The year 2022 has been designated the Year of Romanticism in Poland. An even two hundred years have passed since the first publication of Adam Mickiewicz’s Ballads and Romances — a collection of lyrics which has the same significance for Polish literature as Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads has for the English. Poems of love, the supernatural, and the exotic, Mickiewicz’s first volume of poetry achieved a level of sublimity that immediately set him at the head of all Polish writers — a position he sustained throughout his life with his lyrical, narrative, dramatic, and epic poetry, and which he continues to hold today. In cooperation with the Polish Cultural Institute of London, Glagoslav brings out an anniversary edition of Mickiewicz’s Ballads and Romances in the English translation of Charles S. Kraszewski. The collection includes all the poems of the 1822 edition, plus the ballads added shortly before the poet’s death to the 1852, Leipzig edition.
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Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855) is the national poet of Poland. He was successful in every genre at which he tried his hand, setting the benchmark for excellence in poetry, prose and drama for all the writers that came after him. His lyric poems, collected in Ballads and Romances [Ballady i romanse, 1822], ushered in the Romantic Movement in Polish literature. His Erotic and Crimean Sonnets [Sonety miłosne and Sonety krymskie, 1826] form one of the most accomplished cycles in that demanding form since Petrarch. His narrative poems, Konrad Wallenrod (1828) and Grażyna (1823), reveal his sustained mastery with longer poetic genres. Mickiewicz’s epic in twelve cantos, Pan Tadeusz (1834), is universally recognized as Poland’s national epic, as well as the last Vergilian epic written in Europe.
Prose occupies a rather minor niche in Mickiewcz’s corpus of writings. The quasi-Biblical Books of the Polish Nation and Polish Pilgrimage [Księgi narodu i pielgrzymstwa polskiego, 1832] put the English reader in mind of a more practicable William Blake. With their socially and politically-applied Christianity, Mickiewicz had an appreciable influence on the thought of his friend, Lammenais. Finally, his Cours de littérature slave professé au Collége de France, delivered during his exile in Paris, and published posthumously in 1860, is one of the first balanced and comprehensive accounts of the Slavic traditions in literature and culture to meet Western eyes.
It is impossible to assess the importance of Adam Mickiewicz to the Polish consciousness. During the period of the Partitions, which lasted from 1795 until 1918, Poles looked to Mickiewicz for the guidance that political figures could not supply them. He died in exile, trying to raise troops in Turkey for the Polish independence struggles.
Charles S. Kraszewski (b. 1962) is a poet and translator, creative in both English and Polish. He is the author of three volumes of original verse in English (Diet of Nails; Beast; Chanameed), and one in Polish (Hallo, Sztokholm). He also authored a satirical novel Accomplices, You Ask? (San Francisco: Montag, 2021). He translates from Polish, Czech and Slovak into English, and from English and Spanish into Polish. He is a member of the Union of Polish Writers Abroad (London) and of the Association of Polish Writers (SPP, Kraków). In 2022 he was awarded the Gloria Artis medal (III Class) by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Poland.
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