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Leonid Filatov. Tale of Soldier Fedot... in English

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    Leonid Filatov. Tale of Soldier Fedot, the Daring Fellow. Translated from the Russian by Alec Vagapov

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Leonid Filatov

THE TALE OF

SOLDIER FEDOT, THE DARING FELLOW

 

A fairy tale for stage performance

(based on the Russian folklore)

    
  

Translated by Alec Vagapov

   .
  
  
  
   JOKER
  
   Believe it or not, once there lived soldier Fedot, and this is the tale of the daring fellow. He was neither handsome nor a fright, neither wealthy nor hard up, neither ragged nor dressed up, neither pale nor ruddy-faced, he was so-so, quite commonplace. Fedot's mission was hunting and fishing. The Tsar had fish and game, Fedot had thanks, and that was his gain. The Tsar's palace was crammed with travellers. One was a Greek, another Hawaiian, a third was a Swede, and they all needed a feed! One wanted lobsters, another wanted oysters, a third wanted a prawn while the catcher was only one.
   One day Fedot was ordered to come to the court. The Tsar was the shrimp of a man, his head like a little onion, while his malice could fill the whole palace. He looked at Fedot as if to say: "I can't stomach you anyway".
   Out of dread Fedot turned wet, his ears started ringing, his guts gave way, and here's the beginning of the tale, so to say
    
    
   TSAR
   The British envoy has come for
   Our refreshment after night before,
   While we only have to eat
   Stale bread, a bone... and that's it!
   You must go and bring some food,
   Something special, something good,
   Say, a partridge, or a grouse
   Or whatever, from the wood.
   If you can't do that, my dear,
   I shall have to execute you, hear?
   It's a matter of importance,
   A state affair, is it clear?
    
   FEDOT
   Yes, of course, I understand,
   I'm wise enough for that,
   A stupid bumpkin I'm not,
   And I do know what is what.
   Well, as far as I can see,
   I make all the policy,
   If I fail to shoot a grouse,
   There will be a war on us.
   To content the British guest
   I shall do my double best,
   Even at the cost of life
   I'll procure some food-stuff.
    
   JOKER
  
   The Tsar's word is as firm as wood: if he says: "go bear hunting", you will go bear hunting. What else can you do? You just have to! Fedot had covered the ground of a hundred of woods and bogs around. Alas, there was neither a partridge nor a grouse! He was all in, dog-tired, and it was almost night. He had nothing in the bag, yet it was time to go back. Suddenly, as if in a vision, he saw a bird, a little wood-pigeon. It didn't try to hide showing no sign of fright.
    
   FEDOT
   What affliction! What a shame!
   There isn't any trace of game.
   Pr'haps that's the bird I have to shoot,
   It's at least some kind of food!
   They say pigeon meat is bad,
   I should not agree with that,
   When you have it with a sauce
   It's like a grouse, or not worse.
    
   PIGEON
   Please, don't hurt me, dear Fedot,
   It's quite worthless, is it not?
   Just one bird is not enough
   For a dish or pillow stuff.
   Your foreigner might like to eat
   Some kind of very special meat,
   Whereas my meat's just enough
   To make a wild cat laugh.
    
   FEDOT
   Is the goblin somewhere here?
   Are these tricks of the evening air?
   Is there anything the matter
   With my eyes or with my ear?
   Has the Tsar decreed
   That pigeons
   Should now speak
   Like human beings?
    
   PIGEON
   Don't do wrong to me, Fedot,
   Take me home, and you know what:
   When you bring me to your chamber
   I shall be your destined lot!
   I shall sew and wash and cook,
   Never give you a rebuke,
   I shall keep the house clean,
   And I'll play the violin!
    
   FEDOT
   What a story, what a gag!
   All right, get into my bag,
   When we get home I'll find out
   What this trick is all about!
    
   JOKER
  
   Fedot brought the bird to his room and sat there hanging his head, filled with gloom. He was really sad, and there was a reason for that. His game hunt hadn't come off, and it was no joke -- the Tsar would chop off his head right off. So he sat in grief taking his leave with the whole wide world. He remembered the vision of the little wood-pigeon. He looked up and, instead of the bird, he saw a young woman in the middle of the room, a maid full of splendour, so gracious, so slender!
    
   MARUSYA
   Hello, Fedya, from now on
   You and I will get along,
   I'm Marusya, your good wife,
   Or should I say, your better half.
   Why are you silent? Have you got
   A bone or something in your throat?
   Maybe, you don't like my head-dress,
   Or, maybe, you dislike my coat?
    
   FEDOT
   There is nothing I won't do
   To admire you and be with you,
   But I don't think that I can
   Marry you and be your man.
   See, this morning I was called
   To the Tsar, and I was told
   To get, you know' a sort of a grouse
   'nd bring it to the Royal house.
   Though it's not a hunting season
   With the Tsar it's hard to reason,
   Then I thought, all right, a grouse
   Is not a bison, so it's easy.
   I have tramped the woods all day
   But was out of luck today:
   There was not a single game bird,
   Nothing good came in my way.
   So there isn't any chance
   That I go out for a dance,
   When I see the Tsar tomorrow
   He'll chop of"my head at once.
   Without my head... , well, I don't think
   That I'm good for anything,
   For it's my mind that makes the meaning
   And the essence of my being!
    
   MARUSYA
   Now, don't worry, don't complain!
   You will have the meals and game.
   Stand before me, Frol and Tit,
   Get immediately what we need!
    
   (Marusya claps her hands, and two burly fellows appear in front of her.)
    
   Do you hear what I say?
   Go and do it without delay.
    
   FELLOWS
   You don't have to doubt us,
   We have done it many times!
    
   JOKER
  
   Meanwhile the Tsar and the envoy are sitting at the table. Look who's there to join them! Yes! It's the Nursemaid and the princess! All are waiting for the game Fedot promised to obtain. Now the table is empty -- no meal. There are cabbages and dill, parsley, carrots, roots of beet, and that's all there's to it.
   The guest looks bored; he sits dangling his foot and watching the holes on the table cloth. The Tsar is boiling hot, swearing and cursing soldier Fedot. Suddenly, -- oh my! -- as if from the sky, there come a loaf of bread and an apple pie, a bucket of caviar, stewed turkey, giblets, sturgeon soup, fishes and a thousand more of such-like dishes. With dainty like that, isn't it nice to have a chat?
   TSAR
   I am interested in
   Your technology of seedin':
   Do your farmers skin the swedes
   When they plant them in the fields?
    
   ENVOY
   Yes.
    
   TSAR
   I'm interested in
   Your daily eating routine:
   Do your people have their cocoa
   With or without saccharine?
    
   ENVOY
   Yes!
    
   TSAR
   Then there's another thing
   That I'm interested in:
   Do your women wear knickers,
   Something underneath, I mean?
    
   ENVOY
   Yes!
    
   NURSEMAID
   Are you crazy? Shame on you!
   Think whom you are talking to!
   Women is the subject you
   Turn all conversations to!
    
   TSAR
   Will you shut up, be so kind.
   If you don't, I'll jail you, mind!
   It's not an idle talk, you see?
   It's my foreign policy!
   Look, she's quite a big lass
   But she is as thin as a lath!
   So I'm thinking, if we can
   Marry her to this here man.
   To entice him we must act
   Very cautiously, with tact,
   Talking round, making hints,
   Trying not to hurt his feelings.
    
   NURSEMAID
   Not even I -- not for your life! --
   Would really want to be his wife,
   All he has in mind is try
   And swallow something on the sly!
   "Yes"is all he is repeating,
   While he never ceases eating,
   Close your eyes, and he'll devour
   Half of Russia, at one sitting!
    
   TSAR
   Keep your mouth shut, my dear,
   Or I'll kick you out of here.
   You have scared all the envoys,
   All the aliens, as it were.
   There was a Spanish grandee,
   He was a fop! A real dandy!
   Bedecked with diamonds, he made
   A perfect party for our maid.
   What you did you sat our friend
   Down on a nail, "by accident".
   Consequently the guest has
   A strong bias against us.
    
   NURSEMAID
   I remember that Spaniard,
   I recall he ate like mad,
   He was so absorbed in eating
   That he smudged his bow in fat.
   No matter what you asked him he
   Would keep parroting: "si, si"
   While he would indulge in eating
   Our herring ivashi!
    
   TSAR
   Stop it now! Or you'll wind up
   Rotting in a prison camp!
   I'm quite serious!.. Don't think
   That I 'm talking tongue in cheek.
   The German baron that we knew
   Was good from every point of view.
   Yet you did your best to hurt him
   And offend him, didn't you?
   Wasn't it you who worked him up,
   By putting a mouse in his cup?
   You are a wicked, vicious woman,
   A god damn treacherous thing, a vermin!
    
   NURSEMAID
   Well, your baron was quite good,
   Good at eating our food,
   Put him in a flock of ravens,
   He will fight them like a brute!
   Looking proud, talking big,
   He's voracious like a pig.
   He would even gobble hay
   If he didn't have to pay!
    
   TSAR
   You just wait, there's every reason
   To deliver you to prison.
   I'm not cruel, but I've no use
   For you spies and evil doers!
   Tell me, are there any ways
   of marrying of"our princess?
   Don't you know, there aren't many
   Eligible men among her friends ?
   If there were a legion around,
   You could argue, there's no doubt,
   But there isn't, so we have to
   Pick what there's to be found.
    
   PRINCESS
   You're Russian Tsar, it'll be fair
   If you mind your own affair,
   How I live and whom I love
   Are the matters of my care.
   The house swarms with attaches,
   There's a lot of them upstairs,
   I can't bear any longer
   The smell of their after-shaves.
    
   TSAR
   Love is blind... If that is true,
   You will love the envoy, too.
   And along with that you'll set
   My worsened foreign trade straight!
   It will do to our good,
   I shall sell of"hemp and wood.
   All the public give consent,
   You're the only one who wouldn't!
    
   PRINCESS
   You may frown and complain,
   Yet I'll say it to you again,
   As an individual I have
   Rights for free marriage and free love.
   Maybe, I would give consent
   And get married in the end,
   If it were Fedot the soldier
   Who would offer me his hand.
    
   TSAR
   Silly girl, you hold your tongue!
   Don't you know where you belong?
   Go and lock up in your room,
   Learn your sol-fa, get along!
   As for scoundrel Fedot,
   The vicious rogue, I'll tell you what:
   I shall whip him, drive him out
   of the palace with a rod.
    
   JOKER
  
   The Tsar had a General whose occupation was gathering information. Like a hunting hound, he would sniff around in search of a suspect in a city crowd. He would put down all he heard in town; and then, at exactly seven, he would come to the court to give his report.
    
   TSAR
   General, you're feeling blue.
   Is it quinsy or the flu?
   Or you've drunk too much of beer,
   Or you've lost at cards, have you?
   Or your army is too small,
   Or you do not want to serve at all,
   Or you've found some defects
   In a cannon tube or cannon ball?
   Tell me openly, don't lie,
   What is it that makes you sigh?
   I should like to know in detail
   When and where and what and why!
    
   GENERAL
   Well, I went to see Fedot
   The other day, and you know what:
   When I saw his charming wife
   I fell down on the spot.
   It's two days, upon my word,
   That I haven't touched the sword,
   There's nothing left for me but sigh,
   I'm afraid, I'm going to die.
   Yesterday, I will confess,
   I made a sin: I wrote a verse,
   The doc is scared for my brains,
   It's a shock of love, he claims.
    
   TSAR
   The soldier must be gotten rid of.
   Didn't he know that I'm a widow?
   I'll remind you of your duty:
   Go and bring me now that beauty!
   As for this insidious man
   Wipe him out, if you can,
   Grind him out so that he
   Mightn't hang around here!
    
   GENERAL
   To kidnap her I've got wits,
   But think of people in the streets,
   When they learn it's your idea
   They will tear you to bits.
   People are quite bold today,
   They will show their teeth, won't they?
   You and I dislike the soldier
   But they're all the other way!
    
   TSAR
   Are you such a fool all days
   Or is it just on Saturdays?
   Must I tell my minister
   Everything in every case?
   To prevent the vicious tongues
   You must act on legal grounds,
   Or, in other words, just try
   And do it... on the sly!
   I for one give you my word:
   You will have a good reward,
   Our smiths have been assigned ,
   To forge medal for you, mind!
    
   JOKER
  
   Almost two days the General racked his brains brooding over the plan how to get rid of the soldier-man. But his brain had cracked under strain. He thought again and again but all was in vain. Then, on loose end, he remembered his old friend, Yaga the Bony Leg whom he could beg. "Gotta get 'er, she knows better". She was in the forest gathering herbs, making poisons. When she saw the friend of hers she lost all her plants and herbs. She felt lonely indeed in the wood without her kindred!..
    
   OLD WITCH
   You are not yoursel"today,
   Looking pale, struck with dismay.
   Are the Turks approaching Moscow,
   Or the Swedes stand in your way?
   Have this aspen bark, a bit,
   It will do you good indeed,
   After all, it isn't nitric,
   It's a gift of nature, isn't it?
   The aspen juice, my General,
   Has got a healthy mineral,
   No General has died from it,
   Just have a taste, and you'll be fit.
    
   GENERAL
   Lay off, woman, I'm not ill,
   Let us step across the hill,
   Scare away those hedgehogs, squirrels,
   I must talk to you, it's serious!
   There's a soldier, Fedot by name,
   He thinks he's got too much brain,
   I was told the other day
   To put him out of the way.
   How? By cutting of"his head?
   There'll be a noise, I'm afraid.
   Can you give me your advice
   As to how to make him dead?
    
   OLD WITCH
   Magic, magic, you know what,
   Three are here, yours are not,
   Ace of diamonds, oaken coffin,
   Tell me all about Fedot...
   Well, if he's so prompt and smart
   As to dare disregard
   Our sovereign, let him get,
   By tomorrow, a golden carpet.
   It has got to have a grand
   Map-like view of the whole land.
   If he doesn't make so bold,
   It will be his own fault.
    
   GENERAL
   What a woman! What a skill!
   That's the end of my ordeal!
   You could be a politician
   And hold a minister's position!
   With the foes we must take care,
   There's always trouble in the air,
   I would join you on a mission,
   Take you with me anywhere.
   I can pay you back, I think,
   Marten, beaver -- anything!
   If you want, I'll give you coins,
   Gold or silver -- it's your choice.
    
   OLD WITCH
   Keep us without sin this day,
   Better put your coins away,
   I'm not doing it for money,
   I enjoy it, so why pay?
   Should you have some trouble again,
   Come, don't treat me with disdain,
   After all, I'm not a beast,
   I will always soothe your pain.
    
   JOKER
  
   Soldier Fedot is summoned to the court. The Tsar is as cross as two sticks, even before he speaks. He moves around, stamping the ground, rolling his eyes, in short, he tries to assume the air of threatening terror.
    
   TSAR
  
   By tomorrow you must get
   A carpet of a spun-gold thread,
   Try and do it for all you're worth,
   It's a state affair, don't forget!
   It has got to have a grand
   Map-like view of the whole land.
   'cause from my balcony I see
   Nothing. Do you understand?
   If you don't fulfil the task
   And don't do as you are asked,
   I shall have to hand you in
   To the butcher in the mornin'!
    
   JOKER
   Fedot went home numbed with gloom. He sat down in the corner of the room, staring at the ceiling, his eyes tearing. Marusya offered him a snack but he put up his back; he wished nothing, just sat frowning and sobbing, looking black.
    
   MARUSYA
   Tell me, why are you so angry?
   Why don't you eat, you must be hungry.
   Is the porridge overdone?
   Or the meat is underdone?
    
   FEDOT
   Dash it! I don't feel like eating,
   The Tsar's ferocity is killing!
   The villain knows no justice, heck!
   There's no keeping him in check!
   He has ordered me to get
   A carpet with an ornament
   Which must be as big as Russia
   With the lakes and woods on it!
    
   MARUSYA
   Don't you worry, don't you sob!
   Never mind the crazy snob!
   Stand before me, Frol and Tit,
   Get immediately what we need!
    
   (Marusya claps her hands, and two burly fellows appear in front of her.)
    
   Do you hear what I say?
   Go and do it without delay!
    
   FELLOWS
   You don't have to doubt us,
   We have done it many times!
    
   JOKER
   The next morning Fedot arrived at the court to show the Tsar the carpet he'd got. Out of surprise the Tsar choked with caviar. He was cross but he didn't want to show that he was. He pretended that he was as glad as could be!
    
   FEDOT
   I was told to get a carpet,
   As you see, I've really got it,
   Both the pattern and the colour
   Are exactly as you wanted!
   The whole of Russia is depicted
   On the carpet. You may keep it.
   It's my spouse's gift, brand new,
   She has woven it for you!
    
   TSAR
   You're a dodger through and through!
   How m'ny maids are you married to?
   You cannot be engaged to
   An entire weaving mill, can you?
   I know you have a wife, Fedot,
   She's the only one you've got,
   And to weave a thing like this
   One has got to have a lot!
    
   FEDOT
   Is the carpet not so fine?
   Or you don't like the design?
   Then I'll put it on my shoulder,
   That's the end, I draw the line!
   Lest my efforts be in vain
   I shall sell it to trades men,
   And I do not care a damn
   If it flows to Amsterdam!
    
   TSAR
   I would be so glad to slash
   You with a whip or with a lash,
   So that you might never again
   Play your jokes on serious men!
   However, as a man I'm quiet,
   And I'm fair, I'll give you right:
   Here's a coin for you, buy vodka.
   Now get out of my sight!
    
   JOKER
  
   The Tsar calls the god damn General. The former looks terrible, his face like a beet-root, the sign of a bad mood, for when he is red, he 's a real threat! He will beat you once, never twice, and straight between the eyes! The General knows that from his own experience, he's been wearing a band ever since.
    
   TSAR
   Well, my General, I imagine,
   You have missed by a small margin,
   But this margin will make up
   Five years of a prison camp!
   You're broad in shoulders all right,
   But you've grown dull in mind,
   There's a chance, at state expense,
   To restore your mental health.
    
   GENERAL
   You may jail me any day
   For any term, but I should say,
   Prison as an object lesson
   Will not help me anyway.
   I would rather, sword in hand,
   Fight for our dear land,
   As for these petty intrigues
   Count me out of such things!
    
   TSAR
   Come, your honour, be a good chap,
   Don't you get into a flap,
   Think about how Fedot
   Can be laid down without a sword.
   If you fool about 'nd refuse,
   Then don't look for an excuse;
   I shall wipe your mug, you swine,
   With this very fist of mine!
    
