William Makepeace Thackeray

(1811-1863 / India)

The Legend Of St. Sophia Of Kioff - Poem by William Makepeace Thackeray

I.

[The Poet describes the city and spelling of Kiow, Kioff, or Kiova.]

A thousand years ago, or more,
A city filled with burghers stout,
And girt with ramparts round about,
Stood on the rocky Dnieper shore.
In armor bright, by day and night,
The sentries they paced to and fro.
Well guarded and walled was this town, and called
By different names, I'd have you to know;
For if you looks in the g'ography books,
In those dictionaries the name it varies,
And they write it off Kieff or Kioff, Kiova or Kiow.


II.

[Its buildings, public works, and ordinances, religious and civil.]

Thus guarded without by wall and redoubt,
Kiova within was a place of renown,
With more advantages than in those dark ages
Were commonly known to belong to a town.
There were places and squares, and each year four fairs,
And regular aldermen and regular lord-mayors;
And streets, and alleys, and a bishop's palace;
And a church with clocks for the orthodox—
With clocks and with spires, as religion desires;
And beadles to whip the bad little boys
Over their poor little corduroys,
In service-time, when they DIDN'T make a noise;
And a chapter and dean, and a cathedral-green
With ancient trees, underneath whose shades
Wandered nice young nursery-maids.

[The poet shows how a certain priest dwelt at Kioff, a godly
clergyman, and one that preached rare good sermons.]

Ding-dong, ding-dong, ding-ding-a-ring-ding,
The bells they made a merry merry ring,
From the tall tall steeple; and all the people
(Except the Jews) came and filled the pews—
Poles, Russians and Germans,
To hear the sermons
Which HYACINTH preached godly to those Germans and Poles,
For the safety of their souls.


III.

[How this priest was short and fat of body;]

A worthy priest he was and a stout—
You've seldom looked on such a one;
For, though he fasted thrice in a week,
Yet nevertheless his skin was sleek;
His waist it spanned two yards about
And he weighed a score of stone.


IV.

[And like unto the author of 'Plymley's Letters.']

A worthy priest for fasting and prayer
And mortification most deserving;
And as for preaching beyond compare,
He'd exert his powers for three or four hours,
With greater pith than Sydney Smith
Or the Reverend Edward Irving.


V.

[Of what convent he was prior, and when the convent was built.]

He was the prior of Saint Sophia
(A Cockney rhyme, but no better I know)—
Of St. Sophia, that Church in Kiow,
Built by missionaries I can't tell when;
Who by their discussions converted the Russians,
And made them Christian men.


VI.

[Of Saint Sophia of Kioff; and how her statue miraculously
travelled thither.]

Sainted Sophia (so the legend vows)
With special favor did regard this house;
And to uphold her converts' new devotion
Her statue (needing but her legs for HER ship)
Walks of itself across the German Ocean;
And of a sudden perches
In this the best of churches,
Whither all Kiovites come and pay it grateful worship.


VII.

[And how Kioff should have been a happy city; but that]

Thus with her patron-saints and pious preachers
Recorded here in catalogue precise,
A goodly city, worthy magistrates,
You would have thought in all the Russian states
The citizens the happiest of all creatures,—
The town itself a perfect Paradise.


VIII.

[Certain wicked Cossacks did besiege it,]

No, alas! this well-built city
Was in a perpetual fidget;
For the Tartars, without pity,
Did remorselessly besiege it.

Tartars fierce, with sword and sabres,
Huns and Turks, and such as these,
Envied much their peaceful neighbors
By the blue Borysthenes.

[Murdering the citizens,]

Down they came, these ruthless Russians,
From their steppes, and woods, and fens,
For to levy contributions
On the peaceful citizens.

Winter, Summer, Spring, and Autumn,
Down they came to peaceful Kioff,
Killed the burghers when they caught 'em,
If their lives they would not buy off.

[Until they agreed to pay a tribute yearly.]

Till the city, quite confounded
By the ravages they made,
Humbly with their chief compounded,
And a yearly tribute paid.

[How they paid the tribute, and suddenly refused it,]

Which (because their courage lax was)
They discharged while they were able:
Tolerated thus the tax was,
Till it grew intolerable,

[To the wonder of the Cossack envoy.]

And the Calmuc envoy sent,
As before to take their dues all,
Got, to his astonishment,
A unanimous refusal!

[Of a mighty gallant speech]

'Men of Kioff!' thus courageous
Did the stout lord-mayor harangue them,
'Wherefore pay these sneaking wages
To the hectoring Russians? hang them!

[That the lord-mayor made,]

'Hark! I hear the awful cry of
Our forefathers in their graves;
''Fight, ye citizens of Kioff!
Kioff was not made for slaves.'

[Exhorting the burghers to pay no longer.]

'All too long have ye betrayed her;
Rouse, ye men and aldermen,
Send the insolent invader—
Send him starving back again.'


IX.

[Of their thanks and heroic resolves.]

He spoke and he sat down; the people of the town,
Who were fired with a brave emulation,
Now rose with one accord, and voted thanks unto the lord-
Mayor for his oration:

[They dismiss the envoy, and set about drilling.]

The envoy they dismissed, never placing in his fist
So much as a single shilling;
And all with courage fired, as his lordship he desired,
At once set about their drilling.

[Of the City guard: viz. Militia, dragoons, and bombardiers, and
their commanders.]

Then every city ward established a guard,
Diurnal and nocturnal:
Militia volunteers, light dragoons, and bombardiers,
With an alderman for colonel.

[Of the majors and captains.]

There was muster and roll-calls, and repairing city walls,
And filling up of fosses:
And the captains and the majors, gallant and courageous,
A-riding about on their hosses.

[The fortifications and artillery.]

To be guarded at all hours they built themselves watch-towers,
With every tower a man on;
And surely and secure, each from out his embrasure,
Looked down the iron cannon!

[Of the conduct of the actors and the clergy.]

A battle-song was writ for the theatre, where it
Was sung with vast energy
And rapturous applause; and besides, the public cause,
Was supported by the clergy.

The pretty ladies'-maids were pinning of cockades,
And tying on of sashes;
And dropping gentle tears, while their lovers bluster'd fierce,
About gunshot and gashes;

[Of the ladies;]

The ladies took the hint, and all day were scraping lint,
As became their softer genders;
And got bandages and beds for the limbs and for the heads
Of the city's brave defenders.

[And, finally, of the taylors.]

The men, both young and old, felt resolute and bold,
And panted hot for glory;
Even the tailors 'gan to brag, and embroidered on their flag,
'AUT WINCERE AUT MORI.'


X.

[Of the Cossack chief,—his stratagem;]

Seeing the city's resolute condition,
The Cossack chief, too cunning to despise it,
Said to himself, 'Not having ammunition
Wherewith to batter the place in proper form,
Some of these nights I'll carry it by storm,
And sudden escalade it or surprise it.

[And the burghers' sillie victorie.]

'Let's see, however, if the cits stand firmish.'
He rode up to the city gates; for answers,
Out rushed an eager troop of the town elite,
And straightway did begin a gallant skirmish:
The Cossack hereupon did sound retreat,
Leaving the victory with the city lancers.

[What prisoners they took,]

They took two prisoners and as many horses,
And the whole town grew quickly so elate
With this small victory of their virgin forces,
That they did deem their privates and commanders
So many Caesars, Pompeys, Alexanders,
Napoleons, or Fredericks the Great.

[And how conceited they were.]

And puffing with inordinate conceit
They utterly despised these Cossack thieves;
And thought the ruffians easier to beat
Than porters carpets think, or ushers boys.
Meanwhile, a sly spectator of their joys,
The Cossack captain giggled in his sleeves.

[Of the Cossack chief,—his orders;]

'Whene'er you meet yon stupid city hogs.'
(He bade his troops precise this order keep),
'Don't stand a moment—run away, you dogs!'
'Twas done; and when they met the town battalions,
The Cossacks, as if frightened at their valiance,
Turned tail, and bolted like so many sheep.

[And how he feigned a retreat.]

They fled, obedient to their captain's order:
And now this bloodless siege a month had lasted,
When, viewing the country round, the city warder
(Who, like a faithful weathercock, did perch
Upon the steeple of St. Sophy's church),
Sudden his trumpet took, and a mighty blast he blasted.

[The warder proclayms the Cossacks' retreat, and the citie greatly
rejoyces.]

His voice it might be heard through all the streets
(He was a warder wondrous strong in lung),
Victory, victory! the foe retreats!'
'The foe retreats!' each cries to each he meets;
'The foe retreats!' each in his turn repeats.
Gods! how the guns did roar, and how the joy-bells rung!

Arming in haste his gallant city lancers,
The mayor, to learn if true the news might be,
A league or two out issued with his prancers.
The Cossacks (something had given their courage a damper)
Hastened their flight, and 'gan like mad to scamper:
Blessed be all the saints, Kiova town was free!


XI.

Now, puffed with pride, the mayor grew vain,
Fought all his battles o'er again;
And thrice he routed all his foes, and thrice he slew the slain.
'Tis true he might amuse himself thus,
And not be very murderous;
For as of those who to death were done
The number was exactly NONE,
His lordship, in his soul's elation,
Did take a bloodless recreation—

[The manner of the citie's rejoycings,]

Going home again, he did ordain
A very splendid cold collation
For the magistrates and the corporation;
Likewise a grand illumination,
For the amusement of the nation.
That night the theatres were free,
The conduits they ran Malvolsie;
Each house that night did beam with light
And sound with mirth and jollity;

[And its impiety.]

But shame, O shame! not a soul in the town,
Now the city was safe and the Cossacks flown,
Ever thought of the bountiful saint by whose care
The town had been rid of these terrible Turks—
Said even a prayer to that patroness fair,
For these her wondrous works!

[How the priest, Hyacinth, waited at church, and nobody came
thither.]

Lord Hyacinth waited, the meekest of priors—
He waited at church with the rest of his friars;
He went there at noon and he waited till ten,
Expecting in vain the lord-mayor and his men.
He waited and waited from mid-day to dark;
But in vain—you might search through the whole of the church,
Not a layman, alas! to the city's disgrace,
From mid-day to dark showed his nose in the place.
The pew-woman, organist, beadle, and clerk,
Kept away from their work, and were dancing like mad
Away in the streets with the other mad people,
Not thinking to pray, but to guzzle and tipple
Wherever the drink might be had.


XII.

[How he went forth to bid them to prayer.]

Amidst this din and revelry throughout the city roaring,
The silver moon rose silently, and high in heaven soaring;
Prior Hyacinth was fervently upon his knees adoring:
'Towards my precious patroness this conduct sure unfair is;
I cannot think, I must confess, what keeps the dignitaries
And our good mayor away, unless some business them contraries.'
He puts his long white mantle on and forth the prior sallies—
(His pious thoughts were bent upon good deeds and not on malice):
Heavens! how the banquet lights they shone about the mayor's palace!

[How the grooms and lackeys jeered him.]

About the hall the scullions ran with meats both and fresh and
potted;
The pages came with cup and can, all for the guests allotted;
Ah, how they jeered that good fat man as up the stairs he trotted!

He entered in the ante-rooms where sat the mayor's court in;
He found a pack of drunken grooms a-dicing and a-sporting;
The horrid wine and 'bacco fumes, they set the prior a-snorting!
The prior thought he'd speak about their sins before he went hence,
And lustily began to shout of sin and of repentance;
The rogues, they kicked the prior out before he'd done a sentence!

And having got no portion small of buffeting and tussling,
At last he reached the banquet-hall, where sat the mayor a-
guzzling,
And by his side his lady tall dressed out in white sprig muslin.

[And the mayor, mayoress, and aldermen, being tipsie refused to go
church.]

