AND THE HUNT
Tadeusz is wakened by an apparition in curlpapers - Belated realization of his error - The tavern - A skilful application of snuffbox directs the discussion back on track - The heartwood - The bear - Tadeusz and the Count in peril - Three shots - Dispute about Sagalas and Sanguszko guns, decided in favour of a Horeszko single-barrel - The bigos -The Tribune's tale of the duel between Dowejko and Domejko, interrupted by coursing the hare - Conclusion of the Dowejko-Domejko tale
You, companions of Litwa's great princes! Trees hoary
Of Bialowieza, Switez, Kuszelew, Ponary!
Whose shadow in days ancient descended on crowned
Dreaded heads of Witenes, Mindowa renowned,
And Giedymin's, when he, on Ponary's great hill
By a huntsman's campfire on a bearskin lay still,
Listening rapt to the songs of sagacious Lizdejko.
By the sight of Wilija, sigh of the Wilejka
Lulled asleep, he a dream of an iron wolf dreamt;
And, waking, by gods' order knew that he was meant
To build the city Wilno, which sits in its lair
Like a wolf, midst the bison, the boar and the bear.
From this Wilno town, like from the she-wolf of Rome,
The great Kiejstut, and Olgierd, and Olgierd's brood come,
Famous huntsmen and also great warrior-knights they,
Whether chasing the enemy, or hunting wild prey.
This dream the future's secret did to us reveal,
That Lithuania will ever need forest and steel.
Wild woods! To you the last one had come for the chase,
The last monarch whom Witold's majestic cap graced,
Last Jagiellon a victory in battle to win,
And the last Lithuanian renowned huntsman-king.
Native trees of my homeland! If heaven yet sends
Me once more to behold you, my faithful old friends,
Shall I find you again? Are you living this while?
You, among whose huge trunks I once crawled as a child;
Does great Baublis survive yet, within whose huge womb
By centuries drilled hollow, as in a good room,
A supper for a dozen could easily be set?
Blossoms Mendog's old grove by the parish church yet?
And does there, in the Ukraine, does there yet now stand
At Holowinski's manor, upon Rosa's strand,
The linden-tree so widespread, that under its shade
Five score youths, five score maids, had joined hands, danced and played?
Our monuments! Each year brings how many attacks
From government's or merchant's sharp Muscovite axe!
It now to forest warblers no shelter affords,
Nor bards, to whom your shadow is dear as to birds.
Yet the Czarnolas linden, to Jan's voice tuned, spoke
Such rhymes into his ear! And, this garrulous oak
With such wondrous sounds did once the Cossack bard please!
How much do I owe to you, my dear native trees!
A wretched marksman, fleeing my hunting friends' sneers
About targets I missed here, how many ideas,
Dreams, I bagged in your quiet, when in some wild place
I sat down on a tussock, forgetting the chase.
And about me shone silver the grey-bearded moss,
Stained with blackberries' crushed purple, and further across
There reddened gentle hillocks in heather apparel
Like with rosaries, strung with red cranberries' coral!
All around me was darkness; the branches' expanse
Hung above me suspended like clouds green and dense;
Above this dormant ceiling the wind somewhere wandered
With groaning, soughing, howling, with thudding, and thunder;
Strange bewildering uproar! Then seemed it to me
There was hanging above me a wild stormy sea.
Below, resembling ruins of a civilization:
A prone oak salient juts, like some dilapidation;
Leaning on it, like crumbling walls and pillars seem
Here the branchy log, and there the half-rotted beam,
By a hedge of grass guarded; the heart of this glade
It is terror to enter; for there sit arrayed
Boars, bears, wolves: these woods' masters; and at its gates rest
Half-gnawed bones of some hapless and unwary guest.
Sometimes briefly above the green grass may appear
Like two water-jets sparkling, the horns of a deer;
Flickers yellow its form through the trees, off and on,
In the wood, like a sunbeam, now here, and now gone.
Below again all's quiet. Perched high on a fir,
A woodpecker pecks lightly, and flies off somewhere;
He has hidden himself, but continues his knocking
Like a hiding child calling that we may come looking.
Near-by nibbles a squirrel a nut of good size
In her paws held, her bushy tail shielding her eyes
Like the plume on the shako of a cuirassier,
And, although thus concealed, darts her glance everywhere;
Glimpsing a guest, this forest danseuse makes a dash
From one tree to another, a red lightning-flash;
Until into a bole-hole, too secret to see,
She slips in like a dryad returned to her tree.
Again there is silence.
When a branch quivers, brushed,
And part the ash-tree's clusters, and into view flash
A pair of cheeks than berries more crimson and fair-
They are the maid's who gathers such nuts and fruit there
Into a simple basket, and in which she carries
The cranberries; her lips sparkling as red as the berries;
Alongside steps a youth; he the hazels bends down;
-The maid catches the nuts then before they touch ground.
At the house a great hubbub; but neither the baying
Of the hounds, nor the creaking of carts, nor the neighing,
Nor the trumpets' loud signal for all to be ready
For the hunt, could Tadeusz draw out of his bedding.
On it fallen full-dressed like a dormouse snored deep;
None of the youths suspecting he yet lay asleep;
With their own affairs busy each to his post sped,
Of their sleeping companion no thought in his head.
He snored on. The sun, entering the small heart-shaped hole
Which was cut in the shutter, first timidly stole,
Then with its fiery beam our young sleeper's brow burnt:
He kept trying to slumber and twisted and turned
Hiding from this harsh brightness; but then a loud rapping
Fully woke him, it was an awakening happy.
He felt bright as a bird, and breathed amply and freely,
Felt an exhilaration, a wonderful feeling:
Musing on the past day and all that him befell,
Blushed and sighed, his blithe heart beat as loud as a bell.
Then looked up-but how strange! In the rays of the sun,
In that opening heart-shaped, a pair of eyes shone
Which, as can be expected, were opened quite wide,
For they gazed into darkness from brightness outside.
A small hand, like a fan, he saw shading the light
And protecting those eyes from the sun over-bright;
The slight, delicate fingers against the light turned,
And like rubies transparent, with roseate glow burned;
He saw lips, curious, pouting somewhat, and saw fine
Little teeth, which like white pearls among coral shine;
And cheeks, which though that rosy hand shielded them so,
Yet themselves both all over like two roses glowed.
He lay under a window; in shadows concealed,
Stretched flat on his back, marvelled at what he beheld,
Which just over, near-touching his face was now gleaming,
Was this presence quite real? Or, perhaps, he was dreaming
Of the shining and pleasant young face of a child
As in tender years once, in our dreams, on us smiled?
The small face approached his-and, now trembling in fear,
And, alas, in joy too, now! He saw, all too clear,
Saw, remembered, and knew that hair short, golden-bright,
Twisted into small ringlets in curl-papers white,
(Like silvery pods), which shone, with the radiance sun lent,
As in a blessed icon the crown of a saint.
He sprang up-but the vision had vanished in fear
Of the noise; though he waited, did not re-appear.
Only heard he again once the same triple tapping
And the words: "Please get up, sir, it's no time for napping,
You've slept in, sir". He leapt out of bed, roughly threw
Both wood shutters asunder, till groaned every screw,
And each flew apart, banging the wall on its side;
He jumped out, looked around him, dazed, eyes open wide,
Yet saw nothing, saw no one, no footprint at all:
The fenced orchard extended not far from the wall,
And above, leaves of hop-plant, and flowers, swayed slightly,
By some delicate hands these, perhaps, were touched lightly?
Or the wind? So Tadeusz stood long in suspense,
Dared not enter, but only, both arms on the fence,
Raised his eyes, with one finger he placed on his lips
Bid himself to stay silent-so no word would slip
To spoil this meditation. His forehead he rapped,
Just as if an old memory, long dormant, he tapped.
At last, biting his fingers, till blood nearly streamed,
At the top of his voice: "serves me, right, idiot", screamed.
The house, filled until lately with bustle and cries
Like a graveyard now silent and desolate lies:
All had left for the hunt now; Tadeusz pricked up
His ears, and like two trumpets, both hands to them cupped,
And listened, till the wind brought, blown from the deep wood
Trumpet-calls and loud cries of the hunt brotherhood.
Tadeusz's horse stood in the stable, all saddled,
He his flintlock grabbed, and, like a madman, skedaddled
Towards the inns that stood by the chapel, thus near
Where at dawn the hunt party were told to appear.
There two inns leant together, opposing each other,
And with its hostile windows each threatened its brother;
The older was the castle's, by old feudal right,
The latter by Soplicas was built in despite.
Gerwazy in the first ruled the roost, by tradition,
In the other, Protazy took foremost position.
The new inn not distinctive in style or in line;
While the other was built to an older design,
Tyrian carpenters' pattern, it is now well known,
Which the Jews had adopted and took for their own:
A style of architecture they through the world carried,
Abroad quite unknown; we from the Jews it inherit.
The inn's front view a Noah's ark strongly resembled,
Its rear more like a temple; the ark held assembled
In its box-like square structure much fauna, though called
These days by the more rustic name 'byre'; in its hold
Various beasts: horses, bearded goats, cattle; birds flew;
Reptiles crawled in pairs; there were huge insect swarms too.
The rear built in a different and temple-like style,
Its appearance recalling that Solomon's pile,
Which those earliest trainees in the carpenter's trade,
King Hiram's skilful craftsmen, on Mount Zion made.
Jews it follow today still when building their schools,
And their taverns and barns are built to the same rules.
Roof of straw and of shingle, ends pointed, kicked up,
Crumpled up like a Jew's old and shabby torn cap,
Up above it the show of a balcony boasts,
Held aloft by a row of close-set wooden posts;
Architecture's great marvel these columns are, too:
Still standing, though half-rotten and put up askew
Like the tower of Pisa; the style, though, not Greek-
For no capital to them, nor bases antique.
Semi-circular arches above these posts run,
Also wooden, in manner of Gothic art done.
Carved all round, though no graver nor chisel were used,
But with carpenter's hatchet most deftly produced,
Like Sabbath candelabra, with arms long and hooked,
At their ends turned round balls, which like those buttons look
Which on Israelite pates at their prayers are hung
And which 'tsitses', or fringes, are called in their tongue.
From afar the whole tavern, tottering, and off-square,
Most resembled a Jew who is nodding at prayer:
The roof a cap, thatch under, a rough unkempt beard;
Walls, a gaberdine smoke-stained, bedraggled and smeared,
While the carving in front like a 'tsitses' projects.
A partition the tavern down centre bisects:
One section filled with chambers quite narrow and long,
Does solely to the ladies and travellers belong;
In the other, one huge room. Along each wall stood
A plain many-legged table, long, narrow, of wood,
On both sides many stools, which the table resembled
As do children their father.
On these stools assembled
Peasants, wives, petty gentry, together tight pressed,
In a row; but the Steward apart from the rest.
After mass at the chapel, it was the Lord's Day,
They proceeded to Jankiel's to drink and to play.
A small bowl of grey vodka by each hand frothed hot,
In between ran the hostess who held a quart pot.
In the middle stood Jankiel in full-length capote
To the ground, with silk loops and with silver clasps caught.
One hand gravely inside his black silken sash placed,
With the other his beard stroked, grey, reaching his waist;
Casting glances about him, he newcomers greeted,
Issued orders, would pause by those already seated
To encourage the discourse, the quarrelsome quelled,
Serving no one himself, he about the room strolled.
The old Jew, wide reputed to be a good man,
Long the lease held. No peasant, nor yet gentleman
At the manor his service would ever run down;
Why complain? Here the best choice of drink could be found,
He kept careful accounts, but gave no one short weight,
Good cheer encouraged, drunks though would not tolerate,
He loved dancing and fun: here were weddings enjoyed,
They held christenings here; he each Sunday employed
Musicians from the village, and this band would swell
With a player on bass-viol, and bagpipes as well.
In all music versed, he had a great reputation;
On the cembalo, greatly beloved by his nation,
He performed at the manors: his playing amazed,
And his singing, for skill and musicianship praised.
Though a Jew, quite correctly pronounced he our tongue;
He especially favoured the national song,
Brought from over the Niemen too many to tell:
Hutzul dances from Halicz, mazurkas as well;
Rumour, true or not, had it that to him we owed,
That, in fact, he the first was to bring from abroad
And to soon make familiar throughout the whole shire
That song that through the world now is famed and admired,
And which for the first time, in the Ausonian regions
To Italian ears sounded the trumps of our legions.
