In lakeside leafy groves, a friar
Escaped all worries; there he passed
His summer days in constant prayer,
Deep studies and eternal fast.
Already with a humble shovel
The elder dug himself a grave -
As, calling saints to bless his hovel,
Death - nothing other - did he crave.
So once, upon a falling night, he
Was bowing by his wilted shack
With meekest prayer to the Almighty.
The grove was turning slowly black;
Above the lake a mist was lifting;
Through milky clouds across the sky
The ruddy moon was softly drifting,
When water drew the friar's eye.
He's looking puzzled, full of trouble,
Of fear he cannot quite explain,
He sees the waves begin to bubble
And suddenly grow calm again.
Then -- white as first snow in the highlands,
Light-footed as nocturnal shade,
There comes ashore, and sits in silence
Upon the bank, a naked maid.
She eyes the monk and brushes gently
Her hair, and water off her arms.
He shakes with fear and looks intently
At her, and at her lovely charms.
With eager hand she waves and beckons,
Nods quickly, smiles as from afar
And shoots, within two flashing seconds,
Into still water like a star.
The glum old man slept not an instant;
All day, not even once he prayed:
Before his eyes still hung and glistened
The wondrous, the relentless shade.
The grove puts on its gown of nightfall;
The moon walks on the cloudy floor;
And there's the maiden - pale, delightful,
Reclining on the spellbound shore.
She looks at him, her hair she brushes,
Blows airy kisses, gestures wild,
Plays with the waves - caresses, splashes -
Now laughs, now whimpers like a child,
Moans tenderly, calls louder, louder.
"Come, monk, come, monk! To me, to me!.
Then - disappears in limpid water,
And all is silent instantly.
On the third day the zealous hermit
Was sitting by the shore, in love,
Awaiting the delightful mermaid,
As shade was covering the grove.
Dark ceded to the sun's emergence;
Our monk had wholly disappeared -
Before a crowd of local urchins,
While fishing, found his hoary beard.
Translated by: Genia Gurarie, summer of 1995
Copyright retained by Genia Gurarie.
For permission to reproduce, write personally to the translator.