|28 June 1834|
Pan Tadeusz (full title: Master Thaddeus, or the Last Foray in Lithuania: A Nobility's Tale of the Years 1811-1812, in Twelve Books of Verse[a][b]) is an epic poem by the Polish poet, writer, translator and philosopher Adam Mickiewicz. The book, written in Polish alexandrines, was first published on 28 June 1834 in Paris. It is deemed one of the last great epic poems in European literature.
Pan Tadeusz, Poland's national epic, is compulsory reading in Polish schools and has been translated into 33 languages. A film version, directed by Andrzej Wajda, was released in 1999. In 2014 Pan Tadeusz was incorporated into Poland's list in the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme.
The story takes place over the course of five days in 1811 and two days in 1812, at a time in history when Poland had been divided between the armies of Russia, Prussia, and Austria (see Partitions of Poland) and erased from the political map of Europe, although in 1807 Napoleon had established a satellite Duchy of Warsaw in the Prussian partition which remained in existence until the Congress of Vienna held after Napoleon's defeat.
The place is situated within the Russian partition, in the village of Soplicowo, the country estate of the Soplica clan. Pan Tadeusz recounts the story of two feuding noble families, and the love between Tadeusz Soplica (the title character) of one family, and Zosia of the other. A subplot involves a spontaneous revolt of the local inhabitants against the occupying Russian garrison. Mickiewicz, an exile in Paris and thus beyond the reach of Russian censorship, wrote openly about the occupation.
The Polish national poem begins with the words "O Lithuania"; this largely stems from the fact that the 19th-century concept of nationality had not yet been geopoliticized. The term "Lithuania" used by Mickiewicz refers to a geographical region of Grand Duchy of Lithuania within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Compendium ferculorum, albo Zebranie potraw, the oldest cookbook in Polish, served as an inspiration for Mickiewicz's nostalgic description of "the last Old Polish feast" in Pan Tadeusz. In his account of the fictional banquet in Book 12, the poet included the names of several dishes described in Compendium ferculorum, such as "royal borscht", as well as two of the master chef's secrets: the broth with pearls and a coin, and the three-way fish.
A young Polish noble, Tadeusz Soplica, comes back from his education in Vilnius to his family estate in Soplicowo. Tadeusz is an orphan raised by his uncle - Judge Soplica, younger brother of Tadeusz's long lost father, Jacek Soplica. Tadeusz is greeted by the Seneschal (Wojski), a family friend, who tells him about the trial between the Judge and Count Horeszko, for the ownership of a castle which once belonged to Pantler Horeszko - the Count's distant relative, a powerful aristocrat who was killed many years before. The trial is currently conducted by the Chamberlain (Podkomorzy), who is a friend and guest of the Judge. Tadeusz also meets Zosia - a young girl, granddaughter of the Pantler, who lives in the Judge's household, and her caretaker Telimena - the Judge's cousin. Tadeusz takes an interest in Zosia, but also flirts with Telimena.
Meanwhile, Count Horeszko visits the Castle, where he is greeted by Gerwazy, the warden and an old servant of the late Pantler. The Count reveals to Gerwazy he has little interest in the Castle and intends to give up the trial. Gerwazy in response tells the Count the story of the conflict between Soplica's and Horeszko's family. The Pantler often invited Jacek Soplica, Tadeusz's father, to the Castle, as Jacek was very popular amongst lesser nobles in the land. Jacek aspired to marry the Pantler's daughter, but was refused by the Pantler. Later, when Russian troops stormed the Castle during the Ko?ciuszko's uprising, Jacek suddenly arrived on the scene and shot the Pantler. Gerwazy swore to avenge his master, but Jacek disappeared. The story makes the Count excited about the conflict with the Soplicas and he changes his mind about the Castle, deciding he has to take it back from the Judge.
The news spreads that a bear was seen in a nearby forest. A great hunt for it begins, in which, amongst others, Tadeusz, the Seneschal, the Count and Gerwazy take part. Tadeusz and the Count are both attacked by the bear. They are saved by Father Robak, a Bernardin monk, who unexpectedly appears and shoots the bear. After the hunt, the Judge decides to give a feast. His servant Protazy advises to do so in the Castle, to demonstrate to everyone the Judge is its host. During the feast, an argument breaks out when Gerwazy accuses the Judge of trespassing and attacks Protazy when he accuses Gerwazy of the same. The Count stands in defense of Gerwazy and claims the Castle as his own, and the fight ensues until Tadeusz stops it by challenging the Count to a duel next day. The Count angrily leaves and orders Gerwazy to get the support of lesser nobility of nearby villages to deal with the Soplicas by force.
Father Robak meets with the Judge and scolds him for the incident at the castle. He reminds the Judge that his brother, Jacek, wanted him to make peace with the Horeszkos to atone for his murder of the Pantler. For that purpose Jacek arranged for Zosia to be raised by the Soplicas and intended for her to marry Tadeusz, to bring the two conflicted houses together. Father Robak also speaks about Napoleonic armies soon arriving in Lithuania and that Poles should unite to fight against the Russians, rather than fight each other in petty disputes. The Judge is enthusiastic about fighting against the Russians but claims that the Count, being younger, should be the first to apologize.
The impoverished nobles of the land gather on Gerwazy's call. They argue among themselves about organizing an uprising against the Russian forces occupying the land and news about the Napoleonic army, which they heard from Father Robak. Gerwazy convinces them that the Soplicas are the enemy they should fight first.
The Count soon arrives at the Soplicas' manor and takes the family hostage with the help of his new supporters. However, the next day Russian troops stationing nearby intervene and arrest the Count's followers, including Gerwazy. The Russian is commanded by Major P?ut, who is actually a Pole who made a career in the Russian army, and Captain Ryków, a Russian who is sympathetic to the Poles. The Judge tries to convince Major P?ut that the whole matter was just a quarrel between two neighbours and claims that he doesn't bring any complaints against the Count. P?ut however considers the Count's supporters to be rebels. The Judge reluctantly accepts the Russian at his house, where on the advice of Father Robak he gets them drunk, while Robak frees the arrested nobles. The fights break out when Tadeusz punches Major P?ut, after he made drunken advances on Telimena. During the battle, Father Robak saves Gerwazy's life and gets seriously wounded in the process. Captain Ryków ultimately surrenders the battle after suffering serious losses to the Poles and Major P?ut disappears.
Afterwards, the Judge tries to bribe Ryków to keep the whole incident silent. The Russian refuses the money but promises the whole thing will be blamed on Major P?ut drunkenly giving orders to attack. Gerwazy confesses he killed P?ut.
At night, dying Father Robak reveals to Gerwazy that he is really Jacek Soplica. He tells his side of the story: he and the Pantler's daughter were in love. The Pantler pretended he didn't know about it and treated Jacek as a friend just for political reasons. Jacek suffered through the charade until the Pantler openly asked him for an opinion of another candidate for a husband for his daughter, after which Jacek left intending to never visit the Castle again. He witnessed the Castle being stormed by Russians. Seeing the Pantler victorious and proud made Jacek overwhelmed by grief and anger, which drove him to kill the Pantler. Gerwazy gives up his revenge, as Jacek saved both him and the Count, risking his own life. He also reveals that the dying Pantler gave a sign that he forgave his killer. Father Robak dies.
The nobles who took part in the battle against the Russians, including Tadeusz and the Count, are forced to leave the country, as they are in threat of being arrested by the Russian authorities. A year later they come back as soldiers of the Polish troops in Napoleonic army. Gerwazy and Protazy, now friends, reminisce on the events from a year before. Tadeusz and Zosia get engaged.
All of Mickiewicz's works, including Pan Tadeusz, are written in the Polish language. He had been brought up in the multicultural Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a state that incorporated most of what today are the separate countries of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, and Ukraine. (Hence a waggish witticism has it that Mickiewicz, who grew up in a Polish speaking family in Russian empire, Lithuania Governorate, Zaosie and studied at Vilnius University in Lithuania, Of numerous passages from Pan Tadeusz that are familiar to Poles, the most celebrated is its opening quatrain:
Litwo! Ojczyzno moja! ty jeste? jak zdrowie;
Ile ci? trzeba ceni?, ten tylko si? dowie,
Kto ci? straci?. Dzi? pi?kno tw? w ca?ej ozdobie
Widz? i opisuj?, bo t?skni? po tobie.
O Lithuania, my homeland! thou art like health;
Only he can truly appreciate thy worth
Who has lost thee. Now I see and sing thy beauty
In all of its glory, because I long for thee.
Lithuania, my fatherland! You are like health;
How much you must be valued, will only discover
The one who has lost you.
O Lithuania, my country, thou
Art like good health; I never knew till now
How precious, till I lost thee.
Lithuania, my country! You are as good health:
How much one should prize you, he only can tell
Who has lost you.
Oh Lithuania, my homeland,
you are like health--so valued when lost
beyond recovery; let these words now stand
restoring you, redeeming exile's cost.
Thee, Lithuania, I sing, my native land.
Thou art like health, for he can only understand
Thy merit and thy worth who lost thee long ago.
My pen now limns thy beauty, for I miss thee so.
Lithuania! My homeland! You are health alone.
Your worth can only ever be known by one
Who's lost you. Today I see and tell anew
Your lovely beauty, as I long for you.
Maude Ashurst Biggs published "Master Thaddeus" in 1885 in London, Watson Kirkconnell "Sir Thaddeus" in 1962. George Rapall Noyes published a prose translation of the poem in 1917. Book Four was published in 2000 by Christopher Adam Zakrzewski. A full version translation by Marcel Weyland in the original metre was published in Sydney in 2004, London and New York in 2005 (ISBN 1567002196 US, and ISBN 1873106777 UK). A new English verse translation by Bill Johnston was published in September 2018 (ISBN 9781939810007). In 2019, Johnston received the National Translation Award bestowed by the American Literary Translators Association for his translation of Mickiewicz's work.
The first translation of the poem into a different language, Belarusian, was made in 1859 by the Belarusian writer and dramatist Vintsent Dunin-Martsinkyevich, in Vilnius. Because of the pressure from Tsarist authorities, Dunin-Martshinkyevich was able to publish only the first two chapters of the poem.
In 2012, during the first edition the National Reading Day organized by the President of Poland Bronis?aw Komorowski, Pan Tadeusz was read in numerous locations across the country as a way of promoting readership and popularizing Polish literature. Google's Doodle for Poland, Lithuania, Belarus, Iceland, Ireland and UK on 28 June 2019 commemorated the poem.
Illustration to Book VII of Pan Tadeusz. Gerwazy showing off his sword called Scyzoryk (Pocketknife), by Micha? Andriolli
Jankiel's Concert, oil on canvas by Maurycy Tr?bacz (1861-1941)
Mickiewicz begins his greatest work , " Pan Tadeusz " , with the words " O Lithuania , my fatherland " . Of course , he considers Lithuania to be a province of Poland.