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Simon Szymonowicz

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Known also by the Latin name of Somonides, b. at Lemberg, 1558; d. 1629. He studied first at Lemberg, afterwards in the Cracow Academy, and then abroad in the Netherlands and in France. On his return, he became a private tutor; among the other young men, he taught Sobieski's father and the son of John Zolkiewski, who took Moscow. He enjoyed intimate relations with the famous John Zamoyski, whose son he also educated.; after which (1614) he retired to the country where he remained until his death. He was never married. Szymonowicz may be styled the last of the Polish Humanists, to whom indeed he belongs both by his erudition and by the character of his creations. He spent the greater part of his life writing Latin poems, once much appreciated throughout Europe. The best of these are: "Flagellum Livoris", a colection of odes dedicated to Zamoyski; "Aelinopaean", in honour of one of Zamoyski's victories; "Joel Propheta", a paraphrase of the Book of Joel, inscribed to Clement VIII, whom our poet had known personally as a legate in Poland ; "Hercules Prodiceus", written for his pupil, the young Thomas Zamoyski; and two dramas : "Penthesilea" and "Castus Joseph".

His first Polish verses were written in 1606, in favour of the rebellion of Zebrzydowski. He also wrote a few fugitive poems, but his fame mainly rests on his "Idyls", which appeared in 1614. They were the first and still remain the best poems of the kind in the Polish language. They faithfully follow the old classical type, so often imitated by French and Italian Humanists in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries; but under this form there is a true national element and the Polish landscape and peasantry are gracefully described. Like Virgil's "Ecologues", all are short; several were composed on special occasions. Not all are uniformly beautiful, indeed the finest are often marred by weak passages. But they have the merit of simplicity, not unfrequent depth of feeling or pleasant wit and humour, profound political allusions, clarity of thought and a noble diction. His influence is visible in the writings of both the Zimorowicz, and also in Gavinski's "Idyls". More recently he has been imitated by Naruszewicz, and at times by Kniaznin and Karpinski. In the nineteenth century Mickiewicz appreciated him admirably in his course of lectures on Slavic literature, and, we may say, rediscovered him.


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