This article contains a bilingual, Latin-Polish, edition of a letter written by Erasmus to John Sixtin (Ioannes Sixtinus), a Frisian student he met in England. In it Erasmus describes a dinner party at Oxford to which he was invited as an acclaimed poet. In the presence of John Colet, leader of English humanists, table talk turned into learned conversation. Erasmus’s contribution to the debate was an improvised fable (fabula) about Cain who, in order to become farmer, persuades the angel guarding Paradise to bring him some seeds from the Garden of Eden. His speech, a showpiece of rhetorical artfulness disguising a string of lies and spurious argument, is so effective that the angel decides to steal the seeds and thus betray God’s trust. Seen in the context of contemporary surge of interest in the art of rhetoric, Erasmus’ apocryphal spoof is an eloquent demonstration of the heuristic value of mythopoeia and the irresistible power of rhetoric.
This article attempts to throw some light on what may be called Poland’s new national-identity literature and its leading fi gures, Jarosław Marek Rymkiewicz, Wojciech Wencel and Przemysław Dakowicz. They see their work as a psychopolitical educational tool in the service of a patriotic mission to reactivate the ‘real’ national identity. They believe that such an identity is necessary for individuals to develop strong personal identities, founded on a sense of belonging to an integral national community. Rymkiewicz, Wencel and Dakowicz champion this, somewhat archaic, model of national identity which claims total commitment from its members in virtually all their writings. This article focuses on the rhetorical devices used by the new national-identity literature to present and promote its key concept, especially the idea of a ‘sublime’ ethnic community, or a sentimentalized vision of a Polish Commonwealth.