Promethean struggle. Shelley, Keats, and Norwid in search of rescue in the risky world


The myth of Prometheus sacrificing his freedom to give men authority over a powerful element of nature despite the will of the gods has, in modern times, inspired authors of different languages who kept transforming it according to their views. Both Western and Polish poets of Romanticism favoured the Promethean idea. In their Promethean – or Messianic – visions Mickiewicz and Słowacki emphasized the importance of armed or spiritual struggle for Polandʼs independence against Tsarist Russia, while English language poets praised the individualʼs rebellion in the face of the oppressive society. Cyprian Norwidʼs interpretation of the myth combined the individual and the collective. He saw Prometheus as a craftsman whose gift, fire – ʻteacher of all artsʼ – is a tool for ultimate salvation through Beauty incorporated in masterpieces. Norwidʼs philosophy is profoundly rooted in Christian soteriology. According to the poet, the revival of both his nation and of the individual is possible only through arduous work, through creative effort understood as cooperation with Christ the saviour in the attainment of salvation leading to both individual and national resurrection.


Norwid, Keats, Shelley, Byron, beauty, truth, Promethean struggle

The Bible containing the Old and New Testaments. Revised standard version translated from the original [based on the traditional King James version]. 1967. Westlea, Swindon: British and Foreign Bible Society.

Bridges, R. 1912. Poetical Works of Robert Bridges Excluding the Eight Dramas. London: Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press.

Cieszkowski, A. 1972. Prolegomena do historiozofii, Bóg i palingeneza oraz mniejsze pisma filozoficzne. Ed. J. Garewicz & A. Walicki. Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe.

Eliot, T. S. 1988. Selected Poems. Poezje wybrane, transl. A. Piotrowski, M. Sprusiński, J. Zagórski, W. Dulęba. Warszawa: Instytut Wydawniczy Pax.

Evert, W. 1965. Aesthetic and Myth in the Poetry of Keats. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Giergielewicz, M. 1962. Norwidowska “Modlitwa Mojżesza”. In: W. Günther (ed.), Norwid Żywy, 191-205. Londyn: B. Świderski.

Gömöri, G. 1973. The myth of Byron in Norwid’s life and work. The Slavonic and East European Review, 51(123): 231-242.

Jack, I. 1967. Keats and the Mirror of Art. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Halkiewicz-Sojak, G. 1994. Byron w twórczości Norwida. Toruń: Towarzystwo Naukowe w Toruniu.

Kerenyi, C. 1963. Prometheus. Archetypal Image of Human Existence, transl. Ralph Manheim. London: Thames and Hudson.

Krasiński, Z.1988. Listy do Augusta Cieszkowskiego, Edwarda Jaroszyńskiego, Bronisława Trentowskiego. Ed. Z. Sudolski. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy.

Medwin, T. 1847. The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley. London: Thomas Cautley Newby.

Morton, T. 2006. Receptions. In: T. Morton (ed.). The Cambridge Companion to Shelley, 35-42, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Norwid, C. 2011. Dzieła Wszystkie IV, Poematy 2. Lublin: Towarzystwo Naukowe Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego Jana Pawła II, Biblioteka Narodowa.

Norwid, C. 1971. Pisma wszystkie. Listy 1862 – 1872. Ed. Juliusz W. Gomulicki. Warszawa: Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy.

Norwid, C. 2000. Poems – Letters – Drawings, edited and translated by J. Peterkiewicz (poems in collaboration with Ch. Brooke-Rose and B. Singer). Manchester: Carcanet Press.

Norwid, C. 2004. Vade-mecum. Edited by J. Fert. Lublin: Towarzystwo Naukowe Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego.

Plumptree, E. H. 1894. The Tragedies of Aeschylus. A new translation with a biographical essay, and an appendix of rhymed choral odes. Boston: D. C. Heath and Co., Publishers.

Scrivener, M. H. 1982. Radical Shelley. The Philosophical Anarchism and Utopian Thought of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Wu, D. (ed.). 2006. Romanticism. An Anthology. Third edition. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.


Published : 2022-10-01

Niemirycz, A. (2022) “Promethean struggle. Shelley, Keats, and Norwid in search of rescue in the risky world ”, Crossroads. A Journal of English Studies, (37). doi: 10.15290/CR.2022.37.2.04.

Aleksandra Niemirycz

Aleksandra Niemirycz is a Polish researcher, poet, philosopher, literary translator and conference interpreter. In the past she worked as an editor, a journalist and a high school English and Polish teacher. She graduated from the University of Warsaw (M.A. in Philosophy 1988, M.A. in Polish Studies 1989; Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Studies in Translation and Interpreting), and continued her literary education in the Institute of Literary Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences. In November 2016 she earned her doctorate at Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw.