Boris Godunov

by Alexsander Pushkin

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The Counsel of the Tsar

The TSAR, the PATRIARCH and Boyars

   TSAR. Is it possible? An unfrocked monk against us
   Leads rascal troops, a truant friar dares write
   Threats to us! Then 'tis time to tame the madman!
   Trubetskoy, set thou forth, and thou Basmanov;
   My zealous governors need help. Chernigov
   Already by the rebel is besieged;
   Rescue the city and citizens.

   BASMANOV.                   Three months
   Shall not pass, Sire, ere even rumour's tongue
   Shall cease to speak of the pretender; caged
   In iron, like a wild beast from oversea,
   We'll hale him into Moscow, I swear by God.

   (Exit with TRUBETSKOY.)

   TSAR. The Lord of Sweden hath by envoys tendered
   Alliance to me. But we have no need
   To lean on foreign aid; we have enough
   Of our own warlike people to repel
   Traitors and Poles. I have refused.—Shchelkalov!
   In every district to the governors
   Send edicts, that they mount their steeds, and send
   The people as of old on service; likewise
   Ride to the monasteries, and there enlist
   The servants of the churchmen. In days of old,
   When danger faced our country, hermits freely
   Went into battle; it is not now our wish
   To trouble them; no, let them pray for us;
   Such is the tsar's decree, such the resolve
   Of his boyars. And now a weighty question
   We shall determine; ye know how everywhere
   The insolent pretender hath spread abroad
   His artful rumours; letters everywhere,
   By him distributed, have sowed alarm
   And doubt; seditious whispers to and fro
   Pass in the market-places; minds are seething.
   We needs must cool them; gladly would I refrain
   From executions, but by what means and how?
   That we will now determine. Holy father,
   Thou first declare thy thought.

   PATRIARCH.                    The Blessed One,
   The All-Highest, hath instilled into thy soul,
   Great lord, the spirit of kindness and meek patience;
   Thou wishest not perdition for the sinner,
   Thou wilt wait quietly, until delusion
   Shall pass away; for pass away it will,
   And truth's eternal sun will dawn on all.
   Thy faithful bedesman, one in worldly matters
   No prudent judge, ventures today to offer
   His voice to thee. This offspring of the devil,
   This unfrocked monk, has known how to appear
   Dimitry to the people. Shamelessly
   He clothed himself with the name of the tsarevich
   As with a stolen vestment. It only needs
   To tear it off—and he'll be put to shame
   By his own nakedness. The means thereto
   God hath Himself supplied. Know, sire, six years
   Since then have fled; 'twas in that very year
   When to the seat of sovereignty the Lord
   Anointed thee—there came to me one evening
   A simple shepherd, a venerable old man,
   Who told me a strange secret. "In my young days,"
   He said, "I lost my sight, and thenceforth knew not
   Nor day, nor night, till my old age; in vain
   I plied myself with herbs and secret spells;
   In vain did I resort in adoration
   To the great wonder-workers in the cloister;
   Bathed my dark eyes in vain with healing water
   From out the holy wells. The Lord vouchsafed not
   Healing to me. Then lost I hope at last,
   And grew accustomed to my darkness. Even
   Slumber showed not to me things visible,
   Only of sounds I dreamed. Once in deep sleep
   I hear a childish voice; it speaks to me:
   `Arise, grandfather, go to Uglich town,
   To the Cathedral of Transfiguration;
   There pray over my grave. The Lord is gracious—
   And I shall pardon thee.'  `But who art thou?'
   I asked the childish voice. `I am the tsarevich
   Dimitry, whom the Heavenly Tsar hath taken
   Into His angel band, and I am now
   A mighty wonder-worker. Go, old man.'
   I woke, and pondered. What is this? Maybe
   God will in very deed vouchsafe to me
   Belated healing. I will go. I bent
   My footsteps to the distant road. I reached
   Uglich, repair unto the holy minster,
   Hear mass, and, glowing with zealous soul, I weep
   Sweetly, as if the blindness from mine eyes
   Were flowing out in tears. And when the people
   Began to leave, to my grandson I said:
   `Lead me, Ivan, to the grave of the tsarevich
   Dimitry.' The boy led me—and I scarce
   Had shaped before the grave a silent prayer,
   When sight illumed my eyeballs; I beheld
   The light of God, my grandson, and the tomb."
   That is the tale, Sire, which the old man told.

   (General agitation. In the course of this speech Boris
   several times wipes his face with his handkerchief.)

   To Uglich then I sent, where it was learned
   That many sufferers had found likewise
   Deliverance at the grave of the tsarevich.
   This is my counsel; to the Kremlin send
   The sacred relics, place them in the Cathedral
   Of the Archangel; clearly will the people
   See then the godless villain's fraud; the might
   Of the fiends will vanish as a cloud of dust.


   PRINCE SHUISKY. What mortal, holy father, knoweth the ways
   Of the All-Highest? 'Tis not for me to judge Him.
   Untainted sleep and power of wonder-working
   He may upon the child's remains bestow;
   But vulgar rumour must dispassionately
   And diligently be tested; is it for us,
   In stormy times of insurrection,
   To weigh so great a matter? Will men not say
   That insolently we made of sacred things
   A worldly instrument? Even now the people
   Sway senselessly this way and that, even now
   There are enough already of loud rumours;
   This is no time to vex the people's minds
   With aught so unexpected, grave, and strange.
   I myself see 'tis needful to demolish
   The rumour spread abroad by the unfrocked monk;
   But for this end other and simpler means
   Will serve. Therefore, when it shall please thee, Sire,
   I will myself appear in public places,
   I will persuade, exhort away this madness,
   And will expose the vagabond's vile fraud.

   TSAR. So be it! My lord Patriarch, I pray thee
   Go with us to the palace, where today
   I must converse with thee.

   (Exeunt; all the boyars follow them.)

   1ST BOYAR. (Sotto voce to another.) Didst mark how pale
   Our sovereign turned, how from his face there poured
   A mighty sweat?

   2ND BOYAR.    I durst not, I confess,
   Uplift mine eyes, nor breathe, nor even stir.

   1ST BOYAR. Prince Shuisky has pulled it through. A
   splendid fellow!


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