Master Builder Manole

Downstream on the wideArgesh River's sideNegru Voda's riding;Ten men go beside him:Masons, craftsmen fine, Masterbuilders – nine;Manoli makes ten,The greatest craftsman.Down this dale, they're boundTo erect and foundA monastery hall,A memorial.There, as they passed on,Soon they came uponA poor shepherd's ladPiping doinas, sad.Stopping to behold him,Negru Voda told him:"Worthy shepherd lad,Piping doinas, sad,Up the Argesh whereYou drove your flocks there,Down the Argesh, too,Where flocks went with you –Have you, wandering there,Noticed anywhere An unfinished wallRuined, shunned by all,Near a hazel copseOn a green hill's slopes?""Yes, my Lord, it's true;I saw, passing through,An unfinished wallRuined, shunned by all.Soon as my dogs see it,They draw back and flee it,Bark at it with dread, Howl as at the dead."When he'd heard the lad,The voivode felt gladAnd, turning straightway,Set his steps that wayWith the masons, fine,Masterbuilders – nine;And Manole, ten,The greatest craftsman."Here's my wall, you see!This site I decreeMy monastery hall, my memorial.You stone-masons, then,Masters, journeymen,Set at once to work;Let no man here shirk;One and all must buildThe great shrine I've willedMy monastery hall,My memorial.I'll make you rich, then –Boyars, landed men.But if not, I swearI'll seal you up thereIn the cloister's wallLiving, one and all!"The men, hurrying,Stretched their measuring string,Marked out all the grounds,Dug deep trenches down,Working without pauseSo the great wall rose.Yet all they set uprightCrumbles that same night.Second day the same,Then third day the same,And fourth day the same,They worked on in vain!Negru Voda wandered,Scowling black as thunder;He would rage and scold them,Then once more he told themHe would seal them all,Living, in the wall!The great builders, then,Masons and craftsmenShivering, worrying,Went on working, hurryingThe whole summer's dayTill the dusk fell, gray;Manole drew aside, Let his labors bide,Laid down near the streamWhere he dreamt a dream;When at last he wokeThis is what he spoke:"Masons, craftsmen fine,Masterbuilders nine,Would you hear the dreamI've dreamt by this stream?A breath from on highWarned me – I won't lie –Build the best we might,It would fall each nightTill we swear, one and all,To seal in this wallAny sister, dear,Who may first appearThe next morning hereBringing bread and meatFor her man to eat.So if you believeWe must now achieveThis monastery hall,This memorial,We must then prepare,One and all, to swearEach will keep his oath,Keep this secret close,And the sister, dear,Or that wife, most dear,Who appears next morningMust be, without warning,Sacrificed by us all,Sealed up in the wall!"See, when the day breaksThen Manole wakesAnd climbs up the stakesOf the wattled fence;On the scaffold thence,Scans the field belowAnd the road also.Now, what might appear?What was coming near?His own wife so dear,The flower of the field,Bringing him his meal,Wine to drink and meatFor her man to eat.She was drawing near;Seeing her so clear,His heart beat with fear;He knelt down with dreadThen, weeping, he said:"Grant, Lord, to the worldFierce rain, foaming, swirledInto small streams gushingTill great torrents, rushing,Swell the waters soMy love stops below.Down the valley, forceMy love off her course!"In mercy, the LordHeard Manole's word,Gathered clouds on high,Darkening the sky;Suddenly, down hurledFierce rain, foaming, swirledInto small streams gushingTill great torrents, rushing,Made the waters swell.Yet, though torrents fell,No rainfall could forceHis love off her course.Closer still she crept.Where Manole keptWatch, his poor heart wept.And he bowed down thenTo pray once again:"Dear Lord, let winds blowOn this earth below;Uproot the great firs,Bend the sycamores,Turn the mountains overBut turn back my lover;Down the valley, forceMy love off her course."In mercy, the LordHeard Manole's word,Made a great wind blowOn the earth belowBending sycamores,Uprooting great firs,Turning mountains over,But Anna, his lover,Held fast to her track;Still would not turn back.Down the road she wavered,Yet drew nearer, ever,Till – grief and despair! –See, at last she's there.The great builders, nine,Masons, craftsmen fine,Seeing her there, they wereGlad that it was her.Manea, half insane,Kissed her all the same,In his arms embraced her,Up the scaffold raised her,On the wall he placed herAnd joking, addressed her:"Hold still, little love;What are you scared of?Just in fun, we'll allBuild you in the wall."Trusting in him, sheJust laughed merrily.Manea sighed hard,But soon had to startAt his work and buildTill the dream's fulfilled.Now the wall was raisedTill she stood embracedTo her ankles, trim,To her calves, so slim,While she, the poor thing,Her smile vanishing,Kept on murmuring:"Manole, Manole,Good Master Manole!It's gone far enough;This joke's no good, love.Manole, Manole,Good Master Manole!The wall's hurting me,Crushing my body!"Manea just stood, stilled,Then went on to build;Now the wall was raisedTill she stood embracedTo her ankles, trim,To her calves, so slim,To her ribs and chest,To her little breasts.While she, the poor thing,Weeping, sorrowing,Kept on murmuring:"Manole, Manole,Good Master Manole!The wall's hurting me;My breasts cry hopelessly;It's crushing my baby."Manole, half berserk,Kept on at his workSo the wall was raisedTill she stood, embracedTo her ribs and chest,To her little breasts,Then up to her lips,And to her eyelids,So, poor thing, the manSaw her no more thenYet they always heardFrom the wall, those words:"Manole, Manole,Good Master Manole!The wall's crushing me;Life's snuffed out of me."Downstream on the wideArgesh River's side,Negru Voda ridesTo pray, to kneel downIn this cloister's ground,By this splendid, tall, Monastery hall,Stateliest of all.Viewing this fine sight,The Prince felt delightAnd he spoke this, then,"You masons, craftsmen,Masterbuilders ten,Speak up truthfully,Hand on heart, tell meWhether you're so skilledThat you might yet buildOne more cloister hall,A memorial,Of still greater height,More splendid, more bright?"The great builders, then,Masons, journeymen,Who were standing byOn the roof-beam, high,One and all replied,Joyous, full of pride,"Such master craftsmen,Masons, journeymen,Builders of our worthCan't be found on earth.Know this: we are skilledSo that we can buildAnything that's willed –One more cloister's hall,A memorialStateliest of all."Negru Voda heard,Thought about their words,Then he gave commands:"Pull the scaffold standsAnd ladders down, then.And as for the tenBuilders and craftsmen,Let them stay, forgottenTill they're dead and rottenWhere the roof-beam, high,Juts against the sky."The builders thought, afraid,Then designed and madeOut of shingles, light,Wings to give them flight.They stretched these out, there,Leaped out in thin air,But they fell like rockAnd where each man struckThere his body broke.Meantime, poor Manole,Good Master Manole,When finally he triedTo hurl himself wide,Heard a voice that sighed,A voice from the wall,A voice muffled, small,Well loved and well known,Echoing a moan,Murmuring on and on:"Manole, Manole,Good Master Manole!The wall's crushing me;My breasts cry hopelessly;It's crushing my baby;Life's snuffed out of me!"When he'd heard her speakManole sank, weak;All his sight spun, twirling,The great clouds were swirlingAnd the world turned, whirling;From there, where the highRoof juts in the sky,Dead, Manole fell;But what else, as well,In that place befell?A small fountain keepingPeaceful waters seeping,Calm salt waters steeping,A spring fed by weeping! English version by W. D. SNODGRASSfrom Five Folk Ballads The Romanian Cultural Foundation Publishing House, 1999

by Anonymous