The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Kochanowski, Jan

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

KOCHANOWSKI, kō'kạ-nôf'skē, Jan, Polish poet: b. Sycyna, 1530; d. Lublin, 22 Aug. 1584. He was educated at the High School, Cracow; studied at Padua (1552), and traveled in Italy. He then went to Paris (1555) and was inspired by Ronsard to write poetry. Returning to his native country he was appointed secretary to King Sigismund Augustu. He was granted two benefices (1565 and 1566), but returned to live on his family estate, Czarnlyas (1568), where he devoted his time to the Muses. In 1575 he resigned from the duties of his religious offices and was invited to reside at the court by the newly-crowned king, Stephan Báthory, but refused the honor, as also the office of Kastellan, tendered him by Chancellor Zamojski. Next to Mickiewicz, he was the most important poet of Poland. His ‘Treny’ (Cracow 1580), elegies on the death of his daughter Ursula, are considered masterpieces as to poetic flight and mastery of language. His drama ‘Odprawa poslow grekich’ (‘The Despatching of the Greek Ambassadors’) was written (1578) in honor of the marriage of Zamojski to Princess Báthory. Other well-known poems of his are ‘Proporzec albo hold pruski’ (‘The Banner or Homage to Prussia’); the satiric poem ‘Z goda’ (‘Unity’) appeared in 1564; ‘Fraszki’ (‘Fragments’) was published in 1584 and is in the gayest strain, reminding of the ‘Decameron.’ His translations of the ‘Psalms’ is considered to be the best in existence. He wrote also, in Latin, such works as ‘Lyricorum libellus’ (1580); ‘Elegiarum libri quatuor’ (1584), and numerous poems composed for special occasions. The perfection of the Polish language is due to him; he greatly enriched Polish poetry by naturalizing foreign poetic forms which he understood how to imbue with national spirit. Collections of his works appeared from 1584 to 1641, but the last and best (Warsaw 1884) is in four volumes. Consult Przyborowski, ‘Biography of Kochanowski’ (Posen 1857), also Löwenfelt, ‘Jan Kochanowski und seine lateinischen Dichtungen’ (Posen 1878).