The power of Krasifiski's poetic genius is so immense
that we have no scale in our literature to weigh it.
The characteristics of his poetry are deep religious
feelings; they in reality constitute the background of
the manner in which he viewed the past and the future;
the sufferings of a people as well as of individuals he
considered as mediums through which come cleansing
Krasinski was a stately and ethereal form of a
recluse, or an anchorite, doing penance for the trans-
gression of his ancestors, blessing the people, teaching
them, and showing unto them signs for the future.
Plunging into prayerful spirit, and looking toward the
stars, he viewed the earth not with the eye of a man,
but with the one of an inspired prophet. Pleasures
and amusements of this world had no charms for him.
Having passed through purgatory of life, he was free
from the prejudices of his people; but after deep and
silent suffering, which was plainly seen on his marble
face, he tried to conceal from the human eye the many
wounds from which he so intensely suffered that he
often threw a veil of mystery over himself, desiring
only to appear to the people as their brother mortal,
who was at all times burning offerings at the altar of
his country, and held in his heart her sufferings and
her hopes. He was indeed a guardian angel of the
national spirit, and a physician of hearts torn to pieces
by misfortune and sufferings, and he poured upon the
wounds of the Polish national body the balm of faith,
love, and hope.
Krasifiski was born on the 19th of February, 1812,
of a rich and influential family. His father, Vincent,
was aide-de-camp to Napoleon the Great, and after-
ward the general of the Polish army. Up to the thir-
teenth year of his life Sigismund's cultivation was
262 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
under the immediate supervision of his parents, and
under the guidance of the poet Joseph Korzeniowski,
and other distinguished teachers. In 1825 he entered
the Lyceum at Warsaw, where Linde, the lexicographer,
was the rector. Even at that early period of his life
he wrote a composition, "The Grave of Reichstall's
Family, "from which it was inferred that he possessed
a natural inclination for dramatic imagery; then he
wrote " Ladislas Herman, "in imitaton of Walter Scott's
style. In this very fine romance he painted the Past
in a truly masterly manner. From the Lyceum he
went to the University; but on account of certain
unpleasant circumstances he thought it best to quit it.
He went then to Geneva, in Switzerland, where he
wrote his "Black Zawisza," but it was lost in its trans-
mission to Warsaw. It was there that he became per-
sonally acquainted with Mickiewicz and Odyniec, two
Polish poets, and in their company visited the moun-
tains of Switzerland. In 1830 he again met Adam
Mickiewicz at Rome. In 1832 he was compelled to
answer personally a call at Warsaw, although his state
of health could hardly permit of so long a journey.
From Warsaw he was sent to St. Petersburg, where he
was kept all winter, although very ill. He was suffer-
ing so badly from a disease of the eyes that they at
last permitted him to go to Graffenberg, from whence,
after getting quite well, he went to Vienna. Here he
wrote " Agaj-Han," and had it published at Breslau.
He left Vienna in 1836 and went to Italy and Rome;
here he became acquainted with Julius Slowacki, and
wrote " Irydion." In 1838 he went to Warsaw, but on
account of illness was again obliged to return to Italy.
In 1843 he was married to Countess Elizabeth Branicka
at Dresden, whence they visited the places of their
birth, and then again went to Warsaw. In 1845 he
went to Nice, where he wrote one of the most beautiful
poems, "The Psalms," in consequence of which a con-
troversy ensued between himself and the poet S'owacki.
In 1847" he once more visited Rome, and there again
met Mickiewicz. In the following year he resided at
Heidelberg, Paris, and Baden, when he again was
called to Warsaw in 1849; but the eye disease coming
upon him with greater severity than ever, he once
more, with the permission of the Government, returned
to Heidelberg, and then to Baden. Toward the last of
that year he was very assiduously occupied with the
antiquities dug out by the Appian Way, and the follow-
ing year he spent some time on the picturesque banks
of the river Rhine, from whence for the third time he
was ordered by the Government to return to Warsaw.
When his health began to fail and the eye disease
grew worse, he went once more to Heidelberg, and on
the death of Czar Nicholas, having received a permis-
sion to reside in foreign countries, he stopped at Baden,
and in 1856 at Kissingen. Later he journeyed to
Paris, and from there visited his father at Potok; but
soon after he went to Plombieres and Ems to try the
water-cure. In the same year he returned to Paris;
there he learned of the death of his father, which had
so great an effect upon him that he fell hopelessly ill,
and died on the 14th of February, 1859.
