The last old-Polish feast - The centrepiece masterpiece - Explanation of its personae - The procession of the season - A present for Dabrowski -More about the Penknife - A present for Kniaziewicz - Tadeusz's first official act as landlord - Gerwazy's observations - The concert of concerts - The Polonaise - To Love and
With a crash the hall's portals at last open fly,
Enters the Tribune wearing his cap, head held high,
He greets none, at the table does not take his place,
For the Tribune today wears a different face:
That of court-marshal: holding in one hand a large
Staff of office, and with it, as person in charge,
Shows the company their places, and seats every guest.
Foremost, as in the shire he outranks all the rest,
Takes the Chamberlain-Marshal the chiefest seat there:
With arms fashioned of ivory, a plush, velvet chair;
Next to him, on his right hand, the general Dabrowski,
On his left sit Kniaziewicz, Pac and Malachowski,
Madam Chamberlain, the ladies in Sunday attire,
Then the officers, gentry and neighbouring squires,
All paired, so by each lady is placed a male guest;
All sit down in good order at Tribune's behest.
The Judge bowed, and did not in the chamber remain;
He a large group of peasants would now entertain
In the courtyard, at table two furlongs at least;
At one end sat he, and, at the other, the priest.
Not Tadeusz nor Zofia sat down to the food,
Busy serving the people, they ate when they could.
For the old custom was that new lords of the land
At their first feast the peasants served with their own hand.
The guests meanwhile, awaiting their meal in the hall,
With surprise let their gaze on the centrepiece fall,
Which fine metal and just as fine handcraft displayed.
Prince Radziwill-the-Orphan, it's said, had made
To his order in Venice; so had it created
To his plan, in the Polish old mode decorated.
This centrepiece, in Swedish wars carried away,
To this gentleman's home, none knows how, found its way;
Taken out of the strongroom today for this meal,
The table's centre graced like a huge carriage wheel.
Rim to rim this grand object, replete with the glow
Of meringues and white sugars, fine, powdered like snow,
To perfection a winter's cold landscape portrayed;
With a black wood, enormous, of confiture made,
By whose edge stood, in hamlets and settlements, homes
Not with frost covered, rather with sugary foams;
Round the edge of the platter stood neatly displayed
Scores of little blown figures of porcelain made,
Dressed in Polish apparel, like actors on stage,
In some major event they seemed to be engaged;
Each small gesture with art caught, their colouring choice,
They appeared almost living, and lacked but the voice.
"What do these represent?" The guests, curious, demand.
And thus answers the Tribune, raised staff in his hand,
(While the guests were served vodka as aperitif):
"If I, most honoured sirs, your permission receive,
These so numerous personae you see here in action
Represent the whole course of a local election,
Consultation and voting, the triumph, the pain;
I myself guessed its meaning, and now shall explain.
On the right, here, some squires can be readily sighted:
For pre-election banquet there doubtless invited;
There, a set table waits: but none shows them their place,
In small groups they stand, each group confers face to face.
Note well how in each cluster, at centre, there stands
One with wide-opened mouth and upraised restless hands,
An orator! Eyes bulging, explaining, perhaps,
Aiding tongue with the finger he on his palm taps.
These their candidates' virtues with fervour propose,
But with varied success, as each face plainly shows.
In fact, this group of gentry attentively hear,
One with thumb in his belt tucked, stands, pricks up an ear,
With hand cupping it, silent, his whiskers he twirls,
All the verbiage he gathers and treasures like pearls;
The orator rejoices that this lot are caught,
Pats his pocket, for in it he now holds their vote.
But the third group, alas!-is beginning to melt:
Here the speaker his audience must hold by the belt,
Look how these pull away and would block up their ears!
And look! How very angry this listener appears,
Would shut the speaker's mouth, him defies with arms raised,
He had, no doubt, just heard his adversary praised;
This other, like a bull, with head down, bristled hair,
You'd say, that he the speaker would toss in the air;
Some here run for their sabres, and some for the gates.
But one gentleman, silent, between the groups waits;
Of no party, one sees; he's unsure, hesitates;
Whose name to tick? With own self he struggles, in doubt,
Consults fate: his hands raises, both thumbs sticking out,
With eyes shut he one thumb at the other thumb aims,
Plainly, he his decision entrusts to such games:
If the thumbs meet, his vote to the 'yeses' will go,
If they miss, he'll be guided to put down a 'no'.
To your left, to the convent refectory make entry,
Now turned into a voting hall for local gentry.
All the seniors on benches, the younger men stand
Where they may a good view of the centre command;
In the centre the marshal, with urn in hand, towers,
Counting votes which the gentry's gaze, eager, devours;
He just shook out the last one; the ushers the name
Of the new office-bearer with unction proclaim.
But the common will this squire just cannot abide:
See him through kitchen window his head poke outside,
See his bug-eyed stare; note how his blood's boiling hot,
Mouth wide-open, as if he would swallow the lot;
It's quite obvious that this squire had 'Veto!' cried out;
Just see, how at this sudden, provocative shout
The mob crowds through the door, for the kitchen, we guess,
Swords are drawn, there's no doubt there'll be bloodshed, no less.
