Pan Tadeusz/English and Polish Text

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Hippocrene Books, 2000 - Poetry - 598 pages
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An epic tale of country life among the Polish and Lithuanian gentry in the years 1811 and 1812, Pan Tadeusz is Poland's best-known literary work and has been translated into every European language. Of the three English versions, Kenneth R. Mackenzie's is considered the best. Although it has for its background the stirring period of history between the declaration of the Constitution of the Third of May and the launching of Napoleon’s Russian campaign, it is not these events which are the subject of the poem. The plot has the typical elements of a romantic, historical novel - a feud between two ancient families, a love story crossed by the feud, a mysterious figure who dominates the action, and a number of eccentric supporting characters humorously depicted.

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About the author (2000)

Mickiewicz was born in Lithuania to the family of a landless lawyer. He received a solid classical education at Wilno University, then the best in Poland. Arrested in 1823 for suspected revolutionary activities, he was exiled to Russia in 1825. His four and a half years there were a period of poetical and social success. He became a friend of Aleksandr Pushkin and a welcome figure in aristocratic salons. In 1829, Mickiewicz left Russia. During the 1831 uprising, he appeared briefly in Prussian Poland and subsequently joined the Great Emigration in Paris, where he was viewed as the spiritual leader of the exiles. During the early 1840's, Mickiewicz became a follower of the Lithuanian mystic Towianski, a move that finished him as a poet and made him unpopular with most of his fellow exiles. After the outbreak of the Crimean War, his anti-Russian activities brought the poet to Turkey, where he died in late 1855. His remains were transferred to a crypt in Wawel Castle in Cracow in 1890. Although his education in classical literature left a perceptible trace on his poetic diction, Mickiewicz was both the initiator of the romantic movement and one of its great figures. His literary position was established in 1822 with the publication of a short but striking anthology of poems. His subsequent ballads and historical poems were even finer; however, he reached special heights in his dramatic cycle "Forefathers' Eve" (1823). Mickiewicz's Russian period is distinguished by the creation of sonnets (especially the Crimean Sonnets cycle) and of the poem "Konrad Wallenrod" (1826--27). A period of relative poetic sterility, that began after "Konrad Wallenrod," ended in 1832 when Mickiewicz published his Books of the Polish Nation, a work in biblical prose that aspired to be the gospel of emigres and is the clearest example of Polish national messianism. In 1832, Mickiewicz also wrote "Forefathers' Eve, Part III" which he loosely connected with the earlier dramatic cycle, and in which he considered Poland's relationship with Russia through the prism of an intense personal vision. Mickiewicz's last masterpiece is "Pan Tadeusz" (1834) which continues the traditions of the epic and, to a degree, represents a turning away on the poet's part from romanticism. The poem deals with life in Lithuania from 1811 to 1812. A large number of characters, all of whom are basically good, and a wealth of lovingly described details of nature and the country society, combine to make "Pan Tadeusz" an extraordinary, if idealized, canvas of everyday life.

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