Historical View of the Languages and Literature of the Slavic - Nations
by Therese Albertine Louise von Jacob Robinson
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Polish writers are in the habit of dividing the history of their language into five periods.[4]

The first period extends from the introduction of Christianity to Cassimir the Great, A.D. 1333.

The second period extends from A.D. 1333 to A.D. 1506, or the reign of Sigismund I.

The third period is the golden age of the Polish literature, and closes with the foundation of the schools of the Jesuits, A.D. 1622.

The fourth period comprises the time of the preponderance of the Jesuits, and ends with the revival of literature by Konarski, A.D. 1760.

The fifth period comprehends the interval from A.D. 1760 to the revolution in 1830.

As the Polish literature of our own day bears a different stamp from that of former times, we may add a sixth period, extending from 1830 to the present time.

Before we enter upon a regular historical account of these different periods, we will devote a few words to the history and character of the language itself.

The extent of country, in which the Polish language is predominant, is much smaller than would naturally be concluded from the great circuit of territory, which, at the time of its power and independence, was comprised under the kingdom of Poland. We do not allude to the sixteenth century, when Poland by the success of its arms became for a short time the most powerful state in the north; when the Teutonic knights, the conquerors of Prussia, were compelled to acknowledge its protection; and when not only were Livonia and Courland, the one a component part of the Polish kingdom, and the other a Polish fief, but even the ancient Smolensk and the venerable Kief, the royal seat of Vladimir, and the Russian provinces adjacent to Galicia, all were subjugated by Poland. We speak of this kingdom as it was at the time of its first partition between Russia, Austria, and Prussia. Of the four or five millions of inhabitants in the provinces united with Russia at the three successive partitions of 1772, 1793, and 1795, only one and a half million are strictly Poles, that is, Lekhes, who speak dialects of that language;[5] in White and Black Russia, the Russniaks are by far more numerous; and in Lithuania the Lithuanians. Besides the independent language of these latter, the Malo-Russian and White Russian dialects are spoken in these provinces; and all documents of the grand-duchy of Lithuania before it was united with Poland in A.D. 1569, were written in the latter.[8]

The Polish language is farther spoken: 1) By the inhabitants of the kingdom of Poland formed in 1815, three and a half millions in number, or reckoned together with the Poles of the Polish-Russian provinces, five millions; 2) By the inhabitants of the cities and the nobility of Galicia, belonging to Austria, and the Poles in the Austrian part of Silesia, about three millions; 3) By the inhabitants of the small republic of Cracow, about one hundred thousand; 4) By the inhabitants of the Prussian grand-duchy of Posen, and a part of the province called Western Prussia, together with the Poles in Silesia and the Kassubes in Pomerania; In all less than two millions.[7]

Thus the Polish language is spoken by a population of about ten millions.[8] Like all living languages, it has different dialects, and is in one place spoken with greater purity than in another. As these varieties, however, are neither very striking nor have ever had an influence on literature, they do not concern us here.

The ancient Polish language seems to have been very nearly related to the dialects of the Czekhes and the Sorabian Vendes. Although very little is known in respect to the circumstances and progress of the formation of the language into its present state, it is sufficiently obvious, that it has been developed from the conflict of its natural elements with the Latin and German idioms. Of the other Slavic dialects, the Bohemian is the only one which has exerted any influence upon the Polish tongue. The Italian and Turkish words introduced during the dominion of an Italian priesthood, and through the political relations of the Poles and the Turks, never entered deeply into the body of the language; and might be easily exchanged for better Polish forms of expression.

Of all the Slavic dialects, the Polish presents to the foreigner the most difficulties; partly on account of the great variety and nicety of shades in the pronunciation of the vowels, and from the combination of consonants in such a way that only a Slavic tongue can conquer them, and cause the apparent harshness in some measure to disappear;[9] partly on account of its refined and artificial grammatical structure. In this latter respect it differs materially from the Russian language; which, although equally rich, is remarkable for its simplicity and perspicuity. The Polish and Bohemian idioms, in the opinion of the best judges, are above all others capable of faithfully imitating the refinements of the classical languages; and the Polish prose is modelled after the Latin with a perfection, which, in the golden age of Polish literature, was one of its characteristic features. It is therefore surprising, that the Polish language in poetry, although in other respects highly cultivated, does not admit the introduction of the classical prosody. We mean, the Polish language in its present state; for it is very probable, that in its original character it possessed, in common with all the other Slavic languages, the elements of a regular system of long and short syllables. So long, however, as there have existed Polish poets, they have not measured, but, in imitation of the French, have counted the syllables. With the exception of a few recent poets, who have written in blank verse, and a few weak attempts to adapt the Greek principles of accent to the Polish language, all Polish poetry is, like the French, in rhyme; and the French Alexandrine is the favourite form of the Polish poets.[10]


From the introduction of Christianity to Casimir the Great, A.D. 1333.

In dividing the early part of the history of the Polish literature into two periods, we follow the example and authority of Bentkowski; although it seems to be singular to pretend to give an account of a literature which did not yet exist. The history of the Polish literature does not indeed properly begin before the close of the second period; yet that of the literary cultivation of the nation commences with the beginning of that period; and a few slight traces of it are to be found even in the middle of the first. Of the language itself, nothing is left but the names of places and persons, and some Polish words scattered through the Latin documents of the time, written without orthographic rules, and therefore often hardly intelligible. There exists an ancient Polish war-song, the author of which is said to have been St. Adalbert, a Bohemian by birth, who was bishop of Prague at the end of the tenth century;[11] but even according to Rakowiecki, a philologist who is more disposed than any other to find traces of an early cultivation of the Slavic nations, and especially of the Poles, this song, or rather hymn, is, in its present form, not older than the fourteenth century. All that is extant from this period is written in Latin. Besides some unimportant documents and an anonymous biography of Adalbert, there remain several historical works of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Martin Gallus, a Frenchman, who lived in Poland between 1110 and 1135, is considered as the oldest Polish historian. Other chronicles of Poland were written by the bishops of Cracow, Matthew Cholewa, and Vincent, son of Kadlubec, who died in 1223; by Bogufal, bishop of Posen, some twenty years later; and by Godzislav Baszko, about thirty years later still. Strzembski wrote towards the middle of the thirteenth century a history of the popes and Roman emperors. In 1008 duke Boleslav, the son of Miecislav, invited Benedictine monks to Poland, who founded convents at Sieciechov and Lysagora, with schools attached to them. This example was followed at a later period by other orders: and in Poland, longer than in any other country, education was entirely in the hands of the ecclesiastics. For several hundred years the natives were excluded from all clerical dignities and privileges, and the numerous monasteries were filled only with foreign monks. Even as late as the fifteenth century, foreigners had decidedly the preference. In the year 1237 Pelka, archbishop of Gnesen, directed the institution of schools by the priests; but added the recommendation to the bishops, that they should employ as teachers only Germans who understood Polish. In A.D. 1285 at the synod of Leczyc, they went a step further in excluding all foreigners, who were ignorant of the Polish language, from the places of ecclesiastical teachers and instructors. But more than eighty years later, it was found necessary at the synod of Kalish in 1357 to repeat the same decree; and even a century after this time, in A.D. 1460, John Ostrorog complained that all the rich convents were occupied by foreign monks.[12] These ignorant men were wont to throw into the fire the few writings in the barbarian language, which they could discover; and, as instructors of the youth, were able to fill the heads of the young nobility with the most unnatural prejudices against the vernacular tongue of their own country. Besides the clergy, many other foreigners also settled in Poland, as mechanics and traders, especially Germans. But as they all lived merely in the cities of Poland, they and their language had far less influence on the people, than was the case in Bohemia, where they mingled with all classes.


From Casimir the Great to Sigismund I. A.D. 1333 to A.D. 1506.

Casimir is one of the few princes, who acquired the name of the Great not by victories and conquests, but through the real benefits of laws, national courts of justice, and means of education, which he procured for his subjects. His father, Vladislaus Lokietek, had resumed the royal title, which hitherto had been alternately taken and dropped; and was the first who permanently united Great and Little Poland. Under Casimir, the present Austrian kingdom of Galicia, which, together with Lodomeria, the present Russian government Vladimir, was then called Red Russia, was added by inheritance. Lithuania became connected with Poland as a Polish fief in the year 1386. when queen Hedevig, heiress of the crown of Poland, married Jagello, duke of Lithuania; but was first completely incorporated as a component part of the kingdom of Poland only so late as the year 1569. Masovia had been thus united some forty years earlier. At the time of the marriage of Hedevig and Jagello, the latter caused himself to be baptized, and introduced Christianity into Lithuania, where he himself in many cases acted as an apostle.

As to the influence of Casimir the Great upon the literary cultivation of his subjects, it was more mediate than immediate. Whilst his cotemporary and neighbour, Charles IV of Bohemia, loved and patronized the language of that kindred nation. Casimir paid no attention whatever to the vernacular tongue of his country; nor was any thing done under his administration for the development of that rich dialect. This king indeed, as early as A.D. 1347, laid the foundation of the high school of Cracow; but the regular organization and influence of this institution dates only from half a century later.[13] But by introducing a better order of things, by providing his subjects with their earliest code of laws, by instituting the first constitutional diets, by fortifying the cities and protecting the tillers of the soil against a wild and oppressive nobility, he established a better tone of moral feeling throughout the nation. A seed, sown in such ground, necessarily springs up slowly, but surely.

