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FW: Ruslan & Ludmila: On Seashore Far A Green Oak Towers [LONG]

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  • Neal J. Atlow
    ... (
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 9, 2000
      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: Atlow, Neal J [mailto:nja10331@...]
      > Sent: Thursday, March 09, 2000 12:34 PM
      > To: 'atlown@...'
      > Subject: Ruslan & Ludmila: On Seashore Far A Green Oak Towers [LONG]
      > >From http://russian-crafts.com/tales/rus_lud.html
      > Alexander Pushkin
      > For you, queens of my soul, my treasured
      > Young beauties, for your sake did I
      > Devote my golden hours of leisure
      > To writing down, I'll not deny,
      > With faithful hand of long past ages
      > The whispered fables.... Take them, pray,
      > Accept these playful lines, these pages
      > For which I ask no praise.... But stay!
      > For my reward-I need not seek it-
      > Is hope: Oh, that some girl should scan,
      > As only one who's lovesick can,
      > These naughty songs of mine in secret!
      > PROLOGUE
      > On seashore far a green oak towers,
      > And to it with a gold chain bound,
      > A .learned cat whiles away the hours
      > By walking slowly round and round.
      > To right he walks, and sings a ditty;
      > To left he walks, and tells a tale....
      > What marvels there! A mermaid sitting
      > High in a tree, a sprite, a trail
      > Where unknown beasts move never seen by
      > Man's eyes, a hut on chicken feet,
      > Without a door, without a wdndow,
      > An evil witch's lone retreat;
      > The woods and valleys there are teeming
      > With strange things.... Dawn brings waves that, gleaming,
      > Over the sandy beaches creep,
      > And from the clear and shining water
      > Step thirty goodly knights escorted
      > By their Old Guardian, of the deep
      > An ancient dweller.... There a dreaded
      > And hated tsar is captive ta'en;
      > There, as all watch, for cloud banks headed,
      > Across the sea and o'er a plain,
      > A warlock bears a knight. There, weeping,
      > A princess sits locked in a cell,
      > And Grey Wolf serves her very well;
      > There, in a mortar, onward sweeping
      > All of itself, beneath the skies
      > The wicked Baba-Yaga flies;
      > There pines Koshchei and lusts for gold....
      > All breathes of Russ, the Russ of old
      > There once was I, friends, and the ñ
      > As near him 'neath the oak I sat
      > And drank of sweet mead at my leisure,
      > Recounted tales to me.... With pleasure
      > One that I liked do I recall
      > And here and now will share with all...
      > The ways and deeds of days gone by,
      > A narrative on legend founded....
      > In princely banquet chamber high,
      > By doughty sons and guests surrounded,
      > Vladimir-Bright Sun holds a fete;
      > His daughter is the chosen mate
      > Of Prince Ruslan, and these two linking
      > In marriage, old Vladimir's drinking
      > Their health, a handsome cup and great
      > To his lips held and fond thoughts thinking.
      > Our fathers ate 'thout haste-indeed,
      > Passed slowly round the groaning tables
      > The silver beakers were and ladles
      > With frothing ale filled and with mead.
      > Into the heart cheer poured they, truly....
      > The bearers, bowing, solemn-faced,
      > Before the feasters tankards placed;
      > High rose the foam and hissed, unruly....
      > The hum of talk is loud, unceasing;
      > Abuzz the guests: a merry round.
      > Then through the hubbub, all ears pleasing,
      > There comes the gusli's rippling sound.
      > A hush. In dulcet song and ringing
      > Bayan, the bard-all hark him well-
      > Of bride and groom the praise is singing;
      > He lauds their union, gift of Lel.*
      > -----------------------------------------------------------------
      > Lel -the Slavic god of love.
      > ---------------------------------------------------------------
      > Ruslan, o'ercome by fiery feeling,
      > Of food partakes not; from Ludmila
      > He cannot tear away his eyes;
      > He flames with love, he frowns, he sighs,
      > At his moustache plucks, filled with torme
      > And, all impatience, counts each moment.
      > Amid the noisy feasters brood
      > Three youthful knights. In doleful mood
      > They sit there, their great tankards empty
      > With downcast eyes, the fare, though tempting,
      > Untouched; the goblets past them sail;
      > They do not seem to hear the tale
      > Of wisdom chanted by Bayan....
      > The luckless rivals of Ruslan,
      > Of love and hate a deadly brew
      > In their hearts hid, the three are too
      > O'erwrought for speech. The first of these
      > Is bold Rogdai of battle fame
      > ('Twas he who Kiev's boundaries
      > Stretched with his blade); the next, the vain,
      > Loud-voiced Farlaf, by none defeated
      > At festal board, but tame, most tame
      > Mid flashing swords and tempers heated;
      > The last, the Khazar Khan Ratmir,
      > A reckless spirit, aye, and ardent.
      > All three are pale-browed, glum, despondent:
      > The feast's no feast, the cheer's no cheer.
      > It's over, and the teasiers rise
      > And flock together. Noise. All eyes
      > Are smiling, all are on the two
      > Younff newlv-weds.... Ludmila. tearful,
      > Looks shyly down: her groom is cheerful,
      > He beams.... Now do the shades anew
      > Embrace the earth, e'er nearer creeping,
      > The murk of midnight veils the dome....
      > The bovars. by sweet mead made sleepy,
      > Bow to their hosts and make for home.
      > Ruslan's all rapture, all elation....
      > AVhat bliss! In his imagination
      > His bride caresses he. But there
      > Is sadness in the warmth of feeling
      > With which, their happy union sealing,
      > The old prince blesses our young pair.
      > The bridal couch has long been ready;
      > The maid is led to it.... It's night.
      > The torches dim, but Lei already
      > His own bright lamp has set alight.
      > Love offers- see-its gifts most tender,
      > Its fondest wish at last comes true,
      > On carpets of Byzantine splendour
      > The jealous covers fall.... Do you
      > The sound of kisses, love's sweet token.
      > And its soft, whispered words not hear?
      > Does not-come, say-the murmur broken
      > Of shy reluctance reach your ear?
      > Anticipation fires the spirit,
      > O'erjoyed the groom... But lo!-the air
      > Is rent by thunder, ever nearer
      > It comes. A flash' The lamp goes out,
      > The room sw^ays, darkness all about,
      > Smoke pours.... Fear grips Ruslan, defeating
      > His native pluck: his heart stops beating...
      > All's silence, grim and threatening.
      > An eerie voice sounds twice. There rises
      > Up through the haze a menacing
      > Black figure.... Coiling smoke disguises
      > Its shape.... It vanishes.... Now our
      > Poor groom, on his brow drops of sweat,
      > Starts up. by sudden dread beset,
      > And for his bride-O fateful hour!-
      > With trembling hand gropes anxiously..
      > On emptiness he seizes, she
      > Has by some strange and evil power
      > Been borne away.... He's overcome....
      > Ah, if to be love's martyr some
      > Unfortunate young swain is fated,
      > His days may well be filled with gloom,
      > But life can still be tolerated.
      > But if in your arms, after years
      > Of longing, of desire, of tears,
      > Your bride of but one minute lies
      > And then becomes another's prize,
      > 'Tis much too much... Quite frankly, I,
      > Were such my case, would choose to die!
      > But poor Ruslan's alive and tortured
      > In mind and heart.... O'erwhelmed by news,
      > Just then arrived, of the misfortune,
      > The Prince, enraged, turns on the youth.
      > The whole court summoning, "Ludmila....
      > Where is Ludmila?" thunders he.
      > Ruslan does not respond. "My children!
      > Your merits past high hold I.... Free,
      > I beg, my daughter from the clutches
      > Of evil. I am helpless; such is
      > Old age's piteous frailty.
      > But though I am too old to do it,
      > Not so are you. Go forth and save
      > My poor Ludmila, you'll not rue it:
      > He who succeeds, shall-writhe, you knave!
      > Wby did you not, wretch, base tormentor,
      > Know how to guard your young wife better?
      > Shall have Ludmila for a bride
      > And half my fathers' realm beside!...
      > Who'll heed my plea?" "I!" says the grieving,
      > Unhappy groom. "I!" shouts Rogdai,
      > And echoed by Farlaf his cry
      > And by Ratmir is. "W^e are leaving
      > Straightway, and pray believe us, sire,
      > We'll ride around the world entire
      > If need be. From your daughter parted
      > Not long will you be, never fear."
      > The old prince cannot speak for tears;
      > His gratitude is mute; sadhearted,
      > A broken man, at door he stands
      > And to them stretches out his hands.
      > All four the palace leave together;
      > Ruslan is ashen-faced, half-dead.
