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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Introduction to the last Act

By Zygmunt Krasiński (1812–1859)

From ‘The Undivine Comedy’: Translation of Martha Walker Cook

PERCHED like an eagle, high among the rocks,

Stands the old fortress, “Holy Trinity.”

Now from its bastions nothing can be seen,

To right, to left, in front, or in the rear,

A spectral image of that Deluge wrath

Which, as its wild waves rose to sweep o’er earth,

Once broke o’er these steep cliffs, these time-worn rocks.

No glimpses can be traced of vale beneath,

Buried in ghastly waves of ice-cold sea,

Wrapping it as the shroud winds round the dead.

No crimson rays of coming sun yet light

The clammy, pallid winding-sheet of foam.

Upon a bold and naked granite peak,

Above the spectral mist, the castle stands,

A solitary island in this sea.

Its bastions, parapets, and lofty towers

Built of the rock from which they soar, appear

During the lapse of ages to have grown

Out of its stony heart (as human breast

Springs from the centaur’s back),—the giant work

Of days long past.
A single banner floats

Above the highest tower; it is the last,

The only Banner of the Cross on earth!

A shudder stirs and wakes the sleeping mist,

The bleak winds sigh, and silence rules no more;

The vapor surges, palpitates, and drifts,

In the first rays shot by the coming sun.

The breeze is chill; the very light seems frost,

Curdling the clouds that form and roll and drift

Above this tossing sea of fog and foam.

With Nature’s tumult other sounds arise,

And human voices mingling with the storm

Articulate their wail, as it sweeps on.

Borne on and upward by the lifting waves

Of the cloud-surge, they break against the towers,

The castle’s granite walls—voices of doom!

Long golden shafts transpierce the sea of foam;

The clinging shroud of mist is swiftly riven;

Through vaporous walls that line the spectral chasm

Are glimpses seen of deep abyss below.

How dark it looks athwart the precipice!

Myriads of heads in wild commotion surge;

The valley swarms with life, as ocean’s sands

With writhing things that creep and twist and sting.

The sun! the sun! he mounts above the peaks!

The driven, tortured vapors rise in blood;

More and more clearly grow upon the eye

The threatening swarms fast gathering below.

The quivering mist rolls into crimson clouds;

It scales the craggy cliffs, and softly melts

Into the depths of infinite blue sky.

The valley glitters like a sea of light,

Throws back the sunshine in a dazzling glare;

For every hand is armed with sharpened blade,

And bayonets and points of steel flash fire;

Millions are pouring through the living depths,—

As numberless as they at last will throng

Into the valley of Jehoshaphat,

When called to answer on the Judgment Day.