Other Literary Forms
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1866 onward, when Antoni Malecki began to bring out an edition of Sowacki’s collected works incorporating many of the unpublished manuscripts, that Sowacki’s countrymen gradually became aware of his genius as a lyric poet.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)....
(The entire section is 832 words.)