Boris Godunov by Alexander Pushkin

This etext was produced by Stephen D. Leary BORIS GODUNOV A Drama in Verse By ALEXANDER PUSHKIN Rendered into English verse by Alfred Hayes DRAMATIS PERSONAE* BORIS GODUNOV, afterwards Tsar. PRINCE SHUISKY, Russian noble. PRINCE VOROTINSKY, Russian noble. SHCHELKALOV, Russian Minister of State. FATHER PIMEN, an old monk and chronicler. GREGORY OTREPIEV, a young
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  • 1831
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This etext was produced by Stephen D. Leary


A Drama in Verse


Rendered into English verse by Alfred Hayes


BORIS GODUNOV, afterwards Tsar.
PRINCE SHUISKY, Russian noble.
SHCHELKALOV, Russian Minister of State. FATHER PIMEN, an old monk and chronicler. GREGORY OTREPIEV, a young monk, afterwards the Pretender to the throne of Russia.
THE PATRIARCH, Abbot of the Chudov Monastery. MISSAIL, wandering friar.
VARLAAM, wandering friar.
ATHANASIUS MIKAILOVICH PUSHKIN, friend of Prince Shuisky. FEODOR, young son of Boris Godunov.
SEMYON NIKITICH GODUNOV, secret agent of Boris Godunov. GABRIEL PUSHKIN, nephew of A. M. Pushkin. PRINCE KURBSKY, disgraced Russian noble. KHRUSHCHOV, disgraced Russian noble.
KARELA, a Cossack.
MNISHEK, Governor of Sambor.
BASMANOV, a Russian officer.
MARZHERET, officer of the Pretender. ROZEN, officer of the Pretender.
DIMITRY, the Pretender, formerly Gregory Otrepiev. MOSALSKY, a Boyar.
KSENIA, daughter of Boris Godunov.
NURSE of Ksenia.
MARINA, daughter of Mnishek.
ROUZYA, tire-woman of Ksenia.
HOSTESS of tavern.

Boyars, The People, Inspectors, Officers, Attendants, Guests, a Boy in attendance on Prince Shuisky, a Catholic Priest, a Polish Noble, a Poet, an Idiot, a Beggar, Gentlemen, Peasants, Guards, Russian, Polish, and German Soldiers, a Russian Prisoner of War, Boys, an old Woman, Ladies, Serving-women.

*The list of Dramatis Personae which does not appear in the original has been added for the convenience of the reader–A.H.


(FEBRUARY 20th, A.D. 1598)


VOROTINSKY. To keep the city’s peace, that is the task Entrusted to us twain, but you forsooth
Have little need to watch; Moscow is empty; The people to the Monastery have flocked After the patriarch. What thinkest thou? How will this trouble end?

SHUISKY. How will it end?
That is not hard to tell. A little more The multitude will groan and wail, Boris Pucker awhile his forehead, like a toper Eyeing a glass of wine, and in the end
Will humbly of his graciousness consent To take the crown; and then–and then will rule us Just as before.

VOROTINSKY. A month has flown already Since, cloistered with his sister, he forsook The world’s affairs. None hitherto hath shaken His purpose, not the patriarch, not the boyars His counselors; their tears, their prayers he heeds not; Deaf is he to the wail of Moscow, deaf
To the Great Council’s voice; vainly they urged The sorrowful nun-queen to consecrate
Boris to sovereignty; firm was his sister, Inexorable as he; methinks Boris
Inspired her with this spirit. What if our ruler Be sick in very deed of cares of state
And hath no strength to mount the throne? What Say’st thou?

SHUISKY. I say that in that case the blood in vain Flowed of the young tsarevich, that Dimitry Might just as well be living.

VOROTINSKY. Fearful crime!
Is it beyond all doubt Boris contrived The young boy’s murder?

SHUISKY. Who besides? Who else
Bribed Chepchugov in vain? Who sent in secret The brothers Bityagovsky with Kachalov?
Myself was sent to Uglich, there to probe This matter on the spot; fresh traces there I found; the whole town bore witness to the crime; With one accord the burghers all affirmed it; And with a single word, when I returned, I could have proved the secret villain’s guilt.

VOROTINSKY. Why didst thou then not crush him?

SHUISKY. At the time,
I do confess, his unexpected calmness, His shamelessness, dismayed me. Honestly He looked me in the eyes; he questioned me Closely, and I repeated to his face
The foolish tale himself had whispered to me.

VOROTINSKY. An ugly business, prince.

SHUISKY. What could I do?
Declare all to Feodor? But the tsar Saw all things with the eyes of Godunov. Heard all things with the ears of Godunov; Grant even that I might have fully proved it, Boris would have denied it there and then, And I should have been haled away to prison, And in good time–like mine own uncle–strangled Within the silence of some deaf-walled dungeon. I boast not when I say that, given occasion, No penalty affrights me. I am no coward, But also am no fool, and do not choose
Of my free will to walk into a halter.

