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are just leaving — a single room, and one of us located
in each of the three corners ; the door occupies the
fourth corner ; a mattress or carpet to lie on ; our
cloaks for a counterpane ; our trunks for a table to
eat upon, and your father's furnishes a sofa for

On the 4th of November, however, he writes : " I
told you in my last letter that we were going to take a
pretty little house all to ourselves. Everything was
settled. The proprietor was delighted, when sud-
dently the mollahs (the Turkish priests of the locality)
began to make a noise about it. ' But they are Mag-
yars, like myself,' said Colonel Kuczynski, a Hun-
garian in the Turkish service. 'But thou art a


Giaoiirl was their answer. (In reality he had only
assumed a fez and Turkish name, but not the reli-
gion.) * Thy servant is a Giaour, and thy wife goes
out unveiled.' In comes Colonel Osman-bey, a good
Pole and a complete Turk, who says : ' Let us come
and see the Pasha of our district.' He goes. They
tell him that the Franks are pushing everywhere.
To which the other answers : ' You fool ! When the
Franks have got you by the beard, do you dispute
with them a single hair ? ' ' Well, then, let the
Franks come.' But the Turks replied : ' We prefer
leaving the district,' and so they have done in more
than one part of the city. Each time that the Franks
have arrived in large numbers they have deserted it,
preferring to leave their dwelh'ngs rather than endure
the sight of rayaJts, infidels without veils and tur-
bans, and so we must give up our house ! "

Finally, on the 8th of November he writes to say
that they were established in a tolerably clean little
house at the end of one of the streets of Pera. But
the lane in which the poet had taken up his quarters
was a narrow and dirty one, and the cholera was
raging at Constantinople. " The cholera," adds the
son in the memoirs of his father, " is in a sort accli-
matised at Constantinople. Its ravages may increase
or decrease in intensity, but it never disappears

Mickiewicz is said to have been in very depressed
spirits on account of the dissensions among his
countrymen and the presentiment which he felt that
France would abandon Poland at the treaty which
would soon be signed by the European Powers.


After a short illness he died of cholera on the 26th
of November. His remains, according to his last
wishes, were brought back to Paris and laid in the
cemetery at Montmorency by the side of his wife. A
beautiful funeral oration was pronounced over his
grave by Bohdan Zaleski, who has himself since
joined the majority. But this was not to be the final
resting-place of the poet. In 1890 his remains were
disinterred, and brought to Cracow, now the centre of
Polish life, and there buried among others of Poland's
greatest and worthiest sons in the cathedral, the Santa
Croce of fallen Sarmatia. The streets of the pictu-
resque old city were thronged with pilgrims, who had
come from all parts of Europe. Many not being
able to find accommodation in the hotels passed the
night in the streets. An interesting feature in these
vast crowds was the presence of so many peasants
from the villages. For that day the Russian Govern-
ment relaxed the passport system, and the funeral
was attended by many Russian Poles. We can thus
see how thoroughly Mickiewicz has become the
representative poet of his country, and, with the
single exception of Pushkin, the greatest of the
Slavonic race.

Since his death the romantic school, of which he
may be said to have been the founder among the
Poles, has been further developed by the so-called
Ukraine poets, especially Zaleski, Malczewski, Gosz-
czynski, and Slowacki. The first is the writer of an
elegant poem, Duc/i od Stepu (" The Spirit of the
Steppe"). The inspiration is altogether from the
Ukraine, one of the most picturesque parts of Russia,


once, we must remember, belonging to Poland, and
still numbering many inhabitants vvho speak the
Polish language. It is thus that Zaleski writes : —

*' I mnie matka Ukraina,
I mnie matka swego syna,
Upowila w piesn u lona

(" Me also has my mother, the Ukraine,
Me her son

Cradled in song on her bosom,
The enchantress.")

