Aspects of the Balkans. Continuity and change

H. Birnbaum and S. Vryonis (eds.)




(Late 19th and Early 20th Century)



Among the Slavic peoples on the Balkan peninsula, literary life (which in the 19th century came more and more to the fore as an important part of national cultural life) crystallized into four national literatures. These literatures were relatively new; it is true, the Croats had their old cultural traditions, but these had centered around Dubrovnik and some Dalmatian towns in the South; Zagreb had only recently developed into a cultural center. It was only in the 19th century that a new literary language, based on the Štokavian rather than the Kajkavian dialect, was introduced and accepted. As for the rest, Croatia is the only South Slavic area where an uninterrupted literary life can be traced through the centuries, and where the writers of the late 19th century were directly linked with an age-old tradition of written literature. In Serbia cultural development came to a standstill at the end of the Middle Ages and was revived only in the course of the 18th century, mainly among those Serbians who had settled on Austro-Hungarian soil. Serbians took part in general European literary trends, such as the Enlightenment (Dositej Obradović) and romanticism (Branko Radičević, Jovan Jovanović Zmaj and others), but in very small numbers and with a considerable retardation. Only towards the end of the 19th century did literary life become more intensive. An agreement was reached between the Croats and Serbians as to their literary language, which in both cases was based upon the Štokavian dialect. However, there were regional linguistic differences (the Serbians using the Ekavian, the Croats the Ijekavian variant of Serbo-Croatian), differences in vocabulary (partly due to a certain lexical influence of Turkish upon Serbian) and differences in local expressions, etc. There was the still more conspicuous fact, also, that each literature was written in its own alphabet. Moreover, there were the differences in national historical background, religion, and political development





(Serbia became an independent kingdom, whereas Croatia remained part of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy) which kept the two peoples apart. Thus two literatures grew, although basically written in one language and situated on adjacent territory (the situation may be compared to that of Dutch and Flemish literature). Although there were many literary contacts between the two peoples, these contacts were not much more intensive than between them and other Slavic peoples. Zagreb and Belgrade were two clearly distinct cultural and literary focuses, and remained so to a certain extent up to the present day, even after half a century of co-existence in one Yugoslav state. As minor literary centers Sarajevo and Mostar played a certain role. [1]


To the West and East of these sororial literatures two other literatures sprang up: the Slovenian and Bulgarian. The circumstances here were quite different. The Slovenians, a small nation incorporated and integrated in Austria, gravitating towards Vienna ("Dunaj" — the Danube —, as it was usually referred to) and Graz, had barely been saved from cultural, and maybe national dissolution by a handful of men of letters. Their literature, though producing the genius of France Prešeren in the first part of the century, had to fight hard battles in order to receive recognition and to become the carrier of national thought and self-expression.


In Bulgaria the long Turkish domination had produced the same mummifying effect on social and cultural life as in the case of Serbia, but the situation was even worse. The ways of escaping the Turkish yoke were blocked; those who succeeded in emigrating found themselves on territories that were farther removed from any cultural center, so they missed strong literary and other cultural stimuli and models. The national liberation, bringing about an enormous expansion of literary activity, came only towards the end of the century.


Thus Zagreb and Belgrade, Ljubljana and Sofia [2] were the hotbeds of four new, or relatively new, literatures. [3] In the last decade of the 19th and the first two decades of the 20th century, these literatures all reached



1. There were other centers, like Sremski Karlovci and Novi Sad in Serbia, Karlovac, Zadar and Split in Croatia; however, they lost much of their importance in favor of the rapidly growing two capitals.


2. Next to Sofia, there were some minor centers: Plovdiv, Stara Zagora, Varna, Tŭrnovo, Ruse, and others.


3. Macedonian literature is not discussed here, as it was, during the period in question, still insufficiently developed and crystallized. The literature of Dalmatia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Montenegro is considered here as a part of Croatian, resp. Serbian literature.





a certain fullness and maturity, a richness of vocabulary and expression. They gained a degree of public interest, a degree of influence upon public opinion and national thought which makes them comparable to many other older European literatures. What was their interrelation or interdependence, and what was their connection with the leading literatures of Europe?


It is obvious that the first trait these literatures have in common is the relationship of the languages they used as their tool. For an intellectual of one of the South Slavic nations it was not too difficult to learn how to read a text written in the language of a neighboring Slavic people. It was in this period not hard to cross the borders between the respective Balkan countries and an exchange of thought was not strongly hampered, although there were periods in which intellectual freedom was suppressed (for instance, the regime of king Milan in Serbia, of governor Khuen Hedervary in Croatia). One might point to the Yugoslav movement which during these very decades gained support and momentum.


However, without denying the importance of a somewhat similar intellectual climate prevailing in the four capitals of comparable national circumstances, I am inclined not to attach too much weight to these resemblances for literary life among the South Slavs. If we choose as a barometer the number of literary translations, we see that there is, during the 19th and 20th century, a considerable number of such translations from one South Slavic language into another. However, this number is not notably larger than the number of translations from, let us say, Italian or Hungarian, not to speak of the stream of translations from German, French, Russian and English. Although it is true that, for instance, the Slovenian poet Stanko Vraz wrote verse both in Slovenian and in Croatian, that the Bulgarian writer Ljuben Karavelov lived in Serbia for some time and wrote short stories in Serbian, that there were personal contacts and even mutual friendship and admiration between writers like the Bulgarian Penčo Slavejkov and the Croatian Ivo Vojnović, etc., nevertheless, these ties were not markedly stronger than those which existed with other European nations. We may take as examples the Croatian poet Petar Preradović, who wrote originally only in German, or France Prešeren and other Slovenians, who also left works written in German. Svetozar Marković, Serbian literary critic, wrote articles in Russian; the Bulgarian writer G. Stamatov wrote in Russian before he started to use Bulgarian in his writings; the Bulgarian poet Stojan Michajlovski was also the author of French verse, etc. Between the Serbians and Croats, because of their almost identical literary language,





the ties could easily be strengthened, and they were in some cases, but there were the many barriers mentioned above. [4] As far as the Yugoslav movement is concerned, we shall see that the modernist poets were largely indifferent towards politics. Few of them were ever engaged or even interested in socio-political problems and slogans. But the old patriotic feelings still had a strong appeal, and this led to the perpetuation of national frictions instead of brotherhood, especially in periods of political or even armed conflicts (e.g. the Serbo-Bulgarian wars of 1885, 1913 and 1914).


It seems obvious that the common features among the South Slavic literatures are to be reduced to general European literary trends, movements, tastes, fashions and preferences, rather than to a strong mutual relationship. It has been stated, for example, that the neighboring Croatian and Slovene literatures in the period under discussion, although developing along parallel lines, had little mutual contact, drawing their inspiration from the same foreign sources (Vienna and Paris, to a large extent). [5] Non-Slavic literatures in South Eastern Europe followed exactly the same line of development. I realize that matters of literary influences and trends do not lend themselves to exact measurements and are not strictly definable, except in very clear-cut cases. A foreign literary influence, for example, may work either directly or through the medium of a third language and literature. Heinrich Heine was one of the major literary influences among the South Slavs, read, admired and emulated by innumerable poets, but known to many of them exclusively in Russian translations. Thus, not only the German poet with his imagery, his way of thinking and expressing himself, his cultural baggage, was transferred to these Bulgarian or Serbian readers-writers, but so were certain qualities of versification, syntax, and modes of expression that were part of the Russian literary tradition.


