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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Father’s Return
By Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855)
 
A Ballad

From the ‘Poets and Poetry of Poland,’ edited by Paul Soboleski

“GO, children, all of you together,
  To the pillar upon the hill,
And there before the miraculous picture
  Kneel and pray with a fervent will.
 
“Father returns not. Mornings and evenings        5
  I await him in tears, and fret.
The streams are swollen, the wild beasts prowling,
  And the woods with robbers beset.”
 
The children heard, and they ran together
  To the pillar upon the hill;        10
And there before the miraculous picture
  Knelt and prayed with a fervent will.
 
“Hear us, O Lord! Our father is absent,
  Our father so tender and dear.
Protect him from all besetting danger!        15
  Guide him home to us safely here!”
 
They kiss the earth in the name of the Father,
  Again in the name of the Son.
Be praised the name of the Trinity holy,
  And forever their will be done.        20
 
Then they said Our Father, the Ave and Credo,
  The Commandments and Rosary too;
And after these prayers were all repeated,
  A book from their pockets they drew.
 
And the Litany and the Holy Mother        25
  They sang while the eldest led:
“O Holy Mother,” implored the children,
  “Be thy sheltering arms outspread!”
 
Soon they heard the sound of wheels approaching,
  And the foremost wagon espied.        30
Then jumped the children with joy together:
  “Our father is coming!” they cried.
 
The father leaped down, his glad tears flowing,
  Among them without delay.
“And how are you all, my dearest children?        35
  Were you lonesome with me away?
 
“And is your mother well—your aunt and the servants?
  Here are grapes in the basket, boys.”
Then the children jumped in their joy around him,
  Till the air was rent with their noise.        40
 
“Start on,” the merchant said to the servants,
  “With the children I will follow on;”
But while he spoke the robbers surround them,
  A dozen, with sabres drawn.
 
Long beards had they, and curly mustaches,        45
  And soiled the clothes they wore;
Sharp knives in their belts and swords beside them,
  While clubs in their hands they bore.
 
Then shrieked the children in fear and trembling,
  And close to their father clung,        50
While helpless and pale in his consternation,
  His hands he imploringly wrung.
 
“Take all I have!” he cried; “take my earnings,
  But let us depart with life.
Make not of these little children orphans,        55
  Or a widow of my young wife.”
 
But the gang, who have neither heard nor heeded,
  Their search for the booty begin.
“Money!” they cry, and swinging their truncheons,
  They threaten with curses and din.        60
 
Then a voice is heard from the robber captain,
  “Hold, hold, with your plundering here!”
And releasing the father and frightened children,
  He bids them go without fear.
 
To the merchant then the robber responded:—        65
  “No thanks—for I freely declare
A broken head you had hardly escaped with,
  Were it not for the children’s prayer.
 
“Your thanks belong to the children only;
  To them alone your life you owe.        70
Now listen while I relate to you briefly
  How it came to happen, and go.
 
“I and my comrades had long heard rumors
  Of a merchant coming this way;
And here in the woods that skirt the pillar        75
  We were lying in wait to-day.
 
“And lying in wait behind the bushes,
  The children at prayer I heard.
Though I listened at first with laugh derisive,
  Soon to pity my heart was stirred.        80
 
“I listened, and thoughts of my home came to me;
  From its purpose my heart was won.
I too have a wife who awaits my coming,
  And with her is my little son.
 
“Merchant, depart,—to the woods I hasten;        85
  And children, come sometimes here,
And kneeling together beside this pillar
  Give me a prayer and a tear!”
 
 
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