Anhelli - Chapter 10

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And lo, those exiles in the snowy tabernacle,
in the absence of the Shaman, had begun to quarrel among themselves,
and had divided into three groups ;
but each of these groups thought of the deliverance of the fatherland.

Now the first had at its head Count Scirrhus,
who upheld the cause of those who array themselves in the kontusz and will be called gentry,
as if they had come anew with Lach into a desert country.

And the second had at its head a gaunt soldier, Skartabella by name,
who wished to divide the land and proclaim the freedom of the peasants,
and the equality of the gentry with the Jews and gipsies.

And a third had at its head Father Bonifat,
who desired to save the country by prayer,
and for the deliverance of the country offered but one means,
to go and perish, not defending one's self-like martyrs.

These three groups then began to be discordant in spirit with one another,
and they began to quarrel over their principles.

And lo, that second group, arming them­selves with axes,
went out into the field, threatening that they would find out from the first of what sort was their blood;
to the others they would give that which they desired martyrdom.

But before it came to combat,
and while their minds were already heated,
at the advice of one of those of the third group they agreed
that they should decide this matter by the judgment of God.

And that counsellor said to them :
"Lo, let us set up three crosses in imitation of the agony of our Lord,
and on each of these three trees we will nail one of the mightiest knights in each group ;
and he who liveth longest, with him shall be the victory."

And the thoughts of these people being as it were in a drunken state,
three knights were found who were willing to suffer death for their convictions,
and to be crucified like the Lord Christ long ago.

So they set up three crosses from the tallest tree that there was in that country,
and three martyrs came forth, one from each group ;
however, they were not chosen by lot, but of their own will.
They were not the leaders of the groups,
but some of the least among them.

Then when the carpenters had set up the crosses on a high snowy mount,
there came a voice from heaven like a whirlwind, asking:
"What do ye?" But these people feared it not.

And they hanged upon the crosses those madmen,
and they fastened their hands with nails;
and he who was on the right shouted, "Equality!"
and he who was on the left shouted, "Blood!"
but the one hanging in the middle said, "Faith!"

And the multitudes stood in silence under the crosses,
waiting what should happen ;
and so night found them in the snow,
and there was a great darkness and an awful silence.

Until at midnight the northern lights spread over the whole half of the heavens,
and fiery swords shot from them;
and all grew red, even those crosses with the martyrs.

At that moment a sort of terror seized upon the multitudes,
and they said : "We have done ill !
Is it lawful that for our beliefs these men should perish innocently?"

And the crowds were dismayed, saying to themselves :
"Lo, they are dying, and they do not complain."

They said, therefore, to those who were crucified :
"Do ye desire that we take you down?"
But those answered them naught, being already dead.

And realizing this, the crowds scattered, full of horror,
and none of those who fled turned his head to gaze upon the dead and martyred.
The lights reddened them, and they remained alone.

And just at this time the Shaman and Anhelli returned from their wandering under the earth and marvelled,
observing against the fiery heavens three black crosses,
and they said in great fear : "What hath come to pass?"

And coming nearer, they were amazed at seeing upon the crosses dead bodies,
and they recognized in them men whom they knew
then the Shaman seated himself beneath the crosses and wept.

And rising, he said to Anhelli : "Lo, the spirit of God hath made known to me the guilt of this people,
and I know why they crucified these men;
but that their bodies may not suffer any new dishonour,
we will take them down and bear them to the graveyard.

"Let them have rest in the earth,
for they gave themselves up to death in good faith,
and this shall not be to their damnation,
but to the wiping away of their sins.
The cross hath purified them."

So saying, they took them down,
frozen and numb on the crosses,
and bore them away to the ancient burial-place of the exiles.

© Juliusz Slowacki