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articles > folk literature > the argesh monastery


manoleDown the Argesh lea,
Beautiful to see,
Prince Negru he wended
By ten mates attended:
Nine worthy craftsmen,
Masons, journeymen,
With Manole ten,
The highest in fame.
Forth they strode apace
There to find a place
Where to build a shrine,
A cloister divine.
And, lo, down the lea
A shepherd they see,
In years so unripe,
Playing on his pipe.
To him the prince sped
And thus spoke and said,
“Handsome little swain
On thy sweet pipe playing!
Up the Argesh stream
Thy flock thou hast ta`en;
Down the Argesh green
With the flock thou`st been;
Didst thou hap to see
Somewhere down the lea
An old wall all rotten,
Unfinished, forgotten,
On a green slope lush,
Near a hazel brush?”
“That, good sire, I did;
In hazel brush hid,
There`s a wall all rotten,
Unfinished, forgotten.
My dogs when they spy it
Make a rush to bite it,
And howl hollowly,
And growl ghoulishly.”
As the prince did hear
Greatly did he cheer,
And walked to that wall,
With nine masons all,
Nine worthy craftsmen,
With Manole ten,
The highest in fame.
“Here`s my wall!” quoth he.
“Here I choose that ye
Build for me a shrine,
A cloister divine.
Therefore, great craftsmen,
Masons, journeymen,
Start ye busily
To build on this lea
A tall monastery;
Make it with your worth
Peerless on this earth;
Then ye shall have gold,
Each shall be a lord.
Oh, but should you fail,
Then you`ll moan and wail,
For I`ll have you all
Built up in the wall;
I will – so I thrive -
Build you up alive!”

Those craftsmen amain
Stretched out rope and chain,
Measured out the place,
Dug out the deep base,
Toiled day in, day out,
Raising walls about.
But whate`er they wrought,
At night came to nought,
Crumbled down like rot!
The next day again,
The third day again,
The fourth day again,
All their toil in vain!
Sore amazed the lord
His men he did scold,
And he cowed them down
With many a frown
And many a threat;
And his mind he set
To have one and all
Built up in the wall;
He would – so he thrive -
Build them up alive!
Those nine great craftsmen,
Masons, journeymen,
Shook with fear walls making,
Walls they raised while shaking,
A long summer`s day
Till the skies turned grey.
But Manole shirked,
He no longer worked,
To his bed he went
And a dream he dreamt.
Ere the night was spent,
For his men he sent,
Told them his intent:
“Ye nine great craftsmen,
Masons, journeymen,
What a dream I dreamed:
In my sleep meseemed
A whisper from high,
A voice from the ski,
Told me verily
That whatever we
In daytime have wrought
Shall nights come to nought,
Crumble down like rot;
Till we, one and all,
Make an oath to wall
Whose bonny wife erst,
Whose dear sister first,
Haps to come this way
At the break of day,
Bringing meat and drink
To husband or kin.
Therefore if we will
Our high task fulfil
And build here a shrine,
A cloister divine,
Let`s swear and be bound
By dread oaths and sound
Not a word to speak,
Our counsel to keep:
Whose bonny wife erst,
Whose dear sister first,
Haps to come this way
At the break of day,
Her we`ll offer up,
Her we shall build up!”

When day from night parted
Up Manole started,
Climbed a trellis fence,
Climbed the planks, and thence
The field he looked over,
The path through wild clover.
And what did he see?
Alas! Woe is me!
Who came up the lea?
His young bride so sweet,
Flower of the mead!
How he looked aghast
As his Ann came fast,
Bringing his day`s food
And wine sweet and good.
When he saw her yonder
His heart burst asunder;
He knelt down like dead
And weeping he prayed,
“Send, o Lord, the rain,
Let it fall amain,
Make it drown beneath
Stream and bank and heath,
Make it swell in tide
And arrest my bride,
Flood all path and track
And make her turn back!”
The Lord heard his sigh,
Hearkened to his cry,
Clouds he spread on high
And darkened the sky;
And he sent a rain,
Made it fall amain,
Made it drown beneath
Stream and bank and heath.
Yet, fall as it may,
Her it could not stay,
Onward she did hie,
Nigh she drew and nigh.
As he watched from high,
Sorely did he cry,
And again he wailed,
And again he prayed,
“Blow, o Lord, a gale
Over hill and dale,
The fir-trees to rend,
The maples to bend,
The hills to o`erturn,
Make my bride return,
Stop her path and track,
Make her, Lord, turn back!”
The Lord heard his sigh,
Hearkened to his cry,
And he blew a gale
Over hill and dale
That the firs did rend,
The maples did bend,
The hills did o`erturn,
Nor would she return.
Ann came up the dale
Struggling`gainst the gale.
Reeling on her way;
Nothing could her stay.
Poor soul! Through the blast,
There she was at last!

