Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Waddington, ed. > The Sonnets of Europe
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Samuel Waddington, comp.  The Sonnets of Europe.  1888.
 
The Rock of Aiudah
By Adam Mickiewicz (1798–1855)
 
Translated by Richard Garnett

AIUDAH! 1 See the blackening waves advance
  Against the shore, like armies to the fray,
Then break in silvery clouds, while rainbows dance
  In the long lines of diamonded spray!
 
They strike, they break, they die on the lagoon        5
  Like stranded whales, their long triumphant swell
Now hides the prostrate shore, retreating soon
  They leave the pearl, the coral, and the shell.
 
So, youthful bard, will Passion’s surges roll
  On thy young heart, but do thou seize the lyre        10
  And wake the soul of music, at her hymn
The threatening floods will suddenly retire,
  And on the strand of thy delivered soul
  Leave songs whose splendours never shall be dim.
 
Note 1. Dr. Garnett has furnished me with the following facts respecting the life and history of the author of these sonnets:—Adam Mickiewicz, the greatest of Polish poets, was born at the village of Zaosie, near Nowogrodek, on December 24, 1798, and was the second son of an advocate descended from an ancient Lithuanian family. His first poems of importance, breathing the spirit of the romantic school, were published in 1822 and 1823, and includes the first part of his “Dziady, or Feast of the Dead,” which became well known in Western Europe through an essay by George Sand. His metrical romance, “Grazyna,” followed. In 1825 a visit to the Crimea inspired his Crimean sonnets, and in 1828 appeared his epic of “Konrad Wallenrod.” He had now become exceedingly popular, but an unhappy attachment drove him from his country, and the insurrection of 1831, with which he warmly sympathised, prevented his return. He continued his “Dziady” in a highly mystical style, and in 1834 produced his master-piece, “Master Thadeus,” the national epic of his country. Nothing can show greater versatility of talent than the contrast between the wild fancy of his other epics and the clear, objective character-painting and dramatic humour of this picture of Lithuanian life at the beginning of the century. From this time Mickiewicz wrote little more poetry. He became professor of Slavonic at the Collége de France, where a great career seemed before him, but unfortunately fell under the influence of a mystical enthusiast named Towianski, and his lectures had to be suppressed. Louis Napoleon made him librarian of the Arsenal, which post he resigned on the outbreak of the Crimean War, and proceeded to Constantinople to organise a Polish legion. He died there on 28th November 1855: his remains were brought back to France and interred at Montmorency. His “Konrad Wallenrod” and “Master Thadeus” have been admirably translated into English by Miss Maude Ashurst Briggs.

Mrs. Edmonds, who resided for some time in Greece, and is thoroughly conversant with the poetry of that country, has kindly supplied me with the following particulars respecting modern Greek sonnets:—
  “The Sonnet may be said to have only just found its way into Hellenic poetry, and the examples met with among the compositions of the poets of the Athenian school, or of those who have studied in foreign universities, are as yet but few in number. In the large selection from seventy-nine poets of this century comprised in Parnassos [Collected and edited by “Mataranghas.” Athens, 1881], which covers 1040 pages, close type, there are two sonnets only, by Antonios Manousos, which, although good in construction, are of small value. Among the graceful lyrics of George Drosinês there is but one sonnet, which is of distinct inferiority. George Viziênos, so successful in his charming legendary poems, fails here; and in the fourteen sonnets contained in his last volume, [Greek] [Trubnor & Co., 1883] there is the radical defect of the use of Alexandrines, as well as a want of freshness and spontaneity. The reason of this tardy use of the sonnet among the prolific poets of New Hellas may, perhaps, be ascribed to the strong hold which the national poetry still retains on the affections of every patriotic Greek. The influence of the orally transmitted poetry of the people seems ever to be in like measure with the gift of genius. In proof of this, the names of Aristotle Valaôritês and Julius Typaldos need only be cited from among many others. The part that the singers played in keeping alive the fire of freedom, and in rekindling its flames from the expiring ashes, is well known. From Klephtic songs to Rhegas—to Kalvos, Solomos, Zalokostas, and the Soutzos, the voice was never silent; and with them, as with living writers, a greater charm seems to cling to national themes written in the language of the people. For the sonnet, however, the vernacular forms are wholly unsuited.
  “Respecting the authors of the two sonnets translated, it may be stated that the reputation of Alex. R. Rhangabe, as a writer of great intellectual activity, is known almost throughout Europe. Born in 1810, of an aristocratic Phanariote family, he inherited from his father, James Rhizos-Rhangabe, his talent for letters, which has been displayed in nearly every branch of literature. His studies were completed in Germany, in which country he has long resided. His eleven volumes of collected works, [Greek], contain eight sonnets.
  “Aristomenês Provilegios was born in the Island of Sephnos in 1850, and studied philosophy at Athens, Munich, Leipzig, and Jena. He has long been a contributor to the high-class Athenian weekly periodical, Hestia, has written a long poem on the “Apple of Discord,” and has lately been engaged on a translation of “Faust,” and also upon a volume of Odes and Lyrics. His style, if not forcible, is refined, and his language well chosen.”
  The following is the original of the sonnet on “Love,” by Alex. R. Rhangabe, the translation of which is given at page 240:—
[Greek].
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