MOSCOW. PALACE OF THE TSAR

BORIS. BASMANOV

TSAR. He is vanquished, but what profit lies in that? We are crowned with a vain conquest; he has mustered Again his scattered forces, and anew Threatens us from the ramparts of Putivl. Meanwhile what are our heroes doing? They stand At Krom, where from its rotten battlements A band of Cossacks braves them. There is glory! No, I am ill content with them; thyself I shall despatch to take command of them; I give authority not to birth, but brains. Their pride of precedence, let it be wounded! The time has come for me to hold in scorn The murmur of distinguished nobodies, And quash pernicious custom. BASMANOV. Ay, my lord Blessed a hundredfold will be that day When fire consumes the lists of noblemen With their dissensions, their ancestral pride. TSAR. That day is not far off; let me but first Subdue the insurrection of the people. BASMANOV. Why trouble about that? The people always Are prone to secret treason; even so The swift steed champs the bit; so doth a lad Chafe at his father's ruling. But what then? The rider quietly controls the steed, The father sways the son. TSAR. Sometimes the horse Doth throw the rider, nor is the son at all times Quite 'neath the father's will; we can restrain The people only by unsleeping sternness. So thought Ivan, sagacious autocrat And storm-subduer; so his fierce grandson thought. No, no, kindness is lost upon the people; Act well—it thanks you not at all; extort And execute—'twill be no worse for you. (Enter a boyar.) What now? BOYAR. The foreign guests are come. TSAR. I go To welcome them. Basmanov, wait, stay here; I still have need to speak: a word with thee. (Exit.) BASMANOV. High sovereign spirit! God grant he may subdue The accurst Otrepiev; and much, still much Of good he'll do for Russia. A great thought Within his mind has taken birth; it must not Be suffered to grow cold. What a career For me when the ancestral horn he breaks Of the nobility. I have no rivals In war. I shall stand closest to the throne— And it may chance—But what is that strange sound? (Alarum. Boyars and court-attendants run in disorder, meet each other and whisper.) ONE. Fetch a physician! ANOTHER. Quickly to the Patriarch! A THIRD. He calls for the tsarevich, the tsarevich! A FOURTH. A confessor! BASMANOV. What has happened? A FIFTH AND SIXTH. The tsar is ill, The tsar is dying. BASMANOV. Good God! A FIFTH. Upon the throne He sat, and suddenly he fell; blood gushed From his mouth and ears. (The TSAR is carried in on a chair. All the Tsar's household; all the boyars.) TSAR. Let all depart—alone Leave the tsarevich with me. (All withdraw.) I am dying; Let us embrace. Farewell, my son; this hour Thou wilt begin to reign.—O God, my God! This hour I shall appear before Thy presence— And have no time to purge my soul with shrift. But yet, my son, I feel thou art dearer to me Than is my soul's salvation—be it so! A subject was I born; it seemed ordained That I should die a subject in obscurity. Yet I attained to sovereignty; but how? Ask not. Enough that thou art innocent. In justice now thou'lt reign; and I alone Am answerable for all to God. Dear son, Cherish no false delusion, of thy free will Blind not thyself. Stormy the days wherein Thou dost assume the crown. He is dangerous, This strange pretender; with a fearful name He is armed. For many a year experienced In rule, I could restrain revolt and treason; They quaked with fear before me; treachery Dared not to raise its voice; but thou, a boy, An inexperienced ruler, how wilt thou Govern amid the tempests, quench revolt, Shackle sedition? But God is great! He gives Wisdom to youth, to weakness strength.—Give ear; Firstly, select a steadfast counsellor, Of cool, ripe years, loved of the people, honoured Mid the boyars for birth and fame—even Shuisky. The army craves today a skilful leader; Basmanov send, and firmly bear the murmurs Of the boyars. Thou from thy early years Didst sit with me in council, thou dost know The formal course of government; change not Procedure. Custom is the soul of states. Of late I have been forced to reinstate Bans, executions—these thou canst rescind; And they will bless thee, as they blessed thy uncle When he obtained the throne of the Terrible. At the same time, little by little, tighten Anew the reins of government; now slacken; But let them not slip from thy hands. Be gracious, Accessible to foreigners, accept Their service trustfully. Preserve with strictness The Church's discipline. Be taciturn; The royal voice must never lose itself Upon the air in emptiness, but like A sacred bell must sound but to announce Some great disaster or great festival. Dear son, thou art approaching to those years When woman's beauty agitates our blood. Preserve, preserve the sacred purity Of innocence and proud shamefacedness; He, who through passion has been wont to wallow In vicious pleasures in his youthful days, Becomes in manhood bloodthirsty and surly; His mind untimely darkens. Of thy household Be always head; show honour to thy mother, But rule thy house thyself; thou art a man And tsar to boot. Be loving to thy sister— Thou wilt be left of her the sole protector. FEODOR. (On his knees.) No, no; live on, my father, and reign long; Without thee both the folk and we will perish. TSAR. All is at end for me—mine eyes grow dark, I feel the coldness of the grave— (Enter the PATRIARCH and prelates; behind them all the boyars lead the TSARITSA by the hand; the TSAREVNA is sobbing.) Who's there? Ah, 'tis the vestment—so! The holy tonsure— The hour has struck. The tsar becomes a monk, And the dark sepulchre will be my cell. Wait yet a little, my lord Patriarch, I still am tsar. Listen to me, boyars: To this my son I now commit the tsardom; Do homage to Feodor. Basmanov, thou, And ye, my friends, on the grave's brink I pray you To serve my son with zeal and rectitude! As yet he is both young and uncorrupted. Swear ye? BOYARS. We swear. TSAR. I am content. Forgive me Both my temptations and my sins, my wilful And secret injuries.—Now, holy father, Approach thou; I am ready for the rite. (The rite of the tonsure begins. The women are carried out swooning.)


