Sukhareva S.V. Anthropological motives in the Scamander group poetry: to the question of classification

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УДК 821.162.1:141.319.8




Sukhareva S.V.

The research reviews the study of anthropological motives in the Scammander group poetry works based on the example of its the most prominent representatives such as Julian Tuvim, Kazimierz Vezhinsky, Yan Lehon, Yaroslav Ivashkevych, Anthony Slonimsky. The attention is drawn to the common and distinctive anthropology features in the Polish lyrics of the first half of the twentieth century, in particular in a period of the interwar twenty years. An important factor in the study of this subject is the time space, since the views of the Scammander group have evolved significantly after the explosion of the Second World War, especially in emigration. Man and art is another important anthropological dimension of the Scammander lyrics. It logically follows from the previous one and reveals the level of relations of the individual and history and cultural heritage. The theme “man and nature” remains the final and unifying link of the examined anthropological material. In the lyrics of each representative of the Scamader group it has a greater or lesser degree of sounding. Particular attention is drawn to the poems of Kazimierz Vezhinsky since the issue of formation of man-geo-humanist has become a creative dominant in his works.

Keywords: Scammander poetic group, anthropological motives, urbanism, everyday life, interwar twenty years, emigration, geo humanist, Polish independence.





Сухарева С.В.

В исследовании рассмотрены антропологические мотивы поэзии группы «Скамандр» на примере творчества ее виднейших представителей – Юлиана Тувима, Казимежа Вежинского, Яна Лехоня, Ярослава Ивашкевича, Антония Слонимского. Обращено внимание на общие и отличительные черты антропологии в польской лирике первой половины ХХ в., в частности, межвоенного двадцатилетия. Важным в изучении этой тематики остается фактор времени и пространства, поскольку взгляды скамандритов значительно эволюционировали после начала Второй мировой войны, особенно в эмиграции. Человек и искусство – еще одно важное антропологическое измерение скамандритской лирики. Оно логически вытекает из предыдущего и выявляет уровень отношения индивида к истории и культурному наследию. Итоговым, объединяющим звеном исследуемого нами антропологического материала является тема «человек и природа», которая в лирике каждого из скамандритов представлена в большей или в меньшей степени. Особое внимание обращено на произведения Казимежа Вежинского, у которого проблема формирования человека-геогуманиста стала творческой доминантой.

Ключевые слова: поэтическая группа «Скамандр», антропологические мотивы, урбанистика, повседневность, межвоенное двадцатилетие, эмиграция, геогуманист, независимость Польши.


The creative phenomenon of the Scammander poetic group members Julian Tuvim, Anthony Slonimsky, Yan Lehon, Kazimierz Vezhynsky, and Yaroslav Ivashkevych remains a poorly researched page in Polish and world literary studies despite the significant popularity of these artists’ lyric poetry in modern intellectual circles. Man holds a special place in the Scammander poetry and is presented non-trivially in it. Man’s social roles, a view on the world, the attitude towards itself and the world around have been changed. Such scientists as Mariush Urbanek, Adam Dziadek, Alexandra Reimann, Ireneush Opacky, Marek Gumkovsky paid their attention to this problem. However the anthropological motives of the Scammander lyrics are still not clearly classified. The purpose of our work is both to examine Scammander anthropology in general and at the same time to highlight the individual features of each representative of the Scammander group.

First of all, it should be noted that the Scammander were immersed in everyday life, so the surrounding world and the average person from the street have become the subject matter in their poetry. In the introductory statement “Inwokacja” to the “Sparrows on the roof” by Kazimierz Vezhinsky we read:

Nie mijaj mnie, nie odchodź, człowieku-przechodniu,

Wyciągnij do mnie ręce i powiedz mi: bracie!

Nastały nowe święta, siedem dni w tygodniu,

Radosny krzyk ich hula, jak wiatr w poemacie [10, s. 35].

The square becomes the meeting place of the poet with the lyrical hero, but there is no any word about the individual meeting, the game includes universals, generalizations (“Poezjo! Na ulicę! Między ludzi, w tłum!” [10, s. 59]). Ecstasy, the capture of life, the allocation of ordinary, unremarkable people from the crowd is viewed as common features of Scammander group in the period of their early poetry and youthful social position. However each representatives of the Scammander group owns special features in the presentation of the everyday life worth paying attention to.

