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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Russia: Vol. XX. 1876–79.


Songs of the Russian People

By From the Russian

Translated by W. R. S. Ralston

ACROSS the Don a plank lay, thin and bending;

No foot along it passed.

But I alone, the young one, from the hill,

I went along it with my true-love dear,

And to my love I said:

“O darling, dear!

Beat not thy wife without a cause,

But only for good cause beat thou thy wife,

And for a great offence.

Far away is my father dear,

And farther still my mother dear;

They cannot hear my voice,

They cannot see my burning tears.”

“WHY, O Dove, art thou so joyless?”

How can I, poor Dove, be joyous?

Late last night my mate was with me.

My mate was with me, on one wing she slept,

Slept on one wing, embraced me with the other,

With the other embraced me, calling me her dear one.

“Dear beloved one! Dovelet blue!

Sleep, yet do not sleep, my dovelet,

Only do not, sleeping, lose me, darling.”

The Dove awoke, his mate was gone!

Hither, thither, he flung himself, dashed himself,

Hither, thither, in homes of nobles,

Homes of nobles, princes, merchants.

In a merchant’s garden did I find my Dove,

In a merchant’s garden, underneath an apple-tree;

Underneath an apple-tree, wounded sore with shot!

The merchant’s son had wounded my Dove,

Wounded her with a weapon of gold.

MISTY is the sunlight, misty;

None the sun can see.

Mournful is the maiden, mournful:

None her grief can tell.

Not her father dear, nor her mother dear,

Nor her sister dear, dovelet white.

Mournful is the maiden, mournful.

“Canst not thou find a solace for thy woe?

Canst not thou thy dear friend forget?

Neither by day nor yet by night,

Neither at dawn nor by the evening glow?”

Thus did the maiden in her grief reply,—

“Then only my dear love will I forget,

When my swift feet shall under me give way,

And to my side my hands fall helplessly;

What time my eyes are filled with dust,

And coffin boards my bosom white conceal.”

O WINDS, warm winds,

Warm autumn winds,

Breathe not, ye are not wanted here.

But hither fly, ye stormy winds,

From the northern side;

Asunder rend moist mother earth,

And furrowing the open field,

The open, sweeping plain,

Reveal to me the coffin planks,

And let me for the last of times

To my beloved one say farewell.

IF God would grant my love his health,

Were it but for one idle day,

Though it were only for one little hour,—

Then would I wander with my love,

Would tread the mossy turf,

Would pluck the flowerets blue,

Would weave a garland for my love,

And place it on my darling’s head.

Then homewards leading him in glad content,

Would say, “My hope, my love!

We two will keep together, love,

Nor part, my darling, till at death

We say farewell forever to the light:

Leaving behind us some such fame as this,—

That we two loved each other tenderly,

And loyally, my love, together died.”

FROM under the stone, the white stone,

Fire blazes not, nor pitch seethes,

But a youth’s heart is seething.

Not for his father dear, nor for his mother dear,

Nor for a young wife well-beloved,

Seethes the heart of the youth;

But for a maiden well beloved,

For her who used to be his love.

“There had reached me broken tidings

That the maiden fair was ill.

Quickly follows them a letter,—

The maiden fair is dead.

I will sadly to the stable:

Lead my good—my best horse forth,

Hasten to the church of God,

Tie my horse beside the belfry,

Stamp upon the mould.

Split open, damp Mother Earth!

Fly asunder, ye coffin planks!

Unroll, O brocade of gold!

Awake, awake, O maiden fair,

O maiden fair, my olden love!”

WHITHER shall I, the fair maiden, flee from Sorrow?

If I fly from Sorrow into the dark forest,

After me runs Sorrow with an axe.

“I will fell, I will fell the green oaks;

I will seek, I will find the fair maiden.”

If I fly from Sorrow into the open field,

After me runs Sorrow with a scythe.

“I will mow, I will mow the open field;

I will seek, I will find the fair maiden.”

Whither then shall I flee from Sorrow?

If I rush from Sorrow into the blue sea,—

After me comes Sorrow as a huge fish.

“I will drink, I will swallow the blue sea:

I will seek, I will find the fair maiden.”

If I seek refuge from Sorrow in marriage,—

Sorrow follows me as my dowry.

If I take to my bed to escape from Sorrow,—

Sorrow sits beside my pillow.