      > Thoughts of his kidnapped bride, of whether
      > He'll ever find the maid, with dread
      > And pain his heart fill. Now the foursome
      > Get on their restless, chafing horses,
      > And leaving dust clouds in their wake,
      > Away along the Dnieper make....
      > They're lost to sight, but Prince Vladimir
      > Stands gazing at the road and tries
      > To span the distance ever-dimming
      > As after them in thought he flies.
      > Ruslan, his mind and memory hazy,
      > Is mute, lost in a kind of trance;
      > Behind him, o'er his shoulder gazing,
      > The picture of young arrogance,
      > Farlaf rides, hand on hip, defiant.
      > Says he: "At last! The taste is sweet
      > Of freedom, friends.... When will we meet-
      > The prospect likes me w^ell-a giant?
      > Then will blood pour as passions seethe
      > And victims offer to the sabre.
      > Rejoice, my blade! Rejoice, my steed,
      > And lightly, freely prance and caper!"
      > The Khazar Khan, his pulses racing,
      > In saddle dances, for in thought
      > He is the fair young maid embracing
      > Whose love he has for so long sought.
      > The light of hope is in his eye,
      > Now7 does he make his stallion fly,
      > Now7 forces him, the good steed teasing,
      > To rear, now gallops him uphill,
      > Now lets him prance about at will.
      > Rogdai is silent; with increasing
      > Unease his heart fills; dark thoughts chill
      > And burden him; he is tormented
      > By jealousy, and, all calm gone,
      > With hate-glazed eye, like one demented,
      > Stares sullenlv at Prince Ruslan.
      > Along a single road the rivals
      > Rode on all through the day until
      > >From east poured shades that night's arrival
      > Bespoke.... The Dnieper, cold and still,
      > Is wrapt in folds of mist.... The horses
      > Have need of rest.... Not far away
      > A track lies that another crosses.
      > " Tis time to part," the riders say.
      > "Let us chance fate." So 'tis decided;
      > Each horse is given now its head,
      > And, by the touch of spur unguided,
      > Starts off and moves where 'twill ahead.
      > What do you in the hush of desert
      > Alone, Ruslan? Sad is your plight.
      > Was't all a dream-the bride you treasured,
      > The terrors of your wedding night?
      > Your helmet pushed down to your brow
      > Your strong hands limp, the reins let loose,
      > O'er woods and fields astride your steed
      > You ride, while faith and hope recede
      > And leave you well-nigh dead of spirit..
      > A cave shows Tore the knight; he nears
      > And sees a light there. His feet lead
      > Him straight inside. The dark and broo
      > Vaults seem as old as nature. Moody,
      > Distraught Ruslan is.... In the cave
      > A bearded ancient, his mien grave
      > And quiet, sits. A lamp is burning
      > Near him, a book lies on his knee;
      > Engrossed in it, its pages he
      > With careful hand is slowly turning.
      > "I bid you welcome, knight! At last!"
      > Says he in greeting, smiling warmly.
      > "'Here have I twenty long years passed
      > Of my old age, and grim and lonely
      > They've been.... But now has come the day
      > For which, foreseeing it, I waited.
      > To meet, we two, my son, were fated,
      > Now sit and hear me out, I pray....
      > Ludmila from you has been taken;
      > You flag, you droop, by hope forsaken
      > And faith itself.... 'Tis wrong! For brief
      > With evil and its partner, grief,
      > Will be, I promise, your encounter.
      > Take heart; with strong, sound spirit counter
      > The blows of fortune, banish woe,
      > And, sword aloft held, northward go!
      > ''He who has wronged you, O my daring
      > Young stalwart, is old Chernomor.
      > A wizard, he is known to carry
      > Young maids off to the hills. 'Tis for
      > Long years he's reigned there. None has ever
      > His castle seen, but through its door
      > You'll pass, I know, and end forever
      > The villain's rule; by your hand he
      > Will perish-so 'tis meant to be!...
      > I may not yield to indiscretion
      > And say aught more; your destiny
      > Yourself from this day on you fashion.''
      > Our knight falls at the elder's feet
      > And in delight his hand he kisses.
      > The world a bright place seems, and sweeet
      > Life is again; forgot distress is....
      > But then the sudden joyful glow
      > His face leaves, and it pales and darkens.
      > "Do not despair but to me harken,"
      > The old man says. "I know what so
      > Disquiets you: you are in fear of
      > The warlock's love, eh, knight?... Be calm
      > The truth is, O my youthful hero,
      > That he can do the maid no harm.
      > >From sky the stars he'll pluck, I'll wager,
      > Or shift the moon that sails on high,
      > But change the law of time and aging
      > He cannot, hard as he may try.
      > Though he lets none her chamber enter
      > And jealous watch keeps at her door,
      > He is the impotent tormentor
      > Of his fair captive, nothing more.
      > While never far from her, he curses
      > His lot, and soundly-but, my knight,
      > 'Tis time for you to rest: the earth is
      > Enclosed in shadow; it is night."
      > On soft moss lies Ruslan, a flame
      > Before him flickering. He yearns
      > For soothing sleep, he twists and turns
      > And flings about-but no, 'tis plain
      > That sleep won't come. He heaves a sigh
      > And says: "Nay, Father, sick am I
      > Of soul and cannot sleep for dreary
      > And troubled thought. Talk to me, do;
      > With godly speech, I beg of you,
      > Relieve my heart: it aches, it's weary...
      > I make too bold to ask you this;
      > You, who befriend me, I importune-
      > Speak! Tell me, confidant of fortune:
      > Wby came you to this wilderness?"
      > And with a wistful smile replying
      > To him, the old man says: "Alas,
      > I have forgot my land!" Then, sighing:
      > "A Finn am I by birth. It was
      > My lot to tend the flocks of neighbours,
      > And I would take them off to graze
      > In vales on which no stranger's gaze
      > E'er rested. Carefree midst my labours
      > Did I remain, and only knew,
      > Besides the woods and streams, what few
      > Joys poverty could offer .to me....
      > Alas! Ahead dark days were looming.
      > "Near where I lived, a lovely flower,
      > One named Nahina, bloomed; of our
      > Young maids none lovelier than she
      > Was there. One morn, a bagpipe blowing,
      > My flocks I grazed where grass was growing
      > In lush profusion. I could see
      > A brook wind 'fore me; by it, weaving
      > A garland, sat a dear young lass....
      > Her beauty-ah, 'twas past believing!-
      > Drew and enchanted me, and as
      > I gazed at her I knew I'd seen her
      > Before.... Yes, knight, it was Nahina,
      > 'Twas fate had brought me there. The flame
      > Of love was my reward for eyeing
      > The maid thus brazenly; I came
      > To know a passion self-denying:
      > All of its bliss, all of its pain.
      > "Six months sped by.... I thought to win her
      > And opened up my heart. I said:
      > Ò love thee dearly, sweet Nahina!'
      > But my shy sadness only bred
      > Scorn in her who was vain and prideful;
      > She was indifferent to my lot,
      > And said, of all my pain unmindful:
      > 'Well, shepherd mine, I love thee not!'
      > "I was estranged from all, and gloomy
      > Life seemed. The shady native wood,
      > The games of shepherds-nothing could
      > My hurt soothe and bring comfort to me
      > I languished.... But the far seas drew me;
      > To leave my homeland sought I then
      > And with a band of fighting men
      > To brave the ocean's winds capricious....
      > I hoped to win renown and fame
      > And for my own Nahina claim.
      > This planned, according to my wishes,
      > I called upon some boatmen who
      > Joined with me in a quest for danger
      > And gold. My land, to war a stranger,
      > The clash of steel now heard, and knew
      > The sound of boat with boat colliding....
      > On, on we sailed, the billows riding,
      > My men and I, by sweet hope led,
      > Both snow and water painting red
      > For ten long years with gore of foes.
      > As rumour of our prow^ess spread,
      > The foreign rulers came to dread
      > Our forays, and their champions chose
      > To flee our blades. Yes, fierce and hearted
      > Our battles were, and merry, too,
      > And with the men we had defeated
      > Together feasted we. But through
      > The din of war and merrymaking
      > I heard Nahina's voice, and for
      > The sight of her in secret aching,
      > Before me saw my native shore.
      > 'Come, men!' I cried. 'Did we not roam
      > The world enough? Time to go home!
      > 'Neath native eaves we'll hang our mail;
      > Is't not, in faith, for this we hanker!'
      > And leaving in our wake a trail
      > Of fear, for Finland we set sail
      > And in her waters soon dropped anchor.
      > 'Fulfilled were all my dreamings past
      > That set my lone heart faster beating.
      > O longed-for moment of our meeting,
      > O blessed hour, you came at last!
