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Authors: Alexander Pushkin

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ALEKO.
Such fate awaits thy noblest sons,
Oh Rome, great empress of the world!
Singer of love, hymner of gods,
Tell me, what is poet’s glory?
A grave unknown, obscure; the theme
Of legend passed from mouth to mouth;
The nameless hero of wild tale
By gipsy told in smoky tent.

V.

Two years have passed, and as before,
The peaceful band of gipsies free
Are ne’er relused, but “easy find
A friendly welcome and repose.
All social lies and cheats thrown off,
Aleko is as free as they;
Regretting naught and spared all care,
Their roaming life he daily shares.
He is the same, nor have they changed;
 The years gone by he has forgot,
And gipsy life is now his own.
The tent’s hard couch on which he sleeps,
Unconscious of the morrow’s fate;
The routine march of ease unbroke;
The language poor, but soft and sweet;
In all he finds alike delight.
The bear, its native haunt forgot,
Is now the sharer of his tent.
In villages that skirt the road,
They stop before Moldavian homes;
To please a timid, gaping crowd,
The bear will dance his clumsy step,
And grol wimpatient at his chain;
And, leaning on his pilgrim-staff,
The old man idly beats his drum;
Aleko, singing, leads the bear;
Zemphire is sent to make the round,
And beg from each a small reward
But night has set, and they all three
The evening meal prepare to share.
The old man sleeps and all is still;
Within the tent dead silence reigns.

VI.

The tents gleam bright in spring sun’s rays,
The old man warms his sluggish blood,
His daughter sings a song of love,
Aleko listens and grows pale.

ZEMPHIRE
(singing).

Husband old, husband fierce,
Burn, hack me with thy sword’
I am bold, do not fear
Either sword or fire’s flame.

Knowst thou not, I hate thee?
Knowst thou not, I scorn thee?
Another has my love,
And, loving, I can die!

ALEKO.
Cease, I pray, thy singing wearies,
Nor do I like such savage rhymes.

ZEMPHIRE.
My song offends? But what care I?
‘Tis for myself alone I sing.

Burn, hack me with thy sword,
No word shalt hear from me;
Husband old, husband fierce,
His name I’ll ne’er betray!

He’s fresher than the spring,
He breathes warm summer’s heat
With daring youth he glows,
And none but me he loves!

Softly I caressed him
In shadow of the night,
As merrily we laughed,
And mocked at thy gray hairs

ALEKO.
Cease, Zemphire, cease! It is enough!

ZEMPHIRE.
And hast thou understood my song?

ALEKO.
Zemphire!

ZEMPHIRE.
Be angry, if thou wilt:
It was to thee I sang my song.
(S
he
goes away singing).

OLD MAN.
I remember, I remember,
It is a song of olden days;
And years ago, to please our folk,
Marie would sing this rhyme to them.
On winter nights, when we were camped
On the Kagoula barren steppes,
Marie would chant the savage lay.
And rock the child before the fire
I lose all count of byegone days.
And quickly fades their memory;
But this one song has ta’en deep root.,
And still I hear its mocking notes.
Now all is still; ‘tis night; the moon
With silver tips the southern pole.
Sudden the gipsy-sire is roused
From sleep by Zemphire’s touch and voice.

ZEMPHIRE.
In his sleep Aleko frights me;
He tosses, groans, and sighs, and weeps.

OLD MAN.
Disturb him not, but silence keep.
I oft have heard the Russians say,
At night, the demon of the house
Will haunt the troubled sleeper’s dream,
And then at dawn itself depart.
Till then, ‘tis well thou sitst by me.

ZEMPHIRE.
In sleep he starts, and cries, Zemphire!

OLD MAN.
Though dreaming, still he seeks for thee
Dearer than all thou art to him.

ZEMPHIRE.
And yet, his love has brought no joy:
My heart would fain throw off the yoke,
Be free again.... But hush!... listen!
He mutters now another s name.

OLD MAN.
Whose name?

ZEMPHIRE.
Dost thon not hear? He groans,
And grinds his teeth.’ Tis horrible!
I will awake him quick.

OLD MAN.
Why seek
To chase the demon of the night?
It will itself depart.

ZEMPHIRE.
I hear
Him restless turn, and now he calls:
I go. Farewell! Sleep, father, sleep!

ALEKO.
Where hast thou been?

ZEMPHIRE.
I was with father.
Some evil spirit did torment
And plague thee in thy sleep. I dared
No longer stay’. But thou didst grind
Thy teeth, and called me.