Around the table in a ring the guests were drinking heavy;
They'd drunk the church, and drunk the king, and the army and the
navy;
In fact they'd toasted everything. The prior said, 'God save ye!'

The mayor cried, 'Bring a silver cup—there's one upon the beaufet;
And, Prior, have the venison up—it's capital rechauffe.
And so, Sir Priest, you've come to sup? And pray you, how's Saint
Sophy?'
The prior's face quite red was grown, with horror and with anger;
He flung the proffered goblet down—it made a hideous clangor;
And 'gan a-preaching with a frown—he was a fierce haranguer.

He tried the mayor and aldermen—they all set up a-jeering:
He tried the common-councilmen—they too began a-sneering;
He turned towards the may'ress then, and hoped to get a hearing.
He knelt and seized her dinner-dress, made of the muslin snowy,
'To church, to church, my sweet mistress!' he cried; 'the way I'll
show ye.'
Alas, the lady-mayoress fell back as drunk as Chloe!


XIII.

[How the prior went back alone.]

Out from this dissolute and drunken court
Went the good prior, his eyes with weeping dim:
He tried the people of a meaner sort—
They too, alas, were bent upon their sport,
And not a single soul would follow him!
But all were swigging schnaps and guzzling beer.

He found the cits, their daughters, sons, and spouses,
Spending the live-long night in fierce carouses:
Alas, unthinking of the danger near!
One or two sentinels the ramparts guarded,
The rest were sharing in the general feast:
'God wot, our tipsy town is poorly warded;
Sweet Saint Sophia help us!' cried the priest.

Alone he entered the cathedral gate,
Careful he locked the mighty oaken door;
Within his company of monks did wait,
A dozen poor old pious men—no more.
Oh, but it grieved the gentle prior sore,
To think of those lost souls, given up to drink and fate!

[And shut himself into Saint Sophia's chapel with his brethren.]

The mighty outer gate well barred and fast,
The poor old friars stirred their poor old bones,
And pattering swiftly on the damp cold stones,
They through the solitary chancel passed.
The chancel walls looked black and dim and vast,
And rendered, ghost-like, melancholy tones.

Onward the fathers sped, till coming nigh a
Small iron gate, the which they entered quick at,
They locked and double-locked the inner wicket
And stood within the chapel of Sophia.
Vain were it to describe this sainted place,
Vain to describe that celebrated trophy,
The venerable statue of Saint Sophy,
Which formed its chiefest ornament and grace.

Here the good prior, his personal griefs and sorrows
In his extreme devotion quickly merging,
At once began to pray with voice sonorous;
The other friars joined in pious chorus,
And passed the night in singing, praying, scourging,
In honor of Sophia, that sweet virgin.


XIV.

[The episode of Sneezoff and Katinka.]

Leaving thus the pious priest in
Humble penitence and prayer,
And the greedy cits a-feasting,
Let us to the walls repair.

Walking by the sentry-boxes,
Underneath the silver moon,
Lo! the sentry boldly cocks his—
Boldly cocks his musketoon.

Sneezoff was his designation,
Fair-haired boy, for ever pitied;
For to take his cruel station,
He but now Katinka quitted.

Poor in purse were both, but rich in
Tender love's delicious plenties;
She a damsel of the kitchen,
He a haberdasher's 'prentice.

'Tinka, maiden tender-hearted,
Was dissolved in tearful fits,
On that fatal night she parted
From her darling, fair-haired Fritz.

Warm her soldier lad she wrapt in
Comforter and muffettee;
Called him 'general' and 'captain,'
Though a simple private he.

'On your bosom wear this plaster,
'Twill defend you from the cold;
In your pipe smoke this canaster,
Smuggled 'tis, my love, and old.

'All the night, my love, I'll miss you.'
Thus she spoke; and from the door
Fair-haired Sneezoff made his issue,
To return, alas, no more.

He it is who calmly walks his
Walk beneath the silver moon;
He it is who boldly cocks his
Detonating musketoon.

He the bland canaster puffing,
As upon his round he paces,
Sudden sees a ragamuffin
Clambering swiftly up the glacis.

