‘The Deluge’, H. Sienkiewicz

As promised, I wished to write some more about ‘The Deluge’. I am quite a fan of the writings of Henryk Sienkiewicz, and I do like this book some more than the others. ‘Pan Wolodyjowski’ is good as well, especially since the steppe landscape talks to me when I read those scenes. But for now, of the second book.

So the Swedes have arrived, and let us pray to the gods that someone would be good and gracious enough to re-enact a Kircholm. But it is not to happen (or if it is, then not yet!), and the Swedes, Russians, Prussians, Hungarians, Tartars, and even internal traitors are all forcing their claws into the Commonwealth. What we see is an immense breakdown of discipline and order, only reversed when the people turn back to their faith.

It is the Christian and Catholic aspect of the book that I don’t entirely appreciate, but I can see why Sienkiewicz wrote it in that fashion. His did write in a Romantic era where nationalism was on the rise, and this very same religion helped foster a sense of Polishness.

In many ways though, the author also transcended that plain narrative by bringing in a sense of the future. It is very similar to what Ryotaro Shiba does in his books, although Shiba’s style is better and the tangents that the narrative takes are less controlled. Yet, Sienkiewicz succeeds in what he tries — especially powerful for me is the moment where he describes how the Marshal Lubomirski was to decide what to do with his men and armies.

That indeed, I believe, is one of the finest things to come through to the reader. The power and might of a Polish magnate, and yet how in essence they are no different from any other nobleman. Jeremi Wisniowecki was the magnate in the first book, and he was terrifying in essence. A good leader, a gracious lord, and a vicious enemy. Now we have the Radziwills, the Sapiehas,  the Lubomirskis, Czarnieckis, and so forth — all of these with their own agendas and wishes. It is clear to me at least that what the author laments is a lacking sense of unity.

But how could unity be found if everyone aspires towards their own personal glory? Could it be that this unity is as much a part of everyone but only needs a chance to gather around something, someone… the something being Catholicism and the someone their good and gracious King Jan II Kazimirz.

In the end though, we return to the argument that Lubomirski made in this book with his head. How about taking two glasses made of crystal, filling them with wine & vodka, and drinking to the bottom only to break those glasses against one’s own head? I can see that scene play out in my mind, and I think that it would have been a moment to behold. Allegiance is there in the hearts of everyone, and money — if for a moment — is not a factor to be considered.

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