Council held how best to protect the future of the victors - Negotiations with Rykov - The parting - An important disclosure - Hope
Those cloudlets of the morning which, first scattered, fly
Like blackbirds, to the highest far reaches of sky,
Now bunched up; the sun hardly commenced dropping over
The noon's summit, when this flock a half-sky had covered
With a cloud black, enormous: the wind swifter swung.
The cloud grew ever denser, still lower it hung,
Until, with one edge roughly from upper sky rent,
Earthward leaning, and now of tremendous extent,
Like a great sail; all winds it within itself wrapped,
From the south to the west now across the skies swept.
And there came a hushed moment; the air now become
Still and silent, as if by some terror struck dumb,
And the wheat fields, which earlier would bow to the ground,
Then spring upright, their golden plumes waving around,
Seething wildly, like billows, now stand motionless
And their stalks stiffly bristling, the heavens assess.
And green poplars and willows that had by the wayside
Stood like several paid mourners surrounding a graveside,
Their heads striking the ground and arms wrung in despair,
Letting loose to the wild winds their silvery hair-
Now as dead stand, in dumb show of mourning and grief,
Like Sipylian Niobe in marble relief.
Only the trembling aspen its grey foliage shakes.
The cattle, which slow progress home usually make,
Now throng home in a huddle, nor shepherds await,
And, abandoning forage, escape to the gate.
The bull, hoof and horn plying, paws, digs, ploughs the floor,
And alarms the whole herd with his ill-boding roar;
The cow raises her large eye at times to the sky,
Her mouth opens in wonder, and heaves a deep sigh;
And the pig comes last, grumbles and grunts on his way,
Stealing odd sheaves of barley, for stashing away.
Birds seek shelter in trees, 'neath the thatch, between stalks,
Save the crows, which, encircling the ponds in large flocks,
Back and forth with their serious and measured pace step,
Their black eyes on the black clouds unblinkingly kept,
From a throat wide and thirsty their dry tongue protruding,
And, awaiting rain, pinions outspread, sit there brooding.
Even these by the prospect of storm too fierce cowed
Now repair to the woods, an ascending black cloud.
The last of birds, the swallow, of his swiftness proud,
A sharp arrow-bolt, pierces the darkening cloud,
Like a spent bullet falls.
And while all this went on
Gentry's terrible combat with Moscow was done;
All seek shelter in buildings and barns opportune,
Leave the field of the combat, where elements soon
Will do battle.
The earth, splashed by the sun still, with gold in the west,
Was with gloomy sheen shining, in yellow-red dressed,
Now that cloud, which long shadows like fishing-nets flung,
Catching the light's last remnants, sped after the sun,
Seemed bent upon its capture before it could set.
Below, several gales whistled, no sooner they met,
One wind chases the other, and gale follows gale,
Flinging large, bright, round drops, like glass granules of hail.
Now the winds clash together, to grips come and wrestle,
They wheel, struggle about in enormous arcs, whistle,
Cloud the ponds to their depths as they over them pass,
Fall on meadows, run swishing through osiers and grass,
Snapping willow twigs, flinging grass tufts all about,
Like hair flying, by handfuls in fury pulled out,
With elf-locks of sheaves tangled: winds, howling like hounds,
Fall upon tilled earth, wallow, root into the ground,
Tear up clods, and make way for a third whirlwind's gust,
Which tears out of the earth like a pillar of dust:
Like a moving cone, spinning on, still it would rise;
Drills the ground with its head, and kicks sand in stars' eyes,
With each step swelling bigger, top turns funnel-form,
And sounds through this huge trumpet the forthcoming storm.
Until, in all this chaos of water and dust,
Hay, leaf litter and branches, turf ripped by the blast,
The winds into the thicket and heartwood now smashing,
Like the forest bears roared,
And the rain kept on splashing,
As large drops from a sieve fall: until thunder roared!
And the drops coalesced; now like taut ropes they poured
And conjoined sky and earth with their watery tresses,
Now, as from upturned buckets, in deluge-like masses,
Till all heaven and earth were quite covered from sight,
Night them hid with a tempest much darker than night.
Sometimes cracks the horizon between its two ends,
And the angel of storms, like a huge sun, extends
Its face shining, then once more concealed in a shroud,
Flees skyward, slams with thunder the doors of the cloud.
And again swells the tempest and downpour immense,
And the darkness, impervious, near palpable, dense;
Then again rain subsides and the thunderbolts hush;
Till they wake, roar once more, and with more water gush,
And at last all grows quiet; and trees only sough
Round the homestead, and only the rain murmurs now.
On this day the most stormy of weather was best;
With the battlefield hidden within a dense mist,
The thick downpour roads flooded, did bridges great harm,
An impregnable fortress it made of the farm.
And so, what in Soplicas' camp had just occurred,
In the neighbourhood none could have possibly heard,
Just when the gentry's fate hung on none getting word.
In the Judge's room vital discussions take place;
The Bernardine lies supine, worn out, pale of face,
And though bloody, in mind still quite up to the task,
Issues orders, the Judge does all as he is asked.
The Chamberlain he summons, the Warden calls, caused
Rykov to be brought in, and the doors he wants closed.
A whole hour then continued the secret conclave,
Till at last this rejoinder the Captain them gave,
Throwing down on the table of ducats a purse:
"There's a saying among you, I know, Polish sirs,
'Every Russian's a robber', so tell people of
Army captain Nikita Nikitich Rykov,
With whom you were acquainted, a Russian, had eight
Medals and seven crosses, which kindly relate.
