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Sigismund Krasinski

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Count, son of a Polish general, b. at Paris, 19 Feb., 1812; d. there, 23 Feb., 1859. He lost his mother (Mary, née Princess Radziwill) in early childhood. From boyhood he loved study, and, as a student in Warsaw, distinguished himself as a sympathizer with the Romantic literary movement. But, when — against his will and purely to obey his father — he refrained from political manifestations at Warsaw in 1829, he became so unpopular amongst his fellow-students that his father sent him to Geneva. Being intensely patriotic, he suffered moral agonies during the insurrection of 1831, as his letters show, and, when he was forced to return and present himself at Tsar Nicholas's Court, his health gave way. Permitted to withdraw to Vienna, he brought out his first great work, those which he had written previously being far inferior. "Nieboska Komedya" (The Infernal Comedy, 1833) is the struggle between the old order and the new: each has its champion, both are self-seeking, faithless, and end in despair. This work was paraphrased and expanded by Edward Robert, Lord Lytton, as "Orval, the Fool of Time" (1869). In 1836 "Irydion" appeared. It is distinctly patriotic in tone: a young Greek dreams of delivering his country from the Roman yoke, attempts under Heliogabalus to do so, and, in order to have the Christians on his side, becomes one of them. His vengeance fails, and at the end Christ, his judge, condemns not his patriotism but his evil deeds and want of trust in Providence. After "Irydion" until the appearance of "Przedswit" (Before Dawn) Krasinski passed through a period of little literary activity but much philosophical thought, during which his works were few and of little importance.

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"Before Dawn" is a most beautiful poem, and was intended by Krasinski to be his last. The poet sailing in a boat with Beatrice, his loved one and the source of his inspiration has a vision showing him some of the heroes of old Poland, which makes him happy, for Czarniecki reveals to him the destiny of Poland, the only nation which preserved the spirit of Christianity : thence its present sufferings and its future greatness. Shortly after the publication of "Before Dawn" Krasinski married Elizabeth Branicka. In 1845 he began to write his "Psalms of the Future" poems inspired by the desire to prevent his country from rushing into an abyss for he had been informed that an armed rising was close at hand. The "Psalms of Faith, Hope, and Love" appeared together, followed (in 1848) by the "Psalms of Sorrow and of Good-will". The last marks what is perhaps the very highest summit of Krasinski's inspiration. Here, as an "Before Dawn", he makes Poland the "Chosen Nation of the Lord". His other works are: "The Day of To-Day", and "The Last One", both published in 1848, but written long before; "Resurrecturis", a "Gloss of St Theresa", and his last work which has no name but "The Unfinished Poem", and which as a whole, though he had been working at it before 1840, is much inferior to his best production. After 1848 Krasinski's health, which had been feeble, gave way completely. He spent some time in Baden and Heidelberg and travelled to France in search of a congenial climate; but his last years, saddened by family losses, were spent in a state of great physical suffering.

Krasinski's poetry, possibly the noblest of all contemporary efforts to base politics on the principles of Christianity, has for key-note his exclusive interest in all such political questions as touch upon a happier future for the world. The "Infernal Comedy" deals with all Europe as a whole and in general; "Irydion" enquires how any particular nation is to be regenerated ; "Before Dawn" gives the answer, as also do the "Psalms of the Future", though more distinctly and with less of enshrouding mysticism. As a thinker, Krasinski is greater than as a poet. Though at times too obscure, too allegorical, and too prone to set forth his message at the expense of artistic form, yet his creations show wonderful talent, rich imagination, and complete originality. He owes nothing either to antiquity or to contemporaries, whether English, Polish, or German. His defects (redundancy of ornament, exaggeration in thought, turgidity of style), conspicuous only in his feebler works, pass unnoticed in his greatest creations, of which they cannot impair the grandeur. No Polish author writes with greater splendour and majesty. He is representative of the noblest trends of the thought of his time, and eloquently expressive of his nation's sufferings, whilst he warns her not to go astray and points out the way to salvation. He is indeed one of the mightiest minds that Poland ever brought forth.

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