The Tribune's astronomical lore - The Chamberlain's commentary on comets - The mysterious scene in the Judge's chamber - Tadeusz, expecting to extricate himself cleverly, falls into a nasty predicament -The new Dido - The foray - The Usher's last protest - The Count conquers Soplicowo -The assault and the slaughter - Gerwazy in role of cellar master - The feast after the foray
Before storms there comes often a stillness and dread,
When the on-rushing cloud-mass stands still overhead,
And with ominous face checks the winds' breath at once,
Silent, the earth examines with lightning's quick glance,
Marking targets at which it its bolts soon will cast;
Now over Soplicowo such dead stillness passed.
You might think that the presage of strange things to come
To a dreamland raised spirits, and sewed the lips dumb.
The Judge, after the supper, with his several guests
Walks outside to enjoy there the evening's rest;
All sit down on 'turf benches' with fine grasses strewed;
The whole gathering, in gloomy and taciturn mood,
Watch the sky which appears to loom lower, sink down,
And to thicken, yet closer approaching the ground,
Until sky and ground, hid by the darkening veil
Begin telling, like lovers, each other some tale,
Making plainer their feelings in half-stifled sighs,
And in whispers, in murmurs, half-spoken replies,
Which compose the peculiar strange music of gloaming.
The owl started it, under the homestead roof moaning;
With flimsy wing bats whisper, and silently flit
To the house, where the windows and faces shine, lit;
And yet nearer, bats' sisters, moths, in a swarm press,
Hovering, fluttering, attracted by women's white dress,
And especially by Zosia; they at her cheeks make
A charge, at her bright eyes, which for candles they take.
In the open, immense clouds of insects buzz there,
A harmonica band that floats on the night air;
Zosia's ear can distinguish in multi-note drone
The flies' chord, and mosquitoes' off-key semitone.
In the fields now the concert soirée has begun,
The players are now ready, their tuning-up done,
Thrice screamed the crake already, fields' first violin,
From the swamps now the bass line of bitterns joins in;
And the snipes rise now also, there suddenly comes
Their call, often repeated, like beating of drums.
For finale to midges' loud hum and birds' din
The twin ponds' double choir in ripieno joined in,
Like two lakes set, enchanted, in Caucasus' heights,
Silent throughout the daytime, resounding of nights.
One pond, which had clear depths and a shore of fine sand
Gave forth from its blue bosom moans, solemn, low, grand;
From the other's throat murky, on whose floor mud lies,
Came an answer in mournful and passionate cries;
In both ponds serenaded frogs' unnumbered hordes,
Two huge choirs attuned into two powerful chords.
One fortissimo thunders, the other but hums,
This one seems to be grumbling, from that one sighs come;
Thus the ponds, field to field, keep conversing together,
Like two Aeolian wind-harps, one answers the other.
Dusk thickened; in the forest, and there, by the stream
In the rushes, like candles, wolves' eyes burn and gleam.
And further, within narrowed horizon's confines
The campfire of a shepherd group fitfully shines.
At last the moon enkindled its silver flambeau,
Left the wood and lit heaven and earth with its glow.
Sky and earth, from the twilight uncovered, half-bare,
Slumbered on side-by-side like an old wedded pair,
A happy pair; the sky holds in its chaste embrace
The earth's bosom, now silvered by moon's lucent grace.
In the Moon's wake, already, first one, then a second,
Bright star flashes and gleams, thousands, millions wink, beckon,
In the van brothers Castor and Pollux shine bold,
Once were Lele-Polele by Slav nations called,
In the popular zodiac now different names own:
One is called L i t h u a n i a,the other the C r o w n.
Further off, the celestial S c a l e s' broad dishes shine;
On these God, at Creation, (so old folk opine)
Weighed, one after the other, the planets and Earth,
Till in heaven's abyss He at last had them berthed;
And when done, the scales golden He hung in the sky:
From these men learned, and since as a pattern apply.
In the north the star-studded S i e v e shines, hangs uplifted,
Through which God (so the tale goes) the grains of rye sifted,
When he cast them from heaven for our father Adam,
For his sins he from Eden expelled with his madam.
Somewhat higher, stands ready for use D a v i d's car,
Its long pole-shaft directly aimed at the North Star.
Old Litwans know the chariot the wrong title bears,
That in calling it "David's", the populace errs,
This an angels' cart, on it bold Lucifer fared,
Before time, when he God to a wrestling-match dared,
On the Milky Way galloped he to God's abode,
Till Michael knocked him off it, and threw off the road.
The cart, now out of order, among stars lies there,
And the Archangel Michael forbids its repair.
And, by old Lithuanians it also is known,
(And this knowledge, they say, was by rabbis passed on),
That this zodiacal S e r p e n t, so stretched out and stout,
Whose coils, star-flecked, twist over the sky, in and out,
By astronomers wrongly as S n a k e was enrolled,
For no snake, but a fish this, Leviathan called.
Once it lived in the ocean, but when earth went dry,
The Flood over, of thirst died; and now in the sky,
As a curio, and relic of those dreadful rains,
The angels had suspended its mortal remains.
Just as Mir's parish priest in his church hung donated
Giants' tibias and rib bones, of late excavated.
Suchlike tales of the stars, through books communicated,
Or passed down by tradition, the Tribune related;
In the dark, though, old Tribune had rather poor sight,
Through his glasses saw little in heavens at night,
But by form and by title knew each constellation;
And his finger could point to its path and location.
Today none paid attention, nor heeded his tales
Of the S i e v e,nor the D r a g o n, nor yet of the S c a l e s;
Tonight, the eyes and surmise of all occupies
A new guest, which not long is perceived in the skies:
It was a mighty c o m e t of first magnitude,
Which appeared in the west and towards the north skewed;
With eye bloody it looked at the C h a r i o t askance,
Lucifer's vacant seat it would take up at once,
Its long queue streaming after, appearing to take
Half of heaven its captive, caught stars in its wake,
All dragged in tow behind it, its head aiming far,
Ever higher, and shooting straight at the North Star.
With a wordless foreboding the people were driven
To watch out every night for this portent in heaven,
Other bad signs around them they also saw looming:
For now often were screams heard of birds of ill-omen,
Of which black flocks foregathered in bleak fields and copses,
Where they sharpened their beaks, as if waiting for corpses.
Now too oft was it noted how dogs pawed the ground
And, as if scenting death, howled with desperate sound:
Presage of war or famine; and foresters saw,
As the Maid of Contagion through graveyards moved slow,
Whose dread brow outsoars even the loftiest tree;
With her left hand a bloody-red kerchief holds she.
Various did the field-foreman conclusions draw thence,
Just come, rendering the farming report by the fence,
And the clerk, with the steward in converse discreet.
The Chamberlain, ensconced now upon the turf seat,
Interrupted guests' chatting, a sign he would speak;
So, flashed bright in the moonlight his snuff-box antique
(Wrought in gold, and with brilliants the setting set close,
In the centre a portrait of King Stanislaus),
He his fingers drummed on it, took snuff, and said: "Sirs,
Pan Tadeusz, your discourse about the stars errs,
But an echo of what they have taught you in schools.
About marvels I'd rather consult simple fools.
At astronomy I, too, for two years did sit
In Wilno, where a lady of fortune and wit,
Mrs Puzyn, two hundred souls' income donated
To buy telescopes, lenses, for us allocated.
To Poczobut, great cleric, the use of these fell
(He of the 'Akademia' was Rector as well),
Though, at last, with the lectern and telescope spurned,
To his cloister, his quiet cell, gladly returned,
And there died a good Christian. Sniadecki I knew,
Though a layman, he passed for a learned man too.
But astronomers, I think, such comets approach
Much as townsfolk observing a carriage, or coach,
They see that it arrives at the royal abode,
Or that through city gates it departs for abroad;
But, who rode in it, why? And talked he with the king?
Was it war, was it peace, which king's envoy would bring?
Such they don't ever ask. I remember the day
When Branecki for Jassy, in his cabriolet,
Set off. After that wicked black carriage there trailed
A tail of Targowicans, like this comet's tail;
The plain folk, though involved not in public affairs,
Guessed at once that this tail loads of infamy bears.
I believe that our comet folk 'broom' call today,
And foretell that a million it shall sweep away".
To this, bowing; the Tribune: "Indeed, with respect,
My Lord Chamberlain, I now come to recollect
What to me, though I was but a child, was once told,
Recall well, although I was then but ten years old,
When at our house I saw once, long gone now, dear sirs,
Sapieha, the commander of our cuirassiers,
Who as Marshal soon over king's court did preside,
And who as the Lithuanian Great Chancellor died,
Aged one hundred and ten. He, at time of King Jan
Had served at Vienna under the flag of Hetman
Jablonowski; this marshal then to us recounted,
At the very same moment King John the Third mounted,
And while the papal nuncio his setting-out blessed,
And as the Austrian envoy the royal foot kissed,
While Count Wilczek was helping to hand him the reins,
'Just look up at the sky, all!' His Highness exclaims.
They looked, and there a comet appeared overhead,
On the path that Mahomet's battalions were led
From east to west; and later Bartochowski, cleric,
For the Kraków great triumph wrote that panegyric
Titled 'Orientis Fulmen', in which he much said
Of this comet. Also in a book I once read,
Called 'Janina', there features, in great detail done,
The entire expedition of our late King Jan
And in which is Mahomet's Great Standard, too, graven,
And the comets, too, such as we see now in heaven."
"Amen, for what your omen brings I'm quite prepared"
Said the Judge, "...if the star brings as well John the Third!
In the west a great hero today rose, and may
Be led here by this comet; God grant it today!"
To this put in the Tribune, with head sadly bowed:
"A comet may bring war, or brings sometimes a row!
Not good, that Soplicowo lay under its track,
It some family mischief may bring on its back.
Yesterday we had plenty of row and dispute,
And both during the dinner and during the shoot.
The Assessor and Notary had words at the hunt,
In the evening Tadeusz had challenged the Count;
It seems this was all over the hide of a bear;
And if the Judge my patron had not stopped me there,
I'd have then and there settled the whole sad affair.
For a curious occurrence I will to you tell,
Which, like yesterday's rather, in my time befell
Two most eminent marksmen, I am now relating
The tale of Prince Denassow and Deputy Rejtan:
"The General of Podolia once travelled with great
Entourage to his Polish ancestral estate,
Or, to Warsaw, if I am not wrong, for the Diet-
On his way called on gentry, to have some fun by it,
Or else, to be remembered, so dropped in on Pan
Tadeusz, now of blessed remembrance, Rejtan,
Who sat for Nowogródek as member a while,
(And at whose house I had been brought up as a child).
So Rejtan for the visit of Prince General
Guests invited-great numbers arrived for a ball:
There was theatre (the Prince loved the stage and the fete);
The fireworks furnished Kaszyc, from Jatra estate.
Pan Tyzenhaus sent dancers, Oginski a band,
As did Pan Soltan, master of Zdzieciele land.
In short, great entertainment and parties they threw
At home, and in the woods an enormous battue.
But you, sirs, would remember, that just about all
Czartoryskis, as far back as one can recall,
Though of Jagiellon bloodline, yet hunting's allure
Does not stir them that much, not from laziness, sure,
But from foreign tastes, rather; and Prince General busied
Himself more with his books than his kennels would visit,
Ladies' bedchambers rather than forests would view.
A German prince, Denassow, came with our Prince too,
Of whom went the tale that he in Libya once hunted,
Guest of blackamoor kings, and out hunting, accounted
With a spear for a tiger. Of this triumph since
Boasted on all occasions this Denassow prince.
It was boar-hunting season in our country now,
Rejtan killed with his carbine a monstrous big sow,
With great danger, for he was too close when he fired,
We the sureness of aim praised, the feat much admired.
Only German Denassow indifferently heard
Such praise, audibly muttered some words in his beard:
That such sure aim proves only a huntsman's sure eye,
While cold steel a bold arm proves; began by-and-by
Again talk of that Libya, about this his spear,
Of black kings and of tigers, his sporting career.
Pan Rejtan felt some chagrin at all this self-praise,
Was a quick-tempered man, so his sword smote and says:
'My lord prince! Who aims boldly, fights, too, without fear,
Boars are no worse than tigers, a sword than a spear'-
And a discourse, too heated, between them erupted.
By good luck the Prince General the thing interrupted,
Peace restored he in French: but his words none remembers.
Though this 'peace treaty' was but like ash over embers,
Rejtan took this to heart, vowed a moment to pick
When he'd pay back the German with some clever trick;
This clever trick had nearly him cost very dear,
And he played it the next day, as soon will appear".
Here the Tribune fell silent and raised his right hand,
For the Chamberlain's snuffbox politely asked, and
Took time over the snuff, to go on did not please,
As if listeners' impatience to hear more he teased.
Then resumed, when another caesura occurred
In a story so curious, with such interest heard!
For the Judge was told, someone waits outside the gate
With a business so urgent that it cannot wait.
The Judge left them, but bidding his guests "goodnight" first.
They in different directions all straightway dispersed,
Some to sleep in the house, or the barn, on the hay;
The Judge to the new caller, to hear what he'd say.
Others sleep now-Tadeusz still walks the hall floor,
Like a watchman parading outside Uncle's door,
For he must seek advice on big matters in talk
Today, before he sleeps-but does not dare to knock,
The Judge, door closed, with someone in secret confers;
Tadeusz waits his own turn, and pricks up his ears.
And hears sobbing within! So, not trying the latch
Careful, he through the keyhole a glimpse tries to catch.
And sees wonders! His uncle and Worm on their knees
Each embracing the other, with tears streaming; sees
Father Worm kiss the Judge's hands, all ashen-faced,
The Judge, weeping, the Priest's neck with both arms embraced,
When a quarter-hour had thus without speaking fled,
Father Worm to the other this quietly said:
"Brother! God knows, till now I have secretly worn
That oath, which in confessing my sin I have sworn:
To God and to our country my life to devote,
No false pride have I served, nor have earthly fame sought,
As a Bernardine lived I, and thus wished to die,
And my name hide not only from popular eye,
Even to yourself and my own son had to lie!
But the Father Provincial allowed that I might
In 'articulo mortis' my name bring to light.
Who knows if I come back! What will be the conclusion
Of Dobrzyn doings! Brother! It's all in confusion!
Bonaparte's still far distant, until snows depart
One must wait-but the gentry are itching to start.
Perhaps hints of revolt I too rashly let fall,
Perhaps they heard me wrongly! The Warden wrecked all!
This mad Count has to Dobrzyn gone racing, I hear,
I could not warn him. Why not? The reason is clear:
I think old Maciej knew me; if I show my face,
My neck under the Penknife I would have to place.
