Book One 

 The young master's return - The first meeting in the room, and the next at the table - The Judge's important lecture on the nature of politeness - The Chamberlain's judicious remarks on fashion -The beginnings of the dispute concerning Bobtail and Hawk -The Tribune's complaint - The last Court Usher - A bird's-eye view of the contemporary political state of Lithuania and Europe

Lithuania, my country! You are as good health:
How much one should prize you, he only can tell
Who has lost you. Your beauty and splendour I view
And describe here today, for I long after you.

Holy Virgin who shelters our bright Częstochowa
And shines in Ostra Brama! You, who yet watch over
The castled Nowogródek's folk faithful and mild;
As You once had returned me to health, a sick child,
(When by my weeping mother into Your care given,
I by miracle opened a dead eye to heaven,
And to Your temple's threshold could straightaway falter
For a life thus returned to thank God at the altar)
Thus to motherland's breast You will bring us again.

Meanwhile, bear my soul heavy with yearning's dull pain,
To those soft woodland hillocks, those meadows, green, gleaming,
Spread wide along each side of the blue-flowing Niemen,
To those fields, which by various grain painted, there lie
Shimmering, with wheat gilded, and silvered with rye;
Where grows the amber mustard, buckwheat white as snow,
Where, with maidenly blushes, clover flowers glow,
And all as if beribboned by green strips of land,
The balks, upon which scattered quiet pear trees stand.

Mid such fields years ago, by the edge of a rill,
In a grove of white birches, upon a slight hill,
Stood a gentleman's manor, of wood, but on stone;
The home's whitewashed walls brightly from faraway shone
Seeming whiter in contrast with dusky green trees,
The poplars, which stood guarding it from autumn's breeze.
The dwelling not too large, but well-cared for and neat,
With a barn very big, and with three stacks of wheat
Standing near, which the thatch could not fully contain;
One can see that the country is heavy with grain;
And one sees from the sheaves that in fields near the house
Shine as thickly as stars; from the number of ploughs,
Turning up early sods of the black fallow ground
Of the fields, stretching far, by the house doubtless owned,
Fields tidy and well tilled, like a trim garden border,
That one finds in this dwelling both plenty and order.
The gate wide open stands, and to strangers attests:
Guests are welcome, and all are invited as guests.

In a two-horse chaise, just then, a young man approached;
After circling the courtyard drew up at the porch,
And then leapt from the carriage; the team, left to wait,
Ambled, nibbling the grasses, towards the front gate.
The manor house seemed empty; the door was pulled to
And secured with a staple, with a peg pushed through.
The Traveller did not run to the farm to inquire,
Unlatched it, ran in quickly, to greet it desired:
A long time now from home, in a far distant town,
He had worked at his studies, now laid his books down.
He enters, with eyes hungry regards those walls ancient,
With a tender regard, as his friends old and patient.
Sees the same bits and pieces, same hangings and covers
He had loved in his childhood; but now he discovers
They are smaller than once seemed to him, and less glorious.

On the walls the same portraits of patriots and warriors:
Here is Kosciuszko, wearing his Kraków cap, kneeling,
Towards heaven eyes turned, sword in both hands, appealing
To God at his high altar, and swearing defiance:
This sword shall drive from Poland the three mighty giants
Or himself will fall on it. There, in Polish dress,
Sits Rejtan, he at freedom's loss quite comfortless,
In his hand, point to breast, he is holding a knife,
Before him, open, 'Phaedo' lies, and Cato's 'Life'.
Further, grim-faced Jasinski, youth fair, near his tried
And inseparable Korsak, erect by his side
On Praga's ramparts, sabring the foes from a mound
Of dead Russians, while Praga's aflame all around.
He even the old chiming clock well recollected
In its wooden case, close by the alcove erected,
And with old child-like pleasure he pulled at the chain,
Old Dabrowski Mazurka to hear once again.

He ran through the whole manor and sought out the chamber
Where he'd lived as a child, and for ten years remembered;
Entered, and pulled back quickly, surveyed it astounded,
Now by feminine fineries on all sides surrounded!
Yes, but whose? His old uncle had never been married;
And his aunt had for years in St. Petersburg tarried.
A pianoforte! On it sheet music and books!
No housekeeper's, that's obvious! Here everything looks
Strewn hither, scattered thither: disorder most sweet!
And not old were the hands that had scattered each sheet.
Here, a white gown, unbuttoned, and ready to wear,
Is but freshly draped over the arm of a chair;
And standing on the window sill, in fragrant clusters,
There are pots of geraniums, violets and asters.
The Traveller to one window stepped, and, a fresh wonder:
In the orchard, on bank full of nettles once, yonder
There was now a small garden by pathlets cut through,
Full of English grass tussocks, of mint, and of rue.
A wooden paling, toy-like, intricate, and tiny,
With streamers of white daisies was brilliantly shining,
Garden beds had been watered just then, it is clear,
A watering-can, still half-full, was left standing near
But the gardener can nowhere be seen roundabout;
The gate quivers, just touched, so she must have gone out
But a moment before; near the gate one more clue:
He sees one tiny footprint, no stocking or shoe,
In the dry, fine-grained sand, white as snow; the foot's trace
Quite distinct, but so faint, you would guess in swift race
Has been made by a someone whose feet were so light
That they touched hardly ever the earth in their flight.

The Traveller at the window stood long, his face bent
Over the herbs and violets, inhaling the scent
Aromatic. Bemused, his inquisitive eyes
He sent down the wee pathways in curious surmise,
And then to the small footprints returned them again,
Whose the feet could have made them still puzzling in vain.
By chance lifted them higher-and then he caught sight
Of a girl on the paling-her shift of plain white
Her slight form to her bosom, at most, was concealing,
The slim arms and the swan-like white neck quite revealing.