The gift of voice in Litwa is very well-paid,
People's joy, it earns wealth, and it brings accolade:
It made Jankiel rich; sated with profit and fame,
His cembalo sweet-voiced he hung up and became
An inn-keeper; with children and wife settled down.
He was, too, under-rabbi in neighbouring town,
In all homes a guest welcome, one never afraid
To give sound advice; knew much about the grain trade
And its transport by water: a much-needed role
In this country.-Known also to be a good Pole.
It was he brought feuds, bloody sometimes, to a cease
That raged between the taverns: he took both on lease;
The adherents of neither respect him begrudged;
By Horeszkos' men honoured, and those of the Judge.
Only his mien could temper the more feared, and rasher,
The Horeszkos' old Warden, and quarrelsome Usher;
Before Jankiel each choked back the grudge and the wrong,
Gerwazy of the feared hand, Protazy of tongue.
Gerwazy was not there; he had gone to the hunt
Loath into such great peril to send the young Count
As yet so inexperienced in such matters, and
Therefore followed him close to advise and defend.
Today Gerwazy's corner, away from the door,
Where two wall benches meet, at the inn's very core,
As the 'sanctuary' known, was by Father Worm filled;
Placed there, indeed, by Jankiel; who, quite plainly, held
The almsman in much honour; as soon as he chanced
To see the priest's glass empty, would run up at once
And then have it replenished with best July mead.
It was said that, when younger, they had known indeed
Each other in lands foreign. And often, at night
Worm would come and confer with the Jew out of sight
About matters of substance; and some rumours had it
The monk smuggled, an insult not worthy of credit.
Worm, arms propped on the table, talked in tones subdued,
By the gentry surrounded. The crowd stood, ears glued,
In the snuff-box monastic long noses they squeezed;
All sniffed thence, and then all like a battery sneezed.
"Reverendissime", said Skoluba, sneeze done,
"This is some great tobacco, gets up the old bun;
As long as this beak's mine" (here he stroked his long nose)
"I have never had better" (he took one more dose);
"A real Bernardine snuff this, from Kovno indeed,
A town through the world famous for snuff and for mead,
I was there, let me see..." Broke in Worm: "The Lord send
Good health to you all, masters, my most honoured friends!
But about this tobacco, hem, it, I confess,
Comes from further afar than our friend here can guess.
From the Bright Mountain comes, where the Pauline priest-fathers
In Czestochowa make it, much better than others,
Where dwells that wondrous picture, for holiness known,
The Lord's own Virgin Mother, Queen of Polish Crown;
As she, also, Lithuania's Grand Duchess is called!
She the royal crown of Poland still wears, as of old,
But our Duchy's now under schismatic oppression!"
"Czestochowa?" asked Wilbik, "I went for confession,
For indulgences there, now a score years or more;
Is it true that the Frenchman sits there like a lord,
Plans the church to demolish, steal the treasure in't?
-The 'Lithuanian Courier' had all this in print!"
"No, not true", said the monk; "no, beyond any doubt
Of all Catholics, Napoleon's by far most devout;
Him the Pope has anointed, they live in accord,
And the French they together convert to the Lord,
For these have grown lax, somewhat; and true, the monks blessed
And put much silver into the national chest,
For the Fatherland, Poland! The Lord so ordains,
Still the treasury of Poland His altar remains;
After all, in the Duchy, there stand now five-score
Thousand our Polish soldiers, there soon may be more
And who'll pay for this army? And should not you offer?
You who pennies put only in Muscovite coffer?"
"The devil!" Wilbik cried, "they by force grab the tin!"
"Oy, dear master", a peasant most humbly put in,
Bowing low to the Father, and scratching his head:
"You are gentry, for you it is not half as bad,
But us, they strip like fish".-"Churl!" Skoluba cried out
"Stupid, you're better off, you're accustomed, you lout
Like an eel, to be skinned; but for us, the well-bred,
For us gentry, to golden old liberties wed!
Ah, a gentleman, brothers, once, on his own patch..."
("Yes, yes, yes", they all cried, "is a voievode's match")
"...They our birth would now question, 'Find papers', they prate;
Our title to be 'gentry' we must demonstrate".
"Yours, sir, is but small matter", Juraha then cried,
"Your granddads were just peasants, but late gentrified,
But I, I come of princes! Ask me to disclose
When my patents were granted? God only this knows!
Let the Russ to the forest go, ask the oak: 'Please,
Who gave you rights to flourish above other trees?'"
"Gracious Prince", put in Zagiel, "elsewhere tell this stuff,
Hereabouts you'll encounter coronets enough".
"A cross features on your shield; sign uncontroverted",
Cried Podhajski with venom, "your folk were converted".
"False!" cut in Birbasz, "I come of Tartar counts, sirs,
My escutcheon three crosses above an ark bears".
"Poraj", cried out Mickiewicz, "field gold, with a mitre,
A duke's coat, it is proven, Stryjkowski's the writer".
Upon this in the tavern rose murmurs, and worse;
Father Worm to his snuff-box again had recourse,
Passed it round the disputants; the tumult soon eased,
Each took some, through politeness, and several times sneezed;
Making use of the respite the priest spoke again:
"Oh, this snuff has been used by the greatest of men!
Would you credit, this snuffbox had once, true enough,
To our General Dabrowski four times given snuff?"
"What? Dabrowski?" they cried-"I was at the attack
When our great general Gdansk from the Germans took back.
He had writing to do; so, that he would not nap,
Took this stuff, sneezed, and twice gave my shoulder a clap:
'Father Worm', he then said, 'yes, without any doubt
We shall meet in Lithuania before the year's out;
Tell the Litwans: await me, have ready this snuff,
Czestochowan, no other is near good enough'."
The priest's tale raised such wonder, and such joy, among
All the listeners assembled, the whole gathered throng
Was silent for a moment; then, over and over,
"Polish snuff?" was repeated, "and from Czestochowa?
