Boris Godunov

by Alexsander Pushkin

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Tavern on the Lithuanian Frontier

MISSAIL and VARLAAM, wandering friars; GREGORY in secular attire; HOSTESS

   HOSTESS. With what shall I regale you, my reverend
   honoured guests?

   VARLAAM. With what God sends, little hostess. Have you
   no wine?

   HOSTESS. As if I had not, my fathers! I will bring it at
   once. (Exit.)

   MISSAIL. Why so glum, comrade? Here is that very
   Lithuanian frontier which you so wished to reach.

   GREGORY. Until I shall be in Lithuania, till then I shall not
   Be content.

   VARLAAM. What is it that makes you so fond of Lithuania!
   Here are we, Father Missail and I, a sinner, when we fled
   from the monastery, then we cared for nothing. Was it
   Lithuania, was it Russia, was it fiddle, was it dulcimer?
   All the same for us, if only there was wine. That's the
   main thing!

   MISSAIL. Well said, Father Varlaam.

   HOSTESS. (Enters.)
   There you are, my fathers. Drink to your health.

   MISSAIL. Thanks, my good friend. God bless thee. (The
   monks drink. Varlaam trolls a ditty: "Thou passest
   by, my dear," etc.) (To GREGORY) Why don't you join
   in the song? Not even join in the song?

   GREGORY. I don't wish to.

   MISSAIL. Everyone to his liking—

   VARLAAM. But a tipsy man's in Heaven.* Father Missail!
   We will drink a glass to our hostess. (Sings: "Where
   the brave lad in durance," etc.) Still, Father Missail,
   when I am drinking, then I don't like sober men; tipsiness
   is one thing—but pride quite another. If you want
   to live as we do, you are welcome. No?—then take
   yourself off, away with you; a mountebank is no
   companion for a priest.

        [*The Russian text has here a play on the words which cannot
        be satisfactorily rendered into English.]

   GREGORY. Drink, and keep your thoughts to yourself,*
   Father Varlaam! You see, I too sometimes know how
   to make puns.

        [*The Russian text has here a play on the words which cannot
        be satisfactorily rendered into English.]

   VARLAAM. But why should I keep my thoughts to myself?

   MISSAIL. Let him alone, Father Varlaam.

   VARLAAM. But what sort of a fasting man is he? Of his
   own accord he attached himself as a companion to us;
   no one knows who he is, no one knows whence he comes—
   and yet he gives himself grand airs; perhaps he has a
   close acquaintance with the pillory. (Drinks and sings:
   "A young monk took the tonsure," etc.)

   GREGORY. (To HOSTESS.) Whither leads this road?

   HOSTESS. To Lithuania, my dear, to the Luyov mountains.

   GREGORY. And is it far to the Luyov mountains?

   HOSTESS. Not far; you might get there by evening, but for
   the tsar's frontier barriers, and the captains of the

   GREGORY. What say you? Barriers! What means this?

   HOSTESS. Someone has escaped from Moscow, and orders
   have been given to detain and search everyone.

   GREGORY. (Aside.) Here's a pretty mess!

   VARLAAM. Hallo, comrade! You've been making up to
   mine hostess. To be sure you don't want vodka, but
   you want a young woman. All right, brother, all right!
   Everyone has his own ways, and Father Missail and I
   have only one thing which we care for—we drink to the
   bottom, we drink; turn it upside down, and knock at
   the bottom.

   MISSAIL. Well said, Father Varlaam.

   GREGORY. (To Hostess.) Whom do they want? Who
   escaped from Moscow?

   HOSTESS. God knows; a thief perhaps, a robber. But here
   even good folk are worried now. And what will come of
   it? Nothing. They will not catch the old devil; as if
   there were no other road into Lithuania than the highway!
   Just turn to the left from here, then by the pinewood
   or by the footpath as far as the chapel on the
   Chekansky brook, and then straight across the marsh to
   Khlopin, and thence to Zakhariev, and then any child
   will guide you to the Luyov mountains. The only good
   of these inspectors is to worry passers-by and rob us poor
   folk. (A noise is heard.) What's that? Ah, there
   they are, curse them! They are going their rounds.

   GREGORY. Hostess! Is there another room in the cottage?

   HOSTESS. No, my dear; I should be glad myself to hide.
   But they are only pretending to go their rounds; but
   give them wine and bread, and Heaven knows what—
   May perdition take them, the accursed ones! May—

   (Enter OFFICERS.)

   OFFICERS. Good health to you, mine hostess!

   HOSTESS. You are kindly welcome, dear guests.

   AN OFFICER. (To another.) Ha, there's drinking going on
   here; we shall get something here. (To the Monks.)
   Who are you?

   VARLAAM. We—are two old clerics, humble monks; we are
   going from village to village, and collecting Christian
   alms for the monastery.

   OFFICER. (To GREGORY.) And thou?

   MISSAIL. Our comrade.