ALEKO.
In my dream
It seemed as if between us was —
But no! it is too horrible!
ZEMPHIRE.
Dost thou believe in cheating dreams?

ALEKO.
In none, in naught, do I believe;
Nor dreams, nor lover’s secret vows;
Nor that thy heart can loyal keep.

VIII.

OLD MAN.
And why, in vain caprice of youth,
Dost thou, like furnace sighing, moan?
Here men are free, the skies are bright,
And women own no fetter-bonds.
Grieve not, nor be cast down in soul.

ALEKO.
But, father, she no longer loves.

OLD MAN.
Console thyself: she is a child.
Thy grief to reason is perverse:
Thou lovst with passion and with fire;
A passing jest is women’s love. 
Look up; beneath the wide expanse
The moon pursues her unchecked path,
And, as she moves, she gently sheds
Her fickle light on all below;
A moment gilds a favoured cloud,
Only the next to leave it dark,
And flood its rival with her light.
But who shall stop her trackless course,
Bid her stay and no farther roam?
And who shall say to maiden s heart,
Love one, and only one, ne’er change.
It cannot be. —

ALEKO.
How she loved me!
How tenderly she bent o’er me,
And in the silence of the night,
Her head soft pillowed on my breast,
With childish mirth and innocence
Whispered, laughing, tender nothings,
And with caresses winsome could
In one short moment chase away
All gloomy thoughts and craven fears!
And now, thou tellst me, she is false,
That she, Zemphire, no longer loves’

OLD MAN.
Hearken, and I will story tell
Of myself and years long, long past,
Before Moscow had tried to win
Her new domains on Danube shore.
You see, I would recall, my friend. 
The sorrow of far, younger years.
The mighty Sultan then we feared:
The Pascha ruled the Budschack plain,
And lofty heights of Ackermann.
Then I was young, and my glad souL
Within me leaped, all free of care;
And then my jet-black, raven curls
Flowed down unmixed with elder gray.
Among the maidens young was one,
Their queen in beauty — long I loved
And worshipped her, as men the sun.
At last I won her — she was mine!
Alas, like falling star, my youth,
Gleaming, flashed, and quickly vanished:
But swifter far the reign of love
Rose and flitted by; — one short year,
And Marie, my queen, betrayed me!
Near the wide, deep lakes of Kagoul,
We chanced to meet a stranger tribe,
Who pitched their tents at mountain’s foot,
Where we had made our sojourn brief;
Two nights we friendly camped together,
And on the third they sudden left
With them.... her daughter left behind,
Marie escaped to pleasures new.
I sleeping was, and when dawn broke,
And I arose, I found her not!
I called.... in vain — no answer came!
Many a day poor Zemphire pined,
And wept; my tears I joined with hers.
But from that day my heart grew cold,
Unstirred by maiden’s wiles or charms;
Nor have I sought a mate to share
My lot; but all alone have passed,
Resigned, the cheating hours of life.

ALEKO.
And wherefore didst thou not at once
Pursue the faithless perjured pair,
And plunge thy dagger in the heart
Of robber and his paramour?

OLD MAN.
But why? Youth is free, free as a bird.
Who has strength to curb the flight of love?
To each one day of joy is sent;
And what has been can ne’er return.

ALEKO.
Mine not the nature to forego
My right without a struggle fierce,
Be robbed the joy of sweet revenge.
Nay, if on brink of ocean cliff
I found my hated foe asleep,
I swear, I should not think to spare
His life, but with my foot would toss
O’er edge of cliff his helpless trunk,
And laugh in his pale, upturned face
Of wakened horror and surprise.
And in mine ear the water’s splash
Would echo like the stirring sound
Of conquering march loud and gay.

IX.

YOUNG GIPSY.
Yet one more kiss, before we part!

ZEMPHIRE.
Lime flies: jealous he is, and harsh.

YOUNG GIPSY.
A last.... but long caress.... but one!

ZEMPHIRE.
Farewell, before he comes to seek me.

YOUNG GIPSY.
But say, when shall we meet again?

ZEMPHIRE.
To-night, when as the. moon goes down,
We’ll meet beyond the mounds. Farewell

YOUNG GIPSY.
You will forget to come, I fear.

ZEMPHIRE.
Away!... Fear not!... I’ll come, I swear!

X.

