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Adam Mickiewicz

Illustration from the digital collections of the National Library’s Polona website

Adam Mickiewicz

Lady Twardowska

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Read by Marta Meissner, recorded by Radiofonia Association
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English translation: Joanna Gierlicka
Then, as vodka filled his goblet,
The glass ¬clinked loud as he held it;
Looking down, he screams: “The hell,
Tell me, friend, why art thou there?”
 
‘Twas a devil at the bottom,
Like a German: stiff and little.
To the guests around he bowed low,
Took his hat off for a giggle,
        
And jumped gently from the table.
He starts growing: higher, taller…
His nose hooked, and birdlike talon,
And he has legs like a cockerel.
    
"Hail, Twardowski; my old fellow!”
And his heels clicked whilst he said this:
"Shalt thou not come and say hello
To thy friend Mephistopheles?
 
Why, we met on the Bald Mountain,   
Thou sold thy soul to the devils;
Made a pact there, by a fountain,
Tell me, whose signature is this?
 
All the devils had to guard thee,
And in two years’ time thou promised
To meet us in Rome. Then, gladly,
I’d take thee to hell. That’s honest.
 
Now, we’ve waited seven years
And thou art still here, unscathed.
The hell wants what it deserves!
Do you think thou shalt be saved?
 
That’s enough! Revenge is come,
This time thou shalt not escape me,
For this tavern is called ‘Rome’.
Sir, thou goest with me. Get ready.”
English translation: Joanna Gierlicka
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Adam Mickiewicz

(1798–1855) – a poet and political activist, one of the most eminent names in Polish literature. In 1823 for participation in clandestine youth organisations, he was deported into central Russia, where he remained until 1829. Later, he travelled much in Europe. The news of the November Uprising made him try to reach the Kingdom of Poland yet never cross the border of Wielkopolska. Some believe that inability to have resulted from a conscious decision. Mickiewicz spent the 1830s and 1840s in France, where he lectured on Latin literature and was active in the Messianistic circles gathered around Andrzej Towiański. In 1840, he assumed the Chair of Slavic Languages at the Collège de France. In 1855, after the outbreak of the Crimean War, he set forth to Constantinople, to muster a Polish Legion there. The mission was interrupted by the poet’s sudden death. He died of cholera, although some claim that he might have been poisoned with arsenic. His epic poem Pani Twardowska (Mrs Twardowska) alludes to a Krakow legend about Mr Twardowski, who sold his soul to the devil in return for using his services. Adam Mickiewicz’s correspondence is exhibited in the Archives and Manuscripts collection of the Czartoryski Museum in Krakow. In 1898, at the Main Market Square in Krakow a monument commemorating the poet, designed by Tadeusz Rygier, was erected. It remains not only a valuable historical monument and tourist attraction, but also a popular meeting place for locals, who often arrange to meet up "under Adaś" and a lucky charm for superstitious high school seniors, who must hop around the statue on one leg in order to ensure good marks on their final exams.
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