Mikolaj Sep Szarzynski

(1550 - 1581 / Poland)

Biography of Mikolaj Sep Szarzynski

Mikolaj Sep Szarzynski (1550-1581) was a Polish religious poet remembered for writing metaphysical sonnets with inverted word orders.

A forerunner of Baroque poetry, he wrote predominantly religious poetry akin to that of the English Metaphysical poets. In this period satire and pastoral were the most popular forms.

Szarzynski was a full-fledged baroque poet avant la lettre. His only collection, Rytmy albo wiersze polskie (Polish Rhythms or Verses; publicated posthumously in 1601), has been rediscovered only in recent decades, after centuries of oblivion.

Szarzynski did not write much, but what he wrote reveals an extraordinary personality, a profoundly metaphysical poet. In particular, a handful of his religious sonnets, in which tortuous syntax, violent enjambment, and oxymoronic imagery portray a mind torn asunder by spiritual torment, bear comparison with the best of John Donne or George Herbert.

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Song VI

Our almighty Lord, eternal, unfathomed,
To Thee Cherubin proclaim "Holy, holy, holy!"
To Thee too, Seraph, true love's pure brand;
A fiery firmament tho marks Thy glory's stead.

And tho Thou art in all, 'tis there my teary eyes
I lift, and there doth my longing heart sigh;
For my senses' strengths match not their afflictions,
Like servants of masters, Thy mercies they crave.

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