“I have become enamoured of Lake Geneva”. Zygmunt Krasiński’s several visions of the Léman
Zygmunt Krasiński stayed in Geneva – with some intervals for trips to the Alps – for exactly one year, from 3 November 1829 to 3 November 1830. From the very first moment of his stay in the city, he became particularly fascinated with Lake Geneva (Léman). He watched it from the board of a steam ship and a sailing boat; he walked around it at night and went on boat trips during the day; he learned to swim in it so well that he managed to swim across it. He would write his literary works on its shores, would experience strong emotions, walking around it and becoming moved in the famous Chillon castle. Hence the amazingly frequent recurrence of descriptions of and reflections on the Léman in Krasiński’s letters to his father and in the works he wrote during that year. Krasiński discovered various aspects of the Léman’s beauty; descriptions of the lake were for him an important opportunity to hone his literary skills. In these concise descriptions, he used suggestive colour effects, aptly showing their changeability depending on the lighting of the lake surface; influenced by Mickiewicz’s poetry, he mastered the art of using the motif of the surrounding landscape reflected in the water. Krasiński treated the Léman not only as a subject of aesthetic contemplation, but also a source of entertainment and leisure. Whenever an opportune moment came and the weather was fine, Krasiński would go on a boat or steamship trip on the lake, would sail on it and even often would swim in it both during the day and at night. Significantly, he did not like steam boat cruises but loved sailing. For Krasiński describing the Léman was an excellent school of writing. His literary skills were not only formed but became mature both in short sketches and in the Diary, and perhaps primarily in the numerous letters to his father. Shortly before leaving the Léman, on 28 October 1830 Krasiński wrote a short poetic prose sketch in French entitled Adieu aux environs de Genève (A farewell to the environs of Geneva). The author realised that the stay on the Léman completed a period in his life and that this period was indeed important. A farewell is the fullest and perhaps artistically most mature expression of the author’s personal attitude towards the landscape and nature which the young poet came to treat as the closest friends. We could say that despite the great pathos, despite the clear and perhaps exaggerated exaltation, in this short sketch Zygmunt Krasiński achieved full psychological truth and, consequently, maturity as a Romantic writer.