Music Monday: “Dąbrowski’s Mazurka”

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Jan Henryk Dąbrowski in front of the Polish Legions, painted by Juliusz Kossak, 1882

The Polish National Anthem, entitled Mazurek Dąbrowskiego, is a lively song with an interesting history. Set to traditional Polish folk music, called mazurka, the lyrics were originally written in 1797 by Józef Wybicki, a friend of the titular Jan Henryk Dąbrowski. The song was written two years after Third Partition of Poland, which saw Poland as a sovereign country destroyed and split between Russia, Prussia, and Austria. After the war, Dąbrowski, among many other Poles, fled across Europe, including France. Joining Napoleon’s army, in hopes that he would help the Polish cause for independence, Dąbrowski led the so-called Polish Legions into battle, assisting Napoleon’s conquests into Italy.

Wybicki wrote the song to boost morale of the Polish troops, saying that they continue to fight for Poland, even if Poland, as a nation, did not exist. It became immensely popular through the next hundred years, being used in other battles.

The song was officially adopted as the national anthem of Poland in 1926, soon after Poland’s independence in 1918, though it had been the unofficial anthem for a century earlier.

Here is a video of the anthem, with both Polish lyrics and English translation:

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