Topoi in Wacław Potocki’s epithalamia
Wacław Potocki was one of the most prolific Polish writers of his era. His numerous works include those overseen by the “domestic muse”, i.e. works devoted to the author’s family or family life in general. The latter group in particular included over 150 texts, usually small, which bear some features of epithalamia (though the name of the genre does not always appear in the titles). When writing them, Potocki used motifs usually present in this type of works. Some epithalamia present, for instance, various stages of nuptials, with the author using typical topoi for such stages, e.g. when presenting a feast, he draws on the motif of a wedding cake (a kołacz or marzipan), making allusions to the wedding night, using hunting associations; and when writing about the transfer, he emphasises (like many other authors), the need for both spouses to be of the same social status. Many of Potocki’s epithalamia were based on a concept drawing on heraldic motifs, which was also part of the “standard repertoire” of works talking about weddings. However, in works combining the poetics of the stemma with epithalamium we can see that the author of Poczet herbów (A Gallery of Coats of Arms), while willingly resorting to typical topoi, managed to maintain originality – he used the nearly pornographic threads of the stemma, though others did not; he also criticised marriage, which was a frequent topic, but not in epithalamia. Thus it turns out that Potocki was able to make use of traditional motifs but could also combine them with motifs untypical for occasional works associated with nuptials.