The Funeral Of Captain Meyzner
Juliusz Slowacki
We took his poor coffin from the hospital
And had to cast it into a beggar's pit.
There was not even one maternal tear,
Nor a gravestone above a handful of ashes.
Yesterday he was full of youth and strength --
Tomorrow there will not even be a tomb.
If only at the singing of the war song
There were a soldier's rifle above his head!
That same rifle, in whose pan the shot
Fired at Belvedere is still smoking,
If only a sword in heart, or a deadly ball --
But no! -- a hospital bed and gown.
Did he ever think, on that azure night
When all Poland clattered in arms
As he, melancholy, lay in the Carmelite coffin,
And the coffin burst at the moment of the resurrection?
As he pressed his rifle to his bosom,
Did he think that he would die thus?
Today the greedy, alms-taking doorkeeper came,
And old women who guard the corpses,
And opened the asylum to us,
And asked: "Do you recognize your brother --
Is he the same one who yesterday knocked about
The world with you? -- Can you identify him?"
The coarse, bloody hospital cloth was taken from his head
With the surgeon's autopsy scalpel.
He held his open eyes to the light,
But his face was turned from his brethren.
Then we asked the ladies to close
The coffin -- for he is our brother -- the deceased.
This wretchedness appalled us all.
One of the younger asked: "Where will they bury him?"
The hospital shrew replied to him:
"In consecrated ground, where by God's mercy
We bury them by the hoardes
In one large pit -- coffin piled upon coffin.
Then that youth, feeling sincere grief,
Pulled out a small gold coin
And spoke: "Sing the Miserere over him.
Let him have a small garden plot and a cross of his own."
He hushed -- and we bowed our heads
As we put a coin and our tears on the tin plate.
Let him have a garden -- and may he thank
The Lord, that a cross above his grave tells
That he was the captain of the ninth regiment,
That a gathering of knights followed his orders,
And today he has no debts to his country --
Even though he has a grave mound of his own, purchased from alms.
O God! Thou who from on high
Hurls thine arrows at the defenders of the nation,
We beseech Thee, through this heap of bones!
Let the sun shine on us, at least in death!
May the daylight shine forth from heaven's bright portals! --
Let us be seen -- as we die! --

-translated by Walter Whipple