With Casimir the race of the Pjasts expired. His nephew, Louis of Hungary, a prince of the house of Anjou, was elected king; but his reign was spent in constant war, and left no trace of care for the internal cultivation of the country. The limitation of the power of the sovereign, and the exorbitant privileges of the Polish nobility, date from the reign of this prince; he resided mostly in Hungary, and granted to the Poles all their demands, in order to prevent the alienation of their crown from his house. After his death his second daughter, Hedevig, was preferred to the emperor Sigismund, who was married to the eldest, Mary; because this prince refused to subscribe the conditions demanded by the Polish Estates. Hedevig married Jagello of Lithuania; and under their descendants the Jagellons, who reigned nearly two centuries, Poland rose to the summit of its power and glory. With Siegmund I, the grandson of Jagello, but the fifth king after him, a new period of the Polish literature begins.

The history of the Polish language, as we have already said, properly commences only with the close, or at the utmost with the middle of the present period, when in the year 1488 the first printing office was erected at Cracow. Of the more ancient times, with a few exceptions, only weak and scattered traces are left. There was said to have existed a Polish translation of the Bible, made by order of queen Hedevig before the year 1390; but no copy had ever been seen; and there was reason to doubt whether it ever existed. There was extant however, an old manuscript of a Psalter, which the antiquarian Thadd. Czacki took to be a fragment of it; and other ancient manuscripts of portions of a Psalter were found at Saros Patak in Hungary, and seemed to belong to it. But no one of these codices bore any incontestable mark of its age. The Psalter of St. Florian, a convent near Linz in Austria, discovered in 1826 by the librarian Chmel, proved at last to be in reality the lost treasure. This important document, the origin of which could be philologically and historically traced back to the fourteenth century, after having given occasion to a passionate conflict in the Slavic literary world, was finally published by Kopitar in a complete and erudite edition, as the most ancient monument of the Polish language.[14]

All other Polish manuscripts of those times are fragments; documents relating to suits of law, translations of statutes issued in Latin, the ten commandments in verse, a translation of one of Wickliffe's hymns, etc.

The orthography of the language, and especially the adoption of the Latin alphabet, seems to have troubled the few writers of this period exceedingly. They appear to have founded their principles alternately on the Latin, the Bohemian, and the German methods of combining letters; an inconsistency, which adds greatly to the difficulties of modern Slavic etymology.[15] In 1828 a remarkable manuscript was published under the title, Pamientniki Janozara, or Memoirs of a Janissary. It was the journal of a Polish nobleman, who had been induced by circumstances to enter the Turkish army during the siege and conquest of Constantinople, an event which took place A.D. 1453. This interesting document of a language, that is so remarkably poor in ancient monuments, was no longer intelligible to the common Polish reader. It was necessary to add a version in modern Polish in order to make it understood.

Annalists of Polish history, who wrote in Latin, were not wanting in this period. Sig. Rositzius, Dzierzva,[16] and more especially John Dlugosz, bishop of Lemberg, wrote histories and chronicles of Poland; and the work of the latter is still considered as highly valuable.


From Sigismund I, to the establishment of the schools of the Jesuits in Cracow. A.D.. 1505 to A.D. 1622.

In northern climates, the bright and glowing days of summer follow in almost immediate succession a long and gloomy winter, without allowing to the attentive mind of the lover of nature the enjoyment of observing, during a transient interval of spring, the gradual development of the beauty of the earth. Thus the flowers of Polish literature burst out from their buds with a rapidity unequalled in literary history, and were ripened into fruit with the same prodigious celerity.

The university of Cracow had been reinstituted under Jagello in A.D. 1400, and organized after the model of that of Prague. Although the most flourishing period of this institution was the sixteenth century, yet it presented during the fifteenth to the Polish nobility a good opportunity of studying the classics; and it is doubtless through this preparatory familiarity with the ancient writers, that the phenomenon to which we have alluded must be principally accounted for. It was moreover now the epoch, when the genius of Christian Europe made the most decided efforts to shake off the chains which had fettered the freedom of thought. The doctrines of the German Reformers, although the number of their professed disciples was in proportion smaller than in Bohemia, had nevertheless a decided influence upon the general direction of the public mind. The wild flame of false religious zeal, which in Poland also under the sons and immediate successors of Jagello, had kindled the faggots in which the disciples of the new doctrines were called to seal the truth of their conviction with their blood, was extinguished before the milder wisdom of Sigismund I; although the early part of his reign was not free from religious persecution. The activity of the inquisition was restrained. But the new doctrines found a more decided support in Sigismund Augustus. Poland became, under his administration, the seat of a toleration then unequalled in the world. Communities of the most different religious principles formed themselves, at first under the indulgence of the king and the government, and finally under the protection of the law. Even the boldest theological skeptics of the age, the two Socini, found in Poland an asylum.[17]

The Bohemian language, which already possessed so extensive a literature, acquired during this period a great influence upon the Polish. The number of clerical writers, however, which in Bohemia was so great, was comparatively only small in Poland. Indeed it is worthy of remark, that while in other countries the diffusion of information and general illumination proceeded from the clergy, not indeed as a body, but from individuals among the clergy, in Poland it was always the highest nobility who were at the head of literary enterprises or institutions for mental cultivation. There are many princely names among the writers of this period; and there are still so among those of the present day. This may however be one of the causes, why education in Poland was entirely confined to the higher classes; while, even during this brilliant period, the peasantry remained in the lowest state of degradation, and nothing was done to elevate their minds or to better their condition. For it is to the clergy, that the common people have always to look as their natural and bounden teachers; it is to the clergy, that a low state of cultivation among the poorer classes is the most dishonourable. During this period, however, the opportunity was presented to the people of becoming better acquainted with the Scriptures, through several translations of them into the Polish language, not only by the different Protestant denominations, but also by the Romanists themselves. Indeed, with the exceptions above mentioned, all the translations of the Bible extant in the Polish language are from the sixteenth or the beginning of the seventeenth century.[18]

We meet also, among the productions of the literature of this period, a few catechisms and postillac, written expressly for the instruction of the common people by some eminent Lutheran and reformed Polish ministers. But the want of means for acquiring even the most elementary information, was so great, that only a very few among the lower classes were able to read them. The doctrines of the Reformers, which every where else were favoured principally by the middle and lower classes, in Poland found their chief support among the nobility. Comparatively few of the people adhered to them. There was a time, between 1550 and 1650, when half the senate,[19] and even more than half of the nobility, consisted of Lutherans and Calvinists. In the year 1570, these two denominations, together with the Bohemian Brethren, formed a union of their churches by the treaty of Sendomir for external or political purposes. In 1573, by another treaty known under the name of pax dissidentium, they were acknowledged by the state and the king, and all the rights of the Catholics were granted to the members of these three denominations, and also to the Greeks and Armenians. The want, however, of an accurate determination of their mutual relation to each other, occasioned repeatedly in the course of the following century bloody dissensions. The Protestants succeeded, nevertheless, in maintaining their rights, until the years 1717 and 1718, when their number having gradually yet considerably diminished, they were deprived of their suffrages in the diet. Their adversaries went still further; and, after struggling against oppression of all sorts, the dissidents had at length, in 1736, to be contented with being acknowledged as tolerated sects. After the accession of Stanislaus Poniatowsky to the throne in 1766, the dissidents attempted to regain their former rights. In this they were supported by several Protestant powers; but more especially by Russia, who thus improved the opportunity of increasing its influence in Polish affairs. In consequence of this powerful support, the laws directed against the dissidents were repealed; and in 1775 all their old privileges were restored to them, except the right of being eligible to the stations of ministers of state and senators. In more recent times the Protestants have been admitted to all the rights of the Catholics; although the Roman Catholic is still the predominant religion of the kingdom of Poland.

We have permitted ourselves this digression, and anticipation of time; although we shall have an opportunity of again returning to this subject. The influence of Protestantism on the literature of Poland cannot be denied; although its doctrines and their immediate consequence, the private examination and interpretation of the Scriptures, have occupied the minds and pens of the Poles less than those of any other nation among whom they have been received. We now return to the sixteenth century.

The Polish language acquired during this period such a degree of refinement, that even on the revival of literature and taste in modern times, it was necessary to add nothing for its improvement; although the course of time naturally had occasioned some changes. Several able men occupied themselves with its systematic culture by means of grammars and dictionaries. Zaborowski, Statorius, and Januscowski wrote grammars; Macynski compiled the first dictionary. The first part of Knapski's Thesaurus, an esteemed work even at the present day, was first published in 1621, and may therefore be considered as a production of this period. But the practical use, which so many gifted writers made of the language for a variety of subjects, contributed still more to its cultivation. The point in which it acquired less perfection, and which appeared the most difficult to subject to fixed rules, was that of orthography. That the Latin alphabet is not fully adapted to express Slavic sounds, is evident in the Polish language. Indeed the reputed harshness of this language rests partly on the manner in which they were obliged to combine several consonants, which to the eye of the occidental European can only be united by intermediate vowels. On the other hand, it is just this system of letters which forms a connecting link between the Polish language and those of western Europe; and although most Slavic philologists regret that the Latin alphabet ever should have been adopted for any Slavic language in preference to the Cyrillic, yet Grimm (with whom we fully agree) thinks that "the adoption of the former, with appropriate additions corresponding to the peculiar sounds of each language and dialect, would have been beneficial to all European languages."[20]

Although the art of printing was introduced into Poland as early as 1488, when the first printing office was established at Cracow, yet printed books first became generally diffused between the years 1530 and 1540. The first work printed in Poland was a calendar for the year 1490; the first book printed in the Polish language was Bonaventura's life of Jesus, translated for the queen of Hungary, and published in 1522. In the second half of the sixteenth century nearly every city, which had a considerable school, had also its printing office.[21] The schools were unfortunately confined to the cities; nothing was done for the peasantry, who have remained even to the most recent times in a state of physical and moral degradation, with which that of the common people of no other country except Russia can be compared. A peasant who could read or write, would have been considered as a prodigy. So much the more, however, was done for the national education of the nobility. In the year 1579 the university of Wilna was instituted; in 1594, another university was created at Zamosc in Little Poland, by a private nobleman, the great chancellor Zamoyski; which however survived only a few years, and perished in the beginning of the seventeenth century.[22] Numerous other schools of a less elevated character were founded at Thorn, Dantzic, Lissa, etc. most of them for Protestants.

