Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Cyprian Norwid's Tree

(Dziekuje to the St. Vincent de Paul Sisters of St. Casimir)

The Polish romantic poet Cyprian Norwid (1821-1883), whose final residence in Paris beginning in 1877 was at St Casimir center, 119 rue du Chevaleret (which was then in Ivry), is still remembered with numerous markers. He was inspired by a tree growing under his window at that address. Unfortunately, the Polish community was forced to cut the tree down, July 23, 2010, due to damage from a storm that threatened to topple it over onto neighboring buildings.

Norwid suffered from deafness in his latter years, and this accentuated his difficult contacts with others. His poetry was not well recognized during his lifetime, and only one volume, Poezje / Poetry was published in 1863 in Leipzig. His work, considered difficult, reflects a final phase of romanticism, and interacts with philosophy. Some have situated his stance as close to Emmanuel Mounier's "personnalisme chrétien." Norwid was rediscovered at the beginning of the twentieth century, when Zenon Pryzesmycki published some of his works in a newspaper called Chimera between 1901-1907. Christophe Potocki recently compared him to Hopkins and Mallarmé.

One of his poems, "Chopin's Piano" mourns the devastation of the Zamoyski family's palace, when the piano that Chopin had played on was thrown into the street.

Norwid's influence extends to Czeslaw Milosz and Mieczyslaw Jastrun. Like other European poets of stature, he was influenced by Dante. Remarquably, Norwid's personal copy of Dante's Divine Comedy has just been recovered in the Jagiellonian Library of Krakow.

Because of Cyprian Norwid's residence in Paris's 13th arrondissement, a garden was created in his honor by Sylvie and Francis Farges, and inaugurated in 2006 (located along the rue Thomas-Mann and above 36, rue du Chevaleret, close to the exit for Collège Thomas Mann and Université Paris-Diderot, at Métro Bibliothèque François Mittérand). A sculpture by Aleksander Slima represents an open book, covered with quotations by Norwid.

Only through solitary wars
Are future readers won;
You will neither dwell in halls
Nor command a private portal
(From "The Mature Laurel")
As when he gently rocks an acacia tree,
And scent of white
Petals like dawning light
Falls on white piano keys . . .
(From "As when...")

'. . . and how is Despotism in defeat??'
(from "The Last Despotism")

"Cyprian Norwid's copy of Dante's Divina Commedia," Non Solus (August 5, 2010).
Andrei Navrozov, "Longing for Nobility," review of Cyprian Kamil Norwid, Selected Poems, tr. Adam Czernliawski (Anvil Press, 2004), Guardian (June 5, 2004).
Lesley Chamberlain, "Relaxation with ashes," review of translations of Cyprian Norwid in English, TLS (July 29, 2005).
Aleksandra Kedzierska Maria Curie-Sklodowska, "Gerard Manley Hopkins and Polish Poet, Cyprian Kamil Norwid," Gerard Manley Hopkins Archive (2003).
Cyprian Norwid, biography from "Culture Polonaise" (www.culture.pl/fr).
Christophe Potocki, "Le 'Promithidion' de Cyprian Norwid," Communications 78, 2005, pp.129-138 (www.persee.fr).
Photos concerning Norwid and the Polish community in Paris (www.lapetite-pologne.com).