We observe full admiration for everyday life with its revolutionary unpredictability and biologism in Julian Tuvim’s poetry. This poet is considered to be the most scandalous among the Scammanders, first of all, due to his work “Spring”. The poem has become a kind of coup in the thinking of creators of a new, independent era in the life of Poland, a sign of resistance to the cultural tradition and the beginning of the introduction of the current language, brutal vocabulary, unexpected images and constructions in literature.

Spring is always associated with the period of ripening. An image transferred from nature into a social being, in the conditions of a new state creation in the Tuvim’s interpretation has acquired new attributes. The lyrical hero of poetry “Spring” is a third-party observer who talks about the painful maturing of a new society as the “terrible mass”, the “great and simple bandit”, who excites disgust. In spite of this, the author with the help of the lyrical hero calls to hold up to “growth of hormones” and physical impulses.

The poet represents the erotic motives in a diminished style, breaking all the standards of the birth sacrament. The pregnant women are “fertilized mare” for him. Moreover, Julian Tuvim mentions women of easy virtue and the so-called “cavalier’s diseases” in his poetry the topics have been considered taboo for discussion in public. The poet uses the method of hyperbolizing events and images as well as the expressionistic poetry of screaming. At the same time we encounter the techniques of animation in his works. People live in burrows like animals and never leave them but crawl out on the streets to celebrate orgies.

Kazimierz Vezhynsky early poems are characterized by lighter colours, calm tones, more moderate vocabulary. The greatest radicalism of his program verse “Spring and Wine” implies pantheistic world views identified with paganism. The author ignores vulgarism, resorts to internal auto-reflection. He “is glorifying land, pantheism, man and life with his heathen laughing” [9, s. 21].

Vezhynsky states that train depots and railway stations exciting the deepest feelings and dreams have become a window to the world for the city inhabitants. In the poem “Station” the poet remarked:

Są takie miasta, o których nie można,

Choćby się nawet i chciało, coś orzec:

Uliczki, rynek, plebania pobożna – 

I tylko jedno jest zdarzenie: dworzec [10, s. 70].

The provincial hopelessness of the cities carries not only emotional saturation, but also indicates that there is happiness somewhere beyond the horizon. Once again we are convinced of Vezhynsky’s creative optimism that never deprives the average citizen of belief in a better future.

The poem “Pandora” is regarded to be the greatest manifestation of the Kazimierz Vezhynsky anarchic type of thinking where the writer adds the motive of destruction to the unlimited possibilities of a man. In particular, he wrote:

Rozpuszczam wichry! Szaleństwo, Szaleństwo!

Cudzie mej mocy! Orgio opętańcza!

Jak harpun, rzucam na światy przekleństwo!

Huragan zguby! Pożar! Mór! Szarańcza! [10, s. XIV].

The basic idea, expressed in these poetic lines is the denial of individuality completely dissolved in the life sphere.

In the Yan Lehon early works devoted to everyday life the mythological grounds are traced. According to Roman Lot, “Lehon also expressed his attitude to contemporary affairs, but his attitude was a completely different poetic matter: through the negation or acceptance of certain images, figures, events of national history, in particular those that functioned as stereotypes of contemporary consciousness, as myths” [4, s. XLIV]. It is this poetic concept that has become the impetus for the creation of the collection “Karmazynov Poem”. His images of “ordinary stone from the streets of Warsaw”, “maid’s handkerchiefs”, “newspapers agent’s hats” are deprived of the literary content gaining a metaphorical sounding.

Particular attention is given to everyday life in the poem “The Ball in the Opera” by Julian Tuvim which fully reflects the Scammanders satirical motifs. Its peculiarity consists in the fact that satire is directed against a specific environment – the Polish rehabilitation elite:

Dzisiaj wielki bal w Operze!

Sam potężny Archikrator

Dał najwyższy protektorat… [7, s. 218].

In addition to the main events taking place in the opera the poet depicts the streets, the outskirts of the city and even space thus referring to everything. Tuvim applies the intensification technique having condensed everything in one place and time thus creating a synthesis of an entire era. Fragments of the poem saw the light at “Scammander”, but the whole text was hand over in handwritten version. “Ball” was not lost in the military revolution due to copies and only in 1982 was issued completely in the original version. Its main theme is “the grotesque image of Poland, fuelled by lies and ideological propaganda, with the ultimate apocalyptic vision of the catastrophe that threatens society by the guilt of politicians” [8, s. 149].