VOROTINSKY. Monstrous misdeed! Listen; I warrant you Remorse already gnaws the murderer;
Be sure the blood of that same innocent child Will hinder him from mounting to the throne.

SHUISKY. That will not baulk him; Boris is not so timid! What honour for ourselves, ay, for all Russia! A slave of yesterday, a Tartar, son
By marriage of Maliuta, of a hangman, Himself in soul a hangman, he to wear
The crown and robe of Monomakh!–

VOROTINSKY. You are right;
He is of lowly birth; we twain can boast A nobler lineage.

SHUISKY. Indeed we may!

VOROTINSKY. Let us remember, Shuisky, Vorotinsky Are, let me say, born princes.

SHUISKY. Yea, born princes, And of the blood of Rurik.

VOROTINSKY. Listen, prince;
Then we, ‘twould seem, should have the right to mount Feodor’s throne.

SHUISKY. Rather than Godunov.

VOROTINSKY. In very truth ‘twould seem so.

SHUISKY. And what then?
If still Boris pursue his crafty ways, Let us contrive by skilful means to rouse The people. Let them turn from Godunov;
Princes they have in plenty of their own; Let them from out their number choose a tsar.

VOROTINSKY. Of us, Varyags in blood, there are full many, But ’tis no easy thing for us to vie
With Godunov; the people are not wont To recognise in us an ancient branch
Of their old warlike masters; long already Have we our appanages forfeited,
Long served but as lieutenants of the tsars, And he hath known, by fear, and love, and glory, How to bewitch the people.

SHUISKY. (Looking through a window.) He has dared, That’s all–while we–Enough of this. Thou seest Dispersedly the people are returning.
We’ll go forthwith and learn what is resolved.



1ST PERSON. He is inexorable! He thrust from him Prelates, boyars, and Patriarch; in vain Prostrate they fall; the splendour of the throne Affrights him.

2ND PERSON. O, my God, who is to rule us? O, woe to us!

3RD PERSON. See! The Chief Minister
Is coming out to tell us what the Council Has now resolved.

THE PEOPLE. Silence! Silence! He speaks, The Minister of State. Hush, hush! Give ear!

SHCHELKALOV. (From the Red Balcony.)
The Council have resolved for the last time To put to proof the power of supplication Upon our ruler’s mournful soul. At dawn, After a solemn service in the Kremlin,
The blessed Patriarch will go, preceded By sacred banners, with the holy ikons
Of Donsky and Vladimir; with him go The Council, courtiers, delegates, boyars, And all the orthodox folk of Moscow; all Will go to pray once more the queen to pity Fatherless Moscow, and to consecrate
Boris unto the crown. Now to your homes Go ye in peace: pray; and to Heaven shall rise The heart’s petition of the orthodox.

(The PEOPLE disperse.)



1ST PERSON. To plead with the tsaritsa in her cell Now are they gone. Thither have gone Boris, The Patriarch, and a host of boyars.

2ND PERSON. What news?

3RD PERSON. Still is he obdurate; yet there is hope.

PEASANT WOMAN. (With a child.)
Drat you! Stop crying, or else the bogie-man Will carry you off. Drat you, drat you! Stop crying!

1ST PERSON. Can’t we slip through behind the fence?

2ND PERSON. Impossible!
No chance at all! Not only is the nunnery Crowded; the precincts too are crammed with people. Look what a sight! All Moscow has thronged here. See! Fences, roofs, and every single storey Of the Cathedral bell tower, the church-domes, The very crosses are studded thick with people.

1ST PERSON. A goodly sight indeed!

2ND PERSON. What is that noise?

3RD PERSON. Listen! What noise is that?–The people groaned; See there! They fall like waves, row upon row– Again–again– Now, brother, ’tis our turn; Be quick, down on your knees!

THE PEOPLE. (On their knees, groaning and wailing.) Have pity on us,
Our father! O, rule over us! O, be
Father to us, and tsar!

1ST PERSON. (Sotto voce.) Why are they wailing?

2ND PERSON. How can we know? The boyars know well enough. It’s not our business.

PEASANT WOMAN. (With child.)
Now, what’s this? Just when It ought to cry, the child stops crying. I’ll show you! Here comes the bogie-man! Cry, cry, you spoilt one! (Throws it on the ground; the child screams.) That’s right, that’s right!

1ST PERSON. As everyone is crying, We also, brother, will begin to cry.

2ND PERSON. Brother, I try my best, but can’t.

Have you not got an onion?

2ND PERSON. No; I’ll wet
My eyes with spittle. What’s up there now?

1ST PERSON. Who knows
What’s going on?

THE PEOPLE. The crown for him! He is tsar! He has yielded!–Boris!–Our tsar!–Long live Boris!



