Sadko

 

Once upon a time there lived, in the far-famed City of Novgorod , a wealthy merchant named Sadko. The had been when Sadko owned naught save
a sweet-sounding gusli. He would take it with him to play at feasts and entertain the guests, and it was thus that he earned his livelihood.
Now, a day came when Sadko received not summons to a feast, nor was he summoned the next day, nor the next. Sadko was woebegone. And he went in his grief to Lake Ilmen , and sat on a solitary white rock overhanging the smooth waters, and took up his sweet-sounding gusla and began to play. The lake heaved up, and towering waves fear. He left the lake
and hied him to his home in the City of Novgorod .
Once again Sadko received no summons to a feast. Sadko was woebegone. Once again he went in his grief to Lake Ilmen , and sate on the solitary white rock overhanging the smooth waters, and took up his sweet-sounding gusli, and began to play.
The lake heaved up, and towering waves appeared. Sadko was seized with fear. He left the lake and hied him to his home in the City of Novgorod . Yet again Sadko received
no summons to a feast.
Sadko was woebegone. And he went in his grief to Lake Ilmen , and sate on the solitary white rock overhanging the smooth waters, and took up his sweet-sounding gusla, and began to play. The lake heaved up, and towering waves appeared, and the Sea King arose from the waters. He came out of the lake and spake thus:
"Hail to thee, Sadko of Novgorod!
I know not now to thank thee
for thy sweet music,
for the delight thou hast
afforded me, and the joy. Wilt thou
that I bestow upon thee wealth
untold? Then hie thee to the City
of Novgorod and lay a wager with
the rich merchants that in Lake Ilmen
there are fish with fins of gold.

Thou mayst stake thy head thereon,
and require of them that they
forfeit their shops and
merchandise should they lose.
And when they take up thy wager,
weave a silken net and hie thee
hither to Lake Ilmen . I shall give
thee three large fishes with fins
of gold. Oh, then Sadko, thou
shalt know happiness."

Sadko departed from Lake Ilmen and
returned to the City of Novgorod .
There he was summoned to play at
a feast. He took up his sweet-
sounding gusla and began to play.
The merchants brought him goblets
of heady wine. Sadko quaffed
the wine, and in his cups,
he boasted thus: "Oh, ye merchants
of Novgorod ! I ken a wonder
of wonders - in Lake Ilmen there
are fish with fins of gold!"

The merchant of Novgorod answered
in these words: "Thou canst no such
wonder, there can be no fish
in Lake Ilmen with fins of gold."
"Oh, ye merchants of Novgorod !"
quoth Sadko in reply.
"Let us lay a wager upon it.
I shall stake your shops and
your merchandise.
He that wins shall pay."
Three merchants took up the wager,
and each one staked his shop,
and merchandise. Thereupon they
wove a silken net and betook
themselves to Lake Ilmen that they
might catch those wondrous fish.

They cast the net into the waters of the lake,
and drew in a fish with fins of gold;
they cast the net a second time, and drew
in a second fish with fins of gold;
they cast the net yet a third
time, and drew in a third fish
with fins of gold.
The Novgorod merchants now
perceived that they had lost
the wager. Each one ceded his shop
and his merchandise to Sadko.
Sadko began to trade, and soon
acquired immense riches. He built
himself a house no less resplendent
than a palace, and gave orders
that it be ornamented in the
likeness of the heavenly vault:
if there be a sun in the skies,
there must likewise be a sun in
his house; if there be a moon
in the skies, there must likewise
be a moon in his house.

Then the wealthy merchant Sadko
held a feast and bade thereto all
the worthies of Novgorod together
with the most distinguished of all,
the nobles Phoma Nazaryev and Luka
Zinovyev. The guests ate and drank
and then began to boast to one
another. One boasted of his great
riches, another of his Herculean
strength, and a third of his noble
steed. They boasted of the glory
of their native land, and of their
deeds of daring-do. A wise man
boasted of his old father, and
a foolish man of his young wife.

The worthies of Novgorod now
spake thus: "All at this feast are
replete with food and wine, and
all have made proud boasts to one
another, Sadko alone is silent and
makes no boasts."
Sadko, the wealthy merchant,
made answer thus:
"And what would ye have me, Sadko,
make boast of? I have all: my gold
is inexhaustible, I have raiment
for a hundred years and more, my
brave men-at-arms are true to me
and faithful. So I shall make
boast that with my countless
riches I shall buy up all the
merchandise in Novgorod both
good and bad."

No sooner had he uttered these
words than the nobles of the City
of Novgorod wagered thirty thousand
pieces of gold should he purchase
all the wares in Novgorod, both
good and bad, in such a way that
there should be no more wares
for sale in Novgorod.
The following day Sadko arose
early in the morning, awakened his
brave men-at-arms, and gave them
all countless pieces of gold from
his coffers, in order that they
should walk along the streets with
the traders' booths and purchase
all their merchandise. And he him-
self went straight to the merchants'
arcade, and purchased all
the Novgorod wares, both good
and bad, with his countless
pieces of gold.

