The earliest literary activity of Zygmunt Krasiski was devoted to the composition of historical novels, in which he imitated the narrative techniques of Sir Walter Scott. The finest of these youthful endeavors is the novel Agaj-Han (1833). The eponymous hero of this tragic romance—set in the early seventeenth century, when Poland temporarily held military superiority over the Muscovites and its forces actually occupied the Kremlin for a brief period—is a Tartar chieftain who is in love with the Polish wife of one of the Russian czars. Immediately after the publication of this novel, Krasiski proceeded to write two plays in quick succession. Despite the critical acclaim for both these works, Krasiski abandoned the dramatic genre in favor of composing discourses in prose and works of poetry. The patriotic and religious themes that he set forth in prose are, for the most part, reiterated to greater effect in his poetry. Among the most important poems are Trzy myli pozostale po .p. Henryku Ligenzie (1841; three thoughts left behind by the late Henry Ligenza), Przedwit (1843; dawn), Psalmy przyszoci (1845; psalms of the future), Ostatni (1847; the last), and Niedokoczony poemat (1852; the unfinished poem). Some of the best prose that Krasiski ever wrote is, moreover, to be found in his extensive correspondence, especially in those letters written to his father and to Delfina Potocka. Also noteworthy is the correspondence that he conducted in French with his English friend Henry Reeve between the years 1830 and 1838.
There is little doubt at present that Zygmunt Krasiski’s true merit as a writer rests on the two dramas he composed while still in his early twenties. Nevertheless, during the nineteenth century he was also highly esteemed as a poet and generally ranked alongside Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Sowacki. Once the messianic view of Polish history had lost credence in his homeland, the aesthetic limitations of his poetry soon became painfully obvious to the reading public. Those literary historians who were still inclined to preserve a trinity of Romantic poets in Polish literature were quick to elevate Cyprian Kamil Norwid to its number in place of Krasiski. On the other hand, his two plays, The Undivine Comedy and Iridion, have retained the status of literary classics.
Eile, Stanislaw. Literature and Nationalism in Partitioned Poland, 1795-1918. New York: St. Martin’s Press, in association with School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London, 2000. An examination of Polish literature during the time in which Krasiski wrote. Bibliography and index.
Gardiner, Monica M. The Anonymous Poet of Poland: Zygmunt Krasiski. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1919. A classic work describing the life and works of Krasiski.
Krzyanowski, Julian. Polish Romantic Literature. 1931. Reprint. Freeport, N.Y.: Books for Libraries, 1968. A study of the Romantic literature of Poland, including that of Krasiski.
Lednicki, Wacaw, ed. Zygmunt Krasiski, Romantic Universalist: An International Tribute. New York: Polish Institute of Arts and Science in America, 1964. A group of essays on Krasiski and his works, collected at a gathering of scholars.