Thus clad will Litwan maidens appear but at dawn;
One thus clad will be never a gentleman shown;
And, though no one seemed by, she her hands folded over
Her breasts, so as to lend to her garment more cover.
The hair not left loose-flowing, but hid out of sight
In tight ringlets, each wrapped in a curlpaper white
Her head strangely embellished, the sunlight it striking
It shone bright like a halo upon a saint's ikon.
The face could not be seen. She was turned to the field,
Seeking someone below, in the distance concealed;
Search successful, she laughed, and her hands clapped together,
Like a white bird she flew off the fence on the heather,
And she breathed through the garden, through flower and hedge,
On a board hopped that leant on a window-sill's edge;
Before he knew, she'd flown through the window, as bright,
Sudden, soundless and weightless as moon's silver light.
She took up the dress, humming, and ran to the mirror;
Then she saw the young man, and her face paled with terror,
And she let fall the garment. Distressed at his error
The young Traveller's face flamed with a sudden deep rose
(As a cloud that is touched by the dawn brightly glows).
The modest youth half covered his eyes with a hand,
Wished to speak, ask for pardon, but only bowed, and
Stepped backward; the girl gave out a plaintive cry, light,
Indistinct, as a sleeping child's frightened at night.
The Traveller looked up, flustered-but she had now fled.
He left, perplexed completely, heart pumping, face red,
And he owned he knew not if the thing should amuse him,
This most singular meeting, or please, or confuse him.

In the meanwhile they failed not to note at the farmstead
That a new guest had pulled up in front of the homestead.
The horses were soon stabled and given enough,
As befits a good household, of fodder and chaff:
For the Judge never followed the smart modern use
Of guests' nags being sent to be cared for by Jews.
The staff offered no welcome, but do not imagine
In the Judge's house service could ever be grudging:
The staff waits till the Tribune is ready at last,
In the offices planning the evening repast.
He can act for the master, in his absence reigns,
In his absence guests welcomes and guests entertains
(Distant kin of the master, and friend of the house).
He had noted the guest but sped home like a mouse,
(He could not welcome guests in a homespun old gown),
So, as quick as he could, took his Sunday dress down,
Since the morning laid out, for since morning he knew
He would sit down to supper with guests not a few.

The Tribune from afar did the youth recognise,
And reached out to embrace him with many glad cries.
A conversation followed then, rapid, confused,
During which the events of years many were fused
Into words short and tangled, questions, explanations,
Exclamations and sighings, and fresh salutations.
When these questions and answers the Tribune had sated,
He at last the proceedings of this day narrated.

"It is well, my Tadeusz..." (for such was the name
Of the youngster, who owed it to Kosciuszko's fame,
As a sign of his being born during that war),
"It is well, my Tadeusz, you're here; all the more,
With so many young damsels here gathered already.
Your uncle has been planning to give you a wedding;
You have many to choose from: here are many prizes:
A good company's here for the county assizes,
Which should put the old suit 'gainst the Count now to rest;
And tomorrow the Count will arrive as a guest;
The Chamberlain, his lady and daughters are here.
The young now to the woods with their guns disappeared,
The elders and the women at harvesting gathered
By the wood, and there doubtless they wait for the others.
We'll go now, if you wish, and should meet, I daresay,
The Chamberlain, your uncle, and ladies half-way."

The Tribune and Tadeusz towards the woods walk
And cannot yet run out of more matter for talk.

The sun, to very edge of the sky now declining,
Less fiercely, but more broadly, than earlier was shining,
Ruddy, as the hale face of a tiller of soil
Who now, having completed the day's heavy toil,
Returns home for his rest. Now the great flaming wheel
On the treetops descends, and a misty gloom steals
Down on crowns, trunks and branches, and lower descends,
The whole wood now unites, as if fuses and blends;
And the forest looms black like a mansion gigantic,
And the sun, red above like a fire in the attic,
Then sinks into its depths; through the trunks it still scatters
Its flashes, like a candle yet glimpsed through the shutters,
And goes out. Soon the sickles, that in accord sound
In the grain, and the rakes drawn across fallow ground,
Grew still and stopped completely: the Judge so commands,
With the end of the day halts all work on his lands.
"The Master of all well knows what toil should be given;
When the sun, His own workman, descends from the heaven
Is time too for the farmer to cease and be still"-
Thus the Judge would say often; and his Honour's will
To the good hearted steward was as Holy Writ:
And so even the wagons that still half filled sit
With no full load of rye, home return by his choice:
At their unwonted lightness the oxen rejoice.

Just then came from the forest the company, all
Merry, but in good order; first came children small
With their nurse, then the Judge with the Chamberlain's dame,
The Chamberlain, by his family surrounded, then came,
Ladies followed the seniors, young men in their place,
By their side, but preceded by them half a pace,
(As propriety orders): here no one harangued
About precedence, nor thus the sexes arranged;
Without conscious thought each in his proper place stepped.
For the Judge at his home still the old customs kept
And never would allow that here anyone lacked
For age, birth, rank or wisdom the proper respect.
"By this order", said he, "homes and nations will flourish
And with its downfall, houses and nations will perish".

And so used to this order were servants and kin,
If a guest or a kinsman or stranger dropped in
To the Judge on a visit, but stayed a day there,
Soon accepted the usage breathed in with the air.

Only short was the Judge's with young nephew greeting;
His grave hand to the youth raised to honour the meeting,
And having kissed his brow, him politely saluted;
(More was not, due to presence of company, suited);
But the tears showed quite plainly, which with the lapel
Of his kontusz he wiped, that he loved the youth well.

All, in the master's footsteps, from pasture and field,
From the meadows and woods, through the homestead's gates wheeled.
Here a flock of sheep, bleating, into the lane crowd
And raise clouds of dust; there steps quite slowly a proud
Herd of Tyrolese calves with brass tinkling bells hung;
A dozen horses, neighing, from mown meadows run;
These all to the well hurry, whose wood arm squeaks, soars,
Squeaks again, and cool water into the troughs pours.