BORIS. Thou, father Patriarch, all ye boyars! My soul lies bare before you; ye have seen With what humility and fear I took
This mighty power upon me. Ah! How heavy My weight of obligation! I succeed
The great Ivans; succeed the angel tsar!– O Righteous Father, King Of kings, look down From Heaven upon the tears of Thy true servants, And send on him whom Thou hast loved, whom Thou Exalted hast on earth so wondrously,
Thy holy blessing. May I rule my people In glory, and like Thee be good and righteous! To you, boyars, I look for help. Serve me As ye served him, what time I shared your labours, Ere I was chosen by the people’s will.

BOYARS. We will not from our plighted oath depart.

BORIS. Now let us go to kneel before the tombs Of Russia’s great departed rulers. Then
Bid summon all our people to a feast, All, from the noble to the poor blind beggar. To all free entrance, all most welcome guests.

(Exit, the Boyars following.)

PRINCE VOROTINSKY. (Stopping Shuisky.) You rightly guessed.

SHUISKY. Guessed what?

VOROTINSKY. Why, you remember– The other day, here on this very spot.

SHUISKY. No, I remember nothing.

VOROTINSKY. When the people
Flocked to the Virgin’s Field, thou said’st–

SHUISKY. ‘Tis not
The time for recollection. There are times When I should counsel you not to remember, But even to forget. And for the rest,
I sought but by feigned calumny to prove thee, The truelier to discern thy secret thoughts. But see! The people hail the tsar–my absence May be remarked. I’ll join them.

VOROTINSKY. Wily courtier!


Cell in the Monastery of Chudov (A.D. 1603)


PIMEN (Writing in front of a sacred lamp.) One more, the final record, and my annals Are ended, and fulfilled the duty laid
By God on me a sinner. Not in vain
Hath God appointed me for many years A witness, teaching me the art of letters; A day will come when some laborious monk Will bring to light my zealous, nameless toil, Kindle, as I, his lamp, and from the parchment Shaking the dust of ages will transcribe My true narrations, that posterity
The bygone fortunes of the orthodox Of their own land may learn, will mention make Of their great tsars, their labours, glory, goodness– And humbly for their sins, their evil deeds, Implore the Saviour’s mercy.–In old age I live anew; the past unrolls before me.– Did it in years long vanished sweep along, Full of events, and troubled like the deep? Now it is hushed and tranquil. Few the faces Which memory hath saved for me, and few
The words which have come down to me;–the rest Have perished, never to return.–But day Draws near, the lamp burns low, one record more, The last. (He writes.)

GREGORY. (Waking.) Ever the selfsame dream! Is ‘t possible? For the third time! Accursed dream! And ever Before the lamp sits the old man and writes– And not all night, ‘twould seem, from drowsiness, Hath closed his eyes. I love the peaceful sight, When, with his soul deep in the past immersed, He keeps his chronicle. Oft have I longed To guess what ’tis he writes of. Is ‘t perchance The dark dominion of the Tartars? Is it
Ivan’s grim punishments, the stormy Council of Novgorod? Is it about the glory
Of our dear fatherland?–I ask in vain! Not on his lofty brow, nor in his looks
May one peruse his secret thoughts; always The same aspect; lowly at once, and lofty– Like some state Minister grown grey in office, Calmly alike he contemplates the just
And guilty, with indifference he hears Evil and good, and knows not wrath nor pity.

PIMEN. Wakest thou, brother?

GREGORY. Honoured father, give me Thy blessing.

PIMEN. May God bless thee on this day, Tomorrow, and for ever.

GREGORY. All night long
Thou hast been writing and abstained from sleep, While demon visions have disturbed my peace, The fiend molested me. I dreamed I scaled By winding stairs a turret, from whose height Moscow appeared an anthill, where the people Seethed in the squares below and pointed at me With laughter. Shame and terror came upon me– And falling headlong, I awoke. Three times I dreamed the selfsame dream. Is it not strange?

PIMEN. ‘Tis the young blood at play; humble thyself By prayer and fasting, and thy slumber’s visions Will all be filled with lightness. Hitherto If I, unwillingly by drowsiness
Weakened, make not at night long orisons, My old-man’s sleep is neither calm nor sinless; Now riotous feasts appear, now camps of war, Scuffles of battle, fatuous diversions
Of youthful years.

GREGORY. How joyfully didst thou
Live out thy youth! The fortress of Kazan Thou fought’st beneath, with Shuisky didst repulse The army of Litva. Thou hast seen the court, And splendour of Ivan. Ah! Happy thou!
Whilst I, from boyhood up, a wretched monk, Wander from cell to cell! Why unto me
Was it not given to play the game of war, To revel at the table of a tsar?
Then, like to thee, would I in my old age Have gladly from the noisy world withdrawn, To vow myself a dedicated monk,
And in the quiet cloister end my days.

