“God hath denied me that angelic measure / Without which no man sees in me the poet,” writes Zygmunt Krasiński in one of his most recognisable lyrics. Yet while it may be true that his lyric output cannot rival in quality the verses of the other two great Polish Romantics, Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki, Krasiński’s dramatic muse gives no ground to any other.
The Glagoslav edition of the Dramatic Works of Zygmunt Krasiński provides the English reader, for the first time, with all of Krasiński’s plays in the translation of Charles S. Kraszewski. These include the sweeping costume drama Irydion, in which the author sets forth the grievances of his occupied nation through the fable of an uprising of Greeks and barbarians against the dissipated emperor Heliogabalus, and, of course, the monumental drama on which his international fame rests: The Undivine Comedy.
A cosmic play, which defies simple description, The Undivine Comedy is both a de-masking of the Byronic ideal of the poet, whose nefarious, and selfish devotion to the ideal has evil consequences for real human beings, and a prophetic warning of the fratricidal class warfare that was to roil the first decades of the twentieth century. The Undivine Comedy is intriguing in the way that the author presents both sides of this question — the republican and that of the ancien régime — with sympathy and understanding. It is also striking how — in 1830 — the author foresaw the problems of the 1930s.
As Czesław Miłosz once put it, Krasiński was insightfully commenting on Marxism while Karl Marx was still in high school. The Dramatic Works of Zygmunt Krasiński also include the unfinished play 1846, which hints at how the author would have handled a work meant for the traditional stage, and the Unfinished Poem — the Dantean “prequel” to The Undivine Comedy, on which Krasiński was working at his death.
This book was published with the support of the Hanna and Zdzislaw Broncel Charitable Trust.
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Zygmunt Krasiński (1812–1859) has been traditionally considered one of the “three national bards” of Poland, along with Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki. His fame mainly rests on his plays, especially the monumental drama Nieboska komedia (The Undivine Comedy, 1833-1835). Irydion (1835-1836) is the second closet drama which he completed during his lifetime. Set in the early Christian ages, in Rome, it is a broad allegory of Polish national aspirations in the face of the Russian occupation of his homeland. Two other dramatic works, unfinished and posthumously published, are included in this translation: Rok 1846 (1846) and Niedokończony poemat (The Unfinished Poem), both of which were composed during the last decades of the author’s life. The Unfinished Poem is of special interest, as it provides a look at the developmental years of the character of Count Henryk, the chief protagonist of the Undivine Comedy. Krasiński also wrote verse, chief among which is Przedświt (Foredawn, 1841-1843) and Psalmy przyszłości (The Psalms of the Future, 1844-1848), and fiction, such as the early novel Agaj-Han (1832-1833). Besides his plays, however, it is his copious epistolary output which is most highly valued by critics and historians of literature.
Charles S. Kraszewski (b. 1962) is a poet and translator. He is the author of three volumes of original verse (Diet of Nails; Beast; Chanameed). Several of his translations of Polish and Czech literature have been published by Glagoslav, among which may be found: Adam Mickiewicz’s Forefathers’ Eve (2016) and Sonnets (2018), Zygmunt Krasiński’s Dramatic Works (2018) and Stanisław Wyspiański’s Acropolis: the Wawel Plays (2017). His translations of the poetry of T.S. Eliot, Robinson Jeffers, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti into Polish have appeared in the Wrocław monthly Odra. He is a member of the Union of Polish Writers Abroad (London) and of the Association of Polish Writers (Kraków).
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