Peasants in Chorus_ Stamping and swearing! Stamping and swearing! He won't let the poor woman Rest for a moment. Up, up, up, lazy-head! Up, up, up, lie-abed! Lazy-head! Lie-abed! Slut! _Matrona_ So sleepy, so weary 50 I am, and my heavy head Clings to the pillow; But out in the passage My Mother-in-law Begins scolding and nagging. _Peasants in Chorus_ Scolding and nagging! Scolding and nagging! She won't let the poor woman Rest for a moment. Up, up, up, lazy-head! 60 Up, up, up, lie-abed! Lazy-head! Lie-abed! Slut! "A quarrelsome household It was--that of Philip's To which I belonged now; And I from my girlhood Stepped straight into Hell. My husband departed 70 To work in the city, And leaving, advised me To work and be silent, To yield and be patient: 'Don't splash the red iron With cold water--it hisses!' With father and mother And sisters-in-law he Now left me alone; Not a soul was among them 80 To love or to shield me, But many to scold. One sister-in-law-- It was Martha, the eldest,-- Soon set me to work Like a slave for her pleasure. And Father-in-law too One had to look after, Or else all his clothes To redeem from the tavern. 90 In all that one did There was need to be careful, Or Mother-in-law's Superstitions were troubled (One never could please her). Well, some superstitions Of course may be right; But they're most of them evil. And one day it happened That Mother-in-law 100 Murmured low to her husband That corn which is stolen Grows faster and better. So Father-in-law Stole away after midnight.... It chanced he was caught, And at daybreak next morning Brought back and flung down Like a log in the stable. "But I acted always 110 As Philip had told me: I worked, with the anger Hid deep in my bosom, And never a murmur Allowed to escape me. And then with the winter Came Philip, and brought me A pretty silk scarf; And one feast-day he took me To drive in the sledges; 120 And quickly my sorrows Were lost and forgotten: I sang as in old days At home, with my father. For I and my husband Were both of an age, And were happy together When only they left us Alone, but remember A husband like Philip 130 Not often is found." "Do you mean to say That he never once beat you?" Matrona was plainly Confused by the question; "Once, only, he beat me," She said, very low. "And why?" asked the peasants. "Well, you know yourselves, friends, How quarrels arise 140 In the homes of the peasants. A young married sister Of Philip's one day Came to visit her parents. She found she had holes In her boots, and it vexed her. Then Philip said, 'Wife, Fetch some boots for my sister.' And I did not answer At once; I was lifting 150 A large wooden tub, So, of course, couldn't speak. But Philip was angry With me, and he waited Until I had hoisted The tub to the oven, Then struck me a blow With his fist, on my temple. "'We're glad that you came, But you see that you'd better 160 Keep out of the way,' Said the other young sister To her that was married. "Again Philip struck me! "'It's long since I've seen you, My dearly-loved daughter, But could I have known How the baggage would treat you!'... Whined Mother-in-law. "And again Philip struck me! 170 "Well, that is the story. 'Tis surely not fitting For wives to sit counting The blows of their husbands, But then I had promised To keep nothing back." "Ah, well, with these women-- The poisonous serpents!-- A corpse would awaken And snatch up a horsewhip," 180 The peasants say, smiling. Matrona said nothing. The peasants, in order To keep the occasion In manner befitting, Are filling the glasses; And now they are singing In voices of thunder A rollicking chorus, Of husbands' relations, 190 And wielding the knout. ... ... "Cruel hated husband, Hark! he is coming! Holding the knout...." _Chorus_ "Hear the lash whistle! See the blood spurt! Ai, leli, leli! See the blood spurt!" ... ... "Run to his father! Bowing before him-- 200 'Save me!' I beg him; 'Stop my fierce husband-- Venomous serpent!' Father-in-law says, 'Beat her more soundly! Draw the blood freely!'" _Chorus_ "Hear the lash whistle! See the blood spurt! Ai, leli, leli! See the blood spurt!" 210 ... ... "Quick--to his mother! Bowing before her-- 'Save me!' I beg her; 'Stop my cruel husband! Venomous serpent!' Mother-in-law says, 'Beat her more soundly, Draw the blood freely!'" _Chorus_ "Hear the lash whistle! See the blood spurt! 220 Ai, leli, leli! See the blood spurt!" * * * * * "On Lady-day Philip Went back to the city; A little while later Our baby was born. Like a bright-coloured picture Was he--little Djoma; The sunbeams had given Their radiance to him, 230 The pure snow its whiteness; The poppies had painted His lips; by the sable His brow had been pencilled; The falcon had fashioned His eyes, and had lent them Their wonderful brightness. At sight of his first Angel smile, all the anger And bitterness nursed 240 In my bosom was melted; It vanished away Like the snow on the meadows At sight of the smiling Spring sun. And not longer I worried and fretted; I worked, and in silence I let them upbraid. But soon after that A misfortune befell me: 250 The manager by The Pomyeshchick appointed, Called Sitnikov, hotly Began to pursue me. 'My lovely Tsaritsa! 'My rosy-ripe berry!' Said he; and I answered, 'Be off, shameless rascal! Remember, the berry Is not in _your_ forest!' 260 I stayed from the field-work, And hid in the cottage; He very soon found me. I hid in the corn-loft, But Mother-in-law Dragged me out to the courtyard; 'Now don't play with fire, girl!' She said. I besought her To send him away, But she answered me roughly, 270 'And do you want Philip To serve as a soldier?' I ran to Savyeli, The grandfather, begging His aid and advice. "I haven't yet told you A word of Savyeli, The only one living Of Philip's relations Who pitied and loved me. 280 Say, friends, shall I tell you About him as well?" "Yes, tell us his tale, And we'll each throw a couple Of sheaves in to-morrow, Above what we promised." "Well, well," says Matrona, "And 'twould be a pity To give old Savyeli No place in the story; 290 For he was a happy one, Too--the old man...." CHAPTER III SAVYELI "A mane grey and bushy Which covered his shoulders, A huge grizzled beard Which had not seen the scissors For twenty odd years, Made Savyeli resemble A shaggy old bear, Especially when he Came out of the forest, So broad and bent double. 10 The grandfather's shoulders Were bowed very low, And at first I was frightened Whenever he entered The tiny low cottage: I thought that were he To stand straight of a sudden He'd knock a great hole With his head in the ceiling. But Grandfather could not 20 Stand straight, and they told me That he was a hundred. He lived all alone In his own little cottage, And never permitted The others to enter; He couldn't abide them. Of course they were angry And often abused him. His own son would shout at him, 30 'Branded one! Convict!' But this did not anger Savyeli, he only Would go to his cottage Without making answer, And, crossing himself, Begin reading the scriptures; Then suddenly cry In a voice loud and joyful, 'Though branded--no slave!' 40 When too much they annoyed him, He sometimes would say to them: 'Look, the swat's coming!' The unmarried daughter Would fly to the window; Instead of the swat there A beggar she'd find! And one day he silvered A common brass farthing, And left it to lie 50 On the floor; and then straightway Did Father-in-law run In joy to the tavern,-- He came back, not tipsy, But beaten half-dead! At supper that night We were all very silent, And Father-in-law had A cut on his eyebrow, But Grandfather's face 60 Wore a smile like a rainbow! "Savyeli would gather The berries and mushrooms From spring till late autumn, And snare the wild rabbits; Throughout the long winter He lay on the oven And talked to himself. He had favourite sayings: He used to lie thinking 70 For whole hours together, And once in an hour You would hear him exclaiming: "'Destroyed ... and subjected!' Or, 'Ai, you toy heroes! You're fit but for battles With old men and women!' "'Be patient ... and perish, Impatient ... and perish!' "'Eh, you Russian peasant, 80 You giant, you strong man, The whole of your lifetime You're flogged, yet you dare not Take refuge in death, For Hell's torments await you!' "'At last the Korojins Awoke, and they paid him, They paid him, they paid him, They paid the whole debt!' And many such sayings 90 He had,--I forget them. When Father-in-law grew Too noisy I always Would run to Savyeli, And we two, together, Would fasten the door. Then I began working, While Djomushka climbed To the grandfather's shoulder, And sat there, and looked 100 Like a bright little apple That hung on a hoary Old tree. Once I asked him: "'And why do they call you A convict, Savyeli?' "'I was once a convict,' Said he. "'You, Savyeli!' "'Yes I, little Grandchild, Yes, I have been branded. 110 I buried a German Alive--Christian Vogel.' "'You're joking, Savyeli!' "'Oh no, I'm not joking. I mean it,' he said, And he told me the story. "'The peasants in old days Were serfs as they now are, But our race had, somehow, Not seen its Pomyeshchick; 120 No manager knew we, No pert German agent. And barschin we gave not, And taxes we paid not Except when it pleased us,-- Perhaps once in three years Our taxes we'd pay.' "'But why, little Grandad?' "'The times were so blessed,-- And folk had a saying 130 That our little village Was sought by the devil For more than three years, But he never could find it. Great forests a thousand Years old lay about us; And treacherous marshes And bogs spread around us; No horseman and few men On foot ever reached us. 140 It happened that once By some chance, our Pomyeshchick, Shalashnikov, wanted To pay us a visit. High placed in the army Was he; and he started With soldiers to find us. They soon got bewildered And lost in the forest, And had to turn back; 150 Why, the Zemsky policeman Would only come once In a year! They were good times! In these days the Barin Lives under your window; The roadways go spreading Around, like white napkins-- The devil destroy them! We only were troubled By bears, and the bears too 160 Were easily managed. Why, I was a worse foe By far than old Mishka, When armed with a dagger And bear-spear. I wandered In wild, secret woodpaths, And shouted, ''_My_ forest!'' And once, only once, I was frightened by something: I stepped on a huge 170 Female bear that was lying Asleep in her den In the heart of the forest. She flung herself at me, And straight on my bear-spear Was fixed. Like a fowl On the spit she hung twisting An hour before death. It was then that my spine snapped. It often was painful 180 When I was a young man; But now I am old, It is fixed and bent double. Now, do I not look like A hook, little Grandchild?' "'But finish the story. You lived and were not much Afflicted. What further?' "'At last our Pomyeshchick Invented a new game: 190 He sent us an order, ''Appear!'' We appeared not. Instead, we lay low In our dens, hardly breathing. A terrible drought Had descended that summer, The bogs were all dry; So he sent a policeman, Who managed to reach us, To gather our taxes, 200 In honey and fish; A second time came he, We gave him some bear-skins; And when for the third time He came, we gave nothing,-- We said we had nothing. We put on our laputs, We put our old caps on, Our oldest old coats, And we went to Korojin 210 (For there was our master now, Stationed with soldiers). ''Your taxes!'' ''We have none, We cannot pay taxes, The corn has not grown, And the fish have escaped us.'' ''Your taxes!'' ''We have none.'' He waited no longer; ''Hey! Give them the first round!'' He said, and they flogged us. 220 "'Our pockets were not Very easily opened; Shalashnikov, though, was A master at flogging. Our tongues became parched, And our brains were set whirling, And still he continued. He flogged not with birch-rods, With whips or with sticks, But with knouts made for giants. 230 At last we could stand it No longer; we shouted, ''Enough! Let us breathe!'' We unwound our foot-rags And took out our money, And brought to the Barin A ragged old bonnet With roubles half filled. "'The Barin grew calm, He was pleased with the money; 240 He gave us a glass each Of strong, bitter brandy, And drank some himself With the vanquished Korojins, And gaily clinked glasses. ''It's well that you yielded,'' Said he, ''For I swear I was fully decided To strip off the last shred Of skins from your bodies 250 And use it for making A drum for my soldiers! Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha!'' (He was pleased with the notion.) ''A fine drum indeed!'' "'In silence we left; But two stalwart old peasants Were chuckling together; They'd two hundred roubles In notes, the old rascals! 260 Safe hidden away In the end of their coat-tails. They both had been yelling, ''We're beggars! We're beggars!'' So carried them home. ''Well, well, you may cackle!'' I thought to myself, ''But the next time, be certain, You won't laugh at me!'' The others were also 270 Ashamed of their weakness, And so by the ikons We swore all together That next time we rather Would die of the beating Than feebly give way. It seems the Pomyeshchick Had taken a fancy At once to our roubles, Because after that 280 Every year we were summoned To go to Korojin, We went, and were flogged. "'Shalashnikov flogged like A prince, but be certain The treasures he thrashed from The doughty Korojins Were not of much weight. The weak yielded soon, But the strong stood like iron 290 For the commune. I also Bore up, and I thought: ''Though never so stoutly You flog us, you dog's son, You won't drag the whole soul From out of the peasant; Some trace will be left.'' "'When the Barin was sated We went from the town, But we stopped on the outskirts 300 To share what was over. And plenty there was, too! Shalashnikov, heh, You're a fool! It was our turn To laugh at the Barin; Ah, they were proud peasants-- The plucky Korojins! But nowadays show them The tail of a knout, And they'll fly to the Barin, 310 And beg him to take The last coin from their pockets. Well, that's why we all lived Like merchants in those days. One summer came tidings To us that our Barin Now owned us no longer, That he had, at Varna, Been killed. We weren't sorry, But somehow we thought then: 320 ''The peasants' good fortune Has come to an end!'' The heir made a new move: He sent us a German. Through vast, savage forests, Through sly sucking bogs And on foot came the German, As bare as a finger. "'As melting as butter At first was the German: 330 ''Just give what you can, then,'' He'd say to the peasants. "'''We've nothing to give!'' "'''I'll explain to the Barin.'' "'''Explain,'' we replied, And were troubled no more. It seemed he was going To live in the village; He soon settled down. On the banks of the river, 340 For hour after hour He sat peacefully fishing, And striking his nose Or his cheek or his forehead. We laughed: ''You don't like The Korojin mosquitoes?'' He'd boat near the bankside And shout with enjoyment, Like one in the bath-house Who's got to the roof. 350 "'With youths and young maidens He strolled in the forest (They were not for nothing Those strolls in the forest!)-- ''Well, if you can't pay You should work, little peasants.'' "'''What work should we do?'' "'''You should dig some deep ditches To drain off the bog-lands.'' We dug some deep ditches. 360 "'''And now trim the forest.'' "'''Well, well, trim the forest....'' We hacked and we hewed As the German directed, And when we look round There's a road through the forest! "'The German went driving To town with three horses; Look! now he is coming With boxes and bedding, 370 And God knows wherefrom Has this bare-footed German Raised wife and small children! And now he's established A village ispravnik, They live like two brothers. His courtyard at all times Is teeming with strangers, And woe to the peasants-- The fallen Korojins! 380 He sucked us all dry To the very last farthing; And flog!--like the soul Of Shalashnikov flogged he! Shalashnikov stopped When he got what he wanted; He clung to our backs Till he'd glutted his stomach, And then he dropped down Like a leech from a dog's ear. 390 But he had the grip Of a corpse--had this German; Until he had left you Stripped bare like a beggar You couldn't escape.' "'But how could you bear it?' "'Ah, how could we bear it? Because we were giants-- Because by their patience The people of Russia Are great, little Grandchild. 400 You think, then, Matrona, That we Russian peasants No warriors are? Why, truly the peasant Does not live in armour, Does not die in warfare, But nevertheless He's a warrior, child. His hands are bound tight, 410 And his feet hung with fetters; His back--mighty forests Have broken across it; His breast--I will tell you, The Prophet Elijah In chariot fiery Is thundering within it; And these things the peasant Can suffer in patience. He bends--but he breaks not; 420 He reels--but he falls not; Then is he not truly A warrior, say?' "'You joke, little Grandad; Such warriors, surely, A tiny mouse nibbling Could crumble to atoms,' I said to Savyeli. "'I know not, Matrona, But up till to-day 430 He has stood with his burden; He's sunk in the earth 'Neath its weight to his shoulders; His face is not moistened With sweat, but with heart's blood. I don't know what may Come to pass in the future, I can't think what will Come to pass--only God knows. For my part, I know 440 When the storm howls in winter, When old bones are painful, I lie on the oven, I lie, and am thinking: ''Eh, you, strength of giants, On what have they spent you? On what are you wasted? With whips and with rods They will pound you to dust!''' "'But what of the German, 450 Savyeli?' "'The German? Well, well, though he lived Like a lord in his glory For eighteen long years, We were waiting our day. Then the German considered A factory needful, And wanted a pit dug. 'Twas work for nine peasants. 460 We started at daybreak And laboured till mid-day, And then we were going To rest and have dinner, When up comes the German: ''Eh, you, lazy devils! So little work done?'' He started to nag us, Quite coolly and slowly, Without heat or hurry; 470 For that was his way. "'And we, tired and hungry, Stood listening in silence. He kicked the wet earth With his boot while he scolded, Not far from the edge Of the pit. I stood near him. And happened to give him A push with my shoulder; Then somehow a second 480 And third pushed him gently.... We spoke not a word, Gave no sign to each other, But silently, slowly, Drew closer together, And edging the German Respectfully forward, We brought him at last To the brink of the hollow.... He tumbled in headlong! 490 ''A ladder!'' he bellows; Nine shovels reply. ''Naddai!''--the word fell From my lips on the instant, The word to which people Work gaily in Russia; ''Naddai!'' and ''Naddai!'' And we laboured so bravely That soon not a trace Of the pit was remaining, 500 The earth was as smooth As before we had touched it; And then we stopped short And we looked at each other....' "The old man was silent. 'What further, Savyeli?' "'What further? Ah, bad times: The prison in Buy-Town (I learnt there my letters), Until we were sentenced; 510 The convict-mines later; And plenty of lashes. But I never frowned At the lash in the prison; They flogged us but poorly. And later I nearly Escaped to the forest; They caught me, however. Of course they did not Pat my head for their trouble; 520 The Governor was through Siberia famous For flogging. But had not Shalashnikov flogged us? I spit at the floggings I got in the prison! Ah, he was a Master! He knew how to flog you! He toughened my hide so You see it has served me 530 For one hundred years, And 'twill serve me another. But life was not easy, I tell you, Matrona: First twenty years prison, Then twenty years exile. I saved up some money, And when I came home, Built this hut for myself. And here I have lived 540 For a great many years now. They loved the old grandad So long as he'd money, But now it has gone They would part with him gladly, They spit in his face. Eh, you plucky toy heroes! You're fit to make war Upon old men and women!' "And that was as much 550 As the grandfather told me." "And now for your story," They answer Matrona. "'Tis not very bright. From one trouble God In His goodness preserved me; For Sitnikov died Of the cholera. Soon, though, Another arose, I will tell you about it." 560 "Naddai!" say the peasants (They love the word well), They are filling the glasses. CHAPTER IV DJOMUSHKA "The little tree burns For the lightning has struck it. The nightingale's nest Has been built in its branches. The little tree burns, It is sighing and groaning; The nightingale's children Are crying and calling: 'Oh, come, little Mother! Oh, come, little Mother! 10 Take care of us, Mother, Until we can fly, Till our wings have grown stronger, Until we can fly To the peaceful green forest, Until we can fly To the far silent valleys....' The poor little tree-- It is burnt to grey ashes; The poor little fledgelings 20 Are burnt to grey ashes. The mother flies home, But the tree ... and the fledgelings ... The nest.... She is calling, Lamenting and calling; She circles around, She is sobbing and moaning; She circles so quickly, She circles so quickly, Her tiny wings whistle. 30 The dark night has fallen, The dark world is silent, But one little creature Is helplessly grieving And cannot find comfort;-- The nightingale only Laments for her children.... She never will see them Again, though she call them Till breaks the white day.... 40 I carried my baby Asleep in my bosom To work in the meadows. But Mother-in-law cried, 'Come, leave him behind you, At home with Savyeli, You'll work better then.' And I was so timid, So tired of her scolding, I left him behind. 50 "That year it so happened The harvest was richer Than ever we'd known it; The reaping was hard, But the reapers were merry, I sang as I mounted The sheaves on the waggon. (The waggons are loaded To laughter and singing; The sledges in silence, 60 With thoughts sad and bitter; The waggons convey the corn Home to the peasants, The sledges will bear it Away to the market.) "But as I was working I heard of a sudden A deep groan of anguish: I saw old Savyeli Creep trembling towards me, 70 His face white as death: 'Forgive me, Matrona! Forgive me, Matrona! I sinned....I was careless.' He fell at my feet. "Oh, stay, little swallow! Your nest build not there! Not there 'neath the leafless Bare bank of the river: The water will rise, 80 And your children will perish. Oh, poor little woman, Young wife and young mother, The daughter-in-law And the slave of the household, Bear blows and abuse, Suffer all things in silence, But let not your baby Be torn from your bosom.... Savyeli had fallen 90 Asleep in the sunshine, And Djoma--the pigs Had attacked him and killed him. "I fell to the ground And lay writhing in torture; I bit the black earth And I shrieked in wild anguish; I called on his name, And I thought in my madness My voice must awake him.... 100 "Hark!--horses' hoofs stamping, And harness-bells jangling-- Another misfortune! The children are frightened, They run to the houses; And outside the window The old men and women Are talking in whispers And nodding together. The Elder is running 110 And tapping each window In turn with his staff; Then he runs to the hayfields, He runs to the pastures, To summon the people. They come, full of sorrow-- Another misfortune! And God in His wrath Has sent guests that are hateful, Has sent unjust judges. 120 Perhaps they want money? Their coats are worn threadbare? Perhaps they are hungry? "Without greeting Christ They sit down at the table, They've set up an icon And cross in the middle; Our pope, Father John, Swears the witnesses singly. "They question Savyeli, 130 And then a policeman Is sent to find me, While the officer, swearing, Is striding about Like a beast in the forest.... 'Now, woman, confess it,' He cries when I enter, 'You lived with the peasant Savyeli in sin?' "I whisper in answer, 140 'Kind sir, you are joking. I am to my husband A wife without stain, And the peasant Savyeli Is more than a hundred Years old;--you can see it.' "He's stamping about Like a horse in the stable; In fury he's thumping His fist on the table. 150 'Be silent! Confess, then, That you with Savyeli Had plotted to murder Your child!' "Holy Mother! What horrible ravings! My God, give me patience, And let me not strangle The wicked blasphemer! I looked at the doctor 160 And shuddered in terror: Before him lay lancets, Sharp scissors, and knives. I conquered myself, For I knew why they lay there. I answer him trembling, 'I loved little Djoma, I would not have harmed him.' "'And did you not poison him. Give him some powder?' 170 "'Oh, Heaven forbid!' I kneel to him crying, 'Be gentle! Have mercy! And grant that my baby In honour be buried, Forbid them to thrust The cruel knives in his body! Oh, I am his mother!' "Can anything move them? No hearts they possess, 180 In their eyes is no conscience, No cross at their throats.... "They have lifted the napkin Which covered my baby; His little white body With scissors and lancets They worry and torture ... The room has grown darker, I'm struggling and screaming, 'You butchers! You fiends! 190 Not on earth, not on water, And not on God's temple My tears shall be showered; But straight on the souls Of my hellish tormentors! Oh, hear me, just God! May Thy curse fall and strike them! Ordain that their garments May rot on their bodies! Their eyes be struck blind, 200 And their brains scorch in madness! Their wives be unfaithful, Their children be crippled! Oh, hear me, just God! Hear the prayers of a mother, And look on her tears,-- Strike these pitiless devils!' "'She's crazy, the woman!' The officer shouted, 'Why did you not tell us 210 Before? Stop this fooling! Or else I shall order My men, here, to bind you.' "I sank on the bench, I was trembling all over; I shook like a leaf As I gazed at the doctor; His sleeves were rolled backwards, A knife was in one hand, A cloth in the other, 220 And blood was upon it; His glasses were fixed On his nose. All was silent. The officer's pen Began scratching on paper; The motionless peasants Stood gloomy and mournful; The pope lit his pipe And sat watching the doctor. He said, 'You are reading 230 A heart with a knife.' I started up wildly; I knew that the doctor Was piercing the heart Of my little dead baby. "'Now, bind her, the vixen!' The officer shouted;-- She's mad!' He began To inquire of the peasants, 'Have none of you noticed 240 Before that the woman Korchagin is crazy?' "'No,' answered the peasants. And then Philip's parents He asked, and their children; They answered, 'Oh, no, sir! We never remarked it.' He asked old Savyeli,-- There's one thing,' he answered, 'That might make one think 250 That Matrona is crazy: She's come here this morning Without bringing with her A present of money Or cloth to appease you.' "And then the old man Began bitterly crying. The officer frowning Sat down and said nothing. And then I remembered: 260 In truth it was madness-- The piece of new linen Which I had made ready Was still in my box-- I'd forgotten to bring it; And now I had seen them Seize Djomushka's body And tear it to pieces. I think at that moment I turned into marble: 270 I watched while the doctor Was drinking some vodka And washing his hands; I saw how he offered The glass to the pope, And I heard the pope answer, 'Why ask me? We mortals Are pitiful sinners,-- We don't need much urging To empty a glass!' 280 "The peasants are standing In fear, and are thinking: 'Now, how did these vultures Get wind of the matter? Who told them that here There was chance of some profit? They dashed in like wolves, Seized the beards of the peasants, And snarled in their faces Like savage hyenas!' 290 "And now they are feasting, Are eating and drinking; They chat with the pope, He is murmuring to them, 'The people in these parts Are beggars and drunken; They owe me for countless Confessions and weddings; They'll take their last farthing To spend in the tavern; 300 And nothing but sins Do they bring to their priest.' "And then I hear singing In clear, girlish voices-- I know them all well: There's Natasha and Glasha, And Dariushka,--Jesus Have mercy upon them! Hark! steps and accordion; Then there is silence. 310 I think I had fallen Asleep; then I fancied That somebody entering Bent over me, saying, 'Sleep, woman of sorrows, Exhausted by sorrow,' And making the sign Of the cross on my forehead. I felt that the ropes On my body were loosened, 320 And then I remembered No more. In black darkness I woke, and astonished I ran to the window: Deep night lay around me-- What's happened? Where am I? I ran to the street,-- It was empty, in Heaven No moon and no stars, And a great cloud of darkness 330 Spread over the village. The huts of the peasants Were dark; only one hut Was brilliantly lighted, It shone like a palace-- The hut of Savyeli. I ran to the doorway, And then ... I remembered. "The table was gleaming With yellow wax candles, 340 And there, in the midst, Lay a tiny white coffin, And over it spread Was a fine coloured napkin, An icon was placed At its head.... O you builders, For my little son What a house you have fashioned! No windows you've made 350 That the sunshine may enter, No stove and no bench, And no soft little pillows.... Oh, Djomushka will not Feel happy within it, He cannot sleep well.... 'Begone!'--I cried harshly On seeing Savyeli; He stood near the coffin And read from the book 360 In his hand, through his glasses. I cursed old Savyeli, Cried--'Branded one! Convict! Begone! 