OLD POLISH ON-LINE
E Y E
T H E
Mikołaj Hussowski (c. 1480–1533)
A POEM ON BISON
So that the animal could freely get in,
Closed in with ease, he would be grazing there,
We hunt inside this space, also entrapped,
Their fear and our fear weigh on the same scale.
You cannot hurry to your friends' aid here,
Master has no servant, son will not heed
His own father, nor will father heed his son,
Each one has his own beat, must take care of it;
Here everyone may lose or save his life,
The smallest error can bring fatal results.
Hunting regulations are the most severe,
The royal office has many penalties.
Salvation for all, a swift, fleet-footed horse
That is trained to run away in sudden jumps.
Magnificent kings rush into these perils
Together with us - none wants to show fright.
They turn back the Scythian mobs with iron,
When waging bloody wars they attack our kin.
Riding wild stallions they rush among hunters,
Their majesty and might don't suffer at all.
I hold back my pen, SIGISMUND,
Against my will to praise your glory and fame,
Father of this land, forgive! It's hard to show
With true respect even some of your virtues.
You're great in home matters, greater in public,
My words cannot describe any of your deeds!
You are the greatest in woods, though I'd prefer
To sing of your wars, but again I'm too weak!
When only fate grants me a more peaceful life,
Then I will devote my time to your glory...
Today, in this poem I hide in the woods,
Glad to show you one animal at least.
Often more bisons are chased to intrenchments
And then the hunters face a greater challenge,
But we saw just one bison in the backwoods,
And my story will now tell about it.
At the start he was wounded by light arrows,
The shafts of spears thrown at him stuck in his hide,
Enraged, his trembling nostrils panted with ire,
He measured the group of hunters with his eyes,
Then made a sudden turn and in violent leaps,
Began to run away, the riders in his tracks
Set off in pursuit with ear-splitting shouts;
The cries reflected off the skies resounded.
But when in a frantic run he reached the place,
Where a pile of stumbling logs blocked his way,
Stopped by the hunters' shouts, repelled, he halted,
And seemed to think over which way to run off.
Suddenly wounded by a whizzing bolt,
He was possessed by even greater anger.
Aware that his body was torn by iron,
The enraged beast was driven into madness.
Now he stares at the hunters with piercing look,
While heeding where the greatest crowd gathers.
First, striking till blood flows, he directs his blows
At the braying pack, then he charges the crowd.
Young men scatter, turning back away their horses,
The tall forest is trembling with loud cries.
No one can run away rushing straight ahead,
Escape is safe, when you divert your course,
The bison is raging, in unchecked rush,
No way to turn, he is too heavy for it.
When he runs surrounded by the riders' host,
He cannot stop at once, chases any one.
Leaping violently, his body extended
In this run, he's panting and snorting around,
The wind shakes his mane, blowing it to both sides.
In this state, this grand, wild, and awful creature
Lunges forward blindly in the confined grounds,
Searching how to satisfy his horrid ire.
And how much he swells with deadly terror
Anyone can see from my ensuing words.
A young man, famed for wealth and ancestry,
Set his heart one day to do as he pleased,
He took a gun to square off with a bison,
Wishing to kill this huge bull by himself.
Others agreed. Poor soul hid behind a tree
And watched which way the bison was coming.
Suddenly the beast comes out: roars, earth trembling,
Braying of the hounds, an unerring sign.
He rushes with fury, emits all around
Steaming clouds of vapor, suddenly stops,
Spots a dog, and glances at a pine-tree.
The poor soul, believing the bison saw him,
Even though he was quite a distance away,
Became so terrified that he fell down dead.
When his friends found him, stiff as if still standing,
They were surprised that fear could kill a man.
A basilisk kills with its murderous glare,
But he, unperceived, how could he fall dead?
This type of fear lives in the cowards' hearts.
His death was derided by the brave young men.
Faithfully engraved in my memory,
The following two lines graced the dead man's grave:
What would horns do, if the bison's looks alone
Struck the hero dead: here he rests in peace.
Sigismund I the Old (1467-1548) reigned as King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1506 to 1548. He married Bona Sforza, his second wife, in 1518.