Danko's Burning Heart by Maxim Gorky

Translated by Slavomira Vladimirova

"There lived on the earth, in ancient times, some people, surrounded by impenetrable forests with three parties enclaves of these people, and the fourth - was the steppe. They were a cheerful, strong and courageous people.

And then came one day hard time, appeared from somewhere other tribes, and drove the former into the forest. There are swamps and dark, because the wood was old, and so densely intertwined its branches, that through them was not seen the sky, and the sun rays could barely make his way to swamps through dense foliage. But when its rays fell on the marshes’ water , then stench rising, and from it people died one after another.

Then began crying wives and children of this tribe, so fathers were thinking and fell into a depression.

They had to leave this forest, and there were two roads: one - back - there were strong and evil enemy, the other - go ahead - there were giant trees, tightly hugging each other mighty branches, gnarled roots deep down in the prehensile swamp’s sludge.

These stone trees stood silent and motionless during the day in the gray twilight, and more denser shifted around people in the evenings, when lit bonfires. And always, night and day, around those people was a strong ring of darkness, as it precisely was going to crush them, and they were accustomed to steppe. And even scarier was when the wind was blowing on the tops of trees and whole forest muffled humming, as if threatened, and sang a funeral song to the people.

They were really strong people, and they could go fight to the death to those that once beat them, but they could not die in battle because they had covenants, and if they died, then disappeared with them, from the life, their covenants.

And so they sat and thought through the long nights, under the dull sound of the forest, in the poisonous swamp’s stench. They sat, and the shadows of the fires jumped around them in the silent dance, and everyone thought it was not the shadow dance, but rejoice the evil spirits of the forest and swamps ... People sat and thought. But nothing - no work, no women, are not exhausting body and soul of people as withering melancholy thoughts. And weakened people of thoughts ...

Fear was born among them, bound their strong hands, woman gave birth to horror , by cries over the corpses of the dead from the stench, and over the fate of living frigid by fear , and cowardly words were heard in the woods, at first shy and quiet, and then louder and louder ...

Already they wanted to go to the enemy and to bring him as a gift their destiny, and nobody, frightened by death, not afraid of slave life ...

But there appeared DANKO and saved all alone.

The old woman, apparently often spoke of Danko’s burning heart. She spoke in a singsong, and her voice, scratchy and muffled, drew clear in front of me the noise forests, among whom died, from poisonous swamp’s breathing, unfortunate, hunted humans ...

DANKO - one of those people, a young handsome man. Beautiful- always brave.

And then he told them, his comrades: - No way to turn a stone from the path by thinking. Who does not do anything, so nothing will happen to him.

Why are we wasting time on thoughts and melancholy? Get up, we go into the woods, and pass it through, because it has an end somewhere - all things come to an end! Come on! Well! Hey! ...

They looked at him and saw that he was the best of all, because in his eyes shone a lot of force and live fire.

- You, lead us! - they said.

Then he led ...

The old woman paused and looked out into the steppe, where all the darkness thickened. Sparks of a burning Danko’s heart flashed somewhere far away, and seemed to be blue airy flowers, blossoming only for a moment.

DANKO led them.

Together they all went after him - believed in him. Difficult journey it was! It was dark, and at every step the swamp opened his greedy rotten mouth swallowing people, trees defended the way as the mighty wall. Their branches intertwined with each other, and as the snake, stretch throughout the roots, and every step was worth a lot of sweat and blood of the people.

Long was their way ... Became thicker and thicker the wood, fewer and fewer were people’s strength! And they begun to murmur against DANKO, saying that worthless he, so young and inexperienced, led them somewhere. But he walked in front of them and was vigorous and clear.

But once the storm broke over the forest, the trees whispered dully, ominously. And it was then in the woods as dark, as it came together at once all nights, how many they were in the world , since the time he was born. Went the little people between large trees and menacing noise of lightning, they went, and swaying giant trees creaked and hummed angry songs, and lightning, flying over the tops of the forest, covered it for a moment in blue, cold fire, and disappeared just as quickly appeared, scaring the people. And the trees, lit by cold fire of lightning, seemed alive, extends , around the people, who went from prison of darkness, clumsy, long arms, weaving them into a dense network, trying to stop people. And from the darkness of the branches looked, upon reaching people, something terrible, dark and cold.

It was a difficult journey, and the people, tired of it, lost heart.

But they were ashamed to admit powerlessness, and here, in anger and wrath, they fell upon DANKO, a man who went before them. And they began to reproach him for an inability to manage them - that's it! They stopped , and under a triumphant noise of the forest, among the trembling darkness tired and angry, they begun to judge DANKO.

- You, - they said - mischievous and little man for us! You led us, and tired us, and for this you will die!

You said: "Lead us!" - and I led you! - shouted DANKO, turning to them with his breasts.- I have the courage to lead, that's why I led you! And you? What have you done to help yourselves? You just went and did not know how to save power on the road longer! You just went, went, like a flock of sheep!

But these words infuriated them even more.

- You will die! You will die! - they roared.

And forest humming and buzzing, echoing their cries, and the lightning tearing the dark to shreds.

DANKO looked at those, for which he incurred such efforts, and saw them - like animals. Many people stood around him, but there was not a nobility on the faces , and he could not wait for mercy from them.

Then in his heart boiled anger, but because of pity for the people it extinguished. He loved people, and thought, that perhaps, without him they will die. And his heart broke with fire of desire to save them, to take them to an easy path, and then in his eyes flashed rays of the mighty fire ...

And they saw that, they thought that he was furious, that was why his eyes were so bright and inflamed, and they were on their guard, like wolves, expecting that he will fight with them , and become closer to surround him, that they were easier to catch and kill DANKO.

But he already knew their thought, wherefore more brightly lit up in his heart, because their thought gave birth of melancholy in him.

And the forest sang its dark song , and thunder rumbled, and rain poured ...

- WHAT SHALL I DO FOR PEOPLE? - stronger than thunder shouted DANKO.


It glowed as brightly as the sun and more bright than the sun, and the entire forest was silent, lit by this torch of the great love of people, the darkness shattered from the light, and there, deep in the woods, shivering, fell into the rotten mouth marshes.

People amazed, were like rocks.

- Come on! - DANKO shouted , and rushed forward on his place, holding high burning heart and illuminating the way for the people

They ran after him, enchanted. Then again, the forest roared, in surprise shaking tops, but its noise was drowned out by trampling of running people. All ran quickly and safely, carried a wonderful spectacle of the burning heart. And now they died, but died without complaining and crying.

But DANKO was always in front, and his heart all ablaze, ablaze!

And suddenly, the forest parted before them, parted and stayed behind, dense and dumb, and Danko, and all those people , at once plunged into a sea of solar light and fresh air, washed by rain the storm was - there, behind them, over the forest, and here the sun was shining, sighed steppe, the grass sparkled in rain’s diamonds and in gold sparkled the river ... It was evening, and from the rays of sunset, the river seemed to be red , as the blood that beat hot jet from a torn chest of DANKO.

Throw look forward, to a wide expanse of steppe, proud dare Danko, - threw his joyful sights on the free land, and he laughed proudly. And then fell and - died.

People were just happy and full of hope, did not notice his death and did not see thatwas still burning, next to the corpse of DANKO, his bold heart.