Jan Kochanowski

Jan Kochanowski

Noble Family Kochanowski.
Coat of Arms


Parents Piotr Kochanowski; Anna, née Białaczowska.
Consorts Dorota, née Podlodowska.
Children Urszula, Hanna, Ewa, Poliksena, Halszka, Krystyna, Jan (posthumous)
Date of Birth 1530
Place of Birth Sycyna
Date of Death August 22 1584
Place of Death Lublin

Jan Kochanowski (1530 - August 22 1584) was a Polish Renaissance poet who established poetic patterns that would become integral to Polish literary language He is commonly regarded as the greatest Polish poet as well as 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, however, fluent in Latin, he was sent to the Kraków Academy . After graduation in 1547 at age 17, 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 Francis 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, a humanist and Renaissance poet. He spent the next fifteen years close to the court of King Sigismund II of Poland, 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 of Czarnolas" ("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 August 22 1584.


Kochanowski's earliest poems were written in Latin, but he soon turned to the vernacular, creating verse forms that made him the founder of Polish poetic literature.

His masterpieces include Treny (Threnodies, 1580, translated into English in 1995 by Stanisław Barańczak and Seamus Heaney as Laments)—a series of nineteen elegies upon the death of his beloved two-and-a-half-year-old daughter Urszula; and Odprawa posłów greckich (The Dismissal of the Greek Envoys, 1578; recently translated into English by Indiana University's Bill Johnston), a blank-verse tragedy that recounted an incident leading up to the Trojan War. It was the first tragedy written in Polish, and its theme of the responsibilities of statesmanship continues to resonate to this day. This play was performed during the wedding of Jan Zamoyski to Krystyna Radziwiłł at Ujazdów Castle in Warsaw on January 12, 1578.

Kochanowski's Laments, especially, move the reader with their unaffected sentiments, expressed with a skill worthy, in a later generation, of a Shakespeare.



See also

External links

Further reading

  • David J. Welsh, Jan Kochanowski, New York, Twayne Publishers, 1974, ISBN 0-8057-2490-7. Reviewed by Harold B. Segel in The Slavic Review, vol. 35, no. 3. (Sept. 1976), pp. 583-84.

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