A factor that should not be underestimated is the impact of folk literature. It is well known that the oral literary tradition (folksongs, lyrical and epic poetry, fairy tales, etc.) was stronger among the Slavs, especially the Eastern and Southern Slavs, than among most Western peoples, and that this tradition constantly enriched written literature.



4. For instance, the Croatian writers Matoš, Ujević and Krleža lived some time in Belgrade, etc. In periods of national goodwill authors published their works in each other’s literary magazines and publishing houses.


5. Joža Mahnič, Obdobje moderne (Zgodovina slovenskega slovstva, V, ed. Lino Legiša, Ljubljana 1964), p. 17. There was some personal contact, however: Cankar met and became friends with Matoš and a few other Croats in Vienna; Croatian magazines published some Slovenian poetry.





Folk poetry of the Bulgarians, Serbians, Croats and Slovenes shows many common features and clearly has common foundations. And as this folk element is frequently mirrored in written literature, there is a basis here for literary concurrence. This applies to aspects of imagery, subject matter, ways of expression, vocabulary and language, and to formal aspects of genre, versification, etc. There are Croatian and Serbian as well as Bulgarian poets who took Krali Marko/Marko Kraljević and other epic figures as their heroes. The deseterac (decasyllable), major metrical form of lyrical and especially epic folk poetry, was frequently applied by poets both in Serbo-Croatian and Bulgarian literature.


It should be pointed out, however, that this unmistakably common factor worked less actively during the period under consideration. It is a period in which many writers turned away from what they considered home-bred, stale literary forms and examples, and instead turned to international models, perennial themes, cosmic issues and the depths of their own microscosm: no more Marko Kraljević, but Cain, Childe Harold, Beethoven, Ibsen's Brand; fewer syllabic folk meters, more syllabotonic forms based on classical, German, English and Russian models. This does not apply to all modernists — in fact, many did use folk elements, as we will see later.


The 1880s were a period of crucial, far-reaching importance in the history of European literature. Handbooks usually mention that it all started in France, where decadence was born in 1880, and symbolism in 1885. But the whole development, which embraced the poetry of most European nations, and changed, enriched, impregnated it, should not be ascribed solely to what Verlaine or Verhaeren wrote in a certain year. It has its roots in general, international trends, feelings, longings, reactions, needs for change, the causes of which cannot be discussed within the scope of this paper. It was not only a question of literary style, but a whole complex of new ideas, stimulated by philosophical theories which gained momentum in the same period: the neo-idealistic writings of such diverse philosophers as Emerson, Maeterlinck, Nietzsche or Bergson. In Germany and Austria the movement was referred to as "die Moderne", (scil. Bewegung), and this label (moderna) was usually applied to it in Bohemia and the South Slavic regions. [6] For a movement of such diverse aspects this neutral nomenclature is maybe preferable to designations



6. In Bosnia a group of modernist poets called themselves after the political movement with which they were closely connected, "Young Bosnia" (Mlada Bosna), like the "Young Poland" movement of the same period.





like symbolism, decadence, fin-de-siècle, impressionism and neo-romanticism. It referred mainly to new developments in poetry, although parallel developments took place in prose. Realism, positivism and naturalism had predominantly used prose as their vehicle; the modernist movement, which largely was a reaction against these trends, expressed itself preferably in verse.


In France Baudelaire was the precursor, Verlaine the first great representative, and Mallarmé and Rimbaud were the further generators and more sophisticated continuators of symbolism. Their poetry was during the eighties and nineties a more prominent, novel, and influential genre than the work of most of the French prose writers of that period. In all of Europe a poetical revival could be observed. In Russia Merežkovskij, Bal'mont, Brjusov, and others initiated the "silver age" of Russian poetry.


As for the Southern Slavs, their poetry likewise flourished more abundantly than their prose, and Miodrag Pavlović even speaks of a "golden age" of Serbian poetry during the modernist period. [7] In the following, we shall eliminate prose and concentrate on poetical matters. This florescence of verse has been preceded by a period of preponderance of prose — I hesitate to say : of realistic prose, as was the rule in most higher developed European nations, because in the mid 19th century, in some cases even during the '70s and '80s, literature in the South Slavic countries still bore a clear stamp of romanticism. It is true, writers in all four areas started to use the devices and methods of realism, stimulated by French and Russian realistic prose: Josip Jurčič, Janko Kersnik, Ivan Tavčar in Slovenia, Evgenij Kumičić, Ksaver Šandor Djalski, Ante Kovačić in Croatia, Jakov Ignjatović, Laza Lazarević, Stevan Sremac, Sima Matavulj in Serbia, and Ivan Vazov, Aleko Konstantinov and Ljuben Karavelov in Bulgaria. But most of these writers published their works only in the eighties, and their appearance did not mean that they immediately superseded the romantic writers.


If the modernist trend in South Slavic poetry was a reaction to preceding, established literary schools, its main targets were the remnants (sometimes still very tenacious) of romanticism rather than realism or naturalism. It was a movement of enthusiastic young men who rejected and combated the literary powers that were the dominant tastes and trends of the eighties. This was expressed at times in a haughty attitude towards the established authorities or towards great names: in Croatia



7. In the volume Poezija od Vojislava do Bojića (eil. M. Pavlović), series Srpska književnost u književnoj kritici, VI (Belgrade 1966), p. 192.





towards Ivan Mažuranić and August Šenoa, in Serbia towards the conservative, late epigones of romanticism like Jovanović-Zmaj, Jovan Ilić, Jovan Sterija Popović, in Slovenia towards the cup-and-saucer epigones of Josip Stritar, and even towards such genuine, but old-fashioned poets as Simon Gregorčič and Anton Aškerc, and in Bulgaria towards Ivan Vazov, the glorified, many-sided national writer, and a few of his contemporaries. The modernists in South-Eastern Europe were not 'modern' in their reaction to naturalist art, positivist philosophy and rationalistic, empirical science, as in the West, because these hardly existed here. They were modern in their reaction to pseudo-classical and romantic patterns they had yet to destroy — patterns that had been dead a long time in the rest of Europe.


Thus from a bird's-eye view the modernist movements in each of the four South Slavic nations developed along the same lines and seem to be almost identical. Of course, closer examination shows considerable differences in each of these literatures; at the same time, only on closer examination can we detect similarities that were not visible yet from what was pointed out thus far. Therefore, I would like to dwell briefly on the situation in poeticis in each of the four national literatures from about 1890 to the First World War.



In Slovenia this situation is the most surveyable and least complicated. There were four modernists, no fewer and no more. They were schoolmates and friends; they discussed their poetry and wrote part of it in one and the same building — an old, partly burned sugar factory outside of Ljubljana. This star cukrarna had been converted into a cheap apartment building, and one of the quartet, Josip Murn (1870-1901), had rented a room there.


Almost anything that can be said of Murn is typical of all of the Slovenian and other South Slavic modernists: his early enthusiasm for Russian literature, which was read and discussed in a high school circle guided by the later prominent publicist Ivan Prijatelj ; his passion for the Slavic folk song, for Kol'cov, for romantic literature, for Mickiewicz and Ševčenko, and subsequently for the French symbolists and decadents; his departure (on a scholarship) to Vienna (from where he, however, returned after one semester because of his ill health and an unhappy love affair) ; the sensitive lyrics he started to write (his first verse was published when he was nineteen) — among other things two cycles of love lyrics with the significant titles Noči (Nights) and Fin de Siècle; and finally his premature death at the age of twenty-two. As we shall see, virtually all





the South Slavic modernists lived for some time in Western Europe (France, less often Germany or Austria) during their formative years; most of them were nourished by the Russian classics; and — detail of a different order, but no less striking — many of them died at a very early age.