Krasifiski's works were published at Warsaw, Paris,
Breslau, Leszno, Leipsic, and Posen.
264 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
PRAY FOR ME.
Pray for me when I mourn in sore depression
Sins of my fathers, and my own transgression ;
Pray for me that when death at last shall doom me,
Regrets for thee arise not to consume me.
Pray for me that when with my God in Heaven,
After long ages passed, it shall be given
My weary soul to rest with thee forever,
For. here much sorrow mars its high endeavor.
Pray for me vain my life if, worst of changes,
Thy heart grown cold from mine itself estranges;
Oh, pray for me, for I through years have treasured
Thy name with love unfathomed and unmeasured.
Pray for me for my life is dry and scentless,
My heart is faithful though my fate relentless;
Pray for me let thy words breathe healing thro 1 me,
Though thou canst only be a sister to me.
Pray for me other prayers are unavailing,
Thine only calm my heart in its bewailing;
All other prayers save thine the pang would double;
Pray for me for I cling to thee in trouble.
On earth without thee I am lost and lonely;
My thoughts are thine, I dream upon thee only;
Dream that in far eternities now hidden,
My soul with thine shall mingle unforbidden.
EVER AND EVERYWHERE.
Say not of me when I am in my grave,
I only wounded where I should forbear;
'Twas that I drank from sorrow's bitter wave,
Ever and everywhere.
Say not of me calm-voiced when I am gone
That I have marred your life that else was fair;
I walked with sunshine from my own withdrawn,
Ever and everywhere.
Say not of me as colder hearts would say
When I am dead, that life had proved a snare
Because misfortune followed on my way,
Ever and everywhere.
When I am gone, then kindly speak of me,
Say that my heart was frenzied by despair;
I loved thee from my soul, if bitterly,
Ever and everywhere.
TO A LADY.
Hearts you may lure to you with ardent glances,
Or crush beneath unsympathetic sway;
Yet will you fall below the fair ideal
Of womanhood, for which we wait and pray.
Eyes downward cast, and cheek whose roseate glowing
Tells not of knowledge, are to-day as nought ;
Attain to womanhood through slow ascension,
Through scenes of sorrow rise to heights of thought.
And when through tears and pains of aspiration
A ray of Deity outflowing warm
Shall touch your soul with its living splendor,
And buds that blossom in the day of storm
Unfold to crown your pale and thoughtful forehead,
Then will your beauty take ideal form.
266 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
ONCE I ASKED THE DAY.
(Never before included in Krasinski'g Collections.)
Once I asked the day why it was so bright,
I asked the thought why it soared so free,
And the heart why the world should so narrow be,
And the stars why they shone with such lustrous light.
I am son of the sun, replied Day, so am bright;
Being children of spirit, Thought answered, we soar;
The world is narrow, said Heart, since perverse evermore;
We shine, the Stars answered, as the great King of light.
I asked a gentle maiden's beaming eyes
Whence came such marvelous outlines of her face,
And whence to her soul such beauty and such grace,
Whence the rays of light and fires of feeling rise.
No word she spoke her beauteous face alone
With the expression of her sweet spirit shone,
Her eyes' light touched her face with crimson rays,
And played in her feelings; pure spring displays
The sunlight in depths of the clear summer rill,
We can only solve feelings with feelings still,
And the works of God with the Heaven-sent mind;
But if 'tis not understood by humankind,
Oh, do not their dull comprehension resent.
The world should never chill your feeling from Heaven sent;
Let not earthiness a shade on thy soul's glory cast.
And when my sad star has removed me far from thee,
Remember it to thee could never permitted be.
By mem'ry of the dear hours we have together passed,
And by the memoi-y of all feeling most divine,
Of all my inspirations holiest and most bright.
To cast aside the rays of radiant, sacred light,
Which even in the lowliest grave will o'er me shine
As it shone in the glad morning of my life's fair day,
On the threshold of eternity 'twill shed its ray;
And though on the earth it parts us with stern behest,
'Twill surely in God once more unite us, ever blessed!
The world's a graveyard, kneaded with tears and gore,
Where none his Golgotha avoids.' Evermore
Vain is the spirit's strife
When sorrow's shaft descends;
Against the storms of life
No refuge here defends.
Abysses dark ingulf the brave,
At every step fate mocks at us,
The pure, the loved, sink in the grave,
The hated live, 'tis ever thus.