From Italy? And Dabrowski?"-When this moment passed,
As if thought met with thought, word with word, they at last
With one voice, as at signal made, all with one shout,
"The Dabrowski March!" cried-and all bedlam broke out,
All each other hugged: peasant embraced Tartar Count,
Cross, and Mitre, Gryf, Poraj, forgot every taunt,
All forgotten, with even the priest out of mind,
They sang on, while still shouting: "Mead! Vodka! And wine!"
Long gave Father Worm ear to the song of the men,
At last judged it enough; took the snuffbox again
In both hands, with two sneezes their melody broke
And, before they recovered, thus hastily spoke:
"You give praise to my snuffbox, my very good sirs,
Now observe what inside this container occurs".
Here, he wiped well its bottom, which snuff made obscure,
To reveal a small army in fine miniature,
Like a swarm of gnats; central, a man trots along,
Huge as a beetle, doubtless, the chief of this throng;
Reins in one hand, the other hand touching his nose,
His horse spurring, which skyward upon hind legs rose,
"Observe, sirs", said Worm, "this man's redoubtable bearing;
Can you guess who that is?"-All, expectant, stood staring-
"A great man this, an emperor, but not of the Russian,
For the Russian czars never took up the snuff fashion".
"A great man", called out Cydzik, "and in a capote?
I had thought that great men walk with gold on their coat,
Any Muscovite general puts on a great show,
Like a pike cooked in saffron, all glitter and glow".
"Bah", cut in Rymsza, "I had indeed seen the great
Kosciuszko, once commander of our entire state:
Though a great man, he favoured Kraków country wear,
Or a czamara, rather"-"What czamara, sir?
A taratatka it was!" cried Wilbik, "Forsooth,
The one's fringed, and the other is totally smooth!"
Mickiewicz then called out, and there broke out fresh quarrels
About the style and virtues of different apparels.
The resourceful Worm, seeing the train of discourse
Go astray, began putting it back on its course,
Once more snuff went around and they all sneezed in train,
Wished each other good health; so he spoke yet again:
"When the Emperor Napoleon takes snuff at a battle
Several times, that's a sure sign the matter is settled;
Take Austerlitz, the Frenchman stood still, every man
By his cannon, and at them a Muscow swarm ran;
The Emperor watched, silent; each time the French fired,
Corps of Russians lay down, like mown grass, in the mire:
And corps after corps galloped and fell off its mounts;
As each corps fell, Napoleon would sniff up an ounce;
At last Czar Alexander, with his little brother
Konstanty, and the Kaiser Franz all in a lather,
Took to their heels; so, seeing them quitting the scene,
The Emperor just laughed and his fingers shook clean.
So, if any here present, so being inclined
Joins the Emperor's army, just call this to mind."
"Ah!" cried Skoluba, "Father, but when will this be?
When will that day dawn? Every saint's day that we see
In the calendar, vainly the Frenchman predicts!
One watches, till one's lids must be propped up with sticks;
And the Ruski, as always, holds us by the throat;
Before that bright sun rises, our eyes dew will rot".
"My dear sir", said the monk, "it's for women to grumble,
Or for Jews, with arms folded, to wait, meek and humble
At the door for a traveller to bring him some trade;
No big thing to beat Moscow with Napoleon's aid.
Three times he tanned already the hide of the Kraut,
Nasty Prussians he stepped on, the English kicked out,
Hey, over the sea. Ruskis he'll cope with as well;
And what will come of all that, can you, good sir, tell?
So, the Lithuanian gentry will then show its mettle
And its sabres will brandish, but after the battle?
Napoleon, having thrashed all himself, will then say:
'I can do without you, who are you, anyway?'
Not enough to await, to invite guests to sup,
One should gather one's people and tables set up,
For a feast, clean your house out, you know what I mean,
So, make your house clean, children, first make your house clean!"
Silence fell, then some voices arose, then a choral
"How to 'clean out your house'? What's your reverence's moral?
Sure, we'll do what's to do, do it all to the letter,
Only let your good reverence explain your drift better".
The priest gazed out the window, cut short what was said;
Saw there something of interest, so stuck out his head,
After a pause said, rising: "We've no time today,
At a time more convenient I'll have more to say;
I tomorrow have business in our district town,
Alms collected, will call here, sirs, on my way down".
"Let Father to Niechrymow drop in for the night",
Said the Steward, "The Ensign will gladly invite
You to stay, we in Litwa all know the old saying:
'As lucky as an almsman in Niechrymow staying'!"
"To our place," said Zubkowski, "do drop in, I beg:
We'll find linen, a lamb or calf, butter-a keg,
Mind the old proverb, Father: 'a priest is real blessed
If he comes as an almsman to Zubkow on quest'.
"Come to us", said Skoluba,-"To us"-Terajewicz,
"No Bernardine is hungry when leaving Pucrewicz".
Thus all gentry with plea and inducement galore
Saw the priest off; already he was out the door.
He had just glimpsed Tadeusz, who madly had raced
Down the road past the window, no hat, ashen-faced,
Head bent forward, a gloomy and set lower lip,
And his horse madly urging with reins, spur and whip.
The Bernardine by this sight was puzzled and worried;
So he after the youngster with rapid step hurried,
Towards the forest looming, vast, limitless, grim,
And blackening the horizon's broad outermost rim.
Litwan wilderness, who can its fastness explore
To the very heart's centre, the thicket's deep core?
The fisherman knows barely the sea's shallow shore,
And the huntsman but knocks on the Litwan woods' door,
Knows it but on the surface, its form, outward look,
But its innermost sanctum's to him a closed book:
Only rumour or fable knows what lies within.
For, if you through the thicket should manage to win,
You will strike a great rampart of roots, stumps and beams,
By quagmires well defended, by thousands of streams,
And anthill upon anthill, and mattings of brakes,
Nests of wasps and of hornets, and writhings of snakes.
If you these with amazing great bravery subdue
Then even more dire perils are waiting for you:
There lie in wait, like wolf-pits, that dare you to pass,
Little pools half grown over with mat of rank grass
So very deep, that no man can fathom such pit,
(And it is very likely, therein devils sit).
Water in these shafts glistens, with bloody rust spotted,
And steam from the depths rises, with smell of things rotted,
Which makes the trees that grow there lose all leaf and bark;
Bald and dwarfish, worm-riddled, unhealthy and stark,
With mossy tangled elf-locks from crooked limbs hanging,
And stumps hump-backed, and bristling with unlovely fungi,
Squat like a witches' coven round a cauldron wheezing,
Their hands warming, while in it a fresh corpse is seething.
