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Mathias Casimir Sarbiewski
The Horace of Poland, b. near Plonsk, in the Duchy of Masovia, 24 February, 1595; d. 2 April, 1649. He entered the novitiate of the Jesuits at Vilna on 25 July, 1612; studied rhetoric and philosophy during 1614-17; taught grammar and humanities during 1617-18 and rhetoric at Polotsk during 1618-20; studied theology at Vilna from 1620-22; was sent in 1622 to complete his theology at Rome, and was there ordained priest in 1623. Returning to Poland he taught rhetoric, philosophy, and theology at Vilna from 1626 to 1635, was then made preacher to King Wladislaw, and was for four years companion in his travels. The fame of Sarbiewski is as wide as the world of letters. He was gifted with remarkable general talent, especially in music and the fine arts, but his chief excellence was as a poet versed in all the metres of the ancients. He was especially devoted to Horace, whose odes he knew by heart. He also made the lyrical poetry of Pindar his own. To his familiarity with these great poets he added an industry which has given the splendid yield of his poetic works. The latest edition of these, printed at Starawiés in 1892, embraces four books of lyrics, a book of epodes, his posthumous "Silviludia" (Woodland Notes), and his book of epigrams. Of all these the lyrics furnish the best example of his qualities of mind and heart. All are pitched in a high key of thought, sentiment, or passion. His themes are for the most part love and devotion for Christ Crucified, for Our Blessed Lady, or friendship for a noble patron, such as Bishop Lubienski, Cardinal Francis Barberini, nephew to Urban VIII, and that pontiff himself, whom he hailed as his Maecenas in several odes of exquisite finish. His noblest and most sustained efforts, however, are his patriotic odes upon the fatherland, the Knights of Poland, and kindred subjects. His tenderest pieces are those in praise of the rose, the violet, and the grasshopper, in which he rivals the grace and happy touch of Horace himself. He was crowned with the poet's wreath by King Wladislaw IV. Urban VIII named him one of the revisers of the hymns of the Breviary, and he in particular is credited with having softened their previous ruggedness of metre. Some critics have urged that in his love of Horace he went so far as to become servile in imitating him, while others again have made a very virtue out of this close imitation. As a religious he was noted for his love of solitude, turning from the attractions of court life to solitude, prayer, and useful study and occupation. His prose works are: (1) "De acuto et arguto liber unicus"; (2) "Dii gentium," a speculative work on the ancient arts and sciences; (3) "De perfecta poesi libri quattuor"; (4) "De Deo uno et trino tractatus"; (5) "De angelis"; (6) "De physico continuo"; (7) "Memorabilia"; (8) scattered orations, sermons, and letters.
Select poems of Sarbiewski have been translated from the original Latin into other languages. But his poetical works, as a whole, have found few translators. In Polish may be counted no less than twenty-two versions of the poet; yet, only two of these are in any measure complete, the rest being translations of chosen odes. The most notable Polish version, embracing almost all the poems, is that of Louis Kondratowicz, who also wrote the life of Sarbiewski and translated his letters. There is also a copy in Polish of all the odes extant in manuscript at Starawiés, the work of some few Jesuit fathers of the province of White Russia. Detached translations also exist in Italian, Flemish, and Bohemian. In German there are at least eight or nine translations, principally from the odes, and also incomplete. The French versions are of the same character: they are three or four in number, choice odes or pieces taken from the "Poems." The English translations are fuller and more complete than any others. There are at least four that may be styled integral versions: "Odes of Casimire by G.H.," printed for Humphrey Moseley at the Princes Armes in St. Paul's Church Yard, 1646; "Translations from Casimir with Poems, Odes, and specimens of Latin Prose", J. Kitchener (London and Bedford, 1821); "Wood-notes, the Silviludia Poetica of M.C. Sarbievius with a translation in English verse," by R.C. Coxe (Newcastle-on-Tyne, 1848); "Specimens of the Polish poets, with notes and observations on the Literature of Poland," by John Bowring (printed for the author, London, 1827).
SOMMERVOGEL, Bibl. de lu C. de J., t. VII, vol.II; Mathiae Casimiri Sarbiewski, S.J. Poemata Omnia (Starawies, 1812); Father Prout's Reliques; BAUMGARTNER, Weltlitteratur, IV; KOLANOWSKI, De M.C. Sarbievio Polonia Horatio dissertatio; DIEL in Stimmen aus Maria-Laach (1873); DANIEL, Etudes classiques.
John F. Quirk.