In the prosaic preface to the poem, the author notes that he describes those ancient times when the pagan Lithuanians fought with their main enemy, the Teutonic Order, which subdued Prussia.
1391 Knights come to Marienburg to elect the head of the order. More often than not, the name of Wallenrode, an outsider, is pronounced here, the exploits of his glorified order throughout Europe. “Not only formidable military courage, he glorified the title of the crusader: but, despising the benefits of life, he ascended in Christian valor”. This knight did not sell his weapons and honor to the warring barons. In the monastery, without temptations to touch, avoiding the light, he spends his youth: he is alien to the ringing laughter
This man, not old for years, but gloomy, gray and pale, has a single friend – holy monk Halban, his always confessor.
Sometimes Conrad sings a song in an unknown language, and in the eyes of the knight there are tears, and the spirit flies to the edge of memories. And there is no fun or hope in this song… And the young recluse lives in the castle tower. Ten years ago she came to Marienburg from somewhere unknown and “voluntarily ended up in the tower.” Now the recluse calls out from the high window: “Conrad! ”
Knights, hearing these words in an unfamiliar language, understand only the name” Conrad. “This is” the sky of the nomination, “proclaims Halban, and Conrad is elected Grand Master.
Everyone hopes that Wallenrod will soon conquer Lithuania. But he “the custom of ancestors brazenly violates”: encourages the knights to renounce military glory and wealth. “Let virtue be our glory!” And the walls of the castle are already scouring the Litvin. Conrad at night goes to the tower and quietly talks with the hermit. She sings, as she turned it, a beautiful pagan, a Christian knight in her faith and carried her away to a foreign land. Conrad suffers: why did the unfortunate
Conrad feast with Witold, who, fighting for power in Lithuania, came to ask for help from the order. The old Litvin sings a song, shambling the traitors who have flitted to the Germans. Feeling ashamed, Vitold “closed his cloak and plunged into black meditation.” The old man is talking about a young Litwin, who was captured by a German kid, named Walter Alf and made a crusader. Great Master Winrich loved him as his own son. But in the Lithuanian heart was hidden the longing for the fatherland, hatred for the Germans. The young man converges with the old singer-littin; he tells the orphan about the fatherland and stirs up hatred for her enemies in him. The old man tells the young man: “Stay with the Germans, learn from them the military business and enter into them in trust…” But in the first battle with the Litvin the young man rushes to his fellow tribesmen – and tells his story to Prince Keistut and his daughter,
After the feast, Witold betrays the German allies (it seems that the old man’s songs have done their job, they suspect that it was a disguised Halban). Witold’s people are smashing German castles. Conrad is forced to lead craving crusader revenge in Lithuania. He returns in the winter with the remnants of a broken army. The famous military leader Wallenrode destroyed this time all his army. The face of the great master is gloomy, but his eyes are shining.
In the dungeon the secret council of the order is going to. One of the twelve masked judges declares that Earl Wallenrode went to Palestine someday and soon disappeared, and a certain knight from his entourage arrived in Spain and named himself as his master, whom he apparently killed. Having become famous in Spain, where he bravely smashed the Moors, the impostor came to Marienburg. Twelve judges in black unanimously render the traitor a death sentence.
Having fulfilled the oath, Alf hurries to Aldone. He no longer wants to take revenge – “the Germans are also people” – and calls his beloved in Lithuania to start life from the beginning. But it’s too late! Aldona, aged, does not dare to show herself to her husband. Soon, Alf hears behind his back a cry: “Woe, woe, woe!” So the secret council calls the condemned to prepare for death. Alf bids farewell to Aldona. At night, the murderers burst into his peace, and the knight drains the bowl of poison. And the old Halban remains alive to tell everyone about the hero’s heroic deed. “With one stroke of the hundred-headed, I destroyed the hydra!” – Alf proudly tells the knights who have rushed to him and dies. Seeing that the lamp went out in the window, he falls dead with a cry in his tower of Aldona.
In the “Explanations” Mickiewicz notes that the real Wallenrod really put the order to the brink of death and died himself under very mysterious circumstances. Was it that German knight Walter von Stadion who, having been captured by the Lithuanians, married the daughter of Keystut and secretly left with her from Lithuania?