      > There, at the feet of my proud beauty
      > I laid my sword and, too, the booty
      > Of war: pearls, corals, gold. 'Fore her,
      > By jealous womenfolk surrounded,
      > Her one-time playmates, my unbounded
      > Love making me her prisoner,
      > Mute stood I, but Nahina coolly
      > Turned from me, saying with no sign
      > That she would e'er relent: 'Nay, truly,
      > I do not love thee, hero mine!'
      > "I do not like to speak of things
      > y. It is pure agony to think of.
      > E'en now, my son, when at the brink of
      > I am of death, remembrance brings
      > Fresh sorrow to my long-numb spirit
      > And gravely wounds my being whole,
      > And torn by pain, seared by it, wearied,
      > I feel the tears down my cheeks roll.
      > "But hark! In parts I call my home,
      > Amid the northern fishers lone,
      > The art of magic lives. The shaded,
      > Thick-growing forests wrapt in deep,
      > Eternal silence lie and keep
      > The secrets of the wizards aged
      > Who dwell there and whose minds to quest
      > For wisdom of the loftiest
      > And weirdest kind are given. Awesome
      > Their powers are: what was and also
      > What will be they have knowledge of,
      > Life can they snuff and foster love.
      > "And I, love's mad and avid seeker,
      > In my despair that ne'er grew weaker,
      > By means of magic thought to start
      > In proud Nahina's icy heart
      > Of love for me at least a flicker.
      > Toward the murk of woodland free
      > My steps in hot impatience turning,
      > The subtle craft of wizardry
      > I spent unnumbered years in learning.
      > Then were the fearsome secrets, sought
      > By me with such despair, such yearning,
      > Revealed to my enlightened thought;
      > Of charms and spells I knew the power:
      > Love's aim achieved-Î happy hour!
      > 'Nahina, thou art mine!' I cried.
      > 'Now shall I have thee for my bride.'
      > But once again by fate defeated
      > Was I and of my triumph cheated.
      > "Enraptured, with young dreams aglow,
      > Filled with love's fervour and elation,
      > I loudly chant an incantation
      > And on dark spirits call, and lo!-
      > A flash of light, a crash of thunder,
      > And magic whirlwinds start awake,
      > I feel the earth begin to quake,
      > I hear it hum and rumble under
      > My feet, and there in front of me,
      > The picture of senility,
      > A crone stands. She is bent and shrunken,
      > Her hair is white, her eye is sunken
      > And glazed with age, her head is shaking...
      > And yet, and yet-had I mistaken
      > Her for another?-Nay, O knight;
      > Nahina 'twas!... In doubt, in fright
      > The horrid vision now I measured
      > With unbelieving gaze, my sight
      > Mistrusting.... 'Thou! Art thou my treasured
      > Nahina? Speak!' from me the cry
      > Burst forth. 'Where is thy beauty? Wby
      > Have the gods changed thee so? Have I
      > Long, then, from life and love been parted?'
      > 'For forty years!' I heard her say.
      > 'Indeed, I'm seventy to-day!...
      > But never mind! So are lives charted
      > And so they pass. Thy spring has flown
      > And mine has too. We are, I own,
      > Old, both, but be thou not disheartened
      > By fickle youth's swift passage. True,
      > I'm grey, a trifle crooked too,
      > Less lively and perhaps less charming
      > Than once I was....' This in disarming
      > Tones she declared, her voice a squeak.
      > 'Come, do not look, I beg, so tragic....
      > I am-in confidence I speak-
      > Like thee become well versed in magic.'
      > "A sorceress! What had she said!...
      > Struck dumb was I by the admission
      > And felt a fool, a dunderhead
      > For all my store of erudition.
      > "But worse by far was that the spell
      > That I had cast worked far too well.
      > My shrivelled idol flared with passion;
      > She loved me-loved me to obsession!
      > Her grey lips twisted in a smile,
      > In graveyard tones the old hag muttered
      > The wildest of avowals, while
      > I suffered silently, in utter
      > Disgust and loathing, and upon
      > The ground my eyes kept. She wheezed on,
      > And though, by fits of coughing shaken,
      > So was she with her subject taken,
      > She never stopped. 'My poor heart is
      > For tender passion born and bliss,'
      > She croaked. ' 'Tis love alone I covet
      > And hunger for. I flame, I bum....
      > O come to me, for thee I yearn;
      > I'm dying, dying, my beloved!'
      > " 'Twas lustfully that she, Ruslan,
      > Was ogling me. Her bony fingers
      > Caught greedily at my caftan....
      > There to remain, knight, there to linger
      > Beside her was sheer agony;
      > I squeezed my eyes shut, for, you see,
      > I could not bear it any longer,
      > And broke away.... 'Knave! Thus to wrong me!'
      > She yelped. 'A pure maid's life-quite shattered!
      > Such villainy! For shame! For shame!
      > As if my love so little mattered!
      > Alas! I am myself to blame;
      > You men, I vow, are all the same.
      > By thy seduction helpless rendered,
      > To passion wholly I surrendered....
      > Deceiver! Blackguard! Thou shalt know
      > Wbat vengeance is, just wait!...'
      > " 'Twas so
      > We parted. In these forests buried
      > E'er since, a hermit's solitary
      > Life have I led, and of the balm
      > Of nature tasted, by its calm
      > And wisdom doctored. I'll not tarry
      > Long here on earth.... To you alone
      > Do I impart this; know: the crone
      > Has not forgot her unrequited,
      > Scorned passion. In her soul, her blighted
      > And ugly soul, love's changed to spite;
      > And that she'll come to hate you, knight
      > As she does me, you can be sure.
      > But be not, I entreat you, frighted:
      > Griefs bound to pass, 'twill not endure.
      > The old man's story hungrily
      > Our knight took in. Enchanted by it,
      > He sat there rapt and clear of eye,
      > Untouched by sleep. The night was
      > He never heard it winging by.
      > Now dawn's bright glow the heavens graces...
      > With rueful smile Ruslan embraces
      > The mage, and, full of gratitude,
      > The cave leaves in a hopeful mood.
      > He leaps into the saddle deftly,
      > Grips with his legs the whinnying steed,
      > And with a whistle moves off swiftly.
      > "Be with me, Father, in my need!"
      > He cries. "Farewell!" Across the clearing
      > The answer carries, his heart cheering:
      > "Forgive your bride and love her, heed
      > My counsel, knight! Farewell! Godspeed
      > You whose swords clash in contest gory,
      > Persist in your dread rivalry;
      > Pay tribute full to sombre glory
      > And relish hate and enmity!
      > Let the world, gaping at your deadly
      > Encounters, freeze-know: none will try
      > To interfere; more-none will, sadly,
      > Of pity for you breathe a sigh.
      > You who compete in different fashion,
      > Of the remote Parnassian heights
      > The mettlesome and valiant knights,
      > Fence if you must, but with discretion,
      > >From vulgar bickering refrain:
      > The herd 'twill only entertain.
      > And as for you, by tender passion
      > Made bitter rivals, pray remain
      > On cordial terms-for he who's fated
      > To win a maid's love this will do
      > Though all mankind should lay plans to
      > Keep the two lovers separated....
      > Why fume?-It's silly and a sin.
      > When bold Rogdai, his heart with dim
      > But chilling boding filled, had parted
      > >From his companions three and started
      > Across a lonely tract of land,
      > As he rode swiftly o'er the woody
      > And silent plain, on his ills brooding,
      > The hapless youth could ill withstand,
      > So troubled were his thoughts, so painful,
      > The Evil Spirit's taunting baneful,

      > And whispered: "Smite I shall and kill!
      > Bewar Ruslan, Ludmila will
      > Weep over you, I swear!..." And turning
      > His steed about, down dale, up hill
      > He galloped, for sweet vengeance yearning
      > Meanwhile, Farlaf, that fearless soul,
      > Had spent in sleep the morning whole,
      > And then, from noon's hot rays well sheltered,
      > Beside a brook himself he settled
      > To dine and thus to fortify
      > His moral fiber. By and by
      > He saw a horseman in the mead
      > Toward him charging. Disconcerted,
      > The knight with quite uncommon speed
      > His food and all his gear deserted,
      > His mail, his helmet, and his spear,
      > And 'thout a backward glance went flying
      > Off on his horse. "Stop, wretch, you hear!
      > The other cried, to halt him trying.
      > "Just let me catch you, and you're dead-
      > I'll make you shorter by a head!"
      > Farlaf, who found the voice belonged
      > To bold Rogdai, his rival, longed
      > The more-quite wisely-to be gone
      > And his horse lashed and goaded on.
      > So will a rabbit, danger scenting,
      > Stop short, and, to escape attempting,
      > Ears folded, by great leaps and bounds
      > O'er lea, wood, mound, run from the hounds.
      > Where passed the chase in all its glory
      > Spring had the snows of winter hoary
      > Into great, muddy torrents thawed,
      > And these at earth's breast ceaseless gnawed.
