Anhelli - Chapter 3

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And  lo, once on a time at night the Shaman waked Anhelli,
saying to him : "Sleep not, but come with me,
for there are mighty matters in the wilderness."

Having put on a white garment, therefore,
Anhelli followed the old man, and they walked by the light of the stars.

And when they had gone a little way they beheld a camp all of little children
and striplings who had been driven to Siberia, and they were resting by a fire.

And in the centre of the throng on a Tatar horse sat a Russian priest,
who had at his saddle two baskets of bread.

And he began to instruct those children according to the new Russian faith
and accord­ing to the new catechism.

And he questioned the children on unworthy matters,
and the striplings answered him, striving to please,
for he had at his saddle baskets of bread and could feed them ;
and they were hungry.

Then, turning to Anhelli, the Shaman said
"Tell me, hath not this priest gone beyond bounds in sowing evil seed
and in staining the purity of soul in these little ones?

"Lo, already they have forgotten to weep for their mothers,
and here they fawn upon him for the sake of bread,
like young whelps; they bark out evil things and those that are contrary to the faith

Saying that the tsar is the head of the faith and that in him is God,
and that he can counsel nothing contrary to the Holy Spirit,
even when he commandeth things which are like crimes,
for in him is the Holy Spirit.

"Therefore will I use against this priest fire
from heaven to burn him up,
and I will destroy him before the eyes of the children."

As soon as the Shaman had pronounced the word of his malediction,
that priest caught fire upon his horse and from his breast came flames
which joined together in the air above his head.

And the affrighted horse began to bear him away over the plain ablaze ;
and then, shuddering, flung from him the ashes of the rider seated on the saddle,
to the last one of them.

And lo, over the charred body of the man
ran sparks like those sparkles on a burnt paper
that wind and wander in various directions.

Then, approaching, the Shaman said to the children :
"Be not afraid ; God is with you !

"The fire terrified you like sleeping doves,
for ye had fallen asleep in a house that was burning
and your bodies had already withered."

And those children stretched out their little hands to the old man,
crying : "Father, take us with thee !"

And the Shaman said : "Whither shall I lead you?
Lo, I go the road of death ;
do ye desire that I take you and hide you under my coat
and scatter you from my skirt before the Lord God?"

The children answered him :
"Take us and lead us by the broad highways to our mothers."

And all began to cry out with great pride
"We are Poles, lead us away to our fatherland and to our mothers,"
until the Shaman began to weep as he smiled.

And he could not depart, for one little babe had fallen asleep on his cloak,
even on the skirt of his cloak, while he was speaking.

And the Cossacks who had drawn near gazed in amazement at what had happened ;
and they began to drive the children away from the stranger-people,
not daring, nevertheless, to beat any one of them,
remembering that fire.

© Juliusz Slowacki