   JOKER
   The General had no grounds to rub his hands: he couldn't smash Fedot at one dash. Again the poor man's brain had cracked under strain. There wasn't a single thought in his thinking pot! He thought again and again but all was in vain. This way or another, he knew: without Yaga he couldn't do. Again he made his way to the wood where he thought he would find a bridle on Fedot.
    
   OLD WITCH
   Why are you so glum again?
   What's the reason, who's to blame?
   Are the Spaniards too pugnacious?
   Do the French lay any claim?
   Here's a mould drink I have made,
   Take a gulp, don't be afraid.
   It will help you to forget
   All the cares of life, I bet!
   Though it`s out of the way,
   It will cool you anyway,
   You'll be healthy by tomorrow
   If you do not die today!
    
   GENERAL
   It's the soldier-man again,
   He has caused me so much pain!
   That's the reason why I'm ailing,
   And I'm suffering from strain.
   The bloody scoundrel's so clever!
   He has fooled me! Well I never!
   All your magic was in vain,
   He got the carpet all the same!
   Though he doesn't seem so bright,
   He has got a keen mind!
   Next time, when you do your magic,
   Try to do it damn right!
    
   OLD WITCH
   Magic, magic, you know what,
   Three are here, yours are not,
   Ace of diamonds, oaken coffin,
   Tell me all about Fedot!...
   Ah-a, mm-mm... To my calls
   I've got the following response:
   Let him search and find a deer
   With the branch of golden horns.
   There's nowhere in the world
   Such a deer, take my word!
   I can tell you that for sure
   As a naturalist, my lord!
    
   JOKER
   The Tsar called the daring fellow to the court. Hardly had Fedot brushed the sweat off his mush, when the Tsar got a new thought. The Tsar's head whirled with ideas while Fedot had to sweat head over ears. In short, Fedot's life was all rot!
    
   TSAR
   Shake of"idleness! Today
   You'll have to get under way,
   I'm in a desperate need of a deer,
   It's a state mission, I must say.
   If you're a loyal man,
   You will do the best you can,
   Go across the hills and swamps,
   Find a deer with golden horns.
   Don't talk back, and do not scold,
   Go and do as you are told,
   Or you'll get to know right off
   How your head can be cut off!
    
   JOKER
   Fedot came home, in beastly form. He sat down by the window, snivelling, his sight dim. His charming wife clung to him, but he didn't touch the one he loved so much. He just sat shedding tears, suffering from grief, that is.
    
   MARUSYA
   Tell me, why are you looking blue?
   Does anything worry you?
   Has the soup too little salt?
   Has the beefsteak any fault?
    
   FEDOT
   Dash! To eat I'm not willing,
   It's the Tsar again. The villain!
   He will call me to account
   For the task that he has given.
   He's s more ruthless than a foe!
   He has ordered me to go
   And find a deer, and he wants
   A deer with golden horns!
    
   MARUSYA
   There's no reason to be sad,
   Things are not as bad as that.
   Stand before me, Frol and Tit,
   Get immediately what we need!
    
   (Marusya claps her hands, and two burly fellows appear in front of her.)
    
   Do you hear what I say?
   Go and do it without delay!
    
   FELLOWS
   You don't have to doubt us,
   We have done it many times!
    
   JOKER
   At day-break Fedot brought the deer to the court. Out of fury and spite the Tsar got a stitch in the side. He would crush the swine but he gave no sign. He sat yawning, pretending languor, hiding his anger!
    
   FEDOT
   You've been waiting for it, right?
   Well, I've got it, look outside!
   Did you order me a deer?
   There you are! You can take pride!
   The deer's horns, for you to know,
   Give out a brilliant sparkling glow,
   It's as bright as broad daylight,
   So you'll need no lamp at night.
    
   TSAR
   No such deer can be found
   In these places, nor around!
   There are three of them or so
   In Baghdad, for all I know.
   Now, you soldier, figure out
   Where is Moscow and where's Baghdad,
   Could you possibly have travelled
   To Baghdad in just one night?
    
   FEDOT
   Damn! You're really being funny!
   The deer isn't so fine, eh?
   Didn't you tell me yesterday
   To get one for love or money?
   If you are as rich as that,
   I'll return it to Baghdad.
   Who's the ruler there now?
   The chap will really be glad!
    
   TSAR
   Lay off, Fedya, and don't fret,
   Or you will lay down your head!
   I know what you're driving at,
   I see through you, remember that!
   Anyhow, to save your face
   I'll excuse you in this case,
   Here's a coin for you, buy vodka.
   Now get out of this place!
    
   JOKER
   The Tsar ordered to get the General straight from bed. Seized with panic, all at once, the General reached for his underpants; he wasn't at all pleased knowing it wasn't a feast. The Tsar was sitting in his throne, angry with all and everyone. He was raving, looking black as a churchyard raven.
    
   TSAR
   You have done your best, old chap,
   Yet Fedot escaped the trap,
   Here's the official notice
   of your death I have made up.
   First, however, I must think
   How to kill you best, you pig,
   Shall I strangle you with a pillow,
   Or just strike with a candlestick?
    
   GENERAL
   I have come to grief, my lord,
   You may hit me, here's the sword,
   I just want to tell you: don't
   Bother me with this Fedot!
   I'm a fool, but judge me not ,
   I'm a man of a different sort,
   I would rather go to combat
   Or take part in an assault.
    
   TSAR
   You are brave when sword in hand,
   But you've got to understand,
   You must overcome the soldier
   Using wisdom, and -- unarmed!
   If you do all anyhow,
   As you've done it up to now,
   I shall bring you to the scaffold,
   Under axe, you scarecrow.
    
   JOKER
   The fool tried to think again though he didn't have much brain. He thought again and again but all was in vain. He whistled up his dogs, and of"he went to see Yaga in the bogs. On seeing the General she fled as far as the Urals, but then, to be on the safe side, she changed her mind and returned to her place, just in case!
    
   OLD WITCH
   You are suffering from nerves,
   There's a pimple on your nose,
   It's the politics that tells
   On your spirit and your health.
   Take this pill of rabbit's dung,
   It's been really well done!
   It's much healthier than honey
   Though it doesn't taste so fine.
   And although it isn't sweet,
   And some people die from it,
   Those who manage to survive
   Live a long and healthy life!
    