PIMEN. Complain not, brother, that the sinful world Thou early didst forsake, that few temptations The All-Highest sent to thee. Believe my words; The glory of the world, its luxury,
Woman’s seductive love, seen from afar, Enslave our souls. Long have I lived, have taken Delight in many things, but never knew
True bliss until that season when the Lord Guided me to the cloister. Think, my son, On the great tsars; who loftier than they? God only. Who dares thwart them? None. What then? Often the golden crown became to them
A burden; for a cowl they bartered it. The tsar Ivan sought in monastic toil
Tranquility; his palace, filled erewhile With haughty minions, grew to all appearance A monastery; the very rakehells seemed
Obedient monks, the terrible tsar appeared A pious abbot. Here, in this very cell
(At that time Cyril, the much suffering, A righteous man, dwelt in it; even me
God then made comprehend the nothingness Of worldly vanities), here I beheld,
Weary of angry thoughts and executions, The tsar; among us, meditative, quiet
Here sat the Terrible; we motionless Stood in his presence, while he talked with us In tranquil tones. Thus spake he to the abbot And all the brothers: “My fathers, soon will come The longed-for day; here shall I stand before you, Hungering for salvation; Nicodemus,
Thou Sergius, Cyril thou, will all accept My spiritual vow; to you I soon shall come Accurst in sin, here the clean habit take, Prostrate, most holy father, at thy feet.” So spake the sovereign lord, and from his lips Sweetly the accents flowed. He wept; and we With tears prayed God to send His love and peace Upon his suffering and stormy soul.–
What of his son Feodor? On the throne He sighed to lead the life of calm devotion. The royal chambers to a cell of prayer
He turned, wherein the heavy cares of state Vexed not his holy soul. God grew to love The tsar’s humility; in his good days
Russia was blest with glory undisturbed, And in the hour of his decease was wrought A miracle unheard of; at his bedside,
Seen by the tsar alone, appeared a being Exceeding bright, with whom Feodor ‘gan
To commune, calling him great Patriarch;– And all around him were possessed with fear, Musing upon the vision sent from Heaven, Since at that time the Patriarch was not present In church before the tsar. And when he died The palace was with holy fragrance filled. And like the sun his countenance outshone. Never again shall we see such a tsar.–
O, horrible, appalling woe! We have sinned, We have angered God; we have chosen for our ruler A tsar’s assassin.

GREGORY. Honoured father, long
Have I desired to ask thee of the death Of young Dimitry, the tsarevich; thou,
‘Tis said, wast then at Uglich.

PIMEN. Ay, my son,
I well remember. God it was who led me To witness that ill deed, that bloody sin. I at that time was sent to distant Uglich Upon some mission. I arrived at night.
Next morning, at the hour of holy mass, I heard upon a sudden a bell toll;
‘Twas the alarm bell. Then a cry, an uproar; Men rushing to the court of the tsaritsa. Thither I haste, and there had flocked already All Uglich. There I see the young tsarevich Lie slaughtered: the queen mother in a swoon Bowed over him, his nurse in her despair Wailing; and then the maddened people drag The godless, treacherous nurse away. Appears Suddenly in their midst, wild, pale with rage, Judas Bityagovsky. “There, there’s the villain!” Shout on all sides the crowd, and in a trice He was no more. Straightway the people rushed On the three fleeing murderers; they seized The hiding miscreants and led them up
To the child’s corpse yet warm; when lo! A marvel– The dead child all at once began to tremble! “Confess!” the people thundered; and in terror Beneath the axe the villains did confess– And named Boris.

GREGORY. How many summers lived
The murdered boy?

PIMEN. Seven summers; he would now (Since then have passed ten years–nay, more–twelve years) He would have been of equal age to thee, And would have reigned; but God deemed otherwise. This is the lamentable tale wherewith
My chronicle doth end; since then I little Have dipped in worldly business. Brother Gregory, Thou hast illumed thy mind by earnest study; To thee I hand my task. In hours exempt
From the soul’s exercise, do thou record, Not subtly reasoning, all things whereto Thou shalt in life be witness; war and peace, The sway of kings, the holy miracles
Of saints, all prophecies and heavenly signs;– For me ’tis time to rest and quench my lamp.– But hark! The matin bell. Bless, Lord, Thy servants! Give me my crutch.


GREGORY. Boris, Boris, before thee All tremble; none dares even to remind thee Of what befell the hapless child; meanwhile Here in dark cell a hermit doth indite
Thy stern denunciation. Thou wilt not Escape the judgment even of this world,
As thou wilt not escape the doom of God.


*This scene was omitted by Pushkin from the published version of the play.

GREGORY and a Wicked Monk

GREGORY. O, what a weariness is our poor life, What misery! Day comes, day goes, and ever Is seen, is heard one thing alone; one sees Only black cassocks, only hears the bell. Yawning by day you wander, wander, nothing To do; you doze; the whole night long till daylight The poor monk lies awake; and when in sleep You lose yourself, black dreams disturb the soul; Glad that they sound the bell, that with a crutch They rouse you. No, I will not suffer it! I cannot! Through this fence I’ll flee! The world Is great; my path is on the highways never Thou’lt hear of me again.

MONK. Truly your life
Is but a sorry one, ye dissolute,
Wicked young monks!