The Judge, although with guests, and despite his fatigue,
In his duties as farmer would never renege.
Went himself to the well; it's at evening best
A man can to the state of his livestock attest;
This task would not to servants entrust for, of course,
The Judge knows that 'the master's eye fattens the horse'.

The Tribune with the Usher Protase in the hall
Stood with candles, and not in agreement at all;
For, in the Tribune's absence, the Usher had neatly
From the house had the tables, all laid, brought discreetly,
And now in the old castle's interior they stood
(The ruins of which could be observed near the wood).
What the point of this transfer? The Tribune grimaced
Asked the Judge for his pardon; the Judge made a face,
What's done is done; too late now, best not be annoyed,
Beg guests' pardon and escort them into this void.
The Usher, on their way, tried to show why he'd changed,
Why his master's arrangements he'd so disarranged:
The manor could not boast one such adequate chamber
To sit guests so distinguished, so many in number,
But the hall of the castle-still fairly intact-
The soffit still good-although one wall was quite cracked-
Windows glassless, in summer this does not much matter,
Being close to the cellars suits serving lads better.

Thus arguing, he winked at the Judge; one could tell
He had, and hid, some weightier own reasons as well.

Full two thousand steps distant the old castle lies,
Of impressive construction, imposing in size,
The Horeszko line's ancient familial bequest;
The direct heir had perished at time of unrest;
The estate, laid to waste by official exactions,
Disorderly direction, disastrous court actions,
In part passed to kin distant and on distaff side,
To creditors the remnant was left to divide.
No one wanted the castle; a rare Polish lord
Could the upkeep of such an encumbrance afford;
But the Count, a near neighbour, to manhood now grown,
A rich youth, who to drops of Horeszko blood owned,
Returned home from his travels, had fancied the pile,
Explaining that it was in the Gothic built style;
Though the Judge, and with records, had always maintained
That the architect, no Goth, in Wilno was trained.
Enough, the Count would have it, the Judge then came by
The identical fancy, and no one knew why.
In the County Court sued they, to High Court appealed,
To the Senate, and back, and as neither would yield,
At last after huge costs and with numerous court orders
The case reached the Tribunal of Disputed Borders.

The Usher spoke with reason, the great castle hall
Would contain a whole court, plus invited guests all,
Hall huge as a refectory, a vaulted stone nave
On stone pillars supported, the floor, too, stone paved,
Walls left quite unadorned, but the masonry strong;
And bristling with deer antlers and horns all along.
On each trophy inscribed: when and where each was won;
And the huntsman's familial escutcheon thereon
Blazoned proudly, each name was in black letters writ;
Horeszkos' arms, the Half-Goat, shone on the soffit.

The guests entered in order and stood for the grace:
The Chamberlain at the very top seat took his place;
To him from age and rank does this honour belong;
Entering, greeted the ladies, the old and the young,
By his side stood the Almsman, the Judge to him next;
Then the Bernardine uttered a short Latin text;
The men were given vodka; and all took their seat,
And Lithuanian cold barszcz all proceeded to eat.

As a guest, Pan Tadeusz, though young and almost
A son, sat near the ladies, and close to the host;
Between him and his uncle one only remained
Empty place, as if waiting for someone in vain.
Uncle often his eyes to this seat, and the door,
Sent, as if he'd some person expected before;
And Tadeusz his uncle's gaze followed in turn
To the door, and on that seat his curious eyes burned.
Strange! For seated around him fair maidens were placed
Of a charm that a prince's court well could have graced;
All of excellent birth, each one young, each one pretty;
Tadeusz there stares only where not one is sitting.
That place is a conundrum; youth by such is stirred;
Absent-minded, Tadeusz says hardly a word
To his good-looking neighbour, the Chamberlain's lass;
Does not change her used plates, nor attends to her glass,
Entertains not the ladies with fine conversation,
By which could be displayed his big town education;
With allure and enchantment's this empty place fraught,
But not empty, for he had now filled it with thought.
A thousand guesses over it ceaselessly pass,
As frogs, after a shower, hop over the grass;
One form queens above others, as when soft winds waft,
Its white brow a lake lily thus raises aloft.

The third course had been served. And then Pan Chamberlain,
In Miss Rose's glass pouring a wee drop again,
Pushed a plate to the younger of gherkins and bread,
"I myself must look after you, daughters," he said,
"Although clumsy and old". Then immediately bounded
Up some youths, and the ladies with dishes surrounded.
The Judge filled his glass, glanced at Tadeusz askance,
And his sleeves now adjusted, he thus began: "Once,
Customs were different. These days, by new dispensation,
We send youths to the city for their education,
And so our sons, and grandsons, we cannot deny it,
Have acquired more book-knowledge than we oldsters by it;
But the young are the losers, as I each day find
That no school teaches living with men and mankind.
Once to noble courts were our young gentlemen sent,
I myself have ten years at the Voivode's court spent,
Our Lord Chamberlain's father, our most honoured guest's
(Here paused he, and the knees of the Chamberlain pressed);
He with counsel for public affairs me prepared,
Till he'd made a man of me, continued his care.
In my house is forever his memory adored,
Each day, I for his soul pray to our Blessed Lord.
If I have not enough picked good fruit from this bough
As some others, and back here, I now push the plow,
While others, more deserving the Voivode's support,
Attained some of the highest positions at court,
At least this have achieved, that me none can accuse
That within my own house I would any refuse
My good faith or politeness; and say to you all:
Courtesy's not a science too easy, or small.
Not easy, for it is not sufficiently done
With a deftly bent knee, smile at just everyone;
For meseems, such politeness a merchant's is only,
And is not of old Poland, nor yet gentlemanly.
Courtesy's due to all, but not quite in same style,
For not lacking it should be the love of a child,
Or man's public respect to his wife, or a lord's
To his household: with each some distinction accords.
Long must one study, so as to never offend,
And to each the appropriate politeness extend.
And we old, too, have studied: a lord's conversation
Was as the living history of country, of nation,
And, to the gentry, annals of region and shire:
Thus would be made explicit to brother esquire
That he's not an unknown, and is not taken lightly;
So his manners a man would keep under guard tightly.
Today, no one inquires: who are you and where from?
What's your birth, your profession? All as they like come,
If not government's spies, or are not too penurious.
Just as this Vespasianus showed he was not curious
Whence the money, how smelled it, from what hands or place,
They now care not to know a man's manners or race
If he struts and is amply with badges bedecked;
And so friends are respected as Jews gold respect".

