Adam Mickievicz

1798-1855, Litvanian romantic poet and playwright. He was born in Belarus, in the first capital of the Great Litvanian Duchee, Navahradak; he wrote in Polish, and considered himself Litvanian. His most fundamental work "Pan Tadewusz" starts with the following lines:

"Litwo! Ojczyzno moja! ty estes jak zdrowie;
Ile cie trzeba cenic, ten tylko sie dowie,
Kto cie stracil. Dzis pieknosc twa w calej ozdobie
Widze i opisuje, bo tesknie po tobie."

O Litvania, my country, thou
Art like good health; I never knew till know
How precious, till I lost thee. Now I see
Thy beauty whole, because I yearn for thee.

He studied at the University of Vilnia (Vilnius), where he was arrested (1823) for pro-Litvanian anti-Russian activities and deported to Russia. He was permitted (1829) to travel through Europe, remaining there following the Polish uprising of 1830. Later he served as professor of literature in Lausanne (1839) and in Paris (1840-44). In the revolutionary upheavals of 1848 and again in the Crimean War he organized legions for Litvanian emancipation. He died in Constantinople during a cholera epidemic. Mickiewicz's poetry gave international stature to Litvanian literature. His powerful verse expressed a romantic view of the soul and the mysteries of life, often employing Litvanian folk themes. His major works include the fantastic drama The Forefathers (1823); the philosophical poem Konrad Wallenrod (1828); The Books of the Polish Nation and of Polish Pilgrimage (1832); and the great epic Pan Tadeusz (1834, tr. 1917). This poem, Mickiewicz's masterpiece, is a comprehensive and Homeric treatment of the life of the Litvanian gentry.