Adam Mickiewicz: Prologue to Pan Tadeusz
Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855) was born in Lithuania, a member of the Polonized lesser nobility. He became Poland’s greatest poet, the poet of the century after partition, during which, as Lord Acton said, “there was a nation demanding to be united in a state—and a soul … wandering in search of a body.” His writings blend sentiments of intense nationalism with a Catholic Christianity that anticipates the regeneration of Europe as a consequence of the sufferings of Poland. Much of Mickiewicz’s adult life was spent outside Poland proper. In 1823 he had joined a secret patriotic society while a student at Vilna. He was imprisoned by the Russian government, then exiled to Russia, after which he moved to Italy, and subsequently to that Paris of exiles of the 1840’s, where were gathered Heine, Marx, and others. He took no part in the Polish risings of 1831. In Paris, Mickiewicz was appointed to the chair of Slav Literature at the Collège de France in 1840 and held it until 1844. His lectures brought him great notoriety and contributed to the already prevalent belief of Parisian intellectuals that some special affinity linked the French and the Poles, through their common Catholicism, through Napoleon’s Grand Duchy of Warsaw (Mickiewicz saw Bonaparte as an emissary of God), and through their common opposition to the territorial settlement of Europe.
KeywordsRussian Government Great Notoriety Boundary Link Prevalent Belief Linden Tree
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