Boris Godunov by Alexander Pushkin

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Pushkin – Boris Godunov – Contents

< < < Moscow. Shuisky’s House
Cracow. House Of Vishnevetsky > > >


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?

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!


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?


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?


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.


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!

< < < Moscow. Shuisky’s House
Cracow. House Of Vishnevetsky > > >

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Pushkin – Boris Godunov – Contents

Copyright holders –  Public Domain Book

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