Cyprian Norwid

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Cyprian Norwid
Cyprian Kamil Norwid foto.jpg
BornCyprian Konstanty Norwid
(1821-09-24)24 September 1821
Laskowo-Głuchy near Warsaw, Congress Poland
Died23 May 1883(1883-05-23) (aged 61)
Paris, France
OccupationPoet, Essayist
Language Polish
Nationality Polish
Genre Romanticism, Parnassism
Notable worksVade-mecum
Czarne kwiaty. Białe kwiaty

Cyprian Kamil Norwid, a.k.a. Cyprian Konstanty Norwid (Polish pronunciation:  [ˈt͡sɨprjan ˈnɔrvid] ; 24 September 1821 23 May 1883), was a nationally esteemed Polish poet, dramatist, painter, and sculptor. He was born in the Masovian village of Laskowo-Głuchy near Warsaw. One of his maternal ancestors was the Polish King John III Sobieski. [1]


Norwid is regarded as one of the second generation of romantics. He wrote many well-known poems including Fortepian Szopena ("Chopin's Piano"), Moja piosnka [II] ("My Song [II]") and Bema pamięci żałobny-rapsod ( A Funeral Rhapsody in Memory of General Bem ). Norwid led a tragic and often poverty-stricken life (once he had to live in a cemetery crypt). He experienced increasing health problems, unrequited love, harsh critical reviews, and increasing social isolation. He lived abroad most of his life, especially in London and, in Paris where he died.

Norwid's original and non-conformist style was not appreciated in his lifetime and partially due to this fact, he was excluded from high society. His work was only rediscovered and appreciated by the Young Poland art movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. He is now considered one of the four most important Polish Romantic poets. Other literary historians, however, consider this an oversimplification, and regard his style to be more characteristic of classicism and parnassianism.


South annex of Czapski Palace (Krakowskie Przedmiescie 5, Warsaw), where Chopin lived to 1830. In 1837-39 Norwid studied painting here. Later he penned "Chopin's Piano", about Russian troops' 1863 defenestration of the piano. Krakowskie Przedmiescie 5, Warsaw, Poland.jpg
South annex of Czapski Palace (Krakowskie Przedmieście 5, Warsaw), where Chopin lived to 1830. In 1837–39 Norwid studied painting here. Later he penned "Chopin's Piano", about Russian troops' 1863 defenestration of the piano.

Norwid is a Polish form of the Lithuanian two-syllable archaic (sur)name Norvydas — from noras a wish, a desire, a goal and (iš)vysti to see, literally one, who has a desire. [2] [3] Born into a Polish–Lithuanian noble family bearing the Topór coat of arms, Cyprian Norwid and his brother Ludwik were orphaned early. For most of their childhood, they were educated at Warsaw schools. In 1830 Norwid interrupted his schooling (not having completed the fifth grade) and entered a private school of painting. His incomplete formal education forced him to become an autodidact.

His first foray into the literary sphere occurred in the periodical Piśmiennictwo Krajowe, which published his first poem, "Mój ostatni sonet" ("My Last Sonnet"), in issue 8, 1840.


Manuscript of "Chopin's Piano" Rekopis chopin.jpg
Manuscript of "Chopin's Piano"

In 1842 Norwid went to Dresden, ostensibly to gain instruction in sculpture. He later also visited Venice and Florence. After he settled in Rome in 1844, his fiancée Kamila broke off their engagement. Later he met Maria Kalergis, née Nesselrode, who became his "lost love", even as his health deteriorated. The poet then travelled to Berlin, where he participated in university lectures and meetings with local Polonia . It was a time when Norwid made many new social, artistic and political contacts. After being arrested and forced to leave Prussia in 1846, Norwid went to Brussels. During the European Revolutions of 1848, he stayed in Rome, where he met fellow Polish intellectuals Adam Mickiewicz and Zygmunt Krasiński.

During 1849–1852, Norwid lived in Paris, where he met fellow Poles Frédéric Chopin and Juliusz Słowacki, as well as Russians Ivan Turgenev and Alexander Herzen. Financial hardship, unrequited love, political misunderstandings, and a negative critical reception of his works put Norwid in a dire situation. He lived in poverty and suffered from progressive blindness and deafness, but still managed to publish his work in the Parisian publication Goniec polski.


