Cell in the Monastery of Chudov (A.D. 1603)
FATHER PIMEN, GREGORY (sleeping) PIMEN (Writing in front of a sacred lamp.) One more, the final record, and my annals Are ended, and fulfilled the duty laid By God on me a sinner. Not in vain Hath God appointed me for many years A witness, teaching me the art of letters; A day will come when some laborious monk Will bring to light my zealous, nameless toil, Kindle, as I, his lamp, and from the parchment Shaking the dust of ages will transcribe My true narrations, that posterity The bygone fortunes of the orthodox Of their own land may learn, will mention make Of their great tsars, their labours, glory, goodness— And humbly for their sins, their evil deeds, Implore the Saviour's mercy.—In old age I live anew; the past unrolls before me.— Did it in years long vanished sweep along, Full of events, and troubled like the deep? Now it is hushed and tranquil. Few the faces Which memory hath saved for me, and few The words which have come down to me;—the rest Have perished, never to return.—But day Draws near, the lamp burns low, one record more, The last. (He writes.) GREGORY. (Waking.) Ever the selfsame dream! Is 't possible? For the third time! Accursed dream! And ever Before the lamp sits the old man and writes— And not all night, 'twould seem, from drowsiness, Hath closed his eyes. I love the peaceful sight, When, with his soul deep in the past immersed, He keeps his chronicle. Oft have I longed To guess what 'tis he writes of. Is 't perchance The dark dominion of the Tartars? Is it Ivan's grim punishments, the stormy Council of Novgorod? Is it about the glory Of our dear fatherland?—I ask in vain! Not on his lofty brow, nor in his looks May one peruse his secret thoughts; always The same aspect; lowly at once, and lofty— Like some state Minister grown grey in office, Calmly alike he contemplates the just And guilty, with indifference he hears Evil and good, and knows not wrath nor pity. PIMEN. Wakest thou, brother? GREGORY. Honoured father, give me Thy blessing. PIMEN. May God bless thee on this day, Tomorrow, and for ever. GREGORY. All night long Thou hast been writing and abstained from sleep, While demon visions have disturbed my peace, The fiend molested me. I dreamed I scaled By winding stairs a turret, from whose height Moscow appeared an anthill, where the people Seethed in the squares below and pointed at me With laughter. Shame and terror came upon me— And falling headlong, I awoke. Three times I dreamed the selfsame dream. Is it not strange? PIMEN. 'Tis the young blood at play; humble thyself By prayer and fasting, and thy slumber's visions Will all be filled with lightness. Hitherto If I, unwillingly by drowsiness Weakened, make not at night long orisons, My old-man's sleep is neither calm nor sinless; Now riotous feasts appear, now camps of war, Scuffles of battle, fatuous diversions Of youthful years. GREGORY. How joyfully didst thou Live out thy youth! The fortress of Kazan Thou fought'st beneath, with Shuisky didst repulse The army of Litva. Thou hast seen the court, And splendour of Ivan. Ah! Happy thou! Whilst I, from boyhood up, a wretched monk, Wander from cell to cell! Why unto me Was it not given to play the game of war, To revel at the table of a tsar? Then, like to thee, would I in my old age Have gladly from the noisy world withdrawn, To vow myself a dedicated monk, And in the quiet cloister end my days. PIMEN. Complain not, brother, that the sinful world Thou early didst forsake, that few temptations The All-Highest sent to thee. Believe my words; The glory of the world, its luxury, Woman's seductive love, seen from afar, Enslave our souls. Long have I lived, have taken Delight in many things, but never knew True bliss until that season when the Lord Guided me to the cloister. Think, my son, On the great tsars; who loftier than they? God only. Who dares thwart them? None. What then? Often the golden crown became to them A burden; for a cowl they bartered it. The tsar Ivan sought in monastic toil Tranquility; his palace, filled erewhile With haughty minions, grew to all appearance A monastery; the very