So early as under Casimir, the son of Jagello, the Polish language began to be employed as the language of the court. Under his grandson Sigismund Augustus, the public laws and decrees were promulgated in the vernacular tongue of the country. But a language which thus issued from the court, was necessarily also dependent on the changes of the court. The influence of the French prince, Henry of Valois, successor of Sigismund Augustus, could not be considerable, as he occupied the throne only two months. But Stephen Bathory, prince of Transylvania, the brother-in-law of Sigismund Augustus, who was elected after Henry of Valois had deserted the country, was as a foreigner in the habit of interspersing his conversation and writings with Latin words, when the proper Polish words, of which language he had only an imperfect knowledge, did not occur to him. It is hardly credible that such a habit, or rather the imitation of it among his courtiers, could have had any influence on a language already so well established and cultivated, as the Polish idiom was at the close of the sixteenth century. The Polish literary historians, however, ascribe to Bathory's influence the fashion, which began at this time to prevail, of debasing the purity of the Polish language by an intermixture of Latin words and phrases.[23]

Although the Polish literature acquired during this period a kind of universality, and there were few departments of science, familiar to that age, which were not to some extent cultivated in it, yet it owes its principal lustre to the contributions made in it to history, poetry and rhetoric. The didactic style did not reach the perfection of the historical; nor did Polish literature acquire any wide domain in purely scientific productions. In accordance with the national tendency, the mass of distinguished talents was devoted to those interests, which yield an immediate profit in life, or which are themselves rather the results of empirical knowledge, than of abstract contemplation, viz. to politics, to eloquence, and to poetry, in so far as this latter is considered not as a creative power, but as the most appropriate means for expressing and describing the emotions, passions, and actions of man. There have however always been not a few gifted Poles, who have cultivated the field of science for its own sake, without reference to the practical importance of their labours; and there are more especially at the present time many distinguished names among the Polish mathematicians, natural philosophers, and chemists. In Copernicus himself, born indeed of parents of German extraction, and in a city (Thorn) mostly inhabited by German colonists, but also born a Polish subject and educated in a Polish university, Poland and Germany seem to have equal rights.[24]

The principal reason why didactic prose did not acquire the same degree of cultivation as the historical style, is, that all scientific works during this period, which was that of the formation of the language, were written by preference in Latin. Indeed, the authority of the classical languages did not suffer at all from the rising of the national literature. It is on the contrary a remarkable fact, that the cultivation of the vernacular tongue of the country, and the study of the Latin language in Poland, have ever proceeded with equal steps. The most eminent writers and orators of this period, who employed the Polish language, managed also the Latin with the greatest skill and dexterity. Even for common conversation, Latin and Polish were used alternately. Sigismund I, when separated from his first queen, Barbara Zapolska, maintained with her a correspondence in Latin; his second queen, Bona Sforza, used to employ that language in their most familiar intercourse.[25] Choisnin, in his Memoirs of the election of Henry of Valois, observes, that among a hundred Polish noblemen, there were hardly to be found two, who did not understand Latin, German, and Italian; and Martin Kromer goes so far as to state, that perhaps in Latium itself fewer persons had spoken Latin fluently than in Poland.[26] The reputation of the Latin poet Casimir Sarbiewski, in Latin Sarbievus, spread through all Europe. Most Polish poets were equally successful both in Polish and Latin verse. As the former language first developed itself in poetry, we therefore, in our enumeration of the principal writers of this time, begin with the poets.

Here the influence of the classics, and, above all, that of the Italian literature, is very distinctly perceived. Rey of Naglowic, ob. 1569, is called the father of Polish poetry. Most of his productions are of the religious kind, chiefly in verse, but also orations and postillae. His chief work was a translation of the Psalms.[27]

His principal followers were the Kochanowskis, a name of threefold lustre. John Kochanowski, ob. 1584, by far the most distinguished of them, published likewise a translation of David's Psalms, which is still considered as a classical work; in his other poems, Pindar, Anacreon, and Horace, were alternately his models, without diminishing the original value of his pieces.[28] Adam Mickiewicz compares him, in respect to the brevity, conciseness, and terseness of his expression, with the last named Roman poet; in reference to his treatment of the classic elements, to Goethe. His brother Andrew translated Virgil's AEneid; his nephew Peter, with more talent and success, the great epics of Tasso and Ariosto.

Rybinski maintains, as a lyric poet, in the opinion of several critics, the same rank with John Kochanowski; like him he wrote Polish and Latin verses, and was created poet laureate. Simon Szymonowicz, called Simonides, ob. 1629, obtained likewise the poetical crown from the pope Clement VIII; indeed his Latin odes secured him a lasting fame throughout all Europe, and procured him the appellation of the Latin Pindar. In Polish he wrote mostly idylls, after the model of Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus; but these, as their chief merit consists in the sweetness and delicacy of the language, only natives are able fully to appreciate.[29] The productions of his friend and contemporary Zimorowicz have the same general character, but are of less value in respect to diction. Other lyrical poets of merit may be named; e.g. the archbishop of Lemberg, Grochowski, a very productive writer; Czahrowski, Klonowicz, called also Acernus, and others.[30] As poets of a religious character we name here together, without reference to the denomination to which they belonged,—since most of the Polish poetical productions of this age were of a higher character than to suffer the intrusion of polemics,—Dambrowski, Bartoszewski, Miaskowski, whoso hymns are considered as the finest of that period, Sudrovius, Turnowski, and others. The age was also rich in satires and epigrams, Polish as well as Latin. Productions of this class by the two Zbylitowskis, Pudlowski, Kraiewski, and a great many others, are still extant.

The facility of rhyme in a language so rich in rhymes as the Polish, seduced several writers to use verse as a vehicle for the most trivial thoughts, or for subjects the very nature of which is opposed to poetry. Thus Paprocki of Glogol, who is esteemed as a diligent historian and accurate investigator of the past, wrote his numerous works on genealogy and heraldry mostly in rhyme.[31] Other historical poems were also written, which perhaps would not have been utterly deficient in merit, had they been transferred into prose.

Eloquence, so nearly related to poetry, and which, nevertheless, perhaps on that very account, should be distinguished from it by the most definite limits, is a gift, the cultivation of which may be expected above all in a republic. The Poles possess indeed all the necessary qualities for public orators; and eminent talents not only for poetical eloquence, but also for the pulpit, are not uncommon among them. Gornicki, ob. after 1591, Czarnkowski, Odachowski, and others, but especially the first named, were considered as the most distinguished orators of the age. The eloquence of the pulpit was exhibited in its highest eminence by Peter Skarga, court preacher of Sigismund III, whom his cotemporaries used to call the Polish Chrysostom; and by the learned Jesuit Wuiek, who also translated the Bible into Polish.[32] The sermons and orations of both of them, besides numerous other theological productions, were published at the time. Other theological writers of some distinction were, among the Catholics, Stanislaus Karnkowski, archbishop of Gnesen, Bierkowski, who was Skarga's successor, Bialobrzeski, Kuczborski, the Jesuit Rosciszewski, and others; among the Protestants, Seklucyan, the translator of the Polish Bible for Protestants;[33] Koszutski of Zarnowec, Radomski, Gilowski, and Budny, one of the leaders of the Unitarians, who also translated the Bible into Polish from the original languages.[34] We must remark, that the Polish theological literature of this period evinced much less of a polemical spirit than might have been expected, in an age when that of the neighbouring countries, Bohemia and Germany, abounded in controversial books and pamphlets, replete with unchristian bitterness and doctrinal rigidity. For productions of this character we have to look in Poland to the following period. The wise moderation of the two Sigismunds, and of Stephen Bathory, seems to have had a prodigious influence on the minds of the nation, to pacify them and keep them within appropriate limits.

History, especially national history, was justly considered as one of the subjects most worthy of human attention. History is the great school, in which nations appear as the pupils, experience as the teacher; and the fate of mankind depends on a wise application of the great moral lessons which they daily receive. Most of the Polish historians of this ago preferred however the Latin language; but their productions are too intimately connected with Poland to be separated from its literature, and may, therefore, be named here. The Polish chronicle written by Matthew of Miechow, body physician to Sigismund I, and published in 1521, was the first historical work printed in Poland. Martin Kromer, bishop of Ermeland or Warmia, called the Livy of Poland, Wapowski, Guagnini, an Italian, but naturalized and ennobled in Poland, and Piasecki, a Protestant, distinguished for his frankness, wrote works on Polish history; Koialowicz, on that of Lithuania. They all wrote in Latin. The first who published an historical work in Polish was Martin Bielski, ob. 1576. His chronicle of Poland, which is of value in every respect, is written in a style so beautiful, that it was called le style d'or. His son Joachim continued this work as far as to the reign of Sigismund III.[35] Another Polish chronicle, compiled with more erudition than taste, was written by Stryikowski, the author of numerous works on various subjects.

