man who asks a maid in marriage to take the most venerable of his
friends to plead for him. He is called the Swat. The ceremony of
betrothing follows, and rings are pledged in exchange.
246 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
And reach'd the dwelling where the maiden dwells;
While thus beneath her window, where they stood,
Their strains of music on her ear intrude:
" The beds are cover'd with flowerets sweet,
And rue and rosemary bloom in pride;
A garland lies in the window-seat.
And a maid walks forth to be a bride.
"A youth from a distant land will come,
And soon to the maiden's parents speak;
The daughter will pluck the flowers that bloom,
And swiftly another mother seek.
" rosemary ! wear thy gems of blue,
And garland once more the maiden's brow;
And wake again, thou emerald rue,
For none shall water thy springing now.
" The cottage is neat, though poor it be,
The blessing of God beams bright on care,
The magpie cries on the old elm tree,
And the maid in her morning robes is there.
"Awake, and open! the guests draw nigh,
welcome them in a day like this;
Receive the strangers cordially,
They come to shed and to share in bliss."
The mother from her spindle rose, and drew
The bolt, the creaking door wide open flew;
Old John and youthful Wieslaw entered then,
WiesJaw of giant height and noble mien,
Whose head reach'd e'en the ceiling. Jadwicz said,
" Welcome, our guests ! Sit down and rest, and spread
The news ye bring." Next came the bright-eyed maid,
Blushing, yet bending like a flower that's weigh'd
By heavy dews. John hail'd her: " Maiden, stay !
Those rosy cheeks an old man's toils shall pay."
Then she blush'd deeper, and from WiesJaw took
His traveling-basket, and his traveling-crook
From the good sire; she drew the settle near,
And bid them rest; while whispering in her ear
Jadwicz gave speedy orders: " Light the hearth,
Prepare the meal." While with a smile of mirth
The old man said, " I would not now transgress
The customs of our fathers, I confess
I love old usages ; so with your leave,
An ye will lend your goblets, and receive
A draught from our own flagon, I will pledge
My landlady, for wine gives wit its edge;
It cheers and it emboldens; tears the veil
That hides the heart, and bids us see and feel:
And, as when children in the crystal brook
Upon their own, their very image look,
So the red wine's the mirror where we see
Our very souls. The honey-gathering bee
Is a bright emblem of our cares; he goes
Busy o'er all-providing earth, and shows
What order, care and zeal can do; in spring,
From fragrant flowers and orchards blossoming
To his hive brothers bears the gather'd stores:
So in his maiden's lap the fond youth pours
His passions, his affections. How sincere
Is the pure offering of a villager,
Who offers honest, ardent love ! The bee
Its emblem, labor, concord, purity."
The mother reach 'd the goblets. John's discourse
Delighted all; for in it shone the force
Of a clear intellect, which God had given.
He had bound many ties, and had made even
Many strange odds; at every wedding feast
He was the Starost, and of course the guest:
248 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
And hundred children call'd him "Father"; he
Call'd every happy home his family;
And he was always welcome. Now he took
The goblet in his hand, and o'er it shook
The liquid honey.* " Take it, gentle maid !
It grew in distant fields," he smiling said:
" Take it, for thou deservest all that's sweet
And beautiful in life." Her glances meet
Her mother's eye, and with averted look
'Neath her white apron hid,f the maiden took
One solitary drop. The rest old John
Drank to the dregs; while like a summer dawn
That brightens into light with blushing hue,
The maiden stood; and the old man anew
Thus said: " The maiden's silence speaks; and now
I'll turn me to her mother: Wayward youth,
Both blind and passionate, wants our guide: in truth
It cannot penetrate futurity,
But hangs on love, and trusts to destiny.
Let's lead them then, they wander far astray ;
We'll take their hands, and guide them on their way,
And watch their happiness, foresee, control
Their path; and God, who watches o'er the whole,
Will turn all ill to good. You see the son
Of honest sires, though they, alas ! are gone,
And sleep beneath the turf; yet other sires
Have, pity-touch'd, fann'd all affection's fires,
And taught him virtue. They have given him food;
Trained him, an orphan, to be wise and good;
* Mead is a national beverage of the Poles, and has been so for
many centuries. The best is made in the month* of July, when the
lime trees are in flower, at which period the honey is called Lipiec
Kowno, on the banks of the Niemen, is particularly renowned for its
t The Polish peasants, as a general thing, always turn away and
cover their faces when they drink in the presence of others.