   GENERAL
   It's all rubbish what you say,
   You had better find a way
   And tell me how the soldier-man
   Can be put out of the way.
   Though you really tried hard
   All your tricks have fallen flat!
   Don't pretend you're hard of hearing,
   I just don't believe in that!
   You should pull your wits together,
   Try and use your magic better,
   For we must admit: Fedot
   Isn't so brainless as we thought!
    
   OLD WITCH
   Generally, I'm sly and shrewd,
   Or, should I say, I'm quite crooked,
   But today my luck is out,
   I can't make my magic good!
   All these days I've been in pain,
   Burning inside, all aflame,
   I've been suffering of late
   From inflammation of the brain!
   Oh my back! I'm feeling stiff!
   I think I need some relief!
   Therefore, such being the case,
   Leave me alone, I'm on sick leave!
    
   GENERAL
   You are ill. Well, never min'
   Eat a frog, and you'll be fine.
   Mother nature, as I heard,
   's the best healer in the world!
   You don't even think about
   Cheating me an' fooling around!
   You are wicked, so don't shirk,
   Turn your wickedness to work!
   If you don't do as you're told
   I shall draw out my sword!
   Though you're a friend of mine
   I shall make you toe the line!
    
   OLD WITCH
   Magic, magic, tell me what,
   Three are here, yours are not,
   Ace of diamonds, oaken coffin,
   Tell me all about Fedot!..
   Let the soldier show his skill,
   Let him get something unreal,
   Something That Cannot Be Found,
   In This World, Nor Underground!
   Now, Fedot, you're in for it!
   The idea is just brilliant!
   You will never carry out
   Such a task! On no account!
    
   JOKER
   Soldier Fedot is summoned to the court. Again it's a task of state significance. There seems to be no end to Fedot's torment! Meanwhile, this is by far not the resolution of the plot!
    
   TSAR
   Do your utmost and get me
   Something That Cannot Be!
   Write it down for it might
   Somehow get out of your mind!
   I shall tell you my condition:
   If you don't fulfil the mission,
   I shall tear you to ribbons
   For I hate your disposition!
   Cheer up, get under way!
   You must do it without delay ,
   It's a matter of state importance,
   D' you understand what I say?
    
   JOKER
   Fedot came home filled with deathly gloom. Marusya dashed to him in affection, but he paid no attention. With death penalty in store, it was natural that he should feel low.
    
   MARUSYA
   Will you get it of"your chest?
   Tell me, why are you depressed?
   Has the salad a la Milan got
   No truffles in it, or what?
    
   FEDOT
   No, Marie, I love your food,
   It's extraordinarily good!
   I'm just worried that my life
   Has been ruined to the root!
   What am I supposed to do?
   Who can help me, maybe you?
   This time the Tsar ordered me
   To get Something That Can't Be!
    
   MARUSYA
   There's no use to worry at all,
   All I have to do is call:
   Stand before me, Frol and Tit,
   Get immediately what we need!
    
   (Marusya claps her hands, and two burly fellows appear in front of her.)
    
   Do you hear what I say?
   Go and do it without delay!
    
   (A short silence.)
    
   FELLOWS
   Sorry, mistress, we resign
   For it's out of our line.
   If we had a sketch or drawing,
   We could work it out fine!
   There's no use to search like this,
   We won't venture, don't insist,
   Where is it, something unreal ,
   Something that does not exist?
   There's no use to scout around
   For the thing that can't be found!
    
   MARUSYA
   Darling, don't be hard on me,
   I can't help it, as you see,
   Nothing doing, you will have
   To search for it yourself, my love!
   When abroad don't make a sin,
   Keep your mind and body clean,
   Do not enter conversations,
   And don't strike up an acquaintance!
   Take care, dear, don't go astray,
   Keep from empty troubles away,
   Eat sour cream and cottage cheese.
   Think about your health, that is.
    
   FEDOT
   You don't need to have a fright,
   Everything will be all right,
   I shall carry the task out
   And return home safe and sound!
   Don't lose heart while I'm away,
   Water flowers every day,
   There's a tambour, a balalaika,
   You can do the needlework or play.
   Should somebody bother you,
   You know well what you can do,
   I don't have to teach you, dear,
   The frying pan is over here!
    
   JOKER
   Soldier Fedot had left abroad. When the General learnt that he went totally mad. He rushed to the court to report that it was the end of Soldier Fedot. The god damn General had even made a hole in his coat for the medal he hadn't yet got!
    
   TSAR
   Tell me good or bad news,
   It must be the bare truth,
   Which I know is never nice,
   Yet it's better than sweet lies!
   However, if the news you've got
   Is something like I don't know what,
   I can tell you, you'll be jailed
   For ten years, you mark my word!
    
   GENERAL
   Your majesty, let me report:
   At break of day Soldier Fedot
   Set of"on a mission voyage,
   We've got rid of him, thank God!
   May the scoundrel rove the seas,
   A good lesson to him it is!
   You and I are now secure
   From seeing his ugly face, for sure!
    
   TSAR
   Nurse, hey, Nurse, will you come here?
   There's some work for you , my dear,
   I've got hairs that are grey,
   Will you tear them away?
   As for those that aren't grey
   Shape them in a proper way,
   Take it easy with the brush,
   I've got hair there, not hay!
    
   NURSEMAID
   What's there to brush, you dry old stick?
   Your hair is not that thick ,
   Every hair that you have
   Must be registered, I think!
   Tell me, why d'you need a wife
   Now that you have lived your life?
   I can tell you: as a man,
   Sorry... you aren't worth a damn!
    
   TSAR
   Well, although my hair is grey,
   I must marry anyway.
   The shah of Persia's just as bold,
   He's got forty wives, they say!
   As for me I want a wife,
   Only one, not three or five.
   Do you think I cannot make it,
   In the sense of intimate life?
    
   NURSEMAID
   The shah has obviously got
   Might and strength while you have not!
   You're so small, you gnat, that one
   Cannot see you under the crown!
   At your age you're not so strong
   As you were when you were young.
   Think about your health, you're over
   A hundred , if I'm not wrong.
    
   TSAR
   I'm over a hundred, well, so what?
   I feel young, my blood is hot!
   After all, it is well known
   That all ages are love-prone!
   So whatever you might think,
   I'm fit for such a thing,
   I'm liable to love
   Like any other human being!
    