This medal for Ochakov, this one for Ismailow,
This for battle of Nova, this for Preussisch-Eylau,
And for Korsakov's famous retreat, this award
Gained at Zurich; for bravery awarded a sword,
And who from the Field-Marshal had three commendations,
From the Czar himself two, and had four gazette mentions,
All was set down on paper..."
"But, but, Captain, friend,
But how", Worm interrupted, "will all this now end,
If we don't reach agreement? Your word you gave, man,
To look after this thing."
"True, and give it again",
Says Rykov, "there, you have it! Why me do you harm?
I good-natured; to you, Poles, I feel very warm!
You a merry lot, brave lot; not easy to rattle,
You are good at a bottle, and good at a battle.
Russian proverb: 'Sometimes you on top of the dray,
Sometimes it runs you over: who in front today,
Behind later; now giving, now getting the blows';
What cause there to get angry? So soldier's life goes!
Where will you find enough of bad humour and spite
To feed every lost battle! The Ochakov fight
It was bloody, at Zurich our foot was all lost,
At Austerlitz, my troop was all wiped out, almost,
At Raclawic, Kosciuszko for sure made us writhe-
I was sergeant then-cut my platoon down with scythes.
So? At Maciejowice was our turn again,
I killed with my own bayonet two brave gentlemen,
One was called Mokronowski, who led them, and whose
Scythe a gunner's hand cut off, together with fuse.
Oy! Fatherland! You Polaks, I, Rykov, feel, too,
The same way-but Czar's orders! Am sorry for you!
What's our business with Poland? In our Russia stay we,
Poles in Poland; but no way: the Czar won't agree!"
The Judge thus replied: "Captain, we must have it so;
That you are a good fellow, all people here know
At whose homes you've been quartered for years now on end;
Do not frown that this gift we collected, dear friend,
No offence is meant; take then the ducats, you can,
We press this knowing full well you're not a rich man"
"O, my yaegers!" cried Rykov, "my troopers all gone!
The entire troop skewered! Plut has all this done!
He's in charge, to the Czar he will answer for this!
You your pennies take back, sirs, I'll give them a miss,
I have my captain's pay, though it may be so-so,
It does for a small punch and tobacco also.
You folk I like, I with you will eat and clink glasses,
Have a good time, a chin-wag, and so my life passes;
So, you have my protection when there's an inquiry,
Word of honour, at such I for you will be firing.
We'll say, here on a visit, we drank the odd glass,
Danced a little, we, maybe, drank too much, alas,
And Plut gave, accidentally, an order to fire,
Bang! Bang! And the battalion just melted entire.
You, gentlemen, the process should grease with some gold,
Things will somehow get twisted. Now you should be told,
And to this your long-rapiered friend's notice I drew,
That here Plut is commander, and I'm number two.
Plut remains still alive; may well play you a trick,
One that will quite destroy you, he is a sly stick;
You should stuff up his mouth with a wad of bank paper.
Well, and what, my friend Polak, you, with the long rapier,
What about Plut? You saw him? How was your debate?"
Gerwazy looked about him, and stroked his bald pate,
His hand carelessly waved, which his message assisted
That all has been disposed of-but Rykov persisted:
"Well, will Plut keep his mouth shut, did he give his word?"
The Warden, peeved that Rykov this matter still stirred,
Bent his thumb to the ground in a solemn retort
Then, by dismissive gesture with hand, cutting short
Further questioning, said: "By this Penknife I swear
That Plut will disclose nothing! Tell no one, nowhere!"
Then he dropped his hands, snapping his fingers, to mean
He of some murky secret thus shook his hands clean.
The Warden's dark drift grasped, they all stood there amazed
As in turn at the others each searchingly gazed;
The gloomy silence lasted a minute or two,
Then Rykov: "The wolf hunted, wolf's now in the stew!"
"Let him rest in peace!" added the Chamberlain, "Yes,
The Judge finished, "The Lord's hand was surely in this!
But I knew nothing of it, this blood did not spill!"
The Priest rose on his pillows, sat gloomy and still.
At last spoke, while directing his glance Warden's way:
"A great sin this, an unarmed, bound captive to slay!
Christ forbids vengeance, even to punish our foe!
Oh Warden! You will answer to God for this blow.
But there is one proviso: you salvage your honour
If done not for revenge, but pro publico bono".
Warden with head and hand twice, or thrice, acquiesced,
And "pro publico bono" he blinked, "for the best!"
Major Plut was not mentioned among them again;
They sought him through the homestead the next day in vain,
In vain offered rewards for the corpse to be found,
But the Major had gone, as if sunk underground;
Just what had to him happened, each man had his view,
But whether then, or later, not one really knew.
All in vain they the Warden with questions would ply;
He "Pro publico bono" would only reply.
The Tribune knew the secret, but he his word gave
Of honour, so the old man kept mum to the grave.
The agreement concluded, left Rykov the room,
The ex-combatants Worm then commanded to come:
Them the Chamberlain gravely in these words addressed:
"Brother gentry!-Today God our arms kindly blessed,
But, of this I must warn you, good sirs, no disguise,
That from this ill-timed battle much harm will arise.
We all erred, and without fault not one can be found:
Father Worm, who too keenly the news spread around,
Warden, gentry, all muddling completely its sense.
