Saturday, September 20, 2008

Polish Poets - Juliusz Słowacki

There he goes! The Polish Sheakespeare! The Chopin of Polish Literature! The Romantic genius, the one and only - Juliusz Słowacki.

It is not a surprise that I sing Slowacki's praises so loud. No more than a hundred meters from where I live there is a monumental monument of Juliusz Słowacki, (who dethroned on this pedestal the former comunist leader - Dzierżyński).

Not that easy it was to find some works of his in English - first of all, because he wrote in the romantic era (19th century), and then he wrote most of all large pieces (which i really love, as an indefatgable devotee of Polish romanticism) - more like Sheakespeare like I said before. Nevertheles there goes some of his, enjoy! As you will certainly notice with the last poem exposed, a real prophet he was...



by Juliusz Slowacki

O Poland ! As long as you imprison
An angelic soul in a boorish skull,
So long your flesh will be hacked by a headsman,
So long your revenge sword will remain dull,
So long a hyena will lie over you
And a grave – your eyes opened in the grave too.

Throw off completely those hideous tatters,
First – that Deianira’s burning attire :
And then arise like great shameless sculptures,
Naked – and bathed up in die Stygian mire,
New – brazen in your iron nakedness –
Not embarrassed by anything – deathless.

Let the people arise at the dead of night
From the quiet grave and frighten the others,
It’s such a big statue – from one block cast tight,
And so hardened, it won’t break under thunders.
But with thunderbolts its hands and wreath are rife,
The eyes that disdain death – the flush of life.

Poland ! You are still deceived with baubles ;
You were the nations’ peacock and parrot,
Now you are a handmaid of other peoples.
Though I know these words won’t quaver a minute
In your heart – where thought doesn’t long remain :
I speak – for I am sad – and full of blame.

Ay, curse me – yet my soul will make you run
Like Eumenides – through the snaky canes,
For you are Prometheus’s only son :
The vulture doesn’t eat your heart – but your brains.
Although in your blood my Muse I will stain,
I’ll reach to your bowels’ core – and pull with a strain.

Put a curse on your son and howl in torment,
But be aware – the hand of the curser
Stretched over me – will coil like a serpent
And snap off, withered away from your shoulder,
Black satans will snatch up the bits of dust then ;
For you have no power to curse – bondwoman !


Song VIII from "Journey to the Holy Land from Naples".


by Juliusz Slowacki

I am sad, Savior ! For me in western skies
You poured out a radiant rainbow array ;
In azure waters you quench before my eyes
The fiery star of day...
Though You gild the sky and sea for me yonder,
I am sad, Savior !

Like empty ears of corn, their heads erect,
I stand bereft of surfeit and of pleasure...
To strangers my face has the same aspect,
The silence of azure :
But to You my heart’s core I’Il uncover,
I am sad, Savior !

Like an infant who cries for his mother
When left atone, so am I close to tears,
Looking at the sun that throws from the water
Its last flashing spears...
Though I know tomorrow new dawn with gtitter,
I am sad, Savior !

Today when lost in the wide sweep of the sea,
One hundred miles away from either shore,
The flying storks above me I could see
In a stretched out skein soar.
That once I knew them on a Polish pasture,
I am sad, Savior !

That I’ve often brooded over catacombs,
That I have barely known my native home,
That I was like a weary pilgrim who roams
When lightning sears the sky’s dome,
That I don’t know in what grave I’ll linger,
I am sad, Savior !

You will behold my whitened skeleton,
No brow of a column stands guard over it;
Yet I’m like a man who enviously looks on
The ashes in their pit...
And that my bed will be restless forever,
I am sad, Savior !

They told an innocent child in my land
To say a prayer for me each day... and yet
I know my ship doesn’t sail to my home strand,
When it sails straight ahead...
And that the child’s prayer will not help ever,
I am sad, Savior !