Ail is tangling in a maze which naught divines,
And death is near and far away:
O'er waves of future ages shines
Heartless and insensible, then, must we be,
Murder with murderers setting passion free,
'Mid the vile grow viler, and though conscience yearn,
Make it's soft voice be still,
Lie, hate, blaspheme, and kill,
And evil for evil to this world return.
In this alone must all our power consist;
Let us eat and drink, and sate the body well,
Chasing from the brain each noble thought, and swell
Of fortunate and fools the length'ning list.
Oh ! no, that must not be.
Oh! pause, my soul, for we
Can never in that way
At humanity's head
Stand. No force can hold at bay
But sacrifice the dread
268 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
And unrelenting fate
That crushes us to naught.
That is the lion great
Of history; all pride
And servility are;
But idle straws that caught
By passing breath may glide
To nothingness afar.
Oh! learn thyself to know;
Seek not omnipotent,
Like Him in heaven, to grow,
And to bend thee like a brute, ne'er give consent,
Knowing no good save some fat pasture-land on
This side the tomb; e'er breaks the radiant dawn
Of Resurrection. Oh! be thou constant still,
Though worlds should crash unmoved with dauntless will.
Be tireless. Patience, which 'mid every ill
Slowly rears from naught the edifice complete,
And which e'er prepares, unshaken by defeat,
The future, certain, and final victory.
Oh! amid the storm be thou tranquillity,
Order in chaos, in discord harmony;
Amid this life's combat, that no respite hath,
Be thou the eternal Beauty, calm and bright.
For cowards and for Pharisees be wrath,
And menace or silent contempt, pure as light,
Angelic inspiration for all men be.
The rich nourishment that nourishes the heart,
A sister's tear when suffering thou dost see,
A manly voice when courage, long tried, forsakes,
Home, birthplace, wandering exiles find in thee.
Be hope for the despairing, thunder that wakes
The drowsy souls lulled in corpse-like repose.
Be thou the force, always and everywhere,
That reconciles, force of self, devotion rare,
Stronger than death, and in the strife that no end knows,
Against the mad world's abyss of hate, Oh! be
Abyss of love, pure and free.
Ne'er cease to give
Thyself unto thy brethren in form sublime
Of teaching and example; in acts that live
Still multiply thyself; thus for all time
Thousands of men shall be outweighed by thee.
Even in irons performing acts that bless,
Learn to bear pain and bitterest agony;
Thy whole nation living in thy breast shall be,
Be the miracle joins heaven to earth, naught less,
In slavery,: holiness.
Seek not death till, like the buried seed that starts,
Thy grand thoughts be sown and germing in the hearts
Of thy compatriots, till martyrdom alone
A pledge of certain victory shall be known.
Strive not with others' goodness, but thine own,
Shun martyrdom's renown,
And false vain-glory's crown
Leave to fools; for in this,
Danger's dreadful abyss,
Plunge only heroes brave.
Loftiest souls ne'er gave
Heed to siren's voice of bliss.
When the tocsin of events at last shall swell,
Signal for thy final holocaust, a knell
Both sad and wild, from thy native land, then
Kneel down on eternity's threshold ; When,
So deep within thy humble and contrite soul,
Thou hear'st the voice that only comes from God above,
Rise, like a strong athlete who wins the goal.
270 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
Shake off thy feet earth's dust. With infinite love
Stretch forth thy arms to Heaven, which still will bless.
Without complaint, wail, inward bitterness,
Bravely to meet thy executioners advance,
Saluting them with inmost pitying glance
Of high immortality, which glorifies.
Thus for the future thy sacrifice shall be
The most fruitful witness. From thy death shall rise
The germ of life, for all men glorious, free.
The hopes the world deems idle dreams,
Oh! make them real,
In justice, faith,
To see and feel;
Which, like a probe that deeply darts,
Sink in men's hearts,
And dwell forever there.
Be its touch light as air,
A breath, a sigh's soft thrill.
The world, thy murderer, will
Kneel to thee in remorse,
Confessing brutal force;
Is impotent to strike
Country and God alike
From the conscience and care
Of nations ev'rywhere.
When the blood which thy wounds shall spill
Sanctifies thy thought, that thought will
Draw the light of God's judgment strong
On the impious throng.
Troops and bayonets are vain,
Kings, lies, corruption, aught;
No people shall attain
Power against that thought.
