Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse/A Page from the Chronicle of Zajc
1. A PAGE FROM THE CHRONICLE OF ZAJC.
Glorious saint in heavenly salvation,
Father of Carthusians, Holy Bruno,
Thou who 'mid the barren vale didst bear us,
Yonder 'mid the vale Chartreuse didst bear us,
Thou who spreadest over us thy mantle,
Here at Zajc assembled in the cloister;
Be not angered, father, be not angered.
That thy son, the agèd Marijófil,—
Whilom the custodian of thy cloisters,
Prior now in this unworthy hostel,
Writes to-day this story in the annals,
To the parchment he consigns these tidings,
Tidings that perchance will sore afflict thee.
Thirty years have gone their endless journey,
Thirty years have slowly glided onward.
'Twas a day in autumn, warm and beauteous,
When I pilgrimaged unto this cloister,
Pilgrimaged bareheaded to this cloister.
In my right hand was the staff I fared with,
And the holy rosary in my left hand.
By the sanctuary I stayed my footsteps;
To the wondrous shrine I crossed the threshold.
Pouring through the lofty Gothic windows,
Entered in the radiance of the sunshine.
Empty was the house of God, deserted.
I, methought, at meat shall find the brethren.
Thither I behold the portals opened.
All the tables still with fare are laden,
But within the hall no living creature.
Through long passeges alone I wander,
Empty are the cells and all is silent,
Naught is heard there save my echoing footsteps,
Strange the echo sounds amid the vaultage.
From the walls the portraits eye me gravely,
Gazing down upon me, as in wonder,
Images of priors long departed,
Images of old Carthusian brothers.
Soon a gentle terror comes upon me,
Roaming here and there,—how long I know net;
Stay, for floorwards, in the gloomy passage
Standing but ajar I find a portal:
From the hall comes chatter, noise and chanting.
To this door I grope my way a-tiptoe,
And I hear, I hear the strangest discourse.
First a hush and then a voice sings loudly:
"From divers lands and ages,
Books ceiling-high uprise;
But yonder tome of verses
Above them all I prize.
"For Horace I nor Pindar,
Sappho nor Ovid care.
Poesy's loftier spirit
My volume harbours there.
"When its sweet contents bear me
Even to heaven's domain,
Then would I in that moment
Intone a gentle strain!"
Ha, the library is where they gather?
Tidings have I heard of these same scholars. . .
Thus it is!
Quoth then the second brother:
"And old is my folio yonder,
I read from it gladly alway;
Time has gnawed at the year of its making.
Who printed it? No man shall say.
"When I until late in the night-time
On the scribe's deep ponderings pore,
My gaze can encompass clearly
All nature's wonderful lore!"
Deeply then a solemn voice commences,
Through the hall the clamour of it reaches,
Setting o'er my head the walls aquiver:
"Long years have I vainly for truth searched around,
As I probed into numberless pages;
But here 'mid this chamber each day I have found
In these books the pure truth of the ages."
Then a merry clattering of glasses.
Opening the door, I enter, greeting:
Round me is its cool and roomy girdle.
There amid the hugeness of the barrels
Sit the fathers of this holy order
Round about a mighty oaken table;
Unto every monk a foaming flagon.
"Dearest brethren: Dominus vobiscum:
This is then the library ye boast of?—
Being straitly thus enjoined, has entered
Unto you your brother Marijófil,
That he may behold your cloistered dwelling,
That he may regard your skill in learning,
Which within this library ye cope with."
I with heavy heart these lines have written,
I with heavy heart have marked this matter.
Saviour, thou whose cross is on my lectern,
Thou, up yonder, Mater Dolorosa!
Witness shall ye twain to-day vouchsafe me.
How demurringly my quill did office.
And the grievous sinner Marijófil,
Hoary grown, inditing of this volume,
Chronicle concerning this, our cloister,
Neither could do otherwise, nor durst he.
True istrue. Naught else but truth shall ever
By the trusty chronicler be written.
Neither left nor right his gaze shall wander;
What to-day is spoken let him ask not.
What shall yet be spoken let him care not.
Therefore wilt thou let it not affront thee,
That to-day thy son, thy Marijófil,
Here hath chronicled this thing of wonder,
Which bechanced within our glorious cloister,
Here recorded, anno sixteen hundred
Four and sixty after Christ our Saviour;—
Well I wot that thou me all forgivest,
In thy heavenly glory, Father Bruno.