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Pan Beniowski - Final Part Of Canto Five

Juliusz Slowacki 1809 (Kremenets ) – 1849 (Paris)



Surging like a vast current of salmon or sheatfish,
Coiling up and down like an iron serpent
That rears now its torso, now its head,
The armed horsemen breast the prairie grass. --
But hold! my song's device breaks down:
My Muse begs a rest, having drained her cup
Empty of sweet nectar; and so, farewell
To you, on that steppeland rise,

My pair of golden, sun-drenched statues!
My iron ranks wallowing in the grass and herbage!
One needs here the yearning of a Malczewski--
The kind found in men who are half angels.
One ought to sing here; meanwhile I weave fables.
Whenever I stir up the ashes of my homeland
And then raise my hand once more to the harp,
Specters from the grave rise before me--specters

So lovely! So transparent! Fresh! Alive! Young!
That I am incapable of shedding real tears over them:
And yet I lead them in a dance about the valleys.
They take from my heart whatever they like:
A sonnet, a tragedy, a legend or sublime ode.
It is all that I have, all that I cherish and believe in.
Believe in. . . You ask me, my dear reader,
What I believe in? If I told, it would raise a furor.

In the first place, this rhyme which scoffs and reviles
Has a political credo: these are Dantesque regions
You have entered. I believe with a pagan's heart
In Shakespeare's rhymes, in Dante and in Homer.
I believe in the commonwealth of an only son --
In our case it was that surly fellow--Mochnacki!
Though he never stopped spinning his mighty dreams,
He allowed the Dictator to stretch him upon a cross.

I believe that he came into being in human form
And went to the Great Judgment that lights up
Our land; on the way, he dropped in on the Aristocracy
And bided in that flameless Hell for three days;
Then in a little book he passed judgment on his brothers:
Those who are upright and those who feel no shame;
In him I believe, and in his two unfinished books:
I believe in all the saints of our émigré circles,

And in their spiritual communion with our nation;
In the forgiveness of sins committed by our leaders
And the resurrection of our elected Sejm under Herod
Which being a very amusing body will constitute
The best proof of the resurrection of the body--
The supreme instance of bodily resuscitation;
And finally, secure as to the future, I should add
That I believe in the life everlasting of that Sejm.

Amen... This amen chokes me, catches in my throat
Like the amen Macbeth uttered. -- Still, I believe
That like cranes chained to the wing the nations are making
Progress . . . that knights rise out of the bones. . .
That the tyrant cannot sleep when he bloodies the bed
Or robs the eagles of the youngest brood. . .
That fire and serpents and fear are his bedfellows. . .
All this I believe--yes--and in God as well!

O God! Who has not felt You in the blue fields
Of Ukraine where the level plains arouse
Such sadness in the soul that ranges over them! --
When, accompanied by a windy hymn,
The dust which Tartar hordes drenched in blood
Takes wing, shrouds the golden sun in ashes,
Blurs, reddens it, then suspends it in the sky
Like a black buckler with blood-shot eyes --

Who has not seen You, Almighty God,
On that great steppe, under a lifeless sun,
When the mounds on which all crosses stand
Bring blood to mind--or crooked flames;
When far off thunders a sea of bent-grass,
Burial mounds cry out with a terrible voice,
The locust unfurls its black rainbows, and the garland
Of graves melts away into the distance;

Who has not felt You in the terrors of nature:
In the great steppe or on Golgotha's hill
Or among columns surmounted not by a roof
But by a moon and an untold number of stars;
And who in the zest and ardor of youthful feeling
Has not felt that You exist, or, plucking daisies,
Has not found You in those daisies and forget-me-nots?
Yet still he seeks You in prayer and good deeds:

No doubt he will find You -- no doubt he will --
I wish small-hearted men a humble faith
And a peaceful death. -- Jehovah's flashing face
Is of vast measure! When I count up the layers
Of exposed earth and see the bone piles
Lying there like the standards of lost armies
At the foot of mountain ridges -- skeletal remains
That also bear witness to God's being --

I see that He is not only the God of worms
And things that creep and crawl upon the dust:
He loves the booming flight of gigantic birds;
Puts no curb on stam
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:03 min read
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Juliusz Slowacki

Juliusz Słowacki was a Polish Romantic poet. He is considered one of the "Three Bards" of Polish literature — a major figure in the Polish Romantic period, and the father of modern Polish drama. more…

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