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 II

Why flatter thyself, Tyrant,
In ways great in evil?
The Lord's goodness ceases not
Keeping watch on the pious.

Keener yet than the keenest
Blade, thy tongue watches
To generate wild untruth
And plot slander' gainst the good.

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