Anhelli - Chapter 7

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And the Shaman said : "Lo, now we shall show no more miracles,
nor the power of God that is in us, but we shall weep,
for we have come unto people who see not the sun.

"Neither is it fitting to give them teaching, for misfortune hath taught them more;
nor shall we give them hope, for they will not believe.
In the sentence that condemned them was written : `Forever !'

"Behold, here are the mines of Siberia.

"Walk here circumspectly, for this ground is paved with sleeping men.
Dost thou hear?
Lo, they breathe loudly, and some of them groan and talk in their sleep

"One of his mother, another of his sisters and brothers,
and a third of his home and of her whom he loved in his heart,
and of the fields where the corn bowed down to him as to its lord ;
and they are happy now in their sleep-but they will wake.

"In other mines the felons howl,
but this is only the grave of the sons of the fatherland,
and is full of silence.

"The chain that clanketh here hath a mourn full voice,
and in the vault are various echoes,
and one echo that saith : `I pity you.' "

While the Shaman compassionated them,
there came guards and soldiers with lamps to wake the sleepers to work.

They all arose from the ground, therefore,
and roused themselves, and went like sheep with hanging heads,
except one who did not rise, for he had died in his sleep.

Then Anhelli, approaching those who were going to work with their mallets,
asked one of them in a low voice who this dead man was,
and of what illness he had perished.

Thereupon there answered him a pale man, a prisoner :
"He concerning whom thou dost inquire was a priest;
I knew him, he confessed my wife and my children in the fatherland.

"But when war came he seated himself upon a horse with the cross in his hand and with zo bare feet,
and when there was firing, he stood in front of the ranks, crying out :
`For the fatherland ! For the fatherland !'

"And the bishop summoned him and gave him over into the hands of the executioners,
but first in the city square he deprived him of his holy office ;
and the bishop dropped from his hands his crosier, and he swooned.

"And the executioners caught the man of God and thrust him into a strait jacket,
and then they fastened him in it with difficulty, for he was a stout man,
and he became motionless like a thing dead.

"Then they brought him to the mine,
and he pretended that he was glad in his heart,
Io but I saw that he was pale and sad.

"And he gave himself up to despair, and withered like an old tree.
And coming up to him once, I said : `Fear God ! Why dost thou fret a'

"And he said to me with great mystery, like a man crazed :
`I have forgotten the words of the Lord's Prayer,'
and warning me with his finger to be quiet, he departed.

"And I observed him once when in the dark
he took putrid lead and ate that poison.

"And after a few days a brick red came into his face,
and his body wasted away on his bones,
like the drenched linen of a tent,
and he had eyes that glittered.

"But today I know not how he died, for behold I slept beside him,
and I did not hear that he even groaned.

"But if ye have a heart, pity him, for I know him ; he was an upright man."

Then Anhelli, turning to the Shaman, said "He is a self-murderer."

But the Shaman covered his eyes, and lifting up a morsel of lead from the ground, said
"This lead is the murderer and evil counsellor, for it said :
`Take me and eat me, I am the end and repose.'

"This lead is a cheat, for it gave itself out before he man for God,
who alone endeth suffering forever and putteth the heart at rest.

"And cursed is he who before the least gust falleth to the ground
and is crushed ! He is like a shattered column.

"But before mighty whirlwinds even ye are permitted to fall-ye shall be pitied.

"What then ! Will they deny you consecrated ground?
Who knoweth how a man sleepeth in an unconsecrated grave!

"Nevertheless it is better to die amid a throng of children and grandchildren who weep,
and to behold the unfolding of the trees in the spring, and to have a quiet hour."

When the Shaman had spoken thus,
the wretched men surrounded him in a circle and said :
"Thou dost teach well, thou art a man of heart and perhaps one sent from God.

"Lo, therefore, know thou that five days ago a rock fell and blocked one of the corridors
where a certain old man was working with his five sons,
and the guards do not wish to break it down with powder, saying :
`That is a long task, let him die.'

"And we stand every day before that rock,
listening whether they still live,
but nothing is to be heard in that cave, not even a groan.

"If thou art a man of God, roll away the stone.
Perhaps the father yet liveth or one of his children.

"At least make our executioners marvel, freeing these men, for they will die of hunger."

So they brought the Shaman to that rock,
and a great stillness fell; and the Shaman,
raising his eyes on high, prayed.

And a wind rose from under the ground
and overturned the rock, so that there was opened up cavern dark and deep,
and no one dared enter first into it.

So the Shaman, taking a fire-pot,
went into the cave over the shattered stones,
and after him Anhelli and the prisoners.

And a ghastly sight they beheld !
Lo, on the body of the youngest son lay the father,
like a dog that putteth his paws on bones and is angry !

And the open eyes of that father glistened like glass,
and the four others lay dead near by, one beside another.

And the Shaman, looking on them, said "What have I done?
Lo, the father liveth and his sons have already died.
Why did I pray !"

So saying, he departed from the cave,
and half the multitude followed after him.

© Juliusz Slowacki