Tuesday, October 1, 2013


There is an anecdote that accompanies this famous love poem by the national poet of Poland, Adam Mickiewicz. In September of 1997, a woman from Long Island called the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences in Mahattan with an urgent request for an English version of Adam Mickiewicz's "To***. In the Alps in Splugen". She explained that together with her husband she once spotted this poem on the menu of a Swiss restaurant. They read the poem with great appetite and agreed that it was the ultimate expression of love. Now, remembering that impression, she wanted to place it on an invitation to her husband's memorial service. At the time, one of the two existing old English translations had to satisfy her. But her inquiry provided the impetus for translating many love poems of Adam Mickiewicz including the below by the famous pair,  Stainslaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.

This poem was written in 1829, when Mickiewicz took a trip to the Alps in the company of the poet Anthony Odyniec. During  its course, they  passed through the pass just in Spl├╝gen located on the Swiss-Italian border. It is addressed to Maryla Wereszczaka, the daughter of a wealthy landowner who lived not far from Novogrodek , with whom the poet had an   unsuccessful love affair. Though Adam met  Maryla Wereszczaka in 1819 , she later got married to the rich Count Puttkamer in 1821.

             IN THE ALPS AT SPLUGEN ,1829

by  Adam Mickiewicz

Translated by Stainslaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

No, never, you will never let me be!
You follow me on land, across the sea,
I watch your footsteps sparkle and then fade
On frozen Alpine lakes; in the cascade
I hear your voice or else I sense you near,
And look behind with longing and with fear.

Ungrateful! In these peaks so stern and proud,
Which from their depths rise up to pierce a cloud,
I tire of eternal ice and snow,
And pause as my own tears begin to flow;
I seek the Northern Star in misty blue
And Lithuania, your small house, and you.
Ungrateful! Perhaps now, queen of the ball,
You hold your merry, laughing guests in thrall
By telling tales of our long-past romance;
Or do you conquer new hearts as you dance?
Are you content now that you are adored
By your meek subjects, by that servile horde?
That pleasure wakes you, that you're lulled by bliss?
Is there, then, nothing from the past you miss?
And wouldn't you be far happier, my dear
Sharing your outcast's wanderings, being here?
I'd lead you by the hand amid these crests,
And with my songs I'd ease your weariness.
I'd plunge first into every stream we meet
To gather stones so that your dainty feet
Could cross the streams and never touch the foam.
I'd warm your hands with kisses; we'd call home
Some rustic shepherd's hut along the way,
Where we'd rest from hardships of the day.
Wrapped in my cloak beside the fireplace
You'd fall asleep and wake in my embrace.

 Source : Treasury of Love Poems by Adam Mickiewicz: In Polish and English Hardcover by  Adam Mickiewicz (Author) , Krystyna M. Olszer (Editor, Introduction)