The Last Polish Enlighteners and the First Polish Maskilim: On Poetry and Political Survival in the Potocki Court (1806-1815).

How do you survive as a court poet – financially, politically, and poetically, when your king, for whom you wrote laudatory poems, is exiled, and your state is erased from the map? This was the situation in which Stanisław Trembecki (1739-1812), the semi-official poet of Stanisław Poniatowki’s court, found himself in 1795. After moving to the Potocki estate in Tulczyn, in 1805, he composed “Sofijówka”, a description of the Potocki gardens. Sofijówka was a masterpiece of poetical and political reorientation, in which Trembecki extoled both his new Polish noble benefactor and his new ruler, the Russian Czar.

Sofijówka, I argue, was one of many texts to emerge from the Tulczyn estate which negotiated the political transformation in the Polish lands. In this talk, I will address the now completely unknown “Hebrew Sofijówka.” In 1811, The Rabbi of Tulczyn, Moshe Elchanan, authored his own account of Potocki gardens. Very much like his Polish counterpart, he had to profess his political alliance both to the potocki as well as to the Russian ruler. I will conclude with a reflection on how both these poems participated in the Noble vision of Polishness after the partitions, and on how the last stage of the Polish enlightenment shaped the beginning of Jewish enlightenment in the Polish lands