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Nicholas Roerich. Ilya Muromets
BYLINY OF ILYA OF MUROM
INTRODUCTION: No one of the heroes has left so many proofs of his existence; no one is so popular or so firmly believed in, as the great peasant hero Ilya of Murom. A race of peasants called Ilya's peasants (krestyanye Mushini) r egard themselves as direct descendants of the renowned bogatyri; and it is a noteworthy fact, that, according to local testimony, the people who inhabit the primeval forests of Murom are celebrated for their great stature and strength. To this day, the peasants of the village of Karacharof, Ilya's birthplace, point out a chapel built upon the spot where a fountain burst forth beneath the hoofs of Ilya's good steed Cloudfall, as did the springs at a blow from the hoof of Pegasus. The chapel is dedicated to Ilya the Prophet; and "to the fountain fierce bears still come to quaff the waters and gain heroic strength," so the legend runs.
He is bound up with the religious legends of Kief. Erich Lassota of Steblau, who made a trip to Kief in 1594, states in his diary that he saw in a chapel of St. Sophia the tomb, now destroyed, of " Elia Morowlin, a distinguished hero and bohater," and of another hero; and Kalnoforsky, a Pole, in a book published in 1638, says that Ilya lived about 1188. His portrait was published in the seventeenth century among the saints of Kief, with an inscription to the effect that his body was still uncorrupted-which corresponds to the statement in the epic poems, that he was turned to stone.
In this portrait he appears as a gaunt ascetic, with masses of hair and beard, barely covered with his mantle, and with hands outstretched. One of the rhapsodists who sang the lay of the heroes' end to Hilferding in 1870, said that he knew Ilya was turned to stone in Kief, because some people had once made a pilgrimage thither to see how his fingers were placed for the sign of the cross-great importance being attached to this point. They saw Ilya, but his hand was broken, and the question remained unsettled.
The antiquity of the legends about Ilya is shown by the mention of his name in the cycle of Dietrich of Berne, which was compiled in the thirteenth century from songs already existing. He appears as the brother of the Russian King Voldemar, Ilya the Greek, referring to his religion, or in the Russian form of Ilias von Riuzen; the German would be Elias. His exploits in Dietrich of Berne have, however, nothing to do with those attributed to Ilya in the epic songs.
Notwithstanding all this tolerably strong evidence of his actual existence, Ilya is a purely mythical personage, an incarnation of the Thunder-god, the successor of heathen Perun. In the Christian mythology of the peasants, he appears as "Ilya (Elijah) the Prophet" probably on account of the fiery chariot in which Elijah was translated to heaven. The mythical allusions are confined to a very restricted circle of natural phenomena-the clear heaven, the lightning, the rain, the thunderclouds, and the powers of darkness in general. Like Thor and Indra, he wages incessant battle against the evil powers, and there are few episodes in his career to which a parallel does not exist among the various Indo-European races.
One of the most widely disseminated of traditions is that concerning the tardy development of the hero's strength, his late entrance upon active life, or long obscurity under persecution or in exile. Cinderella (Slavic Popeliuga), a nd the youngest of three Princes who carries everything before him at last, after years of ridicule or ill-treatment from his brothers, are some of the best known. It is hinted that the renowned Siegfried passed his youth in obscurity, as Ilya sat for thirty years upon the oven. All these legends refer to the absence of the Thunder-deity in winter.
The wandering psalm-Singers who heal Ilya, and bestow upon him his vast strength, are the rain-bearing clouds, and their miraculous draught the life-giving dew. The hero and his horse are but two myths of the same phenomenon, originally independent, and only combined at a much later epoch.
In the riddles of which the people are so fond, the horse signifies the wind, and his neigh is the thunder.
Another embodiment of the whirlwind is Nightingale the Robber, whose historical prototype is supposed to be the Megut, pardoned by Vladimir. The whirlwind chases the dark clouds through the heavens, and obscures the sunlight, i. e. bars the road to Fair Sun Vladimir, -troubles the sea with its whistle and roar, and uproots century-old oaks, like the giant Hraesvelgr in the Elder Edda, who sits on the border of heaven in eagle's plumage, and by the flapping of his wings produces the tempest.
The supernatural birds with iron feathers which Hercules drove from the Stymphalian swamp, one of whom was named Aella (the whirlwind), and the two storm-birds of the Rainayana, who by waving their wings shake the mountains, raise great billows in the sea, and overthrow trees, are also forms of the same myth. In Latin also, aquila and vultur furnish names for stormy winds, aquilo and vulturnus. The Smorodina is a mythical river-the rain; and the bridge built by Ilya is the rainbow.
In his contest with Falcon the Hunter, Ilya represents the heavens, Falcon being the lightning, which turns its sharp blade against its mother from the realms of darkness, the clouds. To this lightning Ilya opposes his own, and having conquered shines forth again clear and radiant. Falcon's mace cast heaven ward, and returning always to his hand, is the lightning flash.
The Russian examples of the very common legend concerning the conflict of father and son are remarkable for their number and variety; some versions substitute Ilya's daughter [several heroes decline to fight her, because they doubt their ability to conquer her], a "bold polyanitza , " for Falcon; most of them have preserved their tragic ending.
Idol, like the robbers and the Tatars who effaced, in course of time, the memory of the tribes who really warred against Vladimir, must be accepted as another embodiment of the dark and hostile principle. The gluttony ascribed to him constitutes a sort of distinction in a great number of legends. In ancient Hindoo myths, it appears to be the special attribute of the evil powers. Thor in the Edda and Indra in the Rig-Veda are credited with a great capacity for drinking, and Ilya is represented as intoxicated. Owing to his connection with the rain, drunkenness is the special attribute of the Thunder-god.
Ilya's conduct in his quarrels with Vladimir is much more moderate than that of many epic heroes in disputes with their sovereigns. The paladins of Charlemagne's court pulled the Emperor's beard, beat him, and called him a fool, with the same readiness which they displayed in humiliating themselves before him and kissing his footsteps when circumstances rendered it advisable.
Many epic personages disappear from the scene in a mysterious manner which renders their death uncertain, their return probable at any moment. Then arises the legend of their return on the fulfillment of certain conditions, as in the case of Frederic Barbarossa. As the Russian heroes were known to have been killed in battle or turned to stone, with Ilya's tomb in two or three places in Kief to prove his death in particular, this legend has become the special property of Stenka Razin, the famous Cossack chief of the seventeenth century, and his return is still awaited by the peasants.
A fragmentary bylina represents Ilya, Dobrynya, and other heroes as sailing in the "Falcon ship" to some unknown region, whence they do not return.
Ilya of Murom the Peasant Hero, and Hero Svyatogor
In the hamlet of Karacharof, by Murom town, dwelt Ilya the Old Kazák. Thirty years he sat upon the oven, having use of neither arms nor legs, because of his grandfather's sin.
And when thirty years were past, in summer, at the time of haying, his father and mother went forth to clear the forest-girdled meadows, and left Ilya alone in the cottage. Then there came to him three wayfarers-Christ and two of his apostles, in the guise of poor brethren, strolling psalm-singers, and besought him that he would give them to drink.
"Alas! ye wayfarers, good men, dear friends!" said Ilya; "full gladly would I give you to drink: but I cannot rise, and there is none in the cottage with me."
And the men made answer: "Arise, and wash thyself; so shalt thou walk and fetch us drink." Then he arose and walked; and having filled a cup with kvas [sourish liquor made from rye-meal] brought it to the aged men. They received it, drank, and gave it again to Ilya, saying :
Drink now after us, Ilya, son of Ivan." When he had drunk, the old men said: "How is thy strength now, Ilya ? "
Ilya answered: "I thank you humbly, ye aged men. I feel a very great strength within me, so that I could even move the earth."
Then the men looked each upon the other, and said: "Give us to drink yet again." And Ilya did so. And when they had drunk, they gave the cup to him the second time, and inquired: "How is it with thee now, Ilya? "
"The strength I feel is very great," said Ilya, yet but as half the former strength."
"Thus let it be," spoke the men: "for if we give thee more, mother earth will not bear thee up." And they said: "Go forth now, Ilya."
So Ilya set his cup upon the table, and went forth into the street with all ease; and the aged men said:
"God hath blessed thee, Ilya, with this strength of His. Therefore, defend thou the Christian faith, fight against all infidel hosts, bold warriors and daring heroes, for it is written that death shall not come to thee in battle. Stronger than thee there is none in the white world, save only Volgi, (and he will take thee not by might but by craft), and Svyatogor, and, stronger yet, beloved of damp mother earth, Mikula Selyaninovich, the Villager's Son. Against these three contend thou not. Live not at home, - labour not; but go thou to royal Kief town." And therewith the men vanished.
Then Ilya went forth to his father, in the clearing, and found him with his wife and labourers reposing from their toil. He grasped their axes and began to hew; and what his father with the labourers could not have done in three days, that Ilya achieved in the space of one hour. Having thus felled a whole field of timber, he drove the axes deep into a stump, whence no man could draw them.
