A LEGEND OF THE WATER-SPRITE
In forest depths, beside a mere,
A monk once made his habitation ;
Absorbed in penances severe,
In fast and prayer he sought salvation.
Already by his own poor spade
His grave was hollowed to receive him,
And every day the good saint prayed
That Heaven from earth would soon relieve him.
One summer’s eve, the hermit poor,
At prayer within his narrow room,
Looked out beyond his humble door
And saw the forest wrapped in gloom ;
Night-mists were rising from the mere,
Between the clouds the moon ‘gan peep;
The monk unto the pool drew near
And gazed into its waters deep.
He saw himself—drew back perturbed
By fears he ne’er had known before ;
For, lo, the waters were disturbed,
Then suddenly grew calm once more ;
‘While fitful as a twilight shade,
Than virgin snow more purely white,
From out the pool appeared a maid
Approaching in the silver light.
She shook the bright drops from her hair
And gazed upon the anchorite ;
To look upon her form so fair
The good monk trembled with affright.
And he beheld her from afar
With head and hand strange signals make,
Then swifter than a shooting star
Dive back into the silent lake.
All night the hermit could not sleep,
All day in agony he prayed ;
But still he could not choose but keep
The image of that wondrous maid
Before him. So, when day did wane,
And overhead the moon was bright,
He watched, and saw her come again
In all her beauty, dazzling white.
She beckoned to him where he stood,
And gave him greeting glad and free.
She played and splashed about the flood,
She laughed and danced in childish glee,
As softly to the monk she cried :
‘ Come hither, monk, and join me here!’
Then suddenly she dipped to hide
Her beauty in the darkling mere.
The third day came—grown mad with love,
The hermit sought th’ enchanted shore
Ere yet night’s veil was drawn above,
And waited for the maid once more.
Dawn broke—the monk had disappeared . . .
And now the frightened children say
He haunts the pool: and lo! his beard
Floats on the water night and day.
Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin