The notes translated from Adam Mickiewicz's notes are distinguished by (AM) at the end of each. The other notes have been derived by me from various sources; specially useful being the 1955 'Czytelnik' edition of Mickiewicz's 'Works'. 


Ostra Brama [p. 21] Literally 'sharp' or 'pointed gate': the name of one of the surviving city gates of the city of Wilno (now Vilnius). In the stonework above the arch is set a vener ated icon of Mary, of equal sanctity to the Holy Mother of Czestochowa.

Here is Kosciuszko, wearing his Kraków cap, kneeling... [p. 22] Tadeusz Kosciuszko (1746-1817) is one of Poland's best-loved heroes. As a young army officer he became an expert in the use of artillery. He was a volunteer in the U.S. Army during the War of Independence and distinguished himself at Yorktown. Washington made him his adjutant and he rose to the rank of brigadier-general. On his return to Poland, he was given the task of organising the Polish army, which he then led with initial successes against the Russians in 1793. In 1794, now as 'Commander' of the state, he was defeated, wounded, and captured by a four-fold larger Russian army at Maciejowice. This battle marked the end of Polish independence. Refusing a command offered him by Napoleon, he lived in retirement near Paris. He emancipated his serfs shortly before he died.

There, in Polish dress, sits Rejtan... (pr. Raytan) [p. 22] Tadeusz Rejtan (1746-1780), great Polish patriot, member for the seat of Nowogródek, and often mentioned in Pan Tadeusz. Tearing his clothes, he lay across the entry to the Diet in a vain attempt to prevent the vote agreeing to the first partition of Poland. He ultimately committed suicide in despair.

Further, grim-faced Jasinski... (pr. Yasinski) [p. 22] Colonel Jacób Jasinski (1761-1794) led a successful revolt in Wilno and died the same year in the siege of Warsaw.

Thus clad will Litwan maidens appear... [p. 24] Throughout this translation, 'Litwa' and the English form 'Lithuania' are both used, as suits the metre.

The staff waits till the Tribune is ready at last... [p. 24] The Tribune (tribunus) had once carried out the duties of looking after the wives and children of the gentry at time of a 'general call to arms' ('pospolite ruszenie'). For a long time now this office, with nothing to do, has become merely titular. It is the custom in Lithuania to honour persons of substance with some ancient title, which is given validity by usage. (AM)

The Chamberlain, his lady and daughters are here. [p. 25] The Chamberlain, once an official of importance, Princeps Nobilitatum, has become merely another titular office. Not long ago he still decided boundary disputes, but has lost even this jurisdiction. (AM)

...which with the lapel of his kontusz... (pr. 'kontush') [p. 27] The 'kontusz' was the Polish gentleman's surcoat, with split sleeves, often ornate, and somewhat eastern in effect.

The Assessor and Notary... [p. 35] 'The Assessor is in charge of the district police, is sometimes elected, and sometimes a government appointee, when he is known as 'crown assessor'.

The 'Notary legal' is in charge of the court office, while the 'notary decretal' writes out the judgments. Both are appointees of the clerk of the court. (AM) Throughout Pan Tadeusz, Mickiewicz delights in displaying his acquaintance with the legal system, gained no doubt while observing his father's practice. 

He was surnamed Soplica... (pr. Soplitsa) [p. 37] There had indeed existed a family of that name; a Soplica, a known roisterer, caused the death of Adam's great-uncle in a bar-room brawl. There may be an element of this Jan Soplica in the Jacek Soplica of Pan Tadeusz

In the centre a portrait of King Stanislaus... [p. 40] Stanislaus-August Poniatowski (1764-1705) was the last king of Poland. He had once been a lover of Empress Catherine, and this was a factor in his election.

What would old Niesiolowski... [p. 41] Count Jósef Niesiolowski, the last voivode of Nowogrodek, was chairman of the revolutionary government during Jasinski's uprising (q.v.) (AM)

Even Bialopetrowicz himself he refused! [p. 41] Jerzy (pr. Iezhy, Polish form of George) Bialopetrowicz, the last Secretary of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was active, under Jasinski, in the Lithuanian rising. He judged the prisoners of state in Wilno, and was much honoured in Lithuania for his virtue and patriotism. (AM)

Who his sash then unfastened, Sluck sash, woven fine... [p. 42] In Sluck (pr. Swutsk) there was a renowned factory of velvets and woven belts; its development was the endeavour of Tyzenhaus. (AM) Sluck was a centre of Calvinism in Poland. 

