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Follow the brown signs

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Achingly beautiful laments after loss

Część losowys!*

* technically I think this translates as “hi randoms” in Polish, but unsurprisingly I couldn’t find an accurate translation for “randomers”, crashing on….

Today is what I like to call Travellers Tuesday! One of the best days of the week to join me for more random brown signing adventures brought to you from, well, anywhere in the world frankly, you just never know with me.

So today losowys we’re in Poland! You’ve probably noticed the above sign is not your regular white-on-brown tourist sign, more a brown-on-white one ???? but any museum signage is great museum signage in my book, and it does contain some brown so I’m taking that as a win and making a virtual visit to the Muzeum Jana Kochanowskiego in Czarnolas anyway…

Jan Kochanowski no less

This little museum is dedicated to Jan Kochanowski (1530 – 1584), a Renaissance poet and humanist known as the Prince of Polish Literature, who beautifully crafted Polish language verse forms that would go on to become integral to the Polish literary language. He studied a lot, served as royal secretary to the king and spent most of his days writing or reading, so I had great respect for this guy from the start as you can imagine, then I went on to read more about his work…




Urszulka – a painting inspired by Laments, by Matejko

Arguably his most famous poem is called Treny (translated as Laments in English) which are a series of 19 elegies on the death of his beloved daughter Urszula, who tragically died at the age of two and a half. At a time when such poetic expressions of grief through elegies were reserved for the likes of great men or great events, this poet nevertheless poured out all his heart’s total loss, his pain, his despair and heartbreak fully and deeply into this incredibly moving poem about the loss of his little girl.

Having my own daughter, not much older than Kochanowski’s when she died, you won’t be shocked to hear I openly wept from pretty much beginning to end when I read this poem. It has been translated into English twice, first in 1920 by Dorothea Prall and more recently in 1995 by Seamus Heaney no less, and through the wonder of free online ebooks you can read Prall’s gorgeous translation here

The capacity for human love is so deep and all consuming that poems such as this, composed after the unimaginable tragedy of losing a child, so poignantly show us how totally and completely we are tethered to one another, through our hearts and souls. In his masterly crafted Laments Kochanowski bravely and unabashedly shares with us the raw suffering of losing someone so dear to him when at the time it was a rare thing, not at all the done thing to do. Similar to the wonder that is Michael Rosen’s Sad Book, written after the loss of his own son Eddie, these beautiful and moving pieces of literature remind me how it is to truly and properly FEEL, and how heart-breakingly painful but also incredibly important it is to sit with sadness, pain and even sometimes overwhelming grief, because ultimately feeling all this is also what it is to be human.