This study is a research reconnaissance into the visual imagery in the poetry of Jan Kochanowski, Poland’s most talented poet before the Romantic Age. Although he was familiar with the technique of ekphrasis and took an interest in emblems, he seems to have been rather sparing in making use of visual potential of the poetic word. However, he does rely on the sense of sight in his epistemological refl ection concerning the problem of knowing God, aesthetics (the experience of beauty) and ethics (the visible order of the world as a guide to proper conduct). The eye also plays a major role in his descriptions of the human psychology, especially love. The sight has a special function in his Treny (Laments), a cycle of elegies written after the death of his baby daughter Urszula in 1579. While addressing the fundamental questions of life and death, Kochanowski draws on visual and aural imagery to convey the devastating pain felt by the father after the death of his beloved child and to question his earlier confi dence in man’s sovereign mind.
The main aim of the paper is to urge a correction in Jan Kochanowski’s translation Euripides’s Alcestis (v. 67), edited posthumously by Jan Januszowski in the volume Fragmenta albo pozostałe pisma (1590). In the Greek text (Prologue, l. 67) Apollo prophesizes that a man on the way back from wintry Thrace (Θρῄκης ἐκ τόπων δυσχειμέρων) (the reference to King Eurystheus’ horses enables us to identify him as Heracles) will snatch Alcestis from the hands of Death. In the Polish version of Apollo’s prophesy we fi nd the phrase ‘do zimnej Trąby’ (‘cold Tube’). The philological investigation undertaken in this paper has two goals to achieve. Firstly, it reconstructs the literary tradition of presenting Thrace as a land of severely cold climate (Homer, Livy, Virgil, Horace, Ovid, Statius). And secondly, it takes into consideration the meaning of this poetical landscape in Kochanowski’s Latin poetry and proposes the emendation of what must have been a printer’s error.