Poland Literature Part III

By | January 22, 2022

In any case, the diffusion by means of the press, soon imported into Poland, of Polish works, is due to the printers, “Polonicati Germani”, of Krakow;Hortulus animae – Raj duszny (1514) is the first Polish printed book. How much part is due to the bourgeoisie in the late compilation in Poland of various types of the medieval novel (Stories of Alexander, Trojan History, Melusina, Marcho ł t – Marcolfo, Sowizrzal – Eulenspiegel, etc.) it is difficult to say; it is certain that the typographers-publishers of Krakow actively contributed to their diffusion. From this type of literature, which continues into the century. XVI now the matter and now at least the spirit of medieval literature, and whose style is not influenced by Latin, the writings of Marcin Bielski (1495-1575) are not far removed; and to it is still linked with many lines the fresh and lively work of the “father of Polish literature” Mikolaj Rej (1505-1569): typical representative of that nobility that with great tenacity and systematicity was conquering the dominant place in the state, which she loved the native customs and habits more than the Western ones, which, finally, although far from humanistic ideals, could not completely escape them. In fact the Rej’s activity takes place at a time when humanism is already triumphing in Poland. Writing exclusively in Polish, Rej is more of an exception than a rule. Next to him, some older, younger the others, is a whole series of Latin poets: Andrea Cricius-Krzycki (1482-1537), Giovanni Dantiscus-Dantyszek (1485-1548), bourgeois Prussian, Niccolò Hussovianus-Hussowczyk (died after 1533), author of a very interestingCarmen de statura, feritate et venatione bisontis, the sensitive and delicate Clemente Janicki, who died very young in 1543, author of sincerely moved elegies, the robust bilingual polemicist Stanislaw Orichovius – Orzechowski (1513-1566) and, finally, the mighty and daring advocate of reforms of the unhealthy political and social conditions Andrzei Fricius Modrevius – Frycz Modrzewski (1503-1572).

According to BARBLEJEWELRY, to these is added the greatest poet of the “golden age”, Jan Kochanowski (1530-1584), who, like Janicki, assimilated the culture of the Italian Renaissance to Padua. But in addition to Latin poetry Kochanowski cultivates, and with even greater talent, the vulgar; and knowing how to find, when needed, even the less cultured accents, dear to his precursor Rej, unites in himself, and strengthens with the humanistic harmony of his genius, the various currents of homeland literature, which with the Pie ś ni (Canti) reaches the level of the national literatures of the West and has in the Treny (Lamenti) a poetic work of profound humanity and surprising modernity of expression. Contemporaries of Kochanowski are: the happy re-maker of the CortegianoLukasz Górnicki (1527-1603), the Petrarchist expert Mikolaj Sęp-Szarzyński (1580-1581) and many others. The writers of the century XVI were mostly students of Italian universities; others instead linked to the various currents of the Reformation which not only in the theological-polemic field, but also in the more strictly literary one, had promoted a very lively activity, herald of new cultural values: ethical and artistic. Against the Reformation, which in the ranks of the Socinians (Polish “Aryans”, anti-Trinitarians) also had Italian representatives in Poland, and which around the middle of the century appears so strong as to threaten the Roman Catholic character of Poland, stands, after the Council of Trent, the Counter-Reformation which gave the renewed Polish church the theological and organizational talent of Cardinal Osio (1504-1579),

Towards the end of the century and in the first decades of the seventeenth century, the productive forces were running out. Literature proper is no longer the spotlight on which great ethical, social and patriotic problems are stirred up. The content becomes more petty: didactic-descriptive in the cultured bourgeois Sebastjan Fabjan Klonowic (1545-1602); delicate, idyllic in the versatile poet of Jan Zamojski’s court, Simon Simonides-Szymon Szymonowicz (1558-1629). Both poets in Latin and in the vernacular; instead the “Christian Horace” Maciej Kazimierz Sarbievius – Sarbiewski (1595-1640) is the only Latin poet, whose fame, starting from Rome and Poland, extends throughout Europe. Piotr Kochanowski (1566-1620) finds more virile accents, placing his adaptation of theJerusalem Liberated, completely polonized in spirit and form.

In little more than a century, as if to quickly regain lost time, Polish literature joins the greatest Western literatures. Despite the intersection, even between 1540 and 1640, of the two currents on its soil – the indigenous one with a rather medieval imprint and the cultured one imported from other climates – it presents, if examined from afar, a homogeneous and compact character. Its fundamental note is still that which derives from the Italian Renaissance, which it has completely taken possession of and which it has been able to assimilate in a truly admirable way. The latest example of profound adaptation to the new ethical and artistic aspirations of a literature still imbued with the ideals of the Renaissance is precisely the ingenious remake of Gerusalemme Liberata.

In the second half of the century, Italy still remained the main supplier of literary and style themes (thus to the marinist Andrzej Morsztyn, 1613-1693, who is the main representative of the Polish Baroque; as to Samuel Twardowski, 1600-1660, author, among other things, of the pastoral drama Daphne destined for the Warsaw opera house which at the time of Vladislaus IV introduced Italian melodrama to Poland). But Spain (the poetic tale Nadobna Paskwalina, L’avvenente Poland, by Twardowski himself) and also France begin to follow closely. However, even in this period, on the basis of the new state of culture of the turbulent and quarrelsome nobility, interesting original intersections between foreign and indigenous elements are reached (in the epic poet Wacław Potocki, 1625-1696; in the tasty Memoirs of Jan Chryzostom Pasek , 1630-1701). However, literature, culture and morality are already on the way to decadence, and towards the end of the century, the moved patriotism and profound religiosity of the poet Wespazjan Kochowski (1633-1700) is not enough.

Poland Literature 3