In return for the capture of the life naturalism so obvious at the first stage of the Scammander group movement development, eventually there comes reluctance to urban motives and intercession. In the Julian Tuvim poem “Residents” included in the late Scammander poetry the primitiveness and intellectual limitations of people who raise biologism beyond the human mind achievement are pointed out. Antiurbanis also clearly represented in Anthony Slonimsky’s “Black Spring” poetry, which in its entirety depicted disgusting pictures of the city deprived of spirituality and meaning. There is an abyss between the inhabitants of the city and eternal values:

Widzę cię, tłumie biegnący, spodlony, w obłędzie pośpiechu,

Czasu wszak nie masz przystanąć, by niebios przysłuchać się echu [6, s. 60].

A special page in the development of the everyday life image was created by Yaroslav Ivashkevych who looked at the world around exclusively through the prism of art. In this light the average hero is constantly in search of beauty, his thoughts are directed to the sphere of culture.

Urbanization motives in the Yaroslav Ivashkevych poems are presented in a minimal way given the benefits to art. In the poem “The Wand” the poet remarked:

Pójdę przez odmłodzone po łąkach badyle,

Obłędnie wirująca, niebieska kometa,

Jak łowca, co w lwie sieci ułowi motyle,

Miast wielkiej tajemnicy posiadłszy – sekreta [3, s. 25].

In general we can argue that everyday life became eventually a “stumbling block”. Skamanders each in their own way and in their own time came to the conclusion that the problems of poetry in the age of life cataclysms cannot be reduced only to the development of new technologies and urban motives, but everyday life is characterized exclusively by occasional and transformational features. It is resulted in the Yaroslav Ivashkevych poem “Old Poet” in which the artist emphasizes the transience of everyday life remarked:

I nikt nas nie zapyta

o nasze muchy

nasze psy

nasze pogubione książki

chustki do nosa

i okulary [2, s. 62].

The Scammander anthropological motives pertaining “man and art” evolved in other way. They have been expressed in several main thematic blocks such as the place of art in the individual life namely in dance, music, singing, architecture, painting, the role of the poet and poetry in society, perceptions of the world through the prism of the artist's worldview etc.

Yaroslav Ivashkevych could not become an aesthete in the direct sense of the word. He was the only artist in Scammander group professionally engaged in music, he studied at the music school and the Kyiv Conservatory, admired the theatre, and was friends with Karol Shymanovsky that led to close cooperation with his friend [1, с. 50]. “The author’s commitment to the musical principle of the poetry composition is evidenced by at least the very titles of poetry such as "Serenade", "Sad Waltz", "Schumann", "Music Music…", "Brahms Waltz", "Night Music", "Apassionata", "The Last Song of the Traveling Voyage" etc.; titles of collections or cycles "Italian Songwriter", "Evening Music", "Music for a Violin Concert", "Intermezzo", etc.” [1, с. 52].

The Ivashkevych early works inherent style of syncretism, in particular, the presence of musical motives in the literary work. So in his “The Last Song of the Wandering Servant” we can meet elements of folk songs. The rhythmic design of the poem contributed to the creation of symmetrical musical structures such as phrases, sentences, periods. The poetic anaphora is based on a chord pattern. The melody of the work resembles a lullaby [5, s. 214].

Silence plays a key role in the poetry of Yaroslav Ivashkevych like as a pause in music. Therefore an important factor is the ability to listen to music, poetry, the voice of the reader himself, the author message of, etc. In the poem “The Moon” the poet noted:

Czy słyszysz echo dzwonów, co się stepem ściele,

Czułe jak woń piołunów, czai się i perli,

Niby kadzidła strumień w drewnianym kościele [5, s. 218].

In “Ode to the Fall of Venice” the lute is presented as a dumb and silent instrument symbolizing death. The fall of Venice is depicted in the spirit of catastrophism and waiting for eternal rest. In the verse there is a narcissistic perception of the poet own death of and his death. “An anthropomorphically depicted city forms the figure "I" despite the fact that neither this personal pronoun nor any verbal form of the first person singular does not appear in the text at any time” [2, s. 63].

