Anhelli - Chapter 11

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And when they drew near to the burial ground Anhelli heard the hymn of the tombs,
complaining, as it were a complaint of the ashes to God.

But as soon as the groans arose,
an angel seated on the summit of the hill moved her wings and quieted them.

And three times she did this, for thrice did the tombs lament.

And Anhelli asked the Shaman what manner of angel was this with the white wings
and the dull star on her hair, before whom the tombstones became quiet.

But the old man answered him naught,
for he was covering the bodies of the dead with snow, and was troubled.

And Anhelli, drawing near to that angel, gazed upon her and fell like a man dead.

Then the Shaman, having finished the burial of the dead men,
sought him with his eyes ;
and seeing hirn nowhere, went up on the hill.

And discovering Anhelli's body, he stumbled over him and cried out with pain;
but perceiving that the youth lived, he was comforted.

He took him thereupon by the hand and said :
"Rise ! It is not yet time for rest !"

And rising, Anhelli looked about him
and hun his head before the Shaman like a man who is ashamed, saying

"Lo, I have perceived an angel like the woman
whom I loved with all my soul when I was yet a child.

"And I loved her in the purity of my heart;
wherefore my tears flow when I think of her and of my youth.

"For lo, I was with her as a tame bird that is afraid,
and I did not even take a kiss from her coral lips, though I was near; like a dove,
I say, seated upon the shoulder of a maiden.

"Today it is but a dream.
Lo, the sapphire heavens and the white stars gaze upon me :
are they the same stars that beheld me young and happy?

"Why doth not a whirlwind arise to blow me away from the earth
and bear me to a quiet country ! Why am I alive?

" Behold, already I have not one hair on my head of those that were there of old ;
behold, even the bones in my body have renewed themselves, but I still remember.

"And there is not a single jackdaw in the air that hath not slept for one night of its life in a quiet nest.
But me God hath forgotten. Would that I might die !

"For it seemeth to me that, when I am dead,
God Himself will be sorry for that which He hath done to me,
thinking that I shall not be born a second time.

"Truly, to be born is not the same as to rise from the dead :
the coffin yieldeth us up, but it doth not look upon us as doth a mother.

"Lo, therefore is it grievous to me that I have beheld this angel,
and I could wish to have died yesterday."

And the Shaman, gazing at the stars, said " Verily as of old many were possessed of devils,
so to-day many are possessed of pure angels.

"What shall I do? Lo, I will drive all these souls from their bodies
and give them leave to enter into water-lilies,
and to fly abroad among the rosy stars,
and to dwell in that which is most beautiful, and to forsake men.

"And dost thou know who this sorrowful angel is in the burial-ground?
Behold, she is called Eloe, and was born of Christ's tear on Golgotha,
of that tear which was shed for the nations.

"Elsewhere it is written of this angel-even the grand-daughter of the Virgin Mary...
how she sinned in pitying the suffering of the cherubim of darkness,
and how she fell in love with one of them, and flew after him into the darkness.

"And now she is an exile as ye are exiles,
and she hath felt deep love for your tombs,
and she is the guardian of the gravestones,
saying to the bones : `Complain not, but sleep !'

"She driveth away the reindeer when they come to pull up the moss from under the heads of the dead;
she is the shepherdess of the reindeer.

"Accustom thyself to her during thy life,
for she will walk upon thy grave in the light of the moon;
accustom thyself to her voice, that thou mayst not wake when she shall speak.

"Verily, for those who are sorrowful this region is beautiful and not desolate ;
for here the snow doth not stain the wings of the angels, and these stars are beautiful.
"Here the gulls fly and nest and make love,
not thinking that there is a more beautiful fatherland."

So he spake and lifted up one of the skulls that lay uncovered ;
and in it were young brother and sister birds.

And they stretched out their little heads through the places where human eyes had been,
and the bone of the sleeping man was full of complaining woe.

And seizing it, Anhelli flung it in wrath upon the ground,
saying : "Away, defiled church !"

And a flame, coming forth from the ground, stood before him as in human form,
in a bishop's robe, with a mitre and cross on its head, and all fiery.

And it said with a mighty threat : "Lo, ye have come to disturb the dead :
is it not enough for dead men to have the whirlwinds above them and oblivion?

"My hands have broken the host, and now I extend them above you and curse you,
saying: `Be ye accursed, destroyer of tombs.'

"And have I not suffered enough on my throne, supported on my episcopal crosier,
praying for a country that was to perish like a man condemned?

"When Kimbar evoked Siberia,
and set it before the face of the pale Diet,
saying : `Behold, here is our cross !'

did I not go into exile like a pure man? "Who, then, will cast a reproach on me or my grave?
Lo, I died and they have forgotten me
what more do ye desire of men who have died?

"Ye see this white land : here I dwelt ;
ye see these bones : I have lived with them.

"And this is my bone, this bone that hath fallen to dust.
Men honoured it at one time,
and yet longer ago my mother kissed it,
and today the gull hath woven a nest in the skull and dwelleth there :
give ye peace to the white bird of God !

I knew her mother's mother, where is she?
Where are the finches that flew to dress in garlands of roses the dry trees of Siberia,
that I might call to mind the apple-trees of my gardens in the land of my fathers !"

So he complained, and Anhelli begged of him pardon for the dishonour to his bones, saying :
"Lo, soon I shall come to lie down with you : curse me not.

"I thought that thou didst grieve for the contempt of thy bone-is it, then, a sanctuary,
now that it is full of birds' screeching? But let it be as God hath willed.

© Juliusz Slowacki