But you'll note in the passage, if sirs do but glance,
This old priest in his vestments with purpose advance,
That's the prior-the Host from the altar he brings,
While a boy in a surplice his path clears and rings
A small bell: sheathed are sabres, men cross themselves, kneel,
While the priest turns wherever he hears more cold steel;
But appears, and he calms all, the brawling soon ends.
Ah! You would not recall this, my dear youthful friends!
How among our self-willed and so quarrelsome gentry,
To the teeth armed, no need was to give police entry;
While religion still flourished, the laws had effect,
There was freedom with order; with plenty, respect!
In some other lands, I hear, the countries keep swarms
Of constables, tough fellows, policemen, gendarmes;
And if thus for their safety a sword must them guard,
That these countries have freedom-to credit is hard!"
Just then tapping his snuffbox, the Chamberlain said:
"My dear Tribune, some later time tell us instead
These old tales; that election's quite curious, we grant,
But just now we are hungry; it's food that we want."
To this answered the Tribune, bent low with a bow:
"My most honoured sir, this boon to me pray allow,
The last scene of this diet now very soon ends;
Here we see the new Marshal, borne high by his friends,
From the refectory carried, just see how his peers
Toss their caps in the air, mouths agape, each man cheers!
While on the opposite side, the outvoted one, glum,
With his cap jammed down tight stands there lonely and dumb;
His wife waits on the porch; she has guessed what is what,
Poor lady! In her maid's arms she faints on the spot!
A Right Honourable would be, and now it appears
But an Honourable stays she for three more long years!"
Here the Tribune, quite done, with his staff gave a sign,
And the house-servants entered in pairs, in good line,
And began serving: 'barszcz' soup, called 'royal', to start,
Or the old-Polish clear broth, prepared with great art,
Into which, by a secret old recipe, threw
The Tribune a gold coin and of pearls not a few.
(Such a broth the blood purges, improving one's health),
Followed by other dishes, but who can them tell!
Who now comprehends all these, to our times quite strange,
These huge platters of 'kontuz', of 'arkas', blancmange,
And then cod with its odorous and rich stuffing comes,
With musk, caramel, civet, pine nuts, damson plums;
And those fish! Great smoked salmon from Danube afar,
Caspian sturgeon, Venetian and Turkish caviar,
Pike and cousin luce, each one a full cubit long,
The flounder and mature carp, carp 'royal' and young!
Last, a master-chef's tour de force comes into view:
A fish uncut, with head fried, its middle baked through,
At its tail end and swimming in sauce, a ragout.
The guests neither inquired what this dish might be called,
Nor the curious receipt did their interest hold,
On the food they with soldiers' good appetites fell,
And with copious Hungarian wine washed it down well.
But the centrepiece meanwhile was changing its hue,
And, of winter's snows stripped, it rich greenery grew.
For, gradually warmed by the heat of the day
The light sugary ices had melted away
And disclosed a foundation till now hid from view;
So the landscape now mimicked a season quite new,
Gleaming with multi-coloured and verdant spring show.
Various grain in the fields sprout and like mushrooms grow,
Saffron flourishing wheatfields their golden wave ears,
A rye-field, in apparel of silver, appears,
Also buckwheat, created from chocolate with care,
And orchards blooming richly with apple and pear.
The guests have no time Summer's rich gifts to enjoy,
Plead, the Tribune should not let cruel Autumn destroy
Summer's bounty; but vainly! Relentlessly rolled
On their courses the planets; the grain, painted gold,
Slowly melts while absorbing the warmth of the hall,
The grasses had now yellowed, leaves redden and fall
As if they were knocked off by a stiff autumn breeze;
Until, finally, these once magnificent trees
Now, as if stripped completely by hail, winds and rains,
Stand quite naked-enacted by cinnamon canes;
And, imitating pines, some small branches of laurel,
But with carraway seeds, and not cones, for apparel.
The guests started, while drinking, the woods to attack,
Breaking off roots and branches and stumps for a snack.
The Tribune the board circles, and, full of joy, rests
Eyes, triumphant and proud, on his bevy of guests.
Henryk Dabrowski put on an air of amaze:
"My dear Tribune, are these some Chinese shadow plays?
Did Pinety his fiends lend to follow your will?
Can such gems in your Litwa encountered be still?
And do all of you banquet in such antique mode?
Tell me, for I have spent my entire life abroad."
The Tribune, with a bow, said: "Lord General, no,
You may, sir, rest assured this is no godless show!
It is but a reminder of those famous boards
Once set out in great houses of our ancient lords,
When our Poland the first rank among nations took!
What today I've achieved, I have read in this book.
You ask, if in all Litwa this custom is kept?
Alas! Now even here have the new fashions crept.
Any lordling here cries that he hates all excess,
Eats like a Jew, and offers his friends less and less;
He begrudges Tokay, and his palate will stain
With that devil's brew, modish, false Moscow champagne;
Then, come evening, will lose such a fortune at dice
That for feasting two hundred good friends would suffice.
And even (and I wish to speak frankly today,
And the Chamberlain shan't mind what I have now to say),
When I took this great wonder from its hiding place,
Even you, Chamberlain, you had a smile on your face!
Saying that it is tedious, and quite out-of-date,
Looks a plaything for children, for so many great
And distinguished guests, really completely unfit!
You too, Judge, said the guests will be wearied by it!
And yet, as I now gather from your, sirs, amaze,
This fine craft is still worthy of viewing and praise!
I doubt if such occasion will come once again
That we guests of such standing shall here entertain.
You must give many banquets, so, Sir, don't refuse
To accept this book, General; it should come of use
Whenever foreign monarchs you need entertain,
Or a feast even, bah, for Napoleon ordain.
But allow me, before you receive it, to tell
You by what chance this volume into my hands fell."
When a noise rose behind-doors, loud voices of people
Crying out jointly: "Long live our Cock-on-the-Steeple!"
The throng pushes in, Maciej walked in at its head.
The Judge took his guest's arm, to the table him led,
Seating him with the leaders, at high end, and said:
"Pan Maciej, you are such a bad neighbour, for you
Come so late that for dinner you're well overdue".
"I'm well on time", said Maciej, "and not for food's sake,
It's curiosity caused me this visit to make,
To see our national army, in fact, was my wish;
And when all's said and done, sir, it's not fowl or fish!
If the gentry had let me, I'd give this a miss,
You, sir, sat me at table-thanks, neighbour, for this".
Having said this, his plate he reversed upside-down
A sign he would not eat, and sat still, with a frown.
"Master Dobrzynski", General Dabrowski then says,
"So you're that famous fighter from Kosciuszko's days,
That Maciej, nicknamed Switch! I know you from the tale.
And, my goodness, you still are so robust, so hale!
How the years have flown! See, how much older I've got!
See Kniaziewicz's hair is now grizzled somewhat!
And you still could your arm 'gainst the younger men chance,
And your Switch, it still blossoms as it used to once;
I heard that you've taught lately the Ruskis a lesson.
But where are these your brethren? It would be a blessing
These Penknives and those Razors at last to behold,
Last exemplars remaining of our Litwa of old."
Said the Judge: "General, after inflicting that rout
The Dobrzynskis have hid in the Duchy no doubt;
And to join there the legions for sure would have tried".
"Well, indeed", the young squadron commander replied,
"To my troop a bewhiskered great scarecrow did come,
A Staff-Sergeant Dobrzynski, called Sprinkler by some,
While my Mazovians call him 'the great Litwan bear'.
If the General orders, we'll have him appear".
"There are", said the lieutenant, "some other ones, though,
From Lithuania; there's one they call Razor I know,
And, with blunderbuss, one who rides wide on the flanks;
Also, two grenadiers in the rifle corps ranks,
"Yes, yes, but I would hear of their head,
Of this 'Penknife' would hear now", the General said,
"Of whom so many wonders the Tribune has told,
Like a myth of some fabled great giant of old".
"Penknife", answers the Tribune, "though not then exiled,
Fearing Moscow's inquiry, stayed hidden awhile;
A whole winter, poor fellow, had roamed the woods' core,
Only now has emerged; and in these days of war
He could still be of use, for a brave man, and proud,
Though today he is sadly by years somewhat bowed.
But there stands he!-and pointed to outside the door,
Where of servants and peasants there stood a good score,
And above whose heads just then appeared a bald pate
Like a full moon's orb rising, effulgent and great.
Thrice appeared, and thrice vanished within the heads' cloud;
The Warden bowed, advancing, till out of the crowd,
And thus spoke:
"Hetman, if I may be so allowed,
To address you thus, General, no matter at all,
It is Slasher Rembailo stands here at your call
With my Penknife, which not on some fine jewelled hilt,
Or rich graving, but temper, its credit has built,
So that even Your Highness of its fame has heard.
If it only could talk, he would tell you some word
To the credit of also this old withered hand,
Which gave long, loyal service to our Fatherland,
God be thanked, and the family Horeszko as well,
Whose remembrance to this day in people's hearts dwells.
My-dear-boy! You'll not find an estate-clerk as smart
At preparing quills, as he can trunks and heads part!
Beyond counting! And stacks of chopped noses and ears!
And not even a notch on this Penknife appears,
And never was it stained by act wicked or cruel;
Only in open warfare, or else in a duel.
Only once! And God grant him perpetual rest,
An unarmed man it dispatched! This sin I confessed,
It pro publico bonowas, God knows this best."
"So, let's see it!" Dabrowski said laughing, "My word!
This is some lovely penknife, a real headsman's sword!"
Awe-struck at the great rapier he turned it about,
And to officers round him in turn pointed out;
Every man-jack there tried it, but hardly was there
Even one who could lift it aloft in the air.
They said, only Dembinski, with arms like a bear,
Could have lifted the sabre, but he was not there.
Of those present, the squadron commander Dwernicki,
And platoon leader, broad-backed Lieutenant Rózycki,
Were successful in swinging the huge iron mast;
Thus the blade, for their trial, from hand to hand passed.
But then General Kniaziewicz, the tallest man there,
Showed that no arm with his arm in strength could compare;
He the sword, like an epée, grasped lightly and raised,
Over heads of the guests like a lightning-flash blazed,
Showed the old Polish tricks of the science of fence:
The 'cross-stroke', the 'slash', 'parry', the 'windmill' defence,
The 'sly thrust', and all counters and tierces, which knowledge
He had ably acquired at the Military College.
While he practiced so, laughing, Rembailo knelt down,
His knees grasping, with tears in his eyes gave a moan
At each pass of the sword: called out: "General, well done!
