sleep. Pictures of my country passed then before my mind: now a pine forest, now broad fields with pear trees on the boundaries, now pleasant cottages, now village churches, now white mansions surrounded by dense orchards. I yearned for such scenes all that night.
A VIEW OF THE HOUSE FROM THE POND
ON THE SIENKIEWICZ ESTATE
I went out next morning, as usual, to the sand-banks. I felt that the ocean and the sky, and the sand mounds on the shore, and the plains, and the cliffs on which seals were basking in the sunlight, were things to me absolutely foreign, things with which I had nothing in common, as they had nothing in common with me.
Only yesterday I had wandered about in that neighborhood and had judged that my pulse was beating in answer to the pulse of that immense universe; to-day I put to myself this question: What have I to do here; why do I not go back to my birthplace? The feeling of harmony and sweetness in life had vanished, leaving nothing behind it. Time, which before had seemed so quiet and soothing, which was measured by the ebb and flow of the ocean, now seemed unendurably tedious. I began to think of my own land, of that which had remained in it, and that which had changed with time’s passage.
America and my journey ceased altogether to interest me, and immediately there swarmed in my head a throng of visions ever denser and denser, composed wholly of memories. I could not tear myself free from them, though they brought no delight to me. On the contrary, there was in those memories much sadness, and even suffering, which rose from comparing our sleepy and helpless country life with the bustling activity of America. But the more our life seemed to me helpless and sleepy, the more it mastered my soul, the dearer it grew to me, and the more I longed for it. During succeeding days the visions grew still more definite, and at last imagination began to develop, to arrange, to bring clearness and order into one artistic plan. I began to create my own world.
A week later, on a certain night when the Norwegians went out on the ocean, I sat down in my little room and from under my pen flowed the following words: “In Barania Glova, in the chancellery of the village mayor, it was as calm as in time of sowing poppy seed.”
And thus, because cranes flew over the shore of the Pacific, I composed “Charcoal Sketches.”
THE JUDGMENT OF PETER AND PAUL ON OLYMPUS
THE JUDGMENT OF PETER AND PAUL ON OLYMPUS
A POEM IN PROSE
It was a night of spring, calm, silvery, and fragrant with dewy jasmine. The full moon was sailing above Olympus, and on the glittering, snowy summit of the mountain it shone with a clear, pensive, greenish light. Farther down in the Vale of Tempe was a dark thicket of thorn-bushes, shaken by the songs of nightingales—by entreaties, by complaints, by calls, by allurements, by languor, by sighs. These sounds flowed like the music of flutes, filling the night; they fell like a pouring rain, and rushed on like rivers. At moments they ceased; then such silence followed that one might almost hear the snow thawing on the heights under the warm breath of May. It was an ambrosial night.
On that night came Peter and Paul, and sat on the highest grassmound of the slope to pass judgment on the gods of antiquity. The heads of the Apostles were encircled by halos, which illuminated their gray hair, stern brows, and severe eyes. Below, in the deep shade of beeches, stood the assembly of gods, abandoned and in dread, awaiting their sentence.
Peter motioned with his hand, and at the sign Zeus stepped forth first from the assembly and approached the Apostles. The Cloud-Compeller was still mighty, and as huge as if cut out of marble by Phidias, but weakened and gloomy. His old eagle dragged along at his feet with broken wing, and the blue thunderbolt, grown reddish in places from rust, and partly quenched, seemed to be slipping from the stiffening right hand of the former father of gods and men. But when he stood before the Apostles the feeling of ancient supremacy filled his broad breast. He raised his head haughtily, and fixed on the face of the aged fisherman of Galilee his proud and glittering eyes, which were as angry and as terrible as lightnings.
Olympus, accustomed to tremble before its ruler, shook to its foundations. The beeches quivered with fear, the song of the nightingales ceased, and the moon sailing above the snows grew as white as the linen web of Arachne. The eagle screamed through his crooked beak for the last time, and the lightning, as if animated by its ancient force, flashed and began to roar terribly at the feet of its master; it reared, hissed, snapped, and raised its three-cornered, flaming forehead, like a serpent ready to stab with poisonous fang. But Peter pressed the fiery bolts with his foot and crushed them to the earth. Turning then to the Cloud-Compeller, he pronounced this sentence: “Thou art cursed and condemned through all eternity.” At once Zeus was extinguished. Growing pale in the twinkle of an eye, he whispered, with blackening lips, “” (“Necessity”), and vanished through the earth.
Poseidon of the dark curls next stood before the Apostles, with night in his eyes, and in his hand the blunted trident. To him then spoke Peter:
“It is not thou who wilt rouse the billows. It is not thou who wilt lead the storm-tossed ships to a quiet haven, but she who is called the ‘Star of the Sea.’”
When Poseidon heard this he screamed, as if pierced with sudden pain, and turned into vanishing mist.
Next rose Apollo, the Silver-bowed, with a hollow lute in his hand, and walked toward the holy men. Behind him moved slowly the nine Muses, looking like nine white pillars. Terror-stricken, they stood before the judgment-seat, as if petrified, breathless, and without hope; but the radiant Apollo turned to Paul, and, in a voice which resembled wondrous music, said:
“Slay me not! Protect me, lord; for shouldst thou slay me, thou wouldst have to restore me to life again. I am the blossom of the soul of humanity; I am its gladness; I am light; I am the yearning for God. Thou knowest best that the song of earth will not reach heaven if thou break its wings. Hence I implore thee, O saint, not to smite down Song.”
A moment of silence came. Peter raised his eyes toward the stars. Paul placed his hands on his sword-hilt, rested his forehead on them, and for a time fell into deep thought. At last he rose, made the sign of the cross calmly above the radiant head of the god, and said:
“Let Song live!”
Apollo sat down with his lute at the feet of the Apostle. The night became clearer, the jasmine gave out a stronger perfume, the glad