Adam Mickiewicz

Twardowski's Wife

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Eating, drinking, smoking, laughter,
Reverly and wild to-do -
They shake the inn from floor to rafter
With huzzahing and halloo.

There Twardowski heads the table,
Arms akimbo, pasha-wise, And he shouts,
"Show what you're able"
Jokes and tricks and terrifies.

Round a soldier playing bully,
Scolding, shoving lustily,
Hums his sword-blade - and a woolly
Rabbit in his place they see!

At a lawyer sitting drinking
Quietly his bowl of grog
He has set his wallat clinking -
And the lawyer is a dog!

To a tailor's forehead clapping
Three long tubes, he smacks his nose
Thrice, and at his sudden tapping,
Out the Danzig vodka flows.

He had drained his cup already
When the tankard gave a hum
And a clank. "The devil!" said he,
"Well,my friend, why have you come?"

In the cup a little devil
Of a bob-tailed German brand,
Greeted all the guests, most civil,
Bowing, prancing, hat in hand.

Then from out the tankard jumping
To the flow, two ells he grows:
Claws like hawk's, a hooked nose,
On one hen's foot, so he goes.

"Ah, Twardowski, brother, greeting!"
Says he boldly, at his ease:
"Did you not expect this meeting?
I am Mephistopheles.

0n Bald Mountain not so lately
You bequeathed to me your soul.
Wrote your name down accurately
On a bull's hide for a scroll.

"All my friends were at your orders:
You, when two years" time had flown,
Were to come to Rome. My warders
Then should take you for their own.

Seven years you've spent tormenting
Hell with magic, nor do you
Plan your journey yet, frequenting
Inns, although your bond is due.

Vengeance, though you count upon her
Being late, at last strikes home,
And I now arrest Your Honor -
For this inn is named The Rome,

At this dictum so acerbum
Twardowski fled, but as he ran
The devil cought him. "Where's your verbum
Nobile", he said, "my man?"

What was to be done? A moment
Till he forfeited his head!
Swiftly then Twardowski reckoned
On a scheme to serve his stead.

"Read, Mepfiisto, the condition
Of the contract on your scroll;
When the time of my perdition
Comes and you demand my soul",

"I am still to have one little
Right: to set a threefold task:
You must do each jot and tittle
Of whatever I may ask."

"See the tavern sign, a stallion
Painted on a canvas ground:
Let me jump on the rapscallion,
Break away, and gallop round."

"Twist a whip of sand, moreover,
For me, and upon the brink
Of the wood build me a cover
Where I may find food and drink."

"Make the walls of nutshells matching
The Carpathians in height;
Out of Jews' beards make the thatching
And pack popy seed on tight."

"Look, here is a nail for measure,
One inch through, three inches long:
With three spikes, such is my pleasure
Nail each seed down, stout and strong."

Jumping high for joy, Mephisto
Waters, feeds and grooms the horse;
Turns a whip of sand, and presto!
It stands ready for the course.

Then Twardowski mounts the racer,
Makes it trot and caracole;
And the building was no facer -
There it stood, complete and whole!

"WelI, you've won that bout, Sir Devil!
Here's the second; do your best!
Jump in holy water, level
With your neck; the bowl's been biest."

Coughing, spitting, ever faster
Sweats the devil at this check:
But the servant minds the master,
Plunges in up Co his neck.

Out he flew as if projected
From a sling, and, snorting wrath,
Screamed: "Now you're our own elected!
Brr! But what a vapour bath!"

- "One more task before you get me-
Even magic has an end -
Here's Madame Twardowski: Let me
Introduce my little friend.

"For a year I'll make my dwelling
With Beelzebub. Above
You shall pass the year in spelling
Me as husband with my love."

"Swear her love and recognition
And obedience unalloyed;
Fail in only one condition,
And our contract's null and void."

One ear to Twardowski bending,
One eye on his wife, but more
Feigning than in fact attending,
Satan seeks to reach the door.

While Twardowski taunts and teases
And attempts to bar his way,
Through the keyhole, out he squeezes
And is running yet, they say.

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Adam Mickiewicz