A TENT

BASMANOV leads in PUSHKIN

BASMANOV. Here enter, and speak freely. So to me He sent thee. PUSHKIN. He doth offer thee his friendship And the next place to his in the realm of Moscow. BASMANOV. But even thus highly by Feodor am I Already raised; the army I command; For me he scorned nobility of rank And the wrath of the boyars. I have sworn to him Allegiance. PUSHKIN. To the throne's lawful successor Allegiance thou hast sworn; but what if one More lawful still be living? BASMANOV. Listen, Pushkin: Enough of that; tell me no idle tales! I know the man. PUSHKIN. Russia and Lithuania Have long acknowledged him to be Dimitry; But, for the rest, I do not vouch for it. Perchance he is indeed the real Dimitry; Perchance but a pretender; only this I know, that soon or late the son of Boris Will yield Moscow to him. BASMANOV. So long as I Stand by the youthful tsar, so long he will not Forsake the throne. We have enough of troops, Thank God! With victory I will inspire them. And whom will you against me send, the Cossack Karel or Mnishek? Are your numbers many? In all, eight thousand. PUSHKIN. You mistake; they will not Amount even to that. I say myself Our army is mere trash, the Cossacks only Rob villages, the Poles but brag and drink; The Russians—what shall I say?—with you I'll not Dissemble; but, Basmanov, dost thou know Wherein our strength lies? Not in the army, no. Nor Polish aid, but in opinion—yes, In popular opinion. Dost remember The triumph of Dimitry, dost remember His peaceful conquests, when, without a blow The docile towns surrendered, and the mob Bound the recalcitrant leaders? Thou thyself Saw'st it; was it of their free-will our troops Fought with him? And when did they so? Boris Was then supreme. But would they now?—Nay, nay, It is too late to blow on the cold embers Of this dispute; with all thy wits and firmness Thou'lt not withstand him. Were't not better for thee To furnish to our chief a wise example, Proclaim Dimitry tsar, and by that act Bind him your friend for ever? How thinkest thou? BASMANOV. Tomorrow thou shalt know. PUSHKIN. Resolve. BASMANOV. Farewell. PUSHKIN. Ponder it well, Basmanov. (Exit.) BASMANOV. He is right. Everywhere treason ripens; what shall I do? Wait, that the rebels may deliver me In bonds to the Otrepiev? Had I not better Forestall the stormy onset of the flood, Myself to—ah! But to forswear mine oath! Dishonour to deserve from age to age! The trust of my young sovereign to requite With horrible betrayal! 'Tis a light thing For a disgraced exile to meditate Sedition and conspiracy; but I? Is it for me, the favourite of my lord?— But death—but power—the people's miseries... (He ponders.) Here! Who is there? (Whistles.) A horse here! Sound the muster!


PUBLIC SQUARE IN MOSCOW


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