This said, the Judge looked keenly in turn at his friends;
For though he spoke well always, and spoke with good sense,
He knew that the impatient today's generation
Is soon bored by a lengthy, if worthy, oration.
But all there in deep silence gave him a good hearing.
He the Chamberlain's eye sought with an unspoken query,
Who did not interrupt him with some praising word,
But with frequent nods showed with the speech he concurred.
The Judge paused, but the other encouraged him still;
So the Judge his guest's goblet and own wineglass filled:
"Courtesy's not", he went on, "a thing small, or slight
When a man learns to weigh, as he should, and is right,
The age, birth, and the virtues and customs of others,
Then his own weight and standing he also discovers:
As if, placed on a balance, our own weight to tell
We must put someone else in the opposite scale.
But, dear guests, not least worthy of note, I propose,
Is courtesy that youth to the fairer sex owes;
When the house's distinction, and fortune's largesse,
The innate charms and virtues yet brighten and bless,
Thence the path to affection, and thence forged the link,
Of great houses the league-so the old used to think.
And thus..." the Judge turning his head sharply here
Nodded towards Tadeusz, a look shot severe,
One could tell, to the nub of his speech he drew near.

When the Chamberlain drummed on his gold snuffbox: "Hey,
Dear Judge, yesterday things were much worse than today!
I know not if we old, too, see things a new way,
Or youth has improved, but I see less disarray.
Alas, I recall when in our Fatherland dear
Those new frenchified fashions the first time appeared!
When, suddenly, these lordlings, from some foreign lands
Invaded us in hordes worse than wild Tartar bands,
In our homeland our fathers' faith, God, to oppress,
And our laws and ways, even our national dress.
'Twas painful then to witness those yellow-faced posers
Chatter on through the nose, or perhaps without noses,
Well equipped with brochures and with various gazettes,
New laws, new faiths announcing, and brand new toilettes!
That rabble had established great sway over minds;
For Lord God, when He visits a scourge on mankind,
From the citizens' brains first all reason He chops.
And so even the wise dared not gainsay the fops,
They, like Black Death, were dreaded by all of our nation,
Which felt signs in itself of the plague's germination.
They abused the fops, should though have followed them less;
And people their religion changed, speech, laws and dress.
This was some masquerade, or some carnival knavery,
To be followed ere long by the great fast of-slavery!
"To father's house in Oszmian shire, I still recall
And that very well, although I was then quite small,
The Cupbearer arrived in a little French gig,
The first in Lithuania to dress in French rig.
All followed him, as hawks are pursued by a troop
Of swallows, and would envy the house where would stop
The Cupbearer inside his absurd two-wheeled dray,
Which he in the French manner would call 'cabriolay';
Instead of lackeys sat two small dogs at the rear,
On the box sat a German, like a plank, with queer
Long thin legs just like hop poles, and over them slipped
Long black stockings, and slippers with bright silver clip,
A peruke with a pigtail, stuffed in bag or purse.
At this equipage oldsters would laugh fit to burst,
Peasants crossed themselves, saying that here was a marriage
Of a Venetian devil with a German carriage.
One could take long describing the Cupbearer's shape,
Suffice, that he resembled a parrot, or ape,
An enormous peruke topped the head of this fop,
Which he to gold fleece likened, and we to a mop.
If one even but felt then, that old Polish dress
Excelled aping strange fashions, one could not confess,
Kept one's mouth shut, for youth would cry out one delays
Growth of culture, dams progress, the nation betrays!
Such the crass superstition that ruled in those days.

"The Cupbearer announced that he comes to commute us,
Will civilise, reform us, and reconstitute us;
Announced he, that some Frenchmen to new notions came,
And invented a rule, that all men are the same;
Though it's what the Lord's Book for a thousand years teaches,
And every priest on Sundays from his pulpit preaches.
The teaching old, the problem was-its consummation!
But just then such a blindness encompassed the nation
That truths, even most ancient, would not be believed
Unless through a French paper they were first received.
'Égalité' despite, he was styled 'marquis';
(One brings titles from Paris inside one's valise,
And just then was in vogue there the title 'marquis').
When, however, the fashions then changed with the years,
As 'democrat' the self-same marquis now appears,
Then, when under Napoleon, the fashions had turned,
The 'democrat' from Paris a baron returned;
Perhaps, if he lives on, at the drop of a hat
The baron will rechristened be as 'democrat',
For Paris for a change in the mode often opts,
And what a Frenchman dreams up, a Pole soon adopts.

