You are here

Mikołaj Gusowski: Documentary about Belarusian-Polish poet

There was a time when Latin was an international language. It was aristocratic. And the person we will talk about today managed to join this club of chosen ones. His story is wrapped in countless legends, conjectures and lies. In order to learn the truth, it was necessary to travel the whole path of Mikołaj Hussowsky who is a Belarusian poet and humanist, the author of the poem “The Song about Bison, Its Stature, Ferocity and Hunt” and one of the most mysterious personalities of Belarusian culture.

Almost everyone had an episode in life when a person feels they were reborn. The same state of euphoria in European culture is reflected in the word Renaissance. Mikołaj Hussowsky lived in those times.

The Belarusian artist Yuri Yakovenko came up with the idea that may seem insane at a first glance: he wanted to take something that was started almost 500 years ago to its logical conclusion and to do the thing that Hussowsky failed to do in the beginning of the XVI century. According to Yuri, this is how the historical circle closes up: writing a poem, printing it and delivering to an addressee. The artist proudly says that Hussowsky is a Belarusian and European genius.

It’s interesting to know that Hussowsky is not the real surname of the poet. It just points at the place where he was born. It was in Buda-Kashalyova district where there is the river Usa and a borough called Husiavica. There is a mistaken opinion that Hussowsky felt himself a bad poet in comparison to Italian poets, who also used Latin. But actually it was only coquetry. The truth is that he tried to show his personal uniqueness and the uniqueness of his country.

In order to understand Hussowsky, you need to learn to read between the lines. For example, in his poem a wisent is not a wisent and hunting is also not exactly what we think. Yuri Yakovenko thinks it’s a political tractate that lets people know that Belarus is also a part of Europe and it helps to understand who Belarusian people are.

Renaissance was exactly the time when European culture literally burst with extremely talented people like Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rafael and so on. Hussowsky wasn’t a stranger to this company.

Perfect Latin of the son of a hunter from the

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania became a green light for Mikołaj and allowed him to enter the club of the best, the elite of those times. His excellent knowledge of Latin was incredible, although only aristocracy could speak this language those days.

What was Hussowsky’s poetry about? As it was mentioned above, you should learn to read between the lines.

Zhanna Necrashevich-Korotkaya, Doctor of Philology:
People are weak. And when they see their houses burning and their wives and kids killed by their enemies, they often apostatize. Hussowsky gives these examples and shows situations when people apostatized and began to trust in Mohammed. The poet points that heads of state must make everything possible in order not to make people choose.

Actually, The Song about Bison, Its Stature, Ferocity and Hunt was designed for integration of Christian states.

But how could Belarusian author get into ear of the Patriarch of Rome? Pope Leo X was the head of Catholic Church those days. He adored artists, writers and comedians. The papal house was extremely rich and Leo X did splurge on celebrations and entertainment.

Leo X was a fan of bullfight, even though it never found support in Rome. He invited representatives of the Polish embassy to visit a bullfight in 1521. That’s how the idea appeared to present a Pope a stuffed wisent with a poetical addition – ”The Song about Bison, Its Stature, Ferocity and Hunt”. Erasmus Vitellius, the head of the embassy and the best friend of Hussowsky, immediately ordered a giant stuffed animal and Mikołaj started working on his poem.

But when the poem was finished, Italy faced an unprecedented plague epidemic. It took so many lives that there was lack of coffins and dead people were simply thrown into the Tiber. Erasmus Vitellius and Leo X became the victims of the plague and Hussowsky was left alone in Rome.

He got disappointed in this city that was full of sins, and thought this epidemic was a kind of recompense.

Autumn, 1522. Mikołaj Hussowsky, who was already over 50, took a new script of the poem, left the literally dying Rome and moved to the more or less prospering Krakow. Maybe, he practiced his Latin here. In Krakow, he published his book. It was very expensive and was available only to famous authors. Today you can find only four books from this edition. We found one of this books in Krakow, in the Czartoryski Library. The book was printed in October, 1523. In this book, you can find words addressed to Bona Sforza. The poet asked for protection of scientists, artists and poets. There is also a small poem for a royal secretary. In this poem Mikołaj asks for help and gives thanks.

The main thing Hussowsky concerned about in Krakow was money. Bona Sforza helped him to solve this problem. She was famous all across Europe. It was she who brought attributes of civilization to Belarus: running water, forks and even oranges. Sforza became a sponsor for Hussowsky when he was in Krakow.

Why did she do it? This woman loved good literature and spoke Latin perfectly. Maybe this was what made her help Belarusian poet.

Unfortunately, one of the greatest humanists of Europe suffered from disease and loneliness and died in poverty.

Today Hussowsky’s dream to deliver the book to the Pope came true thanks to Yuri Yakovenko, Italian Juliano Yacomucci and Elena Yarosh.

These people turned to the best printer of Italy, Pier Santini. His workshop looks like that from Hussowsky’s time. Pier uses a printer press invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1470.

The next goal is to make this book available for all the people, including school students.

Now one of the 150 copies of resurrected “The Song about Bison, Its Stature, Ferocity and Hunt” are kept in the heart of the Vatican.

It took 486 years to deliver book to the addressee.

Mikołaj Hussowski: Curious facts about Belarusian-Polish poet