Would tell how, under General Dabrowski's command... [p. 44] Jan Henryk Dabrowski (pr. Dombrovski) (1755-1818), Polish general, distin guished himself against the Russians in 1792 and 1794. As commander of a Polish legion in Italy, he entered Rome in 1798. He fought under Napoleon at the battles of Danzig and Friedland. He is immortalised in the Polish national anthem: 'March, march, Dabrowski, from Italy to Poland...'

How Kniaziewicz gives orders... (pr. Kniazievitch) [p. 44] General Kniaziewicz, as envoy of the army in Italy, handed the captured colours to the Directorate. (AM) He also appears in Book Twelve. Later, an expatriate in Paris, he was one of the group of friends to whom Mickiewicz read out instalments of his epic. 

How Jablonowski journeyed... (pr. Yabwonovski) [p. 44] Prince Jablonowski, commanding the Danube legion, died in San Domingo, where also perished nearly the entire Legion. Among emigrants there remain some veterans of this unfortunate campaign. (AM)

It is curious that Mickiewicz refrains from criticising Napoleon, who sent Poles to die there, not while opposing Poland's enemies, but while subduing Negroes fighting for their freedom from French colonialism. 

So stole across Górecki (pr. Guretzki), Pac (pr. Patz)... [p. 45] I have not researched these names, but am convinced that no person mentioned was ever invented, but is there because of Mickiewicz's prodigious memory.


...And served at the next dinner a bowl of black gruel. [p. 56] Black gruel, served to young man wooing a girl, indicated refusal. (AM)

...the master respected / The Third of May laws... [p. 56] In 1791 the Diet, with the King's approval, passed a bill for a new Constitution. Its far-reaching liberal reforms included the equality before the law of gentry, townsmen and peasantry. Serfdom was eased, prior to its complete abolition. Absolute religious toleration became law. The Constitution was received with great enthusiasm. Marx later described it as the only reform ever brought in by the privileged class. It was never implemented, as it was far too liberal a precedent for Russia's liking. Catherine's troops invaded Poland and the Second Partition followed.

...Mickiewiczes two hundred came from Horbatowicz, / Who are numerous gentry, and brave to a man, / And hate all the Soplicas since history began. [p. 57] A Soplica caused the death in a brawl of Mickiewicz's great-uncle. 

At the end, as the last course, 'Zrazy' were served. [p. 62] There are several recipes for 'zrazy'. They are usually thin fillets of meat drenched in flour and casseroled.

...Czar's ukase... [p. 62] An arbitrary Czar's edict.

...Gavrilich Kozodusin... [p. 65] Could equally have been translated as 'Gavrilich Gotestrangloff'.


...Kokosznicka (pr. Kokoshnitska) her surname, of family Jendi kowiczowna (pr. Yendikovichovna); her vital invention so handy... [p. 75] I apologise for this couplet. But I am only endeavouring to reproduce Mickiewicz's nearly as atrocious precedent here.

roller [p. 77] Also known as 'dollar bird' in Australia, ranges throughout Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. It is so called because of its somersaulting act during courtship.

I, when young, have much travelled the world, near and far, Been to Piotrków and Dubno... [p. 85] A humourous comment on the Judge's parochial horizons. Piotrków (pr. Piotrkuv) is a small town south of Warsaw, and once the seat of the High Court. It was no great metropolis, and neither was Dubno, a small district centre.

...Our Orlowski, too... [p. 91] A well-known genre painter; a few years before his death he began to paint landscapes. Died recently in Petersburg. (AM) One of his drawings is reproduced in Adam Zamoyski's '1812 - Napoleon's fatal march on Moscow', published by HarperCollins, 2004. 


...Dreaded heads of Witenes, Mindowa renowned, / And Giedymin's... [p. 99] First Lithuanian dynasty. Grand Duke Mindaugas (Mindowa) founded the Lithuanian state and was crowned king in 1252. Grand Duke Gediminas (reigned 1316-1341) is credited with building Vilnius (Wilno). Grand Duke Jagiello married the Polish princess Jadwiga. He founded the Jagiellon dynasty, which united Poland and Lithuania, which adopted Christianity. Kiejstut was brother of Olgierd. He fought prominently against Knights of the Cross. Lithuania. at the height of its power under Grand Duke Vytautas (Witold), Kiejstut's son, (reigned 1392-1430), included today's Belarus and Ukraine and reached to the Black Sea.

