The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Kordyan

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Edition of 1920. See also Kordian on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

KORDYAN. The revolution of 1830-31 was a prolific source for Polish literary works. Julius Stowacki seized upon the historic incident of the attempted assassination of Tsar Nicholas, who came to Warsaw to be crowned king of Poland, to create a Polish hero for the troubled times. Imitating Byron's ironical attitude, Stowacki in the introduction to his poem treats the contemporary actors in the revolution rather flippantly. Then, representing his own early excesses and lack of faith and the change of mind which he experienced in Switzerland, he makes the hero, Kordyan, look with contempt upon his aristocratic habits and abandon his life of a lovelace, and lets him return to the sands of Mazovia, there by an inner transformation to do good to his native country. Kordyan attends a meeting of revolutionists in Saint John's Church in Warsaw, where he makes an impassioned appeal, one that has become a classic passage in Polish literature, that Nicholas be killed. But the only scene which by modern Polish critics is considered as devoid of romantic exaggeration is where Kordyan, under the influence of the mood induced by the tragic situation, is trying to combat his own hallucination and terror. This, no doubt, is a correct representation of the poet's own struggle with his feverish imagination, caused by his abhorrence of war, just as he became conscious of the moral necessity of joining the ranks of the revolutionists. A good discussion of the poem may be found in G. Sarrazin, ‘Les grands poètes romantiques de la Pologne’ (Paris 1906, pp. 221-225).

Leo Wiener.