N.Borounov "The little humpbacked horse"
Box. 1971. Palekh
Tales, you know, are quickly spun,
Deeds are sooner said than done.
Once again my tale proceeds
Of Ivan and of his deeds,
Of the tiny fallow bay
Talking horse, so wise and gay.
Goats are grazing on the seas,
Hills are overgrown with trees;
Golden bridle, loosely swinging,
See the stallion sunward winging-
Far below him, forests glide;
Thunder-clouds, on every side,
Race across the sky and dash,
Hurling lightning as they crash.
Wait-this is the prelude to
What I shall be telling you.
Have you heard of Buyan Island
Floating on the ocean wild, and
Of the maiden wondrous fair
Sleeping in a casket there?
Forest beasts with gentle tread
Guard her grave, while overhead
Nightingales their music pour.
Wait, my friends, a little more-
Now my prelude's said and done,
And my story is begun.
Well, good friends and Christians true,
Our young fellow made his way
To the Palace that fine day.
He is Master of the Horse
And he doesn't pine, of course,
For his brothers and his dad.
And, indeed, why should our lad,
Living in the Royal Court,
Waste on them a single thought?
He has garments gay in plenty
And possesses five and twenty
Chests, all full of caps and shoes
Out of which to pick and choose.
All he does is eat his fill,
Slake his thirst, and sleep at will.
Y.Vasnetsov "The Firebird"
Overglaze painted design
and gilt on porcelaine. 1983 Leningrad
Dawn had scarce begun to peep,
Humpback roused Ivan from sleep:
"Hey, my lad-stop snoring, do,
Up! your duty's calling you!"
So Ivan got up and dressed
Warmly for his royal quest;
Took the grain and took the wine,
Tightly tied the troughs with twine,
Put it all into a sack,
Climbed upon his horse's back,
Chewing on a piece of bread,
To the rising sun he sped,
Off to seek that Fire-Bird.
Seven days they rode, I heard;
When the eighth day dawned, they stood
In a dark and dense green wood.
Here the humpback tossed his head:
"You will see a glade," he said;
"In the middle of this glade
Stands a hill, of silver made.
There it is that every morn
Fire-Birds flock before the dawn,
Water from the stream to drink.
We will catch them there, I think."
With these words, he swiftly ran
To the glade, with our Ivan.
What a meadow met their sight-
Blades of grass, like emeralds bright!
And the breezes, as they blew,
Scattered sparkles through the dew;
Flowers sweet of beauty rare
Blossomed in the meadow there.
In the middle of this glade
Rose a hill, of silver made,
Like an airy tower bright,
With its summit hid from sight.
And the sun, with gentle blaze,
Gilds it with its summer rays
Till the peak in splendour bright
Flashes like a beacon light.
V.Kuznetsov "Ivan and the little humpbacked horse"
Overglaze painted design
and gilt on porcelaine. 1927 Leningrad
"In a distant clime, my brothers,
Flows an ocean, like no others;
And it washes foreign shores,
And it's sailed by blackamoors;
From true Christian soil, however,
Noblemen, nor peasants, never
Sailed those pagan waters-though
Merchants who have sailed, and know,
Tell about a maiden fair
Living on that ocean there.
She's no common maiden, see-
Daughter to the moon is she,
And she's sister to the sun;
This fair maid, the stories run,
In a scarlet dress arrayed,
Sails a boat-of gold it's made;
And she wields a silver oar,
Steers that boat from shore to shore;
Gusli in her hand, she sings
As she plucks its silver strings."
V.Belov "The little humpbacked horse"
Box. 1969. Kholui
© 2004 Artrusse
So, the chamberlain began
As weeks passed, to watch Ivan;
And he noticed that he never
Fed or groomed those steeds, or ever
Took them out for exercise;
Yet those steeds, to his surprise,
Always were, whene'er paraded,
Brushed and burnished, manes a-braided.
Tails, in flowing ringlets streaming,
Glossy coats, like satin gleaming,
Mangers-always full of wheat
Which, it seemed, grew at their feet.
And huge tubs, he could have sworn,
Were fresh-filled with mead each morn.
"Now, whatever can this mean?"
Sighed the chamberlain in spleen-
"Can it be, a goblin sprite
Comes and plays his pranks at night?
Watch him-that's what I shall do.
And it should be easy to
Spin a story in a flash
And to settle that fool's hash.
I shall tell the Tsar, of course,
That the Master of the Horse
Is a wicked infidel,
And a sorcerer as well;
That Old Nick his soul has taken,
That he has God's Church forsaken,
Bows before the Cross of Rome,
During Lent, eats meat at home."
So, the former Chief of Horse
(Yes, the chamberlain, of course)
That same evening hid away
In a stall, beneath some hay.
Blackest midnight came at last,
Pit-a-pat, his heart beat fast;
Lying there, with bated breath,
He peeped out, as still as death,
Waiting for that sprite-when hark!
Loud the door creaked in the dark,
And the horses pawed the ground
As the sprite, without a sound,
Entered-though he looked, of course,
Like the Master of the Horse;
First he barred the door; then he
Took his hat off carefully,
And from it he slowly took
Out his kerchief, which he shook
Till the Fire-Bird's feather blazed;
While the chamberlain, amazed,
Nearly screamed there in the hay,
Almost gave himself away.
Unsuspectingly, the sprite
In a corn-bin placed the light,
After which, with tender care,
He commenced to groom the pair;
Braided their fine manes so long,
While he sang a merry song;
Meanwhile, crouching there and quivering,
Hair all bristling, skin a-shivering,
Stared the chamberlain in fright
At the joker of the night.
When he reached His Majesty,
Our Ivan bowed low, then he
Hummed and hawed and puffed his chest,
Said: "Why did you spoil my rest?"
Here, the Tsar jumped up in bed,
Left eye squinting, seeing red.
"Silence," wrathfully roared he -
"It is you must answer me!
By what law and what decree
Have you from Our Majesty
Hidden what is ours by right?
Yes-the Fire-Bird's feather bright?
Am I not your lawful Tsar?
Answer, heathen that you are!"
But Ivan made answer bold-
Waved his hand and shouted:
"Hold! When did I give you my hat?
How could you discover that?
What-have you got second sight?
You can lock me up, all right,
You can have me beaten flat-
I've no feather, and that's that!"
"You'll be flogged! Now answer me!"
"But I'm speaking plainly-see,
I've no feather-and, how, pray,
Could such wonders come my way?"
Here the Tsar sprang to the floor,
Shook the feather with a roar -
"What is this? Now will you dare
Stand and contradict me there?"
Here Ivan gave just one look,
Like a storm-tossed leaf he shook,
Dropped his hat in sheer dismay.
"Ah, you don't know what to say,"
Said the Tsar. "But wait, my man ..."
"Mercy, mercy," cried Ivan,
Grovelling upon the floor,
At the Tsar's feet, sobbing sore-
"Pardon me this once, please do
And I'll lie no more to you."
"Listen," thus the Tsar began,
"I have been informed, Ivan,
That just now, my lad, you said,
Swearing by my Royal Head,
That, did I but say the word,
You could bring another bird
For your Monarch-you did swear
You could catch the Tsar-Maid Fair."
"God save you from every harm,"
Cried the Tsar's groom in alarm.
"Really, only in a dream
Could I say such things, I deem.
But no matter what you say
You will not fool me this way!"
Wrathfully, the Tsar's beard shook:
"What-me argue with you?
Look -If you do not bring to me
That Tsar-Maid, in sennights three,
To my Royal Chamber - now,
By my Royal Beard, I vow -
Hide yourself where e'er you please,
Under ground, or under seas-
I'll have you impaled, my man!
Off, you scum!" In tears, Ivan
To the hayloft made his way,
Where his little humpback lay.
"Why, Ivanushka, so sad?
What's the matter now, my lad?"
Little humpbacked horse enquired;
"Are you ill? or only tired?
What's the trouble? Tell me who
Has upset you? Tell me, do."
And Ivan, in bitter tears,
Kissed his little horse's ears
Sobbing: "Oh, my humpback dear,
I must bring the Tsar-Maid here.
Oh, whatever shall I do?"
In reply, his horse said: "True
Your misfortune's great, I know
But I'll help you in your woe.
You rejected my advice-
Now, you have to pay the price;
But, Ivan, 'twixt you and me,
This is easy as can be.
Service lies ahead, my man;
Now, go to the Tsar, Ivan,
Say: To catch the Tsar-Maid, Sire,
Two large cloths I shall require,
And a tent of gold brocade,
And a dinner-service, made
All of gold, from overseas;
Sweetmeats, too, her taste to please.'".