When his father with wife and labourers woke, and beheld the axes, they marvelled, saying: "Who hath done this? "Then came Ilya from the forest, and drew the axes from the stump; and his father gave thanks to God that his son should be so famous a workman.
But Ilya strode far over the open plain; and as he went, he beheld a peasant leading a shaggy brown foal, the first he had seen. What the peasant demanded for the foal, that Ilya paid. For the space of three months, he tied the foal in the stall, feeding it with the finest white Turkish wheat, and watering it from the pure spring. After these months were past, he bound the foal for three nights in the garden, anointing it with three dews. When that was done, he led the foal to the lofty paling, and the good brown began to leap from side to side, and was able to sustain Ilya's vast weight; for he had become a heroic steed. All this Ilya did according to the commands of the aged psalm-singers who bad healed him.
Then Ilya saddled his good steed Cloudfall, prostrated himself, and received the farewell blessing of father and mother, and rode forth far over the open plain.
As be rode, be came to a pavilion of white linen, pitched under a damp oak; and therein was a heroic bed, not small, for the length of the bed was ten fathoms, and the breadth six fathoms. So he bound his good steed to the damp oak, stretched himself upon that heroic bed and fell asleep. And his heroic slumber was very deep; three days and nights he slept. On the third day, good Cloudfall heard a mighty clamour toward the North. Damp mother earth rocked, the dark forests staggered, the rivers overflowed their steep banks. Then the good steed beat upon the earth with his hoof, but could not wake Ilya, and he shouted with human voice :
"Ho there, Ilya of Murom! Thou sleepest there and takest thine ease, and knowest not the ill fortune that hangeth over thee. Hero Svyatogor cometh to this his pavilion. Loose me now, in the open plain, and climb thou upon the damp oak."
Then sprang Ilya to his nimble feet, loosed his horse and climbed into the damp oak.
And lo! a hero approached; taller than the standing woods was he, and his head rested upon the flying clouds. Upon his shoulder he bare a casket of crystal, which, when he was come to the oak, he set upon the ground and opened with a golden key. Out of it stepped his heroic wife; in all the white world, no such beauty was ever seen or heard of; lofty was her stature and dainty her walk; her eyes were as those of the clear falcon, her brows of blackest sable, and her white body was beyond compare.
When she was come forth from the crystal casket, she placed a table, laid a fair cloth thereon and set sugar viands; and from the casket, she also drew forth mead for drink. So they feasted and made merry. And when Svyatogor had well eaten, he went into the pavilion and fell asleep.
But his fair heroic wife roamed about the open plain, and so walking, espied Ilya upon the damp oak.
"Come down now, thou good and stately youth," she cried: "descend from that damp oak, else will I waken Hero Svyatogor and make great complaint of thy discourtesy to me."
Ilya could not contend against the woman, and so slipped down from the oak as she had commanded.
And after a space, that fair heroic woman took Ilya and put him in her husband's deep pocket, and roused the hero from his heavy sleep. Then Svyatogor put his wife in the crystal casket again, locked it with his golden key, mounted his good steed, and rode his way to the Holy Mountains.
After a little, his good steed began to stumble, and the hero to beat him upon his stout flanks with a silken whip. Then said the horse in human speech:
"Hitherto I have borne the hero and his heroic wife; but now I bear the heroic woman and two heroes. Is it a marvel that I stumble? "
Thereupon Hero Svyatogor drew Ilya from his deep pocket, and began to question him:-who he was and how he came in the pocket. And Ilya told him all the truth. When he heard it, Svyatogor slew his faithless heroic wife; but with Ilya he exchanged crosses, and called him his younger brother.
And as they talked together, Ilya said: "Full gladly would I see Svyatogor that great hero; but he rideth not now upon damp mother earth, nor appeareth among our company of heroes."
"I am he," quoth Svyatogor. "Gladly would I ride among you, but damp mother earth would not bear me up. And furthermore, I may not ride in Holy Russia, but only on the lofty hills, and steep precipices. Let us now ride among the crags, and come thou to the Holy Mountains with me."
Thus they rode long together, diverting themselves; and Svyatogor taught Ilya all heroic customs and traditions.
On the way, Svyatogor said to Ilya: "When we shall come to my dwelling, and I shall lead thee to my father, heat a bit of iron, but give him not thy hand."
So when they were come to the Holy Mountains, to the palace of white stone, Svyatogor's aged father cried:
"Ai, my dear child! Hast thou been far afield? "
"I have been in Holy Russia, father."
"What hast thou seen and heard there?
"Nothing have I seen or heard in Holy Russia, but I have brought with me thence a hero." The old man was blind, and so said:
"Bring hither the Russian hero, that I may greet him."
In the meanwhile, Ilya had heated the bit of iron, and when he came to give the old man his hand in greeting, he gave him, in place of it, the iron. And when the old man grasped it in his mighty hands, he said: "Stout are thy hands, Ilya! A most mighty warrior art thou! "
Thereafter, as Svyatogor and his younger brother Ilya journeyed among the Holy Mountains, they found a great coffin in the way; and upon the coffin was this writing: "This coffin shall fit him who is destined to lie in it."
Then Ilya essayed to lie in it, but for him it was both too long and too wide. But when Svyatogor lay in it, it fitted him. Then the hero spoke these words:
"The coffin was destined for me; take the lid now, Ilya, and cover me." Ilya made answer: "I will not take the lid, elder brother, neither will I cover thee. Lo! this is no small jest that thou makest, preparing to entomb thyself."
Then the hero himself took the lid, and covered his coffin with it. But when he would have raised it again, he could not, though he strove and strained mightily; and he spoke to Ilya: "A!, younger brother! 'Tis plain my fate hath sought me out. I cannot raise the lid; do thou try now to lift it."
Then Ilya strove, but could not. Said Hero Svyatogor: "Take my great battle sword, and smite athwart the lid." But Ilya's strength was not enough to lift the sword, and Svyatogor called him :
"Bend down to the rift in the coffin, that I may breathe upon thee with my heroic breath." When Ilya had done this, he felt strength within him, thrice as much as before, lifted the great battle sword, and smote athwart the lid. Sparks flashed from that blow, but where the great brand struck, an iron ridge sprang forth. Again spoke Svyatogor :
"I stifle, younger brother! essay yet one more blow upon the lid, with my huge sword."
Then Ilya smote along the lid, and a ridge of iron sprang forth. Yet again spoke Svyatogor:
"I die, oh, younger brother! Bend down now to the crevice. Yet once again will I breathe upon thee, and give thee all my vast strength."
But Ilya made answer: "My strength sufficeth me, elder brother; had I more, the earth could not bear me."
"Thou hast done well, younger brother," said Svyatogor, "in that thou hast not obeyed my last behest. I should have breathed upon thee the breath of death, and thou wouldst have lain dead beside me. But now, farewell. Possess thou my great battle sword, but bind my good heroic steed to my coffin; none save Svyatogor may possess that horse."
Then a dying breath fluttered through the crevice. Ilya took leave of Hero Svyatogor, bound the good heroic steed to the coffin, girt the great battle sword about his waist, and rode forth into the open plain.
And Svyatogor's burning tears flow through the coffin evermore.
Ilya of Murom and Nightingale the Robber
YOUNG Ilya of Murom, Ivan's son, went to matins on Easter morn. And as he stood there in church, he vowed a great vow: "To sing at high mass that same Easter day in Kief town, and to go thither by the straightway." And yet another vow he took: "As he fared to that royal town by the straight way, not to stain his hand with blood, nor yet his sharp sword with the blood of the accursed Tatars." His third vow he swore upon his mace of steel : "That, though he should go the straight way, he would not shoot his fiery darts."
Then he departed from the cathedral church, entered the spacious courtyard and began to saddle good Cloudfall, his shaggy bay steed, to arm himself and prepare for his journey to the famous town of Kief, to the worshipful feast, and the Fair Sun Prince Vladimir of royal Kief. Good Cloudfall's mane was three ells in length, his tail three fathoms, and his hair of three colours. Ilya put on him first the plaited bridle, next twelve saddlecloths, twelve felts, and upon them a metal-bound Cherkessian saddle. The silken girths were twelve in number - not for youthful vanity but for heroic strength; the stirrups were of damascened steel from beyond the seas, the buckles of bronze which rusteth not, weareth not, the silk from Samarcand, which chafeth not, teareth not.
They saw the good youth as he mounted,-as he rode they saw him not; so swift was his flight, there seemed but a smoke-wreath on the open plain, as when wild winds of winter whirl about the snow. Good Cloudfall skimmed over the grass, and above the waters; high over the standing trees he soared, the primeval oaks, yet lower than the drifting clouds. From mountain to mountain he sprang, from hill to hill he galloped; little rivers and lakes dropped between his feet; where his hoofs fell, founts of water gushed forth; in the open plain smoke eddied, and rose aloft in a pillar. At each leap Cloudfall compassed a verst and a half.
