Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse/The Ferryman
2. THE FERRYMAN.
The Sava 'mid fastnesses roars,
In billows it mightily pours,
To its clutches the Danube it harries.
A skiff scuds away from the side,
With naught but a fisher as guide,
At the oar he in weariness tarries. . .
"Old man, ho, the oars to thy hand,
And swift to yon opposite land
Shalt thou steer us through Sava's dark thunder!
Lo, glittering gold of the Turk
Shall richly requite thee thy work. . .
An thou wilt not,—thy head we will sunder!"
"Now silent are woodland and plain.
The Slavs in yon stronghold have lain,
Serene amid slumber abiding,
Enwrapped in the mantle of night,
We are sent to lay bare to our sight
Whereabouts here our foes are in hiding. . ."
"For your gold I have never a thought!
Doth it profit a fisherman aught?
Unbribed will I steer o'er the river!
My head, though 'tis verily grey,
This night I'll not yield to your sway,
But my will to your hests I deliver!"
Now streamward the ferryman fares,
And swift the three watchers he bears. . .
Rowing forth he with grimness then gazes
On the waters to whom it were joy
With the skiff in their eddies to toy
And suck it deep down in their mazes. . .
"Yea, stalwart in sooth, is thy heart,
Most meet for our guidance thou art;
In these marches there dwelleth none rarer!
Our chieftain's acclaim we shall earn,
Fair bounty awaits our return,
Ne'er yet was vouchsafed us a fairer!"
"Make ready!" the fisherman cried,
And his oar he flung forth on the tide. . .
"For us both here the payment is tendered!"
"Curse thee, giaur!" came a shriek from the wave,
From the Sava, their watery grave,
Then all to the stillness surrendered. . . .