Nothing will stop the Warden! Not death I fear most
But with such a disclosure, the whole plot is lost!
Yet today there I must be! To see their day's work,
Though I perish; without me the gentry's berserk!
So, farewell, fondest brother, farewell, I must fly,
If I perish you only for my soul will sigh;
If war comes, what I started, you know now, so yet
A Soplica will finish! So do not forget!"
The Priest wiped his eyes, fastened his frock, donned his cowl,
The rear shutter swung, soundless, as soft as an owl,
One saw how from the sill in the garden he leapt;
The Judge, now left alone, in his chair sat, and wept.
A moment stood Tadeusz, then knocked on the door;
It was opened, he entered, bowed low to the floor:
"Dearest Uncle", began he, "days only a few
I spent here, days so pleasant, like moments they flew;
That I could not enjoy your house longer, I grieve,
And at leaving you, but I must straightaway leave;
Now, today, Uncle, at worst tomorrow I'll go:
That the Count we have challenged, you well, Uncle, know.
It's my business to fight him, the challenge I sent,
All duels, in Lithuania, incur punishment,
So I'll ride past the border of Duchy of Warsaw;
Sure, the Count is a braggart, were he even more so
He would come; he's no wimp, for all his gasconade,
We shall settle accounts; and if God my arm aid
I will chastise him; then, from the Lososna's banks
I'll swim to where await me our brotherly ranks.
I heard, in his will father had ordered me so
To serve, and who this cancelled I do not quite know."
"My Tadeusz, what's up? Did you fall in a tun
Of hot water; or twist like a fox on the run,
Which his brush to the left waves, but runs to the right?
It is true we have challenged, and one day should fight.
But to go off today, sir, why this sudden heat?
Before duels, the parties' friends most often meet
To negotiate, the Count may well apologise,
He may compensate; wait, there's much time for the wise.
Does some other prank, tell me now, give you the push,
If so, out with it frankly, why beat round the bush?
I'm your uncle, though old, can see under your skin;
Was your father, (he chucked him now under the chin),
My small finger already spoke words in my ear
That you, sirrah, with ladies had some intrigues here.
Zounds, youth soon with the ladies their luck these days tries!
So, Tadeusz, confess all, but tell me no lies."
"Sure", then mumbled Tadeusz, "there are reasons, true,
My dear uncle! Most likely, it's all my fault too!
An error! No, disaster! Too bad to make good!
Uncle dear, no, I cannot stay here if I would!
An error of youth! Ask me no more, Uncle, pray!
I must from Soplicowo get quickly away!"
"Ho!" said Uncle, "sure, these are some love tiffs and slips!
Yesterday, sir, I noted how you bit your lips
Scowling in the direction of certain young lass,
(I saw over her face, too, some sourish looks pass),
O, I know all this nonsense, a pair of babes fall
Into love, there's no end there of drama and gall!
Now they're happy, now cast down; now sulk, and now dote;
Now again, Lord knows why, they're at each other's throat;
Now stand sulking in corners, not speaking one bit
One to the other, sometimes into the fields flit,
If you are in the throes of just such a sad fit,
Just be patient, I may have a cure just for it;
I will take on to push all this to a good end.
All this nonsense I know, was once young myself, friend.
So, come out with all frankly, and I in return
Will confess to you too, and both of us will learn.
"Dear Uncle", said Tadeusz, (his hand gave a kiss,
And blushed), I will speak truly, because this young miss,
Zosia, Uncle's ward, struck me as extremely nice,
I like her much, though saw her but once, maybe twice:
But I heard say that Uncle would have me espouse
The Chamberlain's fair daughter, heir to a rich house.
But my match with Miss Róza cannot be arranged
When my heart is with Zosia-hearts cannot be changed!
It's not right, loving one, to another belong,
Time may cure me! I shall go, depart-and for long!"
"You, Tadeusz", said Uncle, "choose strange ways to prove
Your true love-to run off from the person you love.
Good you're frank; you see, you could do something quite silly
Thus leaving: what would you say, sir, if I were willing
To get you Zosia? Hey, won't you jump for sheer joy?"
Tadeusz paused, then: "Sir, your good will unalloyed
Amazes me! Alas, your kind consideration
Cannot at all avail me! Ah! vain expectation!
Telimena would never give Zosia to me!"
"We'll ask", said the Judge.
"Uncle, it never can be",
Interrupted Tadeusz, "no, I cannot wait,
I must quickly, tomorrow, be out of the gate,
Only give me, dear Uncle, your blessing today,
I've got everything packed and will go straightaway."
The Judge tugged his moustache, gave the boy a hard look:
"So that's your frankness, sirrah? Your heart's open book?
First, this duel! and then, next, there's love and affection!
Then this scurrying off; hey! Here's some dark direction.
I was told something of it, I your footsteps traced!
You're, sirrah, a seducer, Don Juan, two-faced.
And where went you last night, sir, on what mischief bent?
You, like a hound, have followed what new quarry's scent?
Oh Tadeusz! Perhaps you, sirrah, now want out,
Having turned Zosia's head, run away, you young lout!