In the open steppe, young Ilya hewed down a forest and raised a godly cross, and wrote thereon :
"Ilya of Murom, the Old Kazák, rideth to royal Kief town, on his first heroic quest."
When he drew near to Chernigof, there stood a great host of Tatars,-three Tzareviches, each with forty thousand men. The cloud of steam from the horses was so great, that the fair red sun was not seen by day, nor the bright moon by night. The gray hare could not course, nor the clear falcon fly, about that host, so vast was it.
When Ilya saw that, he dismounted, and falling down before good Cloudfall's right foot, he entreated him:
"Help me, my shaggy bay! "So Cloudfall soared like a falcon clear, and Ilya plucked up a damp, ringbarked oak from the damp earth, from amid the stones and roots, and bound it to his left stirrup, grasped another in his right hand, and began to brandish it. "Every man may take a vow," quoth he, "but not every man can fulfil it."
Where he waved the damp oak, a street ap-peared; where he drew it back, a lane. Great as was the number that he slew, yet twice that number did his good steed trample under foot: not one was spared to continue their race.
The gates of Chernigof were strongly barred, a great watch was kept, and the stout and mighty heroes stood in council. Therefore Ilya flew on his good steed over the city wall (the height of the wall was twelve fathoms), and entered the church where all the people were assembled, praying God, repenting and receiving the sacrament against sure approaching death. Ilya crossed himself as prescribed, did reverence as enjoined, and cried :
"Hail, ye merchants of Chernigof, warrior maidens and mighty heroes all! Why repent ye now, and receive the sacrament? Why do ye bid farewell thus to the white world? "
Then they told him how they were besieged by accursed Tatars, and Ilya said: "Go ye upon the famous wall of your city, and look toward the open plain."
They did as he commanded, and lo! where bad stood the many, very many foreign standards, like a dark, dry forest, the accursed Tatars were now cut down and heaped up, like a field of grain which hath been reaped.
Then the men of Chernigof did lowly reverence to the good youth, and besought him that he would reveal his name, and abide in Chernigof to serve them as their Tzar, King, Voevoda, [originally this signified a war chieftain]'-what he would; and that he would likewise accept at their hands a bowl of pure red gold, a bowl of fair silver, and one of fine seed-pearls.
"These I will not take," Ilya made answer, though I have earned them, neither will I dwell with you either as Tzar or peasant. Live ye as of old, my brothers, and show me the straight road to Kief town."
Then they told him: "By the straight road it is five hundred versts, and by the way about, a thousand. Yet take not the straight road, for therein lie three great barriers : the gray wolf trotteth not that way, the black raven flieth not overhead. The first barrier is the lofty mountains; the second is the Smorodina river, six versts in width, and the Black Morass; and beside that river, the third barrier is Nightingale the Robber.
"He hath built his nest on seven oaks, that magic bird. When he whistleth like a nightingale, the dark forest boweth to the earth, the green leaves wither, horse and rider fall as dead. For that cause the road is lost, and no man hath travelled it these thirty years."
When Ilya the Old Kazák heard that, he mounted his good steed, and rode forthwith that straight way. When he came to the lofty mountains, his good steed rose from the damp earth, and soared like a bright falcon over them and the tall dreaming forests. When he came to the Black Morass, he plucked great oaks with one hand, and flung them across the shaking bog, for thirty versts, while he led good Cloudfall with the other. When he came to Mother Smorodina, he beat his steed's fat sides, so that the horse cleared the river at a bound.
There sat Nightingale the Robber (surnamed the Magic Bird), and thrust his turbulent head out from his nest upon the seven oaks; sparks and flame poured from his mouth and nostrils. Then he began to pipe like a nightingale, to roar like an aurochs, and to hiss like a dragon. Thereat good Cloudfall, that heroic steed, fell upon his knees, and Ilya began to beat him upon his flanks and between his ears.
"Thou wolf's food! "cried Ilya, "thou grassbag I Hast never been in the gloomy forest, nor heard the song of nightingale, the roar of wild beast, nor serpent's hiss ? "
Then Ilya brake a twig from a willow that grew near by, that he might keep his vow not to stain his weapons with blood, fitted it to his stout bow, and conjured it : "Fly, little dart! Enter the Nightingale's left eye, come forth at his right car! "
The good heroic steed rose to his feet, and the Robber Nightingale fell to the damp earth like a rick of grain.
Then the Old Kazák raised up that mighty robber, bound him to his stirrup by his yellow curls, and went his way. Ere long they ea7me to the Nightingale's house, built upon seven pillars over seven versts of ground. About the courtyard was an iron paling, upon each stake thereof a spike, and on each spike the head of a hero. In the centre was the strangers' court; and there stood three towers with golden crests, spire joined to spire, beam merged in beam, roof wedded to roof. Green gardens were planted round about, all blossoming and blooming with azure flowers, and a fair orchard encircled all.
When the Magic Bird's children looked from the latticed casements, and beheld a hero riding with one at his stirrup, they cried: "A! lady mother! Our father cometh, and leadeth a man at his stirrup for us to eat."
But Elena, the one-eyed, Nightingale's witch daughter, looked forth and said: "Nay, it is the Old Kazák Ilya of Murom who rideth, and leadeth our father in bonds."
Then spoke Nightingale's nine sons: "We will transform ourselves into ravens, and rend that peasant with our iron beaks, and scatter his white body over the plain." But their father shouted to them that they should not harm the hero.
Nevertheless, Elena the witch ran into the wide courtyard, tore a steel beam of a hundred and fifty poods weight from the threshold, and hurled it at Ilya. The good youth wavered in his saddle, yet being nimble, he escaped the full force of the blow. Then he leaped from his horse, and took the witch on his foot: higher flew the witch then than God's temple, higher than the life-giving cross thereon, and fell against the rear wall of the court, where her skin burst.
"Foolish are ye, my children cried the Nightingale. "Fetch from the vaults a cart-load of fair gold, another of pure silver and a third of fine seed-pearls, and give to the Old Kazák, Ilya of Murom, that he may set me free."
Quoth Ilya: "If I should plant my sharp spear in the earth, and if thou shouldst heap treasure about it until it was covered, yet would I not release thee, Nightingale, lest thou shouldst resume thy thieving. But follow me now to glorious Kief town, that thou mayest receive forgiveness there."
Then his good Cloudfall began to prance, and the Magic Bird at his stirrup to dance, and in this wise came the good youth, the Old Kazák, to Kief, to glorious Prince Vladimir.
Now, fair Prince Vladimir of royal Kief was not at home; he had gone to God's temple. Therefore Ilya entered the court without leave or announcement, bound his horse to the golden ring in the carven pillar, and laid his commands upon that good heroic steed: "Guard thou the Nightingale, my charger, that he depart not from my stirrup of steel."
And to Nightingale he said: "Look to it,
Nightingale, that thou depart not from my good steed; for there is no place in all the white world where thou mayest securely hide thyself from me! "
Then he betook himself to the Easter mass. There he crossed himself and did reverence as prescribed, on all four sides, and to the Fair Sun Prince Vladimir in particular. And after the mass was over, Prince Vladimir sent to bid the strange hero to the feast, and there inquired of him from what horde and land he came, and what was his parentage. So Ilya told him that he was the only son of honourable parents. "I stood at my home in Murom, at matins," quoth he, "and mass was but just ended when I came hither by the straight way."
When the heroes that sat at the prince's table heard that, they looked askance at him.
"Nay, good youth, liest thou not ? boastest thou not? "said Fair Sun Vladimir. "That way bath been lost these thirty years, for there stand great barriers therein; accursed Tatars in the fields, black morasses; and beside the famed Smorodina, amid the bending birches, is the nest of the Nightingale on seven oaks; and that Magic Bird bath nine sons and eight daughters, and one is a witch. He bath permitted neither horse nor man to pass him these many years."
"Nay, thou Fair Sun Prince Vladimir," Ilya answered; " I did come the straight way, and the Nightingale Robber now sitteth bound within thy court."
Then all left the tables of white oak, and each outran the other to view the Nightingale, as he sat bound to the steel stirrup, with one eye fixed on Kief town and the other on Chernigof from force of habit. And Princess Apraxia came forth upon the railed balcony to look.
Prince Vladimir spoke: "Whistle, thou Nightingale, roar like an aurochs, hiss like a dragon."
But the Nightingale replied: "Not thy captive am I, Vladimir. 'Tis not thy bread I eat. But give me wine."
"Give him a cup of green wine," spake Ilya, a cup of a bucket and a half, in weight a pood and a half, and a cake of fine wheat flour, for his mouth is now filled with blood from my dart."
Vladimir fetched a cup of green wine, and one of the liquor of drunkenness, and yet a third of sweet mead; and the Nightingale drained each at a draught. Then the Old Kazák commanded the Magic Bird to whistle, roar and hiss, but under his breath, lest harm might come to any.
But the Nightingale, out of malice, did all with his full strength. And at that cry, all the ancient palaces in Kief fell in ruins, the new castles rocked, the roofs through all the city fell to the ground, damp mother earth quivered, the heroic steeds fled from the court, the young damsels hid themselves, the good youths dispersed through the streets, and as many as remained to listen died. Ilya caught up Prince Vladimir under one arm and his Princess under the other, to shield them; yet was Vladimir as though dead for the space of three hours.
"For this deed of thine thou shalt die," spake Ilya in his wrath, and Vladimir prayed that at least a remnant of his people might be spared.
The Nightingale began to entreat forgiveness, and that he might be allowed to build a great monastery with his ill-gotten gold. "Nay," said Ilya, "this kind buildeth never, but destroyeth always."
With that he took Nightingale the Robber by his white hands, led him far out upon the open plain, fitted a burning arrow to his stout bow, and shot it into the black breast of that Magic Bird. Then he struck off his turbulent head, and scattered his bones to the winds,' and mounting his good Cloudfall, came again to Prince Vladimir.
Again they sat at the oaken board, eating savoury viands and white swans, and quaffing sweet mead. Great gifts and much worship did Ilya receive, and Vladimir gave command that he should be called evermore Ilya of Murom the Old Kazák, after his native town.
Ilya in Disguise
0N a day, as Ilya rode in the open plain, he communed thus with himself : "Lo, I have been in many lands, but 'tis long since I was in Kief town; I will ride thither, and learn what is doing there."
When he came to the palace in the royal city, Prince Vladimir was holding a merry feast. Ilya entered straight the banquet hall, crossed himself as prescribed, did reverence as enjoined, bowing on all four sides, and to the Fair Sun Prince Vladimir and the Princess Apraxia in particular. But Vladimir knew him not.
"What is thy name and tribe ? "he asked; " and what thy patronymic? "
And Ilya made answer: "Bright Vladimir, Fair little Sun! I am called Nikita from beyond the Forest."
"Ho there, thou brave and free little fellow! Sit down with us now, to eat bread and to feast: there is yet a little place yonder at the lower end of the table; the other places are filled. For prince-nobles, rulers, rich merchants and bold warrior-maids hold feast with me to-day, and sixty great Russian heroes."
The Old Kazák liked not this speech,-that he should break bread at the lower end of the table; and he said this word: "And ho, thou Fair Sun Prince Vladimir! Thou eatest, feastest with the crows thyself, yet seatest me with the little crows? Nay! but I will not eat bread with nursling crows! "
This speech in turn pleased not the Fair Sun Prince. He sprang to his nimble feet, clouding over like the dusky night, and roared as he had been a wild beast.
"Ho there, ye mighty Russian heroes! Will ye hear yourselves called crows---yea, and little crows?-Seize the fellow, ye heroes, three by each arm; lead him into the spacious court, and there strike off his turbulent head."
They led him forth; but Ilya waved one hand, and three heroes lay dead; he waved the other hand, and the other three fell dead likewise.
Then Prince Vladimir commanded that twelve should seize him; and with them it fared the same. Then twelve grasped him, with six more behind; and these eighteen met their fate like wise, for Ilya's heroic heart burned within him when he was thus led out with ignominy.
He fitted an arrow to his stout bow. "Fly, my shaft, about the princely windows," he conjured it; " bear off all the golden spires, and the wonderworking crosses on God's temples."
Then he gathered up all the spires and crosses, went to the royal pot-house, sold the precious spires for countless treasure, and began to drink up the imperial roofs in green wine. He assembled also all the hangers-on of the pothouse, sots, and all who could drink green wine, led them into the kabak, and bade them help him drink the princely spires.
"What will the Prince do," said they, "when he knoweth that we are drinking his royal spires? "
"Drink, boon companions! care ye not for that. Tomorrow I shall reign as Prince in Kief town, and ye shall be my chiefs."
----Fair Sun Vladimir of royal Kief perceived that a great misfortune was at hand, and knew not who it might be that was come thus to town. But young Dobrynya Nikitich spoke up: "I know all the mighty heroes save one, --the Old Kazák Ilya of Murom. Of him I have heard that his death is not decreed in battle. This is no Nikita from beyond the Forest. It is Ilya of Murom. Thou hast not known, Vladimir, how to welcome thy guest on his coming, nor honour him at his going."
"Whom shall we send to bid him to an honourable feast? "said Vladimir in amaze. "Bold Alyosha Popovich will not know how to bid him, and Churilo Plenkovich is good for nothing but to strut among the maids and women. We must send a clever man, who can read and write, one whose discourse is reasonable. Go thou, therefore, Dobrynya Nikitich; beat thy forehead against the brick floor, against damp mother earth, before him, and say: 'Prince Vladimir hath sent me to thee, thou Old Kazák, Ilya of Murom, to bid thee to a worshipful feast. He knew thee not, good youth, and for that cause alone did he place thee at the lower end of the board to eat his bread. But now he entreateth thee to him with heartiness and great joy, and commands thee not to bear ill will for what is past. For thy place, which was the worst of all, shall now be the best, to wit, in the great corner."'
Then Dobrynya thought within himself: Shall I not go to sudden death at Ilya's hands? But if I obey not Fair Sun Prince Vladimir, it will fare ill with me."
So he betook himself to the imperial pot-house, where sat Ilya of Murom drinking and carousing with the brawlers."
"It is better that I should approach him from behind!" thought Dobrynya. And so he did, and seized Ilya by his mighty shoulders, and delivered his message.
"Happy art thou, young Dobrynya Nikitich," quoth the Old Kazák, "in that thou camest upon me from behind. Hadst thou approached me from the front, thou shouldst have become ashes ere now! Now go, and say these words to thy Fair Sun Prince: 'Let strict ukases be promulgated throughout all the towns of Kief and Chernigof, that all the pot-houses and drinking places of whatever sort be opened freely for the space of three days, that all the people may drink green wine without price. And whose drinketh no green wine, let him quaff the beer of drunkenness; and he who drinketh that not, sweet mead; that all may know that the Old Kazák Ilya of Murom is come to famous Kief town.' Let this be done, and let an honourable banquet be made, or the Prince shall reign no longer than until to-morrow's morn!"
Then quickly, quickly, very, very quickly and with speed ran Dobrynya to Prince Vladimir, and quickly, very, very quickly were the stern ukases issued, and a mighty banquet prepared.
And vast multitudes assembled in the pothouses, not to eat or drink, but to view the Old Kazák.
When Ilya came to the princely palace, he did reverence to all, and to the Prince and Princess in particular. Then Vladimir rose to his nimble feet, and spoke: "Ho there, thou Old Kazák Ilya of Murom! Here is a place for thee beside me, either on my right hand or my left, and yet a third place-wherever it pleaseth thee to sit." There- with he took Ilya by his white hands, and kissed him on his sugar mouth.
And as they sat on the four-square stools about the oaken tables laden with sweet viands, Ilya took not the highest place, but a lesser, and put the sots from the imperial pot-house about him. And they began to eat and drink and make merry.
Thus was Ilya reconciled to courteous Prince Vladimir.
Ilya and the Boon Companions
FROM the city of Galich to Kief town ran a broad road of forty fathoms : along that road fared a pilgrim, and the road bent beneath his weight. His smock was tattered with use, and a rag was his girdle. His cap weighed forty poods, his foot-gear was of bast, his crutch was nine fathoms, and he leaned upon a hooked staff.
The old man's beard was sprinkled with gray, his head was all white. That aged pilgrim entered Kief town, and craved refreshment after his long journey, desiring to drink green wine in the royal pot-house.
He entered very softly, trod very lightly, said a prayer, crossing himself as enjoined and bowing on all sides as prescribed.
"Hail, ye vintner's men," quoth he. "Pour me a pail and a half of wine, to refresh me, a wandering pilgrim."
But the vintners made answer: "Nay, thou old dog, thou gray hound, we will not trust thee. We will not give thee the green wine without thy money."
But the pilgrim took from his neck an ancient and wondrous cross, six poods and a half in weight, of purest antique gold. "Take this cross as surety," he said; but they dared not!
But the poor boon companions of the pot-house, the peasants and villagers grave each a kopek, and bought therewith a bucket and a half of green wine for the pilgrim. The old man grasped it with one hand, swallowed it in one breath, and said :
"I thank ye, boon companions, and peasants of the village! Ye have given the old man wine to drunkenness; but now it is late. Come ye therefore to me to-morrow right early, and I will give you all wine even to drunkenness, in return."
