Boris Godunov by Alexander Pushkin

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Pushkin – Boris Godunov – Contents

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PRETENDER. (Enters.) Here is the fountain; hither will she come.
I was not born a coward; I have seen
Death near at hand, and face to face with death
My spirit hath not blenched. A life-long dungeon
Hath threatened me, I have been close pursued,
And yet my spirit quailed not, and by boldness
I have escaped captivity. But what
Is this which now constricts my breath? What means
This overpowering tremor, or this quivering
Of tense desire? No, this is fear. All day
I have waited for this secret meeting, pondered
On all that I should say to her, how best
I might enmesh Marina’s haughty mind,
Calling her queen of Moscow. But the hour
Has come—and I remember naught, I cannot
Recall the speeches I have learned by rote;
Love puts imagination to confusion—
But something there gleamed suddenly—a rustling;
Hush—no, it was the moon’s deceitful light,
It was the rustling of the breeze.

MARINA. (Enters.) Tsarevich!

PRETENDER. ‘Tis she. Now all the blood in me stands still.

MARINA. Dimitry! Is it thou?

PRETENDER. Bewitching voice!

(Goes to her.)

Is it thou, at last? Is it thou I see, alone
With me, beneath the roof of quiet night?
How slowly passed the tedious day! How slowly
The glow of evening died away! How long
I have waited in the gloom of night!

MARINA. The hours
Are flitting fast, and time is precious to me.
I did not grant a meeting here to thee
To listen to a lover’s tender speeches.
No need of words. I well believe thou lovest;
But listen; with thy stormy, doubtful fate
I have resolved to join my own; but one thing,
Dimitry, I require; I claim that thou
Disclose to me thy secret hopes, thy plans,
Even thy fears, that hand in hand with thee
I may confront life boldly—not in blindness
Of childlike ignorance, not as the slave
And plaything of my husband’s light desires,
Thy speechless concubine, but as thy spouse,
And worthy helpmate of the tsar of Moscow.

PRETENDER. O, if it be only for one short hour,
Forget the cares and troubles of my fate!
Forget ’tis the tsarevich whom thou seest
Before thee. O, behold in me, Marina,
A lover, by thee chosen, happy only
In thy regard. O, listen to the prayers
Of love! Grant me to utter all wherewith
My heart is full.

MARINA. Prince, this is not the time;
Thou loiterest, and meanwhile the devotion
Of thine adherents cooleth. Hour by hour
Danger becomes more dangerous, difficulties
More difficult; already dubious rumours
Are current, novelty already takes
The place of novelty; and Godunov
Adopts his measures.

PRETENDER. What is Godunov?
Is thy sweet love, my only blessedness,
Swayed by Boris? Nay, nay. Indifferently
I now regard his throne, his kingly power.
Thy love—without it what to me is life,
And glory’s glitter, and the state of Russia?
On the dull steppe, in a poor mud hut, thou—
Thou wilt requite me for the kingly crown;
Thy love—

MARINA. For shame! Forget not, prince, thy high
And sacred destiny; thy dignity
Should be to thee more dear than all the joys
Of life and its allurements. It thou canst not
With anything compare. Not to a boy,
Insanely boiling, captured by my beauty—
But to the heir of Moscow’s throne give I
My hand in solemn wise, to the tsarevich
Rescued by destiny.

PRETENDER. Torture me not,
Charming Marina; say not that ’twas my rank
And not myself that thou didst choose. Marina!
Thou knowest not how sorely thou dost wound
My heart thereby. What if—O fearful doubt!—
Say, if blind destiny had not assigned me
A kingly birth; if I were not indeed
Son of Ivan, were not this boy, so long
Forgotten by the world—say, then wouldst thou
Have loved me?

MARINA. Thou art Dimitry, and aught else
Thou canst not be; it is not possible
For me to love another.

PRETENDER. Nay! Enough—
I have no wish to share with a dead body
A mistress who belongs to him; I have done
With counterfeiting, and will tell the truth.
Know, then, that thy Dimitry long ago
Perished, was buried—and will not rise again;
And dost thou wish to know what man I am?
Well, I will tell thee. I am—a poor monk.
Grown weary of monastic servitude,
I pondered ‘neath the cowl my bold design,
Made ready for the world a miracle—
And from my cell at last fled to the Cossacks,
To their wild hovels; there I learned to handle
Both steeds and swords; I showed myself to you.
I called myself Dimitry, and deceived
The brainless Poles. What say’st thou, proud Marina?
Art thou content with my confession? Why
Dost thou keep silence?

MARINA. O shame! O woe is me!


PRETENDER. (Sotto voce.) O whither hath a fit of anger led me?
The happiness devised with so much labour
I have, perchance, destroyed for ever. Idiot,
What have I done? (Aloud.) I see thou art ashamed
Of love not princely; so pronounce on me
The fatal word; my fate is in thy hands.
Decide; I wait.

(Falls on his knees.)

MARINA. Rise, poor pretender! Think’st thou
To please with genuflex on my vain heart,
As if I were a weak, confiding girl?
You err, my friend; prone at my feet I’ve seen
Knights and counts nobly born; but not for this
Did I reject their prayers, that a poor monk—

PRETENDER. (Rises.) Scorn not the young pretender; noble virtues
May lie perchance in him, virtues well worthy
Of Moscow’s throne, even of thy priceless hand—

MARINA. Say of a shameful noose, insolent wretch!

PRETENDER. I am to blame; carried away by pride
I have deceived God and the kings—have lied
To the world; but it is not for thee, Marina,
To judge me; I am guiltless before thee.
No, I could not deceive thee. Thou to me
Wast the one sacred being, before thee
I dared not to dissemble; love alone,
Love, jealous, blind, constrained me to tell all.

MARINA. What’s that to boast of, idiot? Who demanded
Confession of thee? If thou, a nameless vagrant
Couldst wonderfully blind two nations, then
At least thou shouldst have merited success,
And thy bold fraud secured, by constant, deep,
And lasting secrecy. Say, can I yield
Myself to thee, can I, forgetting rank
And maiden modesty, unite my fate
With thine, when thou thyself impetuously
Dost thus with such simplicity reveal
Thy shame? It was from Love he blabbed to me!
I marvel wherefore thou hast not from friendship
Disclosed thyself ere now before my father,
Or else before our king from joy, or else
Before Prince Vishnevetsky from the zeal
Of a devoted servant.

PRETENDER. I swear to thee
That thou alone wast able to extort
My heart’s confession; I swear to thee that never,
Nowhere, not in the feast, not in the cup
Of folly, not in friendly confidence,
Not ‘neath the knife nor tortures of the rack,
Shall my tongue give away these weighty secrets.

MARINA. Thou swearest! Then I must believe. Believe,
Of course! But may I learn by what thou swearest?
Is it not by the name of God, as suits
The Jesuits’ devout adopted son?
Or by thy honour as a high-born knight?
Or, maybe, by thy royal word alone
As a king’s son? Is it not so? Declare.

PRETENDER. (Proudly.) The phantom of the Terrible hath made me
His son; from out the sepulchre hath named me
Dimitry, hath stirred up the people round me,
And hath consigned Boris to be my victim.
I am tsarevich. Enough! ‘Twere shame for me
To stoop before a haughty Polish dame.
Farewell for ever; the game of bloody war,
The wide cares of my destiny, will smother,
I hope, the pangs Of love. O, when the heat
Of shameful passion is o’erspent, how then
Shall I detest thee! Now I leave thee—ruin,
Or else a crown, awaits my head in Russia;
Whether I meet with death as fits a soldier
In honourable fight, or as a miscreant
Upon the public scaffold, thou shalt not
Be my companion, nor shalt share with me
My fate; but it may be thou shalt regret
The destiny thou hast refused.

MARINA. But what
If I expose beforehand thy bold fraud
To all men?

PRETENDER. Dost thou think I fear thee? Think’st thou
They will believe a Polish maiden more
Than Russia’s own tsarevich? Know, proud lady,
That neither king, nor pope, nor nobles trouble
Whether my words be true, whether I be
Dimitry or another. What care they?
But I provide a pretext for revolt
And war; and this is all they need; and thee,
Rebellious one, believe me, they will force
To hold thy peace. Farewell.

MARINA. Tsarevich, stay!
At last I hear the speech not of a boy,
But of a man. It reconciles me to thee.
Prince, I forget thy senseless outburst, see
Again Dimitry. Listen; now is the time!
Hasten; delay no more, lead on thy troops
Quickly to Moscow, purge the Kremlin, take
Thy seat upon the throne of Moscow; then
Send me the nuptial envoy; but, God hears me,
Until thy foot be planted on its steps,
Until by thee Boris be overthrown,
I am not one to listen to love-speeches.

PRETENDER. No—easier far to strive with Godunov.
Or play false with the Jesuits of the Court,
Than with a woman. Deuce take them; they’re beyond
My power. She twists, and coils, and crawls, slips out
Of hand, she hisses, threatens, bites. Ah, serpent!
Serpent! ‘Twas not for nothing that I trembled.
She well-nigh ruined me; but I’m resolved;
At daybreak I will put my troops in motion.

< < < A Suite Of Lighted Rooms.
The Lithuanian Frontier > > >

Russian LiteratureChildren BooksRussian PoetryAlexander Pushkin – Boris Godunov – Contents

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