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chapter thirteen m rebirth and death (1855) I n May 1851, as Mickiewicz retreated from the public arena after his frenzy of activity in 1848–1849, Zygmunt Krasiński predicted to one of his correspondents, “Just wait and see, he’ll soon throw himself once again into something else with fervor.” It would take another four years, but Krasiński once again proved that there were few who understood Mickiewicz better.1 1 On 28 April 1855, an embittered Italian patriot took a shot at Napoleon III as he was riding down the Champs Élysées. A week later, Mickiewicz joined Prince Adam Czartoryski and a handful of his loyal followers in a visit to the Tuileries Palace to thank Providence for the emperor’s miraculous escape. Napoleon was moved. In hushed tones he “expressed his sympathies for Poland to the prince, but then raising his voice in order to be heard by palace aides, he added, ‘I can do nothing for her.’” Mickiewicz was not pleased by what he felt was the emperor’s hypocrisy. To Armand Lévy that evening he remarked, “Of the two—the true prince was the Pole.”2 Over the years, the relationship of prince and poet had been an uneasy one, informed as much by temperament as by generational sensibility. Ideologically, they had never seen eye to eye, or, rather, their respective conceptions of the world were simply incommensurable , the one rational and calculatingly realistic, the other impulsively intuitive, driven by a hypertrophied imagination that continually strove to transcend ideology for the sake of action, however unrealistic. Yet as profound as their differences may have so often been, be it over Towianism or the Italian Legion, indeed, over the very essence of the Polish cause, Mickiewicz’s respect for the person of the prince—the godfather, after all, of his 440 adam mickiewicz oldest son—was too deeply felt, too filial, to affect their relationship irreparably. Some two and a half years earlier, at the annual name-day ball for the prince, which on this occasion had been organized by graduates of the Polish schools the prince once supervised, Mickiewicz had risen with “his face aflame” and, “combing his gray hair back with a noble gesture,” let forth “a brilliant improvisation.” Referring repeatedly to Czartoryski as “the supreme leader,” he had declared that the prince’s willingness “to sacrifice his high position , his wealth and his entire future for the sake of the national idea” had inspired an entire generation. It behooved those who were once his charges, who chose “the path that the Prince in his wisdom drew and traced continuously,” “to keep spinning the national thread that Prince Adam had initiated and which he had conscientiously preserved for half a century amidst the storms that buffeted Poland” (Dz. 13:332–33). By the spring of 1855, as events in the East raised the hopes of Poles for a reconfiguration of the status quo, Mickiewicz conceded that only the prince was in a position to initiate any meaningful action on behalf of their cause.3 In a series of conversations with Ludwik Lenoir-Zwierkowski, Czartoryski’s agent for the Near East who was now tasked with winning the poet over for the Hôtel Lambert, Mickiewicz admitted that the prince’s efforts with regard to the current situation “deserved admiration.” Artfully egged on by Zwierkowski, he at one point volunteered that if he had the means and could be assured that his children would be cared for, he would “gladly” go to the East in support of Czartoryski’s activities in Turkey: Once [the Poles there] see that I, with a gray head but with an ardent heart, am going where it directs me, just as my mind does, not a sophisticated mind, but simply that of a peasant, that one can find Poland and hence one must look for it, then the young and the more able, since they are soldiers, would perhaps no longer dare to rot, beg, and not fulfill their sacred duty. There is no other way to address the emigration, only that I go myself where I’m obliged.4 As Zwierkowski reported to Czartoryski, “Mr. Adam’s inclination in this regard is perhaps the best means by which to extricate [the Hôtel Lambert] out of ...the revulsion that the emigration and some [in Poland] exhibit toward [its] activities.” More to the point, “this man’s magical name...


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