'Who goes there?' exclaims the sentry;
'When the sun has once gone down
No one ever makes an entry
Into this here fortified town!'

[How the sentrie Sneezoff was surprised and slayn.]

Shouted thus the watchful Sneezoff;
But, ere any one replied,
Wretched youth! he fired his piece off
Started, staggered, groaned, and died!


XV.

[How the Cossacks rushed in suddenly and took the citie.]

Ah, full well might the sentinel cry, 'Who goes there!'
But echo was frightened too much to declare.
Who goes there? who goes there? Can any one swear
To the number of sands sur les bords de la mer,
Or the whiskers of D'Orsay Count down to a hair?
As well might you tell of the sands the amount,
Or number each hair in each curl of the Count,
As ever proclaim the number and name
Of the hundreds and thousands that up the wall came!

[Of the Cossack troops,]

Down, down the knaves poured with fire and with sword:
There were thieves from the Danube and rogues from the Don;
There were Turks and Wallacks, and shouting Cossacks;
Of all nations and regions, and tongues and religions—
Jew, Christian, Idolater, Frank, Mussulman:
Ah, horrible sight was Kioff that night!

[And of their manner of burning, murdering, and ravishing.]

The gates were all taken—no chance e'en of flight;
And with torch and with axe the bloody Cossacks
Went hither and thither a-hunting in packs:
They slashed and they slew both Christian and Jew—
Women and children, they slaughtered them too.
Some, saving their throats, plunged into the moats,
Or the river—but oh, they had burned all the boats!

. . . . .

[How they burned the whole citie down, save the church,]

But here let us pause—for I can't pursue further
This scene of rack, ravishment, ruin, and murther.
Too well did the cunning old Cossack succeed!
His plan of attack was successful indeed!
The night was his own—the town it was gone;
'Twas a heap still a-burning of timber and stone.

[Whereof the bells began to ring.]

One building alone had escaped from the fires,
Saint Sophy's fair church, with its steeples and spires,
Calm, stately, and white,
It stood in the light;
And as if 'twould defy all the conqueror's power,—
As if nought had occurred,
Might clearly be heard
The chimes ringing soberly every half-hour!


XVI.

The city was defunct—silence succeeded
Unto its last fierce agonizing yell;
And then it was the conqueror first heeded
The sound of these calm bells.

[How the Cossack chief bade them burn the church too.]

Furious towards his aides-de-camp he turns,
And (speaking as if Byron's works he knew)
'Villains!' he fiercely cries, 'the city burns,
Why not the temple too?
Burn me yon church, and murder all within!'

[How they stormed it, and of Hyacinth, his anger thereat.]

The Cossacks thundered at the outer door;
And Father Hyacinth, who, heard the din,
(And thought himself and brethren in distress,
Deserted by their lady patroness)
Did to her statue turn, and thus his woes outpour.


XVII.

[His prayer to the Saint Sophia.]

'And is it thus, O falsest of the saints,
Thou hearest our complaints?
Tell me, did ever my attachment falter
To serve thy altar?
Was not thy name, ere ever I did sleep,
The last upon my lip?
Was not thy name the very first that broke
From me when I awoke?
Have I not tried with fasting, flogging, penance,
And mortified countenance
For to find favor, Sophy, in thy sight?
And lo! this night,
Forgetful of my prayers, and thine own promise,
Thou turnest from us;
Lettest the heathen enter in our city,
And, without pity,
Murder out burghers, seize upon their spouses,
Burn down their houses!
Is such a breach of faith to be endured?
See what a lurid
Light from the insolent invader's torches
Shines on your porches!
E'en now, with thundering battering-ram and hammer
And hideous clamor;
With axemen, swordsmen, pikemen, billmen, bowmen,
The conquering foemen,
O Sophy! beat your gate about your ears,
Alas! and here's
A humble company of pious men,
Like muttons in a pen,
Whose souls shall quickly from their bodies be thrusted,
Because in you they trusted.
Do you not know the Calmuc chiefs desires—
KILL ALL THE FRIARS!
And you, of all the saints most false and fickle,
Leave us in this abominable pickle.'

