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Simon Starowolski

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Born at Stara Wola, near Cracow, 1585; died at Cracow, 1656; studied at Louvain, but took his degrees in the University of Cracow, after which he travelled in various countries of Western Europe. Returning, he taught philosophy in the University of Cracow, and then became secretary to Chodkiewicz, whom he accompanied on his expedition to Chocim. For years he was a tutor to young noblemen, and again went over Europe in this capacity with the Hetman Koniecpolski's son. In 1639 he was ordained priest, and subsequently became a canon in Cracow. During the Swedish siege (1655) he administered the diocese for Bishop Gebicki, and it became his duty to show the cathedral to the Swedish king. When he pointed to the tomb of Lokietek who, he said, thrice an exile, had returned thrice, Charles Gustavus remarked that "John Casimir would never return". "Serenissime Rex", he replied, "fortuna variabilis, Deus immutabilis." He died some months later, before John Casimir's triumphant return.

Starowolski wrote most abundantly and on every possible subject — history, geography, law, strategy, theology, and politics. His province also embraced literature, for his "Scriptorum Polonicorum Hecatontas" is a short biography of Polish authors, with the titles of their works. This he wrote during his travels abroad, where he published it in Latin, to instruct foreigners in Polish matters. At the same time he wrote books in Polish, chiefly of a moral character, and many theological treatises; also two collections of sermons entitled: "The Lord's Sanctuary " and "The Ark of the Testament". His chief political works are: an exhortation to put down the Tatars; "The True Knight"; and three works intended to reform Polish morals, with different titles, and in different degrees of elaboration. Last, and shortly before his death, appeared his famous though short "Lament of the dying Mother, Poland, over her undutiful sons"; from Skarga's days to those of Mickiewicz, no equally lofty expression of patriotism appeared. Starowolski wrote more than sixty books; but those mentioned suffice to give an idea of the extent of his learning, intelligence, assiduity, and zeal for his country's welfare. In the commonwealth, tottering to its fall, he was one of the most public-spirited men; possibly there was not a single evil in Poland which he did not denounce. And thus, though no genius, he is most worthy of respect, and is the principal literary figure of those times. As a writer, perhaps on account of his numerous works, he is neither very correct nor very brilliant; yet at times (as in the Lament), under the influence of his indignation, he rises to heights of thrilling eloquence. As a political writer, he possesses the quality of sound common sense, and not unfrequently succeeds in pointing out the right means of saving the State. On the whole, he is somewhat more of a moralist than of a politician; at all events, in his writings, the reform of morals takes up a larger place than the regeneration of the commonwealth.

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