Were you once a Confederate? This beats everyone!
This thrust was the Pulaskis'! Dzierzanowski thus fought!
This thrust Sawa's! But whose hand could thus have you taught?
Only Maciej Dobrzynski's! And this? Holy Ghost!
My invention, God help me! And I do not boast,
In my settlement this thrust is practised alone,
After me as 'My-dear-boy' is everywhere known;
But who taught it you, Sir? This is my stroke," he gasped,
"Mine!"-He rose and the General by both shoulders clasped.
"Now I can die in peace! This world still holds a man,
A swordsman, who shall cherish my darling again;
For, till now, night and day grieve and sorrow I must
For that when I am dead, this my sword will be rust!
Now, it shall not so rust! It Your Highness befits,
General, please do forgive me, dispense with those spits,
German needles: a gentry's child ill can afford
To tie on such a stick!-wear a gentleman's sword!
Now I this my old Penknife here lay at your feet,
This my friend, of all comrades to me the most sweet,
No wife had I, no child to continue my race,
He was wife and child to me; from my fond embrace
Never was far away; from dawn till eventide
I embraced him; at night time he slept by my side!
And he, when I grew older, hung over my bed
As do the Lord's commandments above a Jew's head!
I planned he with this arm should be laid in the earth
But I've now found an heir-let him serve you, henceforth!"
Then the General, half laughing, (and quite moved indeed):
"Comrade", said, "if to me you your wife and child deed,
For the rest of your lifetime on this earth you would
Remain old, lonely, orphaned, in widower-hood!
Say, how for this great gift I can make due repair,
How can I your bereavement make easier to bear?"
"Am I Cybulski?" said then the Warden, much peeved,
"Whom a Russian of wife once at cards had relieved?
(As the ballad runs)-It is enough for me, when
This my Penknife once more shall flash bright before men
Held in such a hand!-let though the General make sure
That the strap should be slack, not too tightly secured,
For it's long; and should slash from the left ear and cut
With two hands, then you'll cleave 'em from head through to butt."
The General took the Penknife, but, too long to wear,
Had it sent to the wagons into servants' care.
What its fate was, his own view had every debater,
But none found out for certain, not then and not later.
Said Dabrowski to Maciej: "Why, comrade, so sad?
It would seem that our coming did not make you glad?
Still so surly and glum? Why does your heart not jump at
All the eagles, gold, silver? When fife, drum and trumpet
The Kosciuszko reveille blare into your ear?
Maciej! I thought we had a more daring man here;
If you don't grab your sabre and leap on your horse,
At least gladly with comrades, and not as by force,
To Napoleon's health drink and to Poland's hopes dear!"
"Ha!" said Maciej, "I've heard, see, what's going on here!
But, master, no two eagles will nest, side by side!
A lord's favour does, Hetman, a piebald horse ride!
A great hero the Emperor? A 'yea' or a 'nay'?
I recall the Pulaskis, my friends, used to say
Of Dumouriez, when people admired all that he did,
That a Polish-born hero for Poland is needed,
Not a French, or Italian, but only a Piast,
A Jan, Józef, or Maciek-and this is a must.
The army! Call it Polish? But these fusiliers,
Or those grenadiers, sappers and those cannoneers!
One hears more of those German strange names in this rabble
Than those of our own land! Who them now can unravel!
And I see that some Turks or some Tartars you lead,
Or schismatics, with neither true God nor true creed:
I've seen our village women molested, this mob
Even passers-by plunders, our churches they rob!
The Emperor's off to Moscow! A long road, no doubt,
If His Imperial Highness without God sets out!
I have heard, he had under the bishop's curse passed;
It's all up my..." Here Maciej stopped, dipped a bread crust
In his soup and, while eating, more words did not waste.
Maciej's speech was not much to the Chamberlain's taste,
The young started to murmur; the Judge then and there
Calmed the squabblers, announcing the third betrothed pair.
'Twas the Notary, as such self-announced at the door,
For none knew him; till now he the Polish dress wore,
But his bride, Telimena, now made him dispense
(A clause in their agreement) with kontuszes hence;
And to dress in the French mode; loath was he to wear it.
The frock-coat, one sees, drained him of half of his spirit,
As if a stick he'd swallowed he slowly advanced,
Like a crane; and he neither to right nor left glanced,
His face set, but the torture was plain on the face,
Knowing not how to bow, where and how hands to place,
He, who had so loved gestures! Thumbs stuck in his belt-
But there's no belt-so only his stomach he felt;
Knew his blunder, confused, like a boiled lobster blushed,
And then into one pocket both nervous hands pushed.
Steps, like running the gauntlet, midst whispers and mockery,
Of his tails ashamed, as of some jiggery-pokery;
-Then met he Maciej's eyes and from fear inward quivered.
With the Notary had Maciej in friendship dwelt ever,
But he now a look gave him with such menace fraught,
That the Notary paled, started to button his coat,
Thought Maciej's stare would strip him of clothes on the spot;
But Dobrzynski twice uttered aloud the word "Clot!"
Notary's fancy-dress filled him with such strong distaste,
That, without taking leave, he just stood up in haste,
Slipped out, mounted his horse, and departed from there.
Meanwhile, next to the Notary, his lady-love fair,
Telimena, displays all her beauties unflawed,
And her clothes', head to toe dressed in latest of mode.
