LITHUANIAN QUARTERLY JOURNAL OF ARTS AND SCIENCES
Volume 44, No.3 - Fall 1998
Editor of this issue: Violeta Kelertas
Copyright © 1998 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.
THE BARBARA RADVILA CYCLE
Translated by M. Gražina Slavėnas
1. ELIZABETH OF HABSBURG
Where shall I start? I was still a child. I was white like
marble and pure. They say I possessed a beauty that is rare. I
was a stranger to this dreary land into which they had married me,
which was ravaged by plagues, where I had no loyal page, where
a disease was constantly shaking my freezing frame. Like a
handful of snow I melted between the palms of my husband Sigismund.
I was homesick. How I cried for my nursemaid, my sisters, my
women friends. And in the end I succumbed to the fog which
covers this cold and foreign place.
Let me rest in peace. Barbara, I was not in your way.
I died like a nun as the trees began to bloom.
I used to watch until you and Sigismund receded from my sight.
Now let some other child catch the reflection of my veil.
2. QUEEN BONA SFORZA
Both daughters-in-law have died. And who shall ever know
if I did or did not pour the poison into their Venetian glass.
I was poisoned myself. Death is only a joke. I am bored.
Hand me my lute and let me play.
I became their fate almost against my will. This old theatre mask.
It's the fate of the Sforzas to have blood cling to their name.
My fate was to cling to Sigismund, my son, with maddening pain.
In the mirrored walls of these halls I see the same lonely face which I was when I first arrived.
Who knows, perhaps the daughters-in-law died a natural death.
Perhaps it is wrong to place the blame on a woman who herself never knew the torments of passionate love.
Therefore, Barbara, savage stranger, take care.
I hate you even in illness and begrudge your happiness.
And I want you dead.
3. DUKE NICHOLAS RADVILA THE BLACK
DUKE NICHOLAS RADVILA THE RED
We used you like the queen in chess or the queen in cards.
On a velvet pillow we presented you with the royal crown.
Through you it finally touched the proud brow of a Radvila.
But for you, Barbara, it turned into a crown of thorns.
We moved you around like a pawn to suit our schemes.
We married you to old Goštautas, a heap of ash.
Then we encrusted your love in a scepter and in a grave.
We used your beauty as our revenge on those
who had slandered our name.
We wanted it to prevail over death.
We crossed our swords to bar the entrance to your door.
Sigismund's lust we used to bestow on our house
the highest reward.
Royal mistresses die unknown. But to you we gave lasting fame.
As you pined away by your window - we immortalized you
in a royal crest.
4. THE UNKNOWN PAINTER
For Queen Barbara
Our Lady of Aušros Vartai
The beauty of those eyes, their sadness, has come alive
in my portrait. I painted you as a northern Madonna.
I watched you cry for your stillborn child. I remember
your sudden smiles.
I watched your endless waiting for messages from the King.
This endless waiting became your fate. It marked your features
with grief. And so I removed you from the palace and took you
into the public square. I gave you the headdress
of an ordinary, low-born woman. I painted you without your crown
or your princely gowns. But some centuries later
the jewelers of Vilnius enshrined you in splendid robes,
adorned you with golden tulips and silver leaves
and lifted you into the chapel above the city gate.
And in the end your strange belated fate
was to be the sky with its blinding dawns.
I shall never turn into yellow parchment. I shall never grow old.
My love, like a poet's verse, gives me strength to prevail.
Here I was born. Now I am known as the Vilnius Renaissance.
Here my beauty resides forever, defying time.
They returned me after my death. My casket was narrow and dark.
Behind it the steady rhythm of hoofs like a ticking clock.
Behind it Sigismund's rasping, scorching breath.
Even in death I was true to these skies.
I returned to this city in fog. The muted gleam of its spires.
I returned to its gentle, soothing rains.
They took me from here not to a coronation.
Then they brought me back.
But I, having touched this ground, prevailed.