Adam Mickiewicz1232339Konrad Wallenrod — V. War1882Maude Ashurst Biggs



War now. For Konrad may no longer curb
The people's zeal, the council's fierce insistance:
The whole land calls for vengeance long delayed,
For Litwa's inroad, and for Witold's treason.

Witold, once suitor for the Order's grace,
To aid recovery of his capital.
After the banquet, on this new report
That the Crusading hosts will take the field,
Changed measures—traitor to his recent friendship.
And led his knights in secrecy away.

And in the Teuton castles on the road
He entered, by the Master's forged commands;
And then disarming all the garrison,
Annihilated all with fire and sword.
The Order, roused with burning rage and shame.
Against the heathens stirred up fierce Crusade;
The Pope sends forth a bull,—seas, land, o'erflow

At once with swarms of warriors numberless,
Princes with mighty following of vassals;
The Red Cross decks their armour. Each his life
Devotes to christen pagans,—or to die.

They went towards Litwa. What their actions
If thou wouldst know, gaze from the ramparts'
Look towards Litwa, as the day declines.
Thou see'st a fiery blaze; the vault of heaven
O'er-deluged with a stream of bloody flame;
Behold the annals of invading war.
Few words relate their carnage, plunder, fire,
And blaze, which may rejoice the foolish crowd.
But in it wise men do with fear confess,
A voice that crieth for revenge to Heaven.

The winds blew on that dreadful fire apace,
The knights marched further to the heart of Litwa.
Report says Kowno, Wilna, are besieged.
Then ceased report, and couriers came no more.
No longer in the region flames were seen,
But further off the heaven's ruddy blaze.
In vain the Prussians look with eager hope,

For spoils and prisoners of the conquered land;
In vain despatch swift couriers for the news,
The couriers hasten—and return no more.
As each this cruel doubt interpreteth,
He willingly would know despair itself.

The autumn passed away. The winter's snows
Revelled upon the mountains, block the ways.
Once more upon the distant heaven shine—
Midnight auroras? or the fires of war?
And ever nearer comes the light of flames,
And nearer yet the heaven's ruddy blaze.

From Marienbourg the folk look on the road;
They see afar—grovelling through deepest snows,
Some travellers!—Konrad! And our generals!
How welcome them? Victors? or fugitive?
Where are the others? Konrad raised his hand,
And pointed further off a scattered crowd,
Alas! their very aspect told the secret!
They rush in disarray, plunge in the snowdrifts;
Roll each on each, down treading like vile insects.
Within a narrow vessel perishing;
They push o'er corpses, ever newer crowds.
Hurl those new risen down again to earth.

Some drag still onward chilled and stiffened limbs,
Some on the march have frozen to the road;
But with raised hands the corpses standing point
Straight to the town, like pillars on the way.
The townsfolk, terror-stricken, curious ran,
Fearing to guess the truth they dared not ask;
For all the story of that luckless war
They in the warriors' eyes and faces read.
For o'er their eyes hung death in frosty shape.
And Famine's harpy hollowed out their cheeks.
Now are the trumpets of the Litwin heard.
Now rolls the storm, snow whirlwinds o'er the
Far off a multitude of gaunt dogs howls.
And overhead the ravens hover round.

All perished! Konrad has destroyed them all!
He, that once reaped such glory with the sword,
He, for his prudence formerly renowned,
Timid and careless in this latter war.
Marked not the cunning snares that Witold laid;
Deceived and blinded by the wish of vengeance,
Driving his army on the Litwin steppes,
Wilna thus long in sluggard guise besieged.

When plunder and provisions were consumed,
When hunger came upon the German camp,
And scattered all around, the enemy
Destroyed the auxiliars, cut off all supplies,
Each day a myriad Germans died from need.
Now time approached to end by storm the war.
Or else bethink them of a swift return.
Then Wallenrod, in peace and confidence,
Rode to the chase, or, closed within his tent,
Forged secret treaties, and denied his captains
Admission to the councils of the war.

And thus in warlike fervour grew he cold.
That by his people's tears untouched, unmoved.
He deigned not raise the sword in their defence;
All day with folded arms upon his breast.
In thought remaining, or discourse with Halban.
Meanwhile the winter piled its heaps of snow.
And Witold, with his fresh recruited bands,
Besieged the army, fell upon the camp.
Oh! shame in annals of the valiant Order!
The Master first did fly the battle-field!
In place of laurels, and abundant spoil.
He brought the news of Litwa's victories!

Did ye but mark, when from that thunder stroke
He led this host of spectres to their homes,
What gloomy sadness darkened o'er his brow?
The worm of pain unwound him from his cheek.
And Konrad suffered; but look on his eyes!
That large half-open eye, bright shining throws
Its darts aslant, like comet threatening war;
Each moment changing, like the gleams of night.
Whereby the wily demon travellers lures.
Uniting joy and rabid rage in one.
It shone as with a right Satanic glance.

Trembled the folk and murmured. Konrad cared
He called to council the unwilling knights.
Looked on them, spoke, and beckoned. O disgrace!
They hear attentive, and believe his words.
They view Heaven's judgments in the faults of man;
For whom of humankind persuades not—anguish.

Tarry, proud ruler! Judgment waits even thee!
In Malborg is a dungeon underground.
There, when the night in darkness wraps the town,
The secret tribunal descends to council.[2]

One single lamp upon the high-arched roof,
And day and night it burns mysteriously.
Twelve chairs, in circle placed around a throne,—
Upon the throne the secret book of laws.
Twelve judges each in sable armour clad;
The visages of all inlocked by masks,
In dungeons hide them from the common crowd;
But each thus masked enshrouds him from his

All sworn, of their own will, with one accord,
Crimes of their potent rulers to chastise.
Too heinous, or unknown before the world.
And soon as falls on him the last decree.
Not even a brother's trespass to condone;
Each must by violent or by treasonous ways.
On him condemned fulfil the spoken doom;
Dagger in hand, and rapier at their side.

One of the maskers now approached the throne.
And standing with drawn sword before the book,
Spoke thus: "Tremendous judges!
Proof now our long suspicion has confirmed.
That man who calls him Konrad Wallenrod,
He is not Wallenrod.

Who is he? 'Tis unknown. Twelve years ago,
From unknown parts he to the Rhine-land came.
When passed Count Wallenrod to Palestine,
He in the count's train wore an esquire's dress.
But soon Count Wallenrod, unknown, did perish.
And then his squire, suspected of his death,
Departed secretly from Palestine;
Then did he land upon the Spanish shore;
In battles with the Moors gave proof of valour,
And in the tourneys prizes rich obtained.
And everywhere gained fame as Wallenrod.
He took on him at length the Order's vows.
Was chosen Master, to the Order's loss.
How ruled he, all ye know. This latter winter
When we with frost, famine, and Litwa fought,
Konrad in woods and oak-groves rode alone;
And there in secret held discourse with Witold.
Long time my spies have traced his every deed;
Hidden at evening by the corner tower,
They understood not the discourse which Konrad
Did hold with the recluse;—but, dreadful judges,
He spoke, they said, in the Litvanian tongue.
And weighing duly what the messengers
Of our tribunal of this man reported.
And that intelligence my spy late brought,

And fame reporteth, scarcely secretly;
Tremendous judges! I accuse the Master
Of falsehood, murder, heresy, and treason."

Here the accuser knelt before the book.
And laid his hand upon the crucifix;
And with an oath confirmed his story's truth,
By God, and by the Saviour's agony.
He ceased. The judges arbitrate the cause.
But not by open voice or still discourse;
Scarce by a glance of eye, or sign of hand,
Their deep and dreadful thought communicate.
Each in his turn approached him to the throne,
And with the dagger's point o'erturned the leaves,
Of the Order's book, and silent read the law.
Inquiring sentence of his conscience only.
And having judged, his hand lays on his heart,
And all in concord raised the cry of "Woe!"
With threefold echo then the walls repeated,
"Woe!"—In that word alone, that single word,
A sentence lies! The arraigners understood.
Twelve swords were raised aloft; one aim was
Destined to Konrad's heart. Then all departed
In gloomy silence, and the walls behind.
Repeated with a fearful echo: "Woe!"