"Praise to God, that today, when our young people press
To travel in parts foreign, it's not for fine dress,
Not in printers' sheds seeking new law-giving ways,
Nor to learn elocution in Paris cafés.
For Napoleon, a fellow quick-acting and clever,
Leaves us no time to look for new modes or palaver.
And now that cannon thunders, our old hearts are stirred,
That about us Poles once more the whole world has heard.
Fame is ours, and ours too will the Commonwealth be!
For blooms only from laurels the liberty tree.
But how sad that for us, oh so slowly years pass!
We do nothing, and they still so distant, alas!
Still waiting! And so seldom does news reach us here!
Father Worm, (here more softly in Bernardine's ear)
I hear that 'cross the Niemen some news has got through,
Of our soldiers, perhaps you have heard something new?"
"Not a thing", said Worm, in an indifferent voice,
(One could tell that he listened to this not from choice)
"I find politics boring, if from Warsaw letters
Arrive, these are monastic, our Bernardine, matters;
There's no point now discussing these over a stew-
Here are laymen with whom this has nothing to do".
Saying this, he glanced sideways, to where in the thick of
Other guests sat a Russian, by name Captain Rykov.
An old soldier, and quartered not too far away,
Him the Judge from politeness invited today.
Rykov spoke little; ate though with gusto instead,
But, at mention of Warsaw, said, raising his head:
"Pan Chamberlain! Oy, I know you! You always would learn
Of this Bonaparte! Always to Warsaw you turn!
Hey! Fatherland! I no spy, I speak Polish too-
One's fatherland! I know this, I feel this like you!
You are Polacks, I Ruski, today we don't squabble,
There's a truce, so together we drink and we gobble.
Our advance pickets often with Frenchies cards played,
Drinking vodka; then: shooting! Urrah!-cannonade!
Russians say: 'Whom I cudgel, him also I hug';
'Give your chum your caresses, but beat like a rug'.
I say, that war is certain, I this do believe,
For Major Plut a staff aide arrived yester eve:
Get ready for a march! Seems, we're off to annoy
The Turk-or else the Frenchie; this Boney's some boy!
Without Suvarov, Boney could give us a whack!
In our unit they said, when the French they attacked,
That Bonaparte cast spells; but so did, what the hell,
Suvarov: so there was then a spell against spell.
Once in battle, where's Boney? He cannot be found-
He's turned into a fox now-Suvarov's a hound!
And, then, suddenly, Bony appears as a cat,
And at him with claws; what does Suvarov at that?
He's a pony! So hear now of Bon and the horse..."
Here Rykov paused to swallow; when, with the fourth course,
Came a servant and quickly threw wide the side doors.

A new person then entered, young, very good-looking;
Every eye was attracted, and everyone took in
Her stature and her beauty; by all she was greeted,
Plainly, but for Tadeusz, was known to all seated.
Her form slender, but rounded, her bosom alluring,
Dress of pink silk material, in no way obscuring
A décolleté neckline, lace collar; gloves short;
In her hand she was twirling a small fan, for sport,
(Hot it was not); the glittering fan ceaselessly plied,
Waved aloft, copious showers of sparks scattered wide;
Her hair artfully styled in tight ringlets and curls,
And woven through with ribbons in bunches and twirls;
Among them sat a brilliant as if hid from view,
Glittering like a bright star in a comet's long queue;
In a word, quite a gala dress, some whispered there,
That too refined for country and everyday wear.
Though the hemline was short, one could not glimpse her shoe,
For she moved very quickly, or glided, or flew,
(Like the figurines, which on the feast of Three Kings
In the crib little children pull deftly with strings).
Quickly passing by, she all with slight curtsey greeted,
At the place for her kept she would quickly be seated,
Not so easy, for lacking a chair for each guest,
On four benches, perforce, four long rows had to rest,
-Move a whole row? Or over a bench lift one's knees?
Neatly in between benches she managed to squeeze,
Then, between seated diners and long dining table
Like a billiard ball rolled, till at length she was able
To reach the vacant seat right beside our young man;
Having on someone's knee caught a flounce as she ran,
She slipped slightly, and in some brief absence of mind
Our Tadeusz's arm was one prop she could find.
She apologised nicely, then managed to sit
Between him and his uncle, but ate not one bit;
Only fluttered her fan, or else twirled it about,
Or her collar of finest Brabant lace smoothed out
And made adjustments, or with light touches of hand
Repaired some ruffled curls, or corrected a band.

This pause in talk had lasted a minute or two
When, at the table's far end, some murmuring grew,
And then several voices were heard being raised:
The huntsmen were debating their part in the chase;
The Assessor and Notary felt that they were bound
To resume their old quarrel re that bob-tail hound,
The Notary's pride and joy, who continued to swear
And insist it was Bobtail had taken the hare;
The Assessor maintaining the Notary's wrong,
That to his hound-dog Hawk did this honour belong.
He sought support from others, but many denied it,
Giving Bobtail their vote, while with Hawk some few sided,
These as connoisseurs, others had witnessed it all.
The Judge, low-voiced, at opposite, far end of the hall
Said to his fair new neighbour: "Forgive me, I pray,
One just could not the supper much longer delay:
Guests were hungry; today they have roamed far afield:
I'd thought you would not join us today for the meal!
This said, after refilling the Chamberlain's glass,
With him matters of state in a low voice discussed.

While both sides of the table were thus occupied,
Tadeusz eyed the latest unknown by his side;
He recalled that the moment he looked at that place,
He at once guessed whose presence the table would grace.
He flushed; his heart was beating as loud as a drum;
He at last to the key to the riddle had come!
So: it had been predestined, that here, by his side,
Would be seated the beauty in half-light espied.
She, indeed, appeared somewhat in her figure taller,
But now dressed, and dress renders one bigger or smaller.
The other's hair had to him seemed short and light-gold,
While over this one's shoulders long raven locks rolled?
The colour change, most likely, was due to the sun,
(Which at sunset does redden all things it shines on).
He had not seen her face then, too quickly drawn back,
But the mind with a fair face repairs such a lack.
He thought, her eyes would prove to be black, without doubt,
And face fair, and red lips that like twin cherries pout:
In this one he discovered such eyes, face and lips.
The greatest alteration in age seemed perhaps:
The gardener a young girl seemed to him, to be sure,
And this lady a woman in years more mature;
But youth does not ask proof of a goddess's age,
And all beautiful women are young to a page.
All seem equal in years, when the boy's blood is surging,
To the innocent every first lover's a virgin.

Tadeusz, though today to years twenty admitting,
And since a child in Wilno had lived, a great city,
Yet a priest guardian had he, who reined him in tightly
And in old and strict precepts had brought him up rightly.
So Tadeusz had brought back to his native parts
A soul pure, lively mind, and an innocent heart,
But with no little impulse to loosen the bit.
In advance he had promised himself to permit
In the country some freedoms, denied for so long;
He believed himself handsome, felt restive and young,
From his parents his good health and wholesomeness came.
He was surnamed Soplica, and all of that name
Are, it's well-known, strong, stout, and are splendidly fitted
For all soldiering, less though to studies committed.

Tadeusz from his forebears did not fall away:
He rode as well on horseback, marched stoutly as they,
Was not dull, but in studies his progress was small,
Though Uncle on his learning skimped nothing at all.
He rather with his flintlock or sabre contended;
For he knew that he was for the army intended,
That father, in his will, had expressed this wish duly;
So he longed for the drum while still doing his schooling.
But Uncle his intentions had suddenly varied,
Ordered him to return, and to get himself married,
And then to take on farming; promised to donate
A small village, and later the entire estate.

These Tadeusz's virtues, endowments and learning
Drew his neighbour's attention, a woman discerning.
She noted his fine figure, so shapely and tall,
Then his powerful shoulders, his breast like a wall,
And looked into his face, to which soon a blush mounted
Every time that the youth with his eyes hers encountered:
For he from his first shyness completely recovered,
And gazed with eyes on fire, the bold eyes of a lover;
So gazed she, and four pupils blazed steadily; rather
Like pairs of votive candles, one opposite the other.

First, began she with him in French tongue to converse;
He had come from the city: about the new verse
And new authors she sought for Tadeusz's view,
And from halting replies she fresh questions then drew;
What, when she about painting began then to speak,
Of music, and dance, even of sculpture antique!
She in brush, print, or music, proved just as discerning;
Tadeusz was dumbfounded at such sum of learning.
In fear of her derision, his heart beating faster,
He stuttered like a schoolboy before his form master.
Luckily, teacher pretty and not too severe:
Quickly fathomed his neighbour the cause of his fear,
Began talk on less taxing of topics and stories,
Spoke of rural existence, its tediums and worries,
Of creating enjoyment, and what can be done
For life to be more pleasant, the country more fun.
Tadeusz speaks more boldly, the friendship soon firms,
In a half-hour they were on quite intimate terms;
Step by step, began even to jest and dispute.
At last, three balls of bread she in front of him put,
Of three persons the choice; he took one to him next;
Both the Chamberlain's daughters at this looked quite vexed.
His neighbour laughed, but would not say what this all meant,
Or, indeed, whom that lucky ball did represent.

Otherwise was the table's far end occupied
For, there suddenly growing, the strong Hawkist side,
Without pity on Bobtail's adherents came down.
There great argument raged, and dessert was foregone,
But on their feet, and drinking, the factions war waged,
Of them all was the Notary most deeply enraged.
Without pause, once he'd started, the matter debated
And, with gestures emphatic, his speech illustrated.
(The Notary in the courtroom had once lawsuits pleaded,
Nicknamed 'Preacher': for no one used gestures as he did).
Now, his hands by his side, and his elbows tucked in,
At his breast poked out fingers and nails long and thin,
Representing two leashes of hounds by this show;
Arriving at the climax, said: "Fetch! We let go,
The Assessor and I, both the dogs, off the tether,
Like of one double-barrel two triggers, together
Discharged! Fetch! They took off! And, whoosh! Off the hare raced
For the field, dogs hard by!" And both hands he now placed
On the table, hounds running he wondrously mimed.
"Dogs hard by, and, all-whoosh-left the woods well behind,
Hawk leading, quite a fast but a hot-headed beast,
Heading Bobtail by this much, a finger, at most,
I was sure he would miss, for the hare, sly old fellow,
Made as if for the field, and the pack, yelping, follow;
Sly old cat, that! As soon as dogs bunched up, he bounds
To the right, turns a cartwheel, turn right the dumb hounds.
He then-whoosh-doubles left, leaps twice more, back again-
(Dogs follow)-in the wood now! And, my Bobtail then,
Snap!' Bent over the table, the Notary let slide
His fingers right across to the opposite side,
And: 'Snap!' he shouted over Tadeusz's ear;
Tadeusz and his neighbour, caught off-guard, in fear,
This sudden, loud explosion disrupting their talk,
With a start their conjoint heads abruptly unlocked,
As two treetops entangled torn roughly asunder
When the hurricane strikes; so, the hands that had under
The table been converging, apart quickly rushed,
And four cheeks were suffused with the one tell-tale blush.

Tadeusz, most embarrassed that he'd been caught out,
Said: 'True, true, my dear Notary, without any doubt,
Bobtail has the right lines, and if he's a good catcher...'
'A catcher?' screamed the Notary, 'my favourite snatcher
May not be a good catcher?' Tadeusz again
Was glad such a fine dog had no defect or stain,
Was sorry-he had seen him for but a short moment
So not qualified was on his virtues to comment.

The Assessor blanched, put then his glass down with care,
And Tadeusz transfixed with a basilisk stare.
The Assessor, less boisterous and restless in nature
Than the Notary, both slimmer and shorter in stature,
Was a terror at meeting, or diet, or ball:
That his tongue held a sting was the verdict of all.
For such humorous sallies and quips he invented,
In a calendar these could be easily printed:
All malicious and sharp! Once a man of some means,
He his father's estate, and his brother's demesne,
To play a man of fashion, had wasted entire;
Now took a public posting, for rank in the shire.
He all hunting loved greatly, as much for the sport,
As for the bugles' bleat and the guns' loud report,
Which his youth would call back, when he hunters maintained
And employed many beaters and greyhounds well-trained.
From his quondam pack now he had but two hounds left,
And of these now might one of all fame be bereft!
So, approaching, and stroking his whiskers the while,
He said smiling, though it was a venomous smile:
"A hound with no tail is like a squire with no place,
The tail assists immensely a hound in the chase,
And you, sir, see a virtue in tail-piece so scanty?
We perhaps should solicit a vote from your auntie.
Though Madam Telimena did mainly reside
In the capital, not long in this countryside,
She's more expert than huntsmen to this business new;
Thus knowledge with the passing of years does accrue".

Tadeusz, whose head, out of the blue, thus incurred
This thunderbolt, confused, could at first find no word,
But gazed upon his rival with gathering rage...
When, the Chamberlain haply sneezed twice at this stage.
"Good health!" cried they. He bowed low to all from his place,
And his fingers drummed slowly upon the rich case
Of his snuffbox of gold, made with diamonds set close,
In the centre a portrait of King Stanislaus,
The king's gift to his father, which, after he died,
The Chamberlain would at all times produce with great pride.
The drumming was a signal he wished to be heard;
So all hushed and not dared they to utter a word.
He spoke: "My Brothers gentry, it long stands revealed,
Proper forum for huntsmen is forest or field;
I don't sit on such cases at home, and insist
The pleadings be adjourned till tomorrow's court list.
No more hearings today and no leave to appeal.
Usher! You'll call tomorrow the case for the field,
Happens, that we'll tomorrow be joined by the Count,
And you too Judge, dear neighbour, must with the rest mount,
With Madam Telimena, the ladies all too;
In a word, this hunt shall be a great how-de-do;
And the Tribune his presence will grant us, I trust".
Saying this, to the old man his snuffbox he passed.

The Tribune with the huntsmen sat listening to all
With eyes narrowed: so far he'd not let one word fall,
Though the young his opinion would often request
For of all persons present he knew hunting best.
Kept silent; and the pinch from the snuffbox he weighed
In his fingers, long pondering, its taking delayed,
Sneezed-and the whole room echoed; then shaking his head,
Slowly, sadly, at last with a bitter smile said:
"Oh, what shock and amaze to an old man this brings!
What would huntsmen of yore have said of such strange things,
That among such fine gentry is voiced a concern
To resolve a contention about a hound's stern;
What would old Rejtan say, if alive, in this room?
He'd go back to Lachowicz and lie in his tomb!
What would old Niesiolowski, the Voivode, now say
Who maintains the best hounds in the world till today?
He keeps two hundred huntsmen, this puissant great lord,
And a hundred full cartloads of nets he keeps stored,
Yet, like a monk, for years sits behind a closed door;
No one him to a hunt once again can implore,
Even Bialopetrowicz himself he refused!
What quarry in your manner of hunt would he choose?
Great the glory indeed, if a lord with such airs,
Bowing to modern fashion, rode out against hares!
In the huntsmen's tongue, dear sirs, in my time at least,
But boar, bear, elk and wolf were 'the gentleman's beast'.
An animal not graced with such fang, claw or horn
Would be left for paid servants and menials low-born;
No gentleman his honour would thus deign to blot,
And to sully his gun with a charge of small shot!
Yes, hounds were kept; a horse might just happen to scare
On return from the hunting some poor little hare;
They would loose then the hounds, for some sport, on the coney,
And the young masters chase it, each proud on his pony,
Before their parents' eyes, who would scarce such a chase
Give notice, much less argue about, or give praise!
Let Your Lordship for this once most graciously deign
To cancel this his order, and spare me the pain
For to such a use my gun shall never be put,
And on such hunt, so-called, I shall never set foot!
Hreczecha is my name; since King Lech it's no habit
Of a single Hreczecha to follow a rabbit".

Here the Tribune was drowned out by young people's laughter;
The Chamberlain arose first from the table soon after,
To his age and his rank does this honour belong:
Leaving, bowed to the ladies, the aged and the young,
The monk followed, the Judge then, who next to him came,
At the door took the arm of the Chamberlain's dame,
Tadeusz Telimena's, Assessor a friend's,
Notary and Miss Hreczeha then brought up the end.

Tadeusz with some guests to the nearby barn went
But puzzled, out of temper, and quite malcontent:
In his mind the events of the day he rehearsed,
The chance meeting, the meal with his neighbour, but first
And last that small word 'auntie' would keep buzzing by
His ear, annoying like some importunate fly.
He looked out for the Usher, would have him explain
Telimena's enigma, but sought him in vain;
The Tribune, too, had vanished for, after the food,
All had followed the guests, as good servitors should,
To prepare in the manor the chambers for rest:
The seniors and the ladies, of course, would fare best,
While Tadeusz was ordered the youths to convey,
Representing the host, to the barn, to the hay.

In a half-hour such hush on the whole homestead fell
As when rings out for prayers the monastery bell,
The stillness only broken by night-watchman's cries.
All now slept. The Judge only does not close his eyes:
As the household's commander he plans the campaign,
And how, after the chase, will the guests entertain,
Gave orders for the village heads, stewards of lands,
The housekeeper, the beaters, the clerks, stable-hands,
Perused all the accounts of the day until, tired,
At length he bade the Usher to help him retire;
Who his sash then unfastened, Sluck sash, woven fine,
From which rich golden tassels abundantly shine,
With gold samite on one side with purple rosettes,
The reverse of black silk with rich silver-sewn frets:
Such sash on either side can be used for adorning,
For a gala day gold, the black side to mark mourning.
None but the Usher this sash unties, folds away;
He was busy with this, and thus ended his say:
"What harm if in the ruin were guests entertained?
Nothing by it was lost, and you, Sir, may have gained:
The Castle, after all, is why we're in the courts,
And today we've acquired rights de jure, of sorts;
And, for all our opponent's malicious aggression,
We can prove we now own it by right of possession.
For, whoever a banquet in castle's walls makes,
Proves possession he has or possession he takes;
We can even subpoena the opposite side:
In my day I saw similar examples betide."

But the Judge slept. The Usher tip-toed to the hallway;
By a candle sat, took out a notebook he always
In his pocket kept and, like a small prayer-book,
At home or on a journey with him ever took.
It was the curial record: therein, row by row,
Were writ cases and hearings that once, long ago,
He, the Usher, himself had importantly called,
Or about which he later found out or was told.
To folk simple it seemed but one name after name,
To the Usher an outline of pictures of fame.
So he read and he pondered: Oginski v Wizgird,
Dominicans v Rymsza, Rymsza v Wizogird,
Radziwill-Wereszczaka, Giedroic-Rodultowski,
Obuchowicz-Jewish commune, Juraha-Piotrowski,
Maleski v Mickiewicz, and right at the end,
The Count's suit with Soplicas: from these names ascend
The memories of great cases, events of each hearing,
Judge, parties, every witness, all rise up, appearing;
He again sees himself, in his white coat bedecked,
In a navy-blue kontusz, before court, erect,
One hand on his sword, one on the bench for support,
Calling out to both parties: "Now-silence in court!".
Thus dreaming and concluding his night prayers, slowly
The last of Litwan ushers now fell asleep wholly.

Such the frolics and such the disputes in those years
Midst quiet Litwan fields; while in blood and in tears
The rest of the world swam; when that man, god of war,
In a cloud of battalions, a thousand guns' roar,
Hitched to his chariot eagles, both silver and gold,
From Libya's wastes he hurtled to Alps icy-cold,
Hurling bolt after bolt; at pyramids, Marengo,
At Ulm, Austerlitz. Triumph and conquest and anger
Ran before and behind him. Renown of these acts,
With the names of knights pregnant, from Nile's cataracts
Strode roaring northwards till, at the far Niemen's banks,
Rebounded as from rocks from the Muscovite ranks
That had about Lithuania their iron walls reared
To shield Russia from news more than pestilence feared.

And yet, sometimes, some news, like a stone from the sky,
Would fall into Lithuania; a tramp passing by,
With no arm or no leg, when soliciting alms,
Stopped by; and if his eyes saw no reason for qualms,
And when no Russian soldiers he spotted around,
And no skullcaps nor any red collars he found,
Who he was, then would tell them: an old legionary
Who his bones to his native land managed to carry,
Land he could guard no longer-how to him then raced
All the family, how all the household embraced,
Almost crying their eyes out! He'd sit by the table
And adventures relate much more strange than a fable.
Would tell how, under General Dabrowski's command,
His troops strive to reach Poland from Italy's land;
How compatriots, on Lombard plains, run to his call;
How Kniaziewicz gives orders-from the Capitol!
And, victor, how from Caesar's descendants he prised
Full five score bloody colours, and threw in French eyes;
How Jablonowski journeyed where pepper grows vernal,
Where sugar is refined, and in springtime eternal
Forests fragrant bloom, there, with his Danube command,
The Commander smites Negroes, but sighs for his land.

The old man's words the village in secret passed on:
Having heard him, a boy would be suddenly gone,
Through forests and through marshes would secretly steal,
By Russians chased, until him the Niemen concealed,
Would, submerged, swim across to the Grand Duchy's strand,
There to hear a warm greeting: "You're welcome here, friend!"
But, before leaving, step on a cairn, and from far
To the Russ 'cross the Niemen call: "Au revoir!"
So stole across Górecki, Pac and Obuchowicz,
Piotrowski, Obolewski, Rozycki, Janowicz,
Brochocki, Mirzejewski, Bernatowicz brothers
Kupsc, Gedymin-I shall not now name all the others-
Left their country beloved, from kin separated,
And from their goods, at once by the Czar confiscated.

Sometimes, from some strange abbey, an almsman passed through,
When he felt that the squire he sufficiently knew,
Unstitched then a gazette in his scapular sewn:
Therein the disposition of soldiers was shown
And the name of each one of the Legion's commanders,
And of how each had conquered, or what earth lies under.
The first news had the house, with so many years gone
Of the life, and the glory and death, of a son;
The house would put on mourning, but dare not confess
Whom they mourned so; though people would venture to guess
In the district, and only the masters' dumb grief,
Or quiet joy, would bear out the general belief.

Father Worm, it was rumoured, had played such a part;
With the Judge he would often discuss things apart;
After these visits always some fresh circumstance
Would spread throughout the village. The Bernardine's stance
Gave away that this monk had not always been cowled,
Not behind walls monastic had this man grown old.
He had over his right ear, not far from the temple,
A scar over skin missing, in size rather ample;
And his chin bore trace recent of lance or of pistol,
Wounds he'd not likely suffered while reading his missal.
But not only his warlike appearance and scars,
His voice and movements told of acquaintance with Mars.

When with raised hands he swivelled around at the mass
To call out 'Pax vobiscum' to people, 'God bless!',
He would wheel himself often so smartly about
As if a 'right-about-turn!' he'd just carried out;
And the liturgy's phrases he so would intone
Like an officer standing before his platoon,
As the lads who assisted at mass quickly noted.
About politics Worm could more safely be quoted
Than the lives of the saints, and, when doing his round,
He would frequently stop at the neighbouring town;
He transacted much business, would letters conceal,
Which before strangers never he'd read nor unseal;
Or would couriers dispatch, as to whither or why,
Would not say; then he often would leave on the sly
For nearby manors; whispered he much with the gentry;
Would the neighbouring hamlets step out like a sentry;
With farmers at the inns he much talked and discussed,
And always about things which in other lands passed.
He now the Judge, the hour gone already asleep,
Comes to awaken; surely has news that won't keep.










Polish original


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electronic version by
Roman Antoszewski
Titirangi, New Zealand 2006

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