How depict her coiffure, what her hose, what her dress,
Describe it all in vain, this no pen can express,
Perhaps brush could limn better those tulles, appliqués,
Pearls, cashmeres, precious stones, and batistes and chambrays,
And the countenance rosy, and spirited gaze.
The Count knew her at once, with astonishment pale
Rose, and felt for his sword, cried: "And do my eyes fail?
And is this really thou! With bare-faced shamelessness
Thou, here, now, in my presence, another's hand press?
O forsworn, faithless creature! O, changeable soul!
And shouldst thou not thy face hide for shame in some hole?
Of thy vows so unmindful, so recently sworn!
O, you credulous man! Why these favours I've worn?
But the rival beware who dishonours me so!
Only over my corpse to the altar he'll go!"
The guests rose, with the Notary put out and upset,
The Chamberlain, the rivals to pacify yet,
Ran up; but Telimena the Count took aside:
"Till now I'm not", she whispered, "the Notary's bride,
If you have an objection, then answer me deign
With an answer immediate, short, and in words plain:
Do you love me, and is your affection quite steady?
Would you marry me? Now? Are you willing, and ready?
I shall give up the Notary, at once, if you will".
The Count answered: "O woman, inscrutable still!
Time ago, in your feelings you were quite poetic,
And now seem quite prosaic, no feeling, no ethic;
What indeed is your 'marriage', if not but a chain,
Which the hands binds together, but not spirits twain?
Trust me, there be avowals, without a proposal,
Duties be undertaken, without an espousal!
Two fond hearts brightly burning at earth's two extremes
Speak, like stars, of their yearning with tremulous beams.
Who knows! Perhaps the Earth to the Sun its course steers,
And thus by the Moon constant is always held dear,
Because they, trading glances, the shortest way try
One another to reach! And yet, cannot come nigh!"
"That's enough!" she broke in, "I am, clearly, no planet,
By God's grace I'm a woman, Count, and not some comet;
The rest I guess-pray spare me those ramblings absurd.
But I give you this warning: say even a word,
To endanger my marriage, by Heaven I swear,
With these fingernails, I shall leap at you, and tear..."
-"I would not", the Count answered, "your happiness mar!"
Eyes with scorn filled, and sadness, he focused afar,
And, in order to punish his faithless old flame,
At the Chamberlain's fair daughter took amorous aim.
The Tribune, to effect peace between the young men
By the use of examples, began once again
His account of the boar-hunt in Nabolick woods,
And Prince Denassow's quarrel which therefrom ensued
With Rejtan; but the guests to the courtyard repaired,
Having finished their ices, to taste the cool air.
There folk, dining done, pass jugs of mead hand-to-hand,
Players tune up, make signs that the dance should start, and
All there look for Tadeusz, who stood to one side,
Whispering something of moment to his future bride.
"Zofia! We must consult on a great matter, so
Let us talk. I asked Uncle, he does not say no.
You must know, a large part of the villages due
To me, should all by right have devolved now to you.
These are not my, but your serfs. I could not with ease
Change their status unless their own mistress agrees.
Now that our precious country we have once again,
With this wonderful change, shall our peasants but gain
Only this, they another task-master obtain?
True, they are now ruled kindly; when I die, alas,
The Lord only knows into whose hands they may pass;
I'm a soldier; we both in the earth shall be laid,
I'm but human, of my own caprices afraid.
It would safer be, if I gave up my control,
Let the peasants' care under the country's laws fall.
Free ourselves, let our peasants no longer be bound,
Let them own, and their sons own, the parcel of ground
That bore them, which with bloody toil worked they, from which,
So reclaimed by them, they us all feed and enrich.
But I must warn you, Zofia, if these lands we give,
Then our means will be less, we must modestly live.
I am used to life frugal from quite early years,
But you, Zofia, are well-born, descendant of peers,
In the capital early youth spent, yet now say
You would dwell on the land? From the world far away?
Like a peasant!"
Then Zosia thus shyly replied:
"I am a woman, and therefore not I should decide;
You're my husband-to-be; I am young and inept,
What you decide, I shall with my whole heart accept!
If by freeing the serfs you become rather poorer,
Then you will be, Tadeusz, to my heart much dearer.
Of my birth I know little, and care not much for;
Only this know, that I was an orphan, and poor,
That I at the Soplicas from babyhood grew,
Was in this house raised, here I betrothed was to you,
I'm not scared of the country, if I've lived in town,
That is over, forgot, to the country I'm drawn;
And believe me these chickens' and cockerels' brood
More fun gave me than all those Saint Petersburgs could;
If I pined for society, or, sometimes, for fun,
That was childish; I know now I'm bored when in town;
I found out during winter, when some time I stayed
In Wilno, that for village life I had been made;
For Soplicowo, while at gay parties, I longed,
And I'm not scared of work, for I'm young, and am strong,
I can walk about stately, with keys at my waist,
I'll learn housekeeping, you'll see, you'll not be disgraced!"
When Zosia to the end of her story had come,
To her came up Gerwazy, astonished and glum:
"I have heard the news", he said, "this 'liberty' talk!
The Judge spoke of it, what's it to do with the folk?
It all seems somewhat German for our Polish country!
Freedom's not for the peasants, it is for the gentry!
