Boris Godunov

by Alexsander Pushkin

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Moscow. Shuisky's House

SHUISKY. A number of Guests. Supper

   SHUISKY. More wine! Now, my dear guests.

   (He rises; all rise after him.)

                         The final draught!
   Read the prayer, boy.

   Boy.                Lord of the heavens, Who art
   Eternally and everywhere, accept
   The prayer of us Thy servants. For our monarch,
   By Thee appointed, for our pious tsar,
   Of all good Christians autocrat, we pray.
   Preserve him in the palace, on the field
   Of battle, on his nightly couch; grant to him
   Victory o'er his foes; from sea to sea
   May he be glorified; may all his house
   Blossom with health, and may its precious branches
   O'ershadow all the earth; to us, his slaves,
   May he, as heretofore, be generous.
   Gracious, long-suffering, and may the founts
   Of his unfailing wisdom flow upon us;
   Raising the royal cup, Lord of the heavens,
   For this we pray.

   SHUISKY. (Drinks.) Long live our mighty sovereign!
   Farewell, dear guests. I thank you that ye scorned not
   My bread and salt. Farewell; good-night.

   (Exeunt Guests: he conducts them to the door.)

   PUSHKIN. Hardly could they tear themselves away; indeed,
   Prince Vassily Ivanovitch, I began to think that we
   should not succeed in getting any private talk.

   SHUISKY. (To the Servants.) You there, why do you stand
   Gaping? Always eavesdropping on gentlemen! Clear
   the table, and then be off.

   (Exeunt Servants.)

                             What is it, Athanasius

   PUSHKIN.    Such a wondrous thing!
   A message was sent here to me today
   From Cracow by my nephew Gabriel Pushkin.

   SHUISKY. Well?

   PUSHKIN. 'Tis strange news my nephew writes. The son
   Of the Terrible—But stay—

   (Goes to the door and examines it.)

                             The royal boy,
   Who murdered was by order of Boris—

   SHUISKY. But these are no new tidings.

   PUSHKIN.                        Wait a little;
   Dimitry lives.

   SHUISKY.     So that's it! News indeed!
   Dimitry living!—Really marvelous!
   And is that all?

   PUSHKIN.       Pray listen to the end;
   Whoe'er he be, whether he be Dimitry
   Rescued, or else some spirit in his shape,
   Some daring rogue, some insolent pretender,
   In any case Dimitry has appeared.

   SHUISKY. It cannot be.

   PUSHKIN.             Pushkin himself beheld him
   When first he reached the court, and through the ranks
   Of Lithuanian gentlemen went straight
   Into the secret chamber of the king.

   SHUISKY. What kind of man? Whence comes he?

   PUSHKIN.                             No one knows.
   'Tis known that he was Vishnevetsky's servant;
   That to a ghostly father on a bed
   Of sickness he disclosed himself; possessed
   Of this strange secret, his proud master nursed him,
   From his sick bed upraised him, and straightway
   Took him to Sigismund.

   SHUISKY.             And what say men
   Of this bold fellow?

   PUSHKIN.           'Tis said that he is wise,
   Affable, cunning, popular with all men.
   He has bewitched the fugitives from Moscow,
   The Catholic priests see eye to eye with him.
   The King caresses him, and, it is said,
   Has promised help.

   SHUISKY.         All this is such a medley
   That my head whirls. Brother, beyond all doubt
   This man is a pretender, but the danger
   Is, I confess, not slight. This is grave news!
   And if it reach the people, then there'll be
   A mighty tempest.

   PUSHKIN.        Such a storm that hardly
   Will Tsar Boris contrive to keep the crown
   Upon his clever head; and losing it
   Will get but his deserts! He governs us
   As did the tsar Ivan of evil memory.
   What profits it that public executions
   Have ceased, that we no longer sing in public
   Hymns to Christ Jesus on the field of blood;
   That we no more are burnt in public places,
   Or that the tsar no longer with his sceptre
   Rakes in the ashes? Is there any safety
   In our poor life? Each day disgrace awaits us;
   The dungeon or Siberia, cowl or fetters,
   And then in some deaf nook a starving death,
   Or else the halter. Where are the most renowned
   Of all our houses, where the Sitsky princes,
   Where are the Shestunovs, where the Romanovs,
   Hope of our fatherland? Imprisoned, tortured,
   In exile. Do but wait, and a like fate
   Will soon be thine. Think of it! Here at home,
   Just as in Lithuania, we're beset
   By treacherous slaves—and tongues are ever ready
   For base betrayal, thieves bribed by the State.
   We hang upon the word of the first servant
   Whom we may please to punish. Then he bethought him
   To take from us our privilege of hiring
   Our serfs at will; we are no longer masters
   Of our own lands. Presume not to dismiss
   An idler. Willy nilly, thou must feed him!
   Presume not to outbid a man in hiring
   A labourer, or you will find yourself
   In the Court's clutches.—Was such an evil heard of
   Even under tsar Ivan? And are the people
   The better off? Ask them. Let the pretender
   But promise them the old free right of transfer,
   Then there'll be sport.

   SHUISKY.              Thou'rt right; but be advised;
   Of this, of all things, for a time we'll speak
   No word.

   PUSHKIN. Assuredly, keep thine own counsel.
   Thou art—a person of discretion; always
   I am glad to commune with thee; and if aught
   At any time disturbs me, I endure not
   To keep it from thee; and, truth to tell, thy mead
   And velvet ale today have so untied
   My tongue...Farewell then, prince.

   SHUISKY.                 Brother, farewell.
   Farewell, my brother, till we meet again.

   (He escorts PUSHKIN out.)


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