Poland Facing the Storm
Zygmunt KRASIŃSKI (1812-1859)
Poet, playwright, and novelist, count. B. Feb. 19, 1812, Paris. He spent most of his life outside Poland, mainly in France and Italy; he worked with the conservative circle centred around Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski (Hôtel Lambert). Ranked among Polish national bards, he wrote novels and historical narratives (Masław, Książę mazowiecki [“The Mazovian Prince”], Władysław Herman and other works), historiosophic “Christian tragedies” invoking the philosophical traditionalism characteristic for the French counterrevolutionary and German romantic circles: Nie-Boska Komedia (“Undivine Comedy”, published anonymously 1835) and Irydion (1836), as well as Trzy myśli pozostałe po œp. Henryku Ligenzie (“Three Thoughts Bequeathed by the Late Henryk Ligenza”, 1840), which included the controversial treatise O stanowisku Polski z bożych i ludzkich względów (“About the Position of Poland from the Divine and Human Vantage Point”, published posthumously 1912). D. Feb. 23, 1859, Paris.
The selected fragments are from Polska wobec burzy (“Poland Facing the Storm”, 1848), reprinted from Z. Krasiński, Pisma, vol. VII, Pisma filozoficzne i polityczne, Warsaw 1912, pp. 273-278 and 281-283.
I sometimes worry about the humanity of our age. Is seems that it might temporarily regress. For humanity, like a nation, like an individual, is possessed of free will, and if it chooses evil instead of good, it is temporarily set back in its advancement, it regresses.
The arrogance of the masses makes me anxious about them, just as the arrogance of kings at one time made me expect their downfall. Many pay lip service to progress, but at the same time, deep down and despite their reason, though not their will, they experience desires resentful of every light, every authority, every love. And so, they wish to degrade what is superior and elevate what is inferior; in short, they wish to overturn values.
Hence in the red republics there are attempts directed against every order and constitution, fierce assaults on family and property, contempt for all religious narratives of humankind. Alongside all of this, there is an extraordinary adulation of every kind of violence, and a childish, wild, and passionate desire for a complete rupture with the past, as if the past could be removed from the harmony of time and as if it were possible to create, instead of a tripartite time, a bipartite time, composed only of the future and the present.
A truly vital advancement depends on accommodating ideas to come with realities bequeathed by the foregone days of history. Only this conjunction engenders the moment-to-moment present. There have always been eternal truths without which the world could not exist, and therefore annihilating the past would mean annihilating these truths, and hence abandoning the eternal! An insane outcome of a misconceived calculation! Such an attempt would mean a breach of centuries, a denial of the unity of humankind, a disordering of human nature, its ruin and return to animality. […]
The world is sliding towards confusion. It clings to the slippery slope, but is unable to stay in place – I have a presentiment of impending upheavals, I probe the imminent days with my nerves and I absorb all their venom. Both sides will rage; Muscovy and the red republics will chase each other, beget each other, and kill each other off. The very heavenly powers will be shaken, as Christ prophesied. What are they within every one of us? The heavenly powers within us are the belief in the providential rule of God; they are the love of one’s neighbor, homeland, and humanity; they are decency, virtue, courage, and piety! Now it will come to pass that these angels of the human conscience will suddenly flee from many consciences, or if they stay, they will stagger as if drunk from pain and the horrible impressions from without. There will be many who will doubt God, many who will doubt they own immortality, many who will doubt their nation and country, many who will doubt love, many who will doubt the harmony of human fate, many who will despair of virtue, as once did the most tenacious patrician of the unraveling days of antiquity, adored by all modern demagogues, the hapless Brutus, who took his own life at Philippi after having committed patricide! Yes, the heavenly powers will be shaken in every man, and he who does not stand his ground, he who submits to the seduction of this brief fainting of the eternal conscience, will perpetrate crimes and violence, having proved to himself logically or mystically that the era of crime has come and evil has changed places with good, and he will be damned for eternity or for many centuries, but perhaps he will enjoy a few days of power over his dissolute comrades, he will sell his soul to the devil in exchange for might – this ecstasy of arrogance!
Moreover, not only individuals, but also whole collections of individual spirits, entire cities and nations will go that way. It will be the Mongolian element, embodied in Muscovy, the Western, communist element, likewise considering violence as its mission, that will impress itself on society. What decent person, who still had not abjured his humanity, would want to serve either of them? Yet both of them will find an infinite number of acolytes. Great abomination will come about; fear, like inspiration, will carry, drive, rush, and coerce people to wicked acts.
Muscovy waits for Western civilization to disintegrate, it waits until Europe is weakened by civil strife, social fratricide, until the entire world, worn out by an immense loss of blood and an equally great dwindling of righteousness, having moved from murder to treachery and corruption, as France did after 1793. Until the world, as I say, calls it forth and surrenders to it, just as France, enfeebled by terrorism, surrendered to Napoleon! Then the Asia will set its foot upon Europe and will give the miserable and emaciated European consumptives, prostrated in smoldering rubble amidst crimson pools of blood, a good taste of the whip. Human nature, debased by many terrors, sick for having lost the sense of virtue, will not deny anyone a kiss. And then Muscovy, convinced that nothing will resist her, that all the prophesies of Peter the Great have been fulfilled, will start to plunder, in such a hideous and inhuman way that it will thrust Europe into ultimate despair. Only then will human thoughts begin to revert to the decent, to the virtuous, to the moderate, to the good. People will look all over the world for a good man – not self-righteous, but righteous, not a false, cruel, ignoble liar and sycophant – who could be their savior! Yet even more desperately will they look for a nation that has retained its humanity amidst the turmoil and insanity! Moreover, such a nation will become the consolation of Europe and humankind simply by having remained decent, by having preserved the germ of sacredness and divinity on the earth! […]
Of course, we are not talking here about a just war, about using a sacred weapon in order to achieve sacred goals; we are talking about assaults on humanity, even if it lived in the worst possible mire of society. The rights of humanity should never and nowhere be insulted, for he who hurts the humanity of other, kills it in himself. Such is the amazing order of mutuality that reigns within it.
The eternal rights laws of humanity are more sacred than even the most justified national vengeance and retribution. This is because without humanity there could be no nation, just as there could be no planet without the sun. What has no higher, transcendent end, will not survive even one moment by itself. A nation not gravitating towards humanity, not lifted by it to ever higher regions, would not follow the spiral road of history, and not following it, it would not live – and not living, it could not be. The primal reason of every being lies in its highest end. Therefore a nation must respect the rights of humanity!
It is not by infringing upon them, but on the contrary, by reaching towards them and enacting them according to the measure of its own colors, that a nation strengthens and grows among other nations! One that was able to completely nationalize humankind into itself, would become, as it were, a nation-angel of the world!
In the imminent storm, resembling all the hurricanes that swept away the Roman State and the ancient era, Poland could aspire to such a position! A sensual, natural instinct drives us to take revenge, commands us to attempt to subvert and bring down the world which has for a century been our oppressor, the world which dismembered us, murdered us, forced us ever deeper into the grave, incessantly, mercilessly, impiously, remorselessly, shamelessly, or sat with arms folded and from a distance looked at the immense ordeal with a smile of feeble compassion on its lips, and with the ignoble thought that it will not make a single move, not lift a finger in our defense.
Let us not follow this instinct, because it is bestial! The paths of righteousness are straight with the straightness of the heavens. God’s highways – the most arduous for human feet – demand supernatural courage and sacrifices of the spirit. And since every kind of resurrection belongs not to natural things, like death, but to heavenly phenomena, I think that no spirit, whether individual or collective, can ever attain it through violence and the urges of sensuality! Entering the cradle is nothing compared to rising up from the coffin; the former requires only a spark of life, the latter necessitates the ripeness of life. A child is but born, only an angel rises from the dead! Through the law of humanity on the earth – toil, labor, and martyrdom – and amidst martyrdom: faith, hope, and love; and through these angelic wonders, immersed in human suffering, to be blessed with a transmutation and to enter the Kingdom of God! Christ revealed this law, proved it in Himself, and since that time humanity knows what and towards what it is in its being!
Out of all collective spirits, that is, out of all earthly communities, Poland is the country that has thus far most faithfully enacted this law and experienced this fate. Toil, martyrdom, faith, and hope are her properties, these redoubts have already been taken; these acts have already been accomplished! Let love and reconciliation flowing from love make her fully angelic, and then the other half of resurrecting forces and truths of humanity will descend upon her.
– And so it will come to pass!