14 th –20 th Century
Jarosław Komorowski, To the Poet’s Country: Polish Journeys Towards Shakespeare
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TO THE POET’S COUNTRY: POLISH JOURNEYS TOWARDS SHAKESPEARE
Wer das Dichten will verstehen, Muss ins Land der Dichtung gehen. Wer den Dichter will verstehen, Muss in Dichters Lande gehen.
Some of the most famous ‘winged words‘ of European culture were written in 1815 by Johann Wolfgang Goethe as the motto to the Notes and Queries for a Better Understanding of West-Eastern Divan. The usually quoted fragment reads: ‘He who wants to understand the poet, must go to the poet’s country’. This seems quite obvious. Yet these famous lines are the second part of a quatrain whose beginning is usually forgotten, but which reminds us that: ‘He who wants to understand the art of poetry, must go to the land of poetry’. That statement is no longer so obvious. Does it imply that the land of poetry is simply the ‘poet’s country’? Then we would be dealing with a tautology; or perhaps this land is made up by the space most essential for poetry – the vast land of the language in which it was created? A land separated by a barrier which an outsider would find difficult, if not impossible, to overcome, a land shrouded in a fascinating mist of mystery. Those Poles who wanted to get to know the authentic oeuvre of William Shakespeare were precisely in such a position. They were faced with ‘a sea of mists’, just like the Wanderer from the famous painting by Caspar...
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