Other writers of merit, some of whom published original works on portions of history, while some translated the Latin volumes of their countrymen, or those of classic historical authors, were Wargocki, the Polish translator of Julius Caesar, and other Roman writers; Orzechowski, also lauded as an orator; Januszowski, Blazowski, Paszkowski, Cyprian Bazylik, and others. Works on tactics were published by John Tarnowski, a general celebrated in his time; by Strubicz, and Cielecki. Collections of statutes and laws were made by Herbart, Sapieha, Groicki, Sarnicki, and others.

Several memoirs referring to this period, and written during it, have been first published in our days; since the value of cotemporary historical documents has begun to be sufficiently appreciated. One of these publications (Wilna, 1844) is a chronicle referring to the first half of the sixteenth century; and was written by John Tarnowski, the general mentioned above. The manuscript had been long considered as lost.

It still remains to note the progress made in the philosophical sciences. We remarked above, that scientific works in Poland were mostly written in Latin; and since the case with them is different from that of historical works,—because, as the results of scientific examination and discovery, they are independent of the country where they are written, and belong to the world,—we therefore mention here only those works which were published in the Polish language. Falimierz, in Latin Phalimirus, first ventured to use the vernacular tongue of the country for a scientific book. He published as early as 1534 a work on natural history, and especially Materia medica. The first medical work in the Polish language was written in 1541 by Peter of Kobylin; the first mathematical work by Grzebski. Their example was followed by Latosz, Rosciszewski, Andrew of Kobylin, Umiastowski, Spiczynski, Siennik, Oczko, Grutinius, Syrenski, in Latin Sirenius, and others, all physicians, astronomers, botanists, etc.[36]


From the erection of the Cracovian Jesuit Schools in A.D. 1622, to the revival of science in A.D. 1760.

The noble race of the Jagellons had become extinct on the death of Sigismund Augustus, in 1572.[37] Poland had become formally an elective monarchy. Henry of Valois was the first to subscribe the pacta conventa, the fundamental law of the national liberty; the nation being understood to consist legally only of the nobility.[38] Stephen Bathory's strength kept the discordant elements together; and while at home he took care to improve the administration of justice, and erected the high tribunals of Petricau, Lublin, and Wilna, his victorious arms in his contest with Russia raised Poland for a short time to the summit of its glory. But under his successor Sigismund III, a Swedish prince, and nephew of Sigismund Augustus and of Stephen, began that anarchy which is to be considered as the principal cause of Poland's final calamitous fate. For about fifty years the Poles still maintained with equal valour, though with alternate good and ill success, their warlike character abroad; even while internal dissensions and bloody party strife raged in their own unhappy country. But to such fundamental evils, combined with the rising power of Russia, with the revolt of the Kozaks in 1654, occasioned principally by religious oppression, and with the gradual but sure advancement of a new rival in the elector of Brandenburg, hitherto considered as a weak neighbour—to all these influences, the building thus sapped in its foundation could make no resistance, and its walls could not but give way, when they were suddenly shaken by the hands of avaricious and powerful enemies from without.

The perversion of taste, which at the beginning of the seventeenth century reigned in Italy, and thence spread over all Europe, with much more rapidity indeed than the true poetry and pure style of the fifteenth century had done, created also in the literature of Poland a new period; which, through the political circumstances above referred to, was protracted to a greater length than would have been expected in a literature already so rich in national models. To the remarkable activity of mind in the preceding period, there followed a literary lethargy. A very pernicious influence is also ascribed, by the literary historians of Poland, to the Jesuits; although this order is in general disposed to favour the cultivation of science. Under Sigismund III, they were shrewd enough to make themselves gradually masters of nearly all the colleges; and after a long and obstinate struggle, even the university of Cracow had to submit. According to Bentkowski, it was principally by their influence, that the tone of panegyric and of bombast was introduced, which for nearly a hundred and fifty years disgraced the Polish literature. The tastelessness of this style reached its highest point under John Sobieski; when the panegyrics with which this victorious captain was hailed by his courtiers, became the model for all similar productions. The fashion, first introduced at the close of the preceding period, of interspersing the Polish language with Latin words and phrases, became during the present more and more predominant; and was at length carried so far as to give even to Polish words a false Latin sound, by means of a Latin termination. French, German, and Italian forms of expression soon obtained the same right. But what was still worse, and what indeed affected the language most of all, was the fact, that even the natural structure and well established syntax of the Polish language had to give place to an injudicious imitation of foreign idioms. Thus the very circumstance of its great pliancy, one of its principal excellencies, became a source of its corruption.

Poland, moreover, at a time when the minds of the rest of Europe were tolerably pacified in a religious respect, became the scene of theological controversies full of sophistry and bitterness, the natural consequence of the incipient oppression of the dissidents. The literature was overwhelmed with pamphlets, stuffed with a shallow scholastic erudition, and written in a style both bombastic and vulgar. But the influence of the Jesuits was not limited to literature and science; it had a still more unhappy result in its active consequences. Poland became also during this century the theatre of a religious persecution, less authorized by even the semblance of law than any which had before, or has since, occurred in other countries. The Arians or Unitarians, after having been for more than sixty years tacitly included in the general appellation of dissidents, had to sustain between the years 1638 and 1658 the utmost rigour of oppression, and were finally banished from the country; and all this without having done any thing to forfeit their rights as dissidents, from which body they had to be formally expelled by the united hatred of the other Protestants and Catholics, before even a pretext could be devised of proceeding lawfully against them. Nor had the Lutherans, Calvinists, Greeks, and Armenians, who, after the exclusion of the Unitarians, Quakers, and Anabaptists, were alone comprised under the name of dissidents, given any occasion for that gradual deprivation which they had to encounter of their lawful rights, in the possession of which they had been a hundred and fifty years undisturbed. The storm which threatened them, first manifested itself publicly in the diets of 1717 and 1718, and degenerated at last into open and shameless persecution. In the year 1724, a quarrel arose at Thorn, on occasion of a procession of the Jesuits, between the students of one of their schools and those of the Lutheran gymnasium. A Lutheran mob intermeddled and committed some excesses; in consequence of which the Jesuit Wolanski, in the name of his order, instituted a lawsuit against the Lutheran magistracy of the city. The result of this lawsuit was a tragedy, such as only the bloody pages of the books of the inquisition can exhibit, and unequalled as to its motives in the annals of the eighteenth century. All the perpetrators were punished with the utmost rigour; while Roesner, the president of the city, together with eleven other citizens, was publicly beheaded, and their property confiscated for the benefit of the order.

A body which acted in such a spirit, placed at the head of public education, could exert but a very injurious influence in a moral and religious respect; its influence on the literature and language has been described above. The general mental paralysis and lethargy, which reigned in Poland during this period, can indeed hardly be ascribed solely to their influence; but the latter served greatly to increase it. For more than twenty years all the schools in the whole country were in the hands of the Jesuits; and when in the year 1642 the congregation of the Piarists erected their first school in Warsaw, which soon was followed by several others founded by the same order, these seminaries had to struggle for nearly a century, watched and oppressed by the jealousy and despotism of the Jesuits, before they could acquire any influence consistent with the spirit in which they were founded. To the talents and firmness of Stanislaus Konarski, himself a Piarist, the Polish literary historians ascribe the principal merits of the final victory of his order. His endeavours indeed were favoured by a combination of fortunate circumstances. Literature and the fine arts found a friend and protector in a gifted and accomplished king, and in several high-minded noblemen of even more than regal authority. But the period of pedantry, perversion of taste, and deficiency of true criticism, had already lasted more than a hundred and thirty years. There was much to be done to cleanse the beds in the garden of literature from all the weeds which had luxuriated there, and to fertilize a soil which had so long lain fallow. The details of these endeavours belong however to the following period.

To the character of the theological literature of this age, we have above alluded. Among the Protestant writers were Andrew and Adalbert Wengierski. The works of the latter gave occasion to the polemical discussions of the Jesuit Poszakowski, himself the author of a history of the Lutheran and of the Calvinistic creed, and of several other books. Other works on subjects of theology and education, or collections of sermons and devotional exercises, were published by the Jesuits Szczaniecki, Koialowicz, Sapecki, Poninski, Zulkicwski, and others; and the Piarists Gutowski, Wysocki, Rosolecki, and others. The Jesuit Niesiecki wrote a comprehensive biblio-biographical work of great merit, which is considered as one of the best sources for the inquirer in Polish history and literature.[39] Another Jesuit, Wiiuk Koialowicz, translated Tacitus' Annals into Polish, and wrote in Latin a history of Lithuania. Knapski, also a Jesuit, published a large dictionary or "Thesaurus," which is still highly esteemed. Luhienski, archbishop of Gnesen, wrote in 1740 the first detailed geography in the Polish language. One of the most productive writers on various subjects of theology, history, and politics, was Starowolski, who died in 1656. Fourteen of his forty-seven works are written in Polish, the rest in Latin. We mention further, as geographical and historical writers of some merit, the Piarist Kola, professor Saltszewicz, Chodkicwicz, Niemir and Chwalkowski; and as a distinguished mathematician and scholar of general information, Broscius.

We conclude this period with the poets of that age; who, although perhaps they exhibited more talent than the cotemporary prose writers, must necessarily, from the nature of poetry, have suffered more from the predominant tastelessness of the time. Sam. Twardowski, ob. 1660, must be named first; a poet of fine gifts, but of an impure, bombastic, rhetorical style, the author of numerous lyrical and epic poems of very unequal value. After him came Vespasian Kochowski, the best lyric poet of the age; Gawinski, a very productive author, whose pastorals have been collected by Mostowski, together with those of Kochanowski, Simonides, and other classical poets; and Wenceslaus Potocki, the author of novels, poetry, and more especially epigrams, not without merit, but frequently licentious and indelicate. Among the poets of this age, who are in some measure distinguished by Polish critics, we find also a lady. Elizabeth Druzbacka, a poetess of high rank, but without a literary education or a knowledge of foreign languages, though not without natural gifts. Satires were written by Dzwonowski and Opalinski; historical and didactic poems by Bialabocki, prince Jablonowski, and by Leszczynski, father of king Stanislaus Leszczynski. Ovid was translated by Zebrowski and Otfinowski; Lucan's Pharsalia by Chroscinski, who versified also portions of the Bible; and again with more fidelity and skill by the Dominican monk Bardzinski.

Other poets of this age were, prince Lubomirski, who on account of his wealth and wise sayings is styled the Polish Solomon; prince Wisniowiocki, who published whole poems without the letter r, because he could not pronounce that letter; Bratkowski, the author of a series of happy epigrams; Falibogowski, Szymonowski, the Jesuits Ignes and Poniatowski, and others.


From Stephen Konarski, A.D. 1760, to the Revolution in 1830.

The Polish language, at the beginning of this period, was in a melancholy state; it was, to use Schaffarik's expression, stripped of its natural gifts of perspicuity, simplicity, and strength, deformed by tastelessness, and grown childish and obsolete at the same time. An able work, Memoirs, referring to the period between 1750 and 1760, written by K.H. Kallontaj, and published a few years since by count E. Raczynski, gives a graphic picture of the miserable and illiterate state of society in Poland at that time; and shows clearly how the seeds of decay and destruction were already scattered with full hands on a susceptible soil. It was a fortunate circumstance, that, just at the time when several of the most powerful Polish noblemen began to feel an intense and patriotic interest in their neglected language,—the king Stanislaus Augustus and his uncle prince Czartoryski at their head,—there awoke a number of gifted minds, who began to plant with so much activity on the long deserted though still fertile soil, that the field of Polish literature soon flourished and bore fruit again. These fruits, however artificial and unnational in their character, could only be compared to green-house productions. Various effective measures were taken for the revival of literature, and also for the promotion of science and art. But the new patrons could not afford to wait. The French literature of the day, with all its levity, shallowness, and splendour, seemed to be a material nearer at hand and more in harmony with the spirit of the court—the only school of revival for Polish literature—than their own national productions of former ages. In this way we may explain in part the frivolous tone, the shallow-mindedness, which prevail in all the Polish works of this age; during a period when vehement passions and furious contests already tore the country in pieces, and deep sorrow and grief reigned among all classes of society.

The establishment of the Monitor, a periodical work, to which the best and ablest men of Poland contributed, first exerted a superficial happy influence on the language.[40] Of still more importance in this respect was the establishment of a national stage, at the head of which were distinguished and well qualified men. But the measure which produced more effect than any other, was the appointment of a department of Education, resolved upon by the diet of 1775. Public instruction was thus made one of the great concerns of the government itself; and the power of the Jesuits, which had been for some time on the decline, was finally annihilated. The rich income of this order was henceforth entirely set apart for the benefit of learned institutions, to which free access was given. The provincial or departmental schools throughout the whole kingdom received a new organization on a different plan; and the university of Cracow resumed again its former rights. In respect to the instruction and melioration of the situation of the common people, we find as yet no attention whatever paid to these important subjects. It was not until 1807, or the foundation of the duchy of Warsaw under the administration of the king of Saxony, that the lower classes obtained their rights as men; and unfortunately even then without the power of availing themselves of these rights. Stanislaus Augustus, however, and some of his advisers and counsellors, acted in this respect with an honest will and noble intention; and by promoting the general interests of mankind in literature and science, did much for the social improvement of their own country.

Meanwhile, this unhappy country was the scene of the most violent party struggles; during which the heads of the parties conducted themselves with the most revolting selfishness, and an entire forgetfulness of all political consequences and of their own moral responsibility. The fanaticism of the bishops of Cracow and Warsaw refused to the dissidents the restoration of their rights; and Russia thus acquired the first pretext for intermeddling with Polish affairs. In the course of a few years, Poland was reduced to that torn and broken state, which induced Catharine II to consider it as a country "where one needed only to stoop, in order to pick up something." For a short time this course of things even seemed to be favourable to literature. The minds of men were in a state of excitement, which gave them power to produce the greatest and most extraordinary things. But a reaction very naturally followed. After twenty years of mental and political struggles and combats, to sustain which claimed the whole united powers of mind and soul,—twenty years numerically productive in every department,—there followed a mental calm, an intellectual blank, of more than twelve years.

It was, as if with the political dissolution of the kingdom, with the annihilation of the unity of the nation, this latter had sunk back into a state of intellectual paralysis. The interval from A.D. 1795 to A.D. 1807, in comparison with the years which preceded and have followed, was remarkably poor in productions of value. The literature of translations rose in an undue proportion, and the purity of the language suffered considerably. The government of the duchy of Warsaw acted on wise and truly humane principles; and during the short period between 1807 and 1812, all was done for the improvement of the country, which the unfortunate circumstances of the case permitted. Under this administration the number of schools rose from 140 to 634; a commission was instituted for procuring the publication of appropriate books of instruction in the Polish language; and several similar measures were taken for advancing the best interests of the country. The constitution of the new kingdom of Poland, in 1815, entered essentially into the same views; and was in every respect favourable to the development of the mental faculties of the nation. The modern kingdom of Poland embraced, indeed, not much more than the sixth part of the vast territory, which under the Jagellons had constituted the kingdom of that name. Before the cessions at Andrussov in the year 1667, the ancient kingdom contained sixteen millions of inhabitants; the census of the modern kingdom in 1818, counted only 2,734,000. But that the population of this exhausted country increased during the Russian administration,—especially in consequence of the encouragement given to foreign colonists, the establishment of manufactures which furnished means of support for the lower classes, and other similar measures,—is apparent from the results of the census of 1827; according to which the kingdom then contained 3,705,000 inhabitants.[41]

In the field of science and literature, the nobility had at length found rivals among the free citizens; and the courts of these temples were now, through the erection of village schools, made accessible even to the peasant, who was, in name at least, no longer a degraded slave.[42] If the Russian government in Poland had been exercised in practice, according to the same principles on which it was founded; if Alexander's first intentions had been practically executed in the same spirit in which the happiness of his Polish subjects had been theoretically planned; perhaps it would have been less difficult to reconcile the minds of the Poles to the loss of their independence as a nation, which they justly consider as an inestimable good. We have here no concern with politics, except so far as they have a necessary influence on the state of general cultivation; or so far as they give birth to important occasional appearances in the republic of letters. Considered in the first point of view, it is not to be denied, that the Polish nation, since the foundation of the constitutional Russian kingdom of Poland in 1815, has made more progress towards social improvement, and has advanced more towards a state of equality in a mental and intellectual respect with the countries of middle Europe, viz. Germany, France and England, than during the whole vast period of their previous existence.

For most of these improvements, however, the preparation had already been made, in the last ten years before the dissolution of the republic. The emancipation of the serfs, who comprised the whole peasantry, one of the fundamental laws of the duchy of Warsaw in 1807, was confirmed at the creation of the kingdom of Poland in 1815. In the diet of the kingdom, not only the nobility and the government, but also the cities and smaller communities, had their own representatives; and all Christian denominations acquired equal political rights. To the universities of Cracow, Wilna, and Lemberg,[43] there was added in 1818 a fourth at Warsaw. The kingdom of Poland contained in 1827, in each of its eight woiwodships, a palatine school, and besides this three other institutions for the higher branches of education; fourteen principal department schools, and nine for sub-departments; several professional seminaries for miners, teachers, agriculturists, and others; a military academy, a school for cadets, and a number of elementary schools, both private and public.[44] The Russian-Polish provinces, i.e. the part of Poland united with Russia in the three successive dismemberments of Poland, participate in all the means of education which the Russian empire affords; the province of West Prussia and the grand duchy of Posen, in those of the kingdom of Prussia, where an enlightened government has made, as is generally acknowledged, the mental improvement of the lower classes one of its principal objects. The Austrian kingdom of Galicia had in the year 1819 two lyceums, twelve gymnasiums, several other institutions for education of different names and for specific purposes, and also numerous elementary schools. The Catholic religion is here the only reigning one; although the Protestants, who here are still comprised under the name of dissidents, are tolerated.

The literary activity of the Polish nation occupied in 1827 not less than sixty printing offices and twenty booksellers. Of the latter, fifteen were in Warsaw, the rest scattered over all the province formerly belonging to Poland. At Warsaw alone five daily political papers and one weekly were published in the Polish language; besides these there existed only five, viz. one in each of the four larger cities, Cracow, Lemberg, Wilna, and Posen, and a fifth at St. Petersburg. There are other periodicals for scientific objects published at Warsaw; while in the other cities the German publications of that character are chiefly read. The periodical published by the national institution, called after count Ossolinski, at Lemberg, is however considered as the most important in the Polish language.