Anton Malczewski (i 793-1 826), who died at the
early age of thirty-three, wrote one poem, Marya,
which attracted but little attention at the time of its
publication, but after its author's death attained a
wide popularity. The opening verses are remarkably
spirited. The following translation will perhaps give
some idea of them : —

Cossack on thy flying steed, whither art thou bounding ?
Is't the fleet hare thou wilt catch on the steppe surrounding ?
Or dost in tliy fancy taste liberty the sweetest ?
Or would'st try the Ukraine winds which of you is fleetest ?
Maybe thou dost soothe thy soul with that song's sad cadence,
Thinking of thy far-off love, comeliest of maidens.
O'er thy brow the cap is pressed, slackened is the bridle ;
Clouds of dust along thy path show thy course not idle.
Lo ! that sunburnt face of thine with what ardour glowing !
How thine eyes enraptured shine, joy its sparkles throwing ;
Thy wild steed obeys like thee; then fleet as the swallow,
With his eager neck outstretched, leaves the wind to follow.
Out ! poor peasant, from the road, lest a woe betide thee ;
Lest the courier spill thy goods, yea ! and override thee.
And thou dark bird of the sky everything that greetest,
Tho' around thou v/heel'st thy flight, man and steed are fleetest.
Croak thou may'st, but croak'st in vain, of ill-luck the prophet;
Hide thy secret — for he's gone — thou'lt tell nothing of it,"



*' On lit by the setting sun ; onward ever driven ;

Like some messenger he seems, sent to men from heaven.

You may hear his horse's hoof echo half a mile hence ;

Over all that mighty steppe, lies a brooding silence. •

Never merry sound of knight nor of squire careering,

Sad wind whispering in the wheat, that is all you're hearing,

In among the grass of graves, wizard voices sighing

Where with wither'd wreaths the brave all unreck'd are lying.

'Tis a music wild and sweet, voice of Polish nation.

Which preserves her memory fond for each generation

Only from the wild flowers now they their splendour borrow ;

Ah ! what heart that knows their fate, feels no pang of sorrow !"

Malczewski, who led a wandering life, is said to
have become acquainted with Byron at Venice, and
to have suggested to the English poet the subject of
Mazeppa. The chief poetical work of Goszczynski
is the " Tower of Kaniow " {Zamek Kaniowski)^ a
romantic narrative poem.

But the most celebrated poets among the contem-
poraries of Mickiewicz are Slowacki and Krasinski.
Julius Slowacki ( 1 809-1 849) was born at Krzemi-
niec, in Russian Poland. In 1831 he left his native
country and resided thenceforth at Paris. There is
something of Byron and Victor Hugo in his writings.
In his long poem on Count Beniowski, he manages
the ottava rima with wonderful dexterity. A mystic
in every sense of the word was Sigismund Krasinski,
born in 181 2 at Paris, and died in 1859. His chief work
is his Nieboska Komedja ('' The Undivine Comedy "),
a strange poem dealing with the sufferings of his
country. The small space at our disposal in a work
of the present kind forbids any detailed criticism of


minor Polish authors, and indeed there is abundance
of them.

Before proceeding to mention the claimants of
the laurel who are living in our own days, some-
thing must be said of earlier writers, who introduced
into the country special forms of literature. We
have already spoken of the first scenic representa-
tions in Poland ; the first dramatic writers were men
who simply adapted French plays, and owing to the
prevalence of the French school in Poland during
the eighteenth century, this was a result which might
be expected. Some of these writers were amxazingly
prolific, but the Poles never quite reconciled them-
selves to French fashions, as Mickiewicz has so
humorously shown at the beginning of his Pan
Tadeiisz. Of course any imitation of Shakspere
was out of the question. The great poet did not suit
the French taste, although Coxe tells us that King
Stanislaus confessed to a liking for him. We know
from some of the writings of Krasicki what at
that time was thought of the English dramatist in
Poland. Trembecki gave a version of Hamlet's
celebrated monologue, '* To be, or not to be," and a
translation of the whole play appeared at Lem-
berg in 1797. At the present time the Poles can boast
an excellent translation of Shakspere in blank verse.

No writer of talent, however, appeared in this field
of literature till Count Alexander Fredro (i 793-1 876),
who introduced genuine comedy to his countrymen.
The influence of Moliere is paramount throughout
the pieces he wrote, as might be expected in the
case of a man whose youth was spent in France.


He formed one of the soldiers of Napoleon's foreign
legion, and shared in the ill fated expedition against
Russia. His works are about seventeen in number ;
although the style forcibly recalls Moliere, the
characters and incidents are essentially Polish. Other
authors have followed in his footsteps. His son, who
died in 1891, also wrote comedies.

History in Poland can claim several authors of
talent during the last century ; for instance, Narusze-
wicz and Albertrandi. But in the nineteenth they
have been eclipsed by greater names, and among
these a prominent place must be given to Joachim
Lelewel, once professor at Wilno.