   GREGORY. A layman from the suburb; I have conducted the
   old men as far as the frontier; from here I am going to
   my own home.

   MISSAIL. So you have changed your mind?

   GREGORY. (Sotto voce.) Be silent.

   OFFICER. Hostess, bring some more wine, and we will
   drink here a little and talk a little with these old men.

   2ND OFFICER. (Sotto voce.) Yon lad, it appears, is poor;
   there's nothing to be got out of him; on the other hand
   the old men—

   1ST OFFICER. Be silent; we shall come to them presently.
   —Well, my fathers, how are you getting on?

   VARLAAM. Badly, my sons, badly! The Christians have
   now turned stingy; they love their money; they hide
   their money. They give little to God. The people of
   the world have become great sinners. They have all
   devoted themselves to commerce, to earthly cares; they
   think of worldly wealth, not of the salvation of the soul.
   You walk and walk; you beg and beg; sometimes in
   three days begging will not bring you three half-pence.
   What a sin! A week goes by; another week; you look
   into your bag, and there is so little in it that you are
   ashamed to show yourself at the monastery. What are
   you to do? From very sorrow you drink away what is
   left; a real calamity! Ah, it is bad! It seems our last
   days have come—

   HOSTESS. (Weeps.) God pardon and save you!
   (During the course of VARLAAM'S speech the 1st
   OFFICER watches MISSAIL significantly.)

   1ST OFFICER. Alexis! Have you the tsar's edict with you?

   2ND OFFICER. I have it.

   1ST OFFICER. Give it here.

   MISSAIL. Why do you look at me so fixedly?

   1ST OFFICER. This is why; from Moscow there has fled a
   certain wicked heretic—Grishka Otrepiev. Have you
   heard this?

   MISSAIL. I have not heard it.

   OFFICER. Not heard it? Very good. And the tsar has
   ordered to arrest and hang the fugitive heretic. Do you
   know this?

   MISSAIL. I do not know it.

   OFFICER. (To VARLAAM.) Do you know how to read?

   VARLAAM. In my youth I knew how, but I have forgotten.

   OFFICER. (To MISSAIL.) And thou?

   MISSAIL. God has not made me wise.

   OFFICER. So then here's the tsar's edict.

   MISSAIL. What do I want it for?

   OFFICER. It seems to me that this fugitive heretic, thief,
   swindler, is—thou.

   MISSAIL. I? Good gracious! What are you talking about?

   OFFICER. Stay! Hold the doors. Then we shall soon get
   at the truth.

   HOSTESS. O the cursed tormentors! Not to leave even the
   old man in peace!

   OFFICER. Which of you here is a scholar?

   GREGORY. (Comes forward.) I am a scholar!

   OFFICER. Oh, indeed! And from whom did you learn?

   GREGORY. From our sacristan.

   OFFICER (Gives him the edict.) Read it aloud.

   GREGORY. (Reads.) "An unworthy monk of the Monastery
   Of Chudov, Gregory, of the family of Otrepiev, has fallen
   into heresy, taught by the devil, and has dared to vex
   the holy brotherhood by all kinds of iniquities and acts
   of lawlessness. And, according to information, it has
   been shown that he, the accursed Grishka, has fled to the
   Lithuanian frontier."

   OFFICER. (To MISSAIL.) How can it be anyone but you?

   GREGORY. "And the tsar has commanded to arrest him—"

   OFFICER. And to hang!

   GREGORY. It does not say here "to hang."

   OFFICER. Thou liest. What is meant is not always put into
   writing. Read: to arrest and to hang.

   GREGORY. "And to hang. And the age of the thief
   Grishka" (looking at VARLAAM) "about fifty, and his
   height medium; he has a bald head, grey beard, fat

   (All glance at VARLAAM.)

   1ST OFFICER, My lads! Here is Grishka! Hold him!
   Bind him! I never thought to catch him so quickly.

   VARLAAM. (Snatching the paper.) Hands off, my lads!
   What sort of a Grishka am I? What! Fifty years old,
   grey beard, fat belly! No, brother. You're too young
   to play off tricks on me. I have not read for a long time
   and I make it out badly, but I shall manage to make it
   out, as it's a hanging matter. (Spells it out.) "And his
   age twenty." Why, brother, where does it say fifty?—
   Do you see—twenty?

   2ND OFFICER. Yes, I remember, twenty; even so it was
   told us.

   1ST OFFICER. (To GREGORY.) Then, evidently, you like a
   joke, brother.

   (During the reading GREGORY stands with downcast
   head, and his hand in his breast.)

   VARLAAM. (Continues.) "And in stature he is small, chest
   broad, one arm shorter than the other, blue eyes, red
   hair, a wart on his cheek, another on his forehead."
   Then is it not you, my friend?

   (GREGORY suddenly draws a dagger; all give way
   before him; he dashes through the window.)

   OFFICERS. Hold him! Hold him!

   (All run out in disorder.)


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