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Rivers in The Spirit King

Author(s): Karol Samsel
Subject(s): Literary Texts
Published by: Wydział Polonistyki Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego
Keywords: Juliusz Słowacki; wyobraźnia akwatyczna; Wisła; Niemen; Nil; Lete; Juliusz Słowacki; aquatic imagination; the Vistula; the Neman; the Nile; the Lethe

Summary/Abstract: The river theme is one of the most outstandingly presented aquatic themes of The Spirit King. It is accumulated in four scenes of the poem. In the first rhapsody: in the symptomatic descent of Her-Armenian to the Styx, Lethe or Neman; next, in Popiel’s civil war at the Vistula. In the third rhapsody (as in Juliusz Kleiner’s edition), the theme is situated in Dobravna’s dream depicting her journey by the subterranean river to sunlit Jerusalem; and also in Bolesław Śmiały’s passages across the Bug and Dnieper. Rivers in genesian landscapes become mainly conceptualised as a part of genesian psychomachia, a battle of spirits included in the realistic/historic domain of conquests, passages, massacres and attacks. As the essentials of a prewar scenery in The Spirit King, they rarely happen to be an aspect of domestic life or Slavic hierophanies. In Slavic genesian calendar, water appears to be only a companion of the mystic fire ceremonies, like the rite of St. John’s Eve or the wedding of Mieczysław and Dobrawna (L. Nawarecka). That is also the reason why the interpretation of aquatic context of The Spirit King as yet another immanent context of the ‘great Slavic epic’ seems to be a form of reductionism, as it does not consider the ‘mystic structure of Słowacki’s imagination’ (M. Cieśla-Korytowska). The Vistula is a Polish Nile, the Neman becomes a Polish Lethe and the scene of cleaning the wounds by Her-Armenian on the banks of the Neman inherits somehow (right after the poem Beniowski) the dimension of the bards’ antagonism (Mickiewicz against Słowacki). The mythical hero of the poem may be seen, in a deeply intermediary manner, as the surpassing and overcoming of Mickiewicz’s Konrad from Dziady, Part III.

  • Issue Year: 2015
  • Issue No: 5 (8)
  • Page Range: 479-505
  • Page Count: 27
  • Language: Polish