Portrait by Ary Scheffer
Napoleon Stanisław Adam Feliks Zygmunt Krasiński
19 February 1812|
23 February 1859 (aged 47)|
|Mother||Maria Urszula Radziwiłł|
Count Zygmunt Krasiński (Polish pronunciation: [ˈzɨɡmunt kraˈɕiɲskʲi]; 19 February 1812 – 23 February 1859), a Polish nobleman traditionally ranked with Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki as one of Poland's Three National Bards — the trio of great Romantic poets who influenced national consciousness during the period of Poland's political bondage. He was the most famous member of the aristocratic Krasiński family.
Youth and early studies
Napoleon Stanisław Adam Feliks Zygmunt Krasiński was born in Paris on February 19, 1812 to Count Wincenty Krasiński, a Polish aristocrat and military commander, and Countess Maria Urszula Radziwiłł. Spending his childhood in the town of Chantilly, where Napoleon Bonaparte's Guard Regiment stationed, in 1814 he returned with his parents to Warsaw, which then was part of the Duchy of Warsaw ruled by Frederick Augustus I of Saxony and was a client state of the First French Empire. Following their arrival, Krasiński's father, who was highly caring and well taught, employed many renowned tutors and teachers, including Baroness Helena de la Haye, Józef Korzeniowski and Piotr Chlebowski, to take care of Zygmunt's education. On April 12, 1822 Krasiński's mother suddenly died due to tuberculosis and henceforth he was granted the supreme authority and control of the family besides his father, who watched carefully over his education and instilled in him the belief of chivalry and honor. Zygmunt's fascination with the personality of his father; the hopes and ambitions of free Poland, all led to excessive, burdensome and mutual idealization. They both shared a strong passion of a free nation, an independent country and therefore were strongly anti-Russian and in despise of the Tsar of the Russian Empire. This strong feeling and emotion towards the eastern neighbour soon turned into hatred, which possibly impacted in Wincenty's contribution to the Napoleonic Wars and taking part in Napoleon's unsuccessful invasion of Russia. After the war, the family spent most summer vacations and holidays in the privately owned estates in the region of Podolia or in Opinogóra.
In September 1826 he entered a local Warsaw Lyceum and received his high school diploma in the Autumn of 1827. Krasiński began his professional studies at the Faculty of Law and administration at the Imperial University of Warsaw, however, the incident on March 14, 1829, during which Leon Łubieński accused Krasiński of lacking solidarity with other students and refraining from participating in the patriotic manifestation, and subsequently refusing to attend any of the classes during the funeral of the President of the Sejm and Senator Piotr Beliński, interfered with his education at the complex. As a result of this event, in late March 1829, Krasiński was expelled from the university. From late May to mid-June he took first foreign trip to Vienna, under the care of his father, who previously travelled to Austria. In October 1829 he left the country to study abroad. Through Prague, Plzen, Regensburg, Zurich and Bern, Krasiński arrived in Geneva on November 3, where he met with Adam Mickiewicz, a principal figure in Polish Romanticism and widely regarded as Poland's greatest poet.
The stay in Geneva was extremely important for shaping the personality of the young writer. His meeting and in-depth conversation with Mickiewicz, who dazzled him to the extent of his knowledge, proved to be vital in creating and shaping Krasiński's literary techniques, however, he was sociopolitically more conservative than the other poets. He published much of his work anonymously. The blossoming friendship with Mickiewicz undoubtedly accelerated the intellectual mind of the young poet. From August 14 to September 1 of 1830 they travelled together to the High Alps; Krasiński described this event in his diary and highlighted the trip in a letter to his father dating from September 5, 1830. Soon after his arrival to Geneva, in the beginning of November, 1829, he also met Henry Reeve, the son of a doctor, who at the time was in Switzerland for philosophical and literary studies. The young Englishman, noble and extremely talented in composing excessive romantic poetry, greatly inspired Zygmunt Krasiński. They soon became close friends and often wrote letters in which they stated and extensively highlighted their love for classical and romantic literature and prose.
At the beginning of 1830, Krasiński developed feelings for Henrietta Willan, the daughter of a wealthy English merchant and tradesman. This highly romantic relationship, strictly not associated with the thought of marriage, provided new experiences and proved to be an inspiration for the future works composed by Krasiński.
Zygmunt Krasiński kept a diary and wrote many letters indicating that he suffered morally over the failed November Uprising of 1831 against the Russian Empire, and he gave himself in to Tsar Nicholas's Court in ill health. He was released and went to Vienna.
He is best known for his philosophical Messianist ideas and tragic dramas. Krasiński's writings from the 1830s are full of frenetic plots, strongly influenced by gothic fiction and Dante Alighieri. As the poet's most famous works show, he is most interested in the extreme face of human existence such as hate, desperation or solitude. His drama, Nie-boska Komedia (The Un-Divine Comedy, 1833), portrays the tragedy of an old-world aristocracy defeated by a new order of communism and democracy, and is a poetic prophecy of class conflict and of Russia's October Revolution (see also Okopy Świętej Trójcy). The work was paraphrased and expanded by Edward Robert, Lord Lytton, as "Orval, the Fool of Time" (1869). Krasiński's Agaj-Han (1834) is also well known in Poland. It is a historical-poetic novel, though unlike the historical novels which were popular in Poland, such as those of Walter Scott. Agaj-Han is filled by macabre motives, death and fratricide. Upon human life still exists tragic fate. His drama, Irydion (1836), deals, in the context of Christian ethics, with the struggle of a subjugated nation against its oppressor.
His muse for many years was Countess Delfina Potocka (likewise a friend of Frédéric Chopin), with whom he conducted a romance from 1838 to 1846. Later she continued to be his friend, and he wrote for her "Sen Cezary" ("Cezara's Dream", published 1840) and "Przedświt" ("Predawn", published 1843). "Predawn" is his best-known poem, a nationalist poem which sees the Partitions of Poland as retribution for sins committed, and which predicts Poland's reappearance, as a world leader. Chopin set a poem by Krasiński as a song (see "Polish songs by Frédéric Chopin").
On 26 July 1843, Krasiński married Polish Countess Eliza Branicka (1820–76).
Later (1844–48) Krasiński wrote Psalmy Przyszłości (Psalms of the Future), in which he called for the Christian virtues of love and charity.
Count Krasiński's family coat-of-arms
Krasiński, aged 7, by Louis René Letronne, 1819
Photo of Krasiński, by Karol Beyer
- "Zygmunt Krasiński". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 25 August 2013.
- A. Tarnowski (1913). "Sigismund Krasinski". In Herbermann, Charles. Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
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