Norwid decided to emigrate to the United States of America on 29 September 1852 under the protection of Wladyslaw Zamoyski. He arrived aboard the Margaret Evans in New York City on 12 February 1853, and during the spring, obtained a well-paying job at a graphics firm. By autumn, he had learned about the outbreak of the Crimean War. This made him consider a return to Europe, and he wrote to Mickiewicz and Herzen, asking for their assistance.


Norwid in 1882, by
Pantaleon Szyndler Szyndler Cyprian Kamil Norwid.jpg
Norwid in 1882, by
Pantaleon Szyndler

During April 1854, Norwid returned to Europe with Prince Marcel Lubomirski. He lived in London and earned enough money through artistic endeavours to be finally able to return to Paris. With his artistic work revived, Norwid was able to publish several works. He took a very keen interest in the outbreak of the January Uprising in 1863. Although he could not participate personally due to his poor health, Norwid hoped to personally influence the outcome of the event.

In 1866, the poet finished his work on Vade-Mecum, a vast anthology of verse. However, despite his greatest efforts and formidable contacts, it was unable to be published. This included Prince Władysław Czartoryski failing to grant the poet the loan he had promised.

In subsequent years, Norwid lived in extreme poverty and suffered from tuberculosis. His cousin, Michał Kleczkowski, later relocated Norwid to the St. Casimir's Institute nursing home on the outskirts of Paris. During the last months of his life, Norwid was weak and bed-ridden; he frequently wept and refused to speak with anyone. He died in the morning of 23 May 1883.


Norwid, Paris, 1861 Norwid1861.jpg
Norwid, Paris, 1861

Literary historians view Norwid's work as being too far ahead of its time to be appreciated, [4] possessing elements of romanticism, classicism and parnassianism. Following his death, many of Norwid's works were forgotten; it was not until the Young Poland period that his finesse and style was appreciated. At that time, his work was discovered and popularised by Zenon Przesmycki, a Polish poet and literary critic who was a member of the Polish Academy of Literature. Some eventually concluded that during his life, Norwid had been rejected by his contemporaries so that he could be understood by the next generation of "late grandsons." [5]

Opinion is divided however, as to whether he was a true Romanticist artist – or if he was artistically ahead of his time. Norwid's "Collected Works" (Dzieła Zebrane) were published in 1968 by Juliusz Wiktor Gomulicki, a Norwid biographer and commentator. The full iconic collection of the artist's work was released during the period 1971–76 as Pisma Wszystkie ("Collected Works"). Comprising 11 volumes, it includes all of Norwid's poetry as well as his letters and reproductions of his artwork.

On 24 September 2001, 118 years after his death in France, an urn containing soil from the collective grave where Norwid had been buried in Paris' Montmorency cemetery, was enshrined in the "Crypts of the Bards" at Wawel Cathedral. There, Norwid's remains were placed next to those of fellow Polish poets Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki. The cathedral's Zygmunt Bell, heard only when events of great national and religious significance occur, resounded loudly to mark the poet's return to his homeland. During a special Thanksgiving Mass held at the cathedral, the Archbishop of Kraków, cardinal Franciszek Macharski said that 74 years after the remains of Juliusz Slowacki were brought in, again the doors of the crypt of bards have opened "to receive the great poet, Cyprian Norwid, into Wawel's royal cathedral, for he was the equal of kings". [6]

In 1966, the Polish Scouts in Chicago acquired a 240-acre parcel of property in the northwoods of Wisconsin, 20 miles west of Crivitz, Wisconsin and named it Camp Norwid in his honor. The camp is private property, and has been a forging place for generations of youth of Polish heritage from the Chicago and Milwaukee areas and from across the United States.


Bas relief of Norwid, Wawel Cathedral Norwid Relief.jpg
Bas relief of Norwid, Wawel Cathedral

Norwid's most extensive work, Vade mecum, written between 1858 and 1865, was first published a century after his death. Some of Norwid's works have been translated into English by the American, Walter Whipple:

In English

In Polish

In Bengali


See also

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  1. Król, Marcin. Konserwatyści a niepodległość. Warszawa 1985, p. 160.
  2. According to the dictionary of Lithuanian surnames, surname Norvydas is widespread in Samogitia .
  3. According to the statistics, in 1999-2018 there were 43 newborn boys, whose parents gave them a Lithuanian name - Norvydas
  4. Jauss, Hans Robert. Preface to the German translation of Vade Mecum, München: Fink, 1981
  5. Wilson, Joshua (30 May 2012). "Flames of Goodness". The New Republic. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
  6. Cyprian Nowid's remains symbolically repatriated – 2001, available at: Archived 2006-09-02 at the Wayback Machine