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From The Bard of the Dimbovitza, Roumanian Folk-Songs Collected from the Peasants by Hélène Vacaresco, translated by Carmen Sylva and Alma Strettel; London: James R. Osgood, McIlvaine & Co., 1897; pp. 115-128.









The tree.   MY leaves have fallen, but it is not winter,
I have not yet felt any storm rush by.

The river.   I will flow onward fast, to hear no more,
Yet have I been constrained to hear it all.

The wife.   Come out and stand upon your thresholds,
That from my threshold I may see you all.
Tell me, what do the nests without the birds?
My little child is lying in the grass,
His face is covered with the blades of grass.
While I did bear the child, I ever watched
The reaper work, that it might love the harvests;
And when the boy was born, the meadow said:
“This is my child. And when he is grown up
Into a fine and stalwart lad, his bride
He will choose out, forgetting all my love,
Yea, even as the brook forgets the mountain

When it flows down amid the flowery meads.”


The husband.   Wife, hast thou washed the dagger ev’ry
At dawn, and ev’ry evening too, at nightfall?


The wife..   O husband! wherefore dost thou love the

The husband.   Throw wood upon the fire, and I will
         tell thee.

The wife.   Hush thee awhile, until the fire doth burn.

The fire.   I rise from out the embers, like the seed

From out Earth’s womb. I see the wife so pale,
So full of thought the husband. Round the chamber
I send my glance, and see the chamber empty.
Then will I sing my merry song to them:
I rise from out the embers, like the seed
Out from the womb of Earth. I quaff the sap,
Till I am drunk therewith, and so I die.

The wife.   Oh tell me! wherefore dost thou love the

The husband.   My father loved it, for it waits for
Since first it had its being, it doth wait,
And says each morning: “Will it be to-day?”
And ev’ry night: “Will it be done to-night?”
It is to drink my blood; for this I wash it.
My father spake: “The knife has yet drunk naught,
Because it thirst to drink our blood.”

The wife.                              I fear
That dagger, like my shadow on the ground,
Yea, like the hour of death!


The husband.                     What doth the child?

The wife.   It sleepeth in the grass — the blades of grass
Cover its little face.

The husband.            What doth the child?

The wife.   It journeys on along the way of life,
Even as a cart adown the highway moves.

The husband.   What doth the child?

The wife.                     It hath within its veins
Thy blood, and in its blood our love’s sweet warmth.

The husband.   Wife, wife! dost remember still
         our love?

The wife.   I had spun off three distaffs, and had filled
The pitchers full with water, and already
Had prayed for all the dead — and cast my veil
Upon the hearth, because I was alone.
When from the field thou camest home that evening,
Didst bring me on thy spade the fresh earth’s fragrance.
Thy hair was damp with sweat.

The husband.                     And then I went;
I went away, and thou wert left alone.

The wife.   I was alone, and sat and watched the ravens,
and watched the snow.

The husband.            Thou wert alone.

The wife.                              O husband!
Why tarry on the threshold thus?


The husband.   I listen.

The wife.   Oh listen not by night, for then one hears
The dead men talk, who upon earth had sorrow;
They speak to us of sorrow too.

The husband.                     I listen.

The river.   Art thou not he that went away, and now
We know thee scarce again.

The forest.                     Yea, thou art he
That went away — and we have all forgot thee.

The river.   The winter came, and I was frozen over.

The forest.   The winter came, and made me desolate.

The river.   What didst thou find beside thy hearth?

The husband.                              The child.

The forest.   What didst thou find within thy house?

The husband.                              The child.

The river.   She felt it quick’ning in her womb, and

The forest.   It leaped within her womb, and she was glad.

The river.   Dost thou remember yet thy love, O man?

The husband.   Home from my work I came. My
         spade still kept
Earth’s fragrance, and my hair was damp with sweat.
My cloak I had left lying on the hearth

Her two long tresses lay upon her shoulder;
And I did take her in my arms.

The river.                     And then —
Thou went’st away.

The forest.            She always watched the reaper,
Because ’twas harvest-time. Why did she not
Into her own heart look, to see thee there?

The river.   Still at the reaper did she look, and he
Looked back at her — and starless was the night.

The husband.   The sun has sunk from heaven, and has
The earth on fire — the earth is all a-blaze;
And I, too, burn with her. The night has sunk
From heaven, and now everywhere ’tis night,
Yea, I am plunged in night. Upon his sickle
He, too, bore Earth’s rich fragrance, and his hair
Was beaded, too, with sweat.
                       Come, neighbour, come,
See how the sun has fallen down to Earth!


The neighbour.   Why, neighbour, say, art thou not yet

The husband.   Sleep, I have driven from me like a thief,
And told him never to return again.

The neighbour.   Sleep is man’s brother!

The husband.                     Yet I drove him hence.


The neighbour.   What wilt then of me?

The husband.                     Come hither — tell me
Who is my mother? For I have forgotten.

The neighbour.   But she remembers — for she cried
When thou didst strive for life.

The husband.                     If she remember,
Go, tell her to forget — then could I kill her
Because she gave me life — and she could never
Say, that her son had killed her.

The neighbour.                     But her blood
Creeps wearily through her veins.

The husband.   Speak not of blood!

The neighbour.   She, too, hath banished sleep,
Even as a wife doth drive a lover hence;
And she hath said: “I am too old for thee.”


The husband.            Hast thou heard naught?

The mother.   Yea, verily, I heard the old well creaking.

The husband.   Hast thou heard naught?

The mother.                     Yea, verily, I heard
The screech-owl crying from the ash-tree there.

The husband.   Naught, naught hast heard?


The mother.                     Yea, verily, I heard
My own heart’s beating.

The husband.   Ha! but didst not hear
My father crying from his grave? Why then
Stone-deaf thou art! therefore I too may cry.
Tell me — what will the knife that hath been washed,
The knife that yet hath drunk of nothing?

The mother.                              Blood!

The husband.   What floweth from a piercèd bosom?

The mother.                              Blood!

The husband.   What shall I pour upon the silken veil,
That it may nevermore turn yellow?

The mother.                         Blood!

The husband.   A tree hath fallen in the wood, and now
The other trees all mourn for it.

The mother.                     My son,
Whence comest thou?

The husband.                  Why did I ever go?
Better had I howled curses o’er the graves!

The mother.   Better hadst thou gone down into the

The husband.   Sleep have I driven from me like a thief.

The mother.   But thou hast yet killed naught, my son
         — away!



The husband.   Wife, hast thou washed the dagger, art
         thou sure
It is washed clean?

The wife.                     Yea, with the river’s water,
The river’s very self, I washed it clean.
The river spake: “And wilt thou give it me
When it hath tasted its first draught?”

The husband.                              Thou shalt!

The wife.   But I did tell the river: “Thou must wait
For many harvests still, before thou get it.”

The husband.   Oh, prate no more of harvests now!

The wife.                          I dreamed
That from the fields thou camest home to me,
And that thy spade still bore the scent of earth,
And that thy hair was damp with sweat.

The husband.                              I dreamed
That both thy tresses lay upon my shoulder,
And that I took thee in mine arms.

The wife.                          What now!
Didst dream so fair a dream?

The husband.                     Thine, too, was fair!

The river.   What doth the sunshine in the sky? It
Upon thy shame.

The tree.            Earth whispers round my roots,
“His father’s sleep is restless, since he knows.”


The fire.   I die, yet gladly do I die, that so
I may behold thine image never more.

The knife.   For very joy I quiver, and but fear
That now his hand may tremble. If I knew
The way to kill, I’d do it all alone!

The wife.   Here is the child.

The husband.   Wife, dost thou love the child?

The wife.   As the dead man his grave, that ne’er he

The husband.   What didst thou look upon, while thou
         didst bear it?

The wife.   I looked upon the reaper, that my child
Might love the harvests.

The husband.                     Kiss the dagger, wife,
As though it were the heart of thine own child.

The wife.   What hath it done, that I should kiss it so?

The husband.   It is about to do.

The wife.                         O knife, I kiss thee,
Yea, with my lips, and let this kiss of mine
Make up to thee for blood, that thou forget
To crave for it.

The husband.   Let me now kiss the child,
There on his little heart. Show me the spot.

The wife.   I’ve drawn the shirt away.

The husband.                            I plunge my knife

Deep down within. — Did he, too, on his spade
Bear the earth’s fragrance in? And was his hair
Damp, too, with sweat?

The knife.   The blood that I have drunk
Was thine own blood.

The husband.                 Dost thou say nothing, wife?
Dost make no lamentation? As for me,
He was no child of mine. I cannot mourn him.

The wife.   I fain would lay my very entrails bare
To show thee all their anguish. I would fain
Tear from my breast this heart, all reeking hot,
To cast it in thy face. Yet I forbear,
For I must keep my heart, yea, and mine entrails,
To mourn for him.
                  Deep in the grass wert sleeping,
Thy face was covered with blades of grass;
Deep in earth’s bosom thou must slumber now,
Thy little face be covered by the earth;
Now it will fade, that little face of thine,
And I may never look upon it more.
Mine anguish thou wilt be, that wert my joy.
Now I must say to Earth: “Hast taken him,
Taken him from me,” I, who once was wont
To say to Heaven, “Thou hast given him me.”
I will not lay one flower on his grave,
That so more room be left there for my tears.
Thou art mine anguish, that were once my joy.


The forest.   Yea, he was like my tender leaves in April.

The river.   I knew him — he was always merry.

The husband.                         River,
Now take this knife!

The river.                     Thine is the blood! yea, thine!
For the blood spake to me: “I come of him,
The white-haired father, and I am the blood
Of stalwart working-folk. Now they have spilt me.
Useless am I — with thee I cannot mingle,
Blood cannot turn to water. So for ever
I must flow on, red through the crystal water.
I cried to him, but yet he never heard me.
I said, ‘I am thy blood,’ but yet he shed me.”

The husband.   The sun sank down so straight upon the
He set the earth on fire, and now the earth
Is all a-blaze, and I, too, burn with it.

The mother.   Thou art mine anguish, that wert all my joy.



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