Born Sept. 4, 1809, in Krzemieniec, present-day Ternopol’ Oblast, Ukrainian SSR; died Apr. 3, 1849, in Paris. Polish poet.
The son of a professor, Słowacki graduated from the law faculty of the University of Vilnius in 1828. His early narrative poems, notably Hugo (1829) and Jan Bielecki (1830), were clearly romantic in style. In his first dramas, the tragedies Mary Stuart (1830) and Mindaugas, King of Lithuania (1831), Słowacki portrayed political conflicts and human passions. He responded to the Polish Uprising of 1830–31 with a cycle of patriotic poems, of which the most famous is the “Ode to Freedom” (1830). In 1831, Słowacki emigrated.
Along with A. Mickiewicz, Słowacki was the leading exponent of revolutionary romanticism. His lyrical masterpiece was the narrative poem In Switzerland, published in 1839. In the 1840’s, Słowacki created a romantic repertoire for the Polish theater. In his narrative poems Lambro (1833) and Anhelli (1838) and in his tragedies Kordian (1834) and Horsztyński (written 1835, published 1881), Słowacki criticized the nobility’s role in the liberation movement. He attacked clericalism and advocated popular revolution in such political lyrics as the Answer to the “Psalms of the Future” (1845–48).
Słowacki wrote a cycle of fairy-tale and fantasy plays, of which the best known are Balladyna (1834, published 1839) and Lilla Weneda (1840). Realistic elements are discernible in the play Fantasies (1841). Patriotic grief and revolutionary steadfastness infuse many of his lyric poems, notably “Hymn” (written 1836, published 1839) and “My Legacy” (1839–40). Słowacki also left behind fragments of historical prose. The summit of his creative aspirations is the unfinished narrative poem Beniowski (1840–41; published 1841; Russian translation, 1973), remarkable for its mastery of poetic technique.
Although they are tinged with religious mysticism, Słowacki’s later plays continue to reflect his patriotic ideals (Father Marek, 1843) and his concern with social conflicts (The Silver Dream of Solomea, 1844). The lyrics written from the mid-1840’s are filled with cosmic imagery, prophetic fervor, and a tense expectation of a revolutionary upheaval. The epic Spirit King, which was to be a synthesis of Słowacki’s philosophical and historical views, was never completed.
For a long time Słowacki was little known in Russia. At the turn of the century his works attracted the attention of the Russian symbolists K. D. Bal’mont and V. Ia. Briusov. The best translations of Słowacki, done by the poets A. A. Akhmatova, B. L. Pasternak, and L. N. Martynov, appeared after World War II.
WORKSDzieła, vols. 1-14, 3rd ed. Wrocław, 1959.
Dzieła wszystkie, vols. 1–15, 2nd ed. Wrocław, 1952–63.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. soch., vols. 1–2, Moscow, 1960.
Lirika. Moscow, 1966.
Stikhi: Mariia Stiuart. Moscow, 1975.
REFERENCESStakheev, B. F. “Iu. Slovatskii.” In Istoriia pol’skoi literatury, vol. 1. Moscow, 1968.
Levins’ka, S. Y. luliush Slovats’kyi: Zhyttia i tvorchyi shliakh. Kiev, 1973.
Verves, G. D. luliush Slovats’kyi i Ukraina. Kiev, 1959.
Iu. Slovatskii: Biobibliograficheskii ukazatel’. Moscow, 1959.
Kleiner, J. Słowacki: Dzieje twórczości, vols. 1–4. L’vov-Warsaw-Kraków, 1924-28.
Kalendarz życia i twórczości J. Słowackiego. Wrocław, 1960.
Treugutt, S. “Beniowski”: Kryzys indywidualizmu romantycznego. Warsaw, 1964.
Sawrymowicz, E. J. Słowacki, 4th ed. Warsaw, 1973. (With bibliography.)
B. F. STAKHEEV