Pan Tadeusz

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Pan Tadeusz
Pan Tadeusz 1834.jpeg
Title page of the first edition
AuthorAdam Mickiewicz
GenreEpic poem
Publication date

Pan Tadeusz (full title in English: Sir Thaddeus, or the Last Lithuanian Foray: A Nobleman's Tale from the Years of 1811 and 1812 in Twelve Books of Verse; Polish original: Pan Tadeusz, czyli ostatni zajazd na Litwie. Historia szlachecka z roku 1811 i 1812 we dwunastu księgach wierszem) is an epic poem by the Polish poet, writer and philosopher Adam Mickiewicz. The book was first published in June 1834 in Paris, and is considered by many to be the last great epic poem in European literature.[1]

Pan Tadeusz is recognized as the national epic of Poland. It is compulsory reading in Polish schools. A film based on the poem was made in 1999 by Andrzej Wajda. It is written in Polish alexandrines.


The manuscript of Pan Tadeusz held at Ossolineum in Wrocław. Signature of Adam Mickiewicz is visible.
Illustration to Book III of Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz. Picking mushrooms, painting by Franciszek Kostrzewski, ca. 1860.
Illustration to Book VII of Pan Tadeusz. Gerwazy showing off his sword called Scyzoryk (Pocketknife), by Michał Andriolli.
The Hunt, illustration to Book IV
Jankiel's concert, oil on canvas by Maurycy Trębacz (1861-1941)

The story takes place over the course of five days in 1811 and two days in 1812, at a time in history when Poland-Lithuania had already been divided between the armies of Russia, Prussia, and Austria (see Partitions of Poland) and erased from the political map of Europe, although in 1807, just before the story begins, Napoleon had established a satellite Duchy of Warsaw in the Prussian partition, which remained in existence until the Congress of Vienna held in the aftermath of Napoleonic defeat.

The place is situated within the Russian partition, in the village of Soplicowo; the country estate of the Soplica clan. Pan Tadeusz recounts the story of two feuding noble families, and the love between Tadeusz Soplica (the title character) of one family, and Zosia of the other. Another sub-plot involves a spontaneous revolt of the local inhabitants against the occupying Russian garrison. Since Mickiewicz published his poem as an exile in Paris, he was free from the Russian censors to talk openly about the occupation.

The fact that the Polish national poem begins with the words "O Lithuania" largely stems from the fact that the 19th-century concept of nationality had not yet been geopoliticized in his time.[citation needed] The term "Lithuania" used by Mickiewicz refers to a geographical region encompassed by the present-day borders of Belarus and Lithuania as well as the eastern edge of present-day Poland.


All works of Mickiewicz including Pan Tadeusz are in the Polish language. He had been brought up in the culture of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a multicultural state that had encompassed most of what today are the separate countries of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. Numerous quotations from Pan Tadeusz are well known in translation, above all its opening lines:

Litwo! Ojczyzno moja! ty jesteś jak zdrowie;
Ile cię trzeba cenić, ten tylko się dowie,
Kto cię stracił.

Lithuania, my fatherland! You are like health;
How much you must be valued, will only discover
The one who has lost you.

(translation by Katie Busch-Sorensen)

O Lithuania, my country, thou
Art like good health; I never knew till now
How precious, till I lost thee.

(translation by Kenneth R. Mackenzie)

Lithuania, my country! You are as good health:
How much one should prize you, he only can tell
Who has lost you.

(translation by Marcel Weyland)

Oh Lithuania, my homeland,
you are like health--so valued when lost
beyond recovery; let these words now stand
restoring you, redeeming exile's cost.

(translation by Leonard Kress)

Thee, Lithuania, I sing, my native land.
Thou art like health, for he can only understand
Thy merit and thy worth who lost thee long ago.
My pen now limns thy beauty, for I miss thee so.

(translation by Jarek Zawadzki)

Other translations[edit]

Maude Ashurst Biggs published "Master Thaddeus" in 1885 in London, Watson Kirkconnell "Sir Thaddeus" in 1962. George Rapall Noyes published a prose translation of the poem in 1917. At least Book Four was published in 2000 by Christopher Adam Zakrzewski. A full version translation by Marcel Weyland in the original metre was published in Sydney in 2004, London and New York in 2005 (ISBN 1567002196 US, and 1873106777 UK). A new English verse translation by Bill Johnston is forthcoming in September 2018 from Archipelago Books (ISBN 9781939810007).

The first translation of the poem into a different language, Belarusian, was made in 1859 by the Belarusian writer and dramatist Vintsent Dunin-Martsinkyevich, in Vilnius.[2] Because of the pressure from Tsarist authorities, Dunin-Martshinkyevich was able to publish only the first two chapters of the poem.

Film adaptations[edit]

The first film version of the poem as a feature was produced in 1928. The film version made by Andrzej Wajda in 1999 was his great cinematic success in Poland.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Czesław Miłosz, The history of Polish literature. IV. Romanticism. Page 228. Google Books. University of California Press, 1983. ISBN 0-520-04477-0. Retrieved October 7, 2011.
  2. ^ (in Russian) Лапидус Н. И., Малюкович С. Д. Литература XIX века. М.: Университетское, 1992. P.147

External links[edit]