|Born||4 February 1505|
?urawno, Kingdom of Poland (now Zhuravno, Ukraine)
|Died||Between 8 September and 5 October 1569 (aged 64)|
Rejowiec, Kingdom of Poland, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
|Pen name||Miko?aj Rey|
|Occupation||Poet, writer, politician, musician|
Miko?aj Rej or Miko?aj Rey of Nag?owice (4 February 1505 - between 8 September/5 October 1569) was a Polish poet and prose writer of the emerging Renaissance in Poland as it succeeded the Middle Ages, as well as a politician and musician. He was the first Polish author to write exclusively in the Polish language, and is considered (with Biernat of Lublin and Jan Kochanowski), to be one of the founders of Polish literary language and literature.
Rej was born into a noble family (bearers of the Oksza coat of arms) at ?urawno, near Halicz. His father Stanis?aw, "a pious, honourable, and quiet man", had (with the help of a relative who was Archbishop of Lwów), moved to Ruthenia from Nag?owice, near Kraków at the invitation of archbishop Jan W?tróbka. His mother, Barbara Herburt, married Rej's father there as his second wife. Although young Rej received little formal education in Lwów, and, at the age of 13 attended but one year at the Kraków Academy, he managed to educate himself by studying Latin literature.
In approximately 1524, Rej began his service at the court of voivode Andrzej T?czy?ski in Sandomierz. There, he acquired most of his vast knowledge in the field of humanities. He returned to his family's town of Topola and married Zofia Kosnówna (Ko?cieniówna). In 1531 Rej moved to Kobyle, in the Che?m area, which had been bequeathed to his wife, and thereafter, he frequented the court of Hetman Miko?aj Sieniawski. In either 1541 or 1548, Rej converted to Calvinism. He took part in synods and founded Protestant schools and communities on his lands.
Rej took part in sejms and thought his writing an important social mission. He was the first Polish writer to receive a substantial reward for his output. By the end of his life, he owned several villages and oversaw many. He received Temerowce from King Zygmunt I the Old, and Dziewi?ciele from King Zygmunt II August as a lifelong possession and two towns, one of them Rejowiec, founded by Rej in 1547. Living during the Golden Liberty embraced by the Polish nobility, tolerance characterized his oversight and this philosophy was carried on by his sons. Rej died at Rejowiec in 1569.
On the five-hundredth anniversary of his birth, Mikolaj Rej was described as a "father of Polish literature", and it also was noted that his grandson, Andrzej Rej (diplomat), royal secretary and Calvinist, is Mikolaj's most prominent offspring. That grandson may be the subject of the 1637 painting by Rembrandt, A Polish Nobleman (perhaps, painted while he was visiting Amsterdam during a trip as a Polish ambassador on a diplomatic mission to the courts of the Danish, the English, and the Dutch).
In 1543 Rej debuted as a writer, under the pen name "Ambro?y Korczbok Ro?ek," with his most famous book, A Brief Discussion among Three Persons: a Lord, a Commune Chief, and a Priest (Krotka rozprawa mi?dzy trzemi osobami, panem, woytem a plebanem).
Rej's works touch on a large array of matters. He authored prose works that described the ideal of the Polish nobleman, criticized the Catholic Church, and showed a genuine solicitude for his country. His prose syntax is strongly influenced by Latin style.
"A niechaj narodowie w?dy postronni znaj?,
"Let it by all and sundry foreign nations be known
In commemoration of the five-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Miko?aj Rej, Poland's Sejm (parliament) declared 2005 to be the Year of Miko?aj Rej.