Wilija, Wilejka [p. 99] Rivers at Wilno.

'The last monarch whom Witold's majestic cap graced'... [p. 99] Zygmunt (Sigismunt) August (1520-1572) was by ancient custom crowned by the King, his father, as Grand Duke of Lithuania. (AM)

...Does great Baublis survive yet... [p. 99] On the property of Paszkiewicz, Land Secretary, in the Rosien district, there grew an oak known as Baublis, in pagan times venerated as a holy tree. Inside it, Paszkiewicz fitted out a museum of Lithuanian antiquities. (AM)

...Yet the Czarnolas linden, to Jan's voice tuned... [p. 100] Jan Kochanowski (1530-1584) is the much-loved father of Polish vernacular poetry.

That song that through the world now is famed and admired [p. 105] The song referred to is March, march, Dabrowski, from Italy to Poland... This song of the Legion became, on the attainment of independence in 1918, the Polish national anthem.

A real Bernardine snuff this, from Kovno indeed... [p. 106] Kowno ('Kaunas' in Lithuanian) is the second largest Lithuanian city. During the period between the two world wars, when Vilnius (as Wilno) was incorporated into Poland, it was the capital of Lithuania.

The eagle, when so crooked becomes its old beak That, no food past its gullet, each day grows more weak... [p. 112] This common peasants' superstition has been accepted by some ornithologists. (AM)

...Domejko/Dowejko [p. 118] Ignacy Domejko, a fellow Filomat and exile, was Mickiewicz's lifelong friend, and his companion on the long voyage to Paris. He became a famous explorer in South America, and a prominent geologist. He was a founding father and Rector of the University of Chile and is credited with reforming Chilean education. The Domejko District in Central Chile and the Domejko Range are named after him. I know of no Dowejko and suspect that the Domejko/ Dowejko story is an example of Mickiewicz's sense of humour, weaving his friends into the fabric of his epic. 


He said: "Poland turned silent, is Poland struck dumb" [p. 140] The play on words in the original is untranslatable. In Polish 'Niemcy' means Germans but it also means persons who are dumb or speechless. 

A German prince, Denassow... [p. 142] More correctly, Prince de Nassau-Siegen, who was a then famous adventurer. As admiral in the Russian fleet he defeated the Turks at Leman; then was himself badly beaten by the Swedes. He spent some time in Poland where he received patents of nobility. His fight with the tiger featured in all European newspapers. (AM) ...The estate part sequestered was at Targowica... [p. 150] Targowica was a small township in the Ukraine. In 1791 it was the site of the infamous Confederation of Targowica, whereby three chief dignitaries of Poland, backed by Russian troops, undertook the abrogation of the liberal Third of May Constitution, which they ultimately forced the King to abolish. The war that followed, in which the tiny Polish army under Joseph Poniatowski and Kosciuszko performed miracles, nevertheless resulted in the First Partition. It appears that the Soplicas received some of the fruits of Targowica.

...From the village, call vassals! [p. 151] The misunderstanding here arises from the similarity between the Polish for vassal (wasale) and wasale, which means 'moustachio'ed brave'.

Rzezikowo, Cietycze, Rabanki [p. 151] Or: Slaughterville, Slashtown, Hackville; not real places! But suitable sources for Gervazy's allies.


The Settlement [p. 153] In Lithuania groups of country dwellings, when inhabited by the gentry, are called neighbourhoods or settlements, to differentiate them from peasants' ham lets, or villages. (AM)

...He is coming! And he?-Signed the Tilsit accord! [p. 160] At Tilsit, a small town in East Prussia, Napoleon, after having thoroughly defeated Prussia at Jena and Danzig, disappointed Polish aspirations for a fully restored national state; they had to settle for a greatly diminished mini-state: the Duchy of Warsaw.

...What d'you think? If Pursuit neighs... [p. 160] 'Pursuit', a mounted knight, is the emblem of Lithuania ('Vytis'). It was first raised in 1366 by Grand Duke Algirdas.

...The city of Jagiellos... [p. 161] Wilno or, in Lithuanian, Vilnius.

Królewiec (Königsberg in Polish) [p. 161] A Baltic Hanseatic port on the river Pregel, from 1457 the seat of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order of Knights, and later of the dukes of Prussia.