That, sir, won't come off; like it, or not, as I said
And say again, you, sirrah, our Zosia will wed,
If not, the whip! Tomorrow will play bridegroom's part!
And he talks of his feelings-of unchanging heart!
You're a fibber! Pfui, you in my court shall appear,
I'll investigate you, sir, I'll box each your ear!
I've had enough for one day! My head aches, I'll weep!
And this boy won't allow me to go off to sleep!
Go to bed!" Saying this, he pushed out his young guest
And called out for the Usher to help get undressed.
Tadeusz withdrew speechless, his nose out of joint,
The awkward talk turned over in thought, point by point,
First time taken so sharply to task! Would admit
The justice of the censure, but still blushed for it.
What to do next? If Zosia learns all one fine day?
Ask her hand? Telimena, and what would she say?
No!-He in Soplicowo no longer could stay.
Thus, deep in thought, he moved but a pace, maybe two,
When something barred the way; he looked up-into view
There slid an apparition, in white, slender, and
Which was gliding towards him with outstretched white hand,
Tremulous moon reflecting; the pale shape had drawn
Now closer, and: "Ungrateful!" came in monotone,
"You have once sought my glance, now avoid it in fear,
You have once sought my voice, now you close up your ear,
As if my words, and glances, with fell poison ran!
Serves me right, should have known what you are!-You're a man!
I, in coquetry artless, no pain caused you, no,
Made you happy; thus you now your gratitude show!
Your heart hardened, when triumph too quickly it earned
Over heart won too easy, and too quickly spurned!
Serves me right! But, by bitter experience made wise,
Trust me, that more than you can, myself I despise!"
"Telimena", Tadeusz said, "my heart's not hard,
And I do not avoid you through some disregard,
But think of this yourself! How they watch us all day!
Carry on in plain view thus? What will people say?
After all, it's indecent, God knows it's a sin".
"It's a sin!" with a bitter half-smile she cut in,
"The innocent! The lamb! I'm a woman, who throws
All away for love, even if thus am exposed,
Though my name is held cheaply; but you? You, a man!
None of you would it harm, and admit it you can,
If you at the same time have ten mistresses kept?
Speak the truth!-You would leave me!"-She copiously wept.
"Telimena, and what would the world of one say",
Said Tadeusz, "who, healthy, of my age, today
Lived here farming, romancing-when so many fine
Young fellows, married men, leave wife, children, behind
And to the nation's banners across borders flee?
Even if I wished, does this depend upon me?
Father by his will ordered that I must enlist
In our army, now Uncle does also insist:
I leave tomorrow, this my resolve is and vow,
And by God, Telimena, I'll not change it now."
"I would not", Telimena said "wish to abort
Your chance of glory, nor would your happiness thwart!
You're a man; you will soon find a mistress somewhere
Of your heart one more worthy, one richer, more fair!
Only say, for my heart's ease, before we now part,
That you cared for me truly, with love in your heart,
Not just wanton lust only, and no idle jest,
But love; say, my Tadeusz still loves me the best!
Let me those words 'I love' from your lips once more catch,
To inscribe in my thoughts and within my heart etch;
I will easier forgive, though of love you me rob,
Recalling, how you loved once!"-She started to sob.
Tadeusz, seeing how she begs, how she sobs stifles,
And requires now from him, not much, only trifles,
Was moved, and overcome with real pity and sorrow,
And if in the recesses of own heart he burrowed,
Maybe he at this moment himself did not know
Whether loved he, or loved not-and said, with some show:
"Telimena may I be struck dead on the spot,
If it's a lie that, by God, I liked you a lot,
Or loved you: our shared moments, so short, did not last,
But for me, they so sweetly, so tenderly passed,
That they will long, will always, dwell in my thoughts yet,
And, God knows, you I never, can ever, forget!"
With a bound Telimena upon his neck fell:
"This is what I expected, you love, I live still!
For I decided this day my life I shall end on;
If you love me, my dear, can you thus me abandon?
You I gave all my heart, will give all I possess,
With you go everywhere, love a desert will bless,
The world's ends will be pleasant! From wilderness great,
Love, believe me, a vale of delights will create."
From this embrace Tadeusz, attempting to tear
Himself away, "How?" cried he, "Lost your mind? How? Where?
Follow me, a plain soldier? On my saddle carry?
A camp follower? You?"-"So, all right, we can marry!"
Said to him Telimena-"No, never, don't mention
This even", cried Tadeusz, "I have no intention
To wed, love-this is nonsense! Let's leave it alone!
I beg you, my dear, only consider! Calm down!
Marriage is out of question, my dear, have a heart!
I am grateful, let's love, yes, but sort of-apart.
I can linger no longer, cannot stay here, no!
Farewell, my Telimena, tomorrow I go."
So he spoke, pulled his hat down, turned partly aside
And would leave; Telimena, though, stopped him; wild-eyed,
With a face like Medusa's; and stay there he must
Willy-nilly; with fear he a glance at her cast:
She stood pale, without motion, no life, breath, or word!
Until, stretching an arm out, a transfixing sword,
At Tadeusz's eyes she a finger out-flung:
"This is what I desired", cried she, "ha, dragon-tongue!
Lizard heart! Is it nothing, that by you enchained,
I the Count, the Assessor and Notary disdained,
And now, that you seduced me, an orphan leave so!
It's naught! You are a man, I your shamelessness know,
As with others, on your faith one could not rely!
But I knew not how basely you learnt how to lie!
I heard all through the door! And this child you would dare...?
Zosia? She caught your eye? At her now set your snare?
So! Hardly one ill-fated life you have just wrecked,
Than, by her side, another you victim select!
Now run off, but my curses will yet reach their aim-
Or stay, but I your meanness to all shall proclaim;
Your arts deceived me, but will not others disgrace!
Begone! How I despise you! A liar, man base!"
At this insult, like death to a gentleman's ear,
Which no Soplica ever until now did hear,
Tadeusz trembled, growing as pale as a shroud,
Bit his lips, stamped his foot, and said "Stupid!" out loud.
Then left; but the words 'base man' still echoed; unnerved,
The youth shuddered and felt that these words were deserved;
Felt that to Telimena great wrong was committed,
That she justly reproached him his conscience admitted;
Yet felt, after her charges, the more by her sickened.
Of Zosia, alas, thought not, he was so shame-stricken.
This so beautiful Zosia, so sweet, full of life!
Uncle was for the match! She could have been his wife!
But for Satan, who trapped him in sin after sin!
In lie after lie tangled, then left with a grin.
By all spurned and held cheap! He, in days but a few
Wrecked his future! His crime had the punishment due.
In this tempest of feelings, an anchor of rest,
Flashed the thought of the duel, a welcome now guest:
"Murder the Count! That scoundrel!" he cried, "must be so!
Death or revenge!" The reason? Himself did not know!
And this great wrath with which he so suddenly shook,
Thus vanished; a great sadness him now overtook
He thought: "If this is true, what I yesterday noted,
That Zosia and the Count seem to be quite devoted,
What of that? The Count, maybe, indeed loves her truly,
Perhaps she holds him dear? Wants to marry him duly!
By what right I this marriage would seek to destroy,
And, ill-fated myself, would despoil others' joy."
He fell into dispair, and but one refuge craved:
Get away! And at once! But - where? Into a grave!
So, his clenched fist pressed tightly against lowered brow,
He escaped to the meadows where ponds glowed below,
And stood over the mudflat; its green coloration
With his greedy eye plumbed, and the swamp's exhalation
With gusto he breathed in, with a mouth opened wide:
For like any excessive man's act, suicide
Is mind-fashioned; and he, in emotions' mad flood
Had the subconscious yearning to drown in the mud.
But, Telimena guessed from the youth's distraught stance
His desperation; seeing him run to the ponds,
Though with justified anger she smouldered and smarted,
Was alarmed; for she really was quite tender-hearted.
She was vexed that another appealed to the boy;
Wished to punish, but did not intend to destroy;
So rushed after him raising both hands, crying: "What!
Don't do it! Stop! What nonsense! Get married, or not,
Love, or not! Go, or stay! But, just stop!"-But he raced
Away, and her outstripped, and-the waters now faced!
By the fates' strange decree, on the very same strand,
Rode the Count in the vanguard of his 'jockey' band,
And, bewitched and enchanted by evening so fair,
And the sweet underwater band's harmonies rare,
Of those choirs, which accords like Aeolian harps drew
(No frogs croak as divinely as Polish ones do),
He his horse checked, forgetting quite why he was there,
Turned an ear to the ponds and stood listening with care.
His eyes over the fields ranged the heavens' wide space:
He tried in his mind, doubtless, some paysage to trace.
For indeed, the surroundings deserved artists' labour!
Two ponds bent their two faces, the one to its neighbour,
Like a pair of fond lovers: the right pond displayed
Waters smooth, clear; like cheeks of a virginal maid;
The left pond somewhat darker, like a lad's face brown,
And already besprinkled with fine manly down;
The pond on the right bordered with gold sand around,
As with bright hair; the left pond's brow spikily bound
With bristling, prickly, osiers, with willows' long hair
In elf-locks tangled; both ponds bright greenery wear.
From these ponds two streams trickle, as if holding hands
Further on they embrace and the stream still descends,
Falls, but never to vanish, the channel's gloom yielding
To, floating on its surface, moon's generous gilding;
Fold by fold falls the water; on every such fold
Glow and glisten bright handfuls of moon-given gold.
The light then becomes splintered and broken, dispersed,
By the fleeing flood caught, and more deeply immersed;
From above are more handfuls of moonshine disbursed.
A Switez undine, you'd think, sits by the pond's shores,
From a bottomless ewer one hand water pours,
With the other hand, playful, she scatters untold
Handfuls from her large apron of enchanted gold.
