The First Star - from Reymont's "The Peasants" (Chłopi)
Slowly the village was vanishing in grey snowy shadows, melting away; neither huts nor fences nor orchards could be made out; only a few lights twinkled, more thick than usual, because everyone was busy preparing the meal of Christmas Eve.
In every cabin, from the richest to the very poorest of all, preparations were being zealously made; in each family room, at the corner next the east, they had placed a sheaf of corn; the tables were strewn with hay beneath bleached lined napery; and they looked out eagerly through the windows for the appearance of the first star.
The sky, as is often the case when it freezes, was not very clear when evening began to fall; it had seemed to veil itself as soon as the last glow had burned out, and was hidden in the gloom of many a dusky wreath.
Yuska and Vitek, terribly chilled, were standing outside the porch, on the watch for the appearance of the first star.
“There it is!” Vitek suddenly exclaimed. “There it is!”
Boryna and the others and Roch last of them all, came out to see.
Yes, it was there, and just in the east, having pierced trough the somber curtains which hung round about it: it shone forth from the dark blue depths, and seemed to grow larger as they gazed upon it; gleaming brighter and brighter, nearer and nearer, till Roch knelt down in the snow, and the others after him.
“Lo, ‘tis the star of the Three Wise Men”, he said; “the Star of Bethlehem, in whose gleaming our Lord was born—Blessed be His Holy Name!”
These words they piously repeated after him, gazing up with eager eyes at the bright far-off witness of the miraculous Birth—the visible tokens of God’s mercy visiting the world.
Their hearts throbbed the tender gratitude and glowing faith, while they received and absorbed into their hearts that pure light, the sacred fire—the sacraments to fight with and to overcome all evil!
And the star, seeming to grow larger still, rose up like a ball of fire, from which beams of azure brightness shot down like the spokes of a mystic wheel, darting its rays upon the snow, and twinkling with radiant victory over darkness. Then after it there came forth other stars, its faithful attendants, peering out in innumerably dense multitudes—filling all the heavens, covering them with a dew of light, and making them, as it were, a mantle of dark azure, strewn with silver motes.
“And now that the Word is made Flesh,” said Roch, ‘it is time to take our meal.”
- Vol.2 WINTER, pp.78-78; Translated from the original Polish by Michael H. Dzierwicki, Reader of English Literature at the University of Cracow
Talking Animals - from Reymont's "The Peasants" (Chłopi)
Meanwhile Vitek, having been greatly struck to hear that cattle possessed human speech on Christmas Eve, called Yuzka away quietly, and they went both of them to the cow-house.
Holding each other by the hands, trembling with awe, and crossing themselves more than once, they slipped in amongst the cows.
Down they knelt by the side of the largest one, that they looked on as the Mother of the Byre. Out of breath, agitated, with tears in their eyes and dread in their hearts, as if they were in church and during the Elevation--they nevertheless were upheld by strong trust and a lively faith. Vitek put his mouth to her ear, and quavered in a loud voice:
"Hist! Grey One! Grey One!”
But she only gurgled inaudibly, and went on chewing with a roll of her tongue and a smack of her lips. “Something strange has come upon her: she answers naught!”
Then they knelt by the next cow, and Vitek, who by this time was on the verge of weeping, called earnestly to her:
“Spotted One! Spotted One! They both approached very close to her mouth, and listened, holding their breath; but never, never a word! Ah! no doubt we have sinned, so we shall not hear her speak. They answer only such as are sinless; and we are sinners!”
“True, Yuszka, true! We are sinful, we have sinned. O Lord! so it is! Aye, I stole some bits of string from master once. And an old strap besides… Yes, and also…” He could go no farther; remorse and repentance for his faults shook the lad with a convulsion of tears and sobs; an Yuszka, following his example, wept from the bottom of her heart. They cried together, and would not be comforted till they had laid bare before each other all their “manifold sins and offences.”
At home, no one remarked their absence, for all were piously singing hymns—not Christmas carols, which it was not deemed proper to strike up until midnight.
Vol.2 WINTER, pp.87-88; Translated from the original Polish by Michael H. Dzierwicki, Reader of English Literature at the University of Cracow. This file has been identified as being free of known restrictions under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights.