Laments is a heartbreaking and measured report of grief following the death of Ursula, the two-and-a-half-year-old daughter of Jan Kochanowski (1530-1584), meticulously and marvellously translated by Seamus Heaney and Stanislaw Baranczak, former colleagues at Harvard University. Revised edition, with a new preface by Seamus Heaney.
. . . a sequence of poems which occupy as cherished and foundational a place in Polish literature as Shakespeare’s sonnets in English . . . the matter of the work is weighted with pain but the mode of expression is utterly buoyant. — Seamus Heaney
‘Jan Kochanowski, a great Polish Renaissance poet, was a contemporary of the French poet Ronsard and a little older than Edmund Spenser and Sir Philip Sidney in England. His presence belies foggy notions common in the West about a barbaric Eastern Europe. And yet the Renaissance literature of Poland is virtually unknown in the West because of the lack of translations. The Laments of Kochanowski should be ranked with the world classics. There were some attempts to translate Laments into English in the past, but now something has happened which allows the English-speaking reader to have nearly direct access to this work: namely, the cooperation of two excellent poets, Professor Stanislaw Baranczak of Harvard and Seamus Heaney. That team translated Laments, preserving its metres and rhymes. It is a rare accomplishment, which brings joy to me as an inheritor of Kochanowski’s language and of the Renaissance tradition.’ — Czeslaw Milosz