Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse/The Demigod
N. S. SERGEYEV-TSENSKY: THE DEMIGOD.
At wealthy Corinth, in the house of Megacles, the highly revered, the minstrels stood and chanted their melodies.
There were two of them—a youth and an old man.
At first the old man sang in a quavering and feeble voice, and the youth accompanied him sadly upon a seven-stringed lyre.
What can the old man be singing about? He sang about the olden time when the sun glowed more ardently, when fruits grew more amply, when wine was more intoxicating. He sang about the olden time, when heroes lived whose places none had come to take. He sang how in the gloomy chasms of Hades rove the mournful shadows of mortals.
A feast was being held in the house of Megacles. On the long couch behind the table the guests reclined and drank thick Cyprus wine from costly goblets.
And none listened to the old man.
But he ceased, and the youthful minstrel began to sing. In a sonorous and powerful voice he sang melodies which no man had hitherto heard. The melodies had been fashioned by a mighty master, and they celebrated the praises of the proud mind of man.
"Man is a demigod," ran the words of them, "but the time will come when he shall be a god.”
"Man is plunged in dreamS," ran the words of them, "but the time will come when the dreams shall be reality."
"Yonder, amid the glimmering depths of future ages, his gaze is fixed, as if it were riveted there."
"The time will come when even the young men shall not stammer about what has been."
"Utterly filled with the present, utterly the creator of the future, unsubmissive and holding sway over all, man shall stand upon earth vanquished by him."
"And when he has gained sway over all, he shall be a god."
The final cadences of his voice and the strains of the lyre were just resounding, when the guests of Megacles rose up from the table to gaze upon the minstrel.
And he stood there youthful and comely, with black tresses and a proud glance.
"Who fashioned these melodies?" the guests inquired.
"I heard them," replied the minstrel, "when I was yet a lad, in my native Eanthus, from Demades, an exile from Athens."
On the next day, three rich youths journeyed across the Gulf of Corinth to tiny Eanthus, that they might reverence Demades, even as a demigod.
"He must be tall as this mast!" said one of them, with eyes flashing.
"He must be mighty as this sea during a tempest!" said the second.
"He must be beautiful as the evening star in yonder sky!" said the third dreamily.
In tiny Eanthur, Demades the exile from Athens, was pointed out to them.
On a dirty mat in a courtyard sat a decrepit cripple. His head was grey with the remains of dishevelled, matted hair.
With lean and grimy hands he was intently and eagerly searching for vermin in his tattered tunic.