Characteristic of Murn's modest poetic output, [8] and characteristic, to a large extent, of the poetry of the modernists under discussion, is first of all a preponderance of love and nature lyrics, in which he endeavors to avoid all rhetorics, to write simply, directly, and to convey intimate feelings. Usually nature is described in an impressionistic way, in a few broad outlines or salient, evocative details, and usually it is not described for its own sake, but in concord with the poet's own inner life. [9] Of course, the linking and equating of natural phenomena like sun and blue sky, storm and rain, lovely or wild scenery with the state of the poet's soul is an old poetic device which was used in classical or romantic poetry as well. What is specific about the modernist (symbolist) style is a preference for the night, for dreary weather and desolate landscapes, corresponding to pessimistic, gloomy or desperate feelings ; furthermore, a search for original, striking images, similes, terms, and sounds, a melodious language.


It should be mentioned that in Murn's case not all of his lyric poems are melancholic ; in several of them he gives utterance to a cheerful mood (e.g., "Pelin", "Enaka", "Pesem" ["Kakor roža na poljani"], "Tu je jesen in mi se ženimo)". We find the same in the work of several other modernists : their hopelessness does not pervade their entire poetical output. In some cases we may assume that the fin de siècle gloominess is not an integral part of their being, their world outlook, but acquired and developed under the impact of an influential and very international fashion. In other cases the modernist trend may have aroused and activated a | genuine pessimistic attitude; but after a certain period of time this attitude may have given way to other moods. Only in some instances a deep melancholy or pessimism became part and parcel of a poet's physiognomy and of his work throughout his creative years.


Another quality of Murn's poetry that should be signalized is his use of rhythms and meters, images, tones and terminology of folk poetry. This feature the South Slavic modernists certainly did not have in



8. The best edition of his works is by D. Pirjevec, Zbrana delà, 2 vols. (Ljubljana, 1954).


9. Examples would be Murn's poems "Sneg" ("Prelepa noč, pomladna noč") and "Ko dobrave se mrače". Only in a few instances is his nature description more detailed and written for its own sake, without references to the poet's own inner life (cf. "Zima").





common with West European contemporaries, in whose poetry the folklore element was mostly absent. It is characteristic of the Slavic poets of the modernist period that they, although intensely preoccupied with their inner self, the sufferings of their heart, and their relation to God and the universe, did not despise the simple popular song and the forms of folk poetry, just like their romantic predecessors; some of them used these elements even quite frequently. This fully applies to Murn (cf. his "Prišel čas je krog Božiča", "Ah, ti bori", "Želja po nevesti", and others). A poem like "Pa ne pojdem prek poljan" shows a combination of folklore and symbolistic elements : the tone of a popular song, the image of the raven as a symbol and augury of death and destruction :


Pa ne pojdem prek poljan,

je v poljani črni vran,

je v poljani noč in dan.


Jaz bojim se ga močno,

črno vranje je oko,

črnja slutnja gre z meno.


Ah, v tujini budem pal,

vran oči mi iskljuval,

krakal bo, ne žaloval.


Murn's poem is, for the rest, reminiscent of a poem by Walter Scott, which he may have known in Puškin's version: "Šotlandskaja pesnja". [10]


We would go into too much detail if we would here discuss the question in which respects the modernist attitude towards and its use of folklore elements differ from that of other poetic schools.


Connected with the element of national folklore is the feeling of patriotism — again a feature that is seldom found in the symbolist (modernist) poetry of the West. It is true, Verlaine wrote that "l'amour de la patrie est le premier amour, / Et le dernier amour après l'amour de Dieu", [11] but in his poetry or in that of his symbolist compatriots even the word "France" is rarely mentioned. [12] In the minds of the South Slavs, however, national consciousness was so much alive that it had to find an outlet in their poetry, too. Here again the modernists carried on



10. Also known as "Voron k voronu letit". Compare Murn's last line with Puškin's similarly constructed last line: "ne ubitogo, živogo". The meter is identical, except for Puškin's alteration of masculine and feminine endings.


11. The opening lines of his poem "Bonheur", II (Paul Verlaine, Choix de poésies, 20e mille, Paris, 1902, p. 349).


12. In fact, the word "Belgium" occurs more often: Baudelaire, Verlaine, Mallarmé and Rimbaud all visited Belgium and referred to it in their poems.





existing traditions, not bringing about a break with or reacting against preceding trends. However, they tried to avoid bombastic tones, and rarely let their patriotic poetry preponderate over other genres. As their respective nations were, during the period under discussion, still fighting for national independence or national existence, it is understandable that the theme of the fatherland turns up from time to time, especially in periods of tension, which in some cases meant: conflicts of Slavic states among themselves (particularly Serbia and Bulgaria). While, in the times of the Second Balkan War (1913), the Serbian poet Aleksa Šantić sang the praise of the Vardar as a Serbian river, Ivan Vazov claimed that same river as Bulgarian. Speaking of Macedonia Vazov exclaimed "Mi ne davame ja" ('We don't abandon her'), and warned the Serbians "Ni pedja zemja!" ('We won't budge an inch!'), while Šantić states that "mi dodjosmo samo u domove stare" ('We only returned to the old dwellings'). However, more often Serbian and Bulgarian poets pronounced for reconciliation between the two nations (cf. Vazov's contemporary Penčo Slavejkov, who was friendly with the Serbian poet Jovan Dučić and the Croatian Ivo Vojnović, and who loved and translated the Serbian Jovanović-Zmaj).


In the works of the Slovene modernists expressions of patriotism are rare — only one of them, Župančič, repeatedly struck patriotic notes, for instance in his longer poem "Naša beseda" ('Our Word', in which appears the line: "Slovenska misel, vzpluj, vrzi se do nebes!"), or in "Duma", another longer poem in the volume Samogovori (Soliloquies, 1908).


There are certain aspects which are characteristic for the French, but are missing in the Slavic poetry of this movement. To start with, French symbolist poetry is often less purely lyrical and emotional, but more intellectual and rhetoric than the South Slavic. Typical examples would be Baudelaire and — in a later generation — Rimbaud (especially in his later works), with their often ironic attitude, their exclamatory style, their tendency to give a poem a witty turn. Moreover, symbolists like Mallarmé and Rimbaud wrote part of their poetry in an associative, difficult, sometimes even almost hermetic style, which made them the forerunners of Valéry and of the surrealists. Compared to them, the South Slavs are much simpler, much more direct in their language and the expression of their feelings, less sophisticated and more logical in their meditations. A second point of difference is the erotic and sensual element, which is definitely more prominent and more strongly developed among the French poets. In French symbolist poetry one can distinguish





three basic attitudes with respect to women: that of adoration, deification almost, which is not frequently found among South Slavic poets, partly maybe (especially in the case of the Serbians and Bulgarians) because it was not accepted in a still strongly patriarchal society; secondly, a playful, lighthearted, and often — for those times — quite outspoken sensuality, which is traditionally called typically French and seems not quite to tally with the nature of the (South) Slavs. Besides, we should remember that each of the four South Slavic literatures was subject to censorship of one form or another. Baudelaire's exclamation "Volupté sois toujours ma reine!" [13] would not easily be adopted by any of the South Slavs under discussion. A third attitude is that of mockery at negative qualities of women : their domineering spirit, their unfaithfulness, perfidy, subtlety, and their seductiveness. Complaints about female infidelity are an ever recurring theme in Slavic poetry, but it usually brings the poet to distress and despair, not to a mocking attitude. Finally, an element that is more strongly represented in French than in South Slavic poetry of the late 19th and early 20th century is its classicism, i.e. the constant references to Greek and Latin history, mythology and literature and the frequent use of names from antiquity. This classicist tradition was so much alive in French literature that it continued its existence throughout the symbolist period. Among the South Slavs, on the other hand, classicism had no strong roots; unlike the Russians and Poles, they did not know a (pseudo)classicist period, their modern literary traditions go back to the early 19th century, when classicism had disappeared and was replaced by romanticism. The only exception is Dalmatia, which had shared the classical heritage with Italy; it is, therefore, not surprising that vestiges from antiquity are somewhat more frequent in Croatian than in any of the other South Slavic literatures. [14]