'Twas you killed him! You murdered my, Djoma, Begone from my sight!' "He stood without moving; He crossed himself thrice And continued his reading. But when I grew calmer 370 Savyeli approached me, And said to me gently, 'In winter, Matrona, I told you my story, But yet there was more. Our forests were endless, Our lakes wild and lonely, Our people were savage; By cruelty lived we: By snaring the wood-grouse, 380 By slaying the bears:-- You must kill or you perish! I've told you of Barin Shalashnikov, also Of how we were robbed By the villainous German, And then of the prison, The exile, the mines. My heart was like stone, I grew wild and ferocious. 390 My winter had lasted A century, Grandchild, But your little Djoma Had melted its frosts. One day as I rocked him He smiled of a sudden, And I smiled in answer.... A strange thing befell me Some days after that: As I prowled in the forest 400 I aimed at a squirrel; But suddenly noticed How happy and playful It was, in the branches: Its bright little face With its paw it sat washing. I lowered my gun:-- 'You shall live, little squirrel!' I rambled about In the woods, in the meadows, 410 And each tiny floweret I loved. I went home then And nursed little Djoma, And played with him, laughing. God knows how I loved him, The innocent babe! And now ... through my folly, My sin, ... he has perished.... Upbraid me and kill me, But nothing can help you, 420 With God one can't argue.... Stand up now, Matrona, And pray for your baby; God acted with reason: He's counted the joys In the life of a peasant!' "Long, long did Savyeli Stand bitterly speaking, The piteous fate Of the peasant he painted; 430 And if a rich Barin, A merchant or noble, If even our Father The Tsar had been listening, Savyeli could not Have found words which were truer, Have spoken them better.... "'Now Djoma is happy And safe, in God's Heaven,' He said to me later. 440 His tears began falling.... "'I do not complain That God took him, Savyeli,' I said,--'but the insult They did him torments me, It's racking my heart. Why did vicious black ravens Alight on his body And tear it to pieces? Will neither our God 450 Nor our Tsar--Little Father-- Arise to defend us?' "'But God, little Grandchild, Is high, and the Tsar Far away,' said Savyeli. "I cried, 'Yet I'll reach them!' "But Grandfather answered, 'Now hush, little Grandchild, You woman of sorrow, Bow down and have patience; 460 No truth you will find In the world, and no justice.' "'But why then, Savyeli?' "'A bondswoman, Grandchild, You are; and for such Is no hope,' said Savyeli. "For long I sat darkly And bitterly thinking. The thunder pealed forth And the windows were shaken; 470 I started! Savyeli Drew nearer and touched me, And led me to stand By the little white coffin: "'Now pray that the Lord May have placed little Djoma Among the bright ranks Of His angels,' he whispered; A candle he placed In my hand.... And I knelt there 480 The whole of the night Till the pale dawn of daybreak: The grandfather stood Beside Djomushka's coffin And read from the book In a measured low voice...." CHAPTER V THE SHE-WOLF "'Tis twenty years now Since my Djoma was taken, Was carried to sleep 'Neath his little grass blanket; And still my heart bleeds, And I pray for him always, No apple till Spassa I touch with my lips.... "For long I lay ill, Not a word did I utter, 10 My eyes could not suffer The old man, Savyeli. No work did I do, And my Father-in-law thought To give me a lesson And took down the horse-reins; I bowed to his feet, And cried--'Kill me! Oh, kill me! I pray for the end!' He hung the reins up, then. 20 I lived day and night On the grave of my Djoma, I dusted it clean With a soft little napkin That grass might grow green, And I prayed for my lost one. I yearned for my parents: 'Oh, you have forgotten, Forgotten your daughter!' "'We have not forgotten 30 Our poor little daughter, But is it worth while, say, To wear the grey horse out By such a long journey To learn about your woes, To tell you of ours? Since long, little daughter, Would father and mother Have journeyed to see you, But ever the thought rose: 40 She'll weep at our coming, She'll shriek when we leave!' "In winter came Philip, Our sorrow together We shared, and together We fought with our grief In the grandfather's hut." "The grandfather died, then?" "Oh, no, in his cottage For seven whole days 50 He lay still without speaking, And then he got up And he went to the forest; And there old Savyeli So wept and lamented, The woods were set throbbing. In autumn he left us And went as a pilgrim On foot to do penance At some distant convent.... 60 "I went with my husband To visit my parents, And then began working Again. Three years followed, Each week like the other, As twin to twin brother, And each year a child. There was no time for thinking And no time for grieving; Praise God if you have time 70 For getting your work done And crossing your forehead. You eat--when there's something Left over at table, When elders have eaten, When children have eaten; You sleep--when you're ill.... "In the fourth year came sorrow Again; for when sorrow Once lightens upon you 80 To death he pursues you; He circles before you-- A bright shining falcon; He hovers behind you-- An ugly black raven; He flies in advance-- But he will not forsake you; He lingers behind-- But he will not forget.... "I lost my dear parents. 90 The dark nights alone knew The grief of the orphan; No need is there, brothers, To tell you about it. With tears did I water The grave of my baby. From far once I noticed A wooden cross standing Erect at its head, And a little gilt icon; 100 A figure is kneeling Before it--'Savyeli! From whence have you come?' "'I have come from Pesotchna. I've prayed for the soul Of our dear little Djoma; I've prayed for the peasants Of Russia.... Matrona, Once more do I pray-- Oh, Matrona ... Matrona.... 110 I pray that the heart Of the mother, at last, May be softened towards me.... Forgive me, Matrona!' "'Oh, long, long ago I forgave you, Savyeli.' "'Then look at me now As in old times, Matrona!' "I looked as of old. Then up rose Savyeli, 120 And gazed in my eyes; He was trying to straighten His stiffened old back; Like the snow was his hair now. I kissed the old man, And my new grief I told him; For long we sat weeping And mourning together. He did not live long After that. In the autumn 130 A deep wound appeared In his neck, and he sickened. He died very hard. For a hundred days, fully, No food passed his lips; To the bone he was shrunken. He laughed at himself: 'Tell me, truly, Matrona, Now am I not like A Korojin mosquito?' 140 "At times the old man Would be gentle and patient; At times he was angry And nothing would please him; He frightened us all By his outbursts of fury: 'Eh, plough not, and sow not, You downtrodden peasants! You women, sit spinning And weaving no longer! 150 However you struggle, You fools, you must perish! You will not escape What by fate has been written! Three roads are spread out For the peasant to follow-- They lead to the tavern, The mines, and the prison! Three nooses are hung For the women of Russia: 160 The one is of white silk, The second of red silk, The third is of black silk-- Choose that which you please!' And Grandfather laughed In a manner which caused us To tremble with fear And draw nearer together.... He died in the night, And we did as he asked us: 170 We laid him to rest In the grave beside Djoma. The Grandfather lived To a hundred and seven.... "Four years passed away then, The one like the other, And I was submissive, The slave of the household, For Mother-in-law And her husband the drunkard, 180 For Sister-in-law By all suitors rejected. I'd draw off their boots-- Only,--touch not my children! For them I stood firm Like a rock. Once it happened A pilgrim arrived At our village--a holy And pious-tongued woman; She spoke to the people 190 Of how to please God And of how to reach Heaven. She said that on fast-days No woman should offer The breast to her child. The women obeyed her: On Wednesdays and Fridays The village was filled By the wailing of babies; And many a mother 200 Sat bitterly weeping To hear her child cry For its food--full of pity, But fearing God's anger. But I did not listen! I said to myself That if penance were needful The mothers must suffer, But not little children. I said, 'I am guilty, 210 My God--not my children!' "It seems God was angry And punished me for it Through my little son; My Father-in-law To the commune had offered My little Fedotka As help to the shepherd When he was turned eight.... One night I was waiting 220 To give him his supper; The cattle already Were home, but he came not. I went through the village And saw that the people Were gathered together And talking of something. I listened, then elbowed My way through the people; Fedotka was set 230 In their midst, pale and trembling, The Elder was gripping His ear. 'What has happened? And why do you hold him?' I said to the Elder. "'I'm going to beat him,-- He threw a young lamb To the wolf,' he replied. "I snatched my Fedotka Away from their clutches; 240 And somehow the Elder Fell down on the ground! "The story was strange: It appears that the shepherd Went home for awhile, Leaving little Fedotka In charge of the flock. 'I was sitting,' he told me, 'Alone on the hillside, When all of a sudden 250 A wolf ran close by me And picked Masha's lamb up. I threw myself at her, I whistled and shouted, I cracked with my whip, Blew my horn for Valetka, And then I gave chase. I run fast, little Mother, But still I could never Have followed the robber 260 If not for the traces She left; because, Mother, Her breasts hung so low (She was suckling her children) They dragged on the earth And left two tracks of blood. But further the grey one Went slower and slower; And then she looked back And she saw I was coming. 270 At last she sat down. With my whip then I lashed her; ''Come, give me the lamb, You grey devil!'' She crouched, But would not give it up. I said--''I must save it Although she should kill me.'' I threw myself on her And snatched it away, But she did not attack me. 280 The lamb was quite dead, She herself was scarce living. She gnashed with her teeth And her breathing was heavy; And two streams of blood ran From under her body. Her ribs could be counted, Her head was hung down, But her eyes, little Mother, Looked straight into mine ... 290 Then she groaned of a sudden, She groaned, and it sounded As if she were crying. I threw her the lamb....' "Well, that was the story. And foolish Fedotka Ran back to the village And told them about it. And they, in their anger, Were going to beat him 300 When I came upon them. The Elder, because Of his fall, was indignant, He shouted--'How dare you! Do you want a beating Yourself?' And the woman Whose lamb had been stolen Cried, 'Whip the lad soundly, 'Twill teach him a lesson!' Fedotka she pulled from 310 My arms, and he trembled, He shook like a leaf. "Then the horns of the huntsmen Were heard,--the Pomyeshchick Returning from hunting. I ran to him, crying, 'Oh, save us! Protect us!' "'What's wrong? Call the Elder!' And then, in an instant, The matter is settled: 320 'The shepherd is tiny-- His youth and his folly May well be forgiven. The woman's presumption You'll punish severely!' "'Oh, Barin, God bless you!' I danced with delight! 'Fedotka is safe now! Run home, quick, Fedotka.' "'Your will shall be done, sir,' 330 The Elder said, bowing; 'Now, woman, prepare; You can dance later on!' "A gossip then whispered, 'Fall down at the feet Of the Elder--beg mercy!' "'Fedotka--go home!' "Then I kissed him, and told him: 'Remember, Fedotka, That I shall be angry 340 If once you look backwards. Run home!' "Well, my brothers, To leave out a word Of the song is to spoil it,-- I lay on the ground...." * * * * * "I crawled like a cat To Fedotushka's corner That night. He was sleeping, He tossed in his dream. 350 One hand was hung down, While the other, clenched tightly, Was shielding his eyes: 'You've been crying, my treasure; Sleep, darling, it's nothing-- See, Mother is near!' I'd lost little Djoma While heavy with this one; He was but a weakling, But grew very clever. 360 He works with his dad now, And built such a chimney With him, for his master, The like of it never Was seen. Well, I sat there The whole of the night By the sweet little shepherd. At daybreak I crossed him, I fastened his laputs, I gave him his wallet, 370 His horn and his whip. The rest began stirring, But nothing I told them Of all that had happened, But that day I stayed From the work in the fields. "I went to the banks Of the swift little river, I sought for a spot Which was silent and lonely 380 Amid the green rushes That grow by the bank. "And on the grey stone I sat down, sick and weary, And leaning my head On my hands, I lamented, Poor sorrowing orphan. And loudly I called On the names of my parents: 'Oh, come, little Father, 390 My tender protector! Oh, look at the daughter You cherished and loved!' "In vain do I call him! The loved one has left me; The guest without lord, Without race, without kindred, Named Death, has appeared, And has called him away. "And wildly I summon 400 My mother, my mother! The boisterous wind cries, The distant hills answer, But mother is dead, She can hear me no longer! "You grieved day and night, And you prayed for me always, But never, beloved, Shall I see you again; You cannot turn back now, 410 And I may not follow. "A pathway so strange, So unknown, you have chosen, The beasts cannot find it, The winds cannot reach it, My voice will be lost In the terrible distance.... "My loving protectors, If you could but see me! Could know what your daughter 420 Must suffer without you! Could learn of the people To whom you have left her! "By night bathed in tears, And by day weak and trembling, I bow like the grass To the wind, but in secret A heart full of fury Is gnawing my breast!" CHAPTER VI AN UNLUCKY YEAR "Strange stars played that year On the face of the Heavens; And some said, 'The Lord rides Abroad, and His angels With long flaming brooms sweep The floor of the Heavens In front of his carriage.' But others were frightened,-- They said, 'It is rather The Antichrist coming! 10 It signals misfortune!' And they read it truly. A terrible year came, A terrible famine, When brother denied To his brother a morsel. And then I remembered The wolf that was hungry, For I was like her, Craving food for my children. 20 Now Mother-in-law found A new superstition: She said to the neighbours That I was the reason Of all the misfortune; And why? I had caused it By changing my shirt On the day before Christmas! Well, I escaped lightly, For I had a husband 30 To shield and protect me, But one woman, having Offended, was beaten To death by the people. To play with the starving Is dangerous, my friends. "The famine was scarcely At end, when another Misfortune befell us-- The dreaded recruiting. 