The Wolves

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When the church-village slumbers
  And the last songs are sung,
When the grey mist arising,
  Is o'er the marshes hung,
'Tis then the woods forsaking,
Their way cross country taking,
Nine howling wolves come hungering for food.

Behind the first,--the grey one,--
  Trot seven more of black,
Close on their hoary leader;
  As rearguard of the pack
The red wolf limps, all bloody,
His paws with gore still ruddy
As after his companions grim he pants.

When through the village lurking
  Nought gives them check or fright,
No watch dog dares to bellow,
  The peasant ghastly white,
His breath can scarce be taking,
His limbs withhold from shaking--
While prayers of terror freeze upon his lips!

About the church they circle
  And softly slink away
To prowl about the priest's farm,
  Then of a sudden they
Are round the drink shop turning,
Fain some bad word be learning--
From peasants drinking noisily within.

With fully thirteen bullets
  Thy weapon must be armed,
And with a wad of goat's hair;
  Then thou wilt fight unharmed.
Fire calmly,--and before all
Will the leader, the grey, fall,
The rest will surely follow one by one.

When the cock wakes the village
  From out its morning dream,
Thou wilt behold the corpses--
  Nine she-wolves by the stream!
On the right lies the grey one,
To left in frost the lame one--
All bloody,--God pardon us sinners!

© Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy