Mariusz Ziomecki

Mariusz Ziomecki writes in this issue about the 19th-century Polish poet, Norwid, who died one hundred years ago in a Paris poor-house. Neglected as ‘obscure’ for many years in his own country, notoriously forbidding and perilous for the translator, Norwid has remained almost totally unknown in the English-speaking world. Mariusz Ziomecki is a Warsaw critic who now lives in California.

Solidarity’s Poet

Mariusz Ziomecki, 3 November 1983

In Polish ears, the surname Norwid, and the Christian names Cyprian, Kamil, Ksawery, Gerard, ring alien, aristocratic, proud. Associated with the artist’s profession, they suggest a darling of fortune. Meanwhile the photograph of Cyprian Norwid which appears in school textbooks, the only one there is, dating from 1856, presents a man dismal in expression, with shaggy black hair, gaunt and even hungry-looking, tightly wrapped in a coarse overcoat. It might be some Siberian exile, a Panslav mystic, a fanatic ready to hurl a bomb at the head of some ruler. Or a poor wretch spurned by the poets’ clique and hounded by the critics.

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