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“Pan tadeusz” or “The Las Foray in Lithuania”


The time had come to start the polonaise.

The Chamberlain stepped forward in its praise

And lightly throwing back his flowing sleeve

And twirling his mustache, he begged for leave

To give his arm to Zosia; with a bow

A partnership he asked her to allow

In the first couple. A long line of pairs

Formed in behind them as the dance prepares,

He gave the signal and the dance began—

He was its leader and its veteran.


Over the greensward gleamed his crimson boots,

The light shone from his sabre; radiance shoots

From his reach girdle; slowly he advanced

With seeming carelessness—yet as he danced

In every step and motion one could read

His thoughts and feelings rendered into deed.

He paused, as if his lady he would question;

Stooped down as if to whisper a suggestion

Into her ear; she turned aside her head,

Was bashful, would not hear the thing he said;

He doffed his white cap and bowed humbly low;

The lady deigned to gaze, but still was slow

To speak a word; he slackened in his pace,

And followed with his eyes her lovely face;

At last he laughed.—Happy in her reply,

He moved more swiftly, gazing from on high

Upon his rivals; hung his white cap now

With its bright heron's plume above his brow;

Shook it and cocked it low across his ear

And twirled his great mustache at far and near.

He strode on; all felt envious of his suit

And pressed upon him there in glad pursuit;

He would have gladly stolen from the throng

And carried off his lady, right or wrong;

At times he paused and raised a courteous hand

And bagged them to pass by; at times he scanned

His chance to draw adroitly to one side;

He often changed direction in his stride

As if he sought his comrades to elude

But they importunately still pursued

And circled from all sides his handsome prance

In all the evolutions of the dance:

So he grew angry, and upon his hilt

Laid his right hand as if blood might be spilt.

“I care not for you all,” he seemed to say.

“Woe to the man who envies me today!”

He turned about with haughty brow and eye;

Straight at the throng in rage he seemed to fly;

The throng of dancers did not dare oppose him,

But scampered from his path—then to enclose him

They altered their formation and their route

And started off again in hot pursuit.


Cries on all sides rang out: “Ah, it may be

He is the last to lead a company

In this our polonaise in such a fashion!

Watch, watch, young men and mark his courtly passion!”

And so the couples followed, each on each,

In merriment and in uproarious speech;

The circle would disperse, then close its lines.

As when a cyclopean serpent twines

Into a thousand folds, so there was seen

Perpetual change upon the grassy green

Amid the pied gay garments of the dames,

The gentlemen and soldiers, all like flames

On glittering scales athwart the westering sun

And back by shadowy turf as day was done.

Brisk was the dance and loud was the applause,

The music and the toasts that pledged the Cause.


Buzzard Dobrzynski, Corporal, alone

Paid no attention to the band’s glad tone,

Nor danced, nor made him merry with the rest;

With hands behind his back, he stood unblest

Morose and sullen, and recalled with woe

His wooing Zosia in the long ago;

How he had always loved to bring her flowers,

Plait little baskets, through long summer hours

Gather her birds’ nests, carve her earrings too.

Ungrateful girl! Though lovely gifts to view

He’d wasted on her, though she fled him mute,

Although his father had forbid his suit,

Yet often had he sat upon the wall

Merely to glimpse her through the window tall,

Or stolen through the hemp to watch her weeding

Her little flower garden, yes, or feeding

The roosters of her flock. Ungrateful girl!

He drooped his head; then, with his thoughts a-whirl,

He whistled a mazurka, jammed his casque

Over his ears and sought a soldier’s task,

Returned to camp where from the dancing barr’d,

The sentries by the cannon stood on guard:

There to distract his mind, to cards he stoops,

A game of cribbage with the simple troops,

Sweetened his sorrow with the friendly cup,

Nor gave his constancy to Zosia up.


Zosia was dancing merrily: and yet,

Though in the leading couple she was set,

She, from a distance could be hardly seen;

On the broad surface of the turfy green,

In her green gown and decked with garlands gay

And flowery wreaths, she circled on her way

Amid the grass and flowers unseen in flight,

Guiding the dance as in the sky by night

An angel guides the motion of the stars:

Yet in the maze of ladies and hussars

You still could guess at where her beauty burned

For towards her radiance every eye was turned,

And every arm stretched out; towards her they pressed

In all the tumult. Vainly to arrest

The others from her side her partner sought;

His envious rivals had already caught

His couple up and pressed him from his place;

Nor did Dombrowski long enjoy that grace;

He to a second man must yield the maid,

While yet a third was hastening to invade;

This man in turn, was promptly pressed aside

And parted without hope. At last the bride,

Zosia, now wearied in the dance divine,

Met Thaddeus as she passed down the line;

And fearing further change, she wished to wend

With him, and brought the dancing to an end.

Then to the table on the lawn they passed

To pour wine for the guests, both first and last.




Adam Mickiewicz

Dance Poetry
A comprehensive anthology
Edited by Alkis Raftis
Copyright 2012