November 27, 2020

The Old Bell-Ringer part 4

And there was his rich enemy, kneeling and praying to be forgiven for the many tears he had caused orphans to shed. He crossed himself ardently and struck his forehead against the ground.

Mikheyich`s heart boiled within him, and the dusky faces of the ikons frowned down upon human sorrow and human wickedness.

All that was past, behind him. For him the whole world was now bounded by this bell-tower, where the wind moaned in the darkness and stirred the ropes. … “God be your judge!” muttered the old man, drooping his gray head, while tears rolled gently down his cheeks.

“Mikheyich, ay, Mikheyich! Have you fallen asleep up there?” shouted someone from below.

“What?” the old man answered, rising to his feet. “God! Have I really been sleeping? Such a thing never happened before!”

Ant hill

With quick, experienced hands he grasped the ropes. Below him, the easant mob moved about like an ant-hill; banners,

The Old Bell-Ringer part 3

But the hour had come. Mikheyich looked once more at the stars, took off his cap, made the sign of the cross, and grasped the bell-ropes. In a moment, the night air echoed with the resounding stroke. Another, a third, a fourth… one after the other, filling the quiescent, holy eve, there poured forth powerful, drawn-out, singing sounds.

The bell stopped. The church service had begun. Mikheyich had formerly been in the habit of going down to stand in the corner by the door in order to pray and hear the singing. This time he remained in the belfry. It was too much to walk the stairs, and, moreover, he felt rather tired. He sat down on the bench and, as he listened to the melting sounds of brass, fell to musing. About what? He would have been unable to say. … The tower was dimly lit by the feeble light of his lantern. The still vibrating bells were invisible in the darkness; from time to time a faint murmur of singing in the church below reached him, and the night

The Old Bell-Ringer part 2

Where would he be a year hence? Would he again climb to this height, beneath the brass bell to awaken the slumbering night with its metallic peal, or would he be lying in a dark comer of the graveyard, under a cross? God knows!… He was prepared; in the meantime God granted him the happiness of greeting the holiday once more.

“Glory be to God!” His lips whispered the customary formula as his eyes looked up to the heaven bright with a million twinkling stars and made the sign of the cross.

“Mikheyich, ay, Mikheyich!” called out to him the tremulous voice of an old man. The aged sexton gazed up at the belfry, shading his unsteady, tear-dimmed eyes with his hand, trying to see Mikheyich.

“What do you want? Here I am,” replied the bell-ringer, looking down from the belfry. “Can`t you see me?”

“No, I can`t. It must be time to ring. What do you say?”

Both looked at the stars. Myriads of God`s lights twinkled

The Old Bell-Ringer part 1

Vladimir Korolenko (1853-1921)

Korolenko spent a great part of his life in exile. Much of his writing is based on incidents gathered in Siberia. It is surprising that his exile
did not embitter him. His stories, which are half romances, are sympathetically and simply told.

The Old Bell-Ringer is one of his most beautiful tales.

The present version is by Maxim Lieber.

The Old Bell-Ringer

It was growing dark.

The tiny village, nestling by the distant stream, in a pine forest, was merged in that twilight peculiar to starry spring nights, when the fog, rising from the earth, deepens the shadows of the woods and fills the open spaces with a silvery blue mist. … Everything was still, pensive and sad. The village quietly slumbered.

The dark outlines of the wretched cabins were barely visible; here and there lights glimmered; now and then you could hear a gate creak; or a dog would suddenly bark and then sto