Short summary - Mazeppa
George Gordon Byron (Noel)
The battle of Poltava is over, the army of the Swedish king Charles XII was defeated by Russian troops. The «Shafts of Moscow» were saved «up to a year, all the other blacks,» when Napoleon’s army approached the Russian capital.
The wounded Karl rushes away "through the waters of rivers and the expanse of fields." The regiment, which had paved his way, was all dead. The close one, who lost the horse to the king, was captured and died. Soon, in the middle of a dense forest, a horse dies. The exhausted Karl settles down under a mighty oak tree; he is unable to fall asleep due to chills shaking his body.
Karl is surrounded by the few surviving commanders. Here is the Ukrainian hetman Mazepa, stern and mighty, like an old oak; calm and courageous. He is exhausted, but before he goes to rest, he takes care of his faithful horse - he cleans it and combs his mane. Mazepa then checks to see if his weapon is in order, and only after that shares with his companions «his supper, meager and simple.»
Karl wonders at Mazepa’s riding ability and asks how he became such a skilled rider. In vain the hetman is discouraged by fatigue, the king tells him to tell his story, hoping that it will help him defeat fatigue and fall asleep. Mazepa agrees and begins her story.
When the future hetman was twenty years old, he served as a page at the court of the Polish king Jan Casimir. This learned monarch, unlike Karl, «didn’t wage wars, didn’t take alien lands.» «He adored muses and women» and surrounded himself with unprecedented luxury.
One of the courtiers of Jan Casimir was a very rich and old count, "of all others ancestral and nobler." His young wife Teresa was thirty years younger than the count and "languished hourly under the oppression of her husband."
She was seduced by the "tender look of the youths of Warsaw."
Mazepa, one of the most beautiful young men at court, was passionately in love with the beautiful countess, but did not dare to approach her and suffered from a distance. This feeling is still alive in him.
Once an incident brought them together at a table during a then fashionable card game. From this day began a passionate romance of Mazepa and Teresa.
They met secretly at night. Now Mazepa is ready to give all of Ukraine to return those night hours. Then he was weighed down by this mystery and dreamed of calling everyone Theresa his own.
But it’s impossible to hide for a long time at the royal court. Some "bored prude" informed the count of treason. Gathering a "scout squad", he appeared in the castle, where lovers met that night.
Most of all, the proud Earl was afraid that the relationship of Mazepa with his wife would "respond in the offspring" and spoil the ancient blood of the family. He could endure his wife’s connection with the king, but not with a jerk-page.
Lovers were separated forever. The count ordered that the naked Mazepa be tied to a wild, still unbroken horse and released on all four sides.
Mazepa darted, but could not break the sturdy belt. Later he will take revenge on the count - he will level this solitary castle with the earth.
The horse carried Mazepa to the desert steppe, where a group of Tatars passed a year ago and left nothing alive. The horse was indefatigable - the groans and movements of the unfortunate page only whipped him up, forced him to accelerate an already rapid run. Mazepa, meanwhile, was dying of thirst and pain due to belts that had sunk into his body.
Passing the steppe, the horse plunged into the forest. Mazepa heard a wolf howl.
But the horse still "kept the gift of the ancestors of the wild: a powerful deer run." It was a June day, but Mazepa was trembling with chills. "Continuing pain" tamed his boiling blood and angry disposition. The light in his eyes faded, and it seemed to Mazepa that he was dying.
Mazepa came to himself at night, when a horse crossed the Danube - cold water brought him to his senses. Passing the river, the steed headed to the boundless steppe without the slightest sign of housing.
The horse, at last, was tired, took a step, and Mazepa again tried to break the straps that bound him, but "only hurt them on himself in a barren tightened fight." In the afternoon they met a wild herd. The horse rushed to join him, and fell.
Before dusk, Mazepa lay tied to a dead horse.
When the sun went down, Mazepa lost consciousness. When he woke up, he found himself lying in a clean bed, and a beautiful girl guarded his peace. It turned out that the family of Ukrainian Cossacks found him and brought him to his house. Mazepa later became the hetman of this people.
Expressing hope that tomorrow they will graze the horses "on the Turkish coast", Mazepa lays down "under the canopy of an oak tree", expecting the king to thank him for the story. But Karl has been sleeping for an hour now.