The following day likewise Sadko
arose early in the morning
awakened his brave men-at-arms,
and gave them all countless pieces
of gold from his coffers, in order
that they should walk along the
streets with the traders' booths
and purchase all their wares.

And he himself went straight to
the merchants' arcade. But in the-
se places thrice as many wares had been
brought in,
all the shops were thrice as full.
The wares had been sent in haste
from Muscovy to aid the far-famed

City of Novgorod .
At this the wealthy merchant, Sadko,
stopped and took thought - he had not
the wherewithal to purchase all
the goods in the whole wide world.
Thought he: "I might buy up all
the Muscovy wares, but more would
come from over the seas. It is
evident that it is not I that am
the wealthiest merchant in Novgorod -
the far-famed City of Novgorod
is yet wealthier than I."
He must needs pay the worthies
of Novgorod the thirty thousand
pieces of gold of the wager.
With the monies that remained
to him Sadko built thirty ships,
laded them with Novgorod merchandise
and set out to do trade. He
sailed down the river Volkhov to
Lake Ladoga , and from Lake Ladoga
to the river Neva , and from the river
Neva out into the deep blue sea.

And Sadko sailed the seas, and
dropped anchor in the realm of
the Golden Horde. He sold his
Novgorod merchandise and gained
immense sums thereby, and filled
two barrels with his gains, one
holding forty pailfuls of gold,
and the other forty pailfuls of
silver. Thus he sold his merchandise,
and set sail for his home in the
City of Novgorod .
And now great waves arose on the
sea, and storm began to rage;
and the billows crashed against
the ships, and the wind tore their
sails and made breaches in their
sides. The ships stood as if be-
calmed, and could not move. Then
Sadko, the wealthy merchant, spake
thus to his brave men-at-arms:

Oh, my brave men-at-arms!
For many years have we sailed the
seas, yet we have paid no tribute
to the Sea King. And now it is
evident that he is angered, he is
calling for tribute, which must
be cast into the deep sea. Roll
out the barrel with the forty
pailfuls of pure silver and cast
it into the deep sea."
His brave men-at-arms rolled out
the barrel with pure silver and
cast it into the ocean depths; yet
the waters grew no calmer - the
billows crashed against the
ships, and the wind tore their
sails and made breaches in their
sides. The ships stood as if
becalmed, and could not move.

Then his brave men-at-arms rolled
out the second barrel, that with
the forty pailfuls of pure gold,
and threw it into the ocean depths;
yet the waters grew no calmer -
the billows crashed against the
ships, and the wind tore their
sides. The vessels stood as if
becalmed, ad could not move.

Then Sadko, the wealthy merchant,
spake thus to his brave men-at-arms:
"It is evident that the Sea King
desires that a living being descend
into the ocean depths. Now
we shall cast lots. Let each make
him a counter, write his name
upon it, and cast it into the sea.
I, too, shall make me a counter
and whosever counter doth
sink to the bottom shall leap
into the waters."
Each made his own counter, and
wrote his name thereon. Sadko
likewise made a counter, one of
pure gold. They all cast their
counters into the sea together.
The counters of the brave men-at-
arms floated on the surface,
bobbing up and down with the waves,
but Sadko's counter sank to
the bottom like a stone.

Then quoth Sadko, the wealthy merchant:
"Oh, my brethren, oh, my brave
men-at-arms! These counters were
not as they should be. Make ye
new counters of pure gold, and I
shall make me a plain one."
All the men-at-arms made him
a plain one. Each wrote his name
upon his counter, and cast it into
the sea. All the counters floated
on the surface, bobbing up and
down with the waves, but Sadko's
counter sank to the bottom like
a stone.
Then quoth Sadko, the wealthy
merchant:

"Oh, my brethren, oh, my brave
men-at-arms!
It is evident that
the Sea King desires that I myself
descend into the ocean depths.
Bring me hither a pot of ink,
a swan's feather, and a sheet of
his wealth to the church of God ,
another part to the needy and to
the beggars, a third part to his
young wife, and the remaining
part Sadko bequeathed to his
brave men-at-arms.

The quoth Sadko, the wealthy
merchant:
"Oh, my brethren, oh, my brave
men-at-arms! Bring to me my sweet-
sounding gusla, for I wish to play
it one last time. I little think
that I may ever play it again.
Or shall I take it with me when
I descend into the ocean depths?"
He took up his sweet-sounding
gusla and spake these words:
"Cast an oaken board into the blue
sea, that I may stand upon it and
perchance delay my death."
They cast an oaken board into
the deep blue sea, and Sadko leapt
down upon it. And the sea grew
calm at once, and the ships flew
as the crow flies, straight
to their homeland.