Bohemian legends and other poems/Legend of the Stone Maiden

LEGEND OF THE STONE MAIDEN.[*]

 

Do you hear the church-bells ringing,
Ringing from the distant mart?
With their metal tongues they’re singing,
Give the Lord alone thy heart!”
Petronella, take thy mass book,
It is time that we should start.”

Oh, no, granny, I am going
Where the strawberries are ripe.
Midst the green leaves they are glowing
Like a crimson velvet stripe;
In the forest there are flowers,
Violets, and gipsies pipe.”

Oh, my child, are you lightheaded?
Why to-day is St. John morn,
Think of him who was beheaded
In his prison cell forlorn.
Be not like that wanton maiden—
Better she was never born!”

Oh, dear granny, she was skillful,
And could dance with wondrous grace;
But St. John was very willful,
And he did not know his place.
One should leave kings all their pleasures,
And not blame them to their face.”

Oh, thou God-forsaken creature!
Wilt thou judge the saints in light?
Art thou then a better teacher
Than the church that preaches right?
Wilt thou blame that blessed martyr,
Who is now an angel bright?”

I will wander in the sunlight,
Gather berries all the day,
And to-night I’ll dance till midnight,
Spite of everything you say.”
And the wicked girl went laughing,
Laughing gladly on her way.

Then her granddame sadly weeping,
Took her way unto the church,
Saying “Better thou went sleeping
In the graveyard ’neath the birch,
Than to scorn the holy teachings,
And to leave thy faith in lurch.”

In the wood the wicked maiden
Gathered berries ripe and red,
Then with basket heavy laden,
Hid her where the two ways led;
When she saw her granddame coming,
Hear the wicked words she said.

“Look, old crow, what comes of praying—
Nothing but an empty sack.
I while in the sunlight straying
Found of strawberries no lack;
Seems to me that in rewarding
Your old saint is over slack.”

Wretched girl! That God would turn thee
To a stone upon the way!
Dost thou revile St. John and me—
And think to escape all pay?
An awful fate will be thine own—
That is all I have to say.”

Homeward went the granddame sadly,
Thinking of that naughty maid,
Then she eat her dinner gladly,
Wondering where the maiden stayed;
Sat her down and began nodding,
Murmuring, “She is now afraid.”

Soon the neighbors came in horror.
Petronella’s turned to stone!
Come and see her to thy sorrow,
Standing on the hill alone;
Grown like a mighty mountain,
With her basket turned to stone.”

Pale with horror went the granddame,
Gazed upon the far-off hill,
Then calling loud the Virgin’s name,
She fell in a death-cramp chill.
The neighbors bore her to her grave,
And the mound they show you still.

By Tetschen is the mountain sere,
And the peasants love to tell
To naughty maids who will not fear,
The trouble that once befell
A girl who laughed at good St. John,
And her grandmother as well.

 

^ * This legend is told in Tetschen, in the valley of the Kante, of a mountain that looks like a girl with a basket.—Chronik von Böhmen, Prague, 1852.