Without trouble, without fear I lived in my younger years - like it was a dream. Life was soft, and thoughts were pleasing, So I floated, free and easy - drifting with the stream. There’d be scowling and yearning, Something squeaking at a turning - I would pay no heed. It got cooler, it got hotter, I just peered into the water and kept sipping mead. While I had it nice and pretty, Fog descended, and I drifted to a wretched place. There, a huge old woman leered, She guffawed right in my ear, damn her stupid face. I stood still, I thought I’d never Put two simple words together, I thought: That’s the end! When at last I yelled. "Who’s there?" That old hippo hoarsely blared, "It’s me, Heavy Hand! You stop muttering your prayer, It’s no use for you to swear by your holy God: Those who drift and seek no landing Get some Heavy-Handed handling - that’s the way things go!" Wheezing fatly, she went crunching, Hitting stumps and fallen branches, with a heavy tread. And I followed, through the nettle, Taking now and then a little - just a sip of mead. Suddenly an old Clubfooted Witch ran into me and hooted, with a cunning leer: "Why so glum, you drunken devil? Why’s your pickled heart so heavy? I shall wipe your tears!" And I howled, tearing my hair, "Clubfoot, get me out of here. I am stuck, d’you hear? I don’t care if you’re one-eyed and Bandy-legged, stiff-armed, lopsided - get me out of here!" On her back, scared stiff, I rode - Clubfoot, though, went round and round, hobbling crookedly. I would fall, and on my belly Crawl - the ugly crones kept yelling, jeering, mocking me. Things were getting really ugly. Though I wriggled and kept struggling with abysmal woe. "Look. Clubfoot, I’ll stand a round, Drink may make your clubfoot sound - then we’ll really go. Heavy-hand, make with the wine-glass. Would you like some truth-in-wine, lass? Just to put you right! Must be tough, to weigh so heavy, Have a few - you’ll feel in heaven - You’ll feel feather-light." The two witches by the river Drank - it seemed as if they’d never ever have enough. In the meantime I backed slowly And toward the bank kept crawling - then went off the bluff. I looked round - the boat was near. But I could already hear how they cursed and cried. My two fates towards me trotted - Heavy-handed and Clubfooted - out to get my hide. Then I pulled away like crazy - Heading upstream, in a frenzy - how I held my breath! Cone with drink and malice dotty. Heavy-handed and Clubfooted drank themselves to death.
© Sergei Roy. Translation, 1990