Formen der Zeit in Cyprian Norwids Gedichtzyklus Vade-mecum
Pages 369 - 392
Forms of Time in Cyprian Norwid’s Collection of Poems Vade-mecum
Cyprian Norwid (1821 – 1883), a Polish long-time resident of Paris, became an innovative metaphysical poet and thinker of time by drawing on the tradition of thinking in repetitive periods and intermediate crises that goes back to Giambattista Vico—and by his personal experience of modernity. The first creative outcome of this was the long poem Quidam (publ. 1863). Its setting in second-century Rome and the fragmented narrative mirror nineteenth-century sentiments of crisis from a Christian perspective. Later on, the collection of poems Vade-mecum, counting one hundred texts—just as Dante’s Divina Commedia—replaces Quidam’s narrativity by the discontinuous form of the poetic cycle and by some features of an “artist’s diary.” It focuses on modern time, with all its literary or other dimensions of the past memorized and made present, especially on features of everyday experience that are often overlooked by historiography or epic poetry. Much of this can also be found in Baudelaire’s Fleurs du mal, but the difference lies in Norwid’s way of putting the fragmentariness of the modern perception of time into a continuous metaphysical perspective.