A similar ratio of poetry and art is observed in Kazimierz Vezhynsky verses, in particular in his work “The Word” where a violin is the main instrument:

Co mi zostało tutaj? Słowo,

Konar z wiecznego ścięty drzewa,

Ciosam zeń skrzypce i na nowo

Jesion w mych rękach szumi, śpiewa [10, s. 177].

At the same time nature was not only a source of artistic inspiration for Vezhynsky but also it emphasized its primitiveness and the art could never realize it in itself. In his opinion the poet should be a singer of the natural forces first of all and art only states the fact of their eternity:

Co tu zmieni sztuka,

O tej porze mijania, zawiniętej chmurą,

Wiecznej jak chleb i woda, tak samo pożywnej

I nie znużonej nigdy? Odpowiedz, naturo,

Gdzie nasz wyrok ukryty? [10, s. 174].

All the Scammanders had equally spontaneous motive of dance corresponding to the theme of everyday life glorification. First of all it is the dancing philosopher Socrates from the collection by Julian Tuvim “Dancing Socrates” that at a period of ten years from the time of the publication (1920) was re-released three times because of its incredible popularity. In the opinion of the lyrical hero who is the author himself, the knowledge goes beyond the limits of mind and is in the dynamic movement as well as in the fault. A similar position was declared by other authors. Namely Kazimierz Vezhynsky depicted the world in erotic tones in the poem “Dancing in the Worlds”:

Tańce po światach z wiatrem popod ręce!

Dusza na bakier! O, myśli w gwizdaniu!

Czereśnie kwitną i usta dziewczęce

Same aż proszą się przy powitaniu! [10, s. 18].

In addition to dance images of outstanding artists became a kind of art perception in poetry by Anthony Slonimsky. The poet devoted to the whole cycle of the early “Sonnets” to the following images like “Leonardo”, “Michelangelo”, “Botticelli” and “Raphael”. In the figures of the artists the poet sought to convey the greatness of human nature on the one hand adoring her genius, on the other hand he developed erotic fantasies on a religious background:

Słodycze warg wilgotnych, co pachną jak róże,

Poznać można na ledwie skreślonym konturze

Zaczętego obrazu świętej Marii Panny [6, s. 10].

Undoubtedly this contrast caused a series of sharp discussions in the poetic world of Warsaw and the whole Poland.

Syncretism of styles and genres as well as various branches of culture is regarded to be another feature of the artistic subjects in the poetry of the Scammander group. Most often music comes together with dance complemented by pictorial motives and the result of such conglomerate is poetry. Thus A. Slonimsky in the poem “Art” points to the combination of various aesthetic spheres into a single whole [6, s. 72]. Art combines dance, music, song (“confusing song”, “someone else’s singing”) in the author’s perception and at the same time it emphasizes the role of a musical instrument (image visualization of the unstressed strings), complemented by a well-chosen colour (purple, fire), the dynamics of movements (“air steps”, “your ethereal ease without measure”), skilfully selected poetic rhymes, but in all there is a lack of harmony. This suggests the artificial nature of artistic images and motives in the poem of Scammanders.

No wonder Slonimsky called the poetic muse as illusory, deceptive, calling it to withdraw irrevocably at the end of the work. Such appeals are found in Kazіmierz Vezhynsky “Furious Manifesto” who claimed that “there is no any art”:

Precz z poezjami! Z duszą tromtadrata!

Niech żyją bzdurstwa, bujdy, banialuki!

Dosyć rozsądku! Wiwat trans wariata!

Życie jest wszystkim! Nie ma żadnej sztuki! [9, s. 56].

As you can see the motives of everyday life and art were from the Scammander artists were detached from reality, mythologically deflected, caused by the young radicalism, which cannot be said about the third thematic block such as the role of nature in human life.

At the time of the Scammanders activity the society ecological problems caused by the accelerated development of technologies and urbanization became of key importance. No wonder even Ivashkevych who was far removed from the public disadvantages and immersed in the world of beauty insisted on a fate not only of Poland but of all of Europe:

Za ciasno nam. Rzeki nasze wysychają 

I stają się coraz płytsze, zmieniają się w stęchłe kałuże;

Fabryczne miasta rosną, na łąkach kopalnie torfu,

Zamiast wysokich topoli dymią czarniawe kominy [3, s. 251].

