Classic Lithuanian Literature Antology

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Mikalojus Husovianas
(Nicolaus Hussovianus)

The Song about Bison, Its Stature, Ferocity and Hunt

The Song ...

   "The Song of the Bison, Its Stature, Ferocity and Hunt" (De statura feritate ac venatione bisontis carmen) published in the year 1523 in Latin is the first large fiction work about Lithuania. The poem extensively describes historical Lithuania, its natural setting and the relationship of its inhabitants with the natural environment. The poem is not limited to description of bison, woods and hunting. It gives extended description of life in Lithuania and its relations with neighbouring countries. The work, written in humanistic tradition is on secular topics, it promulgates humanistic ethics and humanistic view of human relations.
    Husovianas understood hunt not as a pleasant pastime but as a combat training that hardens the young people. According to the author, Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas Magnus gave special attention to the bison hunt. In Vytautas's time the hunt was a regular means for the physical development of youth and for military training. Large masses of peasants were involved in such training: smart and brave peasants used to catch the bisons alive. In order to develop and promote the hunt, awards were granted to common peasants as well as to the warriors. The scenes of the hunt in M. Husovianas' poem are very vivid and expressive.
    The protracted episode (about 170 lines) of the poem tells of Vytautas, Grand Duke of Lithuania. M. Husovianas highly estimates him for strictness and masterfulness but also stresses his cruel treatment of rebellious subjects. In the poet's opinion, Vytautas could serve as an example of how to restore order in the state and strengthen its powers that were diminished, among other factors, by bickering for influence of feudal lords and nobles.
    The epic poem of M. Husovianas that sometimes is distinguished by brilliant artistic scenes includes many lyrical episodes where the poet expresses his patriotic and religious sentiments and reasoning usually, with highlighted humanistic tendencies.