Returning to modernism in Slovenia, I should mention, next to Murn, the name of his friend Dragotin Kette (1876-1899), whose works in many ways resemble Murn's. He seems to have paid somewhat more attention to the technique and the formal aspect of his verse and had a special preference for the sonnet. This is again characteristic of the modernists, who on the whole polished the forms and strove after well constructed, beautiful, melodious verse (although they, on the other hand, as a reaction against outworn versificatory traditions, often neglected the



13. In his poem "La prière d'un païen", Oeuvres (Paris, 1951). A whole cycle of verse like his "Galanteries" would be difficult to compare with anything in South Slavic poetry of this period.


14. For instance, in the poetry of S. S. Kranjčević, A. Tresić Pavičić, V. Vidrić and V. Nazor. (We do find some antique reminiscences in Kette's sonnets.)





obligatory stanza form and, following the French symbolists, introduced 'free verse' without a division into stanzas). The sonnet was a special favorite form with the symbolists — few of them did not express themselves in it. Kette, in his short lifetime, wrote about sixty sonnets, forty-five of them in a period of nineteen days in the summer of 1898. They show a greater variety of meters, endings (both masculine and feminine), and rhyme structure than the classical type, which in Slovenian literature was practiced with such mastery by France Prešeren. Like Murn, Kette wrote poems full of mirthless pessimism; however, he arrived at a more balanced, philosophical point of view, basically Christian, but clearly influenced by pantheistic conceptions : Kette read and admired Maurice Maeterlinck's Trésor des humbles. [15] We find among his poems quite a number of ironic sallies, scherzandos, romances and ballads, short-lined songs in popular style, sometimes reminiscent of Kol'cov, but without his feeling of pity on the poor peasant's plight. [16]


More serious-minded, somber and melancholic is the third Slovene modernist, Ivan Cankar (1876-1918), who during his studies in Vienna became extremely interested in the new currents in French and German-Austrian literature, literary criticism and philosophy. He was a most active avant-gardist, transmitting the poetry of Baudelaire, Verlaine, the German Richard Dehmel, and others, and the philosophical ideas of Maeterlinck and Nietzsche to his friends in Ljubljana and, via his works, to the Slovenian public.


After his first collection of verse, Erotika (1899), he soon left decadence and even gave up poetry altogether; he became Slovenia's foremost writer of short stories (which do contain symbolistic elements). Cankar also left his individualistic, Nietzschean philosophy and developed a strong, critical social consciousness and engagement. But he admitted later that the modernist period had developed in him a gift of rendering genuine, diverse and subtle emotions, a refined way of expressing himself. And this was exactly what the movement meant to many poets in all of the South Slavic literatures. This is what lent it its extraordinary importance.



15. Cf. his cycle of eight sonnets "Moj Bog", which is preceded by a quotation from Maeterlinck (Dragotin Kette, Zbrano delo, I, Ljubljana, 1949, p. 144).


16. It is noteworthy that Kette, in one of his sonnets, addressing the Slovenian writers, says: "Bežim pred vami, slavni morituri, / ker, kaj je treba tožnih vzdihovanj, / čemu je treba brezkoristnih sanj?" ('I fly before you, glorious morituri, because what is the use of sad lamentations, of vacuous phantasms?'). So in contrast to what usually happened, a 'decadent' expressed himself here against the excessively tragic tone of other (older) poets.





A more significant poet than Cankar is Oton Župančič, who likewise during his years in Vienna first read the French and Russian realists, but was then seized and inspired by the decadents — German and French. Although much of his early verse bears the stamp of folk poetry (few Slavic poets were completely free from that folk influence) and one of his poems was even taken by some people as an actual folk song, [17] the new wave in European poetry drove him into another direction. His first collection, Čaša opojnosti (1899, the same year as Cankar's Erotika), has typical modernist traits : an abundance of personal confessions, spleen, melancholic love poetry, dark symbols and sometimes a truly tragic, ominous tone.


However, his tone gradually changed, his work became permeated with an optimistic vitalism (cf. his ode "Pesem mladosti", 1900). Nevertheless, even in his second volume, Čez plan (1903-1904), the nostalgic, gloomy notes have not disappeared ("Grobovi tulijo", "Raznim poetom", "Sonet"). Župančič is one of the best Slovene poets, in whose verse deep reflection and evocative images are coupled with a rich and subtle language and an innovative versification (lines of uneven length, a greater freedom of rhymes than in pre-modernist poetry: compound rhyme, truncated rhyme, assonance rhyme ; also inner rhyme). His work shows the strange dichotomy which can be observed in the verse of many modernists; on the one hand, the tendency, signalized in the above, to break with the strict classicist traditions regarding meter, length of lines, stanza structure, and to write 'free' verse — and on the other, the endeavor to polish a poem, to cultivate the forms that were sometimes neglected by romantic and 'realist' poets — an endeavor expressed in the frequent occurrence of sonnets, gazelas, rondels and ether old types of verse construction. Zupančič practices both sonnets and free verse. As a true modernist he expressed pantheistic, spiritualistic ideas and in some of his poems Nietzschean-romantic conceptions about the exceptional role and position of the superior man, of the creative personality, the poèt. The idea of the poet as a prophet, as the God-inspired bard, occurs frequently among the romantics (Puškin's poems like "Prorok", "Poêt", being among the best known examples). In Župančič's work we find these thoughts in poems like "Ptič Samoživ" (Čez plan), "Umetnik in ženska", "Metamorfozi", "Epilog" (in his third volume, Samogovori, 1908). The poem "Ob Kvarneru" is a hymn to the sea, a favorite topic



17. The poem "Da sem jaz ptičica, kam bi zletela", published in 1897 with the subtitle "narodna pesem".





and symbol of the modernists, and at the same time a hymn to free will and superior power.


There were minor poets, epigones, younger followers and continuators of the Slovenian modernists, but the four discussed above stand out as the true representatives of the moderna (symbolized by their common grave in Ljubljana), although Cankar and especially Župančič developed in other directions after the turn of the century. Their appearance meant a new chapter and a considerable enrichment of Slovenian literature.


I have dwelt upon the Slovenes at some length in order to exemplify a few qualities of the South Slavic modernists in general; the remaining three literatures will therefore be dealt with more briefly.



In Croatia the movement was no less important; it embraced more poets and is somewhat more complicated, because there are more transitory and peripheral or borderline figures.


