Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski and Albert Ines were both seventeenth-century Polish epigrammatists writing in Latin who as members of the Jesuit Society can be perceived as participating in creating the cultural programme put forth and popularised by the religious order through its wide-ranging school system. These facts themselves constitute a sufficient basis for comparing the epigrammatic work of the two poets, but it just so happens that scholars have usually viewed Albert Ines as an epigone of his older and better-known Jesuit brother. The book presented to the Reader aims at a comprehensive comparison of their epigrammatic output.
In the first chapter, the author examines their theoretical awareness of the genre in the context of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century reflexion of Celtis, Robortello, Scaliger, Minturno, Pontanus (Spanmueller), Opitz, and Masen. Sarbiewski’s views on the matter can be found mostly in his treatise De Acuto et Arguto, which reveals his special interest in the concepts of conceit, wit and point, whereas Ines’ remarks – found in the preface to his Acroamatum Epigrammaticorum Centuriae VII, published in 1654 – show him to be concerned with educational qualities of his epigrams, which were intended for students of Jesuit colleges, and therefore, though witty and entertaining as tradition required, had to be devoid of impious obscenity. With his emphasis on “chastity”, Ines continued the censorship programme inspired by Loyola himself, and developed by such authors as Possevino, Rader or Burmeister.
Two following chapters are devoted to the sphere where the poetic theory and practice intertwine. Chapter Two gives a thorough examination of Ines’ epigrams about epigrams that can be treated not only as revealing the poet’s opinions about the genre in general and his poems in particular but most of all show him as continuing a long tradition of epigrammatists with Martial, Jan Kochanowski, Bauhusius, John Owen, and others as predecessors. It must be stressed that epigrams about epigrams were highly conventionalised, with Martial as the founder and established master of its major types, and therefore each of such pieces written by Ines should be regarded as functioning within a rich intertextual context. Epigrams about epigrams, especially if they form a cycle, can also play an important role in the composition of a book of epigrams, as an enveloping structure that binds a collection of very diverse poems together. This seems to be the case with the first hundred (centuria) of Ines’ acroamata that as a whole acts as poetic preface to the entire book. Sarbiewski, on the other hand, did not include any epigram about epigrams in his Epigrammatum Liber, which was shorter than Ines’ collection and had one dominant theme: the Divine Love (Divini amores).
Chapter Three focuses on how Sarbiewski and Ines composed their epigrams. It is done by comparing the list of thirteen ways of achieving witty epigrammatic points described by Sarbiewski in De Acuto et Arguto with the actual poems of the two authors. The point of this procedure is to examine the author’s poetic workshop and show what they had in common as baroque poets – the striving to achieve witty conceit.
The emphasis on conceit and wit is reinforced in Chapter Four that presents Sarbiewski’s and Ines’ epigrams in the context of their literary tradition, pinpointing sources of their witty points, painstakingly analysing the extent and meaning of such influences on particular works, and the impact they themselves had on later epigrammatic poetry.
The last chapter deals with major types of subjects taken up by Sarbiewski and Ines in their epigrams and the way they functioned in the cultural life of the Jesuit Society. It explains the fundamental ideas behind the emblematic epigrams about Divine Love that form the keynote of Sarbiewski’s book, and how these religious and contemplative poems go together with occasional poems in honour of the Society’s secular benefactors and donors on the grounds of Loyola’s doctrine. Even though Ines wanted his acroamata to be entertaining for Jesuit college students and wrote mostly “chaste” but secular epigrams that made ample use of Martial’s satirical tradition, he also composed some panegyrical stemmata, cycles of poems based on images of saints, and an elaborate cycle about Virgin Mary that bordered on poesis artificiosa.
The close examination of epigrammatic poetry by Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski and Albert Ines shows that although both authors had many things in common as baroque poets that had been shaped by the Jesuit education and religiosity, they had quite different visions of themselves as epigrammatists, and the aforementioned opinion about Ines as Sarbiewski’s epigone is unjustified.
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