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Michael J. Mikoś
Michael J. Mikoś - Mikołaj Rej
Mikołaj Rej was born into a well-off nobleman's family. His formal education was scanty; he attended parish schools in Skalmierz and Lwów and studied one year at the Cracow Academy. Between 1525 and 1530, he was secretary at the court of Andrzej Tęczyński, the voivode of Sandomierz. In 1530 he settled in the village of Topole. In 1541, Rej converted to Protestantism, participated actively in numerous synods and organized congregations and schools. He obtained a position at the court of Zygmunt I and later became a royal secretary to Zygmunt August. As a deputy to the diet, he led a busy public and social life, at the same time energetically managing and increasing his private estates. At the end of his life he owned two little towns, seventeen villages, land in six other villages, and a house in Cracow.
Rej was a prolific and popular writer. His major works of the earliest period include moralistic and satirical dialogues, religious songs, and translations of
Short Conversation Between Three Persons, a Squire, a Bailiff, and a Parson
(1543) is a political treatise in which Rej showed deep conflicts among the three estates. He ridiculed the failings of noblemen, priests, and peasants, giving in 2134 lines of a versed conversation a realistic presentation of everyday life and of his contemporaries.
(1557), a religious treatise in the form of sermons, Rej championed the teachings of Calvin, attacking Rome and Christian morals. His major works,
A Faithful Image of an Honest Man
(1568) were Rej's attempts to deal with the cultural and moral issues, then current in Europe.
Life of an Honest Man
, which constitutes a part of
, records Rej's views on education, military service, married life, as well as on farming and household activities. Three books (youth, middle age, and old age) describe in detail the biological cycle of life and major occupations of a Renaissance man.
(1562), a collection of about seven hundred epigrams, presents portraits of outstanding personalities from antiquity and contemporaneous Poland, practical advice, and animal fables. In a lighter vein, Rej wrote satirical poems in a ribald style, called trifles or pranks.