Mickiewicz was the master of Polish literature, an outstanding representative of European romanticism.
Portrait by Walenty Wankowicz

Adam (Bernard) Mickiewicz
is regarded as the most famous/greatest Polish poet
as well as a patriot and lifelong apostle of Polish national freedom.
  Born on December 24, 1798 in Zaosie near Nowogrodek (now Navahrudak), Russian Empire (now Belarus).   Died suddenly, on November 26, 1855 in Constatinopole (now Istanbul), Ottoman Empire (now Turkey), probably of cholera.  

as a young activist

Mickiewicz studied at the University of Vilnius between 1815 and 1819 from where he gained a good classical education. In 1817 he was a co-founder of a secret student's Philomaths' Society (Towarzystwo Filomatow) and later incorporated in the Filarets' Society (Towarzystwo Filaretow), both in Vilnius. In 1823 he was arrested, imprisoned and deported to Russia. He spent a year in a Russian prison for establishing and taking part in this secret youth organization. In 1824-1829 he lived in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Odessa and travelled in the Crimea (1925). In St. Petersburg Mickiewicz made friends with Russian poets and writers, among them Alexander Pushkin.
as a pilgrim

In 1829 the poet, considered the leader of the Polish romanticism school, left the Eastern Europe for ever to stay in the west of Europe. From mid-1829 he lived in Germany, i.e. in Berlin, Drezden and Weimar (here he met W. Goethe); in Czech i.e. Prague; in Switzerland; in Italy, i.e. Venice, Florence, Rome and he visited Naples and Sicily. Even though he tried, Mickiewicz himself couldn’t join the November Uprising 1830-31 in Poland. On the news of the outbreak of the uprising, Mickiewicz left for Poland via Geneva and Paris. He arrived in the Great Poland in August 1831. Unsuccessful attempts to cross the border into the Polish Kingdom and the collapse of the Uprising made Mickiewicz move back to Western Europe, together with waves of Polish emigrants. Via Dresden he went to Paris where settled in August 1832. After the uprising he spent some years abroad still trying to help to make Poland free and independent. Mickiewicz began energetic journalistic and writing activity in Paris. His vision of the role of Poland and the objectives of the Polish emigrants in France was presented in his book "Ksiegi narodu i pielgrzymstwa polskiego" (The Books of the Polish Nation and the Polish Pilgrimage) published in 1832. He wrote many articles for the political journal "Pielgrzym Polski" (Polish Pilgrim), which he edited from April to June 1833.

as a poet, playwright and writer

Mickiewicz created many lirics, ballads, poetic tales, erotics, romantic poems, dramas, epics, novels. Whatever his chosen form the result was artistically brilliant and profound in meaning. Mickiewicz lived on the turn of the 18th century which in the history of Polish literature is the time of Romanticism. That is why his poems contain a lot of feelings and a lot of patriotism. Hi published among other well-known "Oda do mlodosci" (1820), "Konrad Wallenrod" (1828, a poem describing the wars of the Teutonic Order with the Lithuanians but actually representing the age-old feud between Poland and Russia, "Grazyna", "Sonety krymskie" (1925, erotics), "Dziady" ("Forefather's Eve", 1923, part I and II, in which he combined folklore and mystic patriotism to create a new kind of Romantic drama). His most important literary works were created within only three years: the III part of "Dziady" (Forefathers' Eve, 1832, Mickiewicz views Poland as fulfilling a messianic role among the nations of western Europe by its national embodiment of the Christian themes of self-sacrifice and eventual redemption), "Ksiegi narodu i pielgrzymstwa polskiego" (1832, biblical prose - a moral interpretation of the history of the Polish people) and "Pan Tadeusz" ("Master Thaddeus", 1834, masterpiece, the great poetic epic describes the life of the Polish gentry in the early 19th century through a fictional account of the feud between two families of Polish nobles; the poem conveys perfectly the ethos of an archaic society in which the ideals of chivalry are still alive and shows the effect of the Napoleonic myth on honest and simple minds, to whom the French emperor is an instrument of Providence). In his poems there was a lot of love for his country so his poetry has meant a great deal to the next generations reading it. Later he only occasionally wrote poetry. An attempt to publish in French (two dramas: Konfederaci barscy and Jakub Jasinski albo dwie Polski) proved unsuccessful, and they were finally published in Polish translation after Mickiewicz's death, in 1866. Mickiewicz's collected works were published in Poland as "Dziela" in 16 volumes in 1949-55.
as a lecturer

