The Mean-spirited Knight- extract from my translation

Little Tragedies

The mean-spirited knight

Scene 2 (The Baron in his treasure vaults), lines 37-69:

(He looks at his gold.)

Yes, it seems so little;
and yet with all its weight it represents
so many human worries, tears, and lies,
so many prayers, so many curses!  I’ve
a Spanish gold coin – here it is.  Just now
a widow paid it back to me; before that
she’d knelt for half the day outside my window
with three young children, wailing – what a scene!
The rain came down, and stopped, and came again;
she kept up her performance though.  I could have
chased her away, but something said to me
that she had brought her husband’s debt to pay me –
she didn’t want to land in jail tomorrow.
And this one?  This was brought me by Thibault –
where did he get it from, the lazy villain?
Stole it, I’ll bet; or maybe he went down
one night to where the high road skirts the wood …
Yes!  If the bowels of the earth were suddenly
to throw up all the tears and blood and sweat
shed for these precious treasures that lie here,
there’d be a second Flood – and I should drown
in these strongrooms of mine.  But now’s the moment!

               (He makes as though to open a chest.)

Each time that I approach one of my chests
to open it, I flush and palpitate.
It isn’t fear.  (Oh no! – what should I fear?
I have my sword by me; my valiant blade
will answer for the treasure.)  But a strange
sensation grips my heart that I can’t fathom…
The medics tell us that some folk there are
who get a kick from murder.  And when I
insert the key into the lock, I feel
the same sensation as they must when they
bury the dagger in their victim: pleasant,
but at the same time dreadful.

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