      > Farlaf's horse, now a wide ditch facing,
      > His tail shook mightily, and, bracing
      > Himself, in his teeth took the bit
      > And leapt across, nor was a whit
      > The worse for it. Not so his timid
      > And far less nimble rider who
      > Rolled down, head over heels, on to
      > The mud, and lay there, floundering in i
      > And waiting to be slain.... Rogdai
      > Storms up, a wrathful vision. "Die,
      > Poltroon!" he roars, and his swwd raises,
      > But then is brought up short; his gaze is
      > Fixed on his foe. Farlaf! Dismay,
      > Surprise, vexation, rage display
      > Themselves on his face. His teeth grinding
      > He swears aloud. We see him riding
      > Away in haste, inclined to laugh
      > Both at himself and at Farlaf.
      > Soon on a pathway upward winding
      > He met a hag with snowy hair,
      > A feeble, bent old thing. "Go there!"
      > She quavered, "That's where you will find him!"
      > And with her staff she pointed north.
      > Rogdai felt cheered; nay, more-elated.
      > Quite unaware that death awaited
      > Him up ahead, he started forth.
      > And our Farlaf? Upon his bed
      > Of mud we see him breathless lie.
      > "Where has my rival gone? Am I
      > Alive," he asks himself, "or dead?"
      > Then suddenly from overhead
      > A voice comes-it is hoarse, deep-soundins
      > "Rise, stalwart mine, all's calm around you,",
      > The crone says. "Here's your charger; you
      > Need fear, good youth, no dangers new."
      > At this the knight crawled slowly out
      > And looked around him in some doubt.
      > Relieved, he uttered sighing deeply:
      > "I do believe I got off cheaply....
      > The Lord be thanked! No broken bones!'
      > "Ludmila's far away," the crone's
      > Next words were, "and though we be tempted
      > To try and find her, to attempt it
      > Is most unwise.... No, no," she drones,
      > "We'll not succeed: too many hurdles,
      > And, all in all, to roam the world is
      > A rather risky enterprise;
      > You'd soon regret it. I advise
      > You to go straightway home to Kiev;
      > On your estate your days you'll spend
      > In ease, behind you danger leaving -
      > Ludmila won't escape us, friend!"
      > With this she vanished, and our knight,
      > The flame of love well-nigh extinguished
      > And dreams of martial fame relinquished,
      > Set off for home. 'Twas not yet night,
      > But any noise however slight,
      > A rustling leaf, a bird in flight,
      > A brook's song put him in a sweat.
      > But let us now Farlaf forget
      > Across a wood we see him ride....
      > In thought he lovingly embraces
      > His only love, his fair young bride.
      > "My wife," he cries, "my own Ludmila,
      > Will e'er I find you, dear one, will I
      > Your gaze full of enchantment meet
      > And hear your tender voice and sweet?
      > Say, is it in a wizard's power
      > You are, and is the early bloom
      > Of youth to fade? Are you to sour
      > And wither in a dungeon's gloom?...
      > Or will one of my rivals seize you
      > And bear you off?-Nay, love, rest easy:
      > My head is on my shoulders still,
      > And this my sword I wield with skill."
      > One day at dusk Ruslan was riding
      > Along a steep and rocky shore,
      > The stream below in shadow hiding,
      > When with a whine an arrow o'er
      > His head flew, and behind him sounded
      > The clang of mail, the heavy pounding
      > Of hooves, a horse's piercing neigh.
      > "Halt!" someone shouted. "Halt, I say!"
      > The knight glanced round: far out afield,
      > With spear raised high and ready shield,
      > A rider galloped whistling shrilly.
      > Ruslan, his heart with anger filling,
      > His steed turned speedily about
      > And charged toward his grim assailant
      > Who met him wdth a brazen shout:
      > "Aha, I've caught you up, my gallant!
      > First taste of steel, then seek your fair!"
      > Now, this Ruslan could little bear;
      > He recognized the voice and hated
      > The sound of it. "How dares he! I'll-"
      > But where's Ludmila? For a while
      > Let's leave the two men; we have waited
      > Quite long enough, 'tis time to turn
      > To our dear maid now and to learn
      > How she, one lovely past comparing,
      > Has at her captor's hands been faring.
      > A confidant of wayward fancy,
      > Not always modest have I been,
      > And this my narrative commencing,
      > Dared to describe the night-cloaked scene
      > In which our fair Ludmila's charms
      > \Vere from her husband's eager arms
      > Whisked off. Poor maid! When, quick as lightening,
      > The villain with one movement mighty
      > Removed you from the bridal bed,
      > And like a whirlwind, skyward soaring,
      > Through coils of smoke charged on, ahead
      > Toward his kingdom's mountains hoary,
      > You swooned away, but all too soon
      > Recovered from that welcome swoon
      > To find yourself, aghast, dumfounded,
      > By lofty castle walls surrounded.
      > Thus-it was summer-at the door
      > Of my house lingering, Ã saw
      > The sultan of the henhouse chasing
      > One of his ladies, and moved by
      > Hot passion, with his wings embracing
      > The flustered, nervous hen.... On high
      > Ë grey kite hovered, old marauder
      > Of poultry-yards; in rings o'erhead
      > He slowly sailed, unseen; then, boldly,
      > With lightning speed, dropped down, a dread
      > And ruthless foe, his plans death-dealing
      > Laid earlier.... Up soars he, sealing
      > The fate of his poor, helpless prey.
      > Clutched in his talons, far away
      > He bears her to the safety of
      > A dark crevasse. In vain, with fear
      > And hopeless sorrow filled, his love
      > The rooster calls: he sees her airy
      > And weightless fluff come drifting near,
      > By swift, cool breezes downward carried.
      > Like some dread dream, oblivion
      > Ludmila chains. She cannot rise
      > And, in a stupor, moveless lies....
      > The soft, grey light of early dawn
      > Revives her, deep within her rouses
      > Unconscious fear and restlessness;
      > Sweet thoughts of joy her heart possess,
      > For surely her beloved spouse is
      > Nearby!... "Where are you, dear one? Come!
      > She whispers, and-is stricken dumb.
      > W^here is your chamber, my Ludmila?
      > Poor, luckless maiden, you lie pillowed
      > Upon a lofty feather-bed;
      > On silken cushions rests your head;
      > The canopy that floats above you
      > Is tasselled, rich, and like the cover,
      > Patterned most prettily. Brocade
      > Is everywhere, and winking, blazing
      > Gems likewise. From fine censers made
      > Of gold rise balmy vapours hazy....
      > But 'tis enough! This pen of mine
      > Must fly description-by another
      > Was I forestalled: Scheherezade.
      > And no house, be it e'er so fine,
      > Affords you any pleasure, mind you,
      > Unless your love is there beside you.
      > Just then, in garments clad air-thin,
      > Three comely maidens tiptoed in.
      > With bows for the occasion suited
      > Ludmila mutely they saluted,
      > Then one, of footstep light, drew n'
      > And with ethereal fingers plaited
      > Her silken locks, a way, I hear,
      > Of dressing hair that has outdated
      > Long since become. Upon her head
      > Ë diadem of fine pearls setting,
      > She then withdrew. With softest tre
      > The second maid approached; 'thout letting
      > Herself glance up, all modesty,
      > In sky-blue silk Ludmila she
      > Gowned quickly, and her golden tresses
      > Crowned with a mis-like veil that fell
      > About her shoulders. There-how well
      > It shields her, with what grace caresses
      > Charms for a goddess fit; her feet
      > Encased are in a pair of neat
      > And dainty shoes. The third maid brings her
      > A pearl-incrusted sash; unseen,
      > A gay-voiced songstress ballads sings her....
      > But neither shoes, nor gown, nor e'en
      > The pearly sash and diadem
      > The princess please; no song delights her,
      > Indifferent she stays to them;
      > In vain the looking-glass invites her
      > To eye her new-found finery
      > And revel in its wealth and splendour -
      > The sight seems almost to offend her:
      > Her gaze is blank; sad, silent she.
      > Those who love truth and like to read
      > The heart's most secret book, must know
      > That should a lady, plunged in woe,
      > In spite of habit or of reason,
      > Oblivious of time or season,
      > Into a mirror through her tears
      > Forget to peek-well, then she is
      > In a most grievous state, indeed.
      > Ludmila, left alone again,
      > Uncertain what to do, beneath
      > A window stands and through the pane
      > Drear, boundless reaches, wondering, sees.
      > On carpets of eye-dazzling snow
      > Her gaze rests; filled is she with sadness....
      > Before her all is stark white deadness;
      > The peaks of brooding mountains show
      > Above the silent plains, and, sombre,
      > Seem wrapt in deep, eternal slumber:
      > No wayfarer plodding slowly past,
      > No smoke from out a chimney trailing,
      > No hunter's horn resounding gaily
      > Over the snow-bound, endless waste....
      > Only the rebel wind's wail dismal
      > At times disrupts the calm abysmal,
      > And etched against the sky's bleak grey,
      > The nude and orphaned forests sway.
      > Despairing, tearful, poor Ludmila
      > Her face hides in her hands, unwilling
      > To think of what may be in store....
      > She pushes at a silver door
      > Which opens with a sound most pleasing;
      > Before her, with their beauty teasing
      > The eye, spread gardens that surpass
      > King Solomon's in loveliness,
      > And e'en Armide's and those that to
      > Taurida's prince belonged. The view
      > Is one of trees, green arbours forming
      > And swaying gently; in the air
      > Of myrtle floats the sweet aroma;
      > Palms line the paths, and bays; with their
      > Proud crowns the mighty cedars boldly
      > The heavens brush; agleam with golden
      > Fruit are the orange groves; a pond
      > Mirrors it all.... The hills beyond,
      > The vales and copses by the blaze of
      > Spring are revived; the wind of May
      > Sweeps o'er the spellbound leas in play
      > In song melodious and gay
      > A nightingale its sweet voice raises;
      > Great fountains upward, to the sky,
      > Send sprays of gems, then down, enwreathing
      > The statues that, alive and breathing,
      > Around them stand. If Phidias' eye
      > On these could rest, he, though by Pallas
      > And by Apollo taught, would, jealous,
      > His magic point and chisel drop....
      > In swift and fiery arcs that shatter
      > 'Gainst marble barriers which stop
      > Their headlong downward plunge and scatter
      > The tiny motes of pearly dust,
      > The waterfalls cascade, while just
      > A few steps farther out, in nooks
      > By thick trees shadowed, rippling brooks
      > Plash sleepily.... The vivid greenness
      > Is by the whiteness here and there
      > Flecked of the lightly-built pavilions
      > That offer shelter from the glare....
      > And roses, roses everywhere!...
      > But comfortless is our Ludmila,
      > What round her lies she does not see;
      > The magic garden does not thrill her
      > With all its sensuous luxury....
      > She walks all over, where she's going
      > Not caring; more-not even knowing,
      > But weeping copious tears, her eye
      > Fixed sadly on the merciless sky....
      > Then suddenly her gaze grows brighter
      > And to her lip her hand flies lightly:
      > Despite the sparkle of the morn
      > A frightening thought in her is born....
      > The dread way's open: death waits for her -
      > Above a torrent, there before her,
      > A bridge hangs 'twixt two cliffs. Forlon
      > The hapless maid is and despondent,
      > She looks upon the foaming stream,
      > Her tears grow ever more abundant,
      > She strikes her heaving breast-'twould ;
      > She is about to jump-but no,
      > We see her pause ... and onward go.
      > Time passes, and Ludmila, weary,
      > (Too long has she been on her feet)
      > Feels her tears drying as the cheering
      > Thought comes that yes, it's time to eat.
      > She drops down on the grass, looks round her,
      > And lo!-a tent's cool walls surround her....
      > The gleam of crystal! A repast
      > Is set before her, unsurpassed
      > In choice of food. The gentle sound of
      > A harp steals near. But though at this
      > She marvels, our young princess is
      > Still not at peace, still sorrow-hounded.
      > "A captive, from my love torn, why
      > Should I not end it all and die?"
      > Thinks she. "Oh, villain, you torment me
      > Yet humour me: such is your whim,
      > But I ... I scorn you and contempt
      > Your wily ways. This feast you sent me,
      > This gauzy tent wherein I sit,
      > These songs, a lovelorn heart's outpouring,
      > Which, for all that, are rather boring,-
      > In faith, I need them not a whit!
      > 'Tis death I choose, death!" And repeating
      > The word again, the maid starts... eating.
      > Ludmila rises; in a twinkling
      > Gone are the tent and rich repast;
      > The harp is silenced, not a tinkling
      > Disturbs the calm.... On walks she, past
      > The greening groves and round them wanders,
      > While high above the wizard's gardens
      > The moon appears, of night the queen,
      > And in the heavens reigns supreme.
      > >From every side soft mists come drifting
      > And on the hilltops seek repose.
      > Our princess feels inclined to doze,
      > And is by some strange powers lifted
      > As gently as by spring's own breeze
      > And carried through the air with ease
      > Back to the chamber richly scented
      > With rose oil, and put down again
      > Upon the couch where, grief-tormented,
      > She lay before. And now the same
      > Three youthful maidens reappear
      > And, round her bustling, they unfasten
      > Hooks and the like of them and hasten
      > To take her raiments off. They wear
      > An anxious look; of mute compassion
      > Their aspect leaves a faint impression
      > And of a dull reproach to fate.
      > But let's not tarry more: 'tis late,
      > And fair Ludmila is by tender
      > And skillful hands by now undressed.
      > Robed in a snowy shift that renders
      > Her charms more charming still, to rest
      > She lays her down. The three maids, sighing,
      > Back out with bows, the door is shut.
      > What does our captive?-Lies there, but
      > Shakes leaf-like, and, sleep from her flying,
      > Feels chilled and dares not breathe. Her gaze
      > Bedimmed by fear, she moveless stays
      > And tense, with all her being trying
      > To penetrate the voiceless gloom,
      > The numbing stillness of the room;
      > Her heart throbs wildly, fitfully,
      > An agitated, endless thru nming....
      > The silence seems to whisper; she
      > Hears someone to her bedside coming
      > And in her pillows hides, and oh!-
      > The horror of it-footsteps.... No!
      > It cannot be, she must be dreaming.
      > The door swings open; there's a flare
      > Of light, and silent, pair by pair,
      > \ file of Moors, their sabres gleaming,
      > Steps in with even, measured stride.
      > A look most grave and solemn wearing,
      > On downy pillows they are bearing
      > A silver beard. Puffed up with pride,
      > A pose assuming grand and stately,
      > Behind it marches in sedately
      > A hunchbacked dwarf, chin high. It is
      > To him the beard belongs. On his
      > Clean-shaven pate a tall, close-fitting
      > Tarbush. wound round with cloth, is sitting.
      > He nears her, and Ludmila, led
      > By shock and fright, flies off her bed
      > And at him, and his cap she clutches,
      > And lifts a shaking fist, no doubt
      > To try to shield herself. And such is
      > The shriek the poor maid now lets out
      > The Moors are deafened by't, while pale
      > Than his fair captive turns her jailer.
      > He makes to flee, half turns about,
      > Claps hands to ears in desperation,
      > And trips, a victim of frustration
      > And umbrage, on his beard, falls to
      > The floor, gets up, falls dow^n anew,
      > Is quite entangled.... In a dither
      > His dusky menials all are. Hither
      > And thither rush they, shout and push.
      > Then. flushed, confused, a wee bit angered,
      > They bear him off to be untangled
      > And quite forget the dwarfs tarbush.
      > But what of our young hero? Pray
      > Remember the unlooked-for fracas.
      > Your pencil, quick, Orlovsky! Make us
      > A sketch of that night-shrouded fray.
      > The moon shines down upon a cruel
      > And savage match. Incensed, the young
      > Combatants fight their bloody duel
      > Thout respite. Their great lances flung
      > Are far from them, their swords lie shattered,
      > Likewise their shields, their mail is spattered
      > With blood.... And yet the gory joust
      > Goes on. Beneath them, waging battle,
      > Their steeds whip up dark clouds of dust.
      > In an embrace of steel the two
      > Bold knights are locked (they're on their mettle),
      > But seem quite moveless, as if to
      > Their saddles welded. Rage and ire
      > Their limbs turn stiff. A liquid fire
      > Sweeps like a torrent through their veins;
      > They're intertwined; chest 'gainst chest streins-
      > But now they weaker grow, they tire;
      > 'Tis clear that soon one of them must
      > Go under, by the other bested.
      > Ruslan with iron hand a thrust
      > To his fierce rival gives, and, wresting
      > Him from the saddle, lifts him high
      > Above himself and never falters
      > But hurls him down into the waters
      > That seethe below them, shouting "Die!"
      > I'm sure, my friends, you've guessed arigh
      > With whom my brave and gallant knight
      > His duel fought. Of battles deadly
      > The seeker rash it was, Rogdai.
      > The hope of Kiev, darkly, madly
      > Ludmila loved he and was by
      > This led to seek his rival. On
      > A Dnieper bank it was he found him:
      > Persistence and resolve had won!
      > Alas! The hero's strength unbounded
      > Deserted him, and in the wild
      > He met his end, was then beguiled
      > By a young mermaid who caressed him,
      > And to her icy bosom pressed him,
      > And, laughing, drew him down at last....
