Juliusz Slowacki

(1809 - 1849 / Poland)

Anhelli - Chapter 5


And so the Shaman and Anhelli made their pilgrimage through the sorrowful country
and over the desolate roads and under the roaring forests of Siberia,
meeting men who suffered, and comforting them.

And lo, one evening they walked beside still and stagnant water,
above which grew some weeping willows and a few pines.

And the Shaman, seeing the fishes leaping out toward the evening glow, said :
'Lo, thou sawest this roach that flew through the air and again sank.

'And now she will tell her sisters at the bottom that she hath beheld the heaven,
and she will tell them various things of heaven,
and from that she will have honour among the other fishes.

'Hearing, then, the tale of the heavens,
they will swim into the nets and tomorrow
they will be sold in the market place.

'Is not that a lesson for men and for those who wander like festoons after men
who prattle of God and the heavens,
and so let themselves be snared in the nets of men and be sold?

'But a fatal illness, I tell thee,
is melancholy and excessive pondering within oneself of the things of the spirit.

'For there are two melancholies :
one cometh from strength, the other from weakness ;
the first is the wings of lofty men, the second the stone of men who drown themselves.

'I tell thee this, for thou dost incline to sorrow and dost lose hope.'

So saying, they came upon a throng of Siberians who were catching fish in the lake.
And those fishermen, having perceived the Shaman, ran up to him, saying :
'Our king ! Thou didst forsake us for strange people
and we are sorrowful, not seeing thee amongst us.

'Tarry through this night, and we will set out supper and spread thee a bed in the boat.'

The Shaman seated himself on the ground,
therefore, and the women and children of the fishermen surrounded him
and put to him various questions,
to which the Shaman answered with a smile, for they were trivial.

But after supper, when the moon arose
and spread her light over the smooth water like a golden highway to the south,

The women and children began to talk more sadly,
saying : 'Lo, thou hast left us and dost work no more miracles among us.

'Therefore we have begun to doubt the things of the faith,
and we doubt even whether there is in us such a thing as a soul.' To this the Shaman said, smiling :
'Do ye desire that I should show you a soul before your eyes?'

And all the women and children cried out in unison :
'We desire it ! Do so !'

Then the Shaman, turning to Anhelli, said
'What shall I do for this crowd of magpies?
Dost thou wish me to put thee to sleep, and,
having called thy soul from thy body, to show it to these people?'

Anhelli answered him : 'Do as thou wilt;
I am in thy power.'

Then the Shaman, having called one of the children from the throng,
placed it upon the breast of Anhelli,
who had lain down as if to sleep,
and said to that child

'Lo, lay thy hands upon the brow of this youth,
and summon him three times by the name Anhelli.'

And it came to pass that at the child's call
there came forth from Anhelli a spirit having a beautiful form
and varying colours and white wings on its shoulders.

And seeing that it was free, that angel walked to the water,
and along the column of moonlight proceeded toward the south.

Then, when it was already far off and in the centre of the lake,
the Shaman bade that child call the soul to return.

And the bright soul looked back at the summons of the child
and returned lingeringly over the golden wave,
trailing behind it the tips of its wings that drooped in sorrow.

And when the Shaman bade it enter into the body of the young man
it groaned like a broken harp and shuddered, but it obeyed.

And awaking, Anhelli sat up and asked what had befallen him.

The fishermen answered him : 'Master, we have seen thy soul,
and we beg thee be our king !
For the kings of China are not arrayed in such glory
as the soul that is of thy body.

'And we have seen nothing more glorious in ,
the world except the sun, and nothing more brightly gleaming,
except the stars, that are rosy and blue.

'Wings like these have not the swans
that fly in May over our land.
'And we even perceived a fragrance like the fragrance of a thousand flowers
and the breath of lilies of the valley.'

Hearing this, Anhelli turned to the Shaman and said :
'Is this true?' And the Shaman said:
'It is true; thou art possessed of an angel.'

'What, then,' asked Anhelli, 'did my soul do,
when it was free? Tell me, for I remember not.'

The Shaman answered him :
'Lo, it went along that golden highway that the moon spreadeth upon the water
and fled in that direction like a man who is in haste.'

And at these words Anhelli bowed his head,
and after pondering within himself began to weep, saying :
'Lo, it desired to return to the fatherland.'

Submitted: Thursday, September 04, 2014

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