The high spirit of the Polish nation, and that glowing patriotism for which they are so distinguished, has induced them during the period of their unnatural partition and amalgamation with foreign nations, to devote more zeal than ever to the sole national tie which still binds together the subjects of so many different powers—their language. There have been numerous learned societies founded; among them, above all, the society of the friends of science at Warsaw, to which the most eminent men of the nation belong, must be distinguished. Academies of arts and sciences have been established, and associations formed for various scientific purposes. The influence of all these institutions, more especially that of the above-mentioned society at Warsaw, has been very favourably employed in limiting that of the French and German languages, naturally induced by political circumstances.

The French language indeed, independently of the political events of modern times, had already acted powerfully on the Polish at the close of the preceding period. In poetry, the affected bombastic school of the Gongorists and Marinists had been supplanted throughout all Europe by the better taste of the cold, stiff, and formal French poets, whose defects it was much easier to imitate than their merits. For more than half a century the French language reigned with an uncontrolled and unlimited sovereignty over all the literary world. But its most absolute dominion was in Poland. In the manners of the nobility of this country, French gracefulness and ease were, in a peculiar and interesting manner, blended with the daring heroism of the knight and the luxuriousness of the Asiatic despot. French refinement and French witticism covered the rudeness and revelry characteristic of the middle ages. French teachers and governesses had inundated the whole country, and a journey to France was among the requisite conditions of an accomplished education. The Polish writers—all of them belonging to the nobility—to whom, from their youth, the French language was equally familiar with their own, unconsciously disfigured the latter by Gallicisms; since French forms of expression seemed to be the best adapted for the expression of French thoughts and French philosophy. A modern Polish author calls the Polish literature of this period a second edition of the French with inferior types and on worse paper.[45] Long after the rest of literary Europe had shaken off the yoke, the Polish poets, although the genius of their rich, creative, and pliant language was decidedly opposed to such a slavery, continued to submit to French rules and laws, and do so partly still.

We begin the enumeration of the distinguished writers of this period, with its principal founder, Stephen Konarski, mentioned above,[46] who was born A.D. 1700, and died in 1773. In his seventeenth year he entered the order of Piarists, and became later a professor in the college of this congregation at Warsaw. After a long stay in Italy and France, he returned to Poland; accompanied king Stanislaus Leszczynski to Lorrain; but again returned to his country and founded several institutions for education in Warsaw, Wilna, and Lemberg, on principles different from those of the Jesuits. In the year 1747 he went a third time to France, but returned after three years; and from that time devoted himself entirely to the literary and mental reform of his own country. Of his printed works, twenty-eight in number, fourteen are written in Polish. They embrace different topics in poetry, and a tragedy; but his principal merits lie in his writings on the subject of politics and education.[47]

After him we name the illustrious philosopher Stanislaus Leszczynski. Most of his works, on politics and ethics, were written in French; in the Polish language he wrote, besides one or two other works, a history of the Old and New Testaments in verse.[48] Zaluski, known more especially by the foundation of a large and celebrated library, in which he spent an immense fortune, and which he finally made over to his country,[49] was the friend of king Stanislaus and of Konarski. In possession of an uncommon amount of knowledge, and a very extensive erudition, which however he owed more to his remarkable memory than to any distinguished capacity, he wrote a large number of Latin and Polish books on literary and biographical subjects, and on poetry; in all which the genius of the preceding period still reigns.

Another nobleman of high rank, who distinguished himself by his patriotism and erudition, was Wenceslaus Rzewuski, woiwode of Podolia, and cotemporary with Zaluski, whom he surpassed however in critical taste and productive powers. His translation of the Psalms is highly esteemed. A still higher name as a patron of literature and the arts, is the uncle of king Stanislaus Augustus, prince Adam Czartoryski. He was marshal of the diet in 1764, when the ill-famed liberum veto was abolished, which gave to every deputy, singly, the right of overthrowing the otherwise unanimous resolutions of the diet, and thus was the principal cause of the lawless disorder which disgraced the sessions of that body. His merits as a statesman and a Mecaenas are equal. Several historical works, designed to advance the honour of Poland, were published under his care and at his instigation. Amid all his numerous avocations, he found time to write several pieces for the national stage; which, as a promoter of the purity of the language, was a subject of his particular care and attention.[50]

By the side of the name of Czartoryski, shines that of Potocki. More than one member of this illustrious family had in former times acquired the right of citizens in the republic of letters. Count Paul Potocki and his grandson Anthony, in the seventeenth and beginning of the eighteenth century, were both equally celebrated for their talents. The works of the former were published by count Zaluski, under the title of Genealogia Potockiana; the speeches and addresses of the latter are partly printed in Daneykowicz' Suada Polona, and were in their time considered as models. But the most elevated rank in this family is occupied by the two brothers Ignatius and Stanislaus Kostka Potocki, whether as patriots and statesmen, or as writers and patrons of science. Ignatius, besides promoting several literary undertakings, and bearing the expenses of more than one journey for the purposes of science and learning, was himself a distinguished writer. He translated Condillac's work on logic, and introduced it into the Polish schools as a class book. His merits in respect to public education were great; he was one of the most urgent promoters of the emancipation of the serfs; and at his death in the year 1809, he left behind the reputation of a true friend of the people. His brother Stanislaus Kostka, although entertaining the same political principles, did not take the same active part during the struggles of the Poles for their expiring independence; he retired to Austria after the king had joined the confederation of Targowicz, and there devoted himself entirely to his studies. In 1807 he returned to his country; and there, as president of the department for schools and education, he found means to carry out his enlightened views and benevolent intentions for the good of his country. At the foundation of the kingdom of Poland in 1815, he was made minister of public instruction, and was always found at the head of every noble and patriotic undertaking. From his oratorical powers, he was called princeps eloquentiae. In respect to genius he was above his brother; although the latter seems to have surpassed him in energy of character. His principal work, "on Style and Eloquence," was published in 1815; another work of value is his translation of Winkelmann's book on ancient art, which he accompanied by illustrations and remarks, but did not finish. His influence on Polish literature was decided.[51] Another nobleman, distinguished as an orator and political writer, was Hugo Kollantay, count Sztumberg, who published, together with Ignatius Potocki, a history of the constitution.

At the head of the historical writers of this period stands Adam Naruszewicz, the faithful translator of Tacitus, whose style he adopted also in his original works. His history of the Polish nation is considered as a standard work; as a production, which in respect to erudition, philosophical conception, and style, is the chef d'oeuvre of Polish literature. The six volumes published by himself comprise only the period between A.D. 965 and 1386, beginning with the second volume; as for the first, which was to have contained the earliest history of Poland, he intended to have executed it afterwards, and had indeed collected all the necessary materials, but was prevented by death. The Warsaw Society of Friends of Science published it thirty years after his death, and endeavoured to engage the principal talents of Poland in the continuation of his work. This was done in such a way, that each writer was to undertake the history of the administration of a single king; and at last, after each part had appeared separately, the society was to make a collection of the whole, and, if necessary, cause it to be rewritten. Several able men have devoted themselves to this work. The plan of the society, which by its very nature excluded all unity of character, seems to have met with more approbation than, according to our opinion, it deserved. The Polish public is however indebted to it for more than one valuable work on history, to which it gave birth. Naruszewicz had collected for his undertaking a library of materials, in 360 folio volumes. He wrote also a history of the Tartars, a biography of the Lithuanian captain Chodkiewicz, and was admired as a poet. He died in 1796, it is said of grief at the fate of his unhappy country.

Naruszewicz was educated by the Jesuits, and was himself of that order until its dissolution. He died as bishop of Luck. In respect to time he stands as the first eminent writer of a new period, just on the verge of the past; and even his warmest admirers do not deny that he participated, in some slight degree, in the character of that past, by a certain inclination to panegyric and a flowery style. But in energy and richness of thought, he far surpasses all his predecessors, and has not yet been reached by any who have written after him.[52]

Another historical work of value on Poland, was edited by Joachim Lelewel. The history of Poland by Waga, in the want of any thing more suitable, had been in use as a class book in the Polish schools for more than fifty years. Lelewel, in order to improve its popularity, took this book as a foundation, but completely recast it, divided the history of Poland according to a plan perfectly new, completed the work, and published it under Waga's name. His rich additions regard chiefly the legislature, statistics, and the cultivation of the country. His very division of the history of Poland, into Poland conquering, Poland divided, Poland flourishing, and Poland on the decline, seems to indicate the political tendency of his work, and his desire to impress upon the Polish youth the great moral lessons which history presents.[53]

Another history of Poland of more extent was published by G.S. Bantkie. Lelewel said of the second edition of this book, which appeared in 1820, that "a more perfect work in this department did not exist."

One of the most remarkable writers of his time, on history and bibliography, was the Jesuit Albertrandy; who, besides being the author of several historical works and treatises, was indefatigable in collecting materials for the history of his country. He went to Italy, and here gathered during a stay of three years a hundred and ten folio volumes of extracts, entirely written with his own hand. He then went to Stockholm and Upsal, where the most important manuscripts relative to Poland are deposited. The Swedish government was narrow-minded enough, to allow him access to their libraries only on condition of his not taking any written notes. But Albertrandy had so remarkable a memory, that he was able to make up for this disadvantage, by writing down every evening all that he had read during the day, and added in this way not less than ninety folio volumes to his library of manuscripts.