To labor, to obey them, in the fear
Of God and duty. He became so dear,
They call'd him 'Son '; they made him jointly heir;
And well he has repaid their pious care.
Their harvests go not from the scythe to seek
The tavern; Sunday wastes not what the week
Has earn'd; God's blessing smiles upon their way.
Rich wheat is gather'd from their cultured clay;
Their fields are white with sheep, and full their stall.
They have four steeds that bear to Cracow all
The produce of their land. From them I come.
And ask yon maid to decorate their home
Her Wiesiaw saw, and seeing, flew and pray'd
Their sanction to espouse that blushing maid.
And Stanislaw has sent me to demand
From thee, from her, the lovely damsel's hand.
He said: ' Go bring her here; his guide be thou;
She shall be welcome if she love him now.'
Now, mother, thou hast heard me. Give the maid,
And heaven shall blessings with new blessing braid
I'll praise the youth, though he be here, though praise
Too oft beguiles us, and too oft betrays.
They deem too easily to win their end;
And counsel hurts, and kind reproofs offend.
Wiesiaw was modest and laborious; still
He sometimes was a Szpak* and had his will;
He once stopp'd even the Wojewode: his delight
Has been to revel in an inn at night;
And he has driven (0 sin!) th 1 imperial troops,
Cesarskie Woiaki t thence ; and at the loops
And sandals of the wandering Highlanders \
He grinn'd and laugh 'd till his mouth reach'd his ears.
He was a sad wild fellow, but he grew
* Starling, a bold, noisy fellow
f Austrian soldiers.
| Gorale, the mountaineers of Carpatia.
250 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
With time both wiser and sedater too:
For as in spring the swelling stream rolls by,
Foams, dashes o'er its borders furiously,
Then flowing further glides serenely on,
So youth is gay and wild till youth is gone;
Till, taught by thick anxieties and years,
It sheds the excess of blossoms which it bears,
And, shaken by the winds of want and woe,
Its flowers drop off upon the sod below.
And he has known the smiles and frowns of Heaven ;
To him has sorrow all its lessons given;
And now, to crown his blessings, he requires
A good and steady wife; and his desires
Upon Halina dwell. With her the rest
Of life shall all be tranquillized and bless'd.
My mission is discharged. Behold my son!
Give a kind ear to Wiesiaw; I have done."
The observant maiden stood aside, and traced
Each shadowing thought and secret jest that pass'd
Across the good man's mind and countenance.
He could not, would not, wound her; for his glance
Had watch'd the influence of each playful word.
But Wiesiaw bow'd in silence, an he pour'd
A stream of suppliant tears, that said " Forbear! "
Then there was silence, silence everywhere,
Till a full torrent o'er Halina's cheeks
Pour'd, as when many a pregnant spring-cloud breaks
Over the Vistula, and flowers are dew'd
With freshen'd joy; while the bright sun renew'd,
Towers glorious o'er the mountains. So the eyes
Of the fond children sparkled. With surprise
And with delight the mother watch'd them, proud
And joyful. But some gloomy memories crowd
Upon her thoughts. Halina, she had naught;
Nor dower, nor parents, nor parental cot,
Nor hope of wealth. So Jadwicz heaved her breast,
And thus spoke frankly to her listening guest:
" There is a God in heaven who judges all:
He tries us when we rise and when we fall:
And, raising or depressing, his decrees
Follow our deeds and guide us as they please.
Halina is an orphan! at my side
E'en from her childhood wonted to abide.
The sun has risen on our abode; its fire
Is far too bright; for how should she aspire,
She a poor maid, to wed the wealthy son
Of a rich peasant ! Father she has none,
No friends, not one, to counsel or to care.
noble youth ! May God reward thee here.
Thy generous heart, this kind design; yet tell
This story of Halina, and farewell !
When Poland's crown was by disasters rent,
My husband and my brothers swiftly went,
Though arm'd with scythes alone, our land to save;
But they return'd not, they but found a grave.
The cruel stranger all our country razed,
Our palaces destroy'd, our village blazed.
How dreadful is the memory of that day.
E'en now the thought is death ! We fled away,
Old men, young mothers, to the blazing woods,
That scared us from their frightful solitudes.
0! 'twas a hideous, 'twas a hideous sight;
When life's last beam went out and all was night;
Till blazed for leagues the horrid flames again,
Children and mothers straggled o'er the plain.
