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The Three Bards ( ) are the three national poets of Polish Romantic literature. "Wieszcz" means "prophet" or "soothsayer." The Three Bards were thought to not only voice Polish national sentiments but to foresee the nation's future.


The concept was a Polish approximation of the Ancient Latin term poeta vates, denoting a poet to whom the gods granted the ability to foresee the future. Imported to Polandmarker in the 16th century along with many other Sarmatist ideas, initially the term wieszcz was used to denote various poets. However, with the advent of Romanticism in the 19th century, the term started to be applied almost exclusively to denote Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), Juliusz Słowacki (1809-1849) and Zygmunt Krasiński (1812-1859). Though the poets did not form a particular poetic group or movement (in fact they did not even meet each other), all of them started to be seen as moral leaders of a nation, deprived of political freedom. They also often used the local folk tradition, which somehow linked the term wieszcz with folk wisemen, often found in legends and folk tales.

After the failed January Uprising, and especially in the 1870s, the term was used almost exclusively to denote the three poets. However, in the early 20th century the rediscovery of the works of Cyprian Kamil Norwid (1821-1883) gained him the name of the fourth bard. Modern literary critics are often skeptical as to the value of Krasiński's work and consider Norwid to be the Third bard instead of Fourth. Some literary critics of the period between the World Wars claimed Stanisław Wyspiański to be the fourth. However, the group referred to as bards or wieszcze almost always consists of only three out of five candidates.

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