Silvije Strahomir Kranjčević (1865-1908) was a forerunner, who taught the modernists how to free the language of the flourish, the stereotypes and rhetorics of the romantics, although even his verse is not free from rhetoric elements (cf. the large number of exclamation points, question marks and dots in his poems). In several of his works he showed his pessimism, his "tragic perception of the world". [18] On the other hand, he is clearly linked with folk poetry (as is shown by the title of his first collection, Bugarkinje, 1885). He wrote many poems in a light, folkish style, in syllabic verse (sometimes unrhymed). Kranjčevic demonstrates how, among the South Slavs, romanticism was often, especially in poetry, directly followed by modernism, without the intermezzo of realism, naturalism and rationalism through which literature passed during the 1860s and '70s in Western Europe, Russia and Poland. His belief in the exceptional role of the poet as a visionary is typical of both the romantics and the modernists — at least a considerable number of the latter — and so is the patriotic pathos, expressed mainly in his earlier poetry.


More closely connected with the international modernist movement was Antun Gustav Matoš (1873-1914), a prominent literary critic, prose writer and poet, whose life work it was to renew and uplift Croatian literature, to strip it of its provincial features and to acquaint his fellow countrymen with European literature and esthetic thought (Lemaître, Sainte-Beuve, and others). He was a great worshipper of Beauty — a trait which he had in common with many modernist poets and literary critics. Contrary to the general pattern, he did not start out as a poet and



18. M. Šicel, Pregled novije hrvatske knijiževnosti (Zagreb, 1966), p. 104.





subsequently switch to prose, but published his first poetry only around 1906, after he had established his fame as a prose writer and critic, and wrote about eighty poems during the last eight years of his life.


These poems show him as a sensitive, melancholic personality with a wide cultural background, expressing himself in a variety of genres. He did not shun folklore (cf. the poem "Suza", in 8- and 7-syllable lines), occasionally wrote in a humoristic, satirical vein (cf. "Basna", a fable with the characteristic rhymes naciju: deputaciju: delegaciju: deklaraciju), produced love lyrics, nature- and Stimmung lyrics (usually gloomy and nocturnal) and patriotic verse. He carefully polished versificatory forms (the sonnet is again one of his favorite verse types). Some of his longer poems (e.g.,"Mora") remind us with their long, emotional, voluble stream of words of Miroslav Krleža's prose. Matoš certainly served as a model for later generations of Croatian writers.


Younger contemporaries of Matoš, who in their majority concentrated on poetry and form the phalanx of the modernist movement, are Vladimir Vidrić (1875-1904), Dragutin Domjanić (1875-1933), Milan Begović (1876-1948) and, in a younger generation, Ljubo Wiesner (1885-1951) and Janko Polić-Kamov (1886-1910). Vidrić is the most original and significant poet of the Croatian moderna, [19] who published only one volume of poetry (1907) which shows him as a poet of impressionistic description rather than reflection. Domjanić was one of the first modern poets to write, next to Štokavian, also in the Kajkavian dialect. His poem "U mistične noći" is, as it were, a prototype of modernist poetry (not only because of its title) : written in an exquisite style, it confronts us with death, nocturnal nature, and then with the "I", the poet's languishing


Begović's poems sometimes have an aristocratic tone and atmosphere, although some of them are sensual, written in a daring, free style and un-poetic language, which strikes us as very modern (cf. the unrhymed poem "Liddy", 1911). He studied and worked (as a dramatist) in Vienna and Hamburg, but the influences upon his poetry came rather from France and especially Italy; he excelled as an author of (syllabic or syllabotonic) sonnets.


Wiesner's poetry is largely descriptive, impressionistic, often typically symbolistic. He was the editor of an interesting volume of poetry by young poets published at the outbreak of World War I (Hrvatska mlada lirika, 1914); some poets who later became famous made their début here.



19. Cf. N. Milićević, A. Šoljan, Antologija hrvatske poezije (Zagreb, 1966), p. 314.





It belongs, more than to the moderna, in a strict sense, to a new era in Croatian poetry. Polić-Kamov is much freer even than Begović both in his verse technique and his themes and language. In blank verse he expressed his aversion of and revolt against the established society and all its hypocrisy in irate invectives (Psovke, 'Abuse', is the title of his first collection, 1907); he was followed by many younger poets. Blank verse became popular with this generation, born around 1890, both among the Croats and the Bosnians ("Mlada Bosna" movement).


More talented, more prolific and of greater impact on the future development of Croatian poetry was Vladimir Nazor (1876-1949), who only under reserve can be reckoned among the modernists. He is — like Tin Ujević in a later generation — such an original, peculiar personality that it is hard to incorporate him in any group or movement. His first poems originated in the early 1890s ; his last volume, written during his participation in the partisan struggle during World War II, appeared in 1945; in all, he wrote over one thousand poems. Besides, he was active in almost all other fields of literature. Especially in his early years he wrote preponderantly lyric poetry which was, as contrasted with most modernist poetry, basically optimistic, full of fine observation and deep, ecstatic feeling in nature. His art was rooted in classic and Italian poetry, but the folk and the national element were also represented. A feature that links him with the modernists is his frequent usage of symbols (cf. a poem like "Galeb").



In Serbia, modernism likewise encompassed a great number and a great variety of poets. As a result of historical circumstances the Serbians had, as was previously pointed out, taken part in European literary movements with considerable delay and little intensity. Consequently, during the '70s, '80s and '90s different trends, and schools which were historically widely separated coexisted among Serbian men of letters. A good example is Vojislav Ilić (1860-1894, son of the prominent romantic poet Jovan Ilić), who during his short life went through several poetic trends. He was widely read and influenced by various great figures and schools in European literary history. "These contacts of Ilić with English, German, Russian, antique and other poets..., because of which his originality as a poet has often been denied him, were, in fact, the most original thing he contributed to our poetry", wrote Milorad Pavić in his introduction to a recent Ilić-volume. [20] Ilić admired the



20. Vojislav Ilić, collection of essays, ed. M. Pavić (series "O književnosti", Belgrade, 1966), p. 9. Cf. on Ilić also Robert Felber, Vojislav Ilić. Leben und Werk (München, 1965).





classical authors and ancient mythology, which left a deep imprint on his work (also formally: he repeatedly tried his hand at the hexameter and pentameter, to which he gave a somewhat serbianized form); he was a better classicist than professed classicists like Lukijan Mušicki or Jovan Sterija Popović in the first half of the century. [21] At the same time he was strongly influenced by the romantic poets and, in fact, more imbued by the great poetry of romanticism (Byron and Heine on the one hand, Puškin and Lermontov, on the other) than was any other Serbian author, even those usually called romanticists. As a matter of fact, Ilić fought the bombastic chauvinism of the untalented romantic poets of the ’70s.


Since Ilić lived and worked in the era of realism in Europe (and he kept abreast of international literary developments, without the long delay that had been normal in Serbian letters), it is only natural that this trend was also mirrored in his work. It appears in the purely descriptive, objective poems not showing the author's intervention (cf. poems like "Jesen", "Veče"). He has been compared, in this respect, to Leconte de Lisle (whom he never read) and the other French parnassists. [22] One contemporary called him "a pure naturalistic Parnassian poet". [23] However, modern Serbian literary historians have noticed that Ilić did not stop here, but during the last years of his life, searching for new roads in the development of poetry, reached a form of symbolism, which makes him the direct predecessor of the modernists. [24]


The word "symbol" is used in his poem "Kleon i njegov učenik" (1892), in more or less the same sense as Baudelaire used it. He recognizes the existence of hidden meanings behind the phenomena of 'correspondences'. [25] Like the symbolists, he seems to be obsessed by the acoustic, musical aspect of the world surrounding him; cf. poems like "Veče na brodu", or "Kad se ugasi tama", which he wrote only a few days before his death:


I staro, strpljeno hrašće zašušti monotono

Starinsku nekakvu pesmu, starinski neki jad;

Beli se zanija cvetak, k'o malo srebrno zvono,

Zapeva ceo sad,



21. Cf. Milorad Pavić, op. cit., p. 9.


22. Op. cit., p. 11.


23. Jovan Dučić, quoted by J. Skerlić, in the volume Vojislav Ilić (Belgrade 1966), p. 247.


24. Milorad Pavić in his introduction to Vojislav Ilić, p. 12 ; also in Poezija od Vojislava do Bojića, series "Srpska književnost u književnoj kritici", VI, (Belgrade, 1966), p. 53-59.