1 saw them, and I wept, I look'd, and wept
Till tears had dimm'd my sight. A child had crept
Tremulous to my side. I seized it. Press'd
The trembling little orphan to my breast,
And ask'd its name, its parentage, its home.
It answer'd not; it knew not; it had come
(So said the sobbing child) from fire and flame,
252 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
But it knew not its nation, nor its name.
Strangers had led it thither: and no more
The infant said. I seized the child. Though poor,
I was a mother once ; I thought of God,
And led the orphan to my mean abode,
And watch'd it; and her smiles, her toils repaid,
Ten-fold repaid, the sacrifice I made.
She grew, industrious, healthy, prudent, fair,
And we have toil'd together many a year,
With self-same wants and with the self-same care.
We bore our mutual poverty, and smiled,
Though to a stranger's borrow'd cot exiled,
Nothing possessing. Soon our wealth increased;
Two cows, one heifer, and six sheep at least
Were our own store. At last, by care and toil,
We won an interest in our country's soil.
We sow'd our land with flax; at night we span
For raiment, and the remnants soon began
A little pile for age. And so we pass
Our life away. We have our morning mass,
Our joyous evening sports, and once a year
Our merry carnival; but not for her,
The rings are bought, the wreaths are wov'n for them
Whom fortune crowns with her own diadem,
But not for her! An orphan, how should she
Attract the wealthy, or enchain the free?
She has no parent, has no dower. If Heaven
Shed down its light, Oh, be its blessings given
To no unthankful bosom ! but while 1
Shall live, Halina may not, cannot fly."
Hot tears broke forth, and show'd the pangs she felt,
While the fair maid before her mother knelt,
And clasp'd her knees: " Dear mother! mother, thoxi-
Thou art my dower, my wreath, my all things now!
Though mines of gold were mine, though castles fair,
And silken wardrobes; yet wert thou not there
All would be naught; without thee, all appears
A blank, and life's bright charms a scene of tears. 1 '
And so in silence they embraced. A gleam
Pass'd through the old man's mind as in a dream,
Then fix'd itself in light. His raptured soul
Look'd through the future's maze, and saw the whole
Future in glory. Struggling thoughts broke through
His changed regards, betraying half he knew;
And Wieslaw fain would speak; but John imposed
Peace, and thus spoke: " The Almighty has disclosed
His purpose, and inspires me. Now I see
His brightness beaming through the mystery.
Mother v confide in my advice, sincere,
And from the soul. Go, summon swiftly here
A carriage and two steeds; we will repay
The service nobly, for we must away.
We must away, the hour of joy is come;
Halina shall be welcomed to our home."
And swiftly, white with foam, the horses fly,
And forests, meadows, bridges, plains, run by.
But all are sad and pensive all but John,
The proverbs, jokes, and tales are his alone.
The maiden veil'd her eyes in doubt and dread ;
He fann'd his growing joy though hid, and said
To his own heart, " How blest, how sweet to bring
Bliss to two houses! " Now the lime-trees fling
Their lengthen'd shadows o'er the road, the ridge
Of the brown forest, like a heavenly bridge,
Shines with pure light. The breezes blew like balm,
And the fair morning dawns serene and calm.
They hasten'd toward the village ; but awhile
They tarried, marshy pools for many a mile
The path impeded; those on foot may make
254 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
In one short hour their way; equestrians take
Three hours at least. On foot they gaily bound;
The carriage raised the dust, and hurried round.
What joy, what gladness lights Halina's eye !
Why talks she now so gay and sportively?
They cross the planks, the brushwood maze they thread,
The sheep and shepherds play upon the mead:
She listen'd to the artless pipe; her ear
Appear'd enchanted. Was it that her dear,
And now far dearer Wieslaw had portray'd
This scene, when singing to the enamor'd maid?
John watch'd her looks intensely. Was the scene
One where her early infant steps had been?
Now rose the village steeple to the view;
The vesper-bells peal'd loudly o'er the dew; *
They fell upon their knees in that sweet place;
The sunset rays glanced on Halina's face.
And she look'd like an angel. Every vein
Thrill'd with the awaken'd thoughts of youth again,
And longings which could find no words. The bell
Had burst the long-lock'd portals of the cell
Of memory; and mysterious visitings,
And melancholy joy, and shadowy things
Flitted across her soul, and flush'd her cheek,
Where tear-drops gather'd. To a mountain peak
They came; the village burst upon their view.
They saw the shepherds lead their cattle through
The narrow bridge; the ploughmen gaily sped
From labor's cares to labor's cheerful bed.