Past these pools, it's not only quite useless to try
To set foot, but to even explore with one's eye:
For all is hidden always by mists which there lie,
And eternally rise from that quivering morass.
And behind this mist (such tales through villages pass)
Stretches out a most lovely and fertile expanse,
Capital of the kingdom of beasts and of plants.
In it gathered, the seeds of each herb and tree lie,
From which through the whole world can each kind multiply;
As in Noah's ark, in it each specie of beast
For propagation keeps here one pair at the least.
In its heart (we are told) there repose in grand state
Ancient Buffalo, Bear, Bison: its emperors great.
On a tree-branch the swift Lynx limbs stretches, inert;
Near the wolverine-glutton, ministers alert;
Then, subordinate vassals of this citadel,
The huge Boar, forest Wolf, and the long-horned Elk dwell.
The wild Falcons and Eagles keep watch overhead,
And like court hangers-on, are from lords' table fed.
These beast pairs, patriarchal, illustrious, serene,
In the forest's core hid, by the world never seen,
Send their young to the outposts at edge of the wood,
While they, in the deep centre, enjoy quietude;
They by arms never perish, by cold steel, or shot,
But a natural death die when old, in this spot.
And they have their own graveyard, where when nearing death,
The birds lay down their feathers, furred beasts give up breath,
The bear, its own teeth swallowed, cannot chew its food,
Senile stag, when its forelegs no longer are good,
The aging hare, when blood in its veins congeals cold,
The raven greyed, the falcon, once keen-eyed, now old,
The eagle, when so crooked becomes its old beak,
That, no food past its gullet, each day grows more weak,
Go to the graveyard. Even the lesser beasts race,
Sick or wounded, to die in each one's native place.
Thus in parts not so secret, where humans are guests,
One can never discover the bones of dead beasts.
One hears that the wild creatures in that citadel
Rule themselves and that therefore their matters run well;
By man's civilization not rendered immoral,
Rights of property know not, which makes our world quarrel,
Nor duels, nor the art and the science of war.
As in Eden their forebears, their sons evermore
Live in peace and affection, wild and tame, like brothers,
None will bite, nor will butt, nor attack one another.
Even if man should chance there, though he be unarmed,
Through the midst of the beasts he could wander unharmed;
They would cast on him merely that look of surprise,
Which on day six, creation's last, in paradise
Their forbears, who had dwelt in the First Garden's rim,
Cast at Adam, before they had quarrelled with him.
Happily, no man into this recess may stray,
For Toil, and Death, and Terror, forbid him the way.
Sometimes only the bloodhounds in frenzied pursuit
Having heedlessly rushed twixt the bog, gorge and root,
By these depths' utter horror unnerved, terrified,
Run off whining and yelping, half-mad, crazy-eyed;
And long after, although by their master caressed,
They yet at his feet tremble, by terror possessed.
This, the forest's deep covert, to men never shown,
In their language as 'heartwood' by hunters is known.
Foolish bear! Had you stayed in the heartwood protected
The Tribune would have never your presence detected;
But whether scent of honey, to which you are prone,
Or the fragrant ripe oats had you fatally drawn:
You to forest's edge ventured, where trees were less dense,
And the game-keepers there straight your presence had sensed,
And sent after you beaters to keep you in sight,
And spy where you are feeding, and where spend the night.
Now, the Tribune, with beaters, to your heartwood seat,
Having placed his battalions, forbids you retreat.
Tadeusz now found out that he did not much miss
Since the dogs vanished into the forest's abyss.
Quiet now:-now the huntsman in vain strains his ear
As if some vital speech he is trying to hear,
Listening to the deep silence, long motionless stays;
Only the forest's music to him gently plays.
Dogs, like grebes under water, dive through brake and fern,
While the hunters, twin-barrels towards the woods turned,
Watch the Tribune, now kneeling, ear quizzing the ground;
As they might watch a doctor, whom each tries to sound
For the life-or-death sentence for someone held dear,
Thus the hunters the Tribune's hunt-knowledge revere;
Their gaze hopeful, and fearful, upon his face kept.
"He's here", he at last muttered, and to his feet leapt,
He has heard: they yet listen-then, too, hear the grunts,
One dog's yelp, then another's, then, twenty at once,
All the hounds howl together-a wide-scattered pack
Gives voice, nostrils now catching the scent on the track,
They bay fiercely and loudly: but not with the lazy
Hunt-pack song when a hare, or a fox, or doe chasing,
But with short now and frequent, staccato, sharp sounds,
For this was not an old spoor, just found by the hounds:
Now their quarry's in sight, now stops still the pursuit;
The beast is at bay-yelpings, din, uproar-the brute
Fights them off, surely maims them; among the dogs' baying
One hears more and more often the howls of dog dying.
Now the hunters paused, each with his loaded gun stood,
Like a strung bow bent forward, head aimed at the wood;
Then can stand still no longer! Their set posts forsake
And one after another push into the brake
To be first at the beast, though the Tribune urged caution,
Though the Tribune on horseback inspected each station,
"Whether he a plain peasant, or master", he cried,
"Who his post leaves, a crop he across his backside
Will soon feel!" But no use! All, despite Tribune's tether,
Ran into the wood, three guns now thundered together,
Then a wild cannonade, till more loud than this war
Roared the bear, echo filling the woods with its roar.
A dreadful roar! Of anguish, of rage, of despair!
Then dogs' howls, cries of huntsmen, and beaters horns' blare
From the thickets' depth sounded; the huntsmen, excited,
Run in deeper, guns cocking-and all are delighted;
But the Tribune cries sadly: the shots went astray.
The huntsmen and the beaters all hurried one way:
To cut off the beast midway the covert and wood;
While the bear, by dogs menaced, by hunters pursued,
Turned back towards the areas of hunters bereft,
Towards fields, which the outposts already had left,
Where, from huntsmen's ranks, only the Tribune had stayed,
With the Count, and Tadeusz, and some who obeyed.