Then the aged man climbed upon the brick oven, and slept. Very early on the morrow, as the warm red sun arose, he descended to the cellars, burst open the doors with his foot, took a cask of forty under one arm, another of the same under the other, and rolled a third before him with his foot, into the green meadow, and so to the market place. Then he shouted with all his heroic might, in a piercing, thunderous voice :
"Ho, ye boon companions and ye peasants of the village! Come to the old man's feast! I will give ye all green wine even to drunkenness, without price."
When the vintners heard that, they assembled, eighty men in number, to take the green wine from the aged pilgrim, but could do nothing, and so went to petition Prince Vladimir against him. They had told all their griefs, and Vladimir said :
"I will view this pilgrim, vintners, and I myself will requite you."
All the boon companions and village peasants had drunk their fill, when the old man said :
"Go now to your own homes, to your young wives and little children; but I will return to the royal pot-house, and sleep upon the oven of bricks."
This be did, and early on the morrow came trusty servants from the Prince, who said:
"Come to Prince Vladimir, thou wandering pilgrim."
But the old man answered In vain do ye disquiet me, brothers! Let the old man sleep." Then he descended from the oven, and went through Kief, past the princely palace, and cried in a mighty voice :
"Hey, Prince Vladimir of royal Kief! Receive here thy money for the green wine from the Kazák of the Don, from Ilya of Murom. I go now to the open plain, to the heroic barriers, to the damp oak." And therewith he departed.
Ilya and Idol
MIGHTY Ivaniusho arrayed himself and set out for Jerusalem, to pray to the Lord, to bathe in Jordan, to kiss the cypress tree, and to visit the grave of the Lord.
Mighty Ivaniusho's foot-gear was of the seven silks, his hooked staff weighed forty poods; into his foot-gear precious stones were woven. On summer days his course was lighted by the fair red sun; in winter, by a precious jewel.
As he returned from Jerusalem he passed Tzargrad, and found that the accursed Idol was come thither, that the holy ikons had been shattered and trodden in the mire, and horses were fed in the temple of God. Then mighty Ivaniusho caught a Tatar by the breast, dragged him forth into the open plain, and began to inquire of him:
"Tell me now, thou faithless Tatar! Conceal nothing : what manner of man is yon accursed Idol ? Is he great of stature? "
Said the Tatar: "Our Idol is three fathoms, well measured, in height, and three in breadth; his head is like a beer-kettle, his eyes like drinking cups. His nose is an ell long from its root, and he cheweth the cud like an aurochs."
Ivaniusho caught the accursed Tatar by the hand, and hurled him upon the open plain; and the bones of the Tatar flew asunder. Then Ivaniusho pursued his journey, and met Ilya of Murom in the way.
"Hail, Ilya of Murom, thou Old Kazák! "said Ivaniusho; and they greeted each other there.
"Whence wanderest thou, mighty Ivaniusho ? inquired Ilya. "Whither lieth thy road? "
Then Ivaniusho told him how he had been to Jerusalem, and had passed Tzargrad; and Ilya began to inquire of him :
"Is all in Tzargrad as of old ? Is all as it was wont to be? "
"Nay," said Ivaniusho; and he told Ilya of the conquest, and how God's temples were defiled.
"A fool thou art, stout and mighty Ivaniusho cried the Old Kazák. "Thy strength is as twice my strength, but thy boldness and daring are not as the half of mine. For thy first speech I could have pitied thee, but for this last I could have chastised thee upon thy naked body Why hast thou not delivered Tzar Constantine? But now, undo quickly thy foot-gear of the seven silks from thy feet, and put on my morocco shoes, for I will go sadly as a wandering psalm-singer."-And it grieved him to give his good horse to the pilgrim." Ride softly as water floweth," he said; " remain in some place of easy access, and wait for me, for I shall soon return. And give hither thy staff of forty poods."
Then Ilya strode on quickly, and each stride was a verst and a half in length: --and when he came to Tzargrad, he shouted with full might :
"Ho there, Tzar Constantine! Give gold, give saving alms to a wandering psalm-singer."
Tzar Constantine rejoiced, and at the singer's shout, the forty towers rocked, the liquor on the tables splashed over, damp mother earth quivered, and the palace of white stone heaved from corner to corner. At the third shout the accursed Idol was greatly terrified, and spoke to Tzar Constantine.
"Your Russian psalm-singers are loud-voiced fellows," quoth Idol. "Receive this pilgrim, feed him, give him drink and gold at thy pleasure."
Constantine went forth upon the railed balcony, and bade the pilgrim enter. And when the pilgrim had eaten and drunk, the Idol took him to himself to question :
"Tell me truly, thou Russian pilgrim, and conceal nothing. What manner of heroes have ye in Russia? And your Old Kazák, Ilya of Murom, -is he great of stature? Can he devour much bread, drink much green wine? "
And that Russian pilgrim made answer: "Yea, thou accursed Idol. We have Ilya of Murom in Kief, and his stature differeth not from mine by so much as a hair's breadth. We have been brothers in arms. His beard is gray but handsome. Of bread he eateth three consecrated loaves, and his drink is two cups of green wine."
"A fine hero, in sooth, for Kief quoth Idol.
If I had but that hero in this place, I would set him on the palm of one hand, and with the other I would press him until he became a pancake. And I would blow him away into the open plain! For lo! I am Idol, three fathoms in height, and my breadth is three fathoms well told. I can put
o loaf in one cheek, and the same in the other, and
o white swan is but a mouthful for me. I eat seven poods of bread and three oxen at a meal,
with wine in due proportion,-a cask of forty buckets."
"The pope of Rostof had a greedy cow," said Ilya. "She ate and ate, and drank until she burst."
This speech pleased not Idol the Accursed. He seized his poniard from the oaken table, and hurled it at Ilya of Murom, that wandering psalm-singer. But Ilya was nimble of foot, and leaped quickly aside upon the oven, and turning, caught the weapon in its flight, upon his staff. The poniard glanced off, struck the white oak door; the door flew from its fastenings; the poniard bounded into the ante-room, slew twelve Tatars, and wounded yet another twelve. Ilya snatched his little cap of nine poods from his head, and flung it at Idol the Accursed, and Idol flew through the wall into the open plain. Then Ilya sprang into the great courtyard, waved his staff, slew all the accursed Tatars, cleared the city of Tzargrad, and delivered Tzar Constantine.
Ilya of Murom and Falcon the Hunter
On the road to Kief town of courteous Prince Vladimir, stood a great barrier and a strong force of seven mighty heroes, bold warriors all, and lesser knights.
The first was Ilya of Murom, our Old Kazák of the Don; the second Dobrynya Nikitich, the third Alyosha Popovich, the fourth Churilo Plenkovich, the fifth Mikailo the Rover, the sixth and seventh the Agrikanof brothers. They pitched their pavilions, and slept until the white dawn.
The barrier was strong: no horseman galloped past nor wayfarer journeyed by, no wild beast crouched, no bird soared overhead; and if, by chance, a bird flew by, it dropped its feathers there.
There, late at even, passed young Falcon the Hunter.' He asked no leave at the barrier, but leaped across, and roamed the open plain.
The next morning, right early, at dawn of day, our Kazák of the Don went out to the white court to refresh himself, and espied the traces of a horse's hoofs, the marks of a heroic ride and a black steed.
Then Ilya entered again the white pavilion, and spoke these words: "Comrades, brothers, ye heroes stout and mighty! What sort of a barrier is this of yours-what manner of stern fortress? But now I beheld the traces of a horse's gallop, of a heroic ride. Arm ye then, friends, for a foray into the open plain to seek the rash intruder." Then he began to hold a great council:
"It will not do, children, to send Vaska Longskirt, for he will get entangled in his skirts in the encounter; nor Grishka the Noble, for men of noble descent are boastful, and he will vaunt himself in the combat. Nor may Alyosha go against the unbidden visitor, for Alyosha is of popish descent, and popes' eyes are covetous, popes' hands pilferous; Alyosha will see the braggart's great store of gold and silver, and will covet them. Dobrynya Nikitich must go: if the knight be Russian, then shall Dobrynya swear brotherhood with him, but if he be an infidel knight, be shall challenge him to single combat."
Dobrynya sprang to his nimble feet, saddled and mounted his good steed, and rode forth to Father Sakatar river, by the blue sea. As he looked along the straight road, he beheld a knight riding before him, with youthful valour. The horse under the hero was like a wild beast; at each leap he compassed a verst,, and the tracks he left were as large as a ram or a full-grown sheep. From that good steed's mouth flames flashed, from his nostrils sparks showered abroad, from his ears smoke curled in rings.
The helmet on the hero's head glowed like fire, and his horse's bridle darted rays; stars sprinkled from his stirrups, on his saddle stood the dawn, the morning dawn. At his left stirrup sprang a greyhound, and a dragon of the hills was also chained thereto. On his right stirrup perched a blue-gray eaglet, who sang and whistled without ceasing, caressing and diverting the hero. From shoulder to shoulder hopped a falcon clear, plucking his long locks from ear to ear.
The knight sat his good steed well, and diverted himself in noble wise, hurling his steel mace to the clouds, and catching it as it fell, in his white hands, without permitting it to touch the damp earth. As he thus played, he conjured his mace: "Lightly as I now whirl this mace aloft, even so lightly will I twirl Ilya of Murom."
Then Dobrynya shouted: "Ho, thou Falcon the Hunter! Turnest thou not back before our barrier ? "
Cried Falcon, "Tis not for thee to pursue me in the open plain! high time is it that thou wert in the village herding the swine."
At that heroic cry, the peaceful bays were troubled, the waters grew choked with sand. Dobrynya's charger sank to his knees, and Dobrynya fell to the damp earth, where he lay as in a heavy sleep for the space of about three hours. When he awoke from that swoon, he mounted his good steed, and, returning to the barrier, told Ilya of Murom all.
Said the old man: "There is none to take my place, the place of this turbulent old head."
Then saddled he his good charger Cloudfall, both quickly and stoutly, and sprang upon his back without touching the stirrups. On his saddle-strap hung his war-club, and its weight was ninety poods. On his hip rested his sharp sword, in his hand he held his silken whip. Thus armed he rode in pursuit of the knight to the Sorochinsky mountains, and looking through the circle of his young fist, he descried a black spot in the plain, and rode towards it.
"Thief! dog! braggart he shouted in piercing tones. "Why hast thou passed our barrier, doing no reverence to me, asking no leave?" When the braggart hunter heard that, he turned and rode at Ilya; and Ilya's heart died within
him.-'Twas not two threatening clouds which clashed, nor yet two mountains moved together, but two stout heroes who rode against each other.
First they fought with their maces, until these snapped short at the hilt,-and wounded one another not. Then they fought with their sharp swords, until these brake,-and wounded one another not; and so likewise with their sharp spears: and when these were shattered they lighted down from their good steeds, and fought hand to hand. All day they fought till even, till midnight, till the white dawn: -and so they did the second day, and likewise the third, and sank to their knees in the earth.
Then Ilya waved his right hand, and his left foot slipped from under him.-'Twas not a gray duck fluttering, but Ilya falling to the damp earth like a stack of hay.
Falcon the Hunter planted himself upon Ilya's white breast, snatched out his dagger of damascened steel, and would have pierced that white breast, closed Ilya's clear eyes, and struck off his turbulent head, and plucked out his heart with his liver; but his arm was stiffened from the shoulder down, and he could not move it.
"0 Lord!" said Ilya: "It is written on my right hand that I shall not die in battle." And to Falcon he said: "0 brave, good youth I tell me, from what land art thou, from what horde? Who are thy father and mother? "
Then the hunter began to curse: "Full time is it, thou old dog, that thou shouldst shave I thy head, and go to a monastery! "
Ilya's heroic heart grew hot at that, and his young blood boiled. He smote Falcon upon his black breast, and hurled him higher than the standing wood, yet lower than the flying clouds. When Falcon descended again to the damp earth, Ilya leaped to his nimble feet, and sat upon the hunter's breast.
"Tell me now, good youth, thy land, thy horde, thy father's name."
"Sat I on thy white breast," the hunter answered, "so would I not inquire of thee thy name and country. But I would pierce thy white breast, and scan thy restive heart, and scatter thy white body over the plain, to be torn of the gray wolf, and picked by the black crows."
Then Ilya inquired no further of him, but drew forth his dagger. The youth perceived that misfortune was close at hand, and answered:
"I come from the blue sea, from the palaces of gray stone, from mighty Zlatigorka; and my father I do not know. When I rode forth upon the open plain, my mother enjoined me to greet the Old Kazák Ilya of Murom, if I should chance to meet him, but without approaching; to dismount from my good horse and do reverence to him, touching my forehead to the ground."
Then the old man felt compassion; for he knew now that this was his own Falcon, by that fierce Zlatigorka whom he had overcome in single combat, and to whom he had given his golden ring with an inscription, and set with a rich jewel. He took Falcon by his white hands, kissed his sugar lips, and called him his son, weeping greatly as he looked upon him. Then he blessed him with a great blessing.
"Ride, my child, my dear son, whither thou wilt, over the open plain, but shed no blood without cause, waste no strength in vain. And go now to the blue sea, to thy mother, and greet her lowly from me, from the Old Kazák Ilya of Murom. For shouldst thou f all into the hands of our Russian heroes, thou shouldst hardly escape thence alive."
The secret of his birth overwhelmed the good youth as a great misfortune, and he rode straightway to the blue sea, to the palaces of gray stone, to his mother.
When he came to the fair porch, he shouted with a great voice: "Ho there, thou bold and evil warrior-maid! Come forth to meet the good youth! "
So Zlatigorka came forth to meet him, bowing low, and saluting him. But Falcon met her with his sharp sword, and greeted her so that she fell there upon the fair porch. For he liked it not that he should be the son of a peasant, and of dishonour.
"I go now," quoth he, "to give that old dog over likewise to speedy death, for so dishonored I will not live."
Therewith he wheeled his good charger about, and rode to the pavilion of white linen. There he fitted a burning shaft to his stout bow, and sent it at Ilya's breast as he lay buried in sleep. But it glanced aside from the wondrous golden cross, three poods in weight, which Ilya wore, and roused him from his slumber. He leaped forth from the tent all unclothed as he was, seized Falcon by his yellow curls, flung him upon the damp earth, cut out his little heart, and scattered his four quarters over the plain.
So Falcon's praise is sung, and Ilya's glory is not diminished; and for ever shall Ilya be celebrated in song.
Ilya and the Adventure of the Three Roads
The old man rode over the open plain. From youth to old age he bad ridden, and he marvelled at himself. "Oh age, old age! "He cried: "oh deep old age of three hundred years! Thou bast overtaken the Kazák in the open plain, thou bast caught me like a black raven, thou bast alighted upon my turbulent head. - And youth, thou youth, my early youth! Thou hast flown away, youth, over the open plain, like the falcon clear! "
In the open plain the light snows gleamed not white, little clouds darkled not, the blades of the steppe grass waved not. -But over the open plain still rode the old Kazák of the Don, on his heroic steed. The horse under him was fiery as a wild beast, and Ilya as he sat was like the falcon bright. No ferriage asked the Kazák, for good Cloudfall leaped lake and river, wide morass, and floating swamp.
As he rode, he came to a place where three ways met; and there stood a burning white stone, Alatyr, whereon was written: "Who so rideth to the right shall gain great wealth, who so goeth to the left a wife, he that fareth straight on, his death."
The old Kazák halted, marvelled, and shook his gray head in thought.
"Wherefore should 1, an old man, crave wealth? I have countless store of golden treasure. And why should the old man win a wife? There is no joy in an ugly wife, and a fair one is taken for the envy of other men. A young wife is coveted of others; an old wife would lie on the oven, and eat kisel, [A sourish pudding, made with potato flour, used during Fasts.] she would sit by the oven, and order the old husband about. Nay; but I will ride that way where I may win death."
Then the good youth, the Old Kazák, rode on. Hardly had he passed Korela the Accursed, not yet had he attained to India the Rich, when he entered a gloomy forest. There stood a band of forty thousand robbers, and they coveted Ilya's good steed.
"In all our lives," said they, "we have beheld no such horse. Halt then, good youth, halt, thou Russian hero! "And they would have robbed him; but Ilya said:
"Ho, ye robber horde! Ye may not kill the old man, nor rob him. I have no treasure with me, save five hundred roubles. The cross on my breast is worth but five hundred, my cloak of sables three thousand; my cap of forty poods, and my sandals of the seven silks, five hundred each; my fine kaftan of orange-tawny taffeta is valued at but little, my braided bridle rimmed with precious stones, but a thousand roubles. My Cherkessian saddle bordered with eagle's feathers-that eagle which flew not over lofty mountains, but over the blue sea-is priceless. Between my Cloudfall's eyes, and under his ears, are jewels fair, clear jacinth stones, -not for youthful vanity, but because of the autumn nights. Wheresoever my good steed goeth, he can see thirty versts on all sides, thirty versts well told; for they gleam like the bright moon. -And my good steed Cloudfall is worth nothing at all."
The robbers jeered as they answered Thou art old and garrulous, Kazák! Since we have roamed this white world, never saw we such a fool. The aged fool hath told the truth as though we had demanded it! Seize the old fellow, children!" And they would have dragged the Old Kazák from his horse.
But young Ilya of Murom drew a fiery dart from his quiver, and sped it forth from his stout bow, and struck the damp mother of oaks. The ringbarked oak was shivered in fragments, and the earth was ploughed up round about.
The robbers were greatly terrified thereat, and lay senseless for the space of five hours. Then they entreated him:
"Good youth, great Russian hero! Enter thou into comradeship with us. Take what thou wilt of golden treasure, flowered garments, horses and herds."
Ilya laughed: "Eli, brothers, mine enemies," quoth he, "I have no wish to feed your sheep."
Then he turned back to the white and burning stone Alatyr, erased the old inscription, and wrote anew:
"I have ridden this road and have not been slain." So ended the adventure of the first road.
Again Ilya of Murom the Old Kazák sallied forth into the open plain. He rode three hundred versts, and lo! before him in a green meadow, stood a marvel of marvels, a wonder of wonders. Too small was it to be called a city, too large to be a village. It was, in truth, but a fair palace of white stone, with golden roofs, lofty walls, and three-cornered towers.
When Ilya came to that palace, there issued forth from it forty damsels, and with them came also the Princess Zenira the Most Fair. The beautiful Princess took the old man by his white hands, by his golden ring, kissed his sugar mouth, and bade him enter the palace of white stone to feast with her.
"Long have I journeyed in Holy Russia, but such a marvel I have never yet beheld," said Ilya. Then she led him in. The good youth crossed himself as prescribed, made salutation as enjoined, to all sides, and low6st of all to the fair Princess, who placed him at the table of white oak, and fetched him sugar viands and sweet mead.
"Eat not to satiety, good youth," said she, "and drink not to drunkenness, for there is more to come."
But Ilya said I have journeyed three hundred versts, and my hunger is great," and ate and drank his fill.
Then Zenira the Fair led him to a rich warm chamber, to a bed of yew wood and ivory, with soft cushions of down.
"Lie thou next yon brick wall, thou bold and goodly youth," spake the Princess.
"Nay," said Ilya, "I will lie upon the outer edge, for I often rise in the night to visit my good steed."
Thereupon he seized her by her white breast, and flung her upon the bed of yew wood, against the wall.
Now that bed of yew was false; it turned, and the fair Princess was hurled down into her dungeons, forty fathoms deep.
Then the good old youth went forth into the spacious courtyard, and spoke to the nurses, women and faithful servitors : "Give me the golden keys which undo the dungeon doors. Show me the way to those deep vaults."
So they showed him; and he found the way choked with yellow sand, and barred with vast logs of wood.
He had no need of the golden keys; he tore the locks asunder with his hands, forced the doors back with his heels, until they flew from their frames. Then from the dungeons forty Tzars and Tzareviches, forty Kings and Princes, their heirs, together with Dobrynya Nikitich, Alyosha Popovich, and many more, an innumerable host, sprang to their nimble feet, and came forth.
All bowed before the Old Kazák, and thanked him for showing them once more the white world."
"Go hence, ye Tzars, to your empires," spake Ilya, "ye Kings, to your kingdoms, to your wives, and children, and pray God for the Old Kazák, for Ilya of Murom."
But when the fair Princess came forth, Ilya took her by her white hands, bound her to three untamed horses, and drove them apart, so that they scattered over the open plain, here a hand, there a foot, and everywhere her white body. All her estates and treasure he divided among those bold and goodly youths, the strong and mighty heroes; and her palace of white stone he gave over to the flames.
Again the Old Kazák returned to the white stone, crossed out the old inscription, and wrote a new one:
"This legend is falsely written; I have ridden that way, yet am I still unwed!"
"I will go now," quoth he, "where wealth is to be won."
Then the old man rode over the plain; three hours, three hundred versts he rode, and came at length to a green meadow where deep pits were dug, and to a gloomy forest where was a vault filled with treasure, fair gold, pure silver, and fine seed-pearls; and on the vault was an inscription
This treasure shall fall to Ilya of Murom."
Ilya reflected; and having hired wise and cunning craftsmen, he built on that spot a monastery and a cathedral church. And he instituted there church singing, and the sound of bells. "Let him whose that treasure was come for it now," quoth Ilya of Murom, and returned to famous Kief town, to courteous Prince Vladimir the Fair Sun.
Vladimir inquired of him: "Where bast thou tarried so long, thou bold and goodly youth, thou Old Kazák, Ilya of Murom? "
And Ilya related his Adventure of the Three Ways, and all that he had done, to Fair Sun Prince Vladimir.
Ilya of Murom and Tsar Kalin
At courteous Prince Vladimir's palace in royal Kief town, an honourable feast was assembled of many princes, all the nobles, the mighty heroes and their bold body-guards, and all the merchant-traders.
The Fair Sun made good cheer; to one he gave cities, to another towns, to this man villages, to that one hamlets. And to Ilya he gave a cloak of marten skins, with a collar of sables. But the cloak came not into honour with Ilya, nor into praise. He bare that cloak of marten skins to the kitchen, dragged it about the brick floor by one sleeve, and began to say to it:
"I will drag about that serpent, Tzar Kalin, by his yellow curls, as I drag this cloak of marten skins. As I pour green wine upon this cloak, even so will I pour out his hot heart, with its seething blood."
But a black-visaged maid bore this saying to the Fair Sun Prince Vladimir. "Ilya hath been in my kitchen," she said;" he hath dragged his mantle of marten about, and hath said that even so he would also drag Vladimir by his yellow curls. And he hath poured green wine upon the mantle, and declared that even so he would pour out Prince Vladimir's burning heart with his own white hands."
Then was Prince Vladimir very wroth, and shouted in his thundering voice:
"Ye mighty heroes! lead Ilya to our dungeon, and set an iron grating there; pile trunks of oak trees on all sides, and heap over all yellow sand."
The heroes went and told Ilya all, and besought him to help them in this strait, else would Prince Vladimir overwhelm them with his displeasure. So Ilya mounted his good steed, and rode willingly with them to the dungeon. There he dismounted from his good Cloudfall, took off the Cherkessian saddle and plaited bridle, and let his brown horse wander free at God's good will.
Then he descended into the dungeon, and the heroes made all fast as Prince Vladimir had commanded.
When the Princess Apraxia heard of that, she dug a deep passage, and carried sugar viands and mead to Ilya of Murom the old Kazák. There Ilya sat for the space of three years. And it came to the ears of the Dragon Tzar Kalin.
Then Kalin the Tzar assembled a great host from the Golden Horde, to ride against Kief town, to take the Princess Apraxia for his wife. Each of the forty Tzars and Tzareviches, the forty Kings and Princes, had a company of forty thousand men. They stood along swift-flowing Mother Dnyepr, and about Kief town on all sides, a hundred versts well told.
That dog Tzar Kalin seated himself on his folding chair and wrote in haste a cartel, with a swan-quill pen, and pure gold in place of ink, upon crimson velvet. Then he chose his best and favourite runner, gave him the cartel, and commanded him in these words:
Go thou to Kief town; enter not by the white
oak gates, but leap the city wall; bind not thy horse, but enter straight the palace of white stone; open the door wide, but close it not again; do no reverence to Vladimir, neither take thou thy cap from thy head. But take thy stand over against him, fling this cartel upon the golden table, and say to Prince Vladimir: 'Take this cartel, and look what is written there. Clean all thine arrow straight streets, remove the wondrous crosses from God's temples, and build horse-stalls in the churches; for our good steeds shall be stabled there. And clean out all thy palaces of white stone, for our host is great. And brew sweet intoxicating liquors; let cask stand upon cask in close array. For Kalin the Tzar and his great host shall stand in thy city of Kief; and he shall wed the Princess Apraxia.' "
All this was done as Kalin had commanded; and when Prince Vladimir had read the cartel he wrote a submissive letter in reply: "Thou hound and Tzar Kalin ! Grant me a truce of three months to clean the streets and palaces, and to brew the sweet liquors."
And Kalin granted the truce.
Prince Vladimir began to pace to and fro with bitterness; he dropped burning tears from his clear eyes, and wiped them away with a silken kerchief, and said:
"Ilya of Murom the Old Kazák is no more; there is none to fight for our faith and fatherland, for the church of God and the city of Kief; there is none to defend Prince Vladimir."
Then spake the Princess: "Little father! command thy trusty servants to go to the deep dungeon and see whether Ilya be not yet alive."
"Thou foolish princess! "Vladimir made answer. " If I take thy turbulent head from thy shoulders, Will it grow again? How can the bold good youth be living after these three years ? "
Nevertheless he went himself to the dungeon, and found Ilya with sweet viands, cushions of down, and warm coverlets, reading the Holy Gospel. He bowed to the earth before Ilya, and besought him to defend them all, not for his own sake, but for pity of the widows and orphans. Then he took the Old Kazák by his little white hands, by his golden ring, led him to his own table, and gave him to eat and drink of the best.
So Ilya saddled his good steed, and sallied forth. They saw the good youth as he mounted, they saw him not as he rode. There was but a smoke wreath on the open plain, and springs of water burst forth where good Cloudfall's hoofs beat the earth. He leaped to the crest of a lofty mountain, and the Old Kazák gazed upon all sides, hoping to descry the absent Russian heroes.
In the east he espied white pavilions, for Alyosha Popovich was come to the oak Nevida, to the cross Levanidof, to the white stone Alatyr. He had pitched a snowy tent, shaken out fine wheat for his good steed, planted a staff of twenty fathoms, and on it hung a golden tassel,-not for beauty and splendour, but as a heroic signal, that the accursed Tatars might know that Alyosha Popovich stood on guard in the open plain.
From afar, very far, came also Dobrynya Nikitich to the oak, the cross, the stone, pitched his pavilion, and displayed two tassels; and so the other heroes did likewise. Then came Ilya, placed three golden tassels on his staff, flung the silken reins on his steed's neck that the good beast might gather up a little of the wheat, and entered the white pavilion, where twelve heroes of Holy Russia were sitting at meat.
All rose and kissed, and bade him welcome heartily. Then they sat down again to eat and drink, and Ilya announced his errand.
But his godfather, Samson Samoilovicb, made answer: "Nay, my beloved godson! but we will not saddle our horses to defend Kief town, Vladimir, and his Princess. For lo ! he hath many princely nobles, to whom he giveth meat and drink and guerdon, while we have nothing from Prince Vladimir."
"It will be the worse for thee," quoth Ilya; and so they wrangled.
Meanwhile Vladimir, wrapped himself in his mantle furred with marten, and paced to and fro in Kief town. For the truce was nearly expired, and the heroes were not come. As he thus walked the streets, his nephew, young Yermak Timofeevich,' sprang forth from the royal pot-house, and entreated Vladimir that he might have a heroic steed, a coat of chain mail of ninety poods, and a mace of equal weight, so that he might ride against the hostile host.
"Thou art but a braggart child," quoth Vladimir, "and hast never taken a mace in thy hand."
"If thou grant not the horse, uncle, I will go on foot."
So Vladimir yielded, and bade Yermak choose what horse he would from the stable, where he should also find what armour be required. Thither went the youth in all haste; but the chain mail was so rusty, that he flung it down upon the brick floor, whereupon all the rust flew from it.
Then Yermak saddled a good horse, and rode to the barrier by the Nevida oak, and found the twelve heroes playing checkers upon a board of gold, and Ilya asleep upon a couch of fishes' teeth, jeneath a coverlet of sables.
Yermak was vexed, and shouted with all his strength Ho there, thou Old Kazák, Ilya Murometz Yonder in Kief there is bread to eat in plenty, but no one to defend the town."
Then said the Old Kazák: "Climb into the damp oak, oak, young Yermak, and reckon yon host by the standards."
Yermak climbed the damp oak, viewed the vast host, and saw that it was sallying forth : damp mother earth trembled and bent under the weight thereof.
-The gray wolf could not skirt that force in a long spring day; the black raven could not fly about it in the longest day of summer, nor would the longest light of autumn suffice for the gray bird to fly over it.
Then Yermak leaped quickly from the damp oak, sprang upon his good steed, and rode straightway against that host. The heroes sat on in the white pavilion. Ilya slept three days and nights. During that space, young Yermak contended alone with the Tatars, pausing not to eat nor to drink, nor to let his good steed rest.
From the tree-top Dobrynya beheld the vast host, and something more: not the black raven flying, not the bright falcon soaring, but that bold and goodly youth Yermak galloping against those infidels. This he told to Ilya.
"Rise, ye Russian heroes ! "shouted the Old Kazák then. "Mount your good steeds, and sally forth against that host. And take iron grappling hooks, catch them in young Yermak's shoulders, and persuade him: 'Thou hast breakfasted to-day, now let us dine.' For the young lad will perish, and will never attain to herohood."
So Alyosha went forth with stout grappling irons; but thrice did young Yermak break away from them, and Alyosha returned to the pavilion. And so it fared also with Dobrynya. Then Ilya went himself. He sat his charger like a century-old oak, wavering not, and caught hold of Yermak. "Calm thy heroic heart," he said, "we will labour now."
As the clear falcon swoopeth down upon the geese and swans, and small gray migratory ducks, so swooped the Holy Russian hero upon that Tatar horde, and began to trample the host under his horse's hoofs, and to lay them low, as a mower cutteth down the grass.
Then Cloudfall conjured him with human tongue: "AY, thou mighty Russian hero! Boldly hast thou attacked this vast host, but thou mayest not overcome it. For that hound Tzar Kalin hath many great heroes and bold warrior-maids; and moreover, he hath dug three great trenches in the open plain. If thou ride against that horde, we shall fall into those trenches. Out of the first I may leap and bear thee, and likewise out of the second. But out of the third I may not bear thee, and though I leap forth, thou wilt remain in the ditch. For I watched them dig the trenches whilst thou wert sleeping, and so watching had no time to eat my wheat."
This discourse pleased not the Old Kazák. He grasped his silken whip in his white hands, and beat the horse upon his flanks. "Thou treacherous hound! "quoth he. "I feed and water thee, and yet thou wilt abandon me in the deep ditches of the open plain! "
So he heeded not good Cloudfall's warning, but rode on, destroying the host with his spear and his horse's hoofs; and his strength was not diminished.
When he fell into the first trench, his good steed bore him out in safety. Again he rode, and came to the second ditch; and from that also he escaped. From the third, heroic Cloudfall leaped nimbly (but bore not Ilya with him), and fled far afield.
Then the accursed Tatars fell upon the Old Kazák, fettered his nimble feet, bound his white hands, and led him to where Tzar Kalin sat in his linen pavilion.
"Ai, thou Old Kazák, Ilya of Murom! "quoth Tzar Kalin. "How should a young puppy prevail alone against my great host ?
And to his guards he said
"Unbind Ilya's white hands, unfetter his nimble feet." And it was done.
"Now sit thou at one table with me, Ilya; eat my sweet viands, drink my mead, put on my flowered apparel. Marry my daughter, and serve not Prince Vladimir, but be vassal to me, the Tzar Kalin."
"Had I my sharp sword by me, thou dog, Kalin the Tzar, it should woo thy neck! "Ilya answered. "None of these things will I do. But I will uphold the temples of God, the Princess Apraxia and Prince Vladimir, and the city of Kief."
Then he heard a voice from heaven say, "Lift up thy hands, Ilya." So he lifted them, and smote off Tzar Kalin's turbulent head, and going forth from the pavilion, he began to destroy the Tatars; and none opposed him. But he perceived that the task was not small, and so seized a Tatar by the heels, and began to beat the Tatars with a Tatar. "This Tatar is stout," quoth Ilya, "he breaketh not; he is tough, and teareth not."
When he was come to the open plain, lie flung the Tatar far from him, and blew a heroic blast on his aurochs horn; for his clear eyes were dimmed, his hot heart burned, and he could distinguish neither the white day nor the black night. His heroic steed heard that ringing blast, and galloped to his master from afar.
Then Ilya mounted him, and rode forthwith to a lofty mountain, and gazed to the eastward, where the heroic steeds stood beside the white pavilions. He lighted down from off his horse, fitted a fiery arrow to his stout bow, and conjured it Fly, little dart aflame, to yonder white pavilion Tear off the roof, pierce the white breast of my brother in arms, make a small scratch - not large. For he sleepeth, and taketh his case, while I stand here alone, and can do but little."
The shaft sped straight to the white breast of Samson Samoilovich, and roused that glorious hero of Holy Russia from his heavy sleep. When he opened his eyes, and beheld that the roof of his tent was gone, and a little dart had flown into his breast, he sprang quickly to his nimble feet.
"Ho there, my mighty heroes of Holy Russia lie shouted. "Saddle now your good steeds in haste, and mount with speed. An unwelcome messenger is come from my brother in arms,-a little dart. Had it not been for the cross of six poods upon my breast, my turbulent head had been torn away."
Right quickly then did those Holy Russian heroes saddle their chargers, and ride towards Kief town, and Ilya went down from the lofty mountain to meet the twelve. And all thirteen heroes rode against the Tatar horde.
For five hours these good youths mowed down young and old, leaving not so much as a single soul to continue the race. And when they were come together again in one place, they began to boast, and to say : "If there were a ladder to heaven, we woula climb it, and destroy all the heavenly host! "Then they began again to slay the Tatars : when lo ! two, yea even three, rose up in place of every man they killed.
Then those mighty Russian heroes began to turn their arms against each other, to pierce and hew each other, so that of all those Russian warriors there was left alive only young Yermak Timofeevich.
When Yermak returned to Kief town, courteous Prince Vladimir inquired of him: "How shall I reward thee now, beloved nephew mine? Wilt thou have estates, or golden treasure ? "
And young Yermak made answer: "Grant me only, uncle, that I may drink beer and wine without price in all the pot-houses." And so Vladimir granted it.
But Ilya of Murom, the Old Kazák of the Don, was caught away from those accursed Tatars, and with his good heroic Cloudfall was turned to stone. And the bones of the Old Kazák have become holy relics.
And so the race of Russian heroes came to an end for ever.