Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse/A Legend concerning Moderation
3. A LEGEND CONCERNING MODERATION
When Brother Zeno after meat was sleeping,
A mountain-gnome stood in his cell's drab haze,
Where through the window, with its thousand lays
The forest peeped and fragrances were sweeping.
Warily, not to mar the monk's repose,
He like a shadow to the table stole
And drank a lusty bumper from the bowl
With relish; through the window back he goes.
Then the good Zeno, waking, seized again
The tankard, but amazed to find it bare,
Drowsily shook his head, right well aware
How deep a draught he ere his sleep had ta'en.
Then he feigned slumber craftily, and snored
In token of sound sleep; the gnome had crept
To drink, when up the monk in anger leapt,
But as he seized his ear, with laughter roared:
"Thou rascal, thou misshapen imp of hell."
"Hold, man of God," the gnome was whispering,
His voice like withered leaves, "so small a thing
Begrudge me not, when thou hast drunk go well."
"Rich recompense upon thee I will shower."
Then loosing hold, "What say'st thou?" Zeno spake.
And from that time, the gnome his thirst would slake
From the monk's tankard in the self-same hour.
The years slipped by, the brothers passed away,
But Zeno like a bloom-filled apple-tree,
Though silvery-haired, felt not his years, but he
Was still content and affable and gay.
He kept his hundredth year, and now he sees
The boon wherewith the gnome fulfilled his task;
When abbot he became, he broached a cask,
His thirsty crony from the hills to please.
And when with tear-dimmed eye he sank in thought
Of the dead brothers, "Had ye all" he spake
"Had with you such a gnome, his thirst to slake,
Ye all to-day your praise to God had brought."
"Of strokes and rheumatiems surely free
Your hearts and faces would be rose-bedight.
Drink, gnome! For moderation hath more might
Than holy water and all sorcery."
"Butterflies of All Colours" (1887).