[The statue suddenlie speaks;]

'RASH HYACINTHUS!'
(Here, to the astonishment of all her backers,
Saint Sophy, opening wide her wooden jaws,
Like to a pair of German walnut-crackers,
Began), 'I did not think you had been thus,—
O monk of little faith! Is it because
A rascal scum of filthy Cossack heathen
Besiege our town, that you distrust in ME, then?
Think'st thou that I, who in a former day
Did walk across the Sea of Marmora
(Not mentioning, for shortness, other seas),—
That I, who skimmed the broad Borysthenes,
Without so much as wetting of my toes,
Am frightened at a set of men like THOSE?
I have a mind to leave you to your fate:
Such cowardice as this my scorn inspires.'

[But is interrupted by the breaking in of the Cossacks.]

Saint Sophy was here
Cut short in her words,—
For at this very moment in tumbled the gate,
And with a wild cheer,
And a clashing of swords,
Swift through the church porches,
With a waving of torches,
And a shriek and a yell
Like the devils of hell,
With pike and with axe
In rushed the Cossacks,—
In rushed the Cossacks, crying,
'MURDER THE FRIARS!'

[Of Hyacinth, his outrageous address;]

Ah! what a thrill felt Hyacinth,
When he heard that villanous shout Calmuc!
Now, thought he, my trial beginneth;
Saints, O give me courage and pluck!
'Courage, boys, 'tis useless to funk!'
Thus unto the friars he began:
'Never let it be said that a monk
Is not likewise a gentleman.
Though the patron saint of the church,
Spite of all that we've done and we've pray'd,
Leaves us wickedly here in the lurch,
Hang it, gentlemen, who's afraid!'

[And preparation for dying.]

As thus the gallant Hyacinthus spoke,
He, with an air as easy and as free as
If the quick-coming murder were a joke,
Folded his robes around his sides, and took
Place under sainted Sophy's legs of oak,
Like Caesar at the statue of Pompeius.
The monks no leisure had about to look
(Each being absorbed in his particular case),
Else had they seen with what celestial race
A wooden smile stole o'er the saint's mahogany face.

[Saint Sophia, her speech.]

'Well done, well done, Hyacinthus, my son!'
Thus spoke the sainted statue.
'Though you doubted me in the hour of need,
And spoke of me very rude indeed,
You deserve good luck for showing such pluck,
And I won't be angry at you.'

[She gets on the prior's shoulder straddle-back,]

The monks by-standing, one and all,
Of this wondrous scene beholders,
To this kind promise listened content,
And couldn't contain their astonishment,
When Saint Sophia moved and went
Down from her wooden pedestal,
And twisted her legs, sure as eggs is eggs,
Round Hyacinthus's shoulders!

[And bids him run.]

'Ho! forwards,' cried Sophy, 'there's no time for waiting,
The Cossacks are breaking the very last gate in:
See the glare of their torches shines red through the grating;
We've still the back door, and two minutes or more.
Now boys, now or never, we must make for the river,
For we only are safe on the opposite shore.
Run swiftly to-day, lads, if ever you ran,—
Put out your best leg, Hyacinthus, my man;
And I'll lay five to two that you carry us through,
Only scamper as fast as you can.'


XVIII.

[He runneth,]

Away went the priest through the little back door,
And light on his shoulders the image he bore:
The honest old priest was not punished the least,
Though the image was eight feet, and he measured four.
Away went the prior, and the monks at his tail
Went snorting, and puffing, and panting full sail;
And just as the last at the back door had passed,
In furious hunt behold at the front
The Tartars so fierce, with their terrible cheers;
With axes, and halberts, and muskets, and spears,
With torches a-flaming the chapel now came in.
They tore up the mass-book, they stamped on the psalter,
They pulled the gold crucifix down from the altar;
The vestments they burned with their blasphemous fires,
And many cried, 'Curse on them! where are the friars?'
When loaded with plunder, yet seeking for more,
One chanced to fling open the little back door,
Spied out the friars' white robes and long shadows
In the moon, scampering over the meadows,
And stopped the Cossacks in the midst of their arsons,
By crying out lustily, 'THERE GO THE PARSONS!'

