Poland Literature – From the Baroque to the Enlightenment

Baroque literature was even more marked by differences relating to the social and geographical derivation of the writers. From the plebeian and lower-middle classes of the cities came the popular and satirical poets, often hidden behind anonymity or bizarre pseudonyms, belonging to the so-called literatura mieszczańska (“bourgeois literature”) or the literatura sowiżdrzalska (from the name of Sowiźdrzał, the Polish Eulenspiegel). They were opposed by ‘high’ literature, both in its noble-Sarmatic variant, represented by H. Morsztyn, WH Kochowski, S. Twardowski and above all by the prolific W. Potocki, both in the magnate and courtesan variant, to which belong writers of high-noble origin such as JA Morsztyn and SH Lubomirski. The latter, together with the anonymous translator of Adonis, can also be considered the major representatives of the marinism that influenced, even indirectly, part of the Polish poetry of the seventeenth century, as evidenced by D. Naborowski for the lyric and S. Twardowski for the epic. The Jesuit MK Sarbiewski, a Latin poet of European fame, also referred to the model of G. Marino, in his treatises on rhetoric and poetics, so much so that he deserved the nickname of Horace Sarmatic, and, together with E. Tesauro and B. Gracián, one of the major theorists of Baroque conceptualism. In the same period, while the numerous historical-political works of St. Starowolski attempted to present to Europe the image of a new cult Poland, the ideology of Sarmatism, with its excesses, took hold (the Franciscan W. Dembołęcki was certain that Adam and Eve spoke in Polish), but also with its most beautiful literary fruits, such as the Pamiętniki («Memoirs») by JC Pasek, rediscovered in the Romantic age and since then venerated as a monument of the mentality and civilization of the Sarmatic petty nobility. Even the satirical production of two magnates like the brothers K. and Ł. Opaliński (albeit with accents considered by some to be pre-Enlightenment) is basically a ‘high’ variant of that same culture and mentality.

According to shoefrantics, the period of the late 17th century. and of the early 18th century, said contemptuously Saxon night (the house of Saxony also reigned at that time in Poland with Augustus II and Augustus III) and denigrated by the intellectuals of the subsequent Stanislavian period, especially for the dominant macaronism in the prose, was then re-evaluated as pre-illumination research and experimentation phase. The influence of Italian Arcadia is felt in the works of E. Druźbacka and W. Rzewuski, while the metastasian model influences the plays of JA Załuski, founder of the first Polish public library. Other cultural, scientific and literary institutions of the period herald the new age of the Enlightenment, such as the birth of a new publishing and ‘bourgeois’ theater, which will have its best expression in the comedies of F. Zabłocki. Of particular importance is the foundation, by the Piarist S. Konarski, of the Collegium nobilium (1740), a fundamental step in the eighteenth-century pedagogical debate that resulted in the creation of the Commission for National Education (1773), the first ministry for public education in Europe. In the political treatises of the ‘philosopher king’ Stanislao Leszczyński we find utopian themes dear to the whole of the European Enlightenment.

With the accession to the throne of Stanislao Augusto Poniatowski (1764) it was the king himself and his circle who became the spokesperson for the party of reforms and for a committed, moralistic and didactic literature, based on the dictates of a classical non-dogmatic aesthetic, theorized for example in the work, inspired by N. Boileau, by F. Dmochowski. This program was joined by F. Bohomolec, AS Naruszewicz and S. Trembecki, while the greatest exponent of Polish Enlightenment literature, above its various currents, is to be considered I. Krasicki, who among other things gave rise to to modern Polish fiction. The classicism advocated by the Warsaw court was opposed, not only literally, by writers such as F. Karpiński, J. Szymanowski and FD Kniaźnin, linked to the Czartoryski of the court of Puławy and representatives of the new sentimentalist and Rococo climate, however not alien to classicist and even late Baroque suggestions. The latter strengthened, with a significant return to Sarmatism in the Pieśni Konfederacii barskiei (“Songs of the Confederates of Bar”, 1768-71), when, on the eve of the three successive divisions of the kingdom, the political situation deteriorated; literature then proposed itself as a bulwark of national independence itself. The Enlightenment took on a markedly patriotic vein in the works of S. Staszic and H. Kołłątaj; in the Jacobin agitation of J. Jasiński; in the theater of W. Bogusławski, who transformed his melodrama Krakowiacy i górale (“The Krakowians and the Mountaineers”, 1794) into a veritable incitement to insurrection; in the songs of Polish legionaries abroad, among which the most famous is Mazurek Dąbrowskiego (“Mazurka of Dąbrowski”, 1796), which later became the Polish national anthem; in the historical songs of JU Niemcewicz, in the Slavophilic messianism of the poetry of JP Woronicz, with which the imminent romantic revolution is announced.

Poland Literature - From the Baroque to the Enlightenment

You may also like...