Biography of Jan Kochanowski
Jan Kochanowski (Polish: [ˈjan kɔxaˈnɔfskʲi]; 1530 – 22 August 1584) was a Polish Renaissance poet who established poetic patterns that would become integral to the Polish literary language.
He is commonly regarded as the greatest Polish poet before Adam Mickiewicz, and the greatest Slavic poet prior to the 19th century.
Kochanowski was born at Sycyna, near Radom, Poland. Little is known of his early education. At fourteen, fluent in Latin, he was sent to the Kraków Academy. After graduating in 1547 at age seventeen, he attended the University of Königsberg (Królewiec), in Ducal Prussia, and Padua University in Italy. At Padua, Kochanowski came in contact with the great humanist scholar Francesco Robortello. Kochanowski closed his fifteen-year period of studies and travels with a final visit to France, where he met the poet Pierre Ronsard.
In 1559 Kochanowski returned to Poland for good, where he remained active as a humanist and Renaissance poet. He spent the next fifteen years close to the court of King Sigismund II Augustus, serving for a time as royal secretary. In 1574, following the decampment of Poland's recently elected King Henry of Valois (whose candidacy to the Polish throne Kochanowski had supported), Kochanowski settled on a family estate at Czarnolas ("Blackwood") to lead the life of a country squire. In 1575 he married Dorota Podlodowska, with whom he had seven children.
Kochanowski is sometimes referred to in Polish as "Jan z Czarnolasu" ("John of Blackwood"). It was there that he wrote his most memorable works, including The Dismissal of the Greek Envoys and the Laments.
Kochanowski died, probably of a heart attack, in Lublin on 22 August 1584.
Jan Kochanowski Poems
My good and noble health, Thou matter'st more then wealth. None know'th thy worth until
Where are those gates through which so long ago Orpheus descended to the realms below To seek his lost one? Little daughter, I
Ursula, winsome child, I would that I Had never had thee if thou wert to die So early. For with lasting grief I pay,
I think no father under any sky More fondly loved a daughter than did I, And scarcely ever has a child been born
'Virtue is but a trifle!' Brutus said In his defeat; nor was he cozened. What man did his own goodness e'er advance
My dear delight, my Ursula, and where Art thou departed, to what land, what sphere? High o'er the heavens wert thou borne, to stand
Thou hast made all the house an empty thing, Dear Ursula, by this thy vanishing. Though we are here, 'tis yet a vacant place, One little soul had filled so great a space.
Sad trinkets of my little daughter, dresses That touched her like caresses, Why do you draw my mournful eyes? To borrow
Dear little Slavic Sappho, we had thought, Hearing thy songs so sweetly, deftly wrought, That thou shouldst have an heritage one day
Just as a little olive offshoot grows Beneath its orchard elders' shady rows, No budding leaf as yet, no branching limb,
Thou shouldst be purchased, Wisdom, for much gold If all they say of thee is truly told: That thou canst root out from the mind the host
Thou hast constrained mine eyes, unholy Death, To watch my dear child breathe her dying breath: To watch thee shake the fruit unripe and clinging
So, thou hast scorned me, my delight and heir; Thy father's halls, then, were not broad and fair Enough for thee to dwell here longer, sweet.
If I had ever thought to write in praise Of little children and their simple ways, Far rather had I fashioned cradle verse
If I had ever thought to write in praise
Of little children and their simple ways,
Far rather had I fashioned cradle verse
To rock to slumber, or the songs a nurse
Might croon above the baby on her breast.
Setting her charge's short-lived woes at rest.
For much more useful are such trifling tasks
Than that which sad misfortune this day asks:
To weep o'er thy deaf grave, dear maiden mine.