      > For many years thereafter, when
      > Night came and o'er the heavens cast
      > Its sable shroud, his ghost, appearing
      > There on the bank or in a clearing,
      > Would frighten lonely fishermen.
      > You tried to stay from all eyes hidden
      > Save friendship's own, my verse-in vain!
      > To envy's scrutiny unbidden
      > Are you subjected all the same.
      > A mindless critic has already
      > The ticklish question asked me, why,
      > As if to mock Ruslan, his lady
      > I have been calling "maid".
      > Now, I
      > Appeal to you, my good, kind reader,
      > Does not with his lips malice speak?
      > Come, Zoilus, come, sly-tongued schemer -
      > What fitting answer can I make?
      > Blush, wretch, and God be with you, argue
      > With you I'll not, my heart is free
      > Of tainted thought, and silent, mark you,
      > I stay, kept so by modesty.
      > Dull Hymen's victim, you, Climene,
      > Will understand; yes, I can see you
      > Gaze downward languidly, for me you
      > Feel deeply, sweet.... A tear falls, then
      > Another on the lines my pen
      > Has scribbled; clear are they, I know,
      > To hearts like yours; you flush, the glow
      > Fades from your eye, your muted sigh is
      > Most eloquent-a time of trials
      > Is nearing.... Quake, O jealous one!
      > For wilful Love with Anger mated
      > A plot lays-yes, well may you frown:
      > Your brow inglorious is fated
      > To boast revenge's tw^in-horned crown.
      > A cold dawn gilds the finely chiselled
      > Tops of the hills.... There reigns throughout
      > Grim silence. Sulkily the wizard
      > In dressing gown and still without
      > His cap, sits on the bed, and, yawning,
      > Seems angered by the glow of morning.
      > His dusky slaves, close to him pressing,
      > Are busy with his beard, a comb,
      > A fine one, made of walrus bone,
      > Through all its curvings gently passing
      > To give them strength and beauty, thy
      > Pour balm upon his termless whiskers,
      > And, using curling irons, briskly
      > Make waves in them.... The calm of day
      > Is broken-through the window sailing,
      > A dragon comes; it clangs its scaly,
      > Well furbished armour, folds its wings,
      > Coils swiftly into shiny rings,
      > And suddenly, to the surprise
      > Of all, takes old Nahina's guise.
      > "Hail, brother mine!" says she. 'I knew you
      > Till now by loud report alone,
      > But never grudged you, be it known
      > The high esteem and honour due you.
      > Now secret fate has joined us two
      > In enmity. The threat of danger
      > Hangs like a dark cloud over you,
      > While I'm to be the sole avenger
      > Of slighted honour, mine, my own;
      > Its voice I heed."
      > The dwarf, a wily
      > Look on his face, in unctuous tones
      > Makes his reply: 'T value highly,"-
      > To her he now extends his hand-
      > ''Divine Nahina, our alliance.
      > We'll easily the Finn withstand;
      > I fear him not at all, for mine is
      > The greater strength; he ill compares
      > With me, I vow. This beard I wear,
      > Grey though it is, has special powers,
      > And no bold knight, no foe of ours,
      > However brave, no mortal can,
      > Unless by hostile force 'tis severed.
      > Vpset mv least design or plan;
      > Ludmila will be mine forever.
      > As for Ruslan, to die he's doomed!"
      > "To die! To die!" the witch repeated
      > With catty spite. "To die!" she boomed.
      > And then. her mission thus completed.
      > She hissed three times, thrice stamped the ground,
      > And flew. a dragon's shape regaining,
      > Off and awav, with vengeance flaming..
      > In fine brocade most richly gowned
      > And bv the old witch cheered and heartened,
      > The wizard to the maid's apartment
      > Anew decided to repair
      > And take his silken whiskers there
      > And lovelorn heart. We see him going
      > >From room to room, he passes through
      > A row of them, vexation growing.
      > Wbere is his fair young captive? To
      > The park he hastes at first, then makes for
      > The grove, the waterfall, the lake shore,
      > The arbours, but, dear reader mine,
      > Finds of the princess not a sign.
      > By this he's driven nearly frantic,
      > We hear him moaning, raving, ranting;
      > He pants, he shakes in every limb,
      > The light of day's obscured for him.
      > "Here, slaves!" he splutters, in a flurry.
      > "The maid is lost! She's disappeared!
      > Be off with you, you idlers, hurry!
      > If she's not found, with this my beard,
      > I jest not, I will have you strangled.
      > Beware!"
      > But let us leave the angered
      > Dwarf, reader, and I'll tell you where
      > Our maid has gone.... All night she pondered
      > Her fate, of danger well aware,
      > But as she wept she ... smiled. You'll wonder
      > Why so.... She'd met the dwarf, and he,
      > Despite the beard that she so hated,
      > Seemed a mere clown, and, you'll agree,
      > That fear and laughter are ill-mated.
      > Ludmila rises as the dawn
      > Is born, and morning's rays creep nearer,
      > Her sleepy gaze unconscious drawn
      > Toward a lofty, shining mirror.
      > Instinctively she lifts her tresses
      > >From lily shoulders, o'er them passes,
      > As habit tells her to, her hands
      > And plaits the silky, golden strands.
      > The garments that she has been given
      > Lie in a corner. With a sigh
      > She starts to dress, is newly driven
      > To quiet tears, but keeps an eye
      > Upon the faithful glass wherein
      > She sees herself. A sudden whim
      > To put the dwarfs hat on now seizes
      > The princess. It is always fun,
      > Now, is it not, to try things on,
      > The very thought is one that pleases!
      > Besides, by none can she be seen,
      > And, what is of no smaller matter,
      > There is no hat that will not flatter
      > A girl who's only seventeen!
      > And so the wicked midget's hat
      > Ludmila turns this way and that;
      > Straight, then askew she makes it sit,
      > Down on her eyebrows pushes it,
      > Claps it on front-to-back.... Behold!
      > A miracle!-In times of old
      > They happened often, it appears-
      > Ludmila's image disappears,
      > Gone is she from the glass completely;
      > But in a moment, as she neatly
      > Turns the hat round, she's there again!
      > Once, twice she tries it, and the same
      > Thing happens. Cries the princess: "Splendid!
      > My troubles now are all but ended.
      > So much for you, vile dwarf, your hunt
      > For me is over!" And, cheeks glowing,
      > Herself to be in safety knowing,
      > She puts the hat on back-to-front.
      > For shame! Too long has our attention
      > Been claimed bv beard and hat of late;
      > Our hero giving up to fate,
      > Of him-alack!-we made no mention.
      > His duel with Rogdai behind him,
      > He passes through a lonely wood,
      > And in a sunlit dale we find him
      > His stallion reining in. A mood
      > Of sudden, awful dread comes o'er him:
      > An ancient battlefield'1 s before him,
      > And grim it looks, for everywhere
      > Gleam yellow bones, and here and there
      > Old, broken armour lies, corroding;
      > A quiver and a rusty shield
      > Rest near at hand; far out afield
      > Stiff, bony fingers hold a moulding
      > Green sword, a skull is seen to rot
      > Within a weed-grown helm. And what
      > Is that ahead? A skeleton,
      > That of a knight, still armed and on
      > His fallen, fleshless charger seated,
      > As if alive and undefeated.
      > Entwined with ivy, arrows, lances,
      > Spears from the earth stick. Not a sound
      > Disrupts of these forlorn expanses
      > The haunting silence and profound;
      > The sun alone the vale invades
      > Of death and of its lingering shades.
      > Sad-eyed the knight around him gazes.
      > "O field, wide field, you bear the traces
      > Of slaughter," says he with a sigh.
      > "Who planted you to bones and why?
      > By whose fleet stallion were you trampled?
      > What bloody battle here was fought
      > With perseverance unexampled?
      > Who prayed here and salvation sought?
      > Why are you mute, why with the grasses
      > O'ergrown of cold oblivion?
      > Is there escape from it for none?
      > Is it that time all, all erases?
      > What if upon some nameless hill
      > I am to lie? Mayhap Bayan
      > \Vill never chant of me or on
      > My deeds dwell...."'
      > Thus thought he
      > It came to him, and this most clearly,
      > That what he needed-needed dearly-
      > Was armour and a sword, the night
      > Of combat having left him quite
      > Unarmed, alack, or ... very nearly.
      > On this intent, he w^alks around
      > The battlefield w^here bones lie scattered
      > And armour, time- and weather-battered,
      > To see if something can be found.
      > A sudden clank! A rousing clatter!
      > The plain from numbing sleep awakes.
      > A helmet and a shield, the latter
      > At random picking up, he takes,
      > And then a ringing horn, but no
      > Sword to his liking finds, although
      > Scores of them strew the field of battle:
      > Being no puny modern knight,
      > Young Prince Ruslan declines to settle
      > For one he thinks too short or light.
      > The boredom fearing of inaction,
      > A steel lance chooses he for play,
      > Puts on a hauberk for protection,
      > And, thus arrayed, goes on his way.
      > The flames of sunset, slowly paling,
      > Fade o'er an earth embraced by sleep.
      > >From out the mists the heavens veiling,
      > A golden moon is seen to creep.
      > The steppe grows dimmer, nighttim's hazes
      > Float over it; the path looms dark.
      > As our young knight rides on, his gaze
      > Drawn by a huge black mound, and-hark!-
      > A fearsome snore comes from't. Our hero
      > Undaunted by it, rides up nearer:
      > The strange mound seems to breathe. Ruslan,
      > Quite unperturbed, looks calmly on.
      > Not so his steed, who balks at making
      > Another step and stands there quaking
      > With bristling mane and twitching ear
      > In quite ungovernable fear.
      > But now the pale orb born to range
      > The sleepy skies, lights up the nightly,
      > Mist-covered plain and mound more brightly,
      > A sight revealing wondrous strange.
      > Can pen describe the like?... A Head,
      > A living Head is there! In slumber
      > Its eyes are shut, it snores, is dead
      > To all the world, but every rumble,
      > Each breath and wheeze that from it comes
      > The helmet stirs and sends the plumes
      > That reach the shadowed heights a'swaying.
      > Above the gloomy plain and greying,
      > The wasteland's guard, in all its chill
      > And frightful splendrousness it towers,
      > An aw^esome hulk, part of the still
      > And fearful night, possessed of powers
      > Weird, menacing.... Ruslan decides
      > To rouse it, and, his eyes half doubting,
      > Around the Head he slowly rides.
      > Here is the nose! Without dismounting,
      > The nostrils with the tip of his
      > Sharp lance he delicately teases.
      > The great face puckers up at this;
      > The great Head, eyes now open, sneezes!...
      > A whirlwind starts, dust swirls, the pain
      > Rocks mightily and rocks again,
      > As if by a convulsion shaken.
      > The whiskers, lashes, eyebrows rain
      > Whole flocks of owls. The groves awaken.
      > The echo sneezes. Shocked, the steed
      > Lets out a neigh and rears.... Indeed,
      > He all but throws the knight. A bellow
      > The air rends: "Back, you foolish fellow!
      > I jest not. Come and get your due:
      > I gobble malaperts like you!"
      > Ruslan, provoked, looks round, and, reining
      > His horse in sharply, laughs in scorn,
      > To make a tart retort disdaining.
      > "Was ever such a nuisance born!"
      > The Head declares (its tones are surly).
      > "Sent here by fate to try me, were you?
      > What do you want? Make off! Adieu!
      > I'm going back to sleep." "Not you!"
      > The prince exclaims, these rude words hearing,
      > And, filled with anger and disgust,
      > Says: "Silence, empty pate! A just
      > Truth is it, one not said in vain:
      > A massive dome, a pygmy brain!"
      > And then he adds in accents searing:
      > "I ride along and no grudge bear you,
      > But cross my path, and I won't spare you!"
      > At this, the Head, by such cheek numbed,
      > To a most awful rage succumbed.
      > It swelled, it flamed, its pale lips trembled,
      > Turned paler still, were flecked with froth,
      > Its eyes two balls of fire resembled,
      > Great clouds of steam now poured from both
      > Its ears and mouth. And then it started,
      > Cheeks puffing up, with all its might
      > To blow at our hapless knight.
      > To no avail the horse, much startled,
      > Head downward held and eyes squeezed tight,
      > To push through rain and whirlwind strained;
      > Half-blinded, terrified, and drained
      > Of half his strength, he spun around
      > And ran, for safer places bound.
      > Ruslan made fresh attempts to guide him
      > And to attack the Head anew-
      > He was repulsed, at him it blew
      > And cackled crazily. Behind him
      > He heard it boom: "Ho, knight, where to?
      > To flee is most unwise of you,
      > You'll break your neck! Come, my assailant,
      > Attack me, show me just how valiant
      > You are! But no, you'd better stop;
      > Your poor old nag is fit to drop!"
      > And sticking out its tongue, it taunted
      > And teased the knight. The monster's leer
      > Left our young hero quite undaunted
      > Though sorely vexed. He raised his spear
      > And at the Head the weapon flung,
      > And, quivering, the brazen tongue
      > It pierced and there was to remain
      > Stuck fast in it. Of blood a torrent
      > Poured from the maw. The great Head's pain
      > And its amazement were apparent;
      > Gone was its cheek, its beet-red hue;
      > Upon the prince its great eyes fastened,
      > It chewed on steel, and greyer grew,
      > And though still seething, was much chastened.
      > So on the stage one of the Muse's
      > Less worthy pupils sometimes loses
      > His head, a sense of where he is
      > When deafened by a sudden hiss.
      > He pales, he quakes, what he is there for
      > Well-nigh forgetting, with an effort
      > Declaims his lines and ... stops, unheard
      > By the derisive, jeering herd.
      > Our gallant knight, the huge Head finding
      > To be thus discomposed and dazed,
      > Flew hawk-like toward it, hand upraised
      > And in a heavy gauntlet cased,
      > And dealt the giant cheek a blinding
      > And crushing blow. There starts an echo
      > That carries o'er the gloomy plain.
      > The dewy grass is richly stained
      > With bloody foam. For nigh a second
      > The great Head sways and rocks, the, lo!-
      > It topples, hits the ground below
      > And starts to roll, the steel helm maing
      > A mighty clatter. But behold!-
      > A huge sword, glittering like gold,
      > A champion's sword, there's no mistaking
      > The look of it, lies where the Head
      > Lay 'fore its fall. The prince, elated,
      > Now seizes it, and the ill-fated
      > Head follows, bv the fierce wish led
      > To lop its ears and nose off. Routed
      > It lies before him, he's about to
      > Bring down the sword when a low plea,
      > A faint moan stops him. Startled, he
      > Lets his arm sink, his ire subsiding,
      > And ruth, not wrath his actions guiding.
      > As in a vale snow quickly thaws
      > When touched by midday's sunshine flaming,
      > So supplication trims the claws
      > Of vengeance, its brute powers taming.
      > "You brought me to my senses," sighing,
      > The Head now said in accents lame.
      > "Your right hand proved beyond denying
      > That I have but myself to blame.
      > I promise you, I will obey you,
      > But mercy, mercy, knight, I pray you!
      > For grim has my plight been; I too
      > Was once a valiant knight like you,
      > By none on battlefield excelled
      > Or to lay dow^n my arms compelled.
      > And happy I-were't not for my
      > Young malformed brother's rivalry!
      > For Chernomor, that fount of hatred,
      > Alone my downfall perpetrated!
      > A bearded midget and a stain
      > Upon our family's good name,
      > For me who was both tall and straight
      > He felt a bitter jealousy,
      > But hid his all-consuming hate
      > Behind an outward courtesy.
      > Alas! I have been simple ever,
      > While he, this wretch of comic height,
      > Is diabolically clever
      > And full of viciousness and spite.
      > Besides-I quake as I confess this-
      > That fancy beard of his possessed is
      > Of magic powers: while whole it stays
      > That true embodiment of evil,
      > The dwarf, is safe from harm. With base
      > Intentions but in accents civil
      > To me one fateful day he said:
      > Ò need your help.' (There's no refusing
      > Such an appeal.) 'You see, perusing
      > A book of magic once, I read
      > That where rise mighty hills, and breakers
      > Against them smash, in a forsaken
      > Stone vault, known to no human, lies
      > A magic sword that was created
      > By baneful spirits. Fascinated,
      > I studied hard and learnt the meaning
      > Of secret words, in this wise gleaning
      > A truth to great fears giving rise:
      > That this sword, so the skies portend
      > And fate wills, both our lives will end
      > By parting us, my friend and brother,
      > Me from my beard, you from your head.
      > We must procure the sword, none other,
      > And 'thout delay'. 'Well, well,' I said,
      > 'What's stopping us? We need not tarry!
      > You'll point the way out. Come, now, hurry,
      > Get on my shoulder, brother mine;
      > On to the other one a pine
      > I'll hoist. If need be we will go
      > To the earth's very end.' And so
      > Upon our way at once we started,
      > And, God be thanked, as if to spite
      > The soothsay, all at first went right,
      > And those far mountains, happy-hearted,
      > I reached at last and went beyond,
      > And there the secret dungeon found,
      > And with my bare hands broke it open
      > And drew the sword out, always hoping
      > That fate would merciful remain.
      > But no! We quarrelled once again.
      > The cause ?-O'er which was to possess it
      > No mean reward, I must confess it.
