OLD POLISH ON-LINE
E Y E
T H E
Mikołaj Hussowski (c. 1480–1533)
A POEM ON BISON
But old men remembered, I got it from them.
To dispel any doubt, they described the ways,
According to them, the matter looked like this:
Two walls were set up far from each other,
Narrowing in the front as if in a wedge.
In this abatis they built a big barrier,
Covered with thick greenery cut from the trees:
A trap lay hidden under fresh branches,
So that our cautious beast would not sense it.
Ahead of him a hunter dressed up in red
Teased the angry beast with a shining sword.
The enraged bison is rushing straight on,
The man escaping along the well-known path,
Until he comes close to the waiting trap.
He will not fall in, chased by the bison.
Unable to stop his unbridled wrath,
The bison falls headlong into the pit.
Only man can get out, while the animal
Is struggling in vain to move from this tight spot.
Jumping out from their hiding places, some men
Throw lines on the beast, binding him anon,
They are pressing his sturdy limbs with long ropes
And binding his foaming mouth with hard tethers.
The bison, that couldn't be stopped by an armed host
From freeing himself out of their strong hands,
And running towards his fate, now full of fear,
Walks humbly in bonds as ordered by the crowd.
But he was allowed his vengeance: let out
In the open field, released from his tethers,
The bison ran, chased only by Scythian bolts,
So that the soldiers would not forget their skills.
Shooting at this target was well rewarded,
The mark consisted of several circles.
He who hit close to center, took bigger prize,
Then, according to rules, each took his share.
Rich were the gifts that the invincible duke
Usually awarded for better shots.
No doubt he was the greatest man of his age,
And not because war deeds brought him great fame.
He prized heaven over worldly matters
And to the Lord paid the highest respect.
With his folk he converted to Christian faith,
He destroyed the temples of ancient gods,
Built the church for the Lord, and piously
With generosity endowed its servants.
He erased every trace of idolatry,
As he first recognized his pagan error.
With regrets I now leave his splendid glory,
With regrets also most lofty matters,
Mindful of my task and brevity of time,
I turn to the interrupted bison's tale.
Perhaps I departed too far from him,
But I was obliged to come to a stop,
Till hunters' constant shouts and constant chase
Would tire him in these woods echoing with sound,
Till their eyes would see death was coming to him:
Because now rage is exhausting his limbs,
Bathed in sweat, it seems he'll cast out his insides,
Streams of froth are coming down his body;
His legs get entangled as if he were drunk -
Now, look, how swiftly death comes over him!
When the young men see he's overcome by rage,
They jump off their horses, lead them away,
And armed only with swords they charge the bison
So that he's killed, as is the custom, by hand.
With amazing strength in their breasts all hunters
Stand behind the trees, open to horrid death,
Brandishing short swords, shouting in low voices,
They call to lure the wild beast, while he, swifter
Than a hurricane, charges at his foes,
Who, jumping backwards, hide behind the trees.
The beast backs up, springs forth, and strikes at them
With unforeseen speed, like a flash of lightning.
The chopped off branches are falling to the ground,
Their destroyer, the bison, tramples them.
You should be on your guard, strain your senses:
A spiritless man won't belong here at all.
I saw once how a fierce and valiant man
Struck dumb with terror dropped the sword from his hand
And if he were not saved by a stroke of luck,
Death would without fail catch him in his snare.
White snow covered the tree - under its hard
And thick coat the pine's boughs were bending down.
The bison struck it with force, branches trembled
Under his mighty head, scattered snow fell down,
And spreading all around in a dense cloud,
It covered the trunk and hunter in its mist.
Suddenly the hunter regained consciousness
And strength, and covered with a snow-cloud took flight.
His companions burst out laughing with contempt,
As if this urge to flee death was a disgrace,
As if equal forces were contending here
And one or the other could lose in this fight.
A sturdy oak will withstand the strongest blows
And charges even by the hardest horns.
And yet to hold firmly onto their roots,
All trees require the embracing, strong ground.
For if you trust the trees that grow in sand,
You'll go wrong: they'll quickly fall down and you too