And when I shall have fled from Sorrow into the damp earth,—

Sorrow will come after me with a spade.

Then will Sorrow stand over me, and cry triumphantly,

“I have driven, I have driven, the maiden into the damp earth.”

OAK wood, dear oak wood,

Green oak wood of mine!

Why moaning so early?

Low bending thy boughs?

From thee, from the oak wood,

Have all the birds flown?

One bird still lingers,

The cuckoo so sad,

Day and night singing kookoo,

She never is still.

Of the wandering falcon

The cuckoo complains.

He has torn her warm nest,

He has scattered her young,

Her cuckoolings dear.

In her lofty chamber

A maiden fair sits;

By the window she weeps

As a rivulet flows,

As a spring wells she sobs.

Of the wandering youth

The maiden complains,—

From her father and mother

He lured her away

To a strange far-off home,

Strange, far-off, unknown,

He has lured her,—and now

Fain would fling her aside.

AH! on the hill a pine-tree stands!

Ah! dear lord! a pine-tree stands!

Under the pine a soldier lies!

Ah! dear lord! a soldier lies!

Over the soldier a black steed stands,

With its right hoof tearing up the ground,

Water it seeks for its soldier lord.

“Water, my steed, thou wilt not find.

From the ground the soldier will never rise.

Gallop, my steed, by bank and brae,

By bank and brae, gallop on to my home.

There will come to greet thee a gray-haired dame,

That gray-haired dame is my mother dear.

There will come to greet thee a lady fair,—

That lady fair is my youthful wife,—

To greet thee will little lordlings come,—

Those little lordlings my children are.

They will join in caressing thee, my steed,—

They will join in questioning thee, my steed.

Say not, my steed, that I bleeding lie,—

But tell them I serve in my troop, dark steed,

In my troop I serve, my step I gain.”

His death gains the soldier beneath the pine,

His death! dear lord! beneath the pine.

BURY me, brothers, between three roads,

The Kief, and the Moscow, and the Murom famed in story.

At my feet fasten my horse,

At my head set a life-bestowing cross,

In my right hand place my keen sabre.

Whoever passes by will stop;

Before my life-bestowing cross will he utter a prayer,

At the sight of my black steed will he be startled,

At the sight of my keen sword will he be terrified.

“Surely this is a brigand who is buried here!

A son of the brigand, the bold Stenka Razín!”

THE DARK mountain has grown black,

From behind it has come forth a black cloud,

A black cloud,—a flock of sheep;

After them has come forth a proud youth,

A proud youth to the foreground:

He has girded himself with a straw girdle,

From that girdle hang two or three pipes;

The one pipe is of horn,

The second pipe is of copper,

The third pipe is of aurochs horn.

O, when he began to sound the pipe of horn,

A voice went through the forest;

O, when he began to sound the pipe of copper,

A voice went among the mountain tops;

O, when he began to play on the aurochs pipe,

There went up voices to the heavens.

SHOWER, shower!

Get thyself ready to be seen.

Shower, let thyself go well.

Pour, O rain,

Over the grandmother’s rye,

Over the grandfather’s wheat,

Over the girl’s flax,

Pour in bucketsful.

Rain, rain, let thyself go,

Stronger, quicker,

Warm us young ones.

IN the house of my own father,

In the house of my own mother,

I used to comb you, O ruddy tresses,

Amidst the oaks afield.

I used to wash you, O ruddy tresses,

In fountain water cool.

I used to dry you, O ruddy tresses,

On the steep red steps in front of the house,

In the rosy light of the rising sun.

But now in that unknown, far-off land,

In the house of my husband’s father,

In the house of my husband’s mother,

I shall have to comb you, O ruddy tresses,

Within a curtained recess.

I shall have to wash you, O ruddy tresses,

In the wave of my bitter tears.

I shall have to dry you, O ruddy tresses,

In the longing of my grief.

GO down, O ruddy sun!

But rise, thou gleaming moon!

And shine through all the night,

Through all the dark night shine,

On all the road, on every path!

So mayst thou yield thy light to my betrothed,

To my dear love Iván;

That so he may not miss his way,

Nor have to turn again,

Nor wander in the forest lost,

Nor in the river drenched;

So that no evil men on him may fall,

No savage dogs may drive him far away.

Away from him my life is weary,

Away from him my life is sad.