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chapter six m emigration (1832–1834) A lthough they were all traveling as private citizens, Mickiewicz and his companions were greeted no less effusively by the natives of Saxony, Bavaria, and Baden than the thousands of emigrating veterans who had preceded them over the previous ten months. “At every stop,” recalled Aleksander Jełowicki, one of the young officers accompanying the poet, committees organized by friends of Poland...would greet us. A Pole could make his way from the first German town to France without a penny; in every town his needs were seen to and the [Polish national anthem] was sung to see him off. Mickiewicz squared accounts some months later, when he dedicated the German translation of The Books of the Polish Nation and the Polish Pilgrimage to “the German people, as a sign of his sincerest respect and gratitude for the fraternal reception accorded him and his unfortunate compatriots during their Pilgrimage” (Dz. 17:549).1 Confronted with the Germans’ generosity, the travelers had to repeatedly insist on paying their own way, for unlike most Polish émigrés heading for France, they had chosen to decline the meager subsidy earmarked for them by the French government. To do otherwise would have obliged them to proceed to one of the so-called dépôts that had been established for veterans of the uprising all over France—in Avignon, Besançon, Châteauroux, and eventually elsewhere. As of April, these fighters—bedraggled but still flush, the darlings of a restive European left—were confined under the supervision of the police instead of the Ministry of War, displaced persons now rather than potential legionnaires. They were, of course, also barred from settling in Paris, while those already there were being encouraged to leave. That a number of émigrés were involved in antigovernment emigration (1832–1834) 183 disturbances in the beginning of June certainly did not endear them to Louis Philippe’s insecure regime. 1 From Dresden the road led through Leipzig, Bayreuth, and Nuremberg, where Mickiewicz sought permission, unsuccessfully, to make a detour from his mandated itinerary to Bolzano to see the ailing Volkonskaia. After two days in Nuremberg, the group set out for Karlsruhe. “The journey,” Domeyko recalled, “was not boring for Mickiewicz.” Among his companions was an old veteran, who regaled the travelers with stories of the Kościuszko uprising, the Polish Legions, and Grand Duke Constantine’s prisons; another had been a captain in Napoleon’s entourage who accompanied the emperor to Elba and then from Borodino to Waterloo; still others described their participation in the latest uprising . However—and understandably, considering that three of the travelers had served as representatives to the insurrectionary Diet—“the main topic of conversation was the course of recent events.” Mickiewicz’s opinions on the subject were, as another of his companions, Henryk Nakwaski, put it, “most peculiar”: He reckoned everything in a patriarchally poetic way. Although he is a very modest man, sensible and not conceited, he is, nonetheless, ever the poet. Speaking once of the devastations of war, I related how [a certain] colonel, the commander of an escort assigned to [protect] the government [as it was fleeing], told his soldiers to behave decently when he spent the night at my place....“I would have burnt the home down,” Mickiewicz piped up, “so that the Russians could not desecrate it with their presence, and would not have tried to spare the village.” What a poetic thought!...Let poets write, but God forbid they should rule. Although God mercifully heeded Nakwaski’s plea, Mickiewicz, for his part, would never cease preaching his “peculiarly” “poetic” brand of politics, often breathtaking in its aesthetic effect, and in this sense strangely compelling—precisely for its utter lack, more often than not, of practical sense.2 After a few days in Karlsruhe, where the prince of Baden sent them tickets to his theater and opened up his park and palace to them, Mickiewicz and Domeyko continued on to Strasbourg, arriving at the bridge over the Rhine on 11 July. The German customs agent refused to take the usual fee from them upon learning they were Poles; on the French side sentries greeted them with a hearty “Vivent les Polonais!” “We drove into France,” remembered Domeyko, “as if after some great victory, as if entering our own country.”3 The companions’ first order of business was to obtain passports for Metz, whence they intended to make their way to...


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