The village like a garden rear'd its head,
Where many a cottage-sheltering orchard spread;
The smoke rose 'midst the trees; the village spire
Tower'd meekly, yet in seeming reverence, higher
* The Poles, in some localities, believe that the bells peal more
loudly while the dew is falling.
Than the high trees. The yew-trees in their gloom
Hung pensive over many a peasant's tomb;
And still the bells were pealing, which had toll'd
O'er generations mouldering and enroll'd
In death's long records-. While they look'd, old John
Bent on his stick, and said " Look, maiden, on
Our village: doth it please thee? Wiesiaw's cot
Is nigh at hand." She heard, but answer'd not:
Her looks were fix'd upon one only spot;
Her bosom heaved, her lips were dried, her eye
Spoke the deep reverie's intensity.
Remembrance of some joy had bound her soul:
She breathed not, but moved on ; a cottage wall
Soon caught her eye, and near a cross appear'd :
'Twas ivy-clad and crumbling; for 'twas rear'd
In the old time; a willow-tree, a sod,
Where the gay children of the village trod
On holidays, were there. She could no more:
She dropp'd o'erpowered upon the grassy floor,
And cried, " God ! God ! 'twas here, 'twas here
I lived! Where is my mother? Tell me, where?
If she be dead, I'll seek her grave, and weep
My orphan soul away to rouse from sleep
Her blessed form. 'Twas here I play'd of old;
'Twas here I gather'd flowers: but I behold
My mother's cet no longer, thought flies o'er
Its memory ; but that cot exists no more ! "
John answer'd thus: " The God who shelter'd thee,
Shelter'd thy parents; when the misery
Of that fierce war was over, they return'd,
And joy beam'd o'er the fields where they had mourn'd.
They lost their cot, they lost their child ; but Heaven
Their dwelling and their daughter now hath given;
And they shall take thee to their longing arms.
Thank God, who saved thee from all hurts and harms,
256 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
Who, when thy helplessness had lost a mother
Gave thee with generous tenderness another,
And now restores thee to thine own." She knelt,
And clasp'd his knees, while luxury's tear-drops melt
Into the light of joy. And one by one
They enter'd the court-yard; but all were gone
Forth to the fruitful fields. Halina's eye
Wander'd some old memorials to descry,
And grew impatient. Soon the sire appeal's
With his sharp scythe; and next his wife, who bears
A truss of clover for the stall. Before
Ran young Bronika, gaily turning o'er
A basket of blue corn-flowers; with her hand
Beckoning, she bid her parents understand
That guests were come. " Go," said old John, " my boy,
And tell your happy parents all your joy."
And what fond welcome sprung from breast to breast ;
How oft they kiss'd each other; how they prest
Bosom to bosom, heart to heart; what greeting,
What questions, answers, thanks, engaged that meeting;
And how the laughing neighbors gather'd round,
And how Bronika, full of rapture, bound
Her sister to her soul, for though she ne'er
Had known her loss, her gain she felt, I fear
No words of mine can compass. Could I speak,
Your hearts in sympathy would almost break
With the bright joy: but ye have souls to feel,
And they will vibrate to love's proud appeal.
Yes ! ye have hearts, with which ye may confer,
And they shall be my best interpreter.
SIGISMTJND KKASINSKI is the zenith of Polish poetry
in Poland's land. It is not only a loving heart, an in-
spired soul, not only a fantasy or art it is the spirit
of the Pole the spirit of true manhood; yes, it is the
spirit of poetry changed into the spirit of an angel and
entered into the soul of the inspired poet-prophet.
While writing he thought of ages, and ages alone can
judge him. The most prominent stamp of Sigismund's
writings, distinguishing him from other poets contem-
poraneous with him, is the true prophetic spirit, not
under the influence of any play or fantasy, or any com-
bination, but the expression of apocalyptic visions;
hence he is an uncommon phenomenon not only with
us but in the history of the universal spirit. He pos-
sesses such qualities and gifts as God seldom grants
even to poets. From the times of antiquity he took
what Plato had. From the law of Moses and the
Jewish history he took the harp of David. From the
new law he took the apocalyptic visions of the future.
With such strange elements, living in the midst of
Europe, amidst our people, and in the middle of the
nineteenth century, he transformed all these into orig-
inal poetic creations. Krasinski was second after
Mickiewicz who restored the high poetic type of the
poetic priesthood in literature where frequently are
found thoughtless leaders, carrying with them the
doubting and feverish community into the regions of
chimera, bad examples and deceitful prophecies. It
was he who took those who leaned toward egotism,
258 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
plunging about in the evanescent pleasures of reality,
and carried them into the beautiful worlcl of love and
self-sacrifice. "The Un divine Comedy" is, as it were,
a thunderbolt sent to crush the doctrine of egotism
and human pride, which renounces allegiance and obe-
dience to God. The time, place and persons of the
comedy are all created by the buoyant imagination of
the poet. This fantastic comedy occasionally breaks
off and snatches at moments which are expected but
have- not yet arrived. Krasinski was the first who
ventured to compose a prophetic drama to represent
persons and incidents that were to come to pass at
some future time. The scenes, however, are enacted
in Poland, and the time is not very far distant from us,
because persons there introduced speak as we do, have
our prejudices and our customs; we can recognize
them as belonging to our generation and to the Polish
people, although the author does not stamp them with
any nationality, neither does he introduce anything
indicating locality. Krasinski comprehended and
grappled the current of stormy conceptions which, in
but a few years later, ran through the whole of Eu-
rope, and in which were found phases and figures
drawn by the hand of the immortal poet. This re-
markable production, planned on the broad back-
ground of modern social times, takes the point of argu-
ment that the causes of evil arise from social perverse-
ness which permeates the different grades of society,
and from which humanity is yet to suffer for a long
time; and that the possible union of so many contra-
dictory elements can only be effected by the influences
The soaring imagination of Krasinski had at its call
beautiful and brilliant language, breaking out in new
turns and harmonious words. His Christian feeling
was very pure and deep. The poet loves the whole of
humanity, and he reminds them of the holy truths of
faith, and that the world can only be regenerated by
The "Day -Break" is an ethereal lyric composition
replete with transcendent beauties. A woman (Beat-
rice) is introduced in the poem to quicken into life the
whole creation of exalted order, and above all the in-
dividuality of the poet. There beams the pure and
powerful inspiration of truth, which spreads its thou-
sand poetic colors as the morning star of the day which
the poet represents to his people. "The Dream of
Cesara " is classed with prophetic writings, and is not
indispensably a poetic creation, but rather a descrip-
tion of the poet's vision, yet it is plainly seen that it
bears the stamp of truthfulness and can claim preemi-
nence over all writings of that class.
"Irydion" is a magnificent poem representing
olden times, when Rome was in its decline its great
power being undermined by the light of Christianity.
The incidents are drawn from the epoch of Helio-
gabalus, and the persecutions of the first Christians.
The author tries to work out the idea that Christianity
neither accepts nor condemns feelings of national re-
venge for intentionally inflicted wrongs. In his
"Psalms" the author explains to the world the mys-
teries of resurrection. He reveals his beautiful,
though perhaps illusive, dreams of the destiny of his
suffering Fatherland; he praises heroism and volun-
tary devotedness and self-sacrifice. Here we can im-
agine that he anticipated the sad events which took
place in Galicia in 1846 (see Ujejski's biography).
"The Unfinished Poem" is connected with "Undi'
260 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
vine Comedy," and, according to the plan of the au-
thor, was to constitute the first part of the trilogy, of
which only the second part was elaborated. This
poem consists of five grand episodes, which are not
connected with one another very closely, but yet are
put together so as to form a sufficiently prominent
whole, and, although unfinished, it is nevertheless
replete with resplendent imagery and sublime thoughts,
shining forth with unequaled hue of style. The princi-
pal purpose of the poem is to show the tendency of
humanity toward truth and perfection, and the unceas-
ing attempts and conspiracies against the power of
truth and the spirit of God in this world.
" The Present Day " is a fantastic expose of society
going astray from the true path, but warned and en-
lightened by the words of the angel from Heaven.
The poem, being a creation of youthful imagination, is
an historical romance, yet having the color of the sub-
' ' Agaj Han " is taken from the history of Marina
Mnich, and Demitry the pretender. Although there
is much poetic fire in the poem, yet it is pronounced
by the critics as occasionally offending with exaggera-
Krasifiski was one of the greatest moral philoso-
phers of the nineteenth century, as well as the most
inspired poet, whose prophetic vision comprehends not
only the past and future ages, but also the present
century. He is clearly a poet of humanity, who wholly
understood all the relations of society; he was more
than others; it is perhaps for that reason that he has
invented a language of his own to express pain and
inspiration which he saw in the sufferings of humanity.