40 But I was not troubled By that, because Philip Was safe: one already Had served of his people. One night I sat working, My husband, his brothers, The family, all had Been out since the morning. My Father-in-law Had been called to take part 50 In the communal meeting. The women were standing And chatting with neighbours. But I was exhausted, For then I was heavy With child. I was ailing, And hourly expected My time. When the children Were fed and asleep I lay down on the oven. 60 The women came home soon And called for their suppers; But Father-in-law Had not come, so we waited. He came, tired and gloomy: 'Eh, wife, we are ruined! I'm weary with running, But nothing can save us: They've taken the eldest-- Now give them the youngest! 70 I've counted the years To a day--I have proved them; They listen to nothing. They want to take Philip! I prayed to the commune-- But what is it worth? I ran to the bailiff; He swore he was sorry, But couldn't assist us. I went to the clerk then; 80 You might just as well Set to work with a hatchet To chop out the shadows Up there, on the ceiling, As try to get truth Out of that little rascal! He's bought. They are all bought,-- Not one of them honest! If only he knew it-- The Governor--he'd teach them! 90 If he would but order The commune to show him The lists of the volost, And see how they cheat us!' The mother and daughters Are groaning and crying; But I! ... I am cold.... I am burning in fever! ... My thoughts ... I have no thoughts! I think I am dreaming! 100 My fatherless children Are standing before me, And crying with hunger. The family, frowning, Looks coldly upon them.... At home they are 'noisy,' At play they are 'clumsy,' At table they're 'gluttons'! And somebody threatens To punish my children-- 110 They slap them and pinch them! Be silent, you mother! You wife of a soldier!" * * * * * "I now have no part In the village allotments, No share in the building, The clothes, and the cattle, And these are my riches: Three lakes of salt tear-drops, Three fields sown with grief!" 120 * * * * * "And now, like a sinner, I bow to the neighbours; I ask their forgiveness; I hear myself saying, 'Forgive me for being So haughty and proud! I little expected That God, for my pride, Would have left me forsaken! I pray you, good people, 130 To show me more wisdom, To teach me to live And to nourish my children, What food they should have, And what drink, and what teaching.'" * * * * * "I'm sending my children To beg in the village; 'Go, children, beg humbly, But dare not to steal.' The children are sobbing, 140 'It's cold, little Mother, Our clothes are in rags; We are weary of passing From doorway to doorway; We stand by the windows And shiver. We're frightened To beg of the rich folk; The poor ones say, ''God will Provide for the orphans!'' We cannot come home, 150 For if we bring nothing We know you'll be angry!'" * * * * * "To go to God's church I have made myself tidy; I hear how the neighbours Are laughing around me: 'Now who is she setting Her cap at?' they whisper." * * * * * "Don't wash yourself clean. And don't dress yourself nicely; 160 The neighbours are sharp-- They have eyes like the eagle And tongues like the serpent. Walk humbly and slowly, Don't laugh when you're cheerful, Don't weep when you're sad." * * * * * "The dull, endless winter Has come, and the fields And the pretty green meadows Are hidden away 170 'Neath the snow. Nothing living Is seen in the folds Of the gleaming white grave-clothes. No friend under Heaven There is for the woman, The wife of the soldier. Who knows what her thoughts are? Who cares for her words? Who is sad for her sorrow? And where can she bury 180 The insults they cast her? Perhaps in the woods?-- But the woods are all withered! Perhaps in the meadows?-- The meadows are frozen! The swift little stream?-- But its waters are sleeping! No,--carry them with you To hide in your grave!" * * * * * "My husband is gone; 190 There is no one to shield me. Hark, hark! There's the drum! And the soldiers are coming! They halt;--they are forming A line in the market. 'Attention!' There's Philip! There's Philip! I see him! 'Attention! Eyes front!' It's Shalashnikov shouting.... Oh, Philip has fallen! 200 Have mercy! Have mercy! 'Try that--try some physic! You'll soon get to like it! Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha!' He is striking my husband! 'I flog, not with whips, But with knouts made for giants!'" * * * * * "I sprang from the stove, Though my burden was heavy; I listen.... All silent.... 210 The family sleeping. I creep to the doorway And open it softly, I pass down the street Through the night.... It is frosty. In Domina's hut, Where the youths and young maidens Assemble at night, They are singing in chorus My favourite song: 220 "'The fir tree on the mountain stands, The little cottage at its foot, And Mashenka is there. Her father comes to look for her, He wakens her and coaxes her: ''Eh, Mashenka, come home,'' he cries, ''Efeemovna, come home!'' "'''I won't come, and I won't listen! Black the night--no moon in Heaven! Swift the stream--no bridge, no ferry! Dark the wood--no guards.'' 231 "'The fir tree on the mountain stands, The little cottage at its foot, And Mashenka is there. Her mother comes to look for her, She wakens her and coaxes her: ''Now, Mashenka, come home,'' she says, ''Efeemovna, come home!'' "'''I won't come, and I won't listen! Black the night--no moon in Heaven! Swift the stream--no bridge, no ferry! Dark the wood--no guards!'' 242 "'The fir tree on the mountain stands, The little cottage at its foot, And Mashenka is there. Young Peter comes to look for her, He wakens her, and coaxes her: ''Oh, Mashenka, come home with me! My little dove, Efeemovna, Come home, my dear, with me.'' 250 "'''I will come, and I will listen, Fair the night--the moon in Heaven, Calm the stream with bridge and ferry, In the wood strong guards.'''" CHAPTER VII THE GOVERNOR'S LADY "I'm hurrying blindly, I've run through the village; Yet strangely the singing From Domina's cottage Pursues me and rings In my ears. My pace slackens, I rest for awhile, And look back at the village: I see the white snowdrift O'er valley and meadow, 10 The moon in the Heavens, My self, and my shadow.... "I do not feel frightened; A flutter of gladness Awakes in my bosom, 'You brisk winter breezes, My thanks for your freshness! I crave for your breath As the sick man for water.' My mind has grown clear, 20 To my knees I am falling: 'O Mother of Christ! I beseech Thee to tell me Why God is so angry With me. Holy Mother! No tiniest bone In my limbs is unbroken; No nerve in my body Uncrushed. I am patient,-- I have not complained. 30 All the strength that God gave me I've spent on my work; All the love on my children. But Thou seest all things, And Thou art so mighty; Oh, succour thy slave!' "I love now to pray On a night clear and frosty; To kneel on the earth 'Neath the stars in the winter. 40 Remember, my brothers, If trouble befall you, To counsel your women To pray in that manner; In no other place Can one pray so devoutly, At no other season.... "I prayed and grew stronger; I bowed my hot head To the cool snowy napkin, 50 And quickly my fever Was spent. And when later I looked at the roadway I found that I knew it; I'd passed it before On the mild summer evenings; At morning I'd greeted The sunrise upon it In haste to be off To the fair. And I walked now 60 The whole of the night Without meeting a soul.... But now to the cities The sledges are starting, Piled high with the hay Of the peasants. I watch them, And pity the horses: Their lawful provision Themselves they are dragging Away from the courtyard; 70 And afterwards they Will be hungry. I pondered: The horses that work Must eat straw, while the idlers Are fed upon oats. But when Need comes he hastens To empty your corn-lofts, Won't wait to be asked.... "I come within sight Of the town. On the outskirts 80 The merchants are cheating And wheedling the peasants, There's shouting and swearing, Abusing and coaxing. "I enter the town As the bell rings for matins. I make for the market Before the cathedral. I know that the gates Of the Governor's courtyard 90 Are there. It is dark still, The square is quite empty; In front of the courtyard A sentinel paces: 'Pray tell me, good man, Does the Governor rise early?' "'Don't know. Go away. I'm forbidden to chatter.' (I give him some farthings.) 'Well, go to the porter; 100 He knows all about it.' "'Where is he? And what Is his name, little sentry?' "'Makhar Fedosseich, He stands at the entrance.' I walk to the entrance, The doors are not opened. I sit on the doorsteps And think.... "It grows lighter, 110 A man with a ladder Is turning the lamps down. "'Heh, what are you doing? And how did you enter?' "I start in confusion, I see in the doorway A bald-headed man In a bed-gown. Then quickly I come to my senses, And bowing before him 120 (Makhar Fedosseich), I give him a rouble. "'I come in great need To the Governor, and see him I must, little Uncle!' "'You can't see him, woman. Well, well.... I'll consider.... Return in two hours.' "I see in the market A pedestal standing, 130 A peasant upon it, He's just like Savyeli, And all made of brass: It's Susanin's memorial. While crossing the market I'm suddenly startled-- A heavy grey drake From a cook is escaping; The fellow pursues With a knife. It is shrieking. 140 My God, what a sound! To the soul it has pierced me. ('Tis only the knife That can wring such a shriek.) The cook has now caught it; It stretches its neck, Begins angrily hissing, As if it would frighten The cook,--the poor creature! I run from the market, 150 I'm trembling and thinking, 'The drake will grow calm 'Neath the kiss of the knife!' "The Governor's dwelling Again is before me, With balconies, turrets, And steps which are covered With beautiful carpets. I gaze at the windows All shaded with curtains. 160 'Now, which is your chamber,' I think, 'my desired one? Say, do you sleep sweetly? Of what are you dreaming?' I creep up the doorsteps, And keep to the side Not to tread on the carpets; And there, near the entrance, I wait for the porter. "'You're early, my gossip!' 170 Again I am startled: A stranger I see,-- For at first I don't know him; A livery richly Embroidered he wears now; He holds a fine staff; He's not bald any longer! He laughs--'You were frightened?' "'I'm tired, little Uncle.' "'You've plenty of courage, 180 God's mercy be yours! Come, give me another, And I will befriend you.' "(I give him a rouble.) 'Now come, I will make you Some tea in my office.' "His den is just under The stairs. There's a bedstead, A little iron stove, And a candlestick in it, 190 A big samovar, And a lamp in the corner. Some pictures are hung On the wall. 'That's His Highness,' The porter remarks, And he points with his finger. I look at the picture: A warrior covered With stars. 'Is he gentle?' "'That's just as you happen 200 To find him. Why, neighbour, The same is with me: To-day I'm obliging, At times I'm as cross As a dog.' "'You are dull here, Perhaps, little Uncle?' "'Oh no, I'm not dull; I've a task that's exciting: Ten years have I fought 210 With a foe: Sleep his name is. And I can assure you That when I have taken An odd cup of vodka, The stove is red hot, And the smuts from the candle Have blackened the air, It's a desperate struggle!' "There's somebody knocking. Makhar has gone out; 220 I am sitting alone now. I go to the door And look out. In the courtyard A carriage is waiting. I ask, 'Is he coming?' 'The lady is coming,' The porter makes answer, And hurries away To the foot of the staircase. A lady descends, 230 Wrapped in costliest sables, A lackey behind her. I know not what followed (The Mother of God Must have come to my aid), It seems that I fell At the feet of the lady, And cried, 'Oh, protect us! They try to deceive us! My husband--the only 240 Support of my children-- They've taken away-- Oh, they've acted unjustly!'... "'Who are you, my pigeon?' "My answer I know not, Or whether I gave one; A sudden sharp pang tore My body in twain." * * * * * "I opened my eyes In a beautiful chamber, 250 In bed I was laid 'Neath a canopy, brothers, And near me was sitting A nurse, in a head-dress All streaming with ribbons. She's nursing a baby. 'Who's is it?' I ask her. "'It's yours, little Mother.' I kiss my sweet child. It seems, when I fell 260 At the feet of the lady, I wept so and raved so, Already so weakened By grief and exhaustion, That there, without warning, My labour had seized me. I bless the sweet lady, Elyen Alexandrovna, Only a mother Could bless her as I do. 270 She christened my baby, Lidorushka called him." "And what of your husband?" "They sent to the village And started enquiries, And soon he was righted. Elyen Alexandrovna Brought him herself To my side. She was tender And clever and lovely, 280 And healthy, but childless, For God would not grant her A child. While I stayed there My baby was never Away from her bosom. She tended and nursed him Herself, like a mother. The spring had set in And the birch trees were budding, Before she would let us 290 Set out to go home. "Oh, how fair and bright In God's world to-day! Glad my heart and gay! "Homewards lies our way, Near the wood we pause, See, the meadows green, Hark! the waters play. Rivulet so pure, Little child of Spring, 300 How you leap and sing, Rippling in the leaves! High the little lark Soars above our heads, Carols blissfully! Let us stand and gaze; Soon our eyes will meet, I will laugh to thee, Thou wilt smile at me, Wee Lidorushka! 310 "Look, a beggar comes, Trembling, weak, old man, Give him what we can. 'Do not pray for us,' Let us to him say, 'Father, you must pray For Elyenushka, For the lady fair, Alexandrovna!' "Look, the church of God! 320 Sign the cross we twain Time and time again.... 'Grant, O blessed Lord, Thy most fair reward To the gentle heart Of Elyenushka, Alexandrovna!' "Green the forest grows, Green the pretty fields, In each dip and dell 330 Bright a mirror gleams. Oh, how fair it is In God's world to-day, Glad my heart and gay! Like the snowy swan O'er the lake I sail, O'er the waving steppes Speeding like the quail. "Here we are at home. Through the door I fly 340 Like the pigeon grey; Low the family Bow at sight of me, Nearly to the ground, Pardon they beseech For the way in which They have treated me. 'Sit you down,' I say, 'Do not bow to me. Listen to my words: 350 You must bow to one Better far than I, Stronger far than I, Sing your praise to her.' "'Sing to whom,' you say? 