Boris Godunov

by Alexsander Pushkin

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Palace of the Kremlin

(FEBRUARY 20th, A.D. 1598)

   VOROTINSKY. To keep the city's peace, that is the task
   Entrusted to us twain, but you forsooth
   Have little need to watch; Moscow is empty;
   The people to the Monastery have flocked
   After the patriarch. What thinkest thou?
   How will this trouble end?

   SHUISKY.                 How will it end?
   That is not hard to tell. A little more
   The multitude will groan and wail, Boris
   Pucker awhile his forehead, like a toper
   Eyeing a glass of wine, and in the end
   Will humbly of his graciousness consent
   To take the crown; and then—and then will rule us
   Just as before.

   VOROTINSKY.   A month has flown already
   Since, cloistered with his sister, he forsook
   The world's affairs. None hitherto hath shaken
   His purpose, not the patriarch, not the boyars
   His counselors; their tears, their prayers he heeds not;
   Deaf is he to the wail of Moscow, deaf
   To the Great Council's voice; vainly they urged
   The sorrowful nun-queen to consecrate
   Boris to sovereignty; firm was his sister,
   Inexorable as he; methinks Boris
   Inspired her with this spirit. What if our ruler
   Be sick in very deed of cares of state
   And hath no strength to mount the throne? What
   Say'st thou?

   SHUISKY. I say that in that case the blood in vain
   Flowed of the young tsarevich, that Dimitry
   Might just as well be living.

   VOROTINSKY.                 Fearful crime!
   Is it beyond all doubt Boris contrived
   The young boy's murder?

   SHUISKY.              Who besides? Who else
   Bribed Chepchugov in vain? Who sent in secret
   The brothers Bityagovsky with Kachalov?
   Myself was sent to Uglich, there to probe
   This matter on the spot; fresh traces there
   I found; the whole town bore witness to the crime;
   With one accord the burghers all affirmed it;
   And with a single word, when I returned,
   I could have proved the secret villain's guilt.

   VOROTINSKY. Why didst thou then not crush him?

   SHUISKY.                        At the time,
   I do confess, his unexpected calmness,
   His shamelessness, dismayed me. Honestly
   He looked me in the eyes; he questioned me
   Closely, and I repeated to his face
   The foolish tale himself had whispered to me.

   VOROTINSKY. An ugly business, prince.

   SHUISKY.                    What could I do?
   Declare all to Feodor? But the tsar
   Saw all things with the eyes of Godunov.
   Heard all things with the ears of Godunov;
   Grant even that I might have fully proved it,
   Boris would have denied it there and then,
   And I should have been haled away to prison,
   And in good time—like mine own uncle—strangled
   Within the silence of some deaf-walled dungeon.
   I boast not when I say that, given occasion,
   No penalty affrights me. I am no coward,
   But also am no fool, and do not choose
   Of my free will to walk into a halter.

   VOROTINSKY. Monstrous misdeed! Listen; I warrant you
   Remorse already gnaws the murderer;
   Be sure the blood of that same innocent child
   Will hinder him from mounting to the throne.

   SHUISKY. That will not baulk him; Boris is not so timid!
   What honour for ourselves, ay, for all Russia!
   A slave of yesterday, a Tartar, son
   By marriage of Maliuta, of a hangman,
   Himself in soul a hangman, he to wear
   The crown and robe of Monomakh!—

   VOROTINSKY.                   You are right;
   He is of lowly birth; we twain can boast
   A nobler lineage.

   SHUISKY.        Indeed we may!

   VOROTINSKY. Let us remember, Shuisky, Vorotinsky
   Are, let me say, born princes.

   SHUISKY.                     Yea, born princes,
   And of the blood of Rurik.

   VOROTINSKY.              Listen, prince;
   Then we, 'twould seem, should have the right to mount
   Feodor's throne.

   SHUISKY.       Rather than Godunov.

   VOROTINSKY. In very truth 'twould seem so.

   SHUISKY.                      And what then?
   If still Boris pursue his crafty ways,
   Let us contrive by skilful means to rouse
   The people. Let them turn from Godunov;
   Princes they have in plenty of their own;
   Let them from out their number choose a tsar.

   VOROTINSKY. Of us, Varyags in blood, there are full many,
   But 'tis no easy thing for us to vie
   With Godunov; the people are not wont
   To recognise in us an ancient branch
   Of their old warlike masters; long already
   Have we our appanages forfeited,
   Long served but as lieutenants of the tsars,
   And he hath known, by fear, and love, and glory,
   How to bewitch the people.

   SHUISKY. (Looking through a window.) He has dared,
   That's all—while we—Enough of this. Thou seest
   Dispersedly the people are returning.
   We'll go forthwith and learn what is resolved.


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