While it's true that we all from old Adam have come,
Yet I've heard that the peasants are issue of Ham,
Jews of Japhet, we gentry from eldest of brothers,
Are of Sem, and as eldest rule over the others.
Though the priest something different now teaches the nation...
Says, that this was but under the Old Dispensation,
But as Lord Christ, though royal, upon sheaves of corn,
Among Jews, in a peasant's rough stable was born...
Let it be so, if there can be no other way!
And especially when, if it's true what they say,
Lady Zofia with all this new business agrees,
Mine to do, hers to order; she'll do as she please.
But I warn: let's not make all these liberties new
Just be words vain and hollow, as Muscovites do:
Late Pan Karp too took serfdom off his peasants' backs,
And the Muscovite starved them straight with triple tax,
And I therefore give counsel that, as once was wont,
We ennoble them and our own coat-of-arms grant.
Lady Zofia on some will confer the Half-Goat,
Pan Soplica to others would grant his own coat,
Leliwa; then Rembailo will serfs see as equal
When he sees them as gentry, with bearings. In sequel,
The Diet will confirm this.
And, Sir, do not fear
That this gifting of lands may well cost you too dear;
God forbid, that a daughter of such noble race
Would her fine hands with housework be seen to disgrace.
But this can be prevented-I know of a chest,
In which lies of Horeszkos' old silver the best,
And with this various bracelets and signets, a hoard
Of caparisons, helms, and of marvellous swords,
The Pantler's treasure, hidden from thieves in the earth,
And now yours, Pani Zofia, as heiress by birth.
I watched these as I care for the eyes in my head,
Of the Muscovites, and you Soplicas, in dread.
I've a pouch full of thalers as well, not a few,
Emoluments of service, and master's gifts too;
And intended, when we had returned to these halls,
That the money be used for repair of the walls;
But it seems it should meet now the new household's need-
And so, Master Soplica, a new cause I plead:
That I at my new mistress's table shall feed,
And the Pantler's descendant shall rock on my knee,
And my mistress's child to the Penknife trained be,
If a son, which is certain, for war's in the air,
And in wartime, it's always been sons women bear."
And the last words were hardly pronounced by Gerwazy,
When in dignified manner stepped forward Protazy,
Who bowed, and from his kontusz importantly took
A panegyric, lengthy, best part of a book,
By a youngish subaltern concocted in rhyme,
In the capital famed for his odes at one time,
Who then joined up, remained though a litterateur still
Making verses-the Usher read three hundred, till,
When he came to the verse: "Thou, whose marvellous charms
Awake painful delights, and ecstatic alarms!
When Bellona's grim ranks your enchanting face view,
Soon the javelins shatter, and shields break in two!
You, through Hymen, Mars conquer; from Hydra's dread hair
Let your hand hissing serpents of discord now tear!"-
Tadeusz clapped with Zofia till his hands were sore,
As if praising, in fact, to avoid hearing more.
Then the priest, from a bench, at the Judge's command,
To the peasants made public Tadeusz's plan.
They but heard the great news, when the peasants, pell-mell,
Their young master besieged, at the lady's feet fell,
"Long life to our kind masters!" with tears they all call,
Cried Tadeusz: "Good health, dear friends, citizens all,
And all free, equal Poles!"-"I the people's health raise!"
Said Dabrowski; the folk cried: "To our leaders praise!
Vivat Army and people, vivat each Estate!"
From a thousand throats thundering the 'healths' alternate.
Only Buchman shared not in the general delight,
Praised the project, but would some amendments indite,
Had, firstly, a judicial commission in sight,
Which would then... One regrets, that time only prevented
Buchman's plan from becoming at once implemented.
For in the castle courtyard, pairs in dancing mood,
Girls with soldiers, and ladies with officers stood:
"Polonaise!" the whole crowd, as with one voice, demand.
So, the officers called for the military band;
But the Judge whispered into the General's ear:
"Order them not to bring yet your orchestra here,
As you know, it's my nephew's betrothal today,
And it's been since the old days our family's way
To betroth and to wed with the villagers' band.
There a fiddler, a piper, and cymbalist stand;
Worthy fellows-already they fidget and fret,
The bagpiper bows mutely, and looks quite upset:
If dismissed, the poor lads will start bawling at once;
Folk to no other music will frolic and dance.
Let these start, let the folk have their merry tunes, and
We shall then have the pleasure of your splendid band."
Then the fiddler his sleeves rolled up, pressed
His fingers to the fiddle, his chin on its rest,
And the bow, like a charger, across the strings raced
At this sign the two pipers their bagpipes embraced,
Like the beating of wings their arms flutter and flap,
Their breath filling the bellows, cheeks more air entrap;
You'd expect that those two would rise up in the air;
Like the chubby-faced children of Boreas; but there
Was no cembalo.
Many cymbalists were there,
But when Jankiel was present to play none would dare
(Where had Jankiel spent winter was never quite clear,
With the General Staff he of a sudden appeared.)
It's well known that not one on this instrument will
Equal him in sheer talent, or taste, or great skill.
They entreat him to play, and the cembalo pass,
The Jew much demurs saying his hands have grown crass,
That he is out of practice, unworthy to play
With such lords present; bowing, tries stealing away;
Seeing this, Zosia runs up, in one white hand brings
Hammers, with which the master awakens the strings;
With the other caresses the old man's great beard;
With a curtsy she pleads: "Be so kind, Jankiel dear",
Please, this is my betrothal, so, dear Jankiel, play,
You had promised to, often, for my wedding day!"
Jankiel loved Zosia greatly, he nodded his head
As a sign he yields, so to the centre is led,
The cembalo is brought him, to sit he's invited,
It is placed on his knees-he looks down, much delighted,
And proud too; as a veteran to service recalled,
When the grandchildren drag his big sword off the wall,
Grandad laughs, has not held it for many a day,
But feels yet his hand will not the weapon betray.
At the cembalo, meanwhile, two young pupils kneel,
The strings one by one tuning, they twang them with zeal.
Jankiel sits without moving, with eyes nearly closed,
Says naught, motionless hammers between fingers poised.
Then dropped them! At first beating a triumphal strain,
Then he struck the strings thickly, like torrents of rain;
All were puzzled-it turned out this was but a try,
For he soon paused, both hammers again lifted high-
Again plays; the twin hammers touch slightly the strings
Which, as if being brushed by a fly's shivering wings,
Emit only the faintest and gentlest vibration.
The master still to heaven gazed for inspiration,
His instrument he measured with one lofty glance,
Raised his hands, smote the strings with both hammers at once,
All amazed were the hearers...
From all strings there sprang,
Like janissary band music, and swelled out, and rang,
As from cymbals, and drums, and from flutes, and from bells,
-'Third of May Polonaise'!-And the sprightly air swells,
Breathing rapture, with pleasure the listeners ears fill,
Girls would dance, and the fellows just cannot keep still,
But these sounds for the elder folk old memories raise,
When the Diet and Senate, in those happier days,
On that first Third of May, in the City Hall feted
King and People at last in sweet concord united!
When they sang thus while dancing: 'Long prosper our great,
Our dear King, Diet, Nation! Vivat each Estate!'
The master plays more forte,the tempo now quickens,
When a false chord, a snake's hiss, the ear shocks and sickens,
Like steel grating on glass-and an ill shudder spreads,
With the gaiety commingles a foretaste of dread.
Disturbed, shaken, uncertain, the listeners doubt:
Does the master so err? Is the instrument out?
No, such master errs not! With intent he thus touches
This most traitorous string and the melody scratches,
Aggravating more loudly that discord ill-fated,
Against the notes harmonious so confederated;
But the Warden knew, covered his face, his cry came:
"I know this sound ill-omened! Targowica! Shame!"
Then the ill-boding string broke with twang and a hiss,
Now he runs to the trebles, breaks cadence, from this
The trebles now abandons to hammer the bass.
One hears thousands of clamours, noise growing apace,
Marching rhythms, siege, firing, hears storm and disaster,
Children's groans, mothers' weeping-so well the great master
Siege and slaughter presented, the girls' hearts beat faster,
Remembering and lamenting with tears on cheeks pale
The massacre of Praga-from song known and tale.
Glad, at last, when the master made all strings resound
Like thunder, then cries stilled as if thrust underground.
Hardly out of their awe had the listeners come,
When again changed the music-once more the slight hum,
Light and gentle, as several thin strings now complain,
Like trapped flies, which from cobwebs would freedom regain.
Now more strings join; the scattered notes hurry towards
Other notes, and make legions from separate chords,
Now in rhythm concordant in step march along,
And the sad air emerges of that famous song:
Of that wanderer-soldier, who through wood and moor
Struggles on, close to dying, so hungry and poor,
At last falls at the feet of his pony so brave,
And the pony's hoof digs for its master a grave.
Old, old song-to the Polish armed forces so dear!
And well known to the soldiers-the lads clustered near
The master; as they listen, they sadly remembered
That hour when on the grave of their country dismembered
They this song hummed, and left for the world's end in tears;
They recall all their wanderings through long tedious years,
Over land, over sea, desert sands, cold, and damp,
Among strangers, where often in midst of their camp
They were cheered, moved to tears, by the songs of the nation.
And they lowered their heads in a sad meditation.
But soon lifted them; Jankiel now raises the pitch,
Plays forte, changes tempo, has new things to teach,
Again glanced from aloft, judged the strings yet again,
Joined his hands, and two-handed with hammers struck twain!
The blow struck with such skill, with such force unsurpassed,
That the strings rang out boldly, like trumpets of brass,
And from them to the heavens that song wafted, cherished,
That triumphal march: Poland has never yet perished!
...March Dabrowski to Poland!-The audience entire
Clapped, and all "March Dabrowski!" cried out as a choir.
The musician, as if at his playing amazed,
From his fingers both hammers let fall; his hands raised,
From his brow to his shoulders his fox-fur cap shifted,
Wafted gravely his beard, to the heaven uplifted,
To his cheeks, reddish rings of unwonted blush came,
His glance, with spirit brimful, with youthful glowed flame,
And when he in Dabrowski his old eyes immersed,
Soon them covered, through both hands a stream of tears burst,
Said he, "General, long Litwa awaited the news
Of your coming, as of the Messiah we Jews,
You 'twas, among the people were long prophesised
By the bards, you by signs were foretold from the skies,
Live and fight, O, our own!" And his tears thickly fell,
The good Jew, good Pole also, his homeland loved well!
Dabrowski his hand offered, and thanked him for this,
He, removing his cap, the great leader's hand kissed.
For the polonaise now-so the Chamberlain leaves
His seat, tossing back lightly his kontusz's sleeves,
And, twirling his moustache, he to Zosia advanced;
With a fine bow, invites her to lead off the dance.
In the Chamberlain's train soon a chain of pairs gathers,
The sign's given for dancing-he leads all the others.
On the emerald-green turf his red polished boots flash,
Light gleams, beaming from sabre and from his Sluck sash,
And he steps slowly, careless it seems, no emotion,
But from every proud step, and from every small motion,
Can the dancer's intentions and thoughts be unmasked-
Here he stops, as if wishing his lady to ask
A something; his head lowers, bends down to her ear;
The lass turns her head shyly, refuses to hear,
He doffs his cap, bows humbly, an answer would seek,
The lady deigns to look, but refuses to speak;
He slows down his step, follows with eye all her glances
And at last, laughs aloud-well content with her answers,
Now he steps quicker, gazing at rivals with scorn;
His confederate cap, square-topped with heron plumes, worn
Pulled down over his eyes, or swept off with panache,
Over one ear now cocks, and he twirls his moustache.
He strides on; all him envy, his steps try to trace,
He would thwart them, his lady would keep, so his pace
Varies, or halts completely; hints humbly that they,
Do not wait for them, rather enjoy right of way;
Sometimes plots he a clever manoeuvre aside,
Changes course, would be glad from the company to hide,
Those importunates chase them, and catch up at once,
From all sides soon surround with the coils of the dance;
So he's angry, and grips his sword's hilt with right hand,
As if saying with scorn: "Just beware, envious band!"
With a haughty look turns, with a taunt in his eye,
To the throng, which clear passage him dares not deny
But steps out of his way-then, with order re-found
Starts again in pursuit-
On all sides cries resound:
"Ah, perhaps he's the last! Look, young people, pay heed,
The last, perhaps, who thus can the polonaise lead!"
And pair after pair followed, with clamour and mirth,
The coil unwound, and re-wound, upon the green earth,
Like a huge snake, whose thousand coils writhe, twist and spiral,
Shimmer the rainbow hues of their mottled apparel,
Ladies', gentlemen's, soldiers', like glistening scales shone,
Gilded by the last radiance of westering sun,
With the dark-green turf backdrop contrasting this wealth.
The dance swirls, there is music, and clapping, and healths!
Only young Chook Dobrzynski, now corporal, hears none
Of the music, or dancing, nor joins in the fun,
He stands, hands behind folded, ill-humoured and rude,
And recalls the time he had himself Zosia wooed:
How he'd bring to her flowers, how small baskets wove,
Robbed birds' nests, fashioned earrings, and all this for love!
Ungrateful! Though so many and vain gifts he made,
Although she him avoided, though father forbade!
All no use! On the fence how he often would sit,
To glimpse her through the window; through hemp he would flit
To just watch her while she her small garden would weed,
Pick her cucumbers, or she her cockerels would feed!
Ungrateful! A mazurka he whistled, head bent,
Pulled his shako down over his ears, and then went
To the camp, where the watch stood on guard by the cannon;
There, to ease his mind, joined in a game of backgammon
With the soldiers, assuaging his grief with a potion-
So steadfast was to Zosia Dobrzynski's devotion.
Zosia dances with joy: yet though in the first pair,
Barely seen from a distance; so spacious the square
Of the overgrown courtyard, that, in green chemise,
All adorned with bright daisy-chains and flowery wreaths,
Among grasses and blooms she, unseen, moves in flight
The dance guiding, as angels guide stars in the night:
You guess where she is, to her are all eyes directed,
Arms stretched out, and around her the crowd is collected.
The Chamberlain, in vain, would stay with her-but can't,
From his leadership envious ones soon him supplant;
Nor did happy Dabrowski drink long from this cup,
She was claimed by another; the third soon ran up;
This one, also supplanted, left hopeless, upset,
Until Zosia, now weary, in due progress met
Her Tadeusz, and fearful more changes to chance,
In her wish to stay with him, she ended the dance.
She now moves to the table, guests' goblets to fill.
It was sunset, the evening was balmy and still,
The great round of the heavens with random clouds dressed,
Overhead of blue azure, rose-pink in the west;
Cloudlets presaged fine weather; there, like flocks of sheep
On the turf, light and gleaming, they lay fast asleep,
Some, like coveys of teal flew. The west skies were filled
With a cloud like a curtain, hemmed, folded and frilled,
Translucent, pearl on surface, in fold upon fold,
Its depths of richest purple, with edges of gold,
Still with brilliance of sunset glowed, burnt, this array,
Until slowly it yellowed, and paled, and went gray:
The sun lowered its head, in a cloud itself wrapped,
And one last warm breeze sighing-it finally slept.
But the gentry keep drinking, and raising more toasts:
To Napoleon, Tadeusz and Zosia, the hosts,
Then, in turn, to the three pairs, whose troths had been plighted,
To guests present, to all those who had been invited,
To all friends, those yet living, remembered again,
And those dead now, whose memory did sacred remain.
I, too, was there indeed, drank the wine and the mead,
What I saw and heard wrote here for all you to read.