'To Elyenushka, To the fairest soul God has sent on earth: Alexandrovna!'" CHAPTER VIII THE WOMAN'S LEGEND Matrona is silent. You see that the peasants Have seized the occasion-- They are not forgetting To drink to the health Of the beautiful lady! But noticing soon That Matrona is silent, In file they approach her. "What more will you tell us?" 10 "What more?" says Matrona, "My fame as the 'lucky one' Spread through the volost, Since then they have called me 'The Governor's Lady.' You ask me, what further? I managed the household, And brought up my children. You ask, was I happy? Well, that you can answer 20 Yourselves. And my children? Five sons! But the peasant's Misfortunes are endless: They've robbed me of one." She lowers her voice, And her lashes are trembling, But turning her head She endeavours to hide it. The peasants are rather Confused, but they linger: 30 "Well, neighbour," they say, "Will you tell us no more?" "There's one thing: You're foolish To seek among women For happiness, brothers." "That's all?" "I can tell you That twice we were swallowed By fire, and that three times The plague fell upon us; 40 But such things are common To all of us peasants. Like cattle we toiled, My steps were as easy As those of a horse In the plough. But my troubles Were not very startling: No mountains have moved From their places to crush me; And God did not strike me 50 With arrows of thunder. The storm in my soul Has been silent, unnoticed, So how can I paint it To you? O'er the Mother Insulted and outraged, The blood of her first-born As o'er a crushed worm Has been poured; and unanswered The deadly offences 60 That many have dealt her; The knout has been raised Unopposed o'er her body. But one thing I never Have suffered: I told you That Sitnikov died, That the last, irreparable Shame had been spared me. You ask me for happiness? Brothers, you mock me! 70 Go, ask the official, The Minister mighty, The Tsar--Little Father, But never a woman! God knows--among women Your search will be endless, Will lead to your graves. "A pious old woman Once asked us for shelter; The whole of her lifetime 80 The Flesh she had conquered By penance and fasting; She'd bathed in the Jordan, And prayed at the tomb Of Christ Jesus. She told us The keys to the welfare And freedom of women Have long been mislaid-- God Himself has mislaid them. And hermits, chaste women, 90 And monks of great learning, Have sought them all over The world, but not found them. They're lost, and 'tis thought By a fish they've been swallowed. God's knights have been seeking In towns and in deserts, Weak, starving, and cold, Hung with torturing fetters. They've asked of the seers, 100 The stars they have counted To learn;--but no keys! Through the world they have journeyed; In underground caverns, In mountains, they've sought them. At last they discovered Some keys. They were precious, But only--not ours. Yet the warriors triumphed: They fitted the lock 110 On the fetters of serfdom! A sigh from all over The world rose to Heaven, A breath of relief, Oh, so deep and so joyful! Our keys were still missing.... Great champions, though, Till to-day are still searching, Deep down in the bed Of the ocean they wander, 120 They fly to the skies, In the clouds they are seeking, But never the keys. Do you think they will find them? Who knows? Who can say? But I think it is doubtful, For which fish has swallowed Those treasures so priceless, In which sea it swims-- God Himself has forgotten!" 130 PART IV. Dedicated to Serge Petrovitch Botkin A FEAST FOR THE WHOLE VILLAGE PROLOGUE A very old willow There is at the end Of the village of "Earthworms," Where most of the folk Have been diggers and delvers From times very ancient (Though some produced tar). This willow had witnessed The lives of the peasants: Their holidays, dances, 10 Their communal meetings, Their floggings by day, In the evening their wooing, And now it looked down On a wonderful feast. The feast was conducted In Petersburg fashion, For Klimka, the peasant (Our former acquaintance), Had seen on his travels 20 Some noblemen's banquets, With toasts and orations, And he had arranged it. The peasants were sitting On tree-trunks cut newly For building a hut. With them, too, our seven (Who always were ready To see what was passing) Were sitting and chatting 30 With Vlass, the old Elder. As soon as they fancied A drink would be welcome, The Elder called out To his son, "Run for Trifon!" With Trifon the deacon, A jovial fellow, A chum of the Elder's, His sons come as well. Two pupils they are 40 Of the clerical college Named Sava and Grisha. The former, the eldest, Is nineteen years old. He looks like a churchman Already, while Grisha Has fine, curly hair, With a slight tinge of red, And a thin, sallow face. Both capital fellows 50 They are, kind and simple, They work with the ploughshare, The scythe, and the sickle, Drink vodka on feast-days, And mix with the peasants Entirely as equals.... The village lies close To the banks of the Volga; A small town there is On the opposite side. 60 (To speak more correctly, There's now not a trace Of the town, save some ashes: A fire has demolished it Two days ago.) Some people are waiting To cross by the ferry, While some feed their horses (All friends of the peasants). Some beggars have crawled 70 To the spot; there are pilgrims, Both women and men; The women loquacious, The men very silent. The old Prince Yutiatin Is dead, but the peasants Are not yet aware That instead of the hayfields His heirs have bequeathed them A long litigation. 80 So, drinking their vodka, They first of all argue Of how they'll dispose Of the beautiful hayfields. You were not all cozened, You people of Russia, And robbed of your land. In some blessed spots You were favoured by fortune! By some lucky chance-- 90 The Pomyeshchick's long absence, Some slip of posrednik's, By wiles of the commune, You managed to capture A slice of the forest. How proud are the peasants In such happy corners! The Elder may tap At the window for taxes, The peasant will bluster,-- 100 One answer has he: "Just sell off the forest, And don't bother me!" So now, too, the peasants Of "Earthworms" decided To part with the fields To the Elder for taxes. They calculate closely: "They'll pay both the taxes And dues--with some over, 110 Heh, Vlasuchka, won't they?" "Once taxes are paid I'll uncover to no man. I'll work if it please me, I'll lie with my wife, Or I'll go to the tavern." "Bravo!" cry the peasants, In answer to Klimka, "Now, Vlasuchka, do you Agree to our plan?" 120 "The speeches of Klimka Are short, and as plain As the public-house signboard," Says Vlasuchka, joking. "And that is his manner: To start with a woman And end in the tavern." "Well, where should one end, then? Perhaps in the prison? Now--as to the taxes, 130 Don't croak, but decide." But Vlasuchka really Was far from a croaker. The kindest soul living Was he, and he sorrowed For all in the village, Not only for one. His conscience had pricked him While serving his haughty And rigorous Barin, 140 Obeying his orders, So cruel and oppressive. While young he had always Believed in 'improvements,' But soon he observed That they ended in nothing, Or worse--in misfortune. So now he mistrusted The new, rich in promise. The wheels that have passed 150 O'er the roadways of Moscow Are fewer by far Than the injuries done To the soul of the peasant. There's nothing to laugh at In that, so the Elder Perforce had grown gloomy. But now, the gay pranks Of the peasants of "Earthworms" Affected him too. 160 His thoughts became brighter: No taxes ... no barschin ... No stick held above you, Dear God, am I dreaming? Old Vlasuchka smiles.... A miracle surely! Like that, when the sun From the splendour of Heaven May cast a chance ray In the depths of the forest: 170 The dew shines like diamonds, The mosses are gilded. "Drink, drink, little peasants! Disport yourselves bravely!" 'Twas gay beyond measure. In each breast awakens A wondrous new feeling, As though from the depths Of a bottomless gulf On the crest of a wave, 180 They've been borne to the surface To find there awaits them A feast without end. Another pail's started, And, oh, what a clamour Of voices arises, And singing begins. And just as a dead man's Relations and friends Talk of nothing but him 190 Till the funeral's over, Until they have finished The funeral banquet And started to yawn,-- So over the vodka, Beneath the old willow, One topic prevails: The "break in the chain" Of their lords, the Pomyeshchicks. The deacon they ask, 200 And his sons, to oblige them By singing a song Called the "Merry Song" to them. (This song was not really A song of the people: The deacon's son Grisha Had sung it them first. But since the great day When the Tsar, Little Father, Had broken the chains 210 Of his suffering children, They always had danced To this tune on the feast-days. The "popes" and the house-serfs Could sing the words also, The peasants could not, But whenever they heard it They whistled and stamped, And the "Merry Song" called it.) CHAPTER I BITTER TIMES--BITTER SONGS _The Merry Song_ * * * * * The "Merry Song" finished, They struck up a chorus, A song of their own, A wailing lament (For, as yet, they've no others). And is it not strange That in vast Holy Russia, With masses and masses Of people unnumbered, No song has been born 10 Overflowing with joy Like a bright summer morning? Yes, is it not striking, And is it not tragic? O times that are coming, You, too, will be painted In songs of the people, But how? In what colours? And will there be ever A smile in their hearts? 20 "Eh, that's a fine song! 'Tis a shame to forget it." Our peasants regret That their memories trick them. And, meanwhile, the peasants Of "Earthworms" are saying, "We lived but for 'barschin,' Pray, how would you like it? You see, we grew up 'Neath the snout of the Barin, 30 Our noses were glued To the earth. We'd forgotten The faces of neighbours, Forgot how to speak. We got tipsy in silence, Gave kisses in silence, Fought silently, too." "Eh, who speaks of silence? We'd more cause to hate it Than you," said a peasant 40 Who came from a Volost Near by, with a waggon Of hay for the market. (Some heavy misfortune Had forced him to sell it.) "For once our young lady, Miss Gertrude, decided That any one swearing Must soundly be flogged. Dear Lord, how they flogged us 50 Until we stopped swearing! Of course, not to swear For the peasant means--silence. We suffered, God knows! Then freedom was granted, We feasted it finely, And then we made up For our silence, believe me: We swore in such style That Pope John was ashamed 60 For the church-bells to hear us. (They rang all day long.) What stories we told then! We'd no need to seek For the words. They were written All over our backs." "A funny thing happened In our parts,--a strange thing," Remarked a tall fellow With bushy black whiskers. 70 (He wore a round hat With a badge, a red waistcoat With ten shining buttons, And stout homespun breeches. His legs, to contrast With the smartness above them, Were tied up in rags! There are trees very like him, From which a small shepherd Has stripped all the bark off 80 Below, while above Not a scratch can be noticed! And surely no raven Would scorn such a summit For building a nest.) "Well, tell us about it." "I'll first have a smoke." And while he is smoking Our peasants are asking, "And who is this fellow? 90 What sort of a goose?" "An unfortunate footman Inscribed in our Volost, A martyr, a house-serf Of Count Sinegusin's. His name is Vikenti. He sprang from the foot-board Direct to the ploughshare; We still call him 'Footman.' He's healthy enough, 100 But his legs are not strong, And they're given to trembling. His lady would drive In a carriage and four To go hunting for mushrooms. He'll tell you some stories: His memory's splendid; You'd think he had eaten The eggs of a magpie."  Now, setting his hat straight, 110 Vikenti commences To tell them the story. _The Dutiful Serf--Jacob the Faithful_ Once an official, of rather low family, Bought a small village from bribes he had stored, Lived in it thirty-three years without leaving it, Feasted and hunted and drank like a lord. Greedy and miserly, not many friends he made, Sometimes he'd drive to his sister's to tea. Cruel was his nature, and not to his serfs alone: On his own daughter no pity had he, 120 Horsewhipped her husband, and drove them both penniless Out of his house; not a soul dare resist. Jacob, his dutiful servant, Ever of orders observant, Often he'd strike in the mouth with his fist. Hearts of men born into slavery Sometimes with dogs' hearts accord: Crueller the punishments dealt to them More they will worship their lord. 129 Jacob, it seems, had a heart of that quality, Only two sources of joy he possessed: Tending and serving his Barin devotedly, Rocking his own little nephew to rest. So they lived on till old age was approaching them, Weak grew the legs of the Barin at last, Vainly, to cure them, he tried every remedy; Feast and debauch were delights of the past. Plump are his hands and white, Keen are his eyes and bright, Rosy his cheek remains, 140 But on his legs--are chains! Helpless the Barin now lies in his dressing-gown, Bitterly, bitterly cursing his fate. Jacob, his "brother and friend,"--so the Barin says,-- Nurses him, humours him early and late. Winter and summer they pass thus in company, Mostly at card-games together they play, Sometimes they drive for a change to the sister's house, Eight miles or so, on a very fine day. Jacob himself bears his lord to the carriage then, 150 Drives him with care at a moderate pace, Carries him into the old lady's drawing-room.... So they live peacefully on for a space. Grisha, the nephew of Jacob, a youth becomes, Falls at the feet of his lord: "I would wed." "Who will the bride be?" "Her name is Arisha, sir." Thunders the Barin, "You'd better be dead!" Looking at her he had often bethought himself, "Oh, for my legs! Would the Lord but relent!" 159 So, though the uncle entreated his clemency, Grisha to serve in the army he sent. Cut to the heart was the slave by this tyranny, Jacob the Faithful went mad for a spell: Drank like a fish, and his lord was disconsolate, No one could please him: "You fools, go to Hell!" Hate in each bosom since long has been festering: Now for revenge! Now the Barin must pay, Roughly they deal with his whims and infirmities, Two quite unbearable weeks pass away. Then the most faithful of servants appeared again, 170 Straight at the feet of his master he fell, Pity has softened his heart to the legless one, Who can look after the Barin so well? "Barin, recall not your pitiless cruelty, While I am living my cross I'll embrace." Peacefully now lies the lord in his dressing-gown, Jacob, once more, is restored to his place. Brother again the Pomyeshchick has christened him. "Why do you wince, little Jacob?" says he. "Barin, there's something that stings ... in my memory...." 180 Now they thread mushrooms, play cards, and drink tea, Then they make brandy from cherries and raspberries, Next for a drive to the sister's they start, See how the Barin lies smoking contentedly, Green leaves and sunshine have gladdened his heart. Jacob is gloomy, converses unwillingly, Trembling his fingers, the reins are hung slack, "Spirits unholy!" he murmurs unceasingly, "Leave me! Begone!" (But again they attack.) Just on the right lies a deep, wooded precipice, Known in those parts as "The Devil's Abyss," 191 Jacob turns into the wood by the side of it. Queries his lord, "What's the meaning of this?" Jacob replies not. The path here is difficult, Branches and ruts make their steps very slow; Rustling of trees is heard. Spring waters noisily Cast themselves into the hollow below. Then there's a halt,--not a step can the horses move: Straight in their path stand the pines like a wall; Jacob gets down, and, the horses unharnessing, Takes of the Barin no notice at all. 201 Vainly the Barin's exclaiming and questioning, Jacob is pale, and he shakes like a leaf, Evilly smiles at entreaties and promises: "Am I a murderer, then, or a thief? No, Barin, _you_ shall not die. There's another way!" Now he has climbed to the top of a pine, Fastened the reins to the summit, and crossed himself, Turning his face to the sun's bright decline. Thrusting his head in the noose ... he has hanged himself! 210 Horrible! Horrible! See, how he sways Backwards and forwards.... The Barin, unfortunate, Shouts for assistance, and struggles and prays. Twisting his head he is jerking convulsively, Straining his voice to the utmost he cries, All is in vain, there is no one to rescue him, Only the mischievous echo replies. Gloomy the hollow now lies in its winding-sheet, Black is the night. Hear the owls on the wing, Striking the earth as they pass, while the horses stand 220 Chewing the leaves, and their bells faintly ring. Two eyes are burning like lamps at the train's approach, Steadily, brightly they gleam in the night, Strange birds are flitting with movements mysterious, Somewhere at hand they are heard to alight. Straight over Jacob a raven exultingly Hovers and caws. Now a hundred fly round! Feebly the Barin is waving his crutch at them, Merciful Heaven, what horrors abound! So the poor Barin all night in the carriage lies, Shouting, from wolves to protect his old bones. 231 Early next morning a hunter discovers him, Carries him home, full of penitent groans: "Oh, I'm a sinner most infamous! Punish me!" Barin, I think, till you rest in your grave, One figure surely will haunt you incessantly, Jacob the Faithful, your dutiful slave. "What sinners! What sinners!" The peasants are saying, "I'm sorry for Jacob, 240 Yet pity the Barin, Indeed he was punished! Ah, me!" Then they listen To two or three more tales As strange and as fearful, And hotly they argue On who must be reckoned The greatest of sinners: "The publican," one says, And one, "The Pomyeshchick," 250 Another, "The peasant." This last was a carter, A man of good standing And sound reputation, No ignorant babbler. He'd seen many things In his life, his own province Had traversed entirely. He should have been heard. The peasants, however, 260 Were all so indignant They would not allow him To speak. As for Klimka, His wrath is unbounded, "You fool!" he is shouting. "But let me explain." "I see you are _all_ fools," A voice remarks roughly: The voice of a trader Who squeezes the peasants 270 For laputs or berries Or any spare trifles. But chiefly he's noted For seizing occasions When taxes are gathered, And peasants' possessions Are bartered at auction. "You start a discussion And miss the chief point. Why, who's the worst sinner? 280 Consider a moment." "Well, who then? You tell us." "The robber, of course." "You've not been a serf, man," Says Klimka in answer; "The burden was heavy, But not on your shoulders. Your pockets are full, So the robber alarms you; The robber with this case 290 Has nothing to do." "The case of the robber Defending the robber," The other retorts. "Now, pray!" bellows Klimka, And leaping upon him, He punches his jaw. The trader repays him With buffets as hearty, "Take leave of your carcase!" 300 He roars. "Here's a tussle!" The peasants are clearing A space for the battle; They do not prevent it Nor do they applaud it. The blows fall like hail. "I'll kill you, I'll kill you! Write home to your parents!" "I'll kill you, I'll kill you! 310 Heh, send for the pope!" The trader, bent double By Klimka, who, clutching His hair, drags his head down, Repeating, "He's bowing!" Cries, "Stop, that's enough!" When Klimka has freed him He sits on a log, And says, wiping his face With a broadly-checked muffler, 320 "No wonder he conquered: He ploughs not, he reaps not, Does nothing but doctor The pigs and the horses; Of course he gets strong!" The peasants are laughing, And Klimka says, mocking, "Here, try a bit more!" "Come on, then! I'm ready," The trader says stoutly, 330 And rolling his sleeves up, He spits on his palms. "The hour has now sounded For me, though a sinner, To speak and unite you," Iona pronounces. The whole of the evening That diffident pilgrim Has sat without speaking, And crossed himself, sighing. 340 The trader's delighted, And Klimka replies not. The rest, without speaking, Sit down on the ground. CHAPTER II PILGRIMS AND WANDERERS We know that in Russia Are numbers of people Who wander at large Without kindred or home. They sow not, they reap not, They feed at the fountain That's common to all, That nourishes likewise The tiniest mouse And the mightiest army: The sweat of the peasant. 10 The peasants will tell you That whole populations Of villages sometimes Turn out in the autumn To wander like pilgrims. They beg, and esteem it A paying profession. The people consider That misery drives them 20 More often than cunning, And so to the pilgrims Contribute their mite. Of course, there are cases Of downright deception: One pilgrim's a thief, Or another may wheedle Some cloth from the wife Of a peasant, exchanging Some "sanctified wafers" 30 Or "tears of the Virgin" He's brought from Mount Athos, And then she'll discover He's been but as far As a cloister near Moscow. One saintly old greybeard Enraptured the people By wonderful singing, And offered to teach The young girls of the village 40 The songs of the church With their mothers' permission. And all through the winter He locked himself up With the girls in a stable. From thence, sometimes singing Was heard, but more often Came laughter and giggles. Well, what was the upshot? He taught them no singing, 50 But ruined them all. Some Masters so skilful There are, they will even Lay siege to the ladies. They first to the kitchens Make sure of admission, And then through the maids Gained access to the mistress. See, there he goes, strutting Along through the courtyard 60 And jingling the keys Of the house like a Barin. And soon he will spit In the teeth of the peasants; The pious old women, Who always before At the house have been welcome, He'll speedily banish. The people, however, Can see in these pilgrims 70 A good side as well. For, who begs the money For building the churches? And who keeps the convent's Collecting-box full? And many, though useless, Are perfectly harmless; But some are uncanny, One can't understand them: The people know Foma, 80 With chains round his middle Some six stones in weight; How summer and winter He walks about barefoot, And constantly mutters Of Heaven knows what. His life, though, is godly: A stone for his pillow, A crust for his dinner. The people know also 90 The old man, Nikifor, Adherent, most strange, Of the sect called "The Hiders." One day he appeared In Usolovo village Upbraiding the people For lack of religion, And calling them forth To the great virgin forest To seek for salvation. 100 The chief of police Of the district just happened To be in the village And heard his oration: "Ho! Question the madman!" "Thou foe of Christ Jesus! Thou Antichrist's herald!" Nikifor retorts. The Elders are nudging him: "Now, then, be silent!" 110 He pays no attention. They drag him to prison. He stands in the waggon, Undauntedly chiding The chief of police, And loudly he cries To the people who follow him: "Woe to you! Woe to you! Bondsmen, I mourn for you! Though you're in rags, e'en the rags shall be torn from you! Fiercely with knouts in the past did they mangle you: 120 Clutches of iron in the future will strangle you!" The people are crossing Themselves. The Nachalnik Is striking the prophet: "Remember the Judge Of Jerusalem, sinner!" The driver's so frightened The reins have escaped him, His hair stands on end.... And when will the people 130 Forget Yevressina, Miraculous widow? Let cholera only Break out in a village: At once like an envoy Of God she appears. She nurses and fosters And buries the peasants. The women adore her, They pray to her almost. 140 It's evident, then, That the door of the peasant Is easily opened: Just knock, and be certain He'll gladly admit you. He's never suspicious Like wealthier people; The thought does not strike him At sight of the humble And destitute stranger, 150 "Perhaps he's a thief!" And as to the women, They're simply delighted, They'll welcome you warmly. At night, in the Winter, The family gathered To work in the cottage By light of "luchina,"  Are charmed by the pilgrim's Remarkable stories. 160 He's washed in the steam-bath, And dipped with his spoon In the family platter, First blessing its contents. His veins have been thawed By a streamlet of vodka, His words flow like water. The hut is as silent As death. The old father Was mending the laputs, 170 But now he has dropped them. The song of the shuttle Is hushed, and the woman Who sits at the wheel Is engrossed in the story. The daughter, Yevgenka, Her plump little finger Has pricked with a needle. The blood has dried up, But she notices nothing; 180 Her sewing has fallen, Her eyes are distended, Her arms hanging limp. The children, in bed On the sleeping-planks, listen, Their heads hanging down. They lie on their stomachs Like snug little seals Upon Archangel ice-blocks. Their hair, like a curtain, 190 Is hiding their faces: It's yellow, of course! But wait. Soon the pilgrim Will finish his story-- (It's true)--from Mount Athos. It tells how that sinner The Turk had once driven Some monks in rebellion Right into the sea,-- Who meekly submitted, 200 And perished in hundreds. (What murmurs of horror Arise! Do you notice The eyes, full of tears?) And now conies the climax, The terrible moment, And even the mother Has loosened her hold On the corpulent bobbin, It rolls to the ground.... 210 And see how cat Vaska At once becomes active And pounces upon it. At times less enthralling The antics of Vaska Would meet their deserts; But now he is patting And touching the bobbin And leaping around it With flexible movements, 220 And no one has noticed. It rolls to a distance, The thread is unwound. Whoever has witnessed The peasant's delight At the tales of the pilgrims Will realise this: Though never so crushing His labours and worries, Though never so pressing 230 The call of the tavern, Their weight will not deaden The soul of the peasant And will not benumb it. The road that's before him Is broad and unending.... When old fields, exhausted, Play false to the reaper, He'll seek near the forest For soil more productive. 240 The work may be hard, But the new plot repays him: It yields a rich harvest Without being manured. A soil just as fertile Lies hid in the soul Of the people of Russia: O Sower, then come! The pilgrim Iona Since long is well known 250 In the village of "Earthworms." The peasants contend For the honour of giving The holy man shelter. At last, to appease them, He'd say to the women, "Come, bring out your icons!" They'd hurry to fetch them. Iona, prostrating Himself to each icon, 260 Would say to the people, "Dispute not! Be patient, And God will decide: The saint who looks kindest At me I will follow." And often he'd follow The icon most poor To the lowliest hovel. That hut would become then A Cup overflowing; 270 The women would run there With baskets and saucepans, All thanks to Iona. And now, without hurry Or noise, he's beginning To tell them a story, "Two Infamous Sinners," But first, most devoutly, He crosses himself. _Two Infamous Sinners_ Come, let us praise the Omnipotent! 280 Let us the legend relate Told by a monk in the Priory. Thus did I hear him narrate: Once were twelve brigands notorious, One, Kudear, at their head; Torrents of blood of good Christians Foully the miscreants shed. Deep in the forest their hiding-place, Rich was their booty and rare; Once Kudear from near Kiev Town 290 Stole a young maiden most fair. Days Kudear with his mistress spent, Nights on the road with his horde; Suddenly, conscience awoke in him, Stirred by the grace of the Lord. Sleep left his couch. Of iniquity Sickened his spirit at last; Shades of his victims appeared to him, Crowding in multitudes vast. Long was this monster most obdurate, 300 Blind to the light from above, Then flogged to death his chief satellite, Cut off the head of his love,-- Scattered his gang in his penitence, And to the churches of God All his great riches distributed, Buried his knife in the sod, Journeyed on foot to the Sepulchre, Filled with repentance and grief; Wandered and prayed, but the pilgrimage Brought to his soul no relief. 311 When he returned to his Fatherland Clad like a monk, old and bent, 'Neath a great oak, as an anchorite, Life in the forest he spent. There, from the Maker Omnipotent, Grace day and night did he crave: "Lord, though my body thou castigate, Grant that my soul I may save!" Pity had God on the penitent, 320 Showed him the pathway to take, Sent His own messenger unto him During his prayers, who thus spake: "Know, for this oak sprang thy preference, Not without promptings divine; Lo! take the knife thou hast slaughtered with, Fell it, and grace shall be thine. "Yea, though the task prove laborious, Great shall the recompense be, Let but the tree fall, and verily 330 Thou from thy load shalt be free." Vast was the giant's circumference; Praying, his task he begins, Works with the tool of atrociousness, Offers amends for his sins. Glory he sang to the Trinity, Scraped the hard wood with his blade. Years passed away. Though he tarried not, Slow was the progress he made. 'Gainst such a mighty antagonist 340 How could he hope to prevail? Only a Samson could vanquish it, Not an old man, spent and frail. Doubt, as he worked, began plaguing him: Once of a voice came the sound, "Heh, old man, say what thy purpose is?" Crossing himself he looked round. There, Pan Glukhovsky was watching him On his brave Arab astride, Rich was the Pan, of high family, 350 Known in the whole countryside. Many cruel deeds were ascribed to him, Filled were his subjects with hate, So the old hermit to caution him Told him his own sorry fate. "Ho!" laughed Glukhovsky, derisively, "Hope of salvation's not mine; These are the things that I estimate-- Women, gold, honour, and wine. "My life, old man, is the only one; 360 Many the serfs that I keep; What though I waste, hang, and torture them-- You should but see how I sleep!" Lo! to the hermit, by miracle, Wrath a great strength did impart, Straight on Glukhovsky he flung himself, Buried the knife in his heart. Scarce had the Pan, in his agony, Sunk to the blood-sodden ground, Crashed the great tree, and lay subjugate, Trembled the earth at the sound. 