In lakeside leafy groves a friar
Escaped the world; out 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;
And calling saints to bless his hovel,
Death, nothing other, did he crave.
So once upon a falling night he
Bowed down beside his droopy shack
And meekly prayed 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 looks there, puzzled, full of trouble,
A fear he cannot quite explain,
And 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 hands she waves and beckons,
Nods quickly, smiling from afar,
Then — shoots within two flashing seconds
Into still water like a star.
The glum old man slept not an instant
All night, all day not once he prayed:
Before his eyes still hung and glistened
The wondrous girl’s persistent shade…
The grove puts on the 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,
Nods, sends him kisses drolly 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 — vanishes in limpid water…
And all is silent instantly…
On the third day the ardent hermit
Was sitting by the shore, in love,
Awaiting the enticing mermaid,
As shade was lying on the grove…
Dark ceded to the sun’s emergence;
By then the monk had disappeared,
No one knew where, and only urchins,
While swimming, saw a hoary beard.
A. S. Pushkin, 1819