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A poem by George Borrow

Ancient Russian Song

Title:     Ancient Russian Song
Author: George Borrow [More Titles by Borrow]


The windel-straw nor grass so shook and trembled;
As the good and gallant stripling shook and trembled;
A linen shirt so fine his frame invested,
O'er the shirt was drawn a bright pelisse of scarlet
The sleeves of that pelisse depended backward,
The lappets of its front were button'd backward,
And were spotted with the blood of unbelievers;
See the good and gallant stripling reeling goeth,
From his eyeballs hot and briny tears distilling;
On his bended bow his figure he supporteth,
Till his bended bow has lost its goodly gilding;
Not a single soul the stripling good encounter'd,
Till encounter'd he the mother dear who bore him:
O my boy, O my treasure, and my darling!
By what mean hast thou render'd thee so drunken,
To the clay that thou bowest down thy figure,
And the grass and the windel-straws art grasping?
To his Mother thus the gallant youth made answer:
'Twas not I, O mother dear, who made me drunken,
But the Sultan of the Turks has made me drunken
With three potent, various potations;
The first of them his keenly cutting sabre;
The next of them his never failing jav'lin;
The third of them his pistol's leaden bullet.


O rustle not, ye verdant oaken branches!
Whilst I tell the gallant stripling's tale of daring;
When this morn they led the gallant youth to judgment
Before the dread tribunal of the grand Tsar,
Then our Tsar and Gosudar began to question:
Tell me, tell me, little lad, and peasant bantling!
Who assisted thee to ravage and to plunder;
I trow thou hadst full many wicked comrades.
I'll tell thee, Tsar! our country's hope and glory,
I'll tell thee all the truth, without a falsehood:
Thou must know that I had comrades, four in number;
Of my comrades four the first was gloomy midnight;
The second was a steely dudgeon dagger;
The third it was a swift and speedy courser;
The fourth of my companions was a bent bow;
My messengers were furnace-harden'd arrows.
Replied the Tsar, our country's hope and glory:
Of a truth, thou little lad, and peasant's bantling!
In thieving thou art skill'd and giving answers;
For thy answers and thy thieving I'll reward thee
With a house upon the windy plain constructed
Of two pillars high, surmounted by a cross-beam.


O thou field of my delight so fair and verdant!
Thou scene of all my happiness and pleasure!
O how charmingly Nature hath array'd thee
With the soft green grass and juicy clover,
And with corn-flowers blooming and luxuriant.
One thing there is alone, that doth deform thee;
In the midst of thee, O field, so fair and verdant!
A clump of bushes stands--a clump of hazels,
Upon their very top there sits an eagle,
And upon the bushes' top--upon the hazels,
Compress'd within his claw he holds a raven,
And its hot blood he sprinkles on the dry ground;
And beneath the bushes' clump--beneath the hazels,
Lies void of life the good and gallant stripling;
All wounded, pierc'd and mangled is his body.
As the little tiny swallow or the chaffinch,
Round their warm and cosey nest are seen to hover,
So hovers there the mother dear who bore him;
And aye she weeps, as flows a river's water;
His sister weeps as flows a streamlet's water;
His youthful wife, as falls the dew from heaven--
The Sun, arising, dries the dew of heaven.

[The end]
George Borrow's poem: Ancient Russian Song