Cyprian Kamil Norwid
Cyprian Kamil Norwid, one of Poland’s most outstanding and original poets, was also an artist, dramatist and sculptor. Besides, he also used to write exquisite and elegant letters. Norwid led a tragic and poverty-stricken life (once he had to live in a cemetery crypt). He experienced increasing health problems, unrequited love, harsh critical reviews, and increasing social isolation. He lived abroad most of his life, especially in London and in Paris, where he died.
Literary historians view Norwid’s work as being too far ahead of its time to be appreciated,possessing elements of romanticism, classicism and parnassianism. Following his death, many of Norwid’s works were forgotten It was not until the Young Poland period that his finesse and style was appreciated.
Here are some of his poems and drawings:
But Just to See
But just to see a chapel like this room,
No bigger: there to watch Polish symbols loom
In warm expanding series which reveal
Once and for all the Poland that is real.
There the stone-cutter, mason, carpenter,
Poet, and, finally, the knight and martyr
Could re-create with pleasure, work and prayer.
There iron, bronze, red marble, copper could
Unite with native larches, stone with wood,
Because those symbols, burrowed by deep stains,
Run through us all as ores run through rock veins.
Mischance, ferocious, shaggy, fixed its look
On man, gazed at him, deathly grey,
And waited for the time it knew he took
To turn away.
But man, who is an artist measuring
The angle of his model’s elbow joint,
Returned that look and made the churlish thing
Serve his aesthetic point.
Mischance, the brawny, when the dust had cleared
Recipe for A Warsaw Novel
Three landlords, stupid ones ; cut each in two;
That’ll make six: add stewards, Jews and water
Enough to give full measure: whip the brew
With one pen, flagellate your puny jotter
Warm, if there’s time, with kisses: that’s the cue
For putting in your blushing gushing daughter
Red as a radish: tighten up: add cash,
A sack of roubles, cold: mix well, and mash.
Those of Love
A woman, parents, brothers, even God
Can still be loved, but those who love them need
Some physical vestige, shadow: I have none.
Cracow is silent now that its hewn stone
Has lost what tongue it had; no banner of
Mazovian linen has been stained to prove
Art obstinate ; the peasant’s houses tilt ;
The native ogives of our churches wilt;
Barns are too long ; our patron saints are bored
With being statues ; partitioned and ignored,
Form, from the fields to steeples, can’t command
One homespun wand or touch one angel’s hand.
Tenderness can be like a battle cry,
Like the murmur of a hidden spring
And like a funeral dirge…
And like a long braid of golden strands
On which a widower hangs
His ancient silver watch
What did you do to Athens, Socrates
What did you do to Athens, Socrates,
That the people erected a golden statue to you,
Having first poisoned you?
What did you do to Italy, Alighieri,
That the insincere people built two graves for you,
Having first driven you out?
What did you do to Europe, Columbus,
That they dug you three graves in three places
Having first shackled you?
What did you do to your people, Camoens,
That the sexton had to cover your grave twice,
After you had starved?
What in the world are you guilty of, Kosciuszko,
That two stones in two places bear down on you,
Having first had no burial place?
What did you do to the world, Napoleon,
That you were confined to two graves after your demise,
Having first been confined?
What did you do to the people, Mickiewicz?