War with Russia's not likely for months to commence;
So he, who a too active part took in the fray
In Lithuania can no more without danger stay:
You must now to the Duchy escape, my good sirs,
Namely that Maciej, nick-named the Baptist, then there's
Tadeusz, Bucket, Razor, let these straightway wend
To the Niemen's far side, where our forces now stand;
We will then on those absent the total blame fling,
And on Plut, thus protecting the rest of your kin.
So farewell for the moment; hopes are, that next spring
When it comes, shall the dawning of liberty bring;
That Litwa, which farewells now your wanderers' feet,
Will you soon as victorious deliverers greet.
The Judge shall, for your journey, now everything plan,
I'll with money assist you, as much as I can."
The Lord Chamberlain's advice was agreed to be wise;
It is known, who a spat with the Russian Czar tries
Has small chance of true peace on this earth ever got,
And must either fight, or in the taiga must rot.
Saying nothing, they looked at each other, resigned,
Then sighed, and in agreement heads sadly inclined.
The Poles, although renowned they among nations stand
That they more than their life love their own native land,
Each is ready to leave it, run to earth's frontiers,
In misery and wanderings to spend many years,
Fighting mankind and fate, if, while tempest wild blows,
The hope shines that he serves yet his Fatherland's cause.
They declared they were ready to leave in all haste.
But this was not, however, to Pan Buchman's taste:
Pan Buchman, man of prudence, joined not in the fight,
But, hearing of a meeting, was soon in full flight.
Found the project good, wished though to phrase it again,
More precisely develop, more clearly explain,
First elect a committee to legally frame
And decide emigration's chief purpose and aim...
Sadly, only the shortage of time then prevented
Buchman's sage advice being in full implemented.
Gentry said goodbyes quickly and on their way trudged.
But Tadeusz was kept in the room by the Judge,
Who told the Priest: "It's time that I now to you say
What, no doubt, you discovered yourself yesterday:
Our Tadeusz loves Zosia with all his young heart.
Let him make a proposal, before he depart.
Telimena I sounded: she is not too displeased,
And Zosia with her guardians' wish also agrees,
If today we can't have them with marriage wreaths crowned
They can now by betrothal, dear brother, be bound
Before he leaves; a heart young, on peregrinations,
You know well, can be subject to various temptations;
But when he at that circle, that ring, casts his eye,
And the young man remembers his promise thereby,
Straight the thought of some foreign seduction subsides;
In a gold ring, believe me, much power resides.
I once had a great fondness, some thirty years gone,
For Miss Marta, whose heart I believed I had won.
Were engaged; the good Lord, though, alas, did not bless
Our union, like an orphan left me, comfortless,
And to Heaven permitted my darling to pass,
My friend's, Tribune Hreczeha's, most beautiful lass.
Only memories of her great virtue remained,
Of her charms, and this golden ring, as yet unstained.
Whensoever I looked at it, always her face
Would before my eyes rise up, and thus, by God's grace,
I my faith to my darling have kept till today,
And, though never a husband, a widower stay,
Though the Tribune another fair daughter has here,
And in looks not unlike to my sweet Marta dear."
And so saying, a tender glance gave to that band
And some tears wiped away with the back of his hand.
"Brother", ended he, "shall we betroth them with speed?
He's in love, and both aunt and the girl have agreed".
But Tadeusz stepped forward to eagerly say:
"How can I, my good Uncle, you ever repay,
Who has ever so laboured to benefit me!
Ah, my good Uncle, happiest of men I would be
If you promised me Zosia, today, for my wife,
If I knew that with her I would spend all my life.
But I must frankly say: this betrothal, this bliss,
Cannot happen today, there are reasons for this...
Do not ask more. If Zosia to wait will agree,
She may soon me a better, a worthier, man see,
Perhaps my constant love she'll with her love return,
Perhaps with some fine deed I some honour may earn,
Perhaps soon we'll return to our own native land;
Then, upon this your promise, I, Uncle shall stand,
Shall then greet my sweet Zosia upon bended knee
For her hand ask her humbly, if she be but free;
Now I must leave Lithuania, return-who knows when,
Zosia may come to fancy another by then;
I would not bind her now; to request her affection,
Which I have not deserved yet, would be a base action.
When the young man these words said, with evident feeling,
In his eyes brightly glistened two globules, came stealing
From his great eyes of sky-blue, and soon downward raced,
Like two pearls, rolling quickly down his ruddy face.
But Zosia, very curious, within alcove's hollow,
Through a gap the mysterious talk hungrily followed.
She heard Tadeusz simply and boldly deliver
This his love declaration, her heart in her shivered,
And those two great big tears in his eyes she could see,
Although she to these mysteries could not find a key:
Why did he come to love her? Why does he now leave?
For what reason? And knowing he'd cause her to grieve?
She the first time from lips of a young man did hear
The news, great and amazing, that he held her dear.
So, she ran to the altar that stood in a nook,
And an icon she from it, and small casket, took:
On one, Saint Genevieve was depicted in paint,
In the other, a piece of the robe of the Saint
Joseph the Bridegroom, patron of bride and of groom;
And with these holy objects she entered the room.
"You are leaving so soon, sir? I, sir, for your way
Have a small gift, and also have something to say:
Keep this relic upon you; from it do not part,
And the picture-and Zosia-please keep in your heart.
Let Lord God in good health and good fortune you guide
And may He bring you safely soon back to our side."