Portions of Polish history, or subjects belonging to it, were treated with success by the poet Niemcewicz; by Bentkowski, Kwiatkowski, Soltykowicz, Surowiecki, Lelewel, Onacewicz, the counts Ossolinski and Czacki, the former distinguished by learning and critical discernment, the latter the author of an esteemed history of the Polish and Lithuanian laws; by Maiewski, Siarczynski, and others. The princess Isabella Czartoryski intended her "Pilgrim of Dobromil," to be a book of historical instruction for the common people. Abridgments of Polish history were given by Miklaszcwski and Falenski. The historical songs written by Niemcewicz, at the instigation of the Warsaw Society of Friends of Science, are also to be considered as belonging to history, as well as to poetry, since they are accompanied by valuable historical illustrations. The same author wrote Memoirs on ancient Poland. Turski translated the memoirs of Choisain on the administration of Henry of Valois; and the memoirs of Michael Oginski, Sur la Pologne et les Polonais depuis 1788 jusqu'en 1815, are a valuable contribution to the history of our time. Memoirs of J. Kilinski, a shoemaker by trade, but like the butcher Sierakowski, a successful revolutionary leader in 1795, were published in 1830. The modern periodicals likewise contain many well written historical essays, some of them of decided importance. This is especially true of the Memoirs of Warsaw, and also of Lemberg, the Scientific Memoirs, the Wilna and Warsaw Journals, the Bee of Cracow, the Ant of Poznania, and others.

We have remarked above, as a characteristic of the Polish literature, that although Poland was never poor in talents of various kinds, yet its literary contributions have aimed less at the advancement of science in general, than to exalt the glory of the Polish name, and thus have an immediate reflexive influence on the nation. In the same spirit, the history of other countries has received little attention, not excepting even ancient history. Poland indeed does not possess a single distinguished work on foreign history; and their Gibbons and Robertsons seem ever to have been absorbed in their own patriotic interests. As writers of merit on universal history and its auxiliary branches, we may mention Cajetan and Vincent Skrzetuski, count John Potocki, Bohusz, Jodlowski, Sowinski. prince Sapieha, count Berkowski, and above all Lelewel.[54] Several of his works have been translated into French and German. The German version of his History of the discoveries of the Carthaginians and Greeks (Berlin 1832), was accompanied by an introduction from the celebrated Ritter.

The Polish language, the purity of which at the beginning of the present period was an object of particular attention, has in our own century been the subject of numerous learned inquiries; some of which have added considerably to the light thrown in modern times by Slavic-German scholars upon the Slavic languages and Slavic history in general. Linde, besides several other philological and historical writings, has enriched Slavic literature with a comparative critical dictionary in six volumes, which is considered as one of the standard works of the language. G.S. Bantkie, the author of several historical and bibliographical works of great merit in the Polish, Latin, and German languages, has written a Polish grammar and Polish-German dictionary. Rakowiecki prepared a new edition of the Jus Russorum, introduced by a critical preface, and accompanied with many explanatory notes. We must, however, take this occasion to remark, that the Polish critics in general; even if in every other respect qualified as sagacious and impartial judges, are by no means infallible on subjects which have any relation to their own country. The glory and honour of their own nation are always with them the principal objects, to which not seldom the impartiality of a scientific inquirer, and even historical truth, is unscrupulously sacrificed. Maiewski wrote a book rich in ideas on the Slavi;[55] bibliographical works, and books on the literary history of Poland have been published by Chrominski, Sowinski, Juszynski, count Ossolinski, Szumski, and more especially by Bentkowski.[56] Count Stan. Potocki's works contain likewise a number of articles on Polish literature. In the previous periods, all bibliographical works were written in Latin.

The brilliant talent of the Poles for eloquence enjoyed, during the early part of this period and before the dissolution of the republic, the best possible opportunity for development, among the intellectual struggles and combats occasioned by the political circumstances of the country and the discussion of new political theories. The constitutional diet of 1788-1791 exhibited a rich store of oratorical talent. The names of the Potockis, Sapieha, Czartoryski, Kollantay, Matuszewicz, Niemcewicz, Soltyk, Kicinski, and others, were mentioned with distinction. The eloquence of the pulpit was of course much less cultivated in a nation which lives chiefly in politics. Lachowski, a Jesuit and court preacher of the last king, is by the Poles considered as an eminent preacher; although according to German judges he was shallow and voluble, and was surpassed by his cotemporary Wyrwicz, and above all by Karpowicz. Prazmowski, Jakubowski, Woronicz bishop of Warsaw, Szismawski, Szweykowski, Zacharyaszewicz, and others, were esteemed as powerful preachers.

Besides the oratorical powers and the historical productions of the Poles, the reputation of their modern literature rests chiefly on poetry. Although the Polish poets adhered longer to the strict rules of Boileau than the rest of Europe, and have only in the most recent times chosen better models in the Germans and English,—without however having been able to free themselves entirely from their French chains,—yet the national genius of their language has sometimes conquered the artificial restraints of narrow rules and arbitrary laws. Naruscewicz, the celebrated historian, occupies also a distinguished rank as a poet. He translated Anacreon and some of Horace's odes; but wrote still more original pieces, odes, pastorals, epigrams, satires, and a tragedy entitled 'Guido.'

The most distinguished poet under Stanislaus Augustus was count Ignatius Krasicki, bishop of Ermeland or Warmla, and later of Gnesen, the Polish Voltaire. His principal works are an epic under the title of Woyna, Chocimska or 'War of Chocim,' and three comic epics, one of which, Monachomachia, ridicules the monkish system and exhibits its absurdity in strong colours. He wrote this poem at the suggestion of Frederic the Great, to whose coterie of literary friends he belonged. His great heroic epic is considered by his countrymen as a standard work; while foreigners look at it as a valuable historical poem indeed, but as utterly deficient in true epic power and original invention. His smaller poems and prose writings are replete with wit and spirit; to see a bishop writing erotic songs and satirical epigrams was nothing extraordinary in his time. As a prose writer be appears as one of the few who were not blind to the defects and follies of their countrymen. Of his translations we mention Macpherson's Ossian and Plutarch. He belongs so decidedly to his age, i.e. to the age of the freezing, unpoetical, French influence, that our time, with its higher standard for a true poet, can no longer set a great value on his works.[57]

Trembecki, ob. 1812, as a lyric poet takes equal rank, according to some Polish critics, with Krasicki. His chief poem, Zofiowka, which has been translated into French by La Garde, is of that descriptive, contemplative kind, which was fashionable in his day. He had more imagination than other cotemporary Polish poets. Szymanowski, ob. 1801, a writer of pastorals, is distinguished for delicacy and sweetness. As to the beauty of his diction his countrymen are the best judges; but as for the character and real poetical value of his productions, we doubt whether the sounder taste of our day would relish the whole species so highly as was done at a time, when the forms of society had reached the very summit of artificial perversion. A certain longing after nature and its purity was the necessary result of such a state of things; but even nature itself they were unable to see, except in an artificial light. All the Polish productions of this species, in the present period, savour strongly of the French school; whilst the pastorals of the sixteenth century hover in the midst between the bucolics of the ancients and the Italian and Spanish eclogues.

There was the same decided influence of the French literature on Wengierski, who died in 1787; although less in respect to taste than to morals. Karpinski, also a writer of pastorals, approaches nearest the Greeks, and is on the whole a poet of uncommon talent. His original writings bear much more of a national stamp than those of other poets of this period. His translation of Racine's Athalia is considered as a masterpiece, and his version of the Psalms has not been surpassed in any language. Another distinguished poet is Dionysius Kniaznin, remarkable for a certain external freshness, which imparts life to all his productions. He was educated in the college of the Jesuits at Witebsk; and it was during his whole life a matter of regret to him, that he "had lost the golden season of his youth, and wasted the labour of sleepless nights on irksome trifles." Notwithstanding this learned education, the author of the Letters on Poland finds between him and Burns a kind of analogy. Kniaznin's principal fame rests on a ludicrous heroic called the 'Balloon.' He spent a part of his life at Pulawy, the estate of prince Czartoryski, under the patronage of this nobleman; and is said to have become, like Tasso, the victim of a passion for one of his lady patronesses.

The following are further regarded among their countrymen as poets of the first rank, viz. Niemcewicz, Brodzinski, bishop Woronicz, and Mickiewicz. Julius Niemcewicz is also known by his political fortunes and influence, and is equally esteemed as an historian and for his poetical talents. The eloquence which he exhibited in the diet of 1788-92, as the nuntius or deputy of Lithuania, laid the foundation of his fame. When his country was lost, after having fought at the side of Kosciuszko and shared his fate as a prisoner, he accompanied this great man to America, where he associated with Washington, whose life he has since described. His eulogy on Kosciuszko is considered as a masterpiece. His principal works are his historical songs, his dramas, and his "Reign of Sigismund III." Whatever he writes evinces more than common talents; as to which his friends only deplore that he has scattered them so much, or, according to the expression of the author of the Letters on Poland, that "his genius was too eager in embracing at once so much within its potent grasp; and thus, instead of concentrating his powers, lessened their brilliant beams, by diffusing them over too wide a horizon." [58]

John Woronicz, bishop of Cracow, and afterwards of Warsaw, whom we have named above as one of the most eloquent preachers, is equally celebrated as a poet. His productions all have a character of dignity and loftiness; and, with the exception of some religious hymns, are devoted to the historical fame of his country. His "Sybil," in which he conjures up in succession the ancient Polish kings from their graves to behold the cruel state of their once triumphant country, and the "Lechiade," an epic, which Schaffarik considers as the best Polish production of this species, are his principal works. The inclination of the Polish poets to celebrate and exalt their own country and the heroic deeds of their ancestors, without even admitting the possibility of rivalship on the part of any other nation, can easily be accounted for; while to foreign critics the same poems, which inspire Polish readers with patriotic enthusiasm, often appear pompous and void of that simplicity, which is the true source of the sublime.