When the third day shall dawn
O'er thy agony, on
Thy martyrdom's white tomb,
At last the boon shall bloom
For nations, undefiled,-
JUSTICE, God's own fair child.
SEOWACKI'S MONUMENT IN PARIS (FRANCE).
JULIUS SlowACKi tried his strength at all kinds of
poetry. There are beautiful lyrics of his; others again
are epics, and also dramas. In each and every one of
these his creative mind shines with a resplendent lus-
ter. Everywhere he is new, fresh, and poetic; always
exhibiting extraordinary strength, always soaring high.
For a long time Slowacki was not understood, al-
though he was a poet belonging to all humanity; but
some of his poems were not understood, and others did
not come into general use. Almost thirty years had
elapsed before the people could look into them and
fully comprehend them. But as everything of the
highest order will ultimately find its vindication with
the people, so it was with Stowacki's writings; they at
last found their deserved acknowledgment and justifi-
Of all the poets from Krasicki to Krasinski, no one
possessed greater power of fantasy than Stowacki.
This was shown in a volume of poems written at the
time of the Polish Revolution (1831), and since its fall.
Another poem, "Zmija" (the Viper), is also a fan-
tastic production. But there is much higher and truer
poetic merit in his "John Bielecki." The subject is
taken from the Polish Chronicles, partly oral, of a cer-
tain occurrence having taken place in eastern Galicia.
Here the portraitures of the Polish nobility are strik-
ing, and scattered throughout the poem very happily,
showing the greatest force, and with it the character-
istics of his own individuality as a man of uncommon
genius. " The father of the stricken with the plague,"
274 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
in El-Arish, contains in it a power likening to the suf-
fering of the Laocoon not carved in wood nor chiseled
in marble, but in the painting of poetic genius.
Among all the creations of Siowacki, nor in the whole
Polish literature, is there anything that could equal it
in finish, conciseness, power and truth, and finally the
incomparable mastery in the diversification of the par-
ticulars of this awe-inspiring poem. What the statue
of Laocoon or the groups of Niobe is in sculpture,
"The father of the plague-stricken" is in Slowacki's
poetry. If it concerned the vivid representation of
accumulated strokes of misfortune heaping thunder-
bolts upon the head of a doomed human being, weep-
ing till its tears are dry, and moaning under the weight
of misery until the last vestige of human feeling is
gone; when it becomes a lifeless statue, unable to
weep or. feel more to reflect over its unutterable mis-
ery then surely Stowacki's design is fully accom-
Then comes "Hugo," tales of the Crusades, fol-
lowed by "Balladyna," and "Lilla Weneda." The
first one a beautiful epopee, not exactly in the Ho-
meric style, but somewhat in the manner of Ariosto;
prehistoric account of Poland is the subject. "In
Switzerland " is a charming idyllic intermixed with
tragic incidents, so abstruse and yet so truthful that it
is not possible to find any such love-dream in any for-
eign tongue. Truth and fiction, reality and poetry,
man's love and genius of the artist, all here strike
hands to produce a poetic creation, and one knows not
which to admire the most. In ' ' Waclaw " is a full
confession of beautiful motives, such as are seldom to
be found. This poem is equal to any of Lord Byron's
in the masterly carving out of each particular. ' ' The
Arab" and "The Monk" are also wrought in an ar-
tistic manner. "The Silver Dream of Salomea"
seems to be only a dramatized tale concerning two dif-
ferent pairs of married people, who, in order to accom-
plish the desired end of being united in marriage,
have to wade through a sea of misfortunes and fears
caused by national troubles, which so ruthlessly passed
over their devoted heads. It is for that reason that
the poet called it "The Eomantic Drama." The
tragedy "Mindowe" is one of the latest of the poet's
productions. In this tragedy the incidents relate to
the times when Lithuania had not yet the light of
Christianity. In represents the renegacy and the re-
turn to the faith of his sires of Prince Mendog. The
tragedy "Mazeppa" is full of tragic incidents, and of
vivid and passionate poetry; where the most delicate
shades of human nature are wrought up to perfection.
The background of "Kordyan" is the age, which,
from the very beginning, the poet reproaches and chas-
tises for its dwarfishness, condemned to pass away as
unworthy of mention. The poet here creates a charac-
ter which is too exalted, and outgrew the littleness of
the spirit of the present generation. He feels keenly
the misery of this life, and desires to fill it with some-
thing more noble, and hence throws himself about,
here and there, to attain the desired object. Slo-
wacki's "Kordyan" unites almost all the character-
istics of greatness and the contempt of life ready for
all sacrifices, desire for fame, bravery and noble pride.
