The opera is full of choruses of merchants
hoping to be prosperous. For them, the upwardly-mobile
of Novgorod, Voklhova’s is a valuable transformation.
A river itself is nothing, but a navigable river!
So many transformations are wasted or undertaken in fear:
A nymph turning into a tree, who is the gainer?
Volkhova resigns herself out of myth, she is the daughter
of the King of the Sea, into a world of men.
Legend descends from the fog-shrouded king
standing alert and tragic on his pinnacle
to the country of commissars, grandmothers practicing surgery.
The Rhinemaidens cavort on a hydroelectric dam.
The world is all before us, it always is.
We have no real way to undertake the past,
but, day by day, must make the amorphous useful.
If it translates into barrels of cider, good.
In his paralyzed castle, the King of the Sea, distressed,
asks for the older, the illusory dispensation:
animals prophesying disaster in human voices,
the sun a chariot driven by a man on fire.
Not what we are singing about today in Novgorod,
where an elemental has chosen to transform herself.
We are singing work songs, packing up bales of trade goods.
Our ship wets its foot in a navigable river.