371 Lo! and the sins of the anchorite Passed from his soul like a breath. "Let us pray God to incline to us, Slaves in the shadow of Death...." CHAPTER III OLD AND NEW Iona has finished. He crosses himself, And the people are silent. And then of a sudden The trader cries loudly In great irritation, "What's wrong with the ferry? A plague on the sluggards! Ho, ferry ahoy!" "You won't get the ferry 10 Till sunrise, for even In daytime they're frightened To cross: the boat's rotten! About Kudear, now--" "Ho, ferry ahoy!" He strides to his waggon. A cow is there tethered; He churlishly kicks her. His hens begin clucking; He shouts at them, "Silence!" 20 The calf, which is shifting About in the cart. Gets a crack on the forehead. He strikes the roan mare With the whip, and departing He makes for the Volga. The moon is now shining, It casts on the roadway A comical shadow, Which trots by his side. 30 "Oho!" says the Elder, "He thought himself able To fight, but discussion Is not in his line.... My brothers, how grievous The sins of the nobles!" "And yet not as great As the sin of the peasant," The carter cannot here Refrain from remarking. 40 "A plaguey old croaker!" Says Klim, spitting crossly; "Whatever arises The raven must fly To his own little brood! What is it, then, tell us, The sin of the peasant?" _The Sin of Gleb the Peasant_ A'miral Widower sailed on the sea, Steering his vessels a-sailing went he. 49 Once with the Turk a great battle he fought, His was the victory, gallantly bought. So to the hero as valour's reward Eight thousand souls did the Empress award. A'miral Widower lived on his land Rich and content, till his end was at hand. As he lay dying this A'miral bold Handed his Elder a casket of gold. "See that thou cherish this casket," he said, "Keep it and open it when I am dead. There lies my will, and by it you will see Eight thousand souls are from serfdom set free." 61 Dead, on the table, the A'miral lies, A kinsman remote to the funeral hies. Buried! Forgotten! His relative soon Calls Gleb, the Elder, with him to commune. And, in a trice, by his cunning and skill, Learns of the casket, and terms of the will. Offers him riches and bliss unalloyed, Gives him his freedom,--the will is destroyed! Thus, by Gleb's longing for criminal gains, Eight thousand souls were left rotting in chains, 71 Aye, and their sons and their grandsons as well, Think, what a crowd were thrown back into Hell! God forgives all. Yes, but Judas's crime Ne'er will be pardoned till end of all time. Peasant, most infamous sinner of all, Endlessly grieve to atone for thy fall! Wrathful, relentless, The carter thus finished The tale of the peasant 80 In thunder-like tones. The others sigh deeply And rise. They're exclaiming, "So, that's what it is, then, The sin of the peasant. He's right. 'Tis indeed A most terrible sin!" "The story speaks truly; Our grief shall be endless, Ah, me!" says the Elder. 90 (His faith in improvements Has vanished again.) And Klimka, who always Is swayed in an instant By joy or by sorrow, Despondingly echoes, "A terrible sin!" The green by the Volga, Now flooded with moonlight, Has changed of a sudden: 100 The peasants no longer Seem men independent With self-assured movements, They're "Earthworms" again-- Those "Earthworms" whose victuals Are never sufficient, Who always are threatened With drought, blight, or famine, Who yield to the trader The fruits of extortion 110 Their tears, shed in tar. The miserly haggler Not only ill-pays them, But bullies as well: "For what do I pay you? The tar costs you nothing. The sun brings it oozing From out of your bodies As though from a pine." Again the poor peasants 120 Are sunk in the depths Of the bottomless gulf! Dejected and silent, They lie on their stomachs Absorbed in reflection. But then they start singing; And slowly the song, Like a ponderous cloud-bank, Rolls mournfully onwards. They sing it so clearly 130 That quickly our seven Have learnt it as well. _The Hungry One_ The peasant stands With haggard gaze, He pants for breath, He reels and sways; From famine food, From bread of bark, His form has swelled, His face is dark. 140 Through endless grief Suppressed and dumb His eyes are glazed, His soul is numb. As though in sleep, With footsteps slow, He creeps to where The rye doth grow. Upon his field He gazes long, 150 He stands and sings A voiceless song: "Grow ripe, grow ripe, O Mother rye, I fostered thee, Thy lord am I. "Yield me a loaf Of monstrous girth, A cake as vast As Mother-Earth. 160 "I'll eat the whole-- No crumb I'll spare; With wife, with child, I will not share." "Eh, brothers, I'm hungry!" A voice exclaims feebly. It's one of the peasants. He fetches a loaf From his bag, and devours it. "They sing without voices, 170 And yet when you listen Your hair begins rising," Another remarks. It's true. Not with voices They sing of the famine-- But something within them. One, during the singing, Has risen, to show them The gait of the peasant Exhausted by hunger, 180 And swayed by the wind. Restrained are his movements And slow. After singing "The Hungry One," thirsting They make for the bucket, One after another Like geese in a file. They stagger and totter As people half-famished, A drink will restore them. 190 "Come, let us be joyful!" The deacon is saying. His youngest son, Grisha, Approaches the peasants. "Some vodka?" they ask him. "No, thank you. I've had some. But what's been the matter? You look like drowned kittens." "What should be the matter?" (And making an effort 200 They bear themselves bravely.) And Vlass, the old Elder, Has placed his great palm On the head of his godson. "Is serfdom revived? Will they drive you to barschin Or pilfer your hayfields?" Says Grisha in jest. "The hay-fields? You're joking!" "Well, what has gone wrong, then? And why were you singing 211 'The Hungry One,' brothers? To summon the famine?" "Yes, what's all the pother?" Here Klimka bursts out Like a cannon exploding. The others are scratching Their necks, and reflecting: "It's true! What's amiss?" "Come, drink, little 'Earthworms,' Come, drink and be merry! 221 All's well--as we'd have it, Aye, just as we wished it. Come, hold up your noddles! But what about Gleb?" A lengthy discussion Ensues; and it's settled That they're not to blame For the deed of the traitor: 'Twas serfdom's the fault. 230 For just as the big snake Gives birth to the small ones, So serfdom gave birth To the sins of the nobles, To Jacob the Faithful's And also to Gleb's. For, see, without serfdom Had been no Pomyeshchick To drive his true servant To death by the noose, 240 No terrible vengeance Of slave upon master By suicide fearful, No treacherous Gleb. 'Twas Prov of all others Who listened to Grisha With deepest attention And joy most apparent. And when he had finished He cried to the others 250 In accents of triumph, Delightedly smiling, "Now, brothers, mark _that_!" "So now, there's an end Of 'The Hungry One,' peasants!" Cries Klimka, with glee. The words about serfdom Were quickly caught up By the crowd, and went passing From one to another: 260 "Yes, if there's no big snake There cannot be small ones!" And Klimka is swearing Again at the carter: "You ignorant fool!" They're ready to grapple! The deacon is sobbing And kissing his Grisha: "Just see what a headpiece The Lord is creating! 270 No wonder he longs For the college in Moscow!" Old Vlass, too, is patting His shoulder and saying, "May God send thee silver And gold, and a healthy And diligent wife!" "I wish not for silver Or gold," replies Grisha. "But one thing I wish: 280 I wish that my comrades, Yes, all the poor peasants In Russia so vast, Could be happy and free!" Thus, earnestly speaking, And blushing as shyly As any young maiden, He walks from their midst. The dawn is approaching. The peasants make ready 290 To cross by the ferry. "Eh, Vlass," says the carter, As, stooping, he raises The span of his harness, "Who's this on the ground?" The Elder approaches, And Klimka behind him, Our seven as well. (They're always most anxious To see what is passing.) 300 Some fellow is lying Exhausted, dishevelled, Asleep, with the beggars Behind some big logs. His clothing is new, But it's hanging in ribbons. A crimson silk scarf On his neck he is wearing; A watch and a waistcoat; His blouse, too, is red. 310 Now Klimka is stooping To look at the sleeper, Shouts, "Beat him!" and roughly Stamps straight on his mouth. The fellow springs up, Rubs his eyes, dim with sleep, And old Vlasuchka strikes him. He squeals like a rat 'Neath the heel of your slipper, And makes for the forest 320 On long, lanky legs. Four peasants pursue him, The others cry, "Beat him!" Until both the man And the band of pursuers Are lost in the forest. "Who is he?" our seven Are asking the Elder, "And why do they beat him?" "We don't know the reason, 330 But we have been told By the people of Tiskov To punish this Shutov Whenever we catch him, And so we obey. When people from Tiskov Pass by, they'll explain it. What luck? Did you catch him?" He asks of the others Returned from the chase. 340 "We caught him, I warrant, And gave him a lesson. He's run to Demyansky, For there he'll be able To cross by the ferry." "Strange people, to beat him Without any cause!" "And why? If the commune Has told us to do it There must be some reason!" 350 Shouts Klim at the seven. "D'you think that the people Of Tiskov are fools? It isn't long since, mind, That many were flogged there, One man in each ten. Ah, Shutov, you rendered A dastardly service, Your duties are evil, You damnable wretch! 360 And who deserves beating As richly as Shutov? Not we alone beat him: From Tiskov, you know, Fourteen villages lie On the banks of the Volga; I warrant through each He's been driven with blows." The seven are silent. They're longing to get 370 At the root of the matter. But even the Elder Is now growing angry. It's daylight. The women Are bringing their husbands Some breakfast, of rye-cakes And--goose! (For a peasant Had driven some geese Through the village to market, And three were grown weary, 380 And had to be carried.) "See here, will you sell them? They'll die ere you get there." And so, for a trifle, The geese had been bought. We've often been told How the peasant loves drinking; Not many there are, though, Who know how he eats. He's greedier far 390 For his food than for vodka, So one man to-day (A teetotaller mason) Gets perfectly drunk On his breakfast of goose! A shout! "Who is coming? Who's this?" Here's another Excuse for rejoicing And noise! There's a hay-cart With hay, now approaching, 400 And high on its summit A soldier is sitting. He's known to the peasants For twenty versts round. And, cosy beside him, Justinutchka sits (His niece, and an orphan, His prop in old age). He now earns his living By means of his peep-show, 410 Where, plainly discerned, Are the Kremlin and Moscow, While music plays too. The instrument once Had gone wrong, and the soldier, No capital owning, Bought three metal spoons, Which he beat to make music; But the words that he knew Did not suit the new music, 420 And folk did not laugh. The soldier was sly, though: He made some new words up That went with the music. They hail him with rapture! "Good-health to you, Grandad! Jump down, drink some vodka, And give us some music." "It's true I got _up_ here, But how to get-down?" 430 "You're going, I see, To the town for your pension, But look what has happened: It's burnt to the ground." "Burnt down? Yes, and rightly! What then? Then I'll go To St. Petersburg for it; For all my old comrades Are there with their pensions, They'll show me the way." 440 "You'll go by the train, then?" The old fellow whistles: "Not long you've been serving Us, orthodox Christians, You, infidel railway! And welcome you were When you carried us cheaply From Peters to Moscow. (It cost but three roubles.) But now you want seven, 450 So, go to the devil! "Lady so insolent, lady so arrogant! Hiss like a snake as you glide! _Fig for you! Fig for you! Fig for you! Fig for you!_ Puff at the whole countryside! Crushing and maiming your toll you extort, Straight in the face of the peasant you snort, Soon all the people of Russia you may Cleaner than any big broom sweep away!" "Come, give us some music," 460 Says Vlass to the soldier, "For here there are plenty Of holiday people, 'Twill be to your profit. You see to it, Klimka!" (Though Vlass doesn't like him, Whenever there's something That calls for arranging He leaves it to Klimka: "You see to it, Klimka!" 470 And Klimka is pleased.) And soon the old soldier Is helped from the hay-cart: He's weak on his legs,--tall, And strikingly thin. His uniform seems To be hung from a pole; There are medals upon it. It cannot be said That his face is attractive, 480 Especially when It's distorted by _tic_: His mouth opens wide And his eyes burn like charcoal,-- A regular demon! The music is started, The people run back From the banks of the Volga. He sings to the music. * * * * * A spasm has seized him: 490 He leans on his niece, And his left leg upraising He twirls it around In the air like a weight. His right follows suit then, And murmuring, "Curse it!" He suddenly masters And stands on them both. "You see to it, Klimka!" Of course he'll arrange it 500 In Petersburg fashion: He stands them together, The niece and the uncle; Takes two wooden dishes And gives them one each, Then springs on a tree-trunk To make an oration. (The soldier can't help Adding apt little words To the speech of the peasant, 510 And striking his spoons.) * * * * * The soldier is stamping His feet. One can hear His dry bones knock together. When Klimka has finished The peasants come crowding, Surrounding the soldier, And some a kopeck give, And others give half: In no time a rouble 520 Is piled on the dishes. EPILOGUE GRISHA DOBROSKLONOW A CHEERFUL SEASON--CHEERFUL SONGS The feast was continued Till morning--a splendid, A wonderful feast! Then the people dispersing Went home, and our peasants Lay down 'neath the willow; Iona--meek pilgrim Of God--slept there too. And Sava and Grisha, The sons of the deacon, 10 Went home, with their parent Unsteady between them. They sang; and their voices, Like bells on the Volga, So loud and so tuneful, Came chiming together: "Praise to the hero Bringing the nation Peace and salvation! "That which will surely 20 Banish the night He has awarded-- Freedom and Light! "Praise to the hero Bringing the nation Peace and salvation! "Blessings from Heaven, Grace from above, Rained on the battle, Conquered by Love. 30 "Little we ask Thee-- Grant us, O Lord, Strength to be honest, Fearing Thy word! "Brotherly living, Sharing in part, That is the roadway Straight to the heart. "Turn from that teaching Tender and wise-- 40 Cowards and traitors Soon will arise. "People of Russia, Banish the night! You have been granted That which is needful-- Freedom and Light!" The deacon was poor As the poorest of peasants: A mean little cottage 50 Like two narrow cages, The one with an oven Which smoked, and the other For use in the summer,-- Such was his abode. No horse he possessed And no cow. He had once had A dog and a cat, But they'd both of them left him. His sons put him safely 60 To bed, snoring loudly; Then Savushka opened A book, while his brother Went out, and away To the fields and the forest. A broad-shouldered youth Was this Grisha; his face, though, Was terribly thin. In the clerical college The students got little 70 To eat. Sometimes Grisha Would lie the whole night Without sleep; only longing For morning and breakfast,-- The coarse piece of bread And the glassful of sbeeten. The village was poor And the food there was scanty, But still, the two brothers Grew certainly plumper 80 When home for the holidays-- Thanks to the peasants. The boys would repay them By all in their power, By work, or by doing Their little commissions In town. Though the deacon Was proud of his children, He never had given Much thought to their feeding. 90 Himself, the poor deacon, Was endlessly hungry, His principal thought Was the manner of getting The next piece of food. He was rather light-minded And vexed himself little; But Dyomna, his wife, Had been different entirely: She worried and counted, 100 So God took her soon. The whole of her life She by salt had been troubled: If bread has run short One can ask of the neighbours; But salt, which means money, Is hard to obtain. The village with Dyomna Had shared its bread freely; And long, long ago 110 Would her two little children Have lain in the churchyard If not for the peasants. And Dyomna was ready To work without ceasing For all who had helped her; But salt was her trouble, Her thought, ever present. She dreamt of it, sang of it, Sleeping and waking, 120 While washing, while spinning, At work in the fields, While rocking her darling Her favourite, Grisha. And many years after The death of his mother, His heart would grow heavy And sad, when the peasants Remembered one song, And would sing it together 130 As Dyomna had sung it; They called it "The Salt Song." _The Salt Song_ Now none but God Can save my son: He's dying fast, My little one.... I give him bread--- He looks at it, He cries to me, "Put salt on it." 140 I have no salt-- No tiny grain; "Take flour," God whispers, "Try again...." He tastes it once, Once more he tries; "That's not enough, More salt!" he cries. The flour again.... My tears fall fast 150 Upon the bread,-- He eats at last! The mother smiles In pride and joy: Her tears so salt Have saved the boy. * * * * * Young Grisha remembered This song; he would sing it Quite low to himself In the clerical college. 160 The college was cheerless, And singing this song He would yearn for his mother, For home, for the peasants, His friends and protectors. And soon, with the love Which he bore to his mother, His love for the people Grew wider and stronger.... At fifteen years old 170 He was firmly decided To spend his whole life In promoting their welfare, In striving to succour The poor and afflicted. The demon of malice Too long over Russia Has scattered its hate; The shadow of serfdom Has hidden all paths 180 Save corruption and lying. Another song now Will arise throughout Russia; The angel of freedom And mercy is flying Unseen o'er our heads, And is calling strong spirits To follow the road Which is honest and clean. Oh, tread not the road 190 So shining and broad: Along it there speed With feverish tread The multitudes led By infamous greed. There lives which are spent With noble intent Are mocked at in scorn; There souls lie in chains, And bodies and brains 200 By passions are torn, By animal thirst For pleasures accurst Which pass in a breath. There hope is in vain, For there is the reign Of darkness and death. * * * * * In front of your eyes Another road lies-- 'Tis honest and clean. 210 Though steep it appears And sorrow and tears Upon it are seen: It leads to the door Of those who are poor, Who hunger and thirst, Who pant without air. Who die in despair-- Oh, there be the first! The song of the angel 220 Of Mercy not vainly Was sung to our Grisha. The years of his study Being passed, he developed In thought and in feeling; A passionate singer Of Freedom became he, Of all who are grieving, Down-trodden, afflicted, In Russia so vast. 230 * * * * * The bright sun was shining, The cool, fragrant morning Was filled with the sweetness Of newly-mown hay. Young Grisha was thoughtful, He followed the first road He met--an old high-road, An avenue, shaded By tall curling birch trees. The youth was now gloomy, 240 Now gay; the effect Of the feast was still with him; His thoughts were at work, And in song he expressed them: "I know that you suffer, O Motherland dear, The thought of it fills me with woe: And Fate has much sorrow In store yet, I fear, But you will not perish, I know. 250 "How long since your children As playthings were used, As slaves to base passions and lust; Were bartered like cattle, Were vilely abused By masters most cruel and unjust? "How long since young maidens Were dragged to their shame, Since whistle of whips filled the land, Since 'Service' possessed 260 A more terrible fame Than death by the torturer's hand? "Enough! It is finished, This tale of the past; 'Tis ended, the masters' long sway; The strength of the people Is stirring at last, To freedom 'twill point them the way. "Your burden grows lighter, O Motherland dear, 270 Your wounds less appalling to see. Your fathers were slaves, Smitten helpless by fear, But, Mother, your children are free!" * * * * * A small winding footpath Now tempted young Grisha, And guided his steps To a very broad hayfield. The peasants were cutting The hay, and were singing 280 His favourite song. Young Grisha was saddened By thoughts of his mother, And nearly in anger He hurried away From the field to the forest. Bright echoes are darting About in the forest; Like quails in the wheat Little children are romping 290 (The elder ones work In the hay fields already). He stopped awhile, seeking For horse-chestnuts with them. The sun was now hot; To the river went Grisha To bathe, and he had A good view of the ruins That three days before Had been burnt. What a picture! No house is left standing; 301 And only the prison Is saved; just a few days Ago it was whitewashed; It stands like a little White cow in the pastures. The guards and officials Have made it their refuge; But all the poor peasants Are strewn by the river 310 Like soldiers in camp. Though they're mostly asleep now, A few are astir, And two under-officials Are picking their way To the tent for some vodka 'Mid tables and cupboards And waggons and bundles. A tailor approaches The vodka tent also; 320 A shrivelled old fellow. His irons and his scissors He holds in his hands, Like a leaf he is shaking. The pope has arisen From sleep, full of prayers. He is combing his hair; Like a girl he is holding His long shining plait. Down the Volga comes floating 330 Some wood-laden rafts, And three ponderous barges Are anchored beneath The right bank of the river. The barge-tower yesterday Evening had dragged them With songs to their places, And there he is standing, The poor harassed man! He is looking quite gay though, 340 As if on a holiday, Has a clean shirt on; Some farthings are jingling Aloud in his pocket. Young Grisha observes him For long from the river, And, half to himself, Half aloud, begins singing: _The Barge-Tower_ With shoulders back and breast astrain, And bathed in sweat which falls like rain, Through midday heat with gasping song, He drags the heavy barge along. 352 He falls and rises with a groan, His song becomes a husky moan.... But now the barge at anchor lies, A giant's sleep has sealed his eyes; And in the bath at break of day He drives the clinging sweat away. Then leisurely along the quay He strolls refreshed, and roubles three 360 Are sewn into his girdle wide; Some coppers jingle at his side. He thinks awhile, and then he goes Towards the tavern. There he throws Some hard-earned farthings on the seat; He drinks, and revels in the treat, The sense of perfect ease and rest. Soon with the cross he signs his breast: The journey home begins to-day. And cheerfully he goes away; 370 On presents spends a coin or so: For wife some scarlet calico, A scarf for sister, tinsel toys For eager little girls and boys. God guide him home--'tis many a mile-- And let him rest a little while.... * * * * * The barge-tower's fate Lead the thoughts of young Grisha To dwell on the whole Of mysterious Russia-- 380 The fate of her people. For long he was roving About on the bank, Feeling hot and excited, His brain overflowing With new and new verses. _Russia_ "The Tsar was in mood To dabble in blood: To wage a great war. Shall we have gold enough? 390 Shall we have strength enough? Questioned the Tsar. "(Thou art so pitiful, Poor, and so sorrowful, Yet thou art powerful, Thy wealth is plentiful, Russia, my Mother!) "By misery chastened, By serfdom of old, The heart of thy people, 400 O Tsar, is of gold. "And strong were the nation, Unyielding its might, If standing for conscience, For justice and right. "But summon the country To valueless strife, And no man will hasten To offer his life. "So Russia lies sleeping 410 In obstinate rest;-- But should the spark kindle That's hid in her breast-- "She'll rise without summons, Go forth without call, With sacrifice boundless, Each giving his all! "A host she will gather Of strength unsurpassed, With infinite courage 420 Will fight to the last. "(Thou art so pitiful, Poor, and so sorrowful, Yet of great treasure full, Mighty, all-powerful, Russia, my Mother!)" * * * * * Young Grisha was pleased With his song; and he murmured. "Its message is true; I will sing it to-morrow 430 Aloud to the peasants. Their songs are so mournful, It's well they should hear Something joyful,--God help them! For just as with running The cheeks begin burning, So acts a good song On the spirit despairing, Brings comfort and strength." But first to his brother 440 He sang the new song, And his brother said, "Splendid!" Then Grisha tried vainly To sleep; but half dreaming New songs he composed. They grew brighter and stronger.... Our peasants would soon Have been home from their travels If they could have known What was happening to Grisha: 450 With what exaltation His bosom was burning; What beautiful strains In his ears began chiming; How blissfully sang he The wonderful anthem Which tells of the freedom And peace of the people. FOOTNOTES:  Many years later, after his mother's death, Nekrassov found this letter among her papers. It was a letter written to her by her own mother after her flight and subsequent marriage. It announced to her her father's curse, and was filled with sad and bitter reproaches: "To whom have you entrusted your fate? For what country have you abandoned Poland, your Motherland? You, whose hand was sought, a priceless gift, by princes, have chosen a savage, ignorant, uncultured.... Forgive me, but my heart is bleeding...."  Priest.  Landowner.  The peasants assert that the cuckoo chokes himself with young ears of corn.  A kind of home-brewed cider.  _Laput_ is peasants' footgear made of bark of saplings.  Priest  New huts are built only when the village has been destroyed by fire.  The lines of asterisks throughout the poem represent passages that were censored in the original.  There is a superstition among the Russian peasants that it is an ill omen to meet the "pope" when going upon an errand.  Landowners  Dissenters in Russia are subjected to numerous religious restrictions. Therefore they are obliged to bribe the local orthodox pope, in order that he should not denounce them to the police.  There is a Russian superstition that a round rainbow is sent as a sign of coming dry weather.  _Kasha_ and _stchee_ are two national dishes.  The mud and water from the high lands on both sides descend and collect in the villages so situated, which are often nearly transformed into swamps during the rainy season.  On feast days the peasants often pawn their clothes for drink.  Well-known popular characters in Russia.  Each landowner kept his own band of musicians.  The halting-place for prisoners on their way to Siberia.  The tax collector, the landlord, and the priest.  Fire.  Popular name for Petrograd.  The primitive wooden plough still used by the peasants in Russia.  Three pounds.  Holy pictures of the saints.  The Russian nickname for the bear.  Chief of police.  An administrative unit consisting of a group of villages.  The end of the story is omitted because of the interference of the Censor.  A three-horsed carriage.  The Pomyeshchick is still bitter because his serfs have been set free by the Government.  The Russian warriors of olden times.  Russian Easter dishes.  Russians embrace one another on Easter Sunday, recalling the resurrection of Christ.  The Russians press their foreheads to the ground while worshipping.  The official appointed to arrange terms between the Pomyeshchicks and their emancipated serfs.  The haystacks.  A long-skirted coat.  The forced labour of the serfs for their owners.  Holy images.  Meenin--a famous Russian patriot in the beginning of the seventeenth century. He is always represented with an immense beard.  It is a sign of respect to address a person by his own name and the name of his father.  Ukha--fish soup.  A national loose sleeveless dress worn with a separate shirt or blouse.  The marriage agent.  The marriage agent.  Inhabitants of the village Korojin.  Germans were often employed as managers of the Pomyeshchicks' estates.  In Russian vapour-baths there are shelves ranged round the walls for the bathers to recline upon. The higher the shelf the hotter the atmosphere.  Police-official.  Heave-to!  This paragraph refers to the custom of the country police in Russia, who, on hearing of the accidental death of anybody in a village, will, in order to extract bribes from the villagers, threaten to hold an inquest on the corpse. The peasants are usually ready to part with nearly all they possess in order to save their dead from what they consider desecration.  The Saviour's day.  A reference to the arranging of terms between the Pomyeshchicks and peasants with regard to land at the time of the emancipation of the serfs.  There is a Russian superstition that a good memory is gained by eating magpies' eggs.  Chief of Police.  A wooden splinter prepared and used for lighting purposes.  Polish title for nobleman or gentleman.  Serfs.  Alexander II., who gave emancipation to the peasants.  A popular Russian drink composed of hot water and honey.  There was a very heavy tax laid upon salt at the time. 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