   NURSEMAID
   You're one of those, my friend,
   That do not have ill intent,
   That may give an awful fright,
   Like a grass-snake, but don't bite!
   To kidnap somebody's wife
   One has got to be in love,
   Whereas you must play it safe
   Trying to escape the grave.
    
   TSAR (to General)
   Why are you silent, General,
   Rattling your decoration metal?
   Don't you see the way the nurse
   Lays the state under a curse?
   While the nurse is damning me
   The minister sits silently,
   Your first care is defence,
   So repel the enemy!
    
   GENERAL
   Let her grumble, I don't mind,
   Women never judge men right!
   As for you, you needn't doubt,
   You're a lover of a perfect kind!
   Your profile inspires pride,
   You're shah of Persia from behind!
   Move your crown up a little,
   Just to make a better sight!
    
   TSAR (to Nursemaid)
   Look, he's not an enemy,
   He has told the truth to me,
   After all, he's not so stupid,
   However foolish he may be!
   As for you, you only try
   To make trouble and defy
   Your superiors. I wonder:
   Are you not a foreign spy?
   If you tail on me, you rat,
   I shall see about that!
   You just wait a day or two,
   I shall have high words with you!
    
   JOKER
   The Tsar is on the way to Marusya's with the intention to show her attention. He sits in the coach alone stinking of eau-de-Cologne, followed by a suite, all powdered and curled up, looking neat! They are followed by carts loaded with boxes of sweets and nuts. All is right: the Tsar is going to see the bride!
    
   TSAR
   I gave orders that Fedot
   Should urgently go abroad,
   He is gone and lost for you,
   I've got rid of him, in short!
   To avoid a lonely life
   Marry me and be my wife!
   Why not? I'm a man of note,
   And I'm sensitive to love!
    
   MARUSYA
   No sooner had Fedot
   Taken the road
   Than the ravens flew in
   To his garden plot!
    
   TSAR
   Don't be silly, do as I say,
   Take what I lay in your way!
   Widowed Tsars don't come to see you
   In your house every day!
   Come along now! I insist!
   I shall lead you to the priest.
   If you're dumbfounded with delight,
   Sniff ammonia, you'll be all right!
    
   MARUSYA
   Your Majesty, you'd better chase,
   Court and marry someone else,
   Me, I'll wait for my Fedot,
   Watch the calendar, 'nd count the days.
    
   TSAR
   Don't believe in rumours, lass,
   The soldier won't return, alas!
   He's somewhere in Beirut
   Eating some sort of fruit!
   Just try to see it my way,
   You're at home while he's away!
   He is gone and lost for ever,
   Sure as fate, he's had his day!
    
   MARUSYA
   You may beat me with a rod!
   You may smash me with a sword!
   Yet I'll never be your wife!
   Not even to save my life!
    
   TSAR
   Now, Marusya, don't make me cross!
   Don't let's quarrel just for once!
   I should say, the other day
   I got a guillotine from France!
   Thus I think you will agree:
   You had better marry me,
   After all, I'm only human,
   Not an iron man, you see?
    
   MARUSYA
   Leave the house, you wicked man,
   And give up your crazy plan!
   If you don't get out now,
   I shall help you, with a pan!
    
   TSAR
   Hey you, there in the doorway!
   Come and chain her right away!
   Throwing pans at Tsars! What's that?
   Is it a new trend today ?
   You will spend some time in prison
   Which will bring you, lass, to reason,
   There's no use in holding out,
   We'll get married by next season!
    
   MARUSYA
   You'll have to sweat like a bull
   To catch hold of me, you fool,
   Farewell, old man, you may,
   See me around again some day!
    
   (Marusya turns into a pigeon and flies away.)
    
   JOKER
   For nearly a year Fedot had travelled God knows where. He was getting anxious: time pressed urging him for actions. Without being hysterical he decided to go to America. Now Fedot sails across the boundless waves, with the sunset ahead and the sunrise behind. When he was half way through, bad weather came out of the blue. There had been no trouble so far, and suddenly -- there you are! The ship -- Holy Jesus! -- in no time broke into pieces! When the sea calmed down Fedot came round: he was lying on a wave, quite safe. Looking around he saw an island. He swam to the shore, it was America, he was sure! He took out a map to check it up. To his disappointment it wasn't the American continent! The Rougue Island! What a plight! Maybe, the map wasn't quite right? He sat in frustration hiccuping and brooding over the situation.
    
   FEDOT
   To indulge the Tsar's caprice
   I've been often overseas,
   Frankly speaking, I have never
   Seen a place as bad as this!
   What an island! Such a bore!
   Sand and stones, and nothing more,
   As far as the eyes can see,
   Not a single wood on shore!
   Though it wouldn't be so bad
   If there were food to be had,
   If I had at least goose-foot,
   I would be content with that !
    
   VOICE
   If somebody wants to eat,
   Welcome here, take a seat:
   I've got heaps of foodstuff here,
   There's a whole lot of it!
   Here's, for instance, a bread loaf,
   Have a taste, it's straight from stove!
   Here's cherry-plum compote,
   Here's turkey from the pot!
   Here's sausage, here's cheese,
   Here's caviar, if you please,
   Here is sturgeon from the Don,
   Here are Caribbean shrimps...
    
   (There come tables with food )
    
   FEDOT
   What sort of miracles are these?
   I want to know whose voice it is!
   There's no hiding place around,
   Just the ocean -- and no trees!
   Master, come into my view,
   Show me what you're like, will you?
   For a guest to dine alone
   Isn't a proper thing to do!
   Don't you think, it would be better
   If we killed the time together?
   We could play cards a while, then
   Have a drink and play again!
    
   VOICE
   Well, I would, but my appearance
   Seems to be a bit mysterious,
   Sometimes I have a puzzling thought:
   Do I really exist or not?
   I've got troubles, I can't help it,
   I've got food but I can't eat!
   There's tobacco, I can't sniff it,
   There's a bench but I can't sit.
   It has been a thousand years,
   I'm sick and tired of all this!
   I can't hang myself , for heaven's sake
   For I haven't got a neck!
    
   FEDOT
   What an encounter! Oh Lord!
   I have found you! My word!
   Something That Cannot Be Found,
   Nowhere In The Whole World!
   Why should you get on like that ,
   Idling about, feeling bad?
   Maybe, you and I should better
   Sail to the Russian Tsar together?
   I think a trip will do you good,
   You will get to know the world,
   Life without an adventure
   Is not life, upon my word!
    
