Page:Sonnetsfromcrime00mick.djvu/20

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A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

birth-throe of a nation that was to move powerfully, and to dominate—partially—the new age. And the splendid and never again to be equalled pageant of the life of Catherine the Great, with its wild dreams of world dominance and of the glorious revival of perished Greece, had just been unrolled for the amazement of Europe. What dramatic and enchanting memories the names of her followers call up: the Orlows, Potemkin, Panin, Poniatowski, Bestushew-Rjumin, Princess Daschkov, Razumowski.

In France, too, the same preceding period had been brilliant. It had been the France of Voltaire, the Encyclopedists, and a most resplendent and luxurious monarch. England had known her greatest orators and prime ministers. It had been the Prussia of Frederick the Great; the Dresden of August the Strong; the Austria of Joseph the Second.

A little later—during Mickiewicz's own youth—Goethe was at the height of his power and the intellectual dictator of Europe. Under his direction and encouragement the treasures of oriental literature were being translated and made known to the West. This is merely a hasty glimpse of the "mise-en-scene" that preceded the debut in life of the most renowned of Polish poets. The old traditions of absolute and God-created monarchs and princely times were

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