The forest here more sparse; from it roar, hubbub, crash,
When as from storm-clouds issues a thunderbolt, rushed
The bear, dogs chase and worry; on hind legs he rose,
Looked around him, his roaring affrighting his foes,
With his forepaws he tree-roots tore up, or he found
Blackened tree-stumps, or stones pulled from out of the ground,
These at dogs and men hurling, a tree he then cleft,
Twirling it like a club to the right, to the left,
And rushed straight at the outposts last of the battue,
At the Count and Tadeusz: No fear showed the two,
Legs apart, their two muskets thrust out at the game
Like two lightning-rods at a cloud's dark bosom aimed;
And two fingers then pulled at their triggers at once:
(Inexperienced!); as one gun there thundered both guns;
And both missed. The bear bounded, they grabbed with four hands
A spear in ground embedded, and each it demands,
Pulls it to him-they look up, and here, from a snout
Red, enormous, two sharp rows of white fangs flash out,
And a paw with huge talons hangs just overhead;
They grew pale and jumped backwards, to open ground sped,
The beast just behind, outstretched, already its claws
Slashed, and missed, again pouncing, again stretched and rose,
For the Count's bright blond hair it with one black paw searched.
Would have torn skull from brains like a hat off its perch,
When Assessor and Notary emerged from each side,
And Gerwazy some five score of paces ran wide,
And with him Worm, unarmed though-the three, through the briar,
As if at a command all together gave fire.
The bear leapt up as, chased by the hounds, leaps a hare,
And it crashed headlong downward, four paws in the air,
Turned a somersault, and its huge carcass's mass
Crashing at the Count's feet, knocked him flat on the grass,
Roaring still, yet would rise, when was pinned to the ground
By ferocious 'Inspector' and 'Lawyer' renowned.
Thereupon grasped the Tribune, to his belt well knotted,
His great buffalo horn, long, and twisty, and spotted
As the snake boa; two-handed to his lips he pressed it,
Blew his cheeks out like pumpkins, eyes with blood congested,
Half slid down his two eyelids, drew in half his belly,
And to his lungs he sent off all his spirit swelling,
And blew: the horn, a whirlwind, with a mighty beating,
Drives the notes through the forest, the echo repeating.
Hushed the huntsmen, stood beaters, amazed at the strong,
Limpid grace, the perfection and sweetness of song.
The old man all his art, once through forests renowned,
Perhaps for the last time, for the huntsmen's ears found;
He soon filled, brought to life, all the woods, groves of oak,
As if with hounds he filled them, and hunting evoked:
For the hunt's abridged history his horn was re-telling:
First a signal resounded, wake up!-the reveille;
And then yelp after yelp, whines-the dogs are disputing;
Here and there a note harsher, like thunder: the shooting.
Now the Tribune paused holding the horn; in the glade
It seemed to all he played still: but now echo played.
He blew again; you'd think that the horn changed shape, that
In the Tribune's lips held, it grew thin, then grew fat,
Imitating beasts' voices; into wolf's neck now,
Stretching out and emitting a long, dreadful howl;
Then, as if swelling into the throat of a bear,
It roared; and then a bison's bleat shattered the air.
Now he paused, the horn holding; to all in the glade
'Tseemed the Tribune was playing, but now echo played.
Having witnessed the zenith horn-playing can reach,
The oak to oaks replayed it, to beeches the beech.
He blows again: in that horn a hundred horns speak,
One could hear the confused cries of huntsmen, the shriek
Of anger and of fear; then the Tribune raised high
The horn and a triumphal hymn beat at the sky.
Now he paused, the horn holding; to all in the glade
'Tseemed the Tribune was playing, but now echo played.
As many as are trees, seemed there horns to admire,
One the song passed to others, as if choir to choir.
And the music spread, ever more distant, more wide,
Ever fainter, more perfect, and more purified,
Till afar off it vanished, at heavens' front step!
The Tribune, both hands letting go of the horn, swept
His arms cruciform; dropped then the horn on its thong,
It swung. Face swollen, radiant, the Tribune stood long
With eyes heavenwards lifted; stood as if inspired,
His ears catching the notes, ere they vanished, expired.
In the meantime there thundered a thousand ovations,
Thousand shouts and a thousand loud congratulations.
Slowly, slowly, they calmed, and the eyes of all there
Turned towards the enormous fresh corpse of the bear:
It lay pierced through by bullets, with wet gore bespattered,
The breast plunged in the thick grass, entangled and matted,
Lying prostrate it cross-wise its front paws spread out,
It still breathed, streams of blood poured from nostrils and snout,
His eyes he still could open, but not move his head,
The Chamberlain's two bulldogs hung on him like lead,
On the left the 'Inspector', his right side was caught
By 'Lawyer', who drew, throttling, black blood from the throat.
The Tribune then commanded an iron bar ease
The dogs' sharp teeth apart so the prey they'd release.
Men with gun-stocks turned over the corpse of the bear
And a triple hurrah yet again smote the air.
"Ey what?" cried the Assessor, his gun gave a twirl,
"Ey what, my little fusil, we're champion, old girl,
Eh what, my little fusil, a little bird-gun,
What a showing made it though! A better there's none,
She will not waste a bullet upon empty air,
It comes from Prince Sanguszko, a present most rare".
Here he showed them his gun which, though small, was first-rate,
And its virtues proceeded to enumerate.
"There I ran", cried the Notary, wiped sweat off his eyes,
"I ran just behind, closely, the Tribune then cries:
'Stay in your places!' How 'stay'? The bear does not stay,
Like a hare, at full gallop! He's off and away!
Till I ran out of breath; it seemed he is the winner,
Then I look right; he's bounding, the wood here is thinner,
So I take aim at once: this will stop you, you bear!
And presto, there, it's over: end of the affair!
A stout little gun, genuine true Sagalas make,
On it 'Sagalas, London', is writ, no mistake,
'Of Balaban': a smith there, a Pole, was located;
Polish guns made, in English mode well decorated".
"What?" spluttered the Assessor, "by one thousand bears!
So it's you, sir, who killed it? Have you naught upstairs?"
"Listen, you", said the Notary, "please, no police here,
This is hunting: we'll all as a witness appear."
Bitter schisms arose then among the hunt gentry,
These support the Assessor, and others the Notary;
No one mentioned Gerwazy, for all had run there
From all sides, of what happened up front unaware.
