Juliusz Słowacki Analysis

Other Literary Forms

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

In addition to many masterworks of drama, the literary legacy of Juliusz Sowacki includes much epic and lyric poetry of the highest order. Although the greater part of Sowacki’s narrative poetry was published during his own lifetime, very few of his lyric poems were known to his contemporaries. He wrote approximately 130 lyric poems, of which only thirteen appeared in print before his death in 1849. It was only from 1866 onward, when Antoni Malecki began to bring out an edition of Sowacki’s collected works incorporating many of the unpublished manuscripts, that Sowacki’s countrymen gradually became aware of his genius as a lyric poet. In some of the later poems, it should be noted, Sowacki may be deemed to have transcended the stylistic conventions of Romanticism and to have developed poetic techniques that anticipated those employed by the French Symbolists and the English Pre-Raphaelites.

Sowacki’s earliest epic poetry is permeated by a Romantic melancholy and exoticism that is clearly derivative of George Gordon, Lord Byron’s writings. Most likely, his first true masterpiece of narrative verse is the elegiac autobiographical sketch entitled Godzinna myli (1833; hour of thought). This work depicts the emotional travail of an adolescent poet growing up in the city of Wilno and its environs, and its sketchy plot focuses on his relationship with two people, a brilliant schoolmate who inexplicably commits suicide and an attractive girl who fails to return his love for her. Before long, however, Sowacki found a political focus for his deep-rooted personal pessimism. Among the noteworthy works of an explicitly political nature is Anhelli (1838; English translation, 1930). Written in poetic prose with biblical affinities, it relates the tragic plight of a contentious group of Polish exiles in the frozen wasteland of Siberia during the years following the ill-fated November Insurrection of 1830. His next major narrative poem is the love idyll W Szwajcarii (1839; In Switzerland, 1953)....

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(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

The high point in Polish literature was attained in the Romantic period during the first half of the nineteenth century. The most distinguished poets of this epoch were Adam Mickiewicz , Juliusz Sowacki, and Zygmunt Krasiski . Each of them, to varying degrees, wrote dramatic literature. Mickiewicz, except for two unimportant plays written in French, restricted himself to the composition of three independent dramatic works that he rather arbitrarily chose to link together under the title Dziady (1822-1832; Forefathers’ Eve, 1925, 1944-1946). The third part of Dziady is now generally regarded as the single most important play in the history of the Polish theater. Krasiski’s contribution to the stage is limited to a pair of plays, both of which soon attained the status of classics: Nie-Boska komedia (pb. 1835, pr. 1902; The Undivine Comedy, 1846) and Irydion (pb. 1836, pr. 1908; Iridion, 1875). Sowacki, in contrast, completed nearly twenty full-length plays of great variety, and by virtue of these works, he has been singled out as the founder of modern Polish drama.

Although Sowacki’s dramatic works are now part of the standard repertory of the Polish theater, public recognition of their merit came to pass only many decades after the poet’s death. The Polish exiles in Paris or elsewhere had no theater of their own, and political conditions in their homeland precluded the staging of works by those engaged in promoting revolutionary activities. The sole dramatic work by Sowacki to be performed during his own lifetime was Mazeppa, a translated version of which was staged in Budapest in 1847. It was not until the 1860’s that his plays began to be produced in various cities within the Austrian section of partitioned Poland. For the most part, however, they remained proscribed in other parts of the country until the restoration of national independence in the aftermath of World War I. Over the years, six of these works have proved to be especially popular with Polish audiences: Mary Stuart, Kordian, Balladyna, Lilla Weneda, Mazeppa, and Fantazy. Also noteworthy is Sowacki’s free-verse adaptation of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s El príncipe constante (1629; The Constant Prince, 1893), which he published under the title Ksiȩ niezomny (the inflexible prince) in 1844. This work has become one of the most highly regarded presentations of the Laboratory Theater, situated in the city of Wrocaw, as produced and directed by the group’s founder, Jerzy Grotowski.


(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

Babinski, Hubert F. The Mazeppa Legend in European Romanticism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1974. The Mazeppa legend as it appeared in the works of Sowacki and others is analyzed.

Dernalowicz, Maria. Juliusz Sowacki. Warsaw, Poland: Interpress, 1987. A short biographical study of the poet’s life and work. Includes an index.

Kridl, Manfred. The Lyric Poems of Julius Sowacki. The Hague, the Netherlands: Mouton, 1958. A critical assessment of the poetic works of Sowacki. Includes bibliographic references.

Kridl, Manfred. A Survey of Polish Literature and Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 1956. Provides some historical and cultural backgroung to Sowacki’s poetry. Includes bibliographic references.

Krzyanowski, Julian. A History of Polish Literature. Warszawa: PWN-Polish Scientific Publishers, 1978. A study of Polish literature that includes coverage of Sowacki. Bibliography and index.

Miosz, Czesaw. The History of Polish Literature. 2d ed. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. A scholarly study of Polish literature that includes a discussion of the role of Sowacki. Bibliography and index.

Treugutt, Stefan. Juliusz Sowacki: Romantic Poet. Warsaw, Poland: Polonia, 1959. A critical analysis of Sowacki’s poetic works.