In the fall of 1839 Mickiewicz began lecturing on Roman literature at the university of Lausanne. In 1840-44 he lectured on Slavonic literatures at the College de France. He was suspended as professor by the French authorities for his anti-church attitude and for promoting the religious and mystic ideas of Andrzej Towianski, a representative of Polish Messianism.

Mickiewicz was married with Celina Szymanowska (1834) and had six children. He met with Frédéric Chopin in Paris several times.

as a legionist

During the Springtime of the Peoples he was active as a politician, organizer and ideologist. In February 1848 Mickiewicz was received at an audience by Pope Pius IX, during which he was reported to have said that "God's spirit is in the hearts of the Parisian people". Since March 1848 he organized in Rome and then in Lombardy a voluntary Polish Legion (called the Mickiewicz Legion) to fight against Austria. Leading it, Mickiewicz wrote its political program: Sklad zasad czyli Symbol polityczny Polski [A collection of principles or The political symbol of Poland]. The Legion fought its first battle (against the Austrians) at Lonato on Lake Garda. Back in Paris in June 1848, Mickiewicz conducted recruitment of new volunteers and organized support for the Legion; in 1849 he edited a radical newspaper in French, La Tribune des Peuples (People's Tribune, appearing until November 1849) in which he advocated a program of radical social reforms and solidarity of the people.
as a politician

During Napoleon III's reign, Mickiewicz gave up his political activity and took a post as librarian in the Parisian Library of the Arsenal. During the Crimean war Mickiewicz returned to political activity. In September 1855 he was sent to Turkey by Prince Adam Czartoryski and he arrived in Constantinopole to support the formation of Polish troops to fight against Russia in the Crimean War and to mediate between fractions of Poles preparing to fight.

Legend of Adam Mickiewicz

Mickiewicz, together with two other Polish poets of his time, Juliusz Slowacki and Zygmunt Krasinski, played the role of a national bard and spiritual leader. He was the principal poet of Polish Romanticism. His love lyrics, succinct and charged with emotion and meaning, raised the image of woman to ideal heights previously unknown in Polish poetry. With his exalted patriotism, mystical feeling, and passionate appreciation of the positive aspects of Polish life, he came to epitomize the Polish spirit for succeeding generations of his nation's writers.

Mickiewicz's works inspired and inspire many composers, writers, poets, painters, drawers and sculptors. Succeeding generations of Polish poets were to feel the force of his genius. The cult of Mickiewicz became a part of the Polish national consciousness and expressed itself in solemn celebrations of his anniversaries, as well as giving his name to numerous streets, places, and organizations. He has monuments and museums in many cities in Poland and also in Paris, Roma, Vilnius, Novogrodek and Istanbul.

After death his mortal remains have been brouhgt to France and in 1890 they were reburied in the vault of Wawel cathedral in Krakow, where many Polish kings are laid to rest.

'We are all of him' wrote Zygmunt Krasinski

  Some links

Le bicentenaire de la naissance d'Adam Mickiewicz

Adam Mickiewicz: Zycie-Dzielo-Tradycja

Adam Mickiewicz w pa³acach i dworach Wielkopolski 1831-1832

Musée Adam Mickiewicz

Pan Tadeusz [full version in Poland]
Pan Tadeusz [full version in New Zeland]
Pan Tadeusz [research project]
Pan Tadeusz [movie]

Biblioteka wierszy

Poems from the planet Earth

The Lied and Songs Texts Page

This site is a part of Polish Homepages project.
Last Updated: March 13, 1999
Text based mainly on information from
WIEM: Wielka Internetowa Encyklopedia Multimedialna, the Encyclopedia of 1848 Revolutions, the Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.
and my own knowledge from school.

Opus 28, Prelude No.9 in E major: Largo
of Frédéric Chopin played by B.Krueger
from the Classical MIDI Archives
- by permission.