OLD POLISH ON-LINE
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T H E
Mikołaj Hussowski (c. 1480–1533)
A POEM ON BISON
And when they approach the end of their days.
Some writings maintain, giving evidence,
That one herd leader lived two hundred years;
The mane on his forehead was dazzling white,
The entire herd took its name from his mane.
Besides, it's evidence for the present times:
He had lost one eye in some clash in the past.
As happens among lords, a contest took place
For legal rights to the woods and the bison.
A record of lawsuits over a long time
Gave indications of this beast's old age.
But since it's doubtful how long he'd lived before,
I find it difficult to be quite sure.
Probably folk lore can say much about it,
But I will not dare, as I don't know it well.
The most curious ears will also strain in vain:
A light breeze brings only faint rustling here.
Let others roam in old writers' flower fields,
We have our direction how to carry on.
They have their right, let them indulge at will,
The one I write for
is pleased with just the truth.
The offspring grow, expand into a big herd
And protect their lairs with communal strength.
The hope for peace depends on the guardian,
Who walks alone, threatening, around the whole herd;
Only the handsome and strong bull can rule.
Bulls often reach for power by spilling blood,
The poor leaders engage often in fierce fights,
Time does not grant them a single safe moment,
Such fierceness rises in battles for kingdoms
That death will decide who will win the day.
He who comes out victorious from these fights,
Wins the prize: the ruler of the herd, its king,
While the vanquished leaves for eternal exile,
The sad mare follows in the trail of her bull.
Only the outcasts are afraid of spears,
But the remaining herd does not fear death.
The rejected bull will never come back,
While the mares are free to rejoin the herd,
Left after his death with their fearful calves,
When sudden death frees them from marriage bonds.
Mares are also protected by royal laws,
Which safeguard the treasures of wild forests.
People value this wealth more than precious gold,
Believing that nothing can surpass it,
Even though numerous ships come to these shores,
Known for the abundance of various goods.
Nourishing rivers run throughout the lands,
Carrying many a swift, gold-filled boat.
A fruit-bearing land is glad with light labor
To fill fecund fields with joyful harvests.
Numerous herds roam over plains and forests,
Packs of wild horses are romping around.
Filling with crops the boats from foreign lands,
Our people have all that the others possess,
And though they are rich in all kinds of goods,
They prize their woods more than all things on earth.
Green forests are not so precious to people,
Because they bring noblemen great profits,
With golden resin flowing out freely
And large amounts of pitch for caulking ships;
You will find fur for winter clothing there,
If you are a buyer with money in hand,
Hence rivers carry oak-trees to the vast sea
And loads of timber fit for building ships;
Here stretch out these supplies which our country
Requires so much for building houses.
Here the trees are climbing up joyfully,
Nowhere could my eyes see a more splendid sight.
They do not bear fruit, are they barren then?
They have plenty of honey and humming bees.
Around stretch the fields of fragrant flowers,
Throngs of peasants tend them amid forests.
To make room for honey-combs they make holes
In tree-trunks - man's labor brings about honey.
From high above the multitudes of winged flocks
Fall onto the ground hit by shafts and shells.
And the grouse, which Pliny calls tetraonis,
Nests here among others - it is a strange bird:
Of a quite plain body, it is heavier
Than a fat goose, a juicy piece of meat!
When it is shot down, it's a splendid sight,
The hunter has double profit from it:
It will feed his body and strengthen his mind
And some will split it and share with others.
Whether with treacherous snares or stretched out nets,
This way or the other you will succeed.
Everyone may hunt, the same law for all,
There is freedom, for game is plentiful.
Indeed, fowl may perish and game die out,
If they are protected by too strict rules.
I saw in big ponds the fish waste away,
When the owner forbade to cast one's hooks there.
In a closed garden rare fruit will wither
And crops are oft ruined by a greedy land.
We looked at it in wonder in our country.
Hussowski refers here most likely to Pope Leo X.