Who Can Be Happy And Free In Russia?
Nicholas Nekrassov

Part 5 out of 7

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

"'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!''[51]--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, Savyéli?'

"'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
Shaláshnikov 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, Matróna:
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 Matróna.

"'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.



"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 Savyéli,
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 Savyéli
Creep trembling towards me, 70
His face white as death:
'Forgive me, Matróna!
Forgive me, Matróna!
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....
Savyéli had fallen 90
Asleep in the sunshine,
And Djóma--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,[52]
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 Savyéli, 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
Savyéli in sin?'

"I whisper in answer, 140
'Kind sir, you are joking.
I am to my husband
A wife without stain,
And the peasant Savyéli
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 Savyéli
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 Djóma,
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
Korchágin is crazy?'

"'No,' answered the peasants.
And then Phílip's parents
He asked, and their children;
They answered, 'Oh, no, sir!
We never remarked it.'
He asked old Savyéli,--
There's one thing,' he answered,
'That might make one think 250
That Matróna 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 Djómushka'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 Natásha and Glásha,
And Dáriushka,--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 Savyéli.
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, Djómushka will not
Feel happy within it,
He cannot sleep well....
'Begone!'--I cried harshly
On seeing Savyéli;
He stood near the coffin
And read from the book 360
In his hand, through his glasses.
I cursed old Savyéli,
Cried--'Branded one! Convict!
Begone! 'Twas you killed him!
You murdered my, Djóma,
Begone from my sight!'

"He stood without moving;
He crossed himself thrice
And continued his reading.
But when I grew calmer 370
Savyéli approached me,
And said to me gently,
'In winter, Matróna,
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
Shaláshnikov, 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 Djóma
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 Djóma,
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, Matróna,
And pray for your baby;
God acted with reason:
He's counted the joys
In the life of a peasant!'

"Long, long did Savyéli
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,
Savyéli could not
Have found words which were truer,
Have spoken them better....

"'Now Djóma 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, Savyéli,'
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 Savyéli.

"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, Savyéli?'

"'A bondswoman, Grandchild,
You are; and for such
Is no hope,' said Savyéli.

"For long I sat darkly
And bitterly thinking.
The thunder pealed forth
And the windows were shaken; 470
I started! Savyéli
Drew nearer and touched me,
And led me to stand
By the little white coffin:

"'Now pray that the Lord
May have placed little Djóma
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 Djómushka's coffin
And read from the book
In a measured low voice...."



"'Tis twenty years now
Since my Djóma 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[53]
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, Savyéli.
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 Djóma,
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 Savyéli
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--'Savyéli!
From whence have you come?'

"'I have come from Pesótchna.
I've prayed for the soul
Of our dear little Djóma;
I've prayed for the peasants
Of Russia.... Matróna,
Once more do I pray--
Oh, Matróna ... Matróna.... 110
I pray that the heart
Of the mother, at last,
May be softened towards me....
Forgive me, Matróna!'

"'Oh, long, long ago
I forgave you, Savyéli.'

"'Then look at me now
As in old times, Matróna!'

"I looked as of old.
Then up rose Savyéli, 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, Matróna,
Now am I not like
A Korójin 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 Djóma.
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 Fedótka
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;
Fedótka 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 Fedótka
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 Fedótka
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 Valétka,
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 Fedótka
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!'
Fedótka she pulled from 310
My arms, and he trembled,
He shook like a leaf.

"Then the horns of the huntsmen
Were heard,--the Pomyéshchick
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!
'Fedótka is safe now!
Run home, quick, Fedótka.'

"'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!'

"'Fedótka--go home!'

"Then I kissed him, and told him:
'Remember, Fedótka,
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 Fedótushka'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 Djóma
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!"



"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 Phílip
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 Phílip!
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 Phílip!
There's Phílip! I see him!
'Attention! Eyes front!'
It's Shaláshnikov shouting....
Oh, Phílip 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 Máshenka is there.
Her father comes to look for her,
He wakens her and coaxes her:
''Eh, Máshenka, come home,'' he cries,
''Efeémovna, 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 Máshenka is there.
Her mother comes to look for her,
She wakens her and coaxes her:
''Now, Máshenka, come home,'' she says,
''Efeémovna, 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 Máshenka is there.
Young Peter comes to look for her,
He wakens her, and coaxes her:
''Oh, Máshenka, come home with me!
My little dove, Efeémovna,
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.'''"



"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?'

"'Makhár Fedosséich,
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
(Makhár Fedosséich),
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 Savyéli,
And all made of brass:
It's Susánin'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.
Makhár 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,
Elyén Alexándrovna,
Only a mother
Could bless her as I do. 270
She christened my baby,
Lidórushka called him."

"And what of your husband?"

"They sent to the village
And started enquiries,
And soon he was righted.
Elyén Alexándrovna
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 Lidórushka! 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 Elyénushka,
For the lady fair,

"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 Elyénushka,

"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 Elyénushka,
To the fairest soul
God has sent on earth:



Matróna 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 Matróna is silent,
In file they approach her.

"What more will you tell us?" 10

"What more?" says Matróna,
"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 Sítnikov 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


Dedicated to Serge Petrovitch Botkin



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