BETWEEN REFINEMENT AND LUDICITY: THE FILOMATS' OCCASIONAL VERSE
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The customary emphasis on the didactic and utilitarian aspects of the verse produced by the Filomats has led literary historians to a neglect of its other strains, which favoured the aesthetic, the deliberately non-programmatic, and the ludic (ie. popular entertainment). The rococo sensitivity of the young poets of early 19th-century Wilno represents an important line of development running from the epic poems of Christoph Martin Wieland through young Mickiewicz's 'Grażyna' to the characteristic comic key of some passages of 'Pan Tadeusz'. Moreover, for many a Filomat (including Zan and Mickiewicz) the rococo phase preceded a drift towards Sternism, a philosophy informing the novels of Laurence Sterne. The non-programmatic (in the broad sense of the term) poetry of the Filomats, based on a free play of styles and conventions, evolved in two directions. One sought its aim in displays of stylistic sophistication á la rococo (vide Zan's triolets, Mickiewicz's 'Winter in Town'); the other edged towards free expressivity (Zan's 'Buckwheat raviolis', iambic verses, and obscene juvenilia). The ludic strain was represented by mock-heroic poems (eg. Zan's 'The Death of the Snuff-Box', and Czeczot's 'On the Death of a Starling'), which evolved ( in opposition to the main current) from didacticism to literary artfulness. The Filomats' adoption of rococo tastes seems to have been no more than juvenile artistic experimentation as it did not seriously interfere with their inner beliefs and philosophy of life, which allowed no concessions to rococo frivolity.
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