Pan Tadeusz, the full title in English: Mister Thaddeus, or the Last Foray in Lithuania: a History of the Nobility in the Years 1811 and 1812 in Twelve Books of Verse (Pan Tadeusz, czyli ostatni zajazd na Litwie. Historia szlachecka z roku 1811 i 1812 we dwunastu księgach wierszem pisana) is an epic poem by the Polish poet, writer and philosopher Adam Mickiewicz. The book was first published in June 1834 in Paris, and is considered by many to be the last great epic poem in European literature.
The place is situated within the Russian partition, in the Lithuanian village of Soplicowo. Pan Tadeusz recounts the story of two feuding noble families, and the love between Tadeusz Soplica (the title character) of one family, and Zosia of the other. Another subplot involves a spontaneous revolt of the local inhabitants against the occupying Russian garrison. Since Mickiewicz published his poem as an exile in Paris, he was free of the Russian censors.
Numerous quotations from Pan Tadeusz are well known, above all its opening lines:
Litwo! Ojczyzno moja! ty jesteś jak zdrowie; Ile cię trzeba cenić, ten tylko się dowie, Kto cię stracił.
The fact, that the Polish national poem begins with words "O Lithuania", is an interesting paradox. The controversy largely stems from the fact that the 19th century concept of nationality had not yet been geopoliticized in his time. The term "Lithuania" used by Mickiewicz refers rather to a geographical region and not country. It had a much broader geographic extent than it does now (i.e. the modern Lithuania), and it did refer to the historical Lithuania proper.
Mickiewicz had been brought up in the culture of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a multicultural state that had encompassed most of what today are the separate countries of Poland, Lithuania, Belarus and Ukraine. He is often regarded by Lithuanians to be of Lithuanian origin, while Belarusians proclaim Mickiewicz to be one of them, since he was born on the territory of contemporary Belarus.