GREGORY. Would that the Khan again Would come upon us, or Lithuania rise
Once more in insurrection. Good! I would then Cross swords with them! Or what if the tsarevich Should suddenly arise from out the grave, Should cry, “Where are ye, children, faithful servants? Help me against Boris, against my murderer! Seize my foe, lead him to me!”

MONK. Enough, my friend,
Of empty babble. We cannot raise the dead. No, clearly it was fated otherwise
For the tsarevich– But hearken; if you wish To do a thing, then do it.

GREGORY. What to do?

MONK. If I were young as thou, if these grey hairs Had not already streaked my beard– Dost take me?


MONK. Hearken; our folk are dull of brain, Easy of faith, and glad to be amazed
By miracles and novelties. The boyars Remember Godunov as erst he was,
Peer to themselves; and even now the race Of the old Varyags is loved by all. Thy years Match those of the tsarevich. If thou hast Cunning and hardihood– Dost take me now?

GREGORY. I take thee.

MONK. Well, what say’st thou?

GREGORY. ‘Tis resolved. I am Dimitry, I tsarevich!

MONK. Give me
Thy hand, my bold young friend. Thou shalt be tsar!


PATRIARCH, ABBOT of the Chudov Monastery

PATRIARCH. And he has run away, Father Abbot?

ABBOT. He has run away, holy sovereign, now three days ago.

PATRIARCH. Accursed rascal! What is his origin?

ABBOT. Of the family of the Otrepievs, of the lower nobility of Galicia; in his youth he took the tonsure, no one knows where, lived at Suzdal, in the Ephimievsky monastery, departed from there, wandered to various convents, finally arrived at my Chudov fraternity; but I, seeing that he was still young and inexperienced, entrusted him at the outset to Father Pimen, an old man, kind and humble. And he was very learned, read our chronicle, composed canons for the holy brethren; but, to be sure, instruction was not given to him from the Lord God–

PATRIARCH. Ah, those learned fellows! What a thing to say, “I shall be tsar in Moscow.” Ah, he is a vessel of the devil! However, it is no use even to report to the tsar about this; why disquiet our father sovereign? It will be enough to give information about his flight to the Secretary Smirnov or the Secretary Ephimiev. What a heresy: “I shall be tsar in Moscow!”… Catch, catch the fawning villain, and send him to Solovetsky to perpetual penance. But this–is it not heresy, Father Abbot?

ABBOT. Heresy, holy Patriarch; downright heresy.


Two Attendants

1ST ATTENDANT. Where is the sovereign?

2ND ATTENDANT. In his bed-chamber, Where he is closeted with some magician.

1ST ATTENDANT. Ay; that’s the kind of intercourse he loves; Sorcerers, fortune-tellers, necromancers. Ever he seeks to dip into the future,
Just like some pretty girl. Fain would I know What ’tis he would foretell.

2ND ATTENDANT. Well, here he comes. Will it please you question him?

1ST ATTENDANT. How grim he looks!


TSAR. (Enters.) I have attained the highest power. Six years Already have I reigned in peace; but joy Dwells not within my soul. Even so in youth We greedily desire the joys of love,
But only quell the hunger of the heart With momentary possession. We grow cold, Grow weary and oppressed! In vain the wizards Promise me length of days, days of dominion Immune from treachery–not power, not life Gladden me; I forebode the wrath of Heaven And woe. For me no happiness. I thought
To satisfy my people in contentment, In glory, gain their love by generous gifts, But I have put away that empty hope;
The power that lives is hateful to the mob,– Only the dead they love. We are but fools When our heart vibrates to the people’s groans And passionate wailing. Lately on our land God sent a famine; perishing in torments The people uttered moan. The granaries
I made them free of, scattered gold among them, Found labour for them; furious for my pains They cursed me! Next, a fire consumed their homes; I built for them new dwellings; then forsooth They blamed me for the fire! Such is the mob, Such is its judgment! Seek its love, indeed! I thought within my family to find
Solace; I thought to make my daughter happy By wedlock. Like a tempest Death took off Her bridegroom–and at once a stealthy rumour Pronounced me guilty of my daughter’s grief– Me, me, the hapless father! Whoso dies,
I am the secret murderer of all;
I hastened Feodor’s end, ’twas I that poisoned My sister-queen, the lowly nun–all I!
Ah! Now I feel it; naught can give us peace Mid worldly cares, nothing save only conscience! Healthy she triumphs over wickedness,
Over dark slander; but if in her be found A single casual stain, then misery.
With what a deadly sore my soul doth smart; My heart, with venom filled, doth like a hammer Beat in mine ears reproach; all things revolt me, And my head whirls, and in my eyes are children Dripping with blood; and gladly would I flee, But nowhere can find refuge–horrible!
Pitiful he whose conscience is unclean!


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 guard.

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–


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 belly.”

(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.)


SHUISKY. A number of Guests. Supper

SHUISKY. More wine! Now, my dear guests.

(He rises; all rise after him.)

The final draught!
Read the prayer, boy.