Further, out of its sluice, on the plain, and now slowing,
It meanders, more calm, but still visibly flowing,
For its changeable covering still quivers, vibrates
With the shimmering moonlight, which gleams, coruscates,
Like, known there as 'givoitos' the handsome Zmudz snake,
Which, though seeming to slumber in heathery brake,
Still crawls, for it shows silver and golden by turn,
Till from sight disappearing among moss or fern:
Thus the stream hides mid alders its tortuous track,
Alders which at horizon's extreme show dim, black,
To the eye indistinct, they their misty forms raise
Like spirits only half-seen, half-hid in the haze.
Between the two ponds hidden a mill sits and quavers,
Like an old guardian spying upon the two lovers;
Listening in to their talking, it grumbles and frets,
Its head and its hands shaking it stutters vague threats:
And the mill shook of sudden its moss-covered brow,
Its great fist many-fingered began turning now,
It stirred, clattered, its gap-toothed jaws ponderously ground,
And at once all the love-talk of both ponds it drowned,
And roused the Count.
Who seeing how rashly right under
The feet of his armed escort Tadeusz had blundered,
Shouts: "To arms!" and: "men, seize him!" The 'jockeys' sprang to,
And, before what had happened Tadeusz quite knew,
He was bound; to the house then! They into the yard
Clatter in, wake the homestead, dogs bark, shouts the guard,
The Judge rushes out, half-dressed; and sees a large band
All armed, and deems them robbers; the Count in command;
"What's all this?" asks-the Count, then, his bare epée flashing,
But seeing an unarmed man, cooled off in his passion:
"Soplica! My clan's foe from the earliest of times!"
Today", said he, "I charge you with old, and fresh, crimes,
Today from you the fortune you plundered reclaim,
Before I the dishonour avenge to my name!"
But the Judge crossed himself: "In the name of the Father!"
Have you, Lord Count, turned into some robber or other?
By the Lord! Does this fit with your standing and birth,
Your upbringing, the world's view of your name and worth?
I will not be so wronged!"-Then his servants at once
Ran up, some with stout sticks, and some others with guns,
The Tribune stood apart, and a curious glance threw
At the Count, with a knife in his sleeve, hid from view.
A fight was close, the Judge though them stopped, it was clear
A defence was quite useless, a new foe was near:
Something flashed in the alders; a matchlock gun stuttered;
The river bridge was rattled by cavalry's clatter;
And, "Hey, at the Soplicas!" a thousand throats screamed,
The Judge flinched; now Gerwazy's hand in this he deemed
"That's nothing", the Count said, "there'll be more of us here,
Surrender, Judge, before my confederates appear".
When ran up the Assessor: "You're under arrest!
In His Imperial Highness' name; Count, I request
Your sword yield, before I call the soldiers in aid!
Know, sir, he who at night dares to mount an armed raid
Is, by ukase one thousand two hundred and four,
As a robb..." The Count struck him with flat of the sword.
The Assessor fell stunned, and crawled into the nettle;
Was thought wounded, or else the first slain in the battle.
"To me", said the Judge, "this like sheer banditry seems".
All complained, but were deafened by Zosia's loud screams,
Who cried, while to the Judge she with both her hands clings,
Like a little child stuck by the Jews with sharp pins.
Telimena then, heedless, 'twixt horses descends,
Towards the Count outstretches her tragic white hands:
"Upon your honour!" she in shrill piercing tones cried,
With head thrown back, hair streaming behind her, wild-eyed,
"By all that you hold sacred, we beg on bent knee!
Count, darest thou refuse! Ladies kneel down here to thee!
Cruel man, first in us you must sink your sharp blade!"
And fell fainting-the Count then leapt down to her aid,
By the scene not a little surprised and dismayed,
And "Ladies Telimena and Zofia", said, pained,
"With defenseless blood never will this sword be stained;
Soplicas! You my prisoners for now shall remain.
Thus in Italy did I beneath that huge stone
Which as Birbante-Rocco by locals is known,
The brigands' camp I took; slew the armed men I found,
The disarmed I took prisoner and ordered them bound:
My great triumph they swelled when led after the horse,
And at Aetna's foot later were hung in due course."
It was for the Soplicas a piece of good luck,
That the Count, better mounted than rest of the ruck,
To be first at the fray, had raced off to the fore,
And outdistanced the gentry by some mile or more,
With his 'jockeys' who, well-trained, obedient and paid,
Formed a regular, as it were, army brigade;
While the gentry, as history of risings has shown,
Were lawless, and to hangings were very much prone.
The Count cooled in his passion, his purpose fulfilled;
Thought how best end the battle, no blood being spilled;
So he has the Soplicas, as prisoners of war,
Locked up in the house, placing some guards at the door.
When with "At the Soplicas!" the gentry rush in,
They surround the estate and by force entry win,
Easy, for the chief's taken, the garrison fled;
But some foe they must fight, so seek elsewhere instead.
Not let into the house, at the farm buildings drove,
To the kitchen-there pots, still arranged on the stove
Fire scarcely out-smells rising aloft from stacked covers-
Crunching sounds of dogs chewing the supper leftovers-
All hearts touched, and the minds with a new thought imbued,
Cooled off anger, inflamed though the longing for food.
