Sowinski in the Trenches of Wola
Juliusz Slowacki

In the old churchhouse of Wola
General Sowinski remained,
Old man with a wooden leg,
Defending himself with a sword;
All around him lie commanders
Of battalions with their soldiers,
Muskets scattered, broken cannons,
Everything is devastated!

The General will not surrender,
The old man defends himself
Leaning up against the altar
On the sacred linen white,
There he rests his weary elbow
Where they lay the holy missals
On the left side of the altar
Where the priest reads from the Gospel

Suddenly some soldiers enter,
Servants of the Russian Marshall
Paskiewicz, and beg him: "General,
Surrender now, for why should you
Die so miserably." On their knees
They plead, as with their own father,
"Hand us your sword now, General,
Or the Marshall himself will come."

"I'll not surrender to you, Sirs,"
The old man answered calmly,
"Nor to you nor to the Marshall
Will I give my sword away,
Though the Czar himself demand it
Though I'm old, I'll not surrender,
But with sword I'll fight the battle
While my heart yet beats within me.

Even were there not so much as
One last Pole upon this planet,
I will be compelled to perish
For the good of my dear country,
And the fathers who begot me
I must perish in the trenches,
Sword in hand ‘til death still fighting
‘Gainst . . . the enemies of Poland . . .
That ... this city might remember
And our little children, too
Who today are in their cradles
As the bombs play in their ears.
I will fight that these, our children
When they're grown, may well remember
That this day upon the ramparts
Died a General -- with leg of wood.
When I walked about the city,
The youth would often laugh at me
For walking on a stick of wood,
And stumbling, old man, constantly.
Let them now pronounce the verdict,
Does this wooden leg well serve me,
Will it direct me straight to God,
And will it take me there quickly?

My adjutants, stupid dandies,
On your healthy legs so agile,
When the battle cry was sounded
Made good use of such good legs,
Whereas I upon this altar
Lean and rest, a crippled man,
I can't go in search of death,
But it will come in search of me.

Do not kneel thus, Sirs, before me,
I am not a holy man.
But I am a Pole of honor
Struggling to defend ... my life ...
I forsooth am not a martyr,
But I'll hold on ‘til the end
And whom I can I'll slaughter,
I'll give blood ... but not my sword."

Thus spoke General Sowinski,
Old man with a wooden leg . . .
Then with flashing sword the General,
Held the bayonets at bay;
‘Til one of the older soldiers
Stabbed him mortally in the breast...
Leaning lifeless ‘gainst the altar
Standing on his leg ... of wood...

-translated by Walter Whipple