Aleko sleeps. But dreams confused
Disturb and haunt his troubled rest;
And with a startled cry he wakes,
And stretches forth his jealous hand,
Which falls on cold and vacant sheet;
No sleeping Zemphire lies by him.
With boding heart he listens long,
But all is still; and. filled with dread,
A chilling fear runs through his veins,
As out he hurries from the tent.
Pale and trembling, far he wanders,
But all the field is wrapt in sleep
The moon is hid behind the clouds
And twinkling light of stars is dim.
The faintest track of steps, the dews
Have nigh effaced, still show the way
That leads up to the burial mounds.
With eager pace he makes his way,
By demon urged along the path,
And stands before the long-ranged heaps,
That rear their pale and spectral tops.
And, filled with sense of coming ill,
Scarce his aching limbs can bear him:
With quivering lips and trembling knees
He pushes on — and does he dream?
He sees two shadows close to him,
And hears the murmured whisper near,
That floats above the lonely mounds.

FIRST VOICE.
‘Tis time!

SECOND VOICE.
Why this haste?

FIRST VOICE.
I must away!

SECOND VOICE.
Nay, rather let us wait the day!

FIRST VOICE.
‘Tis late!

SECOND VOICE.
How timid is thy love!
One minute!

FIRST VOICE.
Wilt thou be my  death?

SECOND VOICE.
One minute more!

FIRST VOICE.
But if he wakes,
And finds me gone?

ALEKO.
I have awaked!
Whither so fast? There is no haste!
‘Tis well, we need not search for graves!

ZEMPHIRE.
Darling, run, escape!

ALEKO.
Stay, sir, stay!
Whither, fair gipsy, wilt thou run?
Die!
(
H
e kills him
w
ith a dagger.)

ZEMPHIRE.
What hast thou done?

YOUNG GIPSY.
I die! Farewell!

ZEMPHIRE.
Aleko, thou hast slain my friend!
And, see, thou art all stained with blood!.
Oh, what hast thou done?

ALEKO.
I? Nothing!
His love, once thy breath, breathe it now!

ZEMPHIRE.
Enough! I have no fear of thee!
Thine empty threats, I hold in scorn!
Thee and thy bloody crime, I curse!

ALEKO.
Follow!
(He stabs Zemphire).

ZEMPHIRE
And, loving, I will die!

Night’s clouds were streaked with red of dawn.
Beyond the hills Aleko sate
Alone on ancient burial mound,
With blood-stained dagger in his hand.
Near him lay two lifeless bodies;
His face was fixed and motionless,
And vacant stared at gipsy crowd,
Who fearsome stood around and gazed.
In farther field they dug a grave;
With solemn step the women moved,
And kissed the eyelids of the dead.
Apart the old man stood and looked,
In silent helplessness of grief,
Upon the dead girl’s rigid form.
Lightly they raised the bodies twain,
And slowly bore them to the grave,
And laid the youthful erring pair
In the cold, bosom of the, earth.
Aleko from afar watched all,
But when the last handful of dust
Over the sleeping dead was cast,
In silence low he bent his head,
And prone on grass fell from the mound.
The old man then approached and said:
“Go, leave us now, thou haughty man!
We wild folk have no law to bind.
To torture or to punish men;
We need no sinner’s blood, or groans,
Nor can we with a murd’rer five.
Thou art not born for wild free will,
Thou wouldst thyself alone be free;
Thy voice will strike but terror here
Among the good and free in soul;
Harsh thou art and rash: so, leave us!
Farewell, and peace abide with thee!”

He spake, and now the busy crowd
The nomad camp begin to raise:
They hasten forth, and soon are lost
To view. One van alone, with roof
Of canvas torn, remains behind,
And stands upon the fatal field.
As when, before cold winter conies,
At early hour, on misty morn,
A flock of cranes will from the field
Rise up on high with eager cry,
And quick begin their southern flight,
One wretched bird, the sportsman prey,
With wounded wing that helpless hangs,
Is left behind to pine and die.
Though night came on, within the van
None cared to kindle light or fire,
And none beneath the tattered roof
Sought rest or sleep till morning broke.

EPILOGUE.

The magic charm of song divine
Brings back to lite the olden days,
Writes anew on memory’s page
The record of past joys and griefs.
In the land where centuries long
The din of war not once was hushed;
Where Russian arms supremely marked
The lawful bounds of Stamboul’s sway;
And where the mighty eagle shook
His proud, wide wings o’er triumphs won;
‘Twas there, the wild steppe stretching round,
On borders of our ancient rule,
 I met the gipsy waggon-vans,
The sons of freedom uncontrolled.
I long in idle whim pursued
Through barren waste and forest wild
The gay and lawless gipsy band.
Their modest, simple fare I shared,
And slept before their flaming fires.
I loved the noise of their loud songs.
And still the name of fair Marie
Haunts and startles my restless sleep.

BOOK: Works of Alexander Pushkin
13.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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