By the march, and the day-long discussions fatigued,
"Food! Food! Food"-thrice they cried in unanimous league,
The response came: "Drink, drink!" and, among gentry's gang,
Two choirs formed, these "drink!" bellowed, the others "food!" sang.
The message flies with echo, wherever it sallies,
It causes mouths to water, wakes hunger in bellies.
At this signal from kitchens, of sudden, with courage,
The whole army dispersed now to pillage and forage.
Gerwazy, from the Judge's rooms by sentries barred,
Had to yield from respect which he owed the Count's guard.
Unable on the foe his revenge to exact,
The campaign's second aim wished to turn into fact.
As a man of experience, in law matters versed,
Would the Count in his heirloom install from the first
In form legal and formal; the Usher he strove
To locate, and soon found him behind a big stove.
To the yard by the collar he drags him in tow,
At his breast aimed the Penknife, and speaks to him so:
"The Count is so bold, Usher, to ask you this once
That before all the gentry you deign to announce
The Count's seisin of castle, of homestead, of village,
Of all fields sown, lands fallow, and land under tillage,
Cum gravibus, forestis, and cum bounderibus,
Peasantibus, bailivis, et omnibus rebus,
Et quibusdam aliis. As you know, so bark.
Leave out nothing!"-"But, Warden, sir, I must remark",
Answered Protazy boldly, his hands in his belt,
"I to do both sides' bidding by law am compelled,
But warn, such an act cannot achieve its planned aim,
When read out under duress, at midnight proclaimed".
"What duress?" asked the Warden, "here is no constraint,
Why, I asked you politely; if light is too faint,
Then such sparks shall my Penknife strike that they, like torches,
Shall so shine in your peepers, as in seven churches".
"My Gerwazy", said Usher, "why in such a fret?
I'm an usher, not my thing the matter to vet;
You know, one side the usher employs, and their claims
He sets down as they ask him, he merely proclaims.
Ushers are the law's envoys, are neutral of course,
So I'm at a loss why you hold me here by force;
If someone brings a lantern, the deed I'll indite
But now, brothers, some quiet, if I am to write!"
And, for his voice to carry, he stepped on a high
Stack of logs (by the orchard fence left out to dry),
He climbed these, and at once, as if by the wind snatched,
Vanished; but still was heard in the near cabbage patch;
Once again he was glimpsed in hemp's shadowy region,
His confederate cap flashed, not unlike a white pigeon.
Bucket shot at the cap, but the bullet miscarried;
Snap of stalks heard-Protazy through hopfields now hurried,
"I protest!" he cried; knowing his peril was over,
For now close to the osiers and swamps of the river.
After this protestation, which sounded somewhat
As upon captured ramparts the last cannon shot,
At the Soplica manor resistance now ceased;
Hungry gentry now pillage, maraud as they please,
In the barn Baptist greatly beasts' numbers decreased
'Sprinkling' heads of two oxen, two calves and one goat,
While Razor his sabre sank deep in each throat.
Awl, with his rapier, also ran up to their aid
Sticking old boars and piglets below shoulder blade.
Now death threatens the poultry-the geese, alert flocks,
Which once saved Rome from Gauls in the dark climbing rocks,
Vainly cackle for succour; no Manlius will come,
But leaps in the coop Bucket, the necks twists of some,
Ties live to his belt others, and though not struck dumb,
Vainly geese, hoarsely honking, their necks twist and crank,
Vainly ganders hiss, nipping the foe in the flank,
He runs on; well besprinkled with down like hoarfrost,
And upon wheeling goose wings uplifted and tossed,
Seems a gremlin, a 'chochlik', a winged evil ghost.
But the worst slaughter, though with least hullabaloo
Suffered hens. To the hencoop young Chook grimly flew,
With a noose from their perches he fishes out thence
Cockerils, and the rough-feathered, and big-crested hens.
He each bird in turn throttled and in one heap stacked,
Perfect poultry, which never for pearl barley lacked.
Thoughtless Chook, what wild frenzy possessed you, poor lover!
Henceforth never shall Zosia her anger get over.
Now Gerwazy the bygone old times recollects:
So, he belts from the gentry's kontuszes selects;
Soon, pulled up on these belts, from the cellar appear
Big barrels of grey vodka, oak vodka, and beer:
Some they broached on the instant, the others, with glee,
Busy as ants, the gentry seize, roll manfully,
To the castle: for night's rest there all congregated,
And there the Count's headquarters were also located.
They light a hundred fires, roast and boil without pause,
Tables groan under meats, like a river drink flows;
The whole night would the gentry drink, eat, and sing through-
But began soon to doze off, heads, eyes, heavy grew,
Eye after eye dims, closes, till company all
With heads nodding, wherever they sit, there they fall:
Over bowl, jar, forequarter, they drooped and they languished.
Thus by sleep, Death's own brother, the victors were vanquished.