Jan Kochanowski

(1530 - 1584 / Sycyna / Poland)

Biography of Jan Kochanowski

Jan Kochanowski poet

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.

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Lament II

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.

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