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See Konrad von Wallenrode for the historical Grandmaster of the Teutonic Knights

Konrad Wallenrod is an 1828 narrative poem by Adam Mickiewicz, set in 14th-century Lithuania. Mickiewicz wrote the poem while living in Saint Petersburg as a protest against the partitioning of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth among the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, and Habsburg Austria in the late 18th century. He had been exiled to the city as punishment for participation in the Philomaths.[1]

The poem served as an inspiration to the 1830 November Uprising against Russian rulership.[2] Although its subversive theme was apparent to most of its readers, it escaped censorship due to personal conflicts among the censors and a prefatory homage to Tsar Nicholas I in its second edition.[3] Although Mickiewicz later disavowed the work, its cultural influence persisted into the late 20th century.



In a preface, Mickiewicz briefly outlines the history of the region to date, describing the interactions among the Lithuanians, Prussians, Poles, and Russians.[1] The following six cantos tell the story of Wallenrod, a fictional Lithuanian pagan captured and reared as a Christian by his people's long-standing enemies, the Order of Teutonic Knights. He rises to the position of Grand Master, but is awakened to his heritage by a mysterious minstrel singing at an entertainment.[3] He then seeks vengeance by deliberately leading the Knights into a major military defeat.[3] It transpires that Wallenrod has a wife, Aldona, who has been living in seclusion. The Knights discover his treason and sentence him to death; Aldona refuses to flee with him. He then commits suicide.

Cultural influences

The concept of "Wallenrodism" (Polish: "Wallenrodyzm"), and certain powerful fragments of the narrative poem, have become an enduring part of the Polish national consciousness and found resonance in the Polish uprisings of the 19th and 20th centuries. The poem included a reference to Machiavelli's suggestion that a leader be both a lion and a fox.[2][3] Its encouragement of what would later be called "patriotic treason" created much dispute, since its elements of deception and conspiracy were not considered Christian or chivalric values.[4] Mickiewicz was taken aback by the strength of the public response to the poem and regretted its publication; before his death, he expressed frustration at his financial inability to obtain and burn every copy of what he described as a mere "political pamphlet."[2][4]

Konrad Wallenrod has twice been made into an opera: as I Lituani (The Lithuanians), by Italian composer Amilcare Ponchielli (1874); and as Konrad Wallenrod, by Polish composer Władysław Żeleński (1885). The Polish composer Frédéric Chopin may have based his musical composition Ballade No.1 in G minor on this poem.[1]

The author Joseph Conrad, born Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski, may have chosen the second portion of his pen name as a reference to the poem's protagonist.[5] The poem influenced his frequent explorations of the conflict between publicly attested loyalty and hidden affiliation with a national cause.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Jonathan Bellman (2009). Chopin's Polish Ballade Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom. Oxford University Press US. p. 72.  
  2. ^ a b c Christopher John Murray (2004). Encyclopedia of the romantic era, 1760-1850, Volume 2. Taylor & Francis. p. 740.  
  3. ^ a b c d Czeslaw Milosz (1984). History of Polish Literature. University of California Press. p. 220.  
  4. ^ a b Richard Andrew Cardwell (2004). The reception of Byron in Europe, Volume 1. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 310.  
  5. ^ Jean M. Szczypien (1998). "Echoes from Konrad Wallenrod in Almayer's Folly and A Personal Record". University of California Press. Retrieved 2010-10-04.  
  6. ^ George E. Marcus (1993). Perilous states: conversations on culture, politics, and nation. University of Chicago Press. p. 204,205.  

External links

See also



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