25. In the poem, Cleon's disciple complains : "What a terrible thought : to consider all I see and hear / As a symbol, a thing that means something different."







To nisu čiste sile,

No moje nemirne duše neopevani jad.


Like the modernists, he identifies himself with nature (in such poems as "Elegija na razvalinama kule Severove" and "Zapušteni istočnik"). He paints in a truly impressionistic way, often evoking melancholic and elegiac moods. But he was not, like some of his contemporaries, a transcendental or mystical poet.


Thus Vojislav, who passed through at least four main periods of European literary style in a creative period of less than fifteen years, is a unique phenomenon in South Slavic literature. One of the important aspects of Ilić's activity was, as in the case of modernism elsewhere, the attention he drew to the form and technique of poetic creation. In this respect the Serbians still had very much to learn. In the nineties a true "Vojislavism" reigned among young Serbian poets; [26] he was proclaimed the greatest Serbian poet, or, as the modernist Jovan Dučić put it later: "Even if Vojislav did not succeed in becoming our greatest poet, he is certainly our most beautiful poet." [27]


Ilić thought highly of the poet as a visionary, an individualistic, aristocratic personality who has the elevated task of looking for and singing the praise of beauty ("Smrt Periklova", "Pa šta me se tiče njihovo veselje?", "Dva pesnika", "Pesnik"). This esthetic exclusivism did not prevent him from being at times politically engaged ("Kralj Ricardo", obviously aimed at king Milan), patriotic ("Domovini"), and panslavistic ("Slovensko zvono"). There is a contradiction between this panslavism and the fact that he voluntarily took part in the Serbo-Bulgarian war of 1885.


Most important is his role as a transmitter of western poetic patterns, themes and thought — even though the only foreign language he knew was Russian; but in that language he read not only Žukovskij, Puškin and Lermontov, but also Marlowe, Byron and several other English poets from the 18th and early 19th century. Remarkable, likewise is the fact that Ilić used classical motifs, images, forms etc. not under the influence of his study of the classics, not even from reading them in Serbian translations, but via the abundant classical references he found in poets like Žukovskij and Puškin.


Aleksa Šantić (1868-1924), who lived most of his life in the Herce-



26. Ilić also exercised a certain influence upon Croatian poets like S. S. Kranjčević and V. Nazor; cf. Ante Petravić's essay in the volume Vojislav Ilić, p. 323.


27. Jovan Ducić, "Spomenik Vojislavu", in Delo (1902), reprinted in the volume Vojislav Ilić, p. 182.





govinian capital Mostar, published his first verse in 1887, and at the turn of the century, with his collections of 1891, 1895, 1901 and 1908, became one of the most popular Serbian poets. He, too, studied Heine, and translated his works and those of other German poets. Though older than the true Serbian modernists, he partially belongs to them. A poem like his "Noć" (1906), written in the sonnet form (which Vojislav Ilić had rarely used), is very much a modernist poem with its ominous tone, its dreary, frightening resources (night, wind, lightning, a seething ocean), the presentation of a hopeless struggle of man against inexorable fate. A somber tone, complaints of loneliness, and melancholic memories are the main characteristics of his well-known longer poem "Predprazničko veče". One of his recurrent themes is the transitoriness of youth. But Šantić had other themes and topics as well : a good deal of his poems are patriotic.


Widely open to French influences, much more than to German ones like in the case of Šantić, were Jovan Dučić (1874-1943) and Milan Rakić (1876-1938), usually regarded as the main representatives of modernism in Serbia. Dučić has been accused of plagiarism and of producing banal verse, Kitsch. Although some of his poems, however, evince a certain snobbery and false sentimentalism, and some show resemblances to poems by French poets (Baudelaire, Sully-Prudhomme, Albert Samain, José Maria de Heredia), he nevertheless has enough originality and genuine poetic talent to deserve a prominent place in this "golden era" of Serbian poetry. In his twelve-syllable verse (alexandrines), with high technical perfection, he wrote about beauty, about strong emotions and longings, striving, in the spirit of symbolism, after a fusion of the author and his object. This fusion should take place in love lyrics, too; the modernist, therefore, does not describe his beloved as a concrete person, does not talk about her or to her, but is rather preoccupied with his (more or less abstract) love, his own sufferings and longings.


Dučić considered a poet great "only when he will tell great truths about the three greatest and most fatal motifs of life and art: about God, Love, and Death." [28] There are, however, few great truths in Dučić's own work, in a philosophical sense. He wrote beautiful meditative verse and nature evocations (in which he is more often than not objective, leaving his ego out of the picture; cf. cycles like "Jutarnje pesme" and "Sunčane pesme"). There is no doubt that Dučić gave Serbian poetry a new, modern spirit and tone.



28. Quoted by Zoran Gavrilović, "Jovan Dučić", in the volume Poezija od Vojislava do Bojića, p. 170.





Milan Rakić published in total about fifty poems, the first one in 1902. Like Dučić, he spent years in Paris and was imbued with French poetry and literary theory. However, regardless of these influences, the traces of Verlaine, Samain, Jammes, Théophile Gautier, Leconte de Lisle and others, his well constructed and disciplined (likewise 11- and 12-syllable) lines show originality and a peculiar beauty. He was a master of versification and enriched the poetic language; but his scale of ideas, colors, ways of expression, and emotions are limited and give the impression of a certain monotony.


Without speaking of Mileta Jakšić, Milorad M. Petrović, Kosta Abrašević, Stevan Luković, Milan Curčin, Dušan Srezojević and other contemporaries, I can spend only a few sentences on such interesting poets as Vladimir Petković-Dis (1880-1917) and Sima Pandurović (1883-1960). The first, author of a small number of poems only, many of which show an inferior expressive technique and even contain numerous grammatical errors, left a number of sublime, usually deeply pessimistic poems (cf. his volume Utopljene duše). His desperate pessimism and strong preoccupation with death were so much out of tune with the general atmosphere in Serbia and with the ideas of the leading literary critics, particularly Jovan Skerlić, that the bohémien Dis antagonized almost the entire literary world of Belgrade. It is noteworthy that an unmistakable similarity with Baudelaire in themes, requisites and images has been established, [29] though Dis apparently did not read him and did not even know French.


Dis, with his poetry of suggestions, subtle sensations, vague feelings and irrational dreams, started a new trend in Serbian modernism and found followers among the poets after the World War I.


His friend Pandurović, a more prolific author in various fields, was also "a poet of death", but is closer to Rakić in his lack of vagueness, his rational attitude. His almost cynical celebration of death, depravity, the madhouse, was accepted and admired by a certain group of artists and intellectuals, and Skerlić expressed his apprehension of "A Literary Infection", which is the title of his review of Pandurović's first volume of poetry (Posmrtne poćasti, 1908).