   VOICE
   I'm all for it for I expect
   It's a bright and useful prospect,
   I can make myself at home
   Even in a wild bee swarm!
   If you want me to, I can
   Go and be a quarryman,
   I shall sweat like mad for free,
   And you don't have to feed me!
   I'm jack of all trades,
   I can go through any gates,
   I shall get whatever you choose,
   Even a louse wearing shoes!
    
   FEDOT
   Well, what shall I say to that?
   of course a louse isn't bad,
   But it isn't what we need,
   We can't travel far on it!
   If you're intelligent enough,
   If you're smart and know your stuff,
   You had better get some craft,
   Something like a boat or raft!
   Tomorrow at the break of day
   We must be on our way,
   They must be worn out of waiting
   For us in Russia, I should say!
    
   JOKER
   The Tsar is not wasting time. He's receiving the envoy of a savage tribe. London and Paris have left him no chance, so the Tsar got envoys of lower ranks. Like an errand boy, the Tsar is dancing attendance on the envoy. "Here's my daughter, lad, you'll marry her, and that's that!"It was obvious, things were getting from bad to worse. Yet the Tsar was not worried. If only his daughter could get married.
    
   TSAR
   Good afternoon! How are you? We are
   Very glad to see you here.
   Very good! Salam aleikum!
   Buenos sera! You are welcome!
   Where are you from? How old are you?
   Are you married? Do you intend to?
   Would you like to tell our freulein,
   Tete-a- tete, a word or two?
    
   NURSEMAID
   You're discussing policy
   With a savage, can't you see?
   It's just three days since the envoy
   Has come down the palm-tree!
   If he wore a cap or something,
   It wouldn't be embarrassing,
   Look at him, the queer one
   Has got nothing but beads on!
    
   TSAR
   You're a spy, and it's a fact!
   You're talking through your hat!
   You have damaged my relations
   With all friendly foreign nations!
   I wait for visitors for years,
   And they're turned out by the nurse!
   After all, I must find someone
   Who would marry our princess!
    
   NURSEMAID
   Look at his face, his ugly ears,
   And the nose-ring that he wears!
   Look, his skin is speckled, too,
   Like the egg of a cuckoo!
   Frankly speaking, even I
   Wouldn't sleep with him. Oh my!
   How can you give the girl in marriage
   To such an ugly man, a savage!
    
   TSAR
   When there isn't any chance
   One's content with what one has!
   With regards to looks the princess
   Is far from being a bunch of sweetness!
   She`s got to marry any man,
   A hunchbacked or a speckled one
   Because even speckled ones
   Do not come in flocks to us!
    
   NURSEMAID
   You know he comes from wilderness!
   Look what he's eating! My goodness!
   Remember that topaz vase?
   He's devoured it! Bless my stars!
   The rascal doesn't ask us for
   Anything like mushrooms or salmon, no!
   He eats whatever meets his eye,
   From chinaware to nails. Oh my!
    
   TSAR
   Let it be. He is our guest.
   Bring whatever he'll request!
   We have no shortage of nails,
   Chinaware nor anything else!
   If he doesn't like fish,
   Let him eat what he may wish!
   You just see if he will bite
   At pyrites and apatite.
    
   NURSEMAID
   For a "thank you"they will eat
   Anything, even poisoned meat!
   The man may be quite innocent,
   Yet we must keep an eye on it:
   When you offer him some eats
   Tell him he must know the limits!
   For he may eat up his bride
   In the heat of appetite!
    
   PRINCESS
   To go out with such a brute?
   I should be damned, if I could!
   He is not much to look at
   And a cannibal at that!
   Even if this ugly creature
   Offered me his countless riches,
   He would not arouse in me
   Any reciprocity!
    
   TSAR
   You just call the envoy out,
   Have a chat, and walk around!
   You'll get used to him, and then
   You may love him in the end!
   Should the queer troglodyte
   Take a fancy to your sight,
   He will surely lose for ever
   His cannibal's appetite!
    
   JOKER
   More than a year had passed, Fedot returned home at last. But what a despair! The house was not there! All he found were ruins and nettle growing around. And beneath the heaves, among rafts and beams, he saw a bird, alive and unhurt.
    
   FEDOT
   Come on, honey, be so good,
   Lay the table, bring some food,
   Will you give me one of those
   Nicely baked loaves of yours!
   Give me your delicious shchi,
   Make it rich and thick for me,
   I've become as thin as a rod
   Eating rabbit food abroad.
   There is not a soul around ,
   Just the wind, and not a sound ,
   Is there anything the matter?
   I just cannot make it out!
    
   (The pigeon turns into Marusya.)
    
   MARUSYA
   Welcome, honey, what went wrong?
   You have travelled far too long,
   You must have forgotten me,
   It's a year since you've been gone!
   There must be a whole lot
   of entertainment abroad,
   And you must have taken fancy
   of some pretty-pretty lassie!
    
   FEDOT
   Henriettes and Josephines,
   I've seen plenty overseas,
   But I haven't seen a beauty
   Such as you among those queens.
   I have travelled rather long
   And I haven't gone wrong,
   I have found in the end
   Something to the Tsar's content!
    
   MARUSYA
   Honey, had you known before
   Whom you were sweating for,
   I can tell you, you'd have never
   Ever stepped out of your door!
   When you left, the shameless man
   Had a try to win my hand,
   Urging me to come to reason
   And be his spouse by next season.
    
   FEDOT
   Did he really? What a bastard!
   How can such a man be trusted?
   How can I struggle for his honour
   And be loyal to my master?
   Anyhow, I'll make him hot,
   I shall tell him what is what!
   And I'll show what I can do:
   Paint him all o'er black and blue!
   He wouldn't dare! The way he mocks
   And makes fools of Russian folks!
   I'll take care of him somehow,
   I've got nothing to lose now!
    
   JOKER
   Fedot got angry indeed; he appealed to men in the street; his neighbours decided to help him; Frol took a beam, Ignat took a bat, Max took an axe, Ustin took a bar, and of"they went to have it out with the Tsar. The god damn General came stealthily out, his eyes flashed as he looked round, then he rushed to the court to give his report.
    
   GENERAL
   There's... what is it?.. a crowd
   of people on the palace grounds!
   So it's obvious: things are taking
   A social turn, if I'm not mistaken!
   It's Fedot who is to blame,
   He is playing a deep game,
   Setting people against you,
   Urging them to stage a coup!
    
   TSAR
   What about you, my lord?
   You've got such a sharp sword,
   Don't I keep you by my side
   To protect my peace and quiet?
   Some day, when two Sundays meet,
   You'll get a medal, I promise it.
   All you must do is prevent
   The overthrow of my government!
    
   GENERAL
   A lot I care for a medal!
   I've got heaps of them already!
   When I have them all on me
   I look like a Christmas tree!
   And I don't see any sense
   To come out in your defence,
   You have made your own bed,
   So you lie on it, my friend!
    
   JOKER
   The stupid rat! How dared he talk like that! The Tsar was cross, yet he let it pass for those were not the days to hit a man in the face. He went downstairs and made a strict face. He looked over the square: the whole of Russia seemed to be there!
    
   TSAR
   What the hell, explain to me,
   Does this all suppose to mean?
   We are not a France of a sort
   Where people sow discord!
   Who is willing to Siberia?
   One by one, come out here!
   Staying there in a prison
   Will quickly bring you all to reason!
    
   FEDOT
   As for reason, we are not blind,
   We all have a lucid mind
   And distinguish, thanks to God,
   Rubbish from forget-me-not!
   Tell me, why did you send me of"
   To a place no one knows of?
   Is it not because you wanted
   To get married to my wife?
    
   TSAR
   How did this idea get
   Into your goddamn villain's head?
   Throwing dirt at honest people
   That's what I call what you said!
   Does it befit a man like me
   To court your wife? How can it be?
   There's no use, as I can see,
   To send you out across the sea!
    
   FEDOT
   Now calm down, your majesty,
   We're not here for a cup of tea,
   If you quarrel, you big bug,
   I shall smash you in the mug!
   Your notorious malice spreads
   As far as Che-re-po-vets!
   In my person, ill-intentioned,
   You have spat upon the nation!
    
   TSAR
   Calm down, Fedya, don't be mean,
   My people are my kith and kin,
   Without thinking of them, I should say,
   I can't live a single day!
   When I eat my butter and bread
   Thoughts of the people enter my head,
   Both the caviar and compote
   Stick like crazy in my throat!
   Late at night I'm awake
   Sitting up until daybreak,
   Thinking about my poor Russia:
   "How is it, for goodness sake?"
   It's the General's dirty tricks,
   He engages in intrigues,
   And he's the only one to blame
   For defaming my good name!
   Find him now! He's over there!
   I am going to curl his hair!
   I shall tear of"his medal,
   Smash his face and call it square!
    
   GENERAL
   No, no, brothers, it's not true!
   I have lost my eye for you!
   You're my people, can I ever
   Be against you? Well, I never!
   I have failed and fallen flat,
   I'm sorry, it's too bad .
   I don't know, I can't, I won't ,
   I've nothing to do with that!
   I'll atone for it, I will
   Go through prison... any ordeal!
   I do not belong to those
   Who oppress you, I suppose.
   You should blame Yaga for this,
   She's the worst of enemies,
   Even dragon Gorynytch
   Cannot rival our witch!
   Come out, you old wicked mouse,
   Stand before the people's eyes,
   I can't keep from hitting you,
   With the sabre, once or twice!
    
   OLD WITCH
   I'm a folklore element,
   I have got a document!
   I can fly away from here
   Any time, at any moment!
   For a hot or stormy day
   People blame me anyway,
   Though I'm harmless. You know, I
   Wouldn't even hurt a fly.
   Sorry, I have gone astray,
   It just happened that way,
   Don't be strict to me, I'm only
   A child of nature, so to say!
   If it comes to that, blame these
   Two of my accomplices.
   Though I look an evil doer,
   Compar'd wi' them, I'm pure!
    
   FEDOT
   You're all so shrewd, you folk,
   I'm in a state of shock!
   You blame one another while
   Each of you is equally vile!
   Though we Russians feel contempt
   For severe punishment,
   Yet I'll have to try you, friends,
   For a criminal offence.
    
   TSAR
   Please, Fedot, be merciful!
   I'm a downright scoundrel!
   Exile me to Cherepovets,
   Or Voronezh, or Yelets!
   Only not to Magadan --
   I am too old a man,
   I'm afraid, I shall run down
   Before I get to that town!
    
   GENERAL
   I acknowledge all my guilt
   And the gravity of it,
   I should ask you, let me go
   And fight in a current war.
   If there's no war, I'll accept
   Prison, exile -- all, except
   That I wish it were near
   The Black Sea, in the Crimea!
    
   FEDOT
   We shall put you in a barrel,
   Throw you in the sea to travel.
   It's not a travel first class,
   So don't expect a ship from us.
   May the ocean take you round,
   Get you to the Rougue Island,
   I will give you my accordion,
   So that you might not grow wild.
   I'm sorry, I must say,
   The accordion doesn't play,
   However, as a sign of culture,
   You will need it anyway .
   Now, my fellow countrymen,
   Keep your chins up if you can,
   After all, we are not here
   For a funeral, are we?
   We will not shed tears for once
   For it's time to eat and dance,
   Come out, stand in front of me,
   Something That Cannot Be!
    
   VOICE
   It is a long time that I
   Have been standing nearby ,
   Waiting for you to wind up,
   Not daring to interrupt!
    
   FEDOT
   Will you treat us all to these
   Lavish things from overseas?
   People may have never tasted
   Such superb delicacies!
   Bring us all that you can get,
   Marmalade and chocolate
   Finnish bacon, sausage, ham,
   Smoked meat from Amsterdam!
   Get that Swiss cheese wrapped in rolls,
   I mean the one that's full of holes.
   We shall keep it, just in case,
   Specially for gourmets.
   And if somebody wants a drink,
   Home-brew, wine or anything,
   He may have a glass or two,
   There's something to drink to! 
  
   JOKER
  
   I was there and I ate caviar. Filat ate a salad, Proff ate pilaff, Ustin ate galantine. As for Soldier Fedot he had a cucumber with salt. There were cakes and ale! And that's the end of the fairy tale. You may think the tale is bad, well, the storyteller is to blame for that! I wish I could catch the fool and give him his gruel, but it's against the rule for the teller is a fool, and our people are not used to censure fools! 
  

The End

    

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