[And the Tartars after him.]

With a whoop and a yell, and a scream and a shout,
At once the whole murderous body turned out;
And swift as the hawk pounces down on the pigeon,
Pursued the poor short-winded men of religion.

[How the friars sweated.]

When the sound of that cheering came to the monks' hearing,
O heaven! how the poor fellows panted and blew!
At fighting not cunning, unaccustomed to running,
When the Tartars came up, what the deuce should they do?
'They'll make us all martyrs, those bloodthirsty Tartars!'
Quoth fat Father Peter to fat Father Hugh.
The shouts they came clearer, the foe they drew nearer;
Oh, how the bolts whistled, and how the lights shone!
'I cannot get further, this running is murther;
Come carry me, some one!' cried big Father John.
And even the statue grew frightened, 'Od rat you!'
It cried, 'Mr. Prior, I wish you'd get on!'
On tugged the good friar, but nigher and nigher
Appeared the fierce Russians, with sword and with fire.
On tugged the good prior at Saint Sophy's desire,—
A scramble through bramble, through mud, and through mire,
The swift arrows' whizziness causing a dizziness,
Nigh done his business, fit to expire.

[And the pursuers fixed arrows into their tayles.]

Father Hyacinth tugged, and the monks they tugged after:
The foemen pursued with a horrible laughter,
And hurl'd their long spears round the poor brethren's ears,
So true, that next day in the coats of each priest,
Though never a wound was given, there were found
A dozen arrows at least.

[How at the last gasp,]

Now the chase seemed at its worst,
Prior and monks were fit to burst;
Scarce you knew the which was first,
Or pursuers or pursued;
When the statue, by heaven's grace,
Suddenly did change the face
Of this interesting race,
As a saint, sure, only could.

For as the jockey who at Epsom rides,
When that his steed is spent and punished sore,
Diggeth his heels into the courser's sides,
And thereby makes him run one or two furlongs more;
Even thus, betwixt the eighth rib and the ninth,
The saint rebuked the prior, that weary creeper;
Fresh strength into his limbs her kicks imparted,
One bound he made, as gay as when he started.

[The friars won, and jumped into Borysthenes fluvius.]

Yes, with his brethren clinging at his cloak,
The statue on his shoulders—fit to choke—
One most tremendous bound made Hyacinth,
And soused friars, statue, and all, slap-dash into the Dnieper!


XIX.

[And how the Russians saw]

And when the Russians, in a fiery rank,
Panting and fierce, drew up along the shore;
(For here the vain pursuing they forbore,
Nor cared they to surpass the river's bank,)
Then, looking from the rocks and rushes dank,
A sight they witnessed never seen before,
And which, with its accompaniments glorious,
Is writ i' the golden book, or liber aureus.

[The statue get off Hyacinth his back, and sit down with the friars
on Hyacinth his cloak.]

Plump in the Dnieper flounced the friar and friends—
They dangling round his neck, he fit to choke.
When suddenly his most miraculous cloak
Over the billowy waves itself extends,
Down from his shoulders quietly descends
The venerable Sophy's statue of oak;
Which, sitting down upon the cloak so ample,
Bids all the brethren follow its example!

[How in this manner of boat they sayled away.]

Each at her bidding sat, and sat at ease;
The statue 'gan a gracious conversation,
And (waving to the foe a salutation)
Sail'd with her wondering happy proteges
Gayly adown the wide Borysthenes,
Until they came unto some friendly nation.
And when the heathen had at length grown shy of
Their conquest, she one day came back again to Kioff.


XX.

[Finis, or the end.]

THINK NOT, O READER, THAT WE'RE LAUGHING AT YOU;
YOU MAY GO TO KIOFF NOW, AND SEE THE STATUTE!


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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, April 7, 2010



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