rakehells seemed Obedient monks, the terrible tsar appeared A pious abbot. Here, in this very cell (At that time Cyril, the much suffering, A righteous man, dwelt in it; even me God then made comprehend the nothingness Of worldly vanities), here I beheld, Weary of angry thoughts and executions, The tsar; among us, meditative, quiet Here sat the Terrible; we motionless Stood in his presence, while he talked with us In tranquil tones. Thus spake he to the abbot And all the brothers: "My fathers, soon will come The longed-for day; here shall I stand before you, Hungering for salvation; Nicodemus, Thou Sergius, Cyril thou, will all accept My spiritual vow; to you I soon shall come Accurst in sin, here the clean habit take, Prostrate, most holy father, at thy feet." So spake the sovereign lord, and from his lips Sweetly the accents flowed. He wept; and we With tears prayed God to send His love and peace Upon his suffering and stormy soul.— What of his son Feodor? On the throne He sighed to lead the life of calm devotion. The royal chambers to a cell of prayer He turned, wherein the heavy cares of state Vexed not his holy soul. God grew to love The tsar's humility; in his good days Russia was blest with glory undisturbed, And in the hour of his decease was wrought A miracle unheard of; at his bedside, Seen by the tsar alone, appeared a being Exceeding bright, with whom Feodor 'gan To commune, calling him great Patriarch;— And all around him were possessed with fear, Musing upon the vision sent from Heaven, Since at that time the Patriarch was not present In church before the tsar. And when he died The palace was with holy fragrance filled. And like the sun his countenance outshone. Never again shall we see such a tsar.— O, horrible, appalling woe! We have sinned, We have angered God; we have chosen for our ruler A tsar's assassin. GREGORY. Honoured father, long Have I desired to ask thee of the death Of young Dimitry, the tsarevich; thou, 'Tis said, wast then at Uglich. PIMEN. Ay, my son, I well remember. God it was who led me To witness that ill deed, that bloody sin. I at that time was sent to distant Uglich Upon some mission. I arrived at night. Next morning, at the hour of holy mass, I heard upon a sudden a bell toll; 'Twas the alarm bell. Then a cry, an uproar; Men rushing to the court of the tsaritsa. Thither I haste, and there had flocked already All Uglich. There I see the young tsarevich Lie slaughtered: the queen mother in a swoon Bowed over him, his nurse in her despair Wailing; and then the maddened people drag The godless, treacherous nurse away. Appears Suddenly in their midst, wild, pale with rage, Judas Bityagovsky. "There, there's the villain!" Shout on all sides the crowd, and in a trice He was no more. Straightway the people rushed On the three fleeing murderers; they seized The hiding miscreants and led them up To the child's corpse yet warm; when lo! A marvel— The dead child all at once began to tremble! "Confess!" the people thundered; and in terror Beneath the axe the villains did confess— And named Boris. GREGORY. How many summers lived The murdered boy? PIMEN. Seven summers; he would now (Since then have passed ten years—nay, more—twelve years) He would have been of equal age to thee, And would have reigned; but God deemed otherwise. This is the lamentable tale wherewith My chronicle doth end; since then I little Have dipped in worldly business. Brother Gregory, Thou hast illumed thy mind by earnest study; To thee I hand my task. In hours exempt From the soul's exercise, do thou record, Not subtly reasoning, all things whereto Thou shalt in life be witness; war and peace, The sway of kings, the holy miracles Of saints, all prophecies and heavenly signs;— For me 'tis time to rest and quench my lamp.— But hark! The matin bell. Bless, Lord, Thy servants! Give me my crutch. (Exit.) GREGORY. Boris, Boris, before thee All tremble; none dares even to remind thee Of what befell the hapless child; meanwhile Here in dark cell a hermit doth indite Thy stern denunciation. Thou wilt not Escape the judgment even of this world, As thou wilt not escape the doom of God.