In the historical drama "Maria Stuart" the frame
of the picture is tolerably narrow. It was not the in-
tention of Stowacki, as it was of Schiller, in the trag-
edy of the same name, to draw within the confines of
it the whole history of the given epoch, but for all
276 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
that there are in it splendid passages that enchant the
reader. The verse is flowery and masterly, and his
language sparkles with diamonds of the first water.
The epopee " Sambro" proves Slowacki's great power
of fancy and a great gift of poetical invention. The
subject is taken from Greek history, that is to say from
the last part of it of last century. He tries to repre-
sent a hero endowed with every necessary condition,
and to excite for him the wonder and admiration of
the reader, whereas it is discovered that from under
these artificial coverings appears a man full of moral
corruption the more unpleasant to the eye since it is
plainly seen that he comes out with gigantic preten-
sions which nothing can justify.
It being impossible for our poet to travel all the
time in the realms of poetic fantasy of the past, and
hearing the subterranean meanings and weeping of the
people, he created, with a power at once charming and
genial, "Anhellim," where the infernal regions of Siberia
take a shape of strange illusion which makes it beau-
tiful and fearful, dismal and at the same time enticing.
In this production the poet gives a portraiture of
the fate of the whole people, and a review of their
relations which we suffer for the guilt of others, as
also of transgression of which we ourselves are guilty.
It was the poet's fancy to call a Siberia the whole of
our social condition. The doctrine advanced in
"Anhellim" is turbid and fantastic, it loses itself in
the unfathomable depth of mysticism, arid is written in
biblical style. In " Bieniowski " one is reminded from
its construction of Byron's " Don Juan," but in spirit
it resembles the creations of Ariosto. The poem
uncovers to the reader the bloody wars toward the end
of the last century, in which Poland has manifested
her patriotism, which are shown by various drifts in
the poem. Here, in imitation of an English bard,
Slowacki marks strongly his own individuality. Be-
sides the strophes marked by deep moral feeling,
colored mostly by the poet's fancy, we find others in
which is seen a most extraordinary power of language
in form, and unlimited bitterness of feeling. This
powerful poem by turns causes tears to flow, aston-
ishes, cheers up the public, and moves their passions.
Being deeply engaged in the investigation of questions
beyond the comprehension of human understanding,
brought about by Towianski (a votary of whose doc-
trines Stowacki became), it engrossed his mind to such
a degree that in his last composition their influence is
obvious. It is plainly seen in his " Priest-Mark," a
drama in which the character and stamping of the
Jewess Judith answers exactly the conception of Tow-
ianski's sect as regards the mission of the Jewish
people. From the plot and characters introduced it is
evident that the poet was intent upon the conquering of
the evils of the world, and the erecting upon their ruins
of a great epoch of the future for the people and for
"The Spirit King" was the first great national epopee
in song wherein the author puts aside the veil and pre-
sents to view his grand philosophical thoughts in regard
to his country; and in order to legitimize it the author
gives us to understand that he thoroughly comprehends
the long sufferings of his nation; and we further infer
that the poet knew the way to solve the problem of the
nation's future destiny. The author makes this pro-
duction an offering upon the altar of art for humanity,
but not for the real interest of a perishable generation.
" The Spirit King " displaces but does not divide the
278 POETS AND POETRY OF POLAND.
vital parts of his country. His plan comprehends the
eternal future, history corroborates it; the present bears
witness to it, and the future will demonstrate its truth.
All of Slowacki's works possess a powerful feeling,
exalted thoughts, and stormy passions. Oftentimes he
pours out to the world the bitterness of his heart; but
above all his fancy is so active that his mind and feel-
ing can hardly keep pace with it.
It is not to be wondered at, then, that he reaches with
so much tenderness the hearts of the Polish youth. He
was their songster and their spiritual leader. The spirit
of youth, like the gentle breezes of spring, breathes
from every one of his songs. The age of dreams, the
inward emotions of the soul, and sudden but noble
impulses, permeate each of his creations.
Slowacki was born in 1809 at Krzemieniec, where
his father, Euzebius, was a professor of the Polish
language. He received the rudiments of education at
Wilno, and after finishing the course there, in 1824
entered the University. In 1826 he went to Odessa,