There are whole antonymic series of characters in which civilization is opposed to nature: rivers – puddles, white flowers – white steam, cars – butterflies, poplars – chimneys, meadows – peat bogs, etc. Street, concrete, iron, stones, high bridges are signs of the society destruction, therefore causing sad dissonances indicating the lack of harmony. This is not the Scammanders fantasy world in which one could escape from the grey everyday life, but the real pictures of being, in which the writers had to live.

Often nature is associated with the emotional state of the lyrical in the Scammanders verses. So in the verse “Parting” Ivashkevych remarked:

Ulica cała w słońcu. A więc dobrze na niej.

I po co niepokoje? Kochanie, czekanie… [3, s. 70].

These are poem sketches and poems moods full of funny or dull notes, background for the image of the man inner world. This type of poetry is typical for the representatives of Scammander group. Despite this fact there is also enough problematic lyrics in which the important social and universal humanitarian problems are raised.

A human geohumanist is the summit of all anthropological visions in the vision of Kazimierz Vezhynsky who is considered to be the most prominent poet of Scammander and who depicted nature and actively advocated its defence. Thus the main antithesis of the Vezhynsky poem “Gardeners” creates two concepts: “earth” and “history”. Within these concepts there are topics of poetry which can be expressed by one word – geo-humanism. At the same time there is a significant distance between man and history. A human community is built on this counterweight.

At the present stage the history motive has become ambiguous. There are hopes for a better civilization and fear of the mankind destruction. The twentieth century artists and scientists have argued that the historical process has no influence on man being based on their concepts. True values are of personalistic (human), transcendental (religion), universal (culture, morality), natural (nature) character in their opinion. Kazimierz Vezhynsky poetry combines two super historical spheres – nature and man resulting in a new form of naturalism – geo-humanism with ecological motives opposed to the historical process of society development.

According to the geo-humanistic concept the earth and its natural resources make for humanity the source of energy and the eternal cycle of life. Regarding this Vezhynsky in his poem “Praise of the Earth and Gunpowder” argued:

Popłyniemy z wiatrem w zieleni,

Na wieki wieczne w otwartej przestrzeni [10, s. LX].

Hence the definition of the fifth season of the year is covered with eternity through its symbolism in the “Cloth of the Earth”. This remarks the apogee of the Kazimierz Vezhynsky works and other members of the Scammander group poetic world since the nature and civilization, past and eternal are merging into one unit.

We can conclude that the anthropological motives of the Scammander lyrics are of a versatile nature. In general they are divided into three main groups being closely interconnected. It refers to the man attitude to everyday life, social problems and history, the expression of this attitude in the field of art and the urgent resolution of environmental problems on which the person future depends.

The image of nature with the fullness of its imagery from poetry-mood to environmental challenges and concerns was the most realistic in the works of the Scammander group poets in the early period and at later stages. They found the source of true inspiration in nature with its primitive features and depicted the true values and truths of life unlike the world of imagination in which the artists fled from the realities of everyday life and the various forms of art represented by the poetic word. Therefore among the variety of themes and motives the very theme “man and nature” has become particularly acute and relevant. The human qualities, the psychology of the crowd, urbanite motives, musical means of reality reproduction, the outstanding achievements of world culture are interpreted differently in its light. We find the attributes of true patriotism, which do not lose their relevance today in poetry about the beauty of our native land:

Przyszłaś, ziemio, ojczysta, zasypałaś oczy

Ostatnią ciepłą garścią mego uwielbienia,

Jeszcze słyszę, jak szum twój nade mną się toczy,

Nad światem, nad urodą, nad nędzą istnienia [9, s. 135].



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Data about the author:

Sukhareva Svitlana Volodymyrivna – Doctor of Philological Sciences, Professor of Foreign Languages and Translation Department, Faculty of International Relations, Lesya Ukrainka Eastern European National University; coordinator of the Polish Institute (Lutsk, Ukraine).

Сведения об авторе:

Сухарева Светлана Владимировна – доктор филологических наук, профессор кафедры иностранных языков и перевода факультета международных отношений Восточноевропейского национального университета имени Леси Украинки, координатор Института Польши (Луцк, Украина).