Now the Tribune addressed them: "In this, sirs, affair,
Here at least is some sense, sirs, it's not some poor hare,
But a bear, it's no shame here to seek satisfaction,
With a sabre, or pistols. If there's no retraction,
Your dispute's hard to settle, so by the old rule
And old ways, I permit you to fight out a duel.
I recall, in my time, dwelt two neighbours near-by
Honest gentlemen, gentry from times long gone by,
Lived on opposite shores of the river Wilejka,
Name of one was Domejko, the other's Dowejko,
They once shot at a she-bear, both firing together;
Whose kill, none could determine, both got in a lather,
'Cross the bearskin they swore they would settle their quarrel,
Seemed to me, not like gentry, it's barrel to barrel.
At the time this duello occasioned much talk;
Songs were written about it and sung by the folk.
I was a second; where it took place, and just how
I shall from the beginning recount to you now".
Before he could, Gerwazy cut short all contention;
Once around the bear walked he with earnest attention,
At last reached for a cleaver, the snout cut in two,
From the back of the head, from the cortex, withdrew
And extracted the bullet, wiped clean with his coat,
And matched it with the cartridge and flintlock he'd brought;
Then, his hand raising head-high, the slug on his palm,
"Sirs", announced he, "this bullet comes not from your arm,
But out of this Horeszko one-barrel was shot,
(Here he raised the old flintlock, with strings tied, still hot)
But not by me was fired. Oh, one needs in such plight
A cool brain; I still shudder, a mist hid my sight,
For both young men directly towards me then sped,
And the bear close behind! Just above the Count's head,
Of the last of Horeszkos! Though on distaff side.
'Jesu Mary!' cry I, and the Lord's angels guide
This Bernardine monk to me, to answer my call.
O, most excellent cleric! He had shamed us all!
While I dared not the gun touch, stood, shook, and perspired,
He snatched it from my hands, took aim quickly, and fired:
Shoot between two heads! Hundred of paces! Not miss!
A bull's eye through the muzzle! Teeth knock out like this!
Gentlemen! Long as I live, I knew one at most
Of such marksmanship could once deservedly boast.
He, notorious here once for his duels and booze,
Who could shoot out the heels from right under girls shoes,
That great scoundrel of scoundrels, of sinister fame,
That Jacek, nicknamed 'Whiskers'; I shan't speak the name:
But his time for bear-hunting now surely has passed;
The thug up to his whiskers in hell sits at last.
Glory be to the priest! Two men's lives saved today,
Perhaps even three; boasting was never my way,
But if of the Horeszkos today the last son
Fell into this beast's jaws, then my race would be run,
And my old bear-chewed bones would be buried as well;
Come then Father, let's thank you and drink to your health."
Vainly the priest was looked for; they only this heard,
After killing the beast he had briefly appeared,
To the Count and Tadeusz he'd leapt with one bound,
Satisfied then that both were indeed safe and sound,
His eyes raised up to heaven, a quiet prayer said,
And, as if he were hunted, towards the fields sped.
Meanwhile at Tribune's order big bunches of heather,
Twigs, and stumps, and dry brushwood, were piled up together;
Flames the fire, a great pine-tree of smoke grows, widespread
Like a baldachin, covering the sky overhead.
Above the flame stand tripods, made of three spears joined,
And big-bellied deep cauldrons are hung from each point,
Meats, vegetables, flour, then were brought from the wagons,
And the bread.
The Judge opened a box full of flagons,
These their white heads raise neatly arranged in prim rows;
A fine crystal decanter, the largest, he chose
(From Father Worm he had it, a present sincere),
This was vodka from Gdansk, to a Pole a drink dear;
"Long live Gdansk", cried His Honour, flask raising to pour,
"The city, which once ours, shall yet ours be once more!"
And poured the silvery liquor in turn, till there showed
Flakes of gold in the goblets, and in the sun glowed.
In the pots warmed the bigos; mere words cannot tell
Of its wondrous taste, colour and marvellous smell.
One can hear the words buzz, and the rhymes ebb and flow,
But its content no city digestion can know.
To appreciate the Lithuanian folksong and folk food,
You need health, live on land, and be back from the wood.
Without these, still a dish of no mediocre worth
Is bigos, made from legumes, best grown in the earth;
Pickled cabbage comes foremost, and properly chopped,
Which itself, is the saying, will in ones mouth hop;
In the boiler enclosed, with its moist bosom shields
Choicest morsels of meat raised on greenest of fields;
Then it simmers, till fire has extracted each drop
Of live juice, and the liquid boils over the top,
And the heady aroma wafts gently afar.
Now the bigos is ready. With triple hurrah
Charge the huntsmen, spoon-armed, the hot vessel to raid,
Brass thunders and smoke belches, like camphor to fade,
Only in depths of cauldrons, there still writhes there later
Steam, as if from a dormant volcano's deep crater.
Having eaten their fill, drunk full goblets uncounted,
The beast placed on a wagon, their horses they mounted,
All gay, chatty, except for the Notary, still sore,
And Assessor; both angrier than they were before,
Still disputing the virtues of this and that gun,
Of the quondamSanguszko, and Sagalas one.
The Count rode with Tadeusz, morose and defeated,
Ashamed, first, that they'd missed, and then that they'd retreated:
For he in Lithuania who lets a trapped bear
Get away, long must labour his fame to repair.
The Count claimed he was foremost in reaching the spear,
And Tadeusz had hindered him fronting the bear:
Tadeusz held that being of much stronger build,
And at wielding the big, heavy, weapon more skilled,
He'd been trying to spare the Count. Thus, now and then,
They would talk midst the hubbub and cries of the men.
The Tribune rode at centre; a senior respected,
In a most jovial humour. Much talk he directed
To amusing the squabblers, peace thereby restoring;
Pressed on with the Domejko/Dowejko old story:
"Assessor, if I seemed to encourage at first
Your duel with the Notary, it's not that I thirst
For blood; so Heaven help me! I wished to distract,
A comedy I purposed here to re-enact,
And renew a conceit which, some forty years back
I invented, most curious. You all my years lack,
So you would not recall, but during my days,
From these woods to Polesie, 'twas laughed at and praised.