She was silent, her head drooped; her eyes of sky-blue
Barely closed, when a shower of tears from them flew;
And Zosia stood there, silent, with eyelids closed tight,
Shedding tears, like small diamonds, in everyone's sight.
Tadeusz took the gifts, and, in kissing her hand,
Said: "Panna Zofia! I must now leave you, dear, and
Stay well, do not forget me; and say, I implore,
A prayer for me! Zofia!" He could not say more.
The Count, with Telimena come in, with a sigh,
Having witnessed the couple's sad, tender good-bye,
Was moved; at Telimena directed his eyes:
"How much beauty", said he, "in such simple scene lies!
A shepherdess's soul, and a brave warrior's heart,
Storm-tossed ship and its life-boat must drift far apart!
Indeed! Naught the heart's feelings does so set ablaze
As when soul from its soulmate regretfully strays.
Time is wind: a small candle t'will snuff out with ease,
But a great conflagration is fed by its breeze,
My heart with fiercer love can from faraway flame.
Pan Soplica! My rival I deemed you and blamed;
This error had once caused our sad discord to grow,
Which has forced me against you my sharp sword to draw.
My fault I see: you had to the shepherdess sighed,
And my heart this most lovely of Nymphs deified.
In the blood of our foes let our blood-feud find end,
We with murderous steel shall now never contend,
Let our amorous contest decided be thus:
Yes, we'll fight! How in love one'll the other surpass!
We shall leave here behind us our love's objects dear,
And both hasten off chancing the sword, mace and spear;
Let us vie in devotion, in suffering, in rue,
While with our manly arms we the foe shall pursue".
He spoke: at Telimena he ardently gazed,
But she answered him nothing, completely amazed.
"My Count", put in the Judge, "why this eagerness great
To leave, when you can safely stay on your estate?
The government a poor squire can scourge, skin and fleece,
But you, Count, can be certain to stay in one piece;
You know the rule we're under, are wealthy, a bail
Of half your yearly income will keep you from jail."
"With my character such course can never agree,
If I cannot be lover, a hero I'll be:
Among love's woes, I comfort shall look for in fame,
Though my heart shall be wretched, great will be my name".
Telimena asked: "Pray, what now bids you to wait,
Spurning love and contentment?"-"The power of fate",
Said the Count, "a foreboding, which in strange ways leads
Me towards foreign lands, and to unwonted deeds.
I confess, I today, in this fair lady's name
Would have gladly ignited the Hymeneal flame,
But too fine an example this young man set now,
Himself tearing the wedding wreath off his own brow,
His heart by trials testing, by hastening away
To war's changeable fortunes and bloody affray.
And a new epoch also for me dawns today!
Echoed Birbante-Rocco with my arms' renown,
Let now throughout all Poland this echo resound!"
He concluded, and proudly the rapier's hilt found.
"And, for sure", said Worm, "hardly one blames such intent;
Go, take money, you'll furnish a nice regiment,
Like Wlodzimierz Potocki, who Frenchmen amazed
With a million's gift; or, Prince Radziwill, who raised,
By pawning his estate and also every chattel,
Two regiments of uhlans all ready for battle.
Go, do, but take the money; of hands there's less need,
But gold's scarce in the Duchy; go, sir, and Godspeed!"
Telimena a mournful glance sent, said: "Alack!
I can well see that nothing will now hold you back!
My knight, when into combat lists bold you advance,
At your mistress's favour spare one tender glance!"
Here, detaching a riband, she made a rosette
And upon the Count's breast she it solemnly set.
"Let this rose lead you safely at guns' fiery train,
Against javelins flashing, and sulphurous rain!
And when your valiant deeds are renowned the world over,
And with laurels immortal shall evermore cover
Your bloodied casque and helmet in victory sublime,
Let your eye then revisit this knot one more time,
Then remember, whose hand has pinned on your breast this!"
She extended her hand-kneels the Count, plants a kiss,
Telimena a kerchief applied to one eye,
With the other the Count she regarded from high,
Who was deeply affected by this long farewell.
Telimena sighed, shrugging her shoulders as well.
But the Judge said: "Dear Count, it is late, please make haste",
And priest Worm: "Quite enough now!" called to them, stern-faced,
"Hurry up!"-Thus the order, the Priest's and the Judge's
Sunders the tender couple, and from the room nudges.
In the meantime Tadeusz his uncle embraced
With some tears, on Worm's hand a respectful kiss placed;
Father Worm the boy's head pressed against his own breast,
And upon his head cross-wise his hands letting rest,
Raised to heaven his eyes, said: "God keep you, my son!"
And then wept... but Tadeusz already was gone.
"What's this?" asked the Judge, "brother would not tell him aught?
Even now? And the poor boy is still to know naught,
Not a word, before parting?" "No word, I forbid",
Said the Priest, and long wept, face within his hands hid.
"And why should the poor fellow know he has a father
Hid from all like a scoundrel, or murderer rather?
God knows how I would wish it; but such ease forsake
And to God for my past sins I'll sacrifice make."
"Now's the time to think, Jacek, about your position,
Mark, a man of your age and in your poor condition
Can't with others escape, now, at once, helter-skelter;
You have mentioned a house where you can find a shelter;
Tell me where, let us hurry, a gig's harnessed, but
Are the forests not better? In some woodsman's hut?"
Worm shook his head once, saying: "Till morning at least
I have time; now my brother, do send for the priest,
That with sacraments come here as soon as he may;
All may leave. Only you and the Warden to stay.
Close the door".
The Judge carries out all Worm's commands
On the bed by him sits, while Gerwazy yet stands,
On his rapier's hilt resting his right elbow now,
And upon both his hands was supporting his brow.
Worm, his gaze, before speaking, on Gerwazy's face
Fixed, mysteriously keeping his silence a space.
Llike a surgeon will softly his patient's flesh feel
Ere he makes his incision with sharp edge of steel:
Thus Worm softened his eyes' keen expression a tone,
For a long time the Warden's gaze held with his own,
At length, as if to strike with a heavy blind blow,
One hand covering his eyes, and with strong voice, spoke so:
"I am Jacek Soplica..."
The Warden turned white
At these words, and then stooping, with half body's height
Leaning over, on one leg stood still, forward bent,
Like a boulder impeded in downward descent;
With his mouth gaping wide, white teeth bared in a threat,
With moustache fiercely bristling, eyes staringly set:
Having let go his rapier, before it reached ground,
His knees caught it, its pommel his right hand then found,
Tightly gripped; and behind him swung slow the sharp blade;
Left and right, back and forth, its outstretched black point swayed.
And the Warden was like a hurt lynx, on a branch
Of a tree poised, and gathering its purpose to launch
Its coiled strength at the huntsman; its blood-shot eyes glow,
Its whiskers twitch, it thrashes its tail to and fro.
"Pan Rembailo, the Priest said, "I am not afraid
Of men's anger, for under God's hand I'm now laid;
I beseech you in His name, who this world to save
Gave His life, on the cross He His butchers forgave
And the robber's plea granted: be not too severe
And this, which I shall tell you, with kind patience hear;
I confessed who I am: for my conscience' sake, for
Earning pardon, or pardon, at least, to implore;
Listen to my confession; then after, may do
With me what you wish". Stopped then, and joined his hands two
As if praying; the Warden drew back, at him gazed,
Struck his head, shrugged his shoulders, and stood there amazed.
And the priest of his sometime intimacy told
With Horeszko, and of his great love overbold,
Which to this fatal feud with the Pantler had led.
But confusedly spoke, would complaints voice instead
Of confession; regrets aired; would stop as if done;
As if all had been said, but again would press on.
The Warden, who Horeszkos' tale had well in mind,
The whole story, though badly entangled and twined,
Rearranged, could with memories it all complement;
But the Judge failed to follow what much of it meant.
Both attentively listened, with heads forward bowed,
While Jacek words uttered more sluggishly now,
Often halting completely.
"Dear Gerwazy, you'd know how the Pantler me praised,
And invited to banquets; my health how he raised,
How he often would cry, with a goblet in hand,
That than Jacek Soplica he'd no better friend;
How he then would embrace me! Who saw all this there,
Might have thought with this Jacek his soul he would share.
He, my friend? He knew well what within my soul passed,
He, a friend!
Meanwhile, travelled the whispers the whole neighbourhood;
Some would say: 'Pan Soplica, no good ever could
Of your wooing come; magnates' front steps are too steep
For the Cupbearer's Jacek to try to o'erleap.'
I laughed; feigned I made light of such persons high-born,
And of their stuck-up daughters; held magnates in scorn;
If I visited, it was for friendship, or sport,
And the wife I chose would be but of my own sort.
Yet, to my very soul it pierced such jests to meet;
I was young, I was daring, the world at my feet
In a land, where, you well know, a gentleman can
Be elected to kingship like any great man!
After all, once Teczynski to ask the king came
For his daughter, who gave her without any shame!
And are not the Soplicas' distinctions as great
In blood, family, and loyal support of the state!
How easily some others' sweet future we wreck
In a trice, which a long life can never correct!
But one word from the Pantler, one word, would have given
Such great joy! And who knows? We might all still be living;
Perhaps he, gladly dwelling by his darling child,
His fair Ewa, with grateful new son reconciled,
Would have grown old in peace! With his grandchildren toyed,
In his arms nursed them! Now though? Us both he destroyed,
And he himself-that killing-those crimes, which were seeds
Of all later transgressions, my miseries, misdeeds...
I've no right to accuse, played a murderer's part...
I've no right to accuse, I forgive from my heart,
But, he too...
If he had, in all frankness, but once me refused,
For he knew of our feelings; did he but not choose
To receive me; who knows? I may have gone away,
In anger, uttered curses, forgiven one day;
But he, arrogant, cunning, new plots hatched instead:
And pretended it would not come into his head,
That I'd even consider his daughter to wed.
But he had a use for me, I carried some weight
Among gentry, was liked by the local estate.
So, as if of my love he were quite unaware,
As before, made me welcome, would even declare.
I should visit more often; whenever we spoke
Man to man, when he saw me tears trying to choke
With my heart over-burdened and ready to burst,
Sly old fox, he a random would word toss in first
About court actions, hunting...
Ah, but not once, while drinking, when in maudlin mood,
First he hugged me, and then with his great friendship wooed,
When in need of my sabre, or vote in the Diet,
And the hug I returned, as if taken in by it,
Malice so seethed within me, that I nearly spilt
Spittle out through my teeth, and grasped at my sword hilt,
And would spit at this friendship, my sword give an airing:
But dear Ewa, observing my looks and my bearing,
Guessed, I do not know how, that my patience had failed,
And looked with such entreaty, her rosy cheeks paled;
And this so fair a lambkin, of such gentle mien,
With her gaze, oh, so kindly! So mild, and serene!
