Ignacy Krasicki was a Church dignitary, poet, and writer of the first Polish-language novel. He was born on 3rd February 1735 in Dubiecko on the San river, and died on 14th March 1801 in Berlin.
The Church dignitary, a poet, and a precursor of Polish novels.
Under the pseudonym Michał Mowiński he also published the comedy Solenizant, Statysta i Łgarz. He was descended from an impoverished magnate family. In 1751, at the request of his parents, and with his two brothers, he entered the seminary in Warsaw. In 1759 he was ordained a priest, and then went to Rome to study for two years.
On his return to Poland he served as secretary of the Primate Władysław Łubieński – which was all the more significant due to the fact that during the interim the primate performed the function of the so-called interrex, that is, he performed some of the duties of the monarch. Then Krasicki became a royal chaplain of Stanisław August Poniatowski, and in time the monarch gave him, among others, the Order of the White Eagle. In 1765, together with Franciszek Bohomolc, and in collaboration with the king, Krasicki founded the magazine Monitor, which dates back to 1785 and was critical of the remains of Saxon culture.
From 1767 Krasicki served as the Bishop of Warmia (which also gave him the right to sit in the Senate of the Rzeczpospolita, and after the First Partition of Poland forced him into a difficult friendship with Fryderyk II). In 1795 he took the post of archbishop of Gniezno, which resulted in moving the bishop’s residence from Lidzbark Warmiński to Łowicz and Skierniewice. Shortly after, he received an uncomfortable order to translate, comment on, and disseminate a papal brief calling for obedience to monarchs, stigmatising all insurrections and revolutions, and also the philosophy of the Enlightenment. In 1798 and 1799 he published the magazine Co Tydzień .
The year 1775 marks the beginning of Ignacy Krasicki’s literary career. During one of the so-called Thursday Dinners that year, organised by Stanisław August Poniatowski for people of culture, Krasicki presented fragments of his mock-heroic poem Mouseiad. Among them, the most popular was the stanza sung as Hymn Do Miłości Ojczyzny (Hymn to the Love of the Homeland), which acted as the unofficial Polish national anthem for some time.
Krasicki is considered to be a representative of the classical movement in poetry. This evidenced by the fact that the Bishop of Warmia, as a rule, chose literary genres of ancient pedigree – fairy tales, satires, mock-heroic poems (i.e., a parody of the epic poem), and finally as exotic a form as dialogues of the deceased, published in the magazine Co Tydzień in 1798 and 1799. An exception to this trend is the attempt to use a new literary genre, novels: Mikołaja Doświadczyńskiego Przypadki (The Adventures of Nicholas Experience, 1776) and Pan Podstoli (Mr Podstoli, 1778-1784). They fit, however, in the classical sense of literature as a kind of expression that balances aesthetic pleasure, arousing feelings, and preaching.
The greatest intensity of Ignacy Krasicki’s writing activity was between 1775 and 1780. In 1775 Mouseiad was published, and a year after the novel Mikołaja Doświadczyńskiego Przypadki and the first part of Pan Podstoli. In 1778 Monachomachia (War of the Monks) was anonymously published, and the year also marks the publication of Satires and the collection Tales and Parables.
Krasicki’s style is distinguished by its clear syntax, which in its day had to pay more attention to the fact that the readers still had in mind a completely different aesthetic pattern, typical of the passing Baroque period. This clarity makes it possible, even in longer satirical works, to extract fragments that can successfully function as aphorisms. Both in Satire and in Tales, the poet often reached for dialogue, sometimes with intricate interlacing of longer and shorter expressions. Krasicki, even though he did his work did include moralising, did not have to express his opinions in a straightforward way which would give the impression of a certain monotony.
For today’s readers, Ignacy Krasicki’s work may seem strange, mainly because of its moralising background. The works defend themselves with sometimes surprisingly modern irony. One can not forget about the poet’s contribution to the development of the Polish culture of the Enlightenment, or the introduction of Utopian literature into our literature (Nipu Island in Mikołaja Doświadczyńskiego Przypadki). And in 2008 Co Tydzień magazine was re-activated and made available, among others. in Mysłowice.
Selected works by Ignacy Krasicki:
- Mikołaja Doświadczyńskiego Przypadki (The Adventures of Nicholas Experience)
- Monachomachia (War of the Monks)
- Bajki i Przypowieści (Fables and Parables)
- Bajki nowe (New Fables)
- Satyry (Satires)
- Święta Miłości Kochanej Ojczyzny (O Sacred Love of the Beloved Country)
- Myszeida (Mouseiad)
Selected works on Ignacy Krasicki:
- Elżbieta Aleksandrowska, Problemy Monitorowego Autorstwa Krasickiego. Z Warsztatu Bibliografa 'Monitora', Pamiętnik Literacki 1999, z. 1.
- Zbigniew Goliński, Ignacy Krasicki, Warsaw 1979.
- Teresa Kostkiewiczowa, O Języku Poetyckim Ignacego Krasickiego, [in:] Horyzonty Wyobraźni. O Języku Poezji Czasów Oświecenia, Warsaw 1984.
- Ignacy Krasicki – Nowe Spojrzenia, red. Zbigniew Goliński, Teresa Kostkiewiczowa, Krystyna Stasiewicz, 2001.
- Maciej Parakitny, O Genezie Myszeidy Ignacego Krasickiego, "Pamiętnik Literacki" 1998, z. 1.
- Ryszard Przybylski, klasycyzm Czyli Prawdziwy Koniec Królestwa Polskiego, Marabut, Gdańsk 1996.
- Tomasz Pokrzywniak, Ignacy Krasicki, [in:] Pisarze polskiego Oświecenia, t. 1, red. Teresa Kostkiewiczowa, Zbigniew Goliński, Warsaw 1992.
Author: Paweł Kozioł, December 2008. Text prepared for the online project Anthology of Polish Poetry from the Middle Ages to the 21st Century, following the concept of Piotr Matywiecki.