Those worthy craftsmen,
Masons, journeymen,
Greatly did they cheer
To see her appear.
While Manole smarted,
With all hope he parted,
His sweet bride he kissed,
Saw her through a mist,
In his arms he clasped her,
Pressed her to his chest,
And thus spoke in jest,
“Now my own sweet bride,
Have no fear, abide;
We`ll make thee a nest,
Build thee up in jest!”
Ann laughed merrily,
She laughed trustfully,
And Manole sighed,
His trowel he plied,
Raised the wall as due,
Made the dream come true.
Up he raised the wall
To gird her withal;
Up the wall did rise
To her ankles nice,
To her bonny thighs.
While she, wellaway,
Creased her laugh so gay,
And would pray and say,
“Manole, Manole!
Good master Manole,
The wall squeezes hard,
My frail flesh is marred.”
Not a word spoke he,
But worked busily;
Up he raised the wall
To gird her withal;
Up the wall did rise
To her ankles nice,
To her bonny thighs.
While she, wellaway,
Creased her laugh so gay,
And would pray and say,
“Manole, Manole!
Good master Manole,
Have done with your jest.
`Tis not for the best.
Manole, Manole,
Good master Manole,
The wall squeezes hard,
My frail flesh is marred.”
Not a word spoke he,
But worked busily;
Up he raised the wall
To gird her withal;
And the wall did rise
To her ankles nice,
To her bonny thighs,
To her shapely waist,
To her fair, young breasts.
While she, wellaway,
She would cry and say,
She would weep and pray,
“Manole, Manole!
The wall weighs like lead,
Tears my teats now shed
My babe is crushed dead.”
Manole did smart,
Sick he was at heart;
And the wall did rise,
Pressed her in its vice,
Pressed her shapely waist,
Crushed her fair, young breasts,
Reached her lips now white,
Reached her eyes so bright,
Till she sank in night
And was lost to sight!
Her sweet voice alone
Came through in a moan,
“Manole, Manole,
Good master Manole!
The wall squeezes hard,
Crushed is now my heart,
With my life I part!”

Down the Arghesh lea,
Beautiful to see,
Prince Negru in state
Came to consecrate
And to kneel in prayer
To that shrine so fair,
That cloister of worth,
Peerless on this earth.
There it stood so bright
To his eyes` delight.
And the prince spoke then,
“Ye good team of ten,
Ye worthy craftsmen,
Tell me now in sooth,
Cross your hearts in truth,
Can you build for me,
With your mastery,
Yet another shrine,
A cloister divine,
Ever far more bright,
Of greater delight?”
Then those great craftsmen,
Masons, journeymen,
Boasting cheerfully,
Cheering boastfully,
From the roof on high,
Up against the sky,
Thus they made reply,
“Like us great craftsmen,
Masons, journeymen,
In skill and in worth
There are none on earth!
Marry, if thou wilt,
We can always build
Yet another shrine,
A cloister divine,
Ever far more bright,
Of greater delight!”
This the prince did hark,
And his face grew dark;
Long, long there he stood
To ponder and brood.
Then the prince anon
Ordered with a frown
All scaffolds pulled down,
To leave those ten men,
Those worthy craftsmen,
On the roof on high,
There to rot and die.
Long they stayed there thinking,
Then they started linking
Shingles thin and light
Into wings for flight.
And those wings they spread,
And jumped far ahead,
And dropped down like lead.
Where the ground they hit,
There their bodies split.
Then poor, poor Manole,
Good master Manole,
As he brought himself
To jump from a shelf,
Hark, a voice came low
From the wall below,
A voice dear and lief,
Muffled, sunk in grief,
Mournful, woebegone,
Moaning on and on,
“Manole, Manole,
Good master Manole,
The wall wieghs like lead,
Tears my teats still shed,
My babe is crushed dead,
Away my life`s fled!”
As Manole heard
His life-blood did curd,
And his eyesight blurred,
And the high clouds whirled,
And the whole earth swirled;
And from near the sky,
From the roof on high,
Down he fell to die!
And, lo, where he fell
There sprang up a well,
A fountain so tiny
Of scant water, briny,
So gentle to hear,
Wet with many a tear!

A translation of Dan Dutescu
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