So angelic! I couldn't, I had not a crumb
Of nerve to cause her anger, alarm-so stayed dumb.
And I, roughneck notorious in lands far and near,
Before whom lords, the greatest, would tremble in fear,
Who did not let a day pass without brawl or fight,
From the Pantler, nay, king, would not suffer a slight,
Whom a mere disagreement would throw in a fit,
Then, I, Jacek, drunk, furious, sat still under it,
As if I at the Holy Host gazed!
Often, how I my heart wished to open, and more,
There before him to humble myself, and implore,
But encountering a gaze when I looked in his eyes
Cold as ice, in me shame at my weakness would rise;
So again with him coolly I discoursed, and spoke
Of court matters, and diets, and even would joke.
All this, sure, from false pride, so as not to detract
From the name of Soplica, not bowing one's back
To a lord with vain pleading, not let him say 'no',
Because what sort of tales would among gentry grow
If it were known, that I, Jacek...
The Horeszkos denied me the girl! Had the nerve
Me, me, Jacek, a bowl of black gruel to serve!
At last, I, quite uncertain what course to pursue,
Had the thought to collect of like spirits a few,
And, for good, leave the shire and our country's domains,
And to move into Russia, or wild Tartar plains,
Start some war. To the Pantler, for adieus, with pain
And the hope that he seeing his old friend again,
His old comrade, one almost a part of the house,
With whom he for so long had campaigned and caroused,
Now departing, to world's end, perhaps, somewhere blown,
-The old man perhaps to some emotion may own,
Perhaps by him some human soul, heart, may be shown,
As a snail shows his horns!
Ah! Who for his friend holds in the depths of his heart
A spark, even, of feeling, when from him must part
That spark shall be revealed at those final good-byes,
Like a life's fading flicker, before it, too, dies!
For the last time embracing an old comrade's head
Oft the coldest of eyes will a heart-felt tear shed!
The poor girl, upon hearing I leave for good, paled
As if swooning, near lifeless, her strength her quite failed,
Could not speak, but I saw from her eyes gush sincere
Streams of tears and I learned then, how she held me dear!
I recall, first time ever, my face tears then laved
Both for joy and despair! I forgot myself, raved,
Would again throw me down prone at her father's feet,
Like a snake, at his knees coil, cry out: 'Father sweet!
Your son make me, or kill me!' He stood, dark as night,
Like a pillar of salt, cold, indifferent, polite,
Began conversing-of what? What? His daughter's match!
Her wedding! O Gerwazy! And think, friend, at such
A time! You are not heartless!
The Pantler asked: 'Pan
Soplica! The Castellan, to plead for his son,
Sent an envoy; friend, what would you do in my place?
As you know, I've a daughter, good dower, fair face,
But, Castellan of Witebsk! That seat's rather low
In the Senate; advise, shall I say yes, or no?'
Not a word I remember I then to him said,
I believe, nothing-mounted my chestnut, and fled!"
"Jacek!" cried out the Warden, "you've wise reasons built,
One by one, but not one will diminish your guilt!
For the world often witnessed how once in a while
Someone loved a high-born or, indeed, royal child,
Tried by force to possess, or by stealth got his will,
Or, by fair means avenged-but, so cunningly kill!
A Polish lord! In Poland! With Russians to plot!"
"I was in no plot!" Jacek, with grief answered, "what,
Take by force? Yes, I could, from behind bar and lock
Pull her out, grind to powder his proud castle's rock!
Four settlements, and Dobrzyn, I could bring along.
Ah, had she but been more like our gentry's girls, strong
And healthy! If she'd feared not the flight, the alarms,
The pursuit, not be deafened by clanking of arms!
The poor thing! Her the parents with such care beset,
She, so delicate, timid! No butterfly yet,
But a spring caterpillar! And, this child to grab,
To defile with armed hand, is as bad as to stab;
I could not. No!
To take open revenge, to storm, smash the whole pile
Would be shameful, as if I revenged the denial!
Warden, your honest heart can thus never be tried
By the hell which exists in humiliated pride.
Better schemes then suggested this demon of pride:
To take bloody revenge, but the cause of it hide,
Not to frequent the castle, love in one's heart smother,
Blot out memories of Ewa, for wife take another,
And find later, much later, another pretext.
And it seemed at once that I commenced a new life,
And was pleased with my concept, and-took as my wife,
The first penniless girl who then happened along!
And did wrong-and how punished I was for that wrong!
Tadeusz's poor mother no love had from me,
Though to me most devoted, none kinder could be-
But I simmered with old love, and hate, in my heart,
I was as one demented, in vain played my part,
And attempted to farm, or some business addressed,
All in vain! By the Devil with vengeance obsessed,
Bad tempered and morose, I some comfort could win
In no thing on this earth-so, from sin into sin,
And I started to drink.
And soon after from sorrow my wife's life was doomed,
She left this child; and I by despair was consumed!
How ardently I must have adored that poor lass,
So many years! Where have I not ventured! Alas!
Till now cannot forget her, and her image sainted
Before my eyes stands clearly as though it were painted!
I drank, but the remembrance I never have drowned,
Nor am free of it, though ran the world twice around!
But now, in the Lord's service this habit I wear,
On this bed, this blood... Too long spoke I now of her!
At this moment, to speak of such things? Lord me spare!
But you must learn, in what grief, what sorrow, despair,
And all this followed shortly my loved one's betrothal;
Everywhere they kept talking about this betrothal,
They said Ewa, when taking the ring, had collapsed
At the Voivode's feet fainted, in fever had lapsed,
Fell into a consumption, and ceaselessly wept;
They guessed she for another a secret love kept-
But the Pantler, as usual, good-humoured, sedate,
In his castle gave balls, and asked friends to the fete,
Me, he did not invite:-why now try to be nice?
My domestic disorder, and my wretched vice
Exposed me to scorn, laughter, the whole world's rebuke!
Me! Who, and I'm not boasting, the whole shire once shook!
Me, whom Radziwill used to address as 'My dear'!
Me, with whom, when I rode forth, such throngs would appear,
Had a more numerous court once than any prince might!
When I reached for my sabre, a thousand swords bright
Flashed about me, and frightened the homes of the great!
-And later, village children would mock me and bait!
Thus in everyone's eyes I was worthless, decried!
Jacek Soplica!-Who knows the sense of false pride..."
Here the Almsman grew weak and fell back on the bed,
"Great indeed are God's judgments!" the Warden, moved, said.
"True, indeed! Is it really you, Jacek? No qualms,
Soplica? In a cowl? And soliciting alms?
You, who I well recall, when in pink of rude health,
Handsome fellow, were courted by magnates of wealth,
When women raved about you! Beyond all belief!
And yet, not long ago! And you aged so from grief!
How did I not straight know you right after that shot?
When you hit the bear plumb through the one vital spot?
For, than you, Lithuania no better shot knew,
And, after Maciek, you were the best swordsman too!
It's true! Did our girls not about you songs make?
'Jacek twirls his moustache, and the settlements quake,
And for whom on his whisker a knot Jacek ties,
He trembles, although he in Radziwill's bed lies'.
And against my old master you tied such a knot!
Unhappy man! And it's you! Brought to such a lot!
Jacek 'Whiskers' an almsman! Let God's will be done!
And now, ha! Retribution you cannot outrun!
For I swore: 'who one drop of Horeszko blood spill...'"
The Priest, meanwhile, sat up with an effort of will:
"I rode around the castle; by more imps possessed
In head and heart, than Satan himself could have guessed!
The Pantler! Kills his own child, me too he destroyed!
-I ride up to the gate, there by Satan decoyed.
Look, how each day he revels! Feasts, drinking, and balls,
What candles shine, what music resounds through the halls!
And will this castle not crash upon his bald pate!-
Think of revenge, and Satan will not make you wait.
I thought but the thought, Satan the Muscovites sent,
I stood, watched the assault; you know how the siege went,
But it is false that I with the Muscovites schemed.
I looked on! Various thoughts in my head spun and teemed.
First gazed with foolish smile as a child at the sight
Of a fire, than a hellish experienced delight
While waiting: it'll soon start to burn and collapse!
At times the thought came: rush in, and save her, perhaps
Even the Pantler-
You defended, you well know, with vigour, and sense,
I was staggered; the Russians fell round me, those dense,
Stupid cattle, aim badly!-at this their defeat
Madness by the throat seized me-that Pantler, not beat,
But victorious! Will he here thus always succeed?
After this dreadful foray, on fresh triumph feed?
In my shame, I was riding off-it was now dawn,
When on the porch I saw him-he stepped out, alone,
And sparked his diamond tie-pin, and shone in the sun,
And he twirled his moustache, and his gaze proudly flung,
And it seemed that he me thus disdained and defamed,
That he knew me, towards me his outstretched hand aimed
With derision:-I pick up a Muscovite gun,
Barely raised, scarcely aimed-it went off, the deed done!
You know the rest!
Those fire-arms accursed! Who with the sword would kill, must
Take his guard, then attack, he will parry, then thrust,
May disarm his opponent, sword half-way arrest,
But those fire-arms, enough just the trigger to press...
But one moment, one spark...
Did I flee when you took aim at me from above?
My eyes on your twin barrels I fixed, did not move,
From despair, or grief, stood there, as if made of wood;
Why, oh my dear Gerwazy, was not your aim good?
It would have been a kindness! For my sins, the pain...
I had to..."
Here breath failing, he stopped once again.
"God this knows", said the Warden, "I tried to aim true!
With how much blood your one shot the earth did imbrue!
For us, and for your family, how much wreck and ruin!
And it was all, Pan Jacek, through your bloody doing!
Yet today, when the yaegers to kill the Count tried,
The last of the Horeszkos, though on distaff side,
You shielded him, and when they discharged guns at us
You threw me to the ground, both our lives saving thus.
If it's true you wear rightly a monk's and priest's cloth,
Your frock's sure to protect you from my Penknife's wrath.
Fare you well, it's the last time my foot here has trod,
We are quits now-the rest, let us leave to Lord God."
Worm stretched out a hand-drew back Gerwazy a step:
"A hand stained by such murder I cannot accept,
Can't touch, without discredit to name and to honour,
For private ends, and not done pro publico bono".
But, sunk down in bed, Jacek, to sit up too frail,
Turned now to the Judge, growing each moment more pale,
Again anxiously asking for news of the priest,
And cried out to the Warden: "Stay, Warden, at least
A little, I'm near done, just strength left that I might
Say all I must-Pan Warden-I shall die tonight".
The Judge cried out: "What, brother? The wound is not much,
I saw it, what's this nonsense about priests and such!
Perhaps was not well dressed-for a doctor, at once,
I have in my chest..."-"Brother", the Priest said, "no chance,
I an earlier wound carry, at Jena had been,
Ill-healed, now aggravated again-it's gangrene
Set in-on wounds I'm expert, see, this black blood here,
Like soot, forget the doctors, but this is small beer,
We die once, whether this day, or that yield the ghost-
Pan Warden, do forgive me, I'm finished, almost!
There's some merit in that one's hand never had strayed
Against country, though all had cried once: "he betrayed!"
One especially in whom such pride its head reared!
Like the plague, the word 'traitor' to my skin adhered.
The citizenry from me their faces would turn,
All erstwhile friends would now forsake me, and spurn,
Timid ones, from afar greet, and quicken their pace;
Any Jew, any peasant, would bow to my face,
Then aside, when he'd passed me, with sneering laugh pierce;
That word 'traitor' would echo and ring in my ears
At home, and in the fields; and from morning to night
Ran before, like a spot in a sick man's eyesight.
Yet my country I never betrayed.
Moscow suddenly saw me as ally and mate,
To Soplicas gave much of the dead man's estate,
The Targowicans then, too, engaged to provide
Me with office.-Had I then become russified!
Satan counselled so-I was rich, powerful, feared;
Had I turned then a Russian, the greatest lords here
Would ask my favours; even the gentry, my peers,
Even commons, so prone to disparage their own,
Those more lucky, in Moscow's pay-leave well alone!
I understood this, and yet-I could not.
I fled the country!
Where did I not go, what did I not suffer!
Till God willed the one soothing balm then to reveal;
To mend one's ways was needed, and also to heal.
As much as in one's power...
The daughter, with the Voivode her husband, exiled
To Siberia, died young there, but leaving a child
In this part of the country, our little girl, Zosia,
I had her well looked after.
Not for love, more from stupid false pride came this murder;
For humility, contrite, I entered the order,
I, once of my birth proud, I, a hero confirmed,
My head lowered, an almsman, I called myself Worm,
For, like a worm in the dust...
Bad example to country, incentive to treason,
To expiate by example to Heaven more pleasing,
By blood, by self-sacrifice...
I fought for this land; how? No matter; 'twas not
For earthly fame oft ran I at steel and at shot.
I would rather recall, not these deeds of renown,
Bruited wide, but the actions more useful, unknown,
And those sufferings, which no one...
I, with hardships, won through, more than once, to our nation,
Carried generals' orders, brought back information,
Conspiracies contrived-in Galicia they know
This monk's cowl-in Great Poland they know it also!
Toiled with barrows a year in a fortress in Prussia,
Thrice they laid bare my back with their batons in Russia,
Once on track for Siberia; then our Austrian neighbour
Had me buried in Spielberg, in mines, at hard labour,
-But, God, by his great wonder, had saved me again
And allowed me to die here, among countrymen,
With holy sacraments.
Maybe, even now, who knows? I sinned and did wrong!
Maybe pushed, beyond orders, the rising along!
This thought, that the Soplicas will kindle the blaze.
That the first Pursuit banner my kindred shall raise...
This thought... I would think, pure...
You craved vengeance? You have it! Of God's punishment
You the tool were! With your sword my plans God had rent,
You my scheme's thread have tangled, long years by me spun
That purpose great, for which all my life's race was run,
Which yet remains as my life's last earthly emotion,
Which, I, as to a dearest child, gave my devotion,
In its father's sight you killed, and I forgive you!
"If so Lord God only deign to forgive too!"
Interrupted the Warden, "if the Eucharist
You receive now, I, Father, am no atheist!
Who a dying man saddens, I know, risks his soul,
I shall tell you a something, it may you console,
When my late master fell on the ground, I, distressed,
Knelt beside him, and bending low over his breast,
Swore revenge, in his wound's blood immersing my sword,
Master shook his head sideways, a hand stretched toward
The gate, in which you stood, made a cross in the air;
Could not speak, but the sign his forgiveness made clear.
I well understood, but was with anger so mad,
That about this cross never a word have I said."
And here all talk ceased due to the sick man's distress,
And there followed a lengthy hour of quietness.
They the priest thus awaited, when hoof-beats drummed loud,
And the innkeeper, breathless, knocked on the door, bowed,
Holds a grave letter, only for Jacek, no other,
Jacek orders the contents be read by his brother.
The letter was from Fiszer, the chief-of-staff under
Prince Józef, then the Polish armed forces' commander,
It states that the imperial closed council is set
On war; that now the Emperor has to the world let
It known be; the Great Diet in Warsaw recalled,
With Mazovian Estates, which in joint session hold
For Crown and Lithuania to be re-united.
Jacek, quietly listening, his prayers recited;
The consecrated candle grasped close to his breast,
Towards Heaven his eyes, by hope kindled, addressed,
Flooded with the last tears from an over-full heart:
"Now in peace, Lord", he said, "let your servant depart!"
All knelt down; a bell's tinkling was heard at the door;
This a sign that the priest had arrived with the Lord.
Just then night fled; the sky turned a milky-rose hue,
And across it the first rays of sunlight now flew;
They the panes pierced like diamond-tipped shafts; found the bed,
Reflected there, they circled the dying man's head
And adorned face and temples; and so they rained down
That he shone like a saint in a fiery crown.