Boy. Lord of the heavens, Who art Eternally and everywhere, accept
The prayer of us Thy servants. For our monarch, By Thee appointed, for our pious tsar,
Of all good Christians autocrat, we pray. Preserve him in the palace, on the field Of battle, on his nightly couch; grant to him Victory o’er his foes; from sea to sea
May he be glorified; may all his house Blossom with health, and may its precious branches O’ershadow all the earth; to us, his slaves, May he, as heretofore, be generous.
Gracious, long-suffering, and may the founts Of his unfailing wisdom flow upon us;
Raising the royal cup, Lord of the heavens, For this we pray.

SHUISKY. (Drinks.) Long live our mighty sovereign! Farewell, dear guests. I thank you that ye scorned not My bread and salt. Farewell; good-night.

(Exeunt Guests: he conducts them to the door.)

PUSHKIN. Hardly could they tear themselves away; indeed, Prince Vassily Ivanovitch, I began to think that we should not succeed in getting any private talk.

SHUISKY. (To the Servants.) You there, why do you stand Gaping? Always eavesdropping on gentlemen! Clear the table, and then be off.

(Exeunt Servants.)

What is it, Athanasius

PUSHKIN. Such a wondrous thing!
A message was sent here to me today From Cracow by my nephew Gabriel Pushkin.


PUSHKIN. ‘Tis strange news my nephew writes. The son Of the Terrible– But stay–

(Goes to the door and examines it.)

The royal boy,
Who murdered was by order of Boris–

SHUISKY. But these are no new tidings.

PUSHKIN. Wait a little;
Dimitry lives.

SHUISKY. So that’s it! News indeed! Dimitry living!–Really marvelous!
And is that all?

PUSHKIN. Pray listen to the end;
Whoe’er he be, whether he be Dimitry Rescued, or else some spirit in his shape, Some daring rogue, some insolent pretender, In any case Dimitry has appeared.

SHUISKY. It cannot be.

PUSHKIN. Pushkin himself beheld him When first he reached the court, and through the ranks Of Lithuanian gentlemen went straight
Into the secret chamber of the king.

SHUISKY. What kind of man? Whence comes he?

PUSHKIN. No one knows.
‘Tis known that he was Vishnevetsky’s servant; That to a ghostly father on a bed
Of sickness he disclosed himself; possessed Of this strange secret, his proud master nursed him, >From his sick bed upraised him, and straightway Took him to Sigismund.

SHUISKY. And what say men
Of this bold fellow?

PUSHKIN. ‘Tis said that he is wise, Affable, cunning, popular with all men.
He has bewitched the fugitives from Moscow, The Catholic priests see eye to eye with him. The King caresses him, and, it is said,
Has promised help.

SHUISKY. All this is such a medley That my head whirls. Brother, beyond all doubt This man is a pretender, but the danger
Is, I confess, not slight. This is grave news! And if it reach the people, then there’ll be A mighty tempest.

PUSHKIN. Such a storm that hardly
Will Tsar Boris contrive to keep the crown Upon his clever head; and losing it
Will get but his deserts! He governs us As did the tsar Ivan of evil memory.
What profits it that public executions Have ceased, that we no longer sing in public Hymns to Christ Jesus on the field of blood; That we no more are burnt in public places, Or that the tsar no longer with his sceptre Rakes in the ashes? Is there any safety
In our poor life? Each day disgrace awaits us; The dungeon or Siberia, cowl or fetters, And then in some deaf nook a starving death, Or else the halter. Where are the most renowned Of all our houses, where the Sitsky princes, Where are the Shestunovs, where the Romanovs, Hope of our fatherland? Imprisoned, tortured, In exile. Do but wait, and a like fate
Will soon be thine. Think of it! Here at home, Just as in Lithuania, we’re beset
By treacherous slaves–and tongues are ever ready For base betrayal, thieves bribed by the State. We hang upon the word of the first servant Whom we may please to punish. Then he bethought him To take from us our privilege of hiring
Our serfs at will; we are no longer masters Of our own lands. Presume not to dismiss An idler. Willy nilly, thou must feed him! Presume not to outbid a man in hiring
A labourer, or you will find yourself In the Court’s clutches.–Was such an evil heard of Even under tsar Ivan? And are the people The better off? Ask them. Let the pretender But promise them the old free right of transfer, Then there’ll be sport.

SHUISKY. Thou’rt right; but be advised; Of this, of all things, for a time we’ll speak No word.

PUSHKIN. Assuredly, keep thine own counsel. Thou art–a person of discretion; always I am glad to commune with thee; and if aught At any time disturbs me, I endure not
To keep it from thee; and, truth to tell, thy mead And velvet ale today have so untied
My tongue…Farewell then, prince.

SHUISKY. Brother, farewell.
Farewell, my brother, till we meet again.

(He escorts PUSHKIN out.)


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 thee.

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; farewe1l, 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!



PRETENDER. Nay, father, there will be no trouble. I know The spirit of my people; piety
Does not run wild in them, their tsar’s example To them is sacred. Furthermore, the people Are always tolerant. I warrant you,
Before two years my people all, and all The Eastern Church, will recognise the power Of Peter’s Vicar.