      > He raved, I reasoned, so it went
      > Until the wily one, while seeming
      > To yield his ground and to relent,
      > Devised, to work my ruin scheming,
      > A knavish ruse. 'Enough! This sparring,
      > This shameful tiff, life's pleasures marring,'
      > Said he with solemn mien, 'must cease.
      > Is it not better to make peace?
      > Whose sword this is to be, I'm thinking,
      > Fate can decide. We'll each an ear
      > Put to the ground, and if a ringing
      > Should yours reach first, why, brother dear,
      > You will have won it.' And, so saying,
      > He dropped on to the ground, and I,
      > I followed suit and lay down by
      > His side.... Ah, knight, there's no gainsaying
      > I was a dolt, a knucklehead,
      > A perfect ass to have believed him-
      > 1 told myself I would deceive him
      > And was myself deceived instead!
      > The ugly wretch stood up, and, stealing
      > On tiptoe to me from the back,
      > The sword raised. Dastardly attack!-
      > It sang, a death-blow to me dealing.
      > Ere I could turn, my poor head was
      > No longer in its place, alas.
      > Preserved by some dark, occult force,
      > It lives (which is no boon, of course),
      > But all the rest of me, unburied,
      > Rots in a place to man unknown;
      > With blackthorn thickly overgrown
      > My frame is; by the midget carried
      > I (Just the head) was to this spot
      > And left to guard-ignoble lot!-
      > The magic sword. For ever after
      > It shall be yours, 'tis only right.
      > Fate's kind to you; should you, O knight,
      > The dwarf meet, be he e'er so crafty,
      > Avenge me-with this great sword smite
      > The ruthless knave, my heart relieving
      > Of all its suffering and grieving.
      > The juicy smack you gave me I
      > Will then forget, without a sigh
      > Or a reproach this sad world leaving."
      > Each morning as I wake from slumber
      > To God I tender heartfelt praise
      > That of magicians nowadays
      > There is a marked decrease in number,
      > And that they render now far less
      > Precarious our marriages.
      > In fact, their spells need not be dreaded
      > By those of us but newly wedded.
      > But there is witchery and guile,
      > Blue eyes, a tender voice, a smile,
      > A dimpled cheek, and all the rest,
      > Which to avoid, I find, is best.
      > The honeyed poison they exude
      > Intoxicates; I dread, I fear them.
      > Like me beware of staying near them,
      > Embrace repose and quietude.
      > O wondrous genius of rhyme,
      > O bard of love and love's sweet dreaming,
      > You who portray the sly and scheming
      > Dwellers of hell and realms divine,
      > Of this inconstant Muse of mine
      > The confidant and keeper faithful!
      > Forgive me, Northern Orpheus, do,
      > For recklessly presuming to
      > Fly after you in my tale playful
      > And catching in a most quaint lie
      > Your wayward lyre....
      > My good friends, I
      > Know that you heard about the evil
      > Old wretch, the hapless sinner who
      > In days of yore sold to the devil
      > His own soul and his daughters' too;
      > Of how through charity and fasting
      > And faith and prayer sincere, long-lasting
      > And penitence without complaint
      > He found a patron in a saint;
      > How, when the hour struck, he died,
      > How his twelve daughters slept, enchanted.
      > Stirred were we, yes, and terrified
      > By visions strangely darkness-mantled,
      > By Heaven's wrath, the Arch-fiend's fury,
      > The sinner's torments. With enduring
      > Delight and joy, let us confess,
      > We eyed the chaste maids' loveliness,
      > W^alked with them, sad of heart and weeping,
      > Around the castle's toothy wall,
      > Or stayed beside them, vigil keeping
      > O'er their calm sleep, their peaceful thrall.
      > We called upon Vadim, exhorted
      > Him to come soon, and when the blest,
      > The holy ones awoke, escorted
      > Them to their father's place of rest.
      > Yet had we been deceived and dare I
      > The truth speak and misgiving bury?...
      > Ratmir goads his steed on, his way
      > Toward southern plains impatient making,
      > Filled with the hope of overtaking
      > Ludmila 'fore the end of day....
      > The crimson skies turn slowly darker
      > And vainly with his gaze he strains
      > To pierce the haze that cloaks the plains
      > And sleepy stream. A last ray sparkles
      > Above the wood and paints it gold.
      > By nighttime's dark, thick veil enfolded,
      > Our knight rides past black, jutting boulders...
      > Oh, for a place to sleep!... Behold!-
      > A vale before him lies, an old
      > Walled castle perching high above it
      > Upon a cliff top; shadow-covered,
      > At every corner turrets show.
      > With all a swan's glide, smooth and slov
      > Along the wall there walks a maiden;
      > By twilight's faint ray lit is she,
      > And on the soft air dreamily
      > Her song floats, in the distance fading:
      > "Night cloaks the lea; from far away
      > The chilling winds of ocean carry.
      > Come, youthful roamer, do not tarry;
      > Take shelter in our castle, pray!
      > "The nights in languid calm we spend,
      > The days in feasts and merrymaking.
      > Come, youthful wanderer, attend
      > This fete of ours, to joy awaking.
      > "We many are and beauties all;
      > Our lips are soft, our speeches tender.
      > Come, youthful wanderer, surrender
      > And heed our joyous, secret call!
      > "For thee, O knight, at birth of morning
      > A farewell cup of wine we'll fill.
      > Heed thou our summons with a will,
      > Our gentle plea refrain from scorning.
      > "Night cloaks the lea, from far away
      > The chilling winds of ocean carry.
      > Come, youthful roamer, do not tarry,
      > Take shelter in our castle, pray!"
      > He hears her in this manner greet him
      > And hastens, tempted, to the gate
      > Where other fair maids, smiling, wait,
      > A throng of them come out to meet him
      > Their eyes to his face glued, they seek
      > To make him welcome. How entrancing
      > Their speeches are, .the words they speak!...
      > Two of them lead away his prancer.
      > The castle enters he; en masse
      > The fair young hermits follow. As
      > One of his winged helm relieves him,
      > Another 'thout his armour leaves him,
      > A third removes his sword and shield.
      > The garb of warfare's bound to yield
      > To flimsier dress. But first the splendours
      > Of a true Russian bath wait for
      > The wayworn youth. In torrents endless
      > We see the steaming water pour
      > Into the silver tubs; it eddies
      > And swdrls; swift fountains upward send
      > Sprays that the warm air coolness lend,
      > A breezy freshness; all's made ready
      > To please and gratify the khan.
      > Rich are the rugs that he lies on!
      > Transparent wisps of steam curl o'er him;
      > The maids, all half-nude loveliness,
      > Around him crowd, a mute caress
      > Hid in their downcast eyes, and for him
      > Care with a wordless tenderness.
      > Above him one waves birch twigs that
      > Send off sweet scents, another, at
      > His side stays put and waxes busy,
      > The juice of spring's fresh roses using
      > To cool his weary legs and arms
      > And drown in aromatic balms
      > His curly locks. Ratmir, enraptured,
      > Forgets Ludmila, long since captured,
      > And her once dreamt-of, longed-for charms.
      > With languor filled and with desire,
      > His roving eye agleam, he burns,
      > All passion, and, his heart afire,
      > For love and its fulfilment yearns.
      > But now7 the baths he leaves, and, wearing
      > Rich velvets, to a feast sits down,
      > With the young sirens gladly sharing
      > The wonders of the board. I own
      > I am no Homer to be singing
      > In lofty verse (not mine his pen
      > The feasts of Grecian fighting men
      > And their great goblets' merry ringing.
      > No, like Parny I would that my
      > Imprudent lyre might tender sigh
      > O'er love's sweet kiss and sing the praises
      > Of nude forms dimmed by night's soft hazes!..
      > Lit by the moon the castle is;
      > I see a chamber where, reclining
      > Upon a couch, Ratmir sleeps, pining
      > For love in dreamy languor. His
      > Once pallid brow and cheeks are flaming,
      > His lips, half-open, are aglow
      > And seem to be in secret claiming
      > Another's lips; he heaves a low,
      > A moan-like, lingering sigh, and, se<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
    • Jenn/Yana
      I ll be adding this one to the Russian Knowledge Page. Be sure to check out the other stories on this site. Masha and the Bear (spelled bare on the page)
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 9, 2000
        I'll be adding this one to the Russian Knowledge Page. Be sure to check
        out the other stories on this site. "Masha and the Bear" (spelled "bare"
        on the page) and "Little round bun" (one of the variants of the Gingerbread
        man story) are some of my favorite tales (the gingerbread man story used to
        make me very unhappy when I was little, I was always upset that he got
        eaten at the end). I passed on the link to the original questioner.


        >> >From http://russian-crafts.com/tales/rus_lud.html
        >> Alexander Pushkin
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