Domejko's and Dowejko's adverse feelings came,
Strange to say, from resemblance between name and name,
Inconvenient to both men. When, during elections
Dowejko's friends were busied in courting connections,
Whispered one to a voter: "Give yours to Dowejko!"
But, mishearing, he voted to favour Domejko.
When a health was proposed by the Marshal Rupejko:
"Vivat Domejko!" cried he, cried others: "Dowejko!"
And those in between sitting quite frequently erred,
This can happen at dinner, when speech may be slurred.
It got worse: once, in Wilno, a gentleman sot
Sabres crossed with Domejko; two cuts from this got:
This same gentleman, later on, when he was setting
Out for home met Dowejko by chance on the jetty;
On the same punt then floating upon the Wileyka,
Asks his neighbour: "Who are you?"-The answer: "Dowejko".
Straight away, he his rapier withdraws with panache,
Snip! For Domejko's deed trims Dowejko's moustache.
At last, for a real clincher you hardly would want,
A coincidence happened when both were at hunt,
Where the two namesakes found each one next to the other:
At the same she-bear both men fired guns off together,
True, it fell down quite lifeless right after their shots,
But it carried already ten balls in its guts;
Quite a few had a gun with the same size of ball,
So, find who killed the she-bear? Not easy at all!
Here they shouted: 'Enough now! One of us must die!
God or devil has joined us, it's time to untie:
Two of us, like two suns, for this world are too much!'
And so, out with their sabres, both stand within touch,
Both were persons esteemed, but the more gentry tries
To make peace, the more one does the other despise.
They changed arms: now with pistols, not sabres, would fight,
Stand ready to shoot, "Too close!"-They vow, in despite,
Across this very bearskin to settle their quarrel;
But this means death for certain! A barrel to barrel;
Both good shots. 'Be our second', both of them request,
'Agreed', said I, 'but first you should look for a priest:
A dispute such as this can't but end with a grave;
So like gentlemen, and not like butchers, behave!
The range close enough; obvious, you're no nervous nellies!
Would you shoot with the barrels at each other's bellies?
I'll not have this! It's settled-to pistols we change;
But you'll shoot from no further and no closer range
Than a bearskin which I, as your second, am bound
To stretch out with my own hands upon the set ground,
And myself shall arrange you. You, sir, on one side
At the snout end will stand; you at tail of the hide.'
They: 'Agreed!' screamed; time?-'Sunrise'; the place?-'at the inn'.
They left, while I consulted my Virgil again..."
Here a cry "Get him!" Under the horses' hooves darted
A hare; now took off Bobtail, now speedy Hawk started;
These were brought to the hunt by their owners, aware
That returning, they'd likely encounter a hare;
Both ran, unleashed, alongside; hare barely in sight,
Before their masters sicked them, they're off in full flight.
The Notary and Assessor would ride in pursuit,
But the Tribune restrained them: "Stay! Don't move a foot!
I give no one permission to move from this place,
The hare's off to the field, we'll from here watch the chase".
Indeed, the hare sensed huntsmen and dogs behind, so
Made for the field, ears pricked like the horns of a doe,
And streaked above the furrows, long, grey, and outstretched,
Beneath him legs like sticks, which you'd say hardly reached
The ground below, just nudging the earth with touch slight
Like a swift almost kissing the water in flight.
Dust behind, dogs behind dust; from far off appeared
Hare, dust, hounds, as one being, mythical and weird;
As if through the fields slithered a long twisty snake,
The hare its head, the dust its dark greyish-blue neck,
While the dogs, like a double tail, writhed in its wake.
The Assessor and Notary, in silence complete,
Gaze, mouth open; the Notary grows pale as a sheet,
The Assessor pales too, sees-an ill turn things take,
The further from the watchers, the longer the snake,
It breaks into two sections, now gone neck of dust,
The head now near the forest, the tail-a poor last!
The head's hid now, but once more a scut can be spied,
Once between the trees flickers; the tail stops outside.
The poor dogs coursed the wood's edge, bewildered, confused,
Then appeared to confer and each other accuse;
Now at last they return, slowly jumping each mound,
Ears drooping and tails dropping in guilt to the ground,
Running up and heads hanging approach downcast-eyed,
Rather than join their masters, they stopped to one side.
The Notary to his chest sank his beclouded brow,
The Assessor cast glances, though quite cheerless now,
Then they both to their audience proceeded to prove
How their hounds without leashes were not wont to move,
How the hare sprang, no warning, how dogs should refuse
To course on such rough paddocks without wearing shoes,
So full was it of boulders and razor sharp flints.
Well did these expert masters such reasons evince:
The huntsmen may have gained much out of this discourse,
Had they listened intently. Some whistled, or worse,
They burst into loud laughter; or, bears on their mind,
To discuss recent hunting were better inclined.
The Tribune his glance hardly now gave to the hare,
Seeing it had got clear, he his head turned elsewhere
The disjunct tale to finish: "Where was I, before
I had stopped? I remember! When both parties swore
That across the bear's hide they would settle this quarrel.
Cried the gentry: 'It's sure death! It's barrel to barrel!
But I laughed, my friend Maro's good teaching I treasure,
That the hide of a beast is not any old measure.
For, as you all well know, sirs, Queen Dido once sought
Land from Libyans, and after much bargaining bought
From them a tract of land, of a size, and none over,
That by hide of an ox could exactly be covered;
On this plot arose Carthage, a once mighty nation!
So that night I gave all this due consideration.
"At first light comes a sulky: Dowejko it drives,
And opposite, on horseback, Domejko arrives.
They stare, over the river a shaggy bridge lies,
A slashed thin belt of bearskin, all knotted lengthwise.
I positioned Dowejko at tail of the hide,
On one shore, with Domejko on the opposite side,
'Pop away now', said I, 'all your life, if you choose,
But until you are friends, I will not set you loose'.
They are furious; the gentry just roll on the ground
Laughing, priest and I meanwhile address them with sound
Advice, he from the Gospels, I from statute law;
No help for it: they laughed, and a paw shook a paw.
Henceforth enmity changed to firm friendship for life,
Dowejko took Domejko's own sister as wife,
Gave his new brother's sister Domejko his heart,
And their wealth they divided into equal parts;
At the spot where unfolded this curious affair,
Having built there a tavern, they called it 'The Bear'.