OLD POLISH ON-LINE
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T H E
Mikołaj Hussowski (c. 1480–1533)
A POEM ON BISON
Is the Lord showing his will in all this
Or does it grow and die due to black magic,
Quite often the mind resolves this question.
But herbs in the north have such great power,
In spells, incantations there is such strength
That Medea's story doesn't seem a tale
And everyone will have to treat it as true.
Considering all strange doings of our times,
Even though the priest forbids us these things,
For they may be ready to burn everyone
At the stake - when guilt comes to the surface -
Even when one's unwilling to get involved,
Yet seeing it, he won't report it at once.
And when one is branded by people's vague talk,
Though secretive darkness hides uncertain facts,
They will seize him at once, tie his hands and legs,
And toss him into the swelling waters.
If he starts sinking, it's a sign he's guiltless,
If the opposite, his guilt is assured.
We saw those tied up, how in deep waters
They struggled, trying to submerge their heads.
Shouts of one thousand people resounded,
I also was seized with wonder seeing it:
The surging wave pushed up the sinful head,
Which did not look then as it did before.
But the righteous fire consumes the monsters
And oftentimes destroys that hideous sin.
He who doubts it will see at times in Lithuania
All this and will be able to check my words.
These rituals practiced by wicked women
Are rarely carried out by pliant husbands.
Enough of that: it will do to show that woods
Aren't burdened too much by matters mentioned here;
Delight reigns here, but little gratitude
Comes in return to this immense forest.
Its charm and beauty is in numerous herds
Of the noblest animals, the right game
For men who desire to strengthen their spirits,
Tired of wars, joining work with sport in a hunt,
This labor strengthens both bodies and minds
So that even in old age they won't grow weak
And man's life is extended into long years,
There's a clear proof for it, known from experience;
It keeps one away from gray hair for years,
Also sharpens and clears up man's senses:
When we strain our ears for the lightest rustle,
Our hearing becomes more powerful then,
When we cast our weakened eyes far away,
At once the sight finds remedy in it.
Thus, constantly active, the hunter strengthens
His vision, while his ear serves to assist him.
An animal, spying a mortal foe,
Is trying hard to employ its cunning,
Given to it by Nature in this dire need,
If its senses taught it to know its foe.
Used to forest life I say well-known things,
But those inexperienced will not believe me.
All disputes aside, I leave it to others,
What effort is needed to learn all these things.
They might better say that I should not write,
For the work suffers when time is limited.
When the air resounds with the hounds' barking,
Oh, what deep desire this sound awakens!
This melody of cries destroys dead silence,
In a thousand ways rising or falling down!
This roar when a bear gets impaled on a spear
Or those mournful squeals when a boar dies of wounds!
And those blows dealt to a raging bison,
When roaring horribly he's losing his breath,
When awful anger rises and he begins
To cast around threatening looks, quite mad!
When a wounded aurochs begins to snort,
Soon a shiver runs through the thick forest!
Changing his steps and with menacing leaps,
He takes on the shape of all terrors and frights.
Oh, what fears shake the most powerful heart,
How it, after cooling down, still feels spasms!
Does our spirit rise then to lofty matters?
Do we see what was till now covered by mists?
Isn't it right to think then about defeats
Of our homeland, how to save the Republic?
Now and then joyful thoughts come to our minds,
More helpful to the body than any cure;
For he who follows the sweet sport of hunting
And gladly strains his limbs in forest labors,
Who in deep woods enjoys healthy pleasures,
So that his back would not bend in boredom,
Laughing at doctors, he will prolong his life
More and more, he won't rely on science
And weaken with medicines his entrails,
Which overstretching could be torn apart.
Yes, nothing is healthier than cold of the North
For those who are nourished by hunting big game.
So the wild forests are indeed superior
And a roaming game worth more than anything.
What's left is to tell how to catch the bison -
Provided I'm not hindered by lack of time.