Boris Godunov

by Alexsander Pushkin

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Palace of the Tsar - Tsarevich

The TSAREVICH is drawing a map. The TSAREVNA. The NURSE of the Tsarevna

   KSENIA. (Kisses a portrait.) My dear bridegroom, comely
   son of a king, not to me wast thou given, not to thy
   affianced bride, but to a dark sepulchre in a strange
   land; never shall I take comfort, ever shall I weep for

   NURSE. Eh, tsarevna! A maiden weeps as the dew falls;
   the sun will rise, will dry the dew. Thou wilt have
   another bridegroom—and handsome and affable. My
   charming child, thou wilt learn to love him, thou wilt
   forget Ivan the king's son.

   KSENIA. Nay, nurse, I will be true to him even in death.

   (Boris enters.)

   TSAR. What, Ksenia? What, my sweet one? In thy girlhood
   Already a woe-stricken widow, ever
   Bewailing thy dead bridegroom! Fate forbade me
   To be the author of thy bliss. Perchance
   I angered Heaven; it was not mine to compass
   Thy happiness. Innocent one, for what
   Art thou a sufferer? And thou, my son,
   With what art thou employed? What's this?

   FEODOR.                           A chart
   Of all the land of Muscovy; our tsardom
   From end to end. Here you see; there is Moscow,
   There Novgorod, there Astrakhan. Here lies
   The sea, here the dense forest tract of Perm,
   And here Siberia.

   TSAR.           And what is this
   Which makes a winding pattern here?

   FEODOR.                           That is
   The Volga.

   TSAR.    Very good! Here's the sweet fruit
   Of learning. One can view as from the clouds
   Our whole dominion at a glance; its frontiers,
   Its towns, its rivers. Learn, my son; 'tis science
   Which gives to us an abstract of the events
   Of our swift-flowing life. Some day, perchance
   Soon, all the lands which thou so cunningly
   Today hast drawn on paper, all will come
   Under thy hand. Learn, therefore; and more smoothly,
   More clearly wilt thou take, my son, upon thee
   The cares of state.

   (SEMYON Godunov enters.)

                     But there comes Godunov
   Bringing reports to me. (To KSENIA.) Go to thy chamber
   Dearest; farewell, my child; God comfort thee.

   (Exeunt KSENIA and NURSE.)

   What news hast thou for me, Semyon Nikitich?

   SEMYON G. Today at dawn the butler of Prince Shuisky
   And Pushkin's servant brought me information.

   TSAR. Well?

   SEMYON G. In the first place Pushkin's man deposed
   That yestermorn came to his house from Cracow
   A courier, who within an hour was sent
   Without a letter back.

   TSAR.                Arrest the courier.

   SEMYON G. Some are already sent to overtake him.

   TSAR. And what of Shuisky?

   SEMYON G.               Last night he entertained
   His friends; the Buturlins, both Miloslavskys,
   And Saltikov, with Pushkin and some others.
   They parted late. Pushkin alone remained
   Closeted with his host and talked with him
   A long time more.

   TSAR.           For Shuisky send forthwith.

   SEMYON G. Sire, he is here already.

   TSAR.                       Call him hither.

   (Exit SEMYON Godunov.)

   Dealings with Lithuania? What means this?
   I like not the seditious race of Pushkins,
   Nor must I trust in Shuisky, obsequious,
   But bold and wily—

   (Enter SHUISKY.)

                    Prince, I must speak with thee.
   But thou thyself, it seems, hast business with me,
   And I would listen first to thee.

   SHUISKY.                        Yea, sire;
   It is my duty to convey to thee
   Grave news.

   TSAR.     I listen.

   SHUISKY. (Sotto voce, pointing to FEODOR.)
                     But, sire—

   TSAR.                      The tsarevich
   May learn whate'er Prince Shuisky knoweth. Speak.

   SHUISKY. My liege, from Lithuania there have come
   Tidings to us—

   TSAR.        Are they not those same tidings
   Which yestereve a courier bore to Pushkin?

   SHUISKY. Nothing is hidden from him!—Sire, I thought
   Thou knew'st not yet this secret.