PRIEST. May Saint Ignatius aid thee When other times shall come. Meanwhile, tsarevich, Hide in thy soul the seed of heavenly blessing; Religious duty bids us oft dissemble
Before the blabbing world; the people judge Thy words, thy deeds; God only sees thy motives.

PRETENDER. Amen. Who’s there?

(Enter a Servant.)

Say that we will receive them.

(The doors are opened; a crowd of Russians and Poles enters.)

Comrades! Tomorrow we depart from Cracow. Mnishek, with thee for three days in Sambor I’ll stay. I know thy hospitable castle
Both shines in splendid stateliness, and glories In its young mistress; There I hope to see Charming Marina. And ye, my friends, ye, Russia And Lithuania, ye who have upraised
Fraternal banners against a common foe, Against mine enemy, yon crafty villain.
Ye sons of Slavs, speedily will I lead Your dread battalions to the longed-for conflict. But soft! Methinks among you I descry
New faces.

GABRIEL P. They have come to beg for sword And service with your Grace.

PRETENDER. Welcome, my lads.
You are friends to me. But tell me, Pushkin, who Is this fine fellow?

PUSHKIN. Prince Kurbsky.

PRETENDER. (To KURBSKY.) A famous name! Art kinsman to the hero of Kazan?

KURBSKY. His son.

PRETENDER. Liveth he still?

KURBSKY. Nay, he is dead.

PRETENDER. A noble soul! A man of war and counsel. But from the time when he appeared beneath The ancient town Olgin with the Lithuanians, Hardy avenger of his injuries,
Rumour hath held her tongue concerning him.

KURBSKY. My father led the remnant of his life On lands bestowed upon him by Batory;
There, in Volhynia, solitary and quiet, Sought consolation for himself in studies; But peaceful labour did not comfort him; He ne’er forgot the home of his young days, And to the end pined for it.

PRETENDER. Hapless chieftain! How brightly shone the dawn of his resounding And stormy life! Glad am I, noble knight, That now his blood is reconciled in thee To his fatherland. The faults of fathers must not Be called to mind. Peace to their grave. Approach; Give me thy hand! Is it not strange?–the son Of Kurbsky to the throne is leading–whom? Whom but Ivan’s own son?–All favours me; People and fate alike.–Say, who art thou?

A POLE. Sobansky, a free noble.

PRETENDER. Praise and honour
Attend thee, child of liberty. Give him A third of his full pay beforehand.–Who Are these? On them I recognise the dress Of my own country. These are ours.

KRUSHCHOV. (Bows low.) Yea, Sire, Our father; we are thralls of thine, devoted And persecuted; we have fled from Moscow, Disgraced, to thee our tsar, and for thy sake Are ready to lay down our lives; our corpses Shall be for thee steps to the royal throne.

PRETENDER. Take heart, innocent sufferers. Only let me Reach Moscow, and, once there, Boris shall settle Some scores with me and you. What news of Moscow?

KRUSHCHOV. As yet all there is quiet. But already The folk have got to know that the tsarevich Was saved; already everywhere is read
Thy proclamation. All are waiting for thee. Not long ago Boris sent two boyars
To execution merely because in secret They drank thy health.

PRETENDER. O hapless, good boyars! But blood for blood! And woe to Godunov! What do they say of him?

KRUSHCHOV. He has withdrawn
Into his gloomy palace. He is grim
And sombre. Executions loom ahead.
But sickness gnaws him. Hardly hath he strength To drag himself along, and–it is thought– His last hour is already not far off.

PRETENDER. A speedy death I wish him, as becomes A great-souled foe to wish. If not, then woe To the miscreant!–And whom doth he intend To name as his successor?

KRUSHCHOV. He shows not
His purposes, but it would seem he destines Feodor, his young son, to be our tsar.

PRETENDER. His reckonings, maybe, will yet prove wrong. Who art thou?

KARELA. A Cossack; from the Don I am sent To thee, from the free troops, from the brave hetmen From upper and lower regions of the Cossacks, To look upon thy bright and royal eyes,
And tender thee their homage.

PRETENDER. Well I knew
The men of Don; I doubted not to see The Cossack hetmen in my ranks. We thank Our army of the Don. Today, we know,
The Cossacks are unjustly persecuted, Oppressed; but if God grant us to ascend The throne of our forefathers, then as of yore We’ll gratify the free and faithful Don.

POET. (Approaches. bowing low, and taking Gregory by the hem of his caftan.)
Great prince, illustrious offspring of a king!

PRETENDER. What wouldst thou?

POET. Condescendingly accept This poor fruit of my earnest toil.

PRETENDER. What see I?
Verses in Latin! Blest a hundredfold The tie of sword and lyre; the selfsame laurel Binds them in friendship. I was born beneath A northern sky, but yet the Latin muse
To me is a familiar voice; I love
The blossoms of Parnassus, I believe The prophecies of singers. Not in vain
The ecstasy boils in their flaming breast; Action is hallowed, being glorified
Beforehand by the poets! Approach, my friend. In memory of me accept this gift.