The rainbow of lights which in sky’s canopy
Your angels have spread in an enormous string,
Some other people hundred years after me
Will look upon - dying.
Ere to my nothingness I humbly surrender,
I am sad, Savior !

Written at sunset, at sea off Alexandria.


by Juliusz Slowacki

I have lived with you, suffered and shed tears with you.
No noble person have I ever passed aside.
Today I leave you, ghosts in shadows to pursue,
And if happiness were here – in sorrow I stride.

I have not left behind me a single offspring
Either to play my lute or to carry my name ;
My name has passed away like a flash of lightning,
And will last for generations like an empty strain.

But you that have known me, pass to all in legend
That I wore out my youth for the land of my fathers ;
When the ship struggled – I stood at the mast to the end,
And when she was sinking – I too drowned in deep waters...

Yet some day, pondering about the destined lot
Of my poor homeland, any noble man will consent
That my spirit’s cloak was not by begging begot,
But as my ancestors’ glories shines resplendent.

Let my faithful friends at night gather together
And burn up my poor heart in die leaves of aloe,
Return it to die one who gave it to me later :
So the world pays mothers – giving them ashes to stow...

Let my friends sit down, each one holding a goblet,
And drown in wine my burial – and their own despair...
If I am a spirit, I’ll appear to them yet,
If God frees me from torment, I will not come there...

But I beg you – let the living not lose hope ever
And bear the torch of learning before their compatriots ;
And when called, go to their death one after another,
Like the stones tossed by die Lord onto the ramparts...

As for me – I am leaving a small group of friends,
Those who were able to love my haughty spirit ;
One can see I have fulfilled God’s hard assignments
And assented to have here – an unwept casket...

Who else would go on without the world’s accolades,
Such indifference to the world as I display ?
To be the helmsman of a boat that’s filled with shades,
And fly off as quietly as the shade flies away ?

And yet I leave behind me this fateful power,
Useless while I live... it just graces my temples ;
But when I die, it will, unseen, press you ever,
Till it remakes you, bread eaters – into angels.

all translated by Michael MIKOS


God’s bell the Conclave's petty strife has stilled :
Its mighty tone
Brings news of Slavic hope fulfilled –
The Papal Throne !
Pope who will not – Italian-like – take fright
At sabre-thrust
But, brave as God himself, stand and give fight :
His world – but dust !

Made radiant by the Word, the Pontiff's face –
A torch that guides
The faithful swarming towards that lighted place
Where God resides.
Obedient to his prayer and his command,
Not only men,
But, if he wills, the sun itself will stand :
Power beyond ken !

Now he approaches, he whose hand constrains
Globe – spanning forces –
He whose word turns back along our veins
The blood that courses.
Divine enlightenment, a mounting spate
Informs mankind ;
To think a thought therein is to create –
Power of the mind !

To bear our load – this world by God designed –
That power we need :
Our Slavic Pope, brother to all mankind,
Is there to lead !

With balm from all the world, our souls’ torment
Is soothed by him ;
About his flower-decked throne a regiment
Of cherubim.
Love he dispenses as great powers today
Distribute arms ;
With sacramental power, his sole array,
The world he charms !

His word, like dove set free, takes instant flight,
The news proclaims :
That yet the Holy Spirit sheds its light,
Devotion claims !
The heavens above him open wide their gates,
While he, alone,
Sits on his throne and humbly re-creates
Both Earth and Throne !

Among the nations, with a brother’s love,
He spreads the word :
Man must, to reach his final goal above,
Brave fire and sword.
The sacramental power of realms untold
His willing slave ;
Power that the soul of man may yet behold
Before the grave !

From the world’s wounds he laves corruption’s blight,
The maggots teeming ;
Health he restores, fanning our love alight,
The world redeeming.
Sweeps out our churches, makes the portals gleam –
So that each one
May see his God within Creation’s scheme,
Bright as the sun !

Written in 1848.

translated by Noel Clark.

No comments: