Monday, February 17, 2014

Fear and Loathing in Danzig

From an account by a French tourist, written in 1663.
We were on the point of leaving, when a man some six feet tall came in. He had a clean shaven face, and eyes set in deep folds and wrinkles. It was a Polish nobleman in the company of some fifteen retainers… As soon as he saw us, he came over with a declarations of friendship, shaking our hands and pressing us to accept his expression of respect and chivalry… He said he was ill, and that he had been looking for two weeks for someone who might confirm his belief that debauchery was a better cure than dieting… After we had consumed some fifteen or sixteen tumblers, my colleague offered him his pipe…. He thrust the bowl into his mouth, drawing the full draught of burning smoke straight into his stomach… He said that tobacco should be drunk not blown into the air and wasted… Suddenly, he rushed from the table and, seizing a lighted candelabra started to bang his head on the wall and writhe around on the floor. He was foaming at the mouth like a bull, and looked as if the fury would kill him… But then a little vomiting made him more presentable… Next he staggered blindly in my direction, smothered me with passionate kisses, and announced that he would give me one of his daughters in marriage, together with ten thousand pounds and two hundred serfs. In honour of the forthcoming marriage, we drank toast after toast… Then I looked around and saw that he was stretched out on his back once more, but calling for wine and urging us to drink to the confusion of the Turk and the ruin of the Ottoman Empire. .. By now he had assured me that I was really a Pole, and that I ought to dress like one. Starting with his crimson cloak, fastened with sculpted silver pins, he began to strip, and to dress me up from head to toe in his own clothes. Unbuckling his sabre, he ordered me to kiss it and fastened it to my side, declaring that Poland owed all her Freedom to it… Meanwhile, I was desperately planning my escape.
Quoted in God's Playground: A History of Poland, vol 1. by Norman Davies.