The emblem of the Commonwealth during the reign of Stanislaw August
 
     Polish poetry during the Enlightenment was to a considerable degree influenced by French eighteenth-century neo-classical poetry. At the same time Polish poetry continued the traditions of the Polish Renaissance, with which it shared the ideals of moderation, the golden mean, and admiration for ancient classical poetry, in particular Horace. On the formal level, classicist poetry followed certain norms that were spelled out in a number of theoretical works on the "art of versification" inspired by the Ars Poetica of Horace and the French seventeenth-century codifier, Boileau. The tenets of the classicist style were clarity, rigor, and order. They were an extension of the Enlightenment's cult of reason. The strong moralistic tendency of classicist poetry, expressed in the Horatian maxim prodesse et delectare and echoed in the programmatic title of Games Pleasant and Useful, accounted for the great popularity of didactic genres such as the satire, fable, mock-heroic poem, odes and epigrams. They usually contained a noticeable satirical element. Like its Horatian models, the classicist satire had a universal character and was directed against types rather against human weaknesses rather than vices. 
     However, the Polish poetry of the Enlightenment period was not uniform; not all of it was contained within the bounds of classicist poetics. The most accomplished of its poets, Krasicki, Naruszewicz, and Trembecki-all of whom belonged to the King's entourage-represented classicism. On the other hand, the poems of Franciszek Karpifiski and Dionizy Kniainin display different type of sensibility known as sentimentalism. Under the influence of Jean Jacques Rousseau, the sentimental poets stressed the importance of the emotions rather than reason, and praised tenderness as well as sensitivity to nature. In their pastorals they promoted an ideal of simplicity. By endowing their descriptions of country life with a good dose of realism, they continued the long, rich native pastoral tradition dating back to Jan Kochanowski and Szymon Szymonowic. 
In the late seventeen eighties and nineties, the highly charged political atmosphere and especially the heated discussions surrounding deliberations in the Four-Year Diet gave rise to a wave of political poetry. Its emotional, frequently polemical tone as well as its narrow topicality, personal allusions, and accusations-often very thinly disguised-were all violations of the classicist tenets of universality, detachment, and bienseance. This is especially true of the virulent, pamphlet-like poetry of Franciszek Zablocki, but also of poems such as Jakub JasiAski's "To the Nation" or Julian Ursyn Niemcewicz's "A Building in Decay." While the politically aloof poetry of Krasicki is artistically superior, the tragic overtones of Jasinski or Niemcewicz, expressing genuine concern, as well as a deep sense of despair-remain a moving testimony of the last days of the Old Polish Commonwealth. 
(From Monumenta Polonica)
 
 
    Ignacy Krasicki 
THE LION AND THE ANIMALS
Translated by Gerard T Kapolka
In the presence of the lion there raged a debate: 
The animals were arguing about their greatest trait. 
The elephant praised caution, the bison dignity, 
Tle camels moderation, the leopards bravery; 
The bear put forward strength, the horse a handsome frame, 
The wolf the use of cunning in capturing his game, 
The lynx a stylish coat, the doe a graceful form,
 The hare promoted nimble feet, the stag ornate homs, 
The dog lauded faithfulness, the fox a mind of wiles, 
The lamb praised the gentle, the donkey the servile. 
But when they asked the lion for the best trait in a beast, 
He said, "In my opinion, he is best who boasts the least."
 
 
Adam Naruszewicz
THE DANDY
The dandy is a nice young man-this they all say.
I know him. He talks much, eats with gusto and drinks well. 
And what makes this dandy so remarkably nice? 
Is it his hair, bristling up in a strange fashion? 
Or because he can whistle an Italian tune? 
Or that he is fragrant all over with perfumes, 
Twists on his heels, dashes around like a madman 
Pretending to be a harlequin with fox tails?
 Perhaps because he sprawls on a couch like a boor 
And puffs like a camel before good company? 
Or that he displays his beauty in the mirror,
 Writes sugary notes, and then receives them himself? 
Or because he dresses in fashionable clothes, 
Smoothly plays at matrimony and steals the cards?
 He spills out any nonsense and will not be stopped, 
Offending both innocent and honorable?
 Or because he walks with wide sleeves, proud expression,
 Is filled with excuses, lies, and deceives others? 
He takes things on credit, and when his creditor 
Bothers him too much he flees town, incognito? 
Or because he drives horses, and when winter comes 
Cracks his whip with a studied pose over his sled? 
Ohl If the dandy is indeed such a nice young man
 Who then should be called stupid, dishonest, and vain?

 
Jakub Jasinski
 
 
 TO THE NATION
0 my nation! Once great, today by a sad tam
Of fortune deprived of power, wealth, fame and hope.
Once your mighty sword and eminence in learning
Made you a wonder, victor, model for your neighbors! 
Today under the yoke of shame and slavery
You are plaything to the proud, prey to anarchy. 
You who once conquered other countries with the sword,
See what your domestic disputes have done to you! 
After long sadness, with the gift of enlightenment, 
You began to rebuild the greatness of the past, 
And your unworthy neighbor could observe with fear 
What Poles can do when they are united and free. 
But alas, you missed the mark of your destiny. 
You flashed like a star and then perished like a spark!
You were condemned to so many calamities, 
Betrayed by friend, brother, and your beloved king.
Why did your fate not spare you at least one thing-
To die by another's sword and not your own hand. 
0 my nation! Do not trust others' promises, 
You alone must wager a ruin or salvation.
Disregard the heavy shackles you are wearing, 
Whenever a people said, "I want to be free," 
Free it became! Recall examples from the West:
What is the might of tyrants-and of the people. 
Rise, and try your hand if it has still strength enough,
To wield again the sword with which it fought before.
You will learn what you ignored, that for your defense
Are weapons, courageous hearts, and learned counsel! 
But know, also, that before the time comes to rise 
There must be great harmony-and still more despair.
He who rules over the fate of nations and men 
Will once again kindle the beam of light for you.
 if you fail to seize the moment you are unworthy
Of charity, unworthy of rising again. 
Look: those two nations, souls worthy of each other, 
How they unite their hearts in an eternal pact; 
By brave endeavors they will soon let the world know 
What the light of truth can do; or spite and blunders.
But you, although under foreign domination, 
Wait for a hand stretched to you from someone's mercy-
And though you can still use the vestige of your strength,
Prefer charity to what you might win by yourself! 
0 my homeland! Dear country, will you have no more 
Happiness on the earth nor pity in heaven? 
Does a Pole, constantly kept under the grim ax,
No longer know what it is to die with honor?
My Lord, is it dream or reality that I see 
A weapon in Polish hands for a great campaign! 
Go, courageous young men filled with holy virtue,
Seek vengeance for our oppression and our disgrace.
Go, your country demands that you slay both the one
Who has enslaved you and the one who betrayed you! 
In vain your sly soul tries to scare you with impotence,
Only one thing can bring defeat: your self-pity.
Remember, when it is the wrong moment, virtue 
Will disgrace honorjust as much as any crime.
When will Your first great day shine for us 0 Father
Of the Flighest truth, 0 Father of Your children?
It is time that Your fingers, pressed now by our hands,
Help raise us from shame and our nation from the depths.
Let Your holy voice from the sky and from the earth 
Tell us what we are, what we are able to do. And you, 
afflicted country waiting for our help, 
You will know if you still have children, and are saved.

 
 
Adam Mickiewicz
Many were players of that instrument
But none of them would venture to perform
In Jankiel's presence. (Since that night of storm,
Jankiel had spent the winter none knew where;
 But now he suddenly had joined them there 
In company with Poland's General Staff.) 
All men could testify, on his behalf,
 He played that instrument without a peer
 In skill and taste and talent. So, sincere 
They pled with him to play and placed before him
 The dulcimer, but vainly they implore him:
 He said his hands were stiff, he dared not play
 Without due practice; and so great a day
 Embarrassed him with men of mighty station;
 With many a bow, he shunned their exhortation.
 When Zosia saw this, she ran hastily 
And with one white hand offered, as her plea, 
The hammers that his skill was wont to use 
To sound the strings; and lest he should refuse
 The gentle courtesy for which she pled, 
She stroked his old grev beard, and curtsying said:
"Jankiel, be kind; this is my wedding day;
 Play for me, Jankiel. For you used to say 
That at my wedding you would play with pleasure."
Jankiel loved Zosia greatly, beyond measure, 
And bowed his beard in token of assent.
 So to the centre of the throng he went 
And on his knees the dulcimer they slide;
 He gazed upon it with delight and pride,
 Like some old veteran whom new battles call, 
When his small grandsons take down from the wall 
His heavy sword: the old man laughs to heft it; 
Though many years have gone since last he left it,
 He feels his hand will not betray the blade.
Two of his pupils meanwhile gave their aid, 
Knelt by the dulcimer, tuned fresh the strings,
 And twanged them as a test of readyings. 
Jankiel with half-closed eyes in silence lingers 
And holds the hammers sleeping in his fingers.
He lowered them in a triumphal beat,
Then smote the strings again with brisker heat, 
As with a shower of rain: all were amazed, 
Yet this was but a test that he had phrased; 
He stopped, and raised both hammers up aloft.
He played anew; the strings now trembled soft 
With motions light as though a fly's faint wing
Scunded a gentle buzz upon the string.
The master gazed intently at the sky
For inspiration; with a haughty eye
He looked down at his silent instrument;
Then raised both hands, dropped them with firm intent
And with both hammers all the strings coerced.
Then all at once from many strings there burst
A sound as though a janissaries' band 
With cymbals, bells and drums made glad the land. 
The Polonaise that marked the Third of May"
Came thundering forth! The rippling notes were gay
And in one's ears they poured a breath of joy;
Girls wished to dance and each impatient boy
Could not stand still-but thoughts of older men
Into the blessed past were borne again,
Those happy years when Deputies and Senate
On that great day saw Liberty's proud tenet
Made perfect in the reconciliation,
That Third of May, between both King and Nation; 
"Vivat our King!" then sang the dancing masses,
"Vivat the Diet people, and all classes!"
The master kept on quickening the time
And ever played with power more sublime;
But suddenly a false note sounded crass-
A snake?s hiss or the scratch of steel on glass-
A shudder through the listeners wandered free
And mingled with the general gaiety
An ominous foreboding, All alarmed,
Men wondered if the instrument were harmed
Or if the player's hand had made a blander.
With such a master lay no cause for wonder!
He purposely kept touching that foul chord 
To mar the music with its note abhorred; 
Louder and louder still its angry moans 
Make plot against the harmony of tones; 
At last the Warden understood the master, 
Covered his face, in sorrow of disaster, 
And cried: "I know, I know those notes too well; 
They speak of Targowica, foul as hell!"
 And suddenly the bad string hissed and broke;
 The player to the high strings swept his stroke, 
Confused the measure, left the treble race, 
And hurried with his hammers to the bass.
 

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