(Gives him a ring.)

When fate fulfils for me her covenant, When I assume the crown of my forefathers, I hope again to hear the measured tones
Of thy sweet voice, and thy inspired lay. Musa gloriam Coronat, gloriaque musam.
And so, friends, till tomorrow, au revoir.

ALL. Forward! Long live Dimitry! Forward, forward! Long live Dimitry, the great prince of Moscow!



Dressing-Room of Marina

MARINA, ROUZYA (dressing her), Serving-Women

(Before a mirror.) Now then, is it ready? Cannot you make haste?

ROUZYA. I pray you first to make the difficult choice; Will you the necklace wear of pearls, or else The emerald half-moon?

MARINA. My diamond crown.

ROUZYA. Splendid! Do you remember that you wore it When to the palace you were pleased to go? They say that at the ball your gracious highness Shone like the sun; men sighed, fair ladies whispered– ‘Twas then that for the first time young Khotkevich Beheld you, he who after shot himself.
And whosoever looked on you, they say That instant fell in love.

MARINA. Can’t you be quicker?

ROUZYA. At once. Today your father counts upon you. ‘Twas not for naught the young tsarevich saw you; He could not hide his rapture; wounded he is Already; so it only needs to deal him
A resolute blow, and instantly, my lady, He’ll be in love with you. ‘Tis now a month Since, quitting Cracow, heedless of the war And throne of Moscow, he has feasted here, Your guest, enraging Poles alike and Russians. Heavens! Shall I ever live to see the day?– Say, you will not, when to his capital
Dimitry leads the queen of Moscow, say You’ll not forsake me?

MARINA. Dost thou truly think
I shall be queen?

ROUZYA. Who, if not you? Who here Dares to compare in beauty with my mistress? The race of Mnishek never yet has yielded To any. In intellect you are beyond
All praise.–Happy the suitor whom your glance Honours with its regard, who wins your heart– Whoe’er he be, be he our king, the dauphin Of France, or even this our poor tsarevich God knows who, God knows whence!

MARINA. The very son
Of the tsar, and so confessed by the whole world.

ROUZYA. And yet last winter he was but a servant In the house of Vishnevetsky.

MARINA. He was hiding.

ROUZYA. I do not question it: but still do you know What people say about him? That perhaps
He is a deacon run away from Moscow, In his own district a notorious rogue.

MARINA. What nonsense!

ROUZYA. O, I do not credit it!
I only say he ought to bless his fate That you have so preferred him to the others.

WAITING-WOMAN. (Runs in.) The guests have come already.

MARINA. There you see;
You’re ready to chatter silliness till daybreak. Meanwhile I am not dressed–

ROUZYA. Within a moment
‘Twill be quite ready.

(The Waiting-women bustle.)

MARINA. (Aside.) I must find out all.



MNISHEK. With none but my Marina doth he speak, With no one else consorteth–and that business Looks dreadfully like marriage. Now confess, Didst ever think my daughter would be a queen?

VISHNEVETSKY. ‘Tis wonderful.–And, Mnishek, didst thou think My servant would ascend the throne of Moscow?

MNISHEK. And what a girl, look you, is my Marina. I merely hinted to her: “Now, be careful! Let not Dimitry slip”–and lo! Already
He is completely tangled in her toils.

(The band plays a Polonaise. The PRETENDER and MARINA advance as the first couple.)

MARINA. (Sotto voce to Dimitry.) Tomorrow evening at eleven, beside The fountain in the avenue of lime-trees.

(They walk off. A second couple.)

CAVALIER. What can Dimitry see in her?

DAME. How say you?
She is a beauty.

CAVALIER. Yes, a marble nymph;
Eyes, lips, devoid of life, without a smile.

(A fresh couple.)

DAME. He is not handsome, but his eyes are pleasing, And one can see he is of royal birth.

(A fresh couple.)

DAME. When will the army march?

CAVALIER. When the tsarevich Orders it; we are ready; but ’tis clear
The lady Mnishek and Dimitry mean
To keep us prisoners here.

DAME. A pleasant durance.

CAVALIER. Truly, if you…

(They walk off; the rooms become empty.)

MNISHEK. We old ones dance no longer; The sound of music lures us not; we press not Nor kiss the hands of charmers–ah! My friend, I’ve not forgotten the old pranks! Things now Are not what once they were, what once they were! Youth, I’ll be sworn, is not so bold, nor beauty So lively; everything–confess, my friend– Has somehow become dull. So let us leave them; My comrade, let us go and find a flask
Of old Hungarian overgrown with mould; Let’s bid my butler open an old bottle,
And in a quiet corner, tete-a-tete, Let’s drain a draught, a stream as thick as fat; And while we’re so engaged, let’s think things over. Let us go, brother.

VISHNEVETSKY. Yes, my friend, let’s go.



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

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