Casimir Brodzinski, ob. 1835, was an eminent original poet, and an excellent translator. His poetry is pervaded by a character of strong and decided nationality, and Bowring says of him: "If any man can be considered the representative of Polish feelings, and as having transfused them into his productions, Brodzinski is certainly the man." He translated Macpherson's Ossian; and first introduced Scott's masterpieces into the literature of Poland. He may be considered as one of the founders of the modern romantic school in Polish literature.

Adam Mickiewicz, born in 1798, whose name belongs, perhaps, more appropriately to the next period, owed his first reputation, as a poet of eminent talent, to three small volumes of miscellaneous poetry, first published in 1822-1828. A poetic tale, Conrad Wallenrod, a scene from the wars of the Poles with the Teutonic knights, was published shortly after.[59]

The series of Polish poets towards the end of this period, who have manifested some talent, is too long to permit us to enumerate them all; and even a complete catalogue of their names must not be expected in these pages, which are devoted merely to an historical review of the whole literature, and to individuals only so far as they go to form characteristic features of the physiognomy of the former. The "Dictionary of Polish poets," published in 1820 by Juszynski, describes the lives of not less than 1400 individuals, independently of course of their poetical worth. We confine ourselves to presenting some of the most distinguished names in addition to those above-mentioned, viz. Gurski, a very productive and popular writer; L. Osinski, still more esteemed as a critic: Molski, Tanski, Boncza Tomaszewski, Okraszewski, Tymowski, Szydlowski, and Kozmian, the author of a popular didactic poem.

The Polish literature of this time was particularly rich in translations, which are approved by their countrymen, although they perhaps will not satisfy the higher standard of German or English criticism. This is due partly to the richness and pliability of the language itself. Dmochowski, Przybylski, and Staszyc, translated Homer; and the first also Virgil. Dmochowski's translations are in rhymed verse; those of Przybylski, who also enriched Polish literature with translations of the Paradise Lost, the Lusiad, and of many other poems, are in the measures of the originals, and manifest both a profound knowledge of the foreign languages, and great dexterity in using his own. Staszyc has written valuable works on various subjects, and enjoys a high esteem as a literary man and patriot. Felinski, the translator of Delille and Racine, is considered as the most harmonious Polish versifier. Hodani, Osinski, Kicinski, Kruszynski, have likewise transplanted the productions of the French Parnassus into the Polish soil; Sienkiewicz, Odyniec, and others, devoted their talents to the English. Okrascewski translated the Greek tragic poets. Minasowicz, the author of fifty-three various works, and Nagurczewski, translated also several of the ancient authors; but according to the best critics, with more knowledge of the classic languages, than skill in the management of their own. Among all the distinguished poets mentioned above, there is hardly one, who, besides his original productions, did not likewise devote his talents to poetical translations; in which Karpinski, Naruscewicz, and Krasicki, were considered as eminently successful.

In the whole domain of poetry, there is no branch in which the Poles manifested a greater want of original power, than the dramatic. Here the influence of the French school was most decided, and indeed exclusive. We have seen above what pains were taken by the most distinguished men of the nation, to establish a national stage; to which they looked, not in the light of a frivolous amusement, but as a school for purifying and elevating the national language and literary taste, and also as a means of correcting vice by ridiculing it. In this view several clergymen wrote for the theatre. The Jesuit Bohomolec wrote the first original comedies in 1757; other comedies, valuable as pictures of the time, were written by bishop Kossakowski. Prince Czartoryski we have mentioned above as a writer of dramas. Zablocki, Lipinski, Osinski, Kowalski, and others, transplanted the French masterpieces to the Polish stage, or imitated them. The actors, Boguslawski, Bielawski, and Zolkowski, wrote original pieces. Tragedies, mostly on subjects of Polish history, were written by Niemcewicz, Felinski, Dembowski, Slowacki, Kropinski. Hofmann, and F. Wenzyk, whose "Glinski" is considered as the best Polish production of this kind. The most popular comedies in recent times are by count Fredro, who is called the Polish Moliere. The Polish stage is still richer in melo-dramas, especially rural pictures in a dramatic form; of which Niemcewicz's piece, "John Kochanowski," is a fine specimen.

As it respects novels, tales in prose, and similar productions, the literature of Poland has been much less overwhelmed with this species of writing, in which mediocrity is so easy and perfection so rare, than that of their neighbours the Russians. We think this can easily be accounted for. They possess few, for the same reason that the English are so rich in them. Domestic life, the true basis of the modern novel, has no charms in Poland. The whole tendency of the nation is towards public life, splendour, military fame; theirs are not the modest virtues of private retirement, but the heroic deeds of public renown. The beauty, the spirit, the influence of their women, is generally acknowledged; but that female reserve and delicacy which draws the thread of an English novel through three volumes, would be looked for in vain in Poland. Niemcewicz, however, published in 1827 an historical novel, "John of Trenczyn," which is considered as a happy imitation of Scott. Others were written by count Skarbeck. Among the novels, which present a psychological development of character, and a description of fashionable life, "The Intimations of the Heart" is regarded as the principal work. It was written by the princess of Wirtemberg, daughter of Adam and Isabella Czartoryski. Another esteemed female writer is Clementina Hofmann, formerly Tanska.

The Poles, although from a feeling of pride and patriotism naturally disposed to overrate the productions of their own literature, are far from being deficient in critical judgment or in exalted ideas on the theory of the beautiful. The count Stanislaus Potocki and Ossolinski, L. Osinski, Golanski, and others, maintain a high rank in this department.

Philosophy, as an abstract science, independently of its immediate application to subjects of real life, has never found more than a few votaries among the Poles. In the beginning of the seventeenth century, Aristotle was translated into Polish by Petryci. For nearly two hundred years, the teachers of philosophy in the Polish universities stopped at Aristotle; and a few commentaries on his Ethics and Politics composed the whole philosophical literature of Poland. In the first years of our own century, Jaronski and Szianiawski made an attempt to introduce the philosophy of Kant; but although the cause appeared to be in the best hands, they met with little success. Galuchowski, a German philosophical writer of merit, is a Pole by birth;[60] as also Trentovski and Cieszkowski, followers of Hegel, who prefer the German for their organ.[61]

For the study of polite literature and the Slavic languages during this period, Warsaw was the principal seat; for philology and the exact sciences, the university of Wilna. This learned institution had taken special pains in respect to the necessary elementary books for the study of the classical languages; and was distinguished by its able professors Groddek, Bobrowski, and Zukowski. The former, a scholar of high reputation, in addition to several philological works, translated Buttman's Greek Grammar into Polish; the latter published also a Greek and a Hebrew Grammar. In the oriental languages Senkowski at St. Petersburgh is distinguished; and count Rzewuski at Vienna had great desert in connection with the periodical work, Fundgruben des Orients.

In consequence of the grand-duke Constantine's predilection for mathematics, an undue share of attention, after the erection of a kingdom of Poland under his administration, was paid in schools to the exact or empirical sciences; undue we call it, because on account of its excess, the moral and literary pursuits of the pupils were necessarily neglected. Mathematics, during this whole period, were taught by several eminent men; by John Sniadecki, who is at the same time considered as a model in respect to style and language; by Poezobut, Zaborowski, Czech, Rogalinski, and others. In the same departments the names of Twardowski, Polinski, and Konkowski, must be honourably mentioned. Count Sierakowski wrote a classical work on architecture; and the learned Polish Jew Stern is celebrated over all Europe as the inventor of arithmetical and agricultural machines. Count Chodkiewicz and Andrew Sniadecki are distinguished chemists. Natural philosophy, although less studied, had able professors in H. Osinski and Bystrzycki; natural history, more particularly botany and zoology, in Kluk and Jundzill. Medicine, until the middle of the last century, was in Poland exclusively in the hands of foreigners, especially Germans and French [62] since then several gifted Poles have devoted themselves to this science, although they have not yet formed a national school. Lafontaine, body physician of the last king, Dziarkowski, Perzyna, Malcz, and others, must be mentioned here. The university of Wilna was the most celebrated school for medical science.

Among the reflecting statesmen of Poland, in the second decennium of our century, there began to be a great deal of attention bestowed on national economy and its various branches; more especially on studies connected with agriculture, as being the science most applicable to the present wants of the country. Poland being the most extensive plain in Europe, and for the most part of a very rich and fertile soil, the Poles would seem destined by nature to be an agricultural people. We cannot but observe here, that from this very circumstance, the wretched state of the labouring classes is placed in a still more striking light. The interests of agricultural science have been promoted by different societies, and several able treatises on those subjects have been published; although it does not appear that any new theory or principles have been started. Of all the branches of moral science, political economy has met in Poland with the most disciples. Valuable statistical works on Poland in the Polish language have been written by Staszyc, honourably mentioned above;[63] by Slawiarski, and others. Swiencki in his 'Geography of ancient Poland,' Surowiecki in his 'History of the Polish towns and peasantry,' give very valuable statistical notices; and the 'Journey to Constantinople and Troy' by count Raczynski, contains an exact statistical account of Podolia and the Ukraine.

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