Kochanowski, Jan

Kochanowski, Jan

(yän kôkhänôf`skē), 1530–84, esteemed as the greatest poet of the Polish Renaissance. Kochanowski assimilated the poetic traditions of Italy and France and created new rhythmic patterns, expressive phrases, and syntactic structures that were integrated into the Polish literary language. His philosophical, erotic, and patriotic lyrics lifted Polish literature out of its provincialism and brought it into the mainstream of the European Renaissance. His works include Trifles (1584), short poems on many subjects; Laments (1580), elegies upon the death of his daughter; an epic, The Standard; and a tragedy, The Dismissal of the Greek Envoys (1578). Of special note is his Polish version of the Psalms. Much of his work is available in English translation.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kochanowski, Jan


Born 1530, in Sycyna, near Radom; died Aug. 22, 1584, in Lublin. Polish poet.

The son of a member of the middle gentry, Kochanowski enrolled at the University of Kraków in 1544 and later studied at the Universities of Königsberg and Padua. Most of his early works of the 1550’s (elegies, epigrams) are in Latin, the language in which he also wrote some later works. Kochanowski’s mature writings were influential in strengthening patriotic citizenship and in establishing the vernacular as the language of poetry (Harmony, published 1564; The Satyr, c. 1564; The Banner, 1569). His Trifles (books 1-3, published 1584) is a collection of short poems, generally witty (sometimes frivolous), on moral and philosophical subjects. The Trifles reflect the poet’s observations on life, especially during his service at court (he was a royal secretary). Kochanowski’s Songs (books 1-2, published 1586), written after 1570 when he withdrew to his estate, Czarnolas, are distinguished by depth of feeling, limpid lyricism, poetic portrayal of rural life and family joys, and philosophical reflection. His translation of the Psalms of David (1578) had a profound influence on the development of Polish poetry and the literary language. In his tragedy The Dismissal of the Grecian Envoys (1578), Kochanowski comments on the major political issues of his day, using classical dramatic devices and subjects. The death of his daughter was the occasion for the writing of his Threno-dies, a cycle of poems conveying the depths of human grief and agonized reflections on man’s fate and the laws of existence. The most important figure in Polish Renaissance literature, Kochanowski greatly stimulated the development of Polish poetry.


Dzieta polskie, 4th ed. Warsaw, 1960.
Izbr. proizv. Moscow-Leningrad, 1960. (In Russian translation.)
Lirika. Moscow, 1970. (In Russian translation.)


Razumovskaia, L. V., and B. F. Stakheev. “Ian Kokhanovskii.” In Istoriia pol’skoi titeratury, vol. 1. Moscow, 1968.
Rytel, J. Jan Kochanowski. Warsaw, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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