...Relic of Swedish wars... [p. 166] In 1621 Gustavus Adolphus II of Sweden attacked first Lithuania, and then Poland. He repeated the attempt, disastrously for him, in 1626 and 1627. He died in battle in 1632. In 1655 Charles X of Sweden invaded Poland and occu pied all of it, except the monastery of Czestochowa, heroically and successfully defended by Prior Kordecki with a handful of monks and laymen. This feat inspired the Polish King, Jan Casimir, to return and to form a national army, and the Swedes were expelled. 

...a Bar Confederate he had been... [p. 167] The Confederation of Bar was a patriotic rising in 1768, finally suppresed by the Russians in 1772. One of its chiefs was young Casimir Pulaski, who escaped to America, joined Washington, distinguished himself in the battle of Brandywine and was made brigadier-general and chief of cavalry. After defending Charleston with the Pulaski Legion he was mortally wounded at Savannah. Pulaski in Virginia, and the surrounding county, is named after him. 


And thus succoured Pan Pociej (pr. Pochey) [p. 168] Count Alexander Poczej, having returned to Lithuania after the war, supported those of his countrymen who were going abroad, and sent considerable funds to the Legions. (AM)

Like a fat Prussian cockroach [p. 174] Known as such in Australia, and as 'Prusak', or 'Prussian', in Poland; parallel examples of national prejudices applied to entomology.


Somewhat higher, stands ready for use D a v i d ' s car... [p. 193] Ursa Major is known to astronomers as David's car. (AM) 

It was a mighty comet of first magnitude [p. 194] The memorable comet of 1811. (AM) 

To Poczobut, great cleric, the use of these fell... [p. 195] Fr. Poczobut, an ex-Jesuit and famous astronomer, wrote a treatise on the Zodiac. His observations helped Lalande to calculate the moon's course. Refer to his Life by Jan Sniadecki. (AM)


Yaegers were, in a melee, no match for their foe [p. 227] Or 'jägers' - 'hunters' in German. A corps of riflemen capable of independent action, first raised by Frederick the Great, and then adopted by other armies.


Preussisch-Eylau [p. 242] A particularly bloody battle, in which Napoleon, in dreadful weather, 'defeated' a Russian army under General Benningsen on 8 February1807. Each side lost about 23,000 men.


'Twas he at Hohenlinden... [p. 273] On 3 December 1800 the French, commanded by generals Moreau, Ney and Grouchy, defeated a superior Austrian army under Archduke John.

By Kozietulski's side was twice wounded... [p. 273] Colonel Jan Kozietulski with his light horse, which was Napoleon's personal guard, captured on 30 November 1808 the defile of Samosierra during the Spanish campaign.


The massacre of Praga... [p. 305] Praga is now a suburb of Warsaw, on the east bank of the Vistula. After Kosciuszko's defeat and capture in 1791 it was stormed by Russian troops who massacred the population.

Its depths of richest purple, with edges of gold... [p. 309] A clear reference to the Emperor Napoleon.


Woe that, deserters, when pestilence spread, Abroad each carried his timorous head! [p. 311] Mickiewicz was already in Paris when the 1830 uprising against the Russians broke out in Poland. After much hesitation he travelled to Poland to join the, by then, hopeless cause, and was persuaded to return to Paris.

When, there, foes beckon... [p. 311] The Russian government invited the émigrés back.

When they see even no hope out of heaven! [p. 311] The Poles appealed to Pope Gregory XVI, but political considerations persuaded him to side with the Czar: 'Render unto Caesar...' The Russian envoy, Gagarin, in fact, helped draft the Pope's encyclical.

...On Chrobry's ancient frontier-posts alight... [p. 312] King of Poland Boleslaw Chrobry (967-1025), son of Poland's first king Mieszko I, occupied Kiev in 1018.

...a dog is mourned there / More than here folk for a hero's death care [p. 313] A reference to Napoleon's death thirteen years earlier. 

And my good friends assisted me then with their tongue Throwing word after word for me into my song [p. 313] Mickiewicz invited one of his friends to contribute a section on Lithuanian forests to Book Four, which, greatly altered by him, he incorporated. It may also be a general 'thank you' to those friends who were present and gave their comments at the weekly readings of the work in progress. 












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electronic version by
Roman Antoszewski
Titirangi, New Zealand 2006

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