I.elewel was born on the 22nd of March, 1786, at
Warsaw. His family came from Germany, and he
was originally called Loelhoefel ; his father, Charles,
received Polish citizenship in 1777, and altered his
name, which still has something foreign in its sounds
as the accent is on the first syllable, whereas, accord-
ing to the laws of Polish accentuation, it ought to
be on the penultimate. In the year 18 14 he was
appointed deputy- Professor of History at Wilno,
and with this office his active career begins. He
succeeded in arousing the enthusiasm of his pupils,
and occupied himself not only with the duties
of his chair, but also with literary work. After
discharging these functions for some time he
went to Warsaw, where he became librarian to the
university. He was again, however, invited to Wilno,
where he was received with open arms. The youth-
ful Mickiewicz dedicated to him one of his finest
odes. In 1823, in consequence of the prosecution by


the Government of the secret societies at Wilno, he
lost his place, and betook himself again to Warsaw.
He no'.v began writing a series of valuable historical
monographs on ancient history ; especially on that
of the Carthaginians. When, in the year 1830, the
revolution broke out, he was elected a member of the
national government, and president of the Patriotic
Society ; although a man of meditation rather than
of action, and one who had spent his life half-buried
in the dust of a library. His political career was
unsuccessful, but he remained throughout true to his
principles, and on the termination of the revolution
managed to escape from the country, although he
was marked out for punishment in the ukases of the
conqueror. He then betook himself to Paris : this
city he was obliged to quit in 1832 and departed to
Brussels, where he spent twenty-nine years in poverty
and labour. Besides works on Polish history, he
published while there a series of valuable books on
geography, numismatics, and archaeology, partly in
French and partly in Polish ; himself being the engraver
of the maps and plates of coins which illustrated
his works. The most celebrated of these were his
" Numismatique du Moyen Age," 2 vols., 1835;
"Geographic du Moyen Age," 4 vols., 1850-1852 ;
and in Polish "Poland in the Middle Ages," 1845-
185 1, "Foundations of Universal History." His
services, not only to Polish, but to universal history
and no less to geography, especially of the ancient
world, were recognised not only by his own country-
men, but by the scholars of all Europe.

In Brussels Lelewel inhabited for many years two


little rooms, in one of which he slept, worked, and
received ordinary visits ; the other, a little better
furnished, was only opened on special occasions.
In the morning he was waited upon by an old Polish
canteen woman, who boasted that Joseph Poniatowski;
shortly before he was drowned in the Elster at the
battle of Leipzig, had taken a draught from her
flask. In spite of all his philosophy, Lelewel never
succeeded in learning how to set his room to rights,
or to make his bed. He lived worse than the poorest
Brussels artisan, but would never receive any con-
tribution from his richer countrymen. As he sat in
the winter in a room that could not be warmed, a
Polish lady during his absence caused a stove to be
put in ; but when he came back, he turned it out of
the room — ^just as Dr. Johnson did with the shoes
which had been given him — and only at last allowed
a pipe to be introduced into his own from a neigh-
bouring room, which was well warmed. He fre-
quently, however, opened the windows during the
severest frost. Coffee was a great refreshment to
him, but he only enjoyed it once a week ; on other
days he breakfasted on bread and milk. When
Poles, who visited him, entitled him " Your Ex-
cellency," as he had formerly been a minister, he
forbade it, and would not allow himself to be called
" Mr.,'' but only " citizen." During the morning
hours he sat at his work with bare feet in felt shoes
and in an old grey cloak, with a pocket-handkerchief
which had at one , time been white, but had now
become brown, pinned to his knees : this he wished
to have conveniently at hand as he u*as a great


sniifir-taker. His linen, however, was always very
clean. At mid-day he went dressed in a blue work-
man's blouse to a poor little public-house to get a
humble meal among the artisans who frequented it.
As he never took a walk, he tried to get the requisite
exercise by running about the streets in a brisk trot.
No one pushed against him ; everybody greeted him,
for he was held in much esteem, both by high and
low. When on one occasion, a woman, who kept an
eating-house frequented by Lelewel, at the instigation
of his friends gave him better food than usually at
the same price, he noticed the attempt to assist his
poverty, and sternly refused all future efforts of the
kind. His poverty, moreover, was voluntary, and
sprang from a desire to remain true to his democratic
principles. He was contented with very humble
payment for the work which he undertook. When
he was entrusted by the corporation of Brussels with
the arrangement and cataloguing of the city col-
lection of coins, he charged only a franc a day for
this very important work.

On one occasion when he was taking some of the
proofs of his " Coins of the Middle Ages " to his
publisher's private house, the cook, who opened the
door, thought he was a beggar. She saw before her
an old man in a blue workman's blouse with a huge
cap, and shut the door in his face. After long fruitless
parleying to get admission, he said : " I am Lelewel.'
The cook with tears begged his pardon.

In the year 1861 the veteran of seventy- five years
fell ill. Some of his friends succeeded in persuading
him to allow himself to be taken to Paris, where a


comfortable room had been got ready for him in the
house of Dr. Dubois. He only consented on its being
understood that all the expenditure should be paid
out of the profits of his works. But three days later
he was no more.

Many interesting circumstances relating to the
career of this extraordinary enthusiast will be found
in the pages of Nitschmann's Geschichte der Polnis-
chere Literatur. We were able to learn much
about the historian from the late M. Altmeyer,
sometime Professor of Modern History in the Uni-
versity of Brussels, who was well acquainted with
Lelewel. We were told that the latter possessed
many relics of the Insurrection of 1830, including
some of the flags and some important documents.

Full justice has been done by subsequent writers
to the learning and industry of Lelewel ; but his views
on Polish history are not universally accepted. He
has contemplated it too much from a democratic
point of view, and has seen popular influences in the
earlier stages of Polish history, which can hardly be
said to have existed. Nor can his " History of
Poland " be considered any longer the standard work,
as it is now being cast into the shade by the German
history commenced by Ropell, and now in course of
continuation by Dr. Caro.

Some of the best work which has been done by
Polish authors in modern times has been historical.
The Academy of Cracow has published a mass of
most important documents, and continues its valuable
labours. Theodore Narbutt (1784- 1864) was the
author of a large work on the ancient history


of Lithuania, entitled Dzieje Starozytne narodu
litewskiego. It extends to nine volumes, and al-
though it has been accused of want of critical power,
it is a great storehouse of valuable materials. To
him we are indebted for the publication of an old
chronicle which had remained in manuscript, and
which he issued under the title Pomniki do Dziejow
litezvskich (Wilno, 1846). Karl Szajnocha was the
son of a Bohemian, who had settled in Galicia, where
he held a small Government office. The historian
was born in 181 8, and as early as 1835, when he was
a student, was imprisoned for six months by the
Austrian Government in consequence of some verses
which were found upon him. He first at.racted
notice by his "Age of Casimir the Great," and
" Boleslas the Brave." These works were followed
in 1855-56 by his history in three volumes of the
reign of Jadwiga and Jagiello, which deservedly met
with great favour, and is esteemed one of the most
important Polish historical works. In the year 1857
the unfortunate author lost his sight from too much
study, and thus, like Augustin Thierry and Prescott,
was obliged to continue his labours by means of
dictation. He possessed, however, a powerful memory,
and this helped him to triumph over his disaster. In
1858 he wrote a work to advocate the theory that
the Polish kingdom had its origin from Norse or
Varangian settlers, just as the Russian Empire had
{Lechicki pocz(}tek Polski, " The Lechs the Beginning
of Poland "). The historian was not so happy in this
conjectural domain as he had been in his other works,
and his views have not found favour with critics. The



last publication of Szajnocha had to do with the
wars of the Cossacks in the seventeenth century, which
ended in their revolt and final transfer of their alle-
giance to the Russians. He died in 1868.

Joseph Szujski was born at Tarnow in Galicia in
1835, and made his reputation by his great work, " The
History of Poland^according to the latest Investiga-
tions "(4 vols. Lemberg. 1 862-1 865). Besides his his-
torical works he is also the author of several plays,
which enjoy much popularity among his countrymen.
Valuable historical works were also produced by
Henry Schmitt, born in 18 17, who died a short time
ago, especially his " Reign of Stanislaus Augustus," and
" Life of Hugo KoU^taj." Allusion has already been
made to the classical work of Valerian Kalinka on
the " Four Years' Diet." He also published at Posen
in 1868 " The Last Years of the Reign of Stanislaus
Augustus." Vincent Zakrzewski (born in 1844) has
written an important work on the Reformation in
Poland, and published also at Cracow, in 1878, a
description of the long interregnum which occurred
in Poland after the flight of Henri de Valois, when
the country was rent by political and religious dis-

Lastly, we must mention Stanislaus Smolka and
Michael Bobrzynski, both now living.

Of Polish novelists we have as yet said nothing,
but space must be found to mention the extraordinary
labours of Kraszewski. His chief works are novels
treating in the main of Polish history. His writings
of all kinds amounted in 1879, when he celebrated the
fiftieth anniversary of his career as an author, to the


number of two liundred and fifty works. One of the
most popular of his novels is " Yermola the Potter,"
a pathetic tale, which resembles in plot the " Silas
Marner" of George Eliot, but it appeared in 1857,
some time before the appearance of that work. Krasz-
ewski was arrested by the Government on a charge
of having treasonably procured plans of German
fortifications, and sentenced to imprisonment in the
fortress of Magdeburg. He was, however, released
on parole, which he broke, and soon afterwards died at
Geneva in 1887. A popular writer still living is Henry
Sienkewicz, the author of some celebrated historical
novels. Of these two have appeared in English,
" With Fire and Sword " and " The Deluge." Sienke-
wicz gives us some very vigorous historical pictures.
Russian critics are apt to complain of them that he
makes the virtues too much on the side of the Poles, and
depicts their Malo-Russian subjects as half-savages.

We must now retrace our steps somewhat to speak
of the lesser luminaries among the Polish poets, who
were more or less of the school of Mickiewicz. First
we would place Constantine Gaszynski,his friend, who
died in 1868. Some of his lyrics have become wonder-
fully popular, and will be found in the common song-
books ; but his sonnets alone ought to embalm his
memory. The following strikes us as worth trans-
lating on account of its beauty : —


Mother, 'tis now five years the trees all bare
With snow have glisteii'd : five times winter's cold
Hath breathed, since inmates of a happy fold
Upon this holy eve we knelt in prayer.


Forlorn, thou castest sad eyes everywhere,
What time the number of thy flock is told ;
Andsayest: " We had our Constantine of old,
But strangers with him now their Christmas share.''

Oh ! mother, when thou prayest at eve deploring.
To Mary, with thy accent low and sweet,
The voices of our hearts shall blend and meet ;
And the glad angels to the heaven upsoaring
Shall bear two fragrant flowers twined in one wreath,
The prayers that lonely son and mother breathe.

A graceful poet still living is Theophilus Lenart-
owicz, born in 1822 ; he quitted his native country
in 1848. Since that time he has resided chiefly
at Florence. He is also a sculptor, and has pub-
lished some exquisite lyrics, which are conspicuous
for their deep religious feeling. One of the most
powerful is that entitled "Lazarus, arise!" His
poems appeared at Posen in two volumes in 1863.
We must find space to mention Vincent Pol, author
of a poem entitled " Wit Stwosz," celebrating the
Polish architect of the fifteenth century, and Wences-
laus Kondratowicz ; the latter wrote under the nom
de guerre of Syrokomla. These poets enjoy deservedly
a high reputation among their countrymen.

In Cornelius Ujejski, born in 1823 in Galicia, we
have one of the most powerful of the modern Polish
lyrical poets. His celebrated verses, Z dyniem po-
zarow^ which enjoyed and still enjoy immense
popularity throughout Poland, are here given in an
English version, which, it is hoped, will give some
faint idea of their extraordinary power. They were
written during the terrible uprising of the Galician
peasantry in 1846:

uyEjsKi, 325

'Mid smoke of burnings, 'mid b'ood of brothers,
Our voice, O God, goes up to-day :
This fearful woe our groan half smothers ;
With long-spent anguish our heads are grey.
Our songs are only songs of waiUng ;
A crown of thorns is about our brow ;
Like monuments of Thy wrath prevailing,
Our hands are stretched with their profifer'd vow.

Oft hast thou scourged us : our wounds all bleeding
Show ghastly from Thy heavenly rod ;
But still " He'll pity," is all our pleading,
For He is our Father ! He is our God.
And when we would taste of comfort after,
Against us the foe at Thy bidding raves ;
Like a stone at our hearts his bitter laughter,
Where is this Father — this God who saves ?

We look at the sky and think that surely

A hundred suns will give their sign ;

O'er us the blue is spread all purely ;

The free bird bathes in its calm divine.

But with such doubts our souls are teeming,

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Online LibraryWilliam Richard MorfillPoland → online text (page 19 of 23)