   TSAR.                           Let not that
   Trouble thee, prince; I fain would scrutinise
   Thy information; else we shall not learn
   The actual truth.

   SHUISKY.        I know this only, Sire;
   In Cracow a pretender hath appeared;
   The king and nobles back him.

   TSAR.                       What say they?
   And who is this pretender?

   SHUISKY.                 I know not.

   TSAR. But wherein is he dangerous?

   SHUISKY.                         Verily
   Thy state, my liege, is firm; by graciousness,
   Zeal, bounty, thou hast won the filial love
   Of all thy slaves; but thou thyself dost know
   The mob is thoughtless, changeable, rebellious,
   Credulous, lightly given to vain hope,
   Obedient to each momentary impulse,
   To truth deaf and indifferent; it feedeth
   On fables; shameless boldness pleaseth it.
   So, if this unknown vagabond should cross
   The Lithuanian border, Dimitry's name
   Raised from the grave will gain him a whole crowd
   Of fools.

   TSAR. Dimitry's?—What?—That child's?—Dimitry's?
   Withdraw, tsarevich.

   SHUISKY.           He flushed; there'll be a storm!

   FEODOR. Suffer me, Sire—

   TSAR.                  Impossible, my son;
   Go, go!

   (Exit FEODOR.)

         Dimitry's name!

   SHUISKY.            Then he knew nothing.

   TSAR. Listen: take steps this very hour that Russia
   Be fenced by barriers from Lithuania;
   That not a single soul pass o'er the border,
   That not a hare run o'er to us from Poland,
   Nor crow fly here from Cracow. Away!

   SHUISKY.                           I go.

   TSAR. Stay!—Is it not a fact that this report
   Is artfully concocted? Hast ever heard
   That dead men have arisen from their graves
   To question tsars, legitimate tsars, appointed,
   Chosen by the voice of all the people, crowned
   By the great Patriarch? Is't not laughable?
   Eh? What? Why laugh'st thou not thereat?

   SHUISKY.                               I, Sire?

   TSAR. Hark, Prince Vassily; when first I learned this child
   Had been—this child had somehow lost its life,
   'Twas thou I sent to search the matter out.
   Now by the Cross and God I do adjure thee,
   Declare to me the truth upon thy conscience;
   Didst recognise the slaughtered boy; was't not
   A substitute? Reply.

   SHUISKY.           I swear to thee—

   TSAR. Nay, Shuisky, swear not, but reply; was it
   Indeed Dimitry?

   SHUISKY.      He.

   TSAR.           Consider, prince.
   I promise clemency; I will not punish
   With vain disgrace a lie that's past. But if
   Thou now beguile me, then by my son's head
   I swear—an evil fate shall overtake thee,
   Requital such that Tsar Ivan Vasilievich
   Shall shudder in his grave with horror of it.

   SHUISKY. In punishment no terror lies; the terror
   Doth lie in thy disfavour; in thy presence
   Dare I use cunning? Could I deceive myself
   So blindly as not recognise Dimitry?
   Three days in the cathedral did I visit
   His corpse, escorted thither by all Uglich.
   Around him thirteen bodies lay of those
   Slain by the people, and on them corruption
   Already had set in perceptibly.
   But lo! The childish face of the tsarevich
   Was bright and fresh and quiet as if asleep;
   The deep gash had congealed not, nor the lines
   Of his face even altered. No, my liege,
   There is no doubt; Dimitry sleeps in the grave.

   TSAR. Enough, withdraw.

   (Exit SHUISKY.)

                   I choke!—let me get my breath!
   I felt it; all my blood surged to my face,
   And heavily fell back.—So that is why
   For thirteen years together I have dreamed
   Ever about the murdered child. Yes, yes—
   'Tis that!—now I perceive. But who is he,
   My terrible antagonist? Who is it
   Opposeth me? An empty name, a shadow.
   Can it be a shade shall tear from me the purple,
   A sound deprive my children of succession?
   Fool that I was! Of what was I afraid?
   Blow on this phantom—and it is no more.
   So, I am fast resolved; I'll show no sign
   Of fear, but nothing must be held in scorn.
   Ah! Heavy art thou, crown of Monomakh!


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