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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Aristocracy’s Last Stand
By Zygmunt Krasiński (1812–1859)
 
From ‘The Undivine Comedy’: Translation of Martha Walker Cook

AT last I see you, hated enemies!
With my whole power I trace your cunning plans,
Surround you with my scorn. No more we meet
Within the realm of idle words, of poetry,
But in the real world of deadly combat,        5
Sharp sword to sword, the rattling hail of bullets
Winged by the concentration of my hate!
No more with single arm and voice I meet you
The strength of many centres in my will.
 
It is a joyous thing to govern, rule,        10
Even were it solely at the price of death;
To feel myself the sovereign arbiter,
The master of so many wills and lives;
To see there at my feet my enemies
Leaping and howling at me from the abyss,        15
But all bereft of power to reach me here:
So like the damned, who vainly lift their heads
Toward Heaven!
 
I know … I know, a few hours more of time,
And I and thousands of yon craven wretches        20
Who have forgot their fathers and their God
Will be no more forever! Be it so!
At least I have a few days more of life,
To satiate myself with joy of combat—
The ecstasy of full command o’er others,        25
The giddy daring, struggle, victory, loss!
Thou, my last song, swell to a chant of triumph,
For death’s the latest foe a man can conquer!
 
The sun sets fast behind the needled cliffs,
Sinks in a darksome cloud of threatening vapors;        30
His crimson rays light luridly the valley.—
Precursor of the bloody death before me,
I greet you with a fuller, gladder heart
Than I have e’er saluted ye, vain hopes
And promises of joy or blissful love!        35
 
Not through intrigue, through base or cunning skill,
Have I attained the aim of my desires;
But by a sudden bound I’ve leaped to fame,
As my persistent dreams told me I must.
Ruler o’er those but yesterday my equals,        40
Conqueror of death, since willingly I seek him,
I stand upon the brink;—eternal life, or sleep!
 
 
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