It is somewhat hard to realize that all these individualistic, asocial poets: Dučić, Rakić, Petković-Dis, Pandurović, nevertheless also wrote patriotic verse. This is easier to understand in the case of Milutin Bojić (1892-1917), poet of passion and exaltation ("Himna pokolenja" and



29.  Cf. Velibor Gligorić, "Vladimir Petković Dis", Poezija od Vojislave do Bojića, p. 328; Miodrag Pavlović, "Vladimir Petković Dis", ibid., p. 338.





others) and Veljko Petrović (1884-1968) (Rodoljubive pesme, 1912), who is much more socially minded, at times even didactic, more optimistic and, in his later work, returns to the folk decasyllable, to the earth and the countryside. Although in his case there is no question of strong and direct ties with French or German modernists, his poetry, partly in 'free verse', shows definite symbolistic features (cf. "Robovi na galiji", "Stope", "Repatica" and others).


Among the Young Bosnians, the most prominent and gifted poet was Miloš Vidaković, propagandist of blank and free verse, but at the same time author of a collection of gracious sonnets (Carski soneti), with strong French modernist influences and leanings (he translated Maeterlinck's Blue Bird, Bergson, Anatole France, etc.).



Even more so than in Serbia, the new symbolist movement was grafted in Bulgaria upon a literary stem that was still young and meager; it was not a vehement reaction against preceding schools that had outlived themselves, but a first and quite radical widening of horizons, a first intimate acquaintance with what was going on in the international contemporary world of art, thought and literature.


There had not, here, been a succession of baroque, classicism, senti-mentalism, romanticism, realism, which the modernists would offset, which would fecundate and at the same time repel them and would urge them to seek new directions. Almost all that existed in Bulgarian poetry prior to the modernists can be summarized in one name: Christo Botev (1848-1876), the inspired bard of national life, national consciousness and national struggle for freedom, who perished in that struggle at an early age. If with anything, he has to be connected with the romantic school in poetry.


A most important and rich source of inspiration was, of course, folk literature. As elsewhere in the South Slavic lands, it was this peculiar blending of folklore elements, romantic reminiscences and new ways of feeling, thinking and expression stimulated by (or copied from) foreign models that gave the moderna its special character. In Bulgaria, too, the movement was carried by a few very gifted poets and brought national poetic expression on a European level, enriching the literary language, poetic vocabulary, thematics and forms. This does not mean that the formal aspect of poetry underwent a revolutionary change during the modernist period. Most South Slavic modernists adhered to the syllabotonic verse meters that were traditional in European versification, largely under German and Russian influence, although they occasionally





used syllabic meters, mostly following the folk-song patterns, and only rarely the model of French and Italian syllabic verse.


Unlike the Russian symbolists whom they so admired, the South Slavic poets clung to the classical perfect rhyme system. Only after World War I did Bulgarian poets, almost without an exception, change to imperfect, assonance rhyme as it was introduced by some of the Russian symbolists and made into a system by Majakovskij et al. [30] Among the other South Slavs, imperfect rhyme never took root. Different explanations of this phenomenon are possible, one of them being the fact that rhyme, which, as a rule, was absent from folk poetry, had no long, strong tradition among the South Slavs and was not time-worn, as in the West (where it was superseded by blank verse in modern poetry) or in Russia.


Another trait that Bulgarian modernism has in common with simultaneous movements elsewhere among the South Slavs is the fact that it did not rise suddenly, but was preceded by a transitory stage, or rather by one man of outstanding personality and talent who, older and more closely connected with the preceding (romantic and/or realist) school, showed traits of the new trend, foreboding it, as it were, and paved the way for the full-fledged modernists. In Slovenia, this role was played by Anton Aškerc; in Croatia, by Silvije S. Kranjčević; in Serbia, by Vojislav Ilić. In Bulgaria Penčo Petkov Slavejkov (1866-1912) had a similar function. There were a few other earlier poets who likewise had some traits in common with the generation born in the '70s and '80s and form a transition to modernism/symbolism, like Ivan Vazov (1850-1921), much more famous as a novelist, Konstantin Veličkov (1855-1907), Stojan Mixajlovski (1856-1927), and Canko Bakalov-Cerkovski (1869-1926).


However, Slavejkov was more important and influential as a poet than any of them, and was considered by a whole group of poets, gathered around predominantly modernist magazines like Misŭl (1892-1908) and Zlatorog (from 1910 on), as their teacher. He visited Paris and Vienna as a young man (not for study, but for medical treatment); he lived for many years in Leipzig and became well acquainted with European culture through German channels; moreover, he studied Russian literature. As a young man he, too, got to know Heine from Russian translations; later, in Leipzig, he wrote his dissertation on "Heine and Russian Literature".


Slavejkov gave Bulgarian poetry, which up to his time had been rather limited in scope, genres, subject matter, poetic vocabulary and style, a



30. Cf. T. Eekman, "Rifma v poèzii slavjanskix narodov", in American Contributions to the Sixth International Congress of Slavists, II (The Hague, 1968).





much more profound and varied character. His verse and his world-outlook bear a certain imprint of various European writers: of Goethe, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Stirner, Volkelt — of Puškin, Lermontov, Tolstoj — of Tennyson and Burns. Heine's hypochondria is reflected in Slavejkov's first collection of verse, Momini sŭlzi (1888), and in his Soneti (1890). This shows that a spirit of despondence and pessimism was not necessarily generated by or imitated from foreign modernists or decadents, whom Slavejkov did not know yet, but could arise without their direct influence. Upon Vojislav Ilić, for example, Heine did not act in a pessimistic way!


With Epičeski pesni (1896-1898) Slavejkov for the first time introduced in Bulgarian literature international problems and figures (Beethoven, Michelangelo, Shelley, the German poet Lenau and the Greek antique woman Fryne are among the heroes of his epic poems). Like Šantić in Serbia, he compiled, translated and published a collection of German poetry (Nemski poeti). There is a certain impressionism in his lyrical poetry, and he paid attention to questions of form and composition, cultivating exquisite verse and musical language, like the modernists, but unlike most preceding poets; he showed for Bulgarian literature "that it is necessary not only to sing, to improvise, but also to create". [31] Slavejkov is an example of a poet who, without himself going through the school of Baudelaire, Verlaine, Dehmel or Blok, felt and created in a similar spirit (a poem like "Simfonija na beznadežnostta" evinces a profound, philosophically thought-out pessimism) and thus contributed to making the mind receptive to symbolist themes, phrases, and moods.


Kiril Xristov (1875-1944) is one of Bulgaria's most cosmopolitan poets (he studied, lived, traveled in various Western countries, knew several literatures and translated many works from them), who chronologically belongs to the modernist period, but his work is only partly connected with this movement. He showed himself as an anacreontic, hedonistic lyricist (Pesni i vuzdiški, 1896; Trepeti, 1897; Večerni senki, 1899: volumes with a partly erotic content, which made him extremely popular). He also wrote socially and nationally engaged poetry, even chauvinistic verse during World War I (Kŭm Carigrad, Na nož, Pobedni pesni). And he was the author of the first Bulgarian drama in verse ("Bojan Magesnikŭt", 1914). But at least during a certain period in his life he was drawn towards the international trends of symbolism, decadence and spiritualism, as is evidenced by his volumes Slŭncogledi (1910) and



31. Cf. Boris Jacov, "Penčo Slavejkov", in Bŭlgarski pisateli, ed. M. Arnaudov, vol. V (Sofia, n.d.), p. 54 and 87.





Himni na zorata (191l). [32] He was an excellent versificator, his poems have a strong and regular rhythm and perfect rhyme, sometimes also inner rhyme.


Cvetan Minkov writes about Xristov's modernism :


Under the influence of the symbolistic wave, by which so many were carried away, Kiril Xristov wanted to try his forces in that field. But to do so he lacked not only the adequate literary training, but also the temperament. Symbolism requires a more complicated mental organization, a mystical feeling of the world and of things, an immediate communication with the secrets of the universe. Symbolism presupposes a universal world outlook, an inner affinity (not one that is stimulated by reading and imposed by the will) to the elusive enigma of existence. Therefore Bulgarian symbolism, which, generally speaking, was organically alien to the Bulgarian's intellectual make-up, to the stage of his cultural evolution, was unsuccessful, did not produce big names, did not leave permanent traces in our literature. The cycles "Intermezzo", "Carski soneti", "Igra nad bezdni" are just an interesting episode in the poet's lyrical production, without any special significance for his own development. They labor under speculation, bookish symbolism and a forced mysticism. [33]


Minkov is probably too negative in his evaluation of symbolism in Bulgaria; on the other hand, his words do apply to many South Slavic poets, not only to Xristov.


More intimately connected with the modernist movement was Pejo K. Javorov (pseudonym of P. K. Kračolov, 1878-1914), who was one of the first, and one of a numerous group of Bulgarian poets who were carried away by the new wave, as Minkov described it, originating from France, Germany and Russia. Initially Javorov showed compassion and love for the poor and oppressed in his verse, a social interest which was not at all typical of the modernists. His symbolist passion started about 1903, when he began to write impressionist poems, the tone of which was adapted to their theme. He introduced free verse in Bulgarian poetry (Stojan Mixajlovski had written a few poems without a division in stanza's, but far less frequently and consistently). Many of his poems belong in their thematic structure to the frequent modernist pattern of a) nature-evocation (usually gloomy or eery : night, fall or winter, rain, etc.); and b) the ensuing transition to the parallel inner situation of the author, which, consequently, usually means: feelings of frustration,



32. Poems like "Samotno dŭrvo" and "Okoto na planinata" have a definite symbolistic meaning. "Letna nošt", for example, is a perfect nature poem, anthropomorphic and impressionistic.


33. Cvetan Minkov, "Kiril Xristov", in Bŭlgarski pisateli, ed. M. Arnaudov, vol. VI (Sofia, n.d.), p. 41-42.





unhappiness, inner tortures ("Dve duši"), weariness of life, despair. [34] Sometimes the scenery described in Javorov's lyrics is so dreary and grey that it creates the impression of a moon landscape. Everything is related to the emotional world of the poet ("There is no evil, no suffering, no life outside of my heart", he says in the poem "Pesen na pesenta mi").


In the case of Javorov his depression was so real and so much connected with tragic personal circumstances that he, after a first unsuccessful attempt, committed suicide. It is indicative of the dominant role that Russian literature played in Bulgaria that Javorov, who certainly was acquainted with and influenced by French and German symbolism, was much more impressed by some Russian poets, especially by Lermontov, whose personality, as it expressed itself in his lyrics and his long poem Demon, appealed strongly to the Bulgarian. Javorov became acquainted with Russian literature at an early age; he, too, knew Heine from Russian translations.


Trifon Kunev (1880-1954), Teodor Trajanov (1882-1945), Nikolaj Liliev (1885-), Emanuel Popdimitrov (1887-1943), Dimčo Debeljanov (1887-1916), and Xristo Jasenov (1889-1925) are other prominent representatives of the modernist movement in Bulgaria. It would take too much space to discuss all of them here, and it is not strictly necessary to do so for our purpose, because they have many traits in common — traits that have been mentioned above. They were all predominantly lyricists; they all underwent to some degree the European modernist influences we indicated before; and this inevitably causes some monotony, some limitation in their style, themes and moods. [35] If Popdimitrov, in a blank verse poem, "Obožestvjavane", declares :


I am singing

of you, clouds,

azure and pink,

you golden sun,

pale moon and pure stars,

I am singing of you in a way

no poet has sung of you.



34. For instance, "Ugasna slŭnce", "Videnija", "Srednošten vichŭr", and others.


35. Georgi Canev, in his study "Poezijata na Nikolaj Liliev" (In Pisateli i problemi, Sofia, 1965, p. 321) says of Liliev that "his poetry is the highest and most direct expression of those moods and feelings which were introduced in our literature by symbolism after Javorov". Liliev's poetry, Canev remarks, "sounds like the crying of a lost child" (p. 314). The tone of his poems, therefore, is very much in accordance with that of international modernist poetry. The combination of modernist motifs and elements of folk poetry is exemplified by the works of Trifon Kunev: as P. Zarev points out in his Panorama na bŭlgarskata literatura, vol. I, 2 (Sofia, 1967), p. 458, in some of this poems "national folkloristic traditions are way with the melancholic evening atmosphere of the symbolic poet".





he has to be corrected: many poets sang in a more original way than he did, at least in this poem.


It is sometimes hard to tell which modernist is the author of one of these poems that give utterance to 'world-wide grief. One poet may have read Verlaine and François Jammes more eagerly, another Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, or Bal'mont and Sologub, but a similar spirit pervades them all. Of course, taken as a whole, the oeuvre of each of the poets mentioned above evinces a distinct personality; modernism inspired them often only temporarily, later on they would evolve in a direction of their own (unless they would die very prematurely: Javorov was only 36 when he took his life, Debeljanov was killed on the battlefield when he was 29).


In recent Bulgarian literary historiography and criticism the movement and its adherents are not favorably looked upon, for some time they were even proscribed, but during the last years editions of their complete or at least selected works and critical studies have been published ; only in rare cases has the ban not been completely lifted (T. Trajanov). The modernists are blamed for their lack of interest in social and political issues, their disdainful attitude towards the tradition of realism and radicalism. [36] But most of the modernist poets produced some political or even revolutionary, and at any rate some patriotic verse, which modern literary historians are quick to emphasize : Javorov became a member of the Social Democratic Party in 1892, fought in Macedonia, and was for some time the editor of a communist satirical magazine, Červen smjax. Popdimitrov wrote about or addressed the people ("Narod", "Černozem", "Vŭglekopi" and others). Liliev showed his patriotism in poems like "Rodina", "Kŭm rodinata" (the latter poem finishing with an appeal not to give up the Vardar river!).


In Bulgaria, as in the other South Slavic countries, most modernist poets stuck to the traditional meters and rhyme schemes and were no great innovators with respect to versification. Imperfect rhyme, no doubt under Russian influence, becomes frequent only after 1912. Debeljanov has rhymes like zamine : gradini, zabranèn e : plenni, nevolen : Solun, dnes :



36. I. Radoslavov, main critic in the modernist camp, wrote in 1914: "Realism has created an esthetics that has nothing in common with creativity", an opinion which is, of course, at complete variance with those of modem Bulgarian critics (quoted by D. F. Markov, Bŭlgarskata poezija prez pŭrvata četvurt na XX vek, translated from the Russian, Sofia. 1961, p. 32.)





čest, Bŭlgaranov: prodrano, all in the even lines (there are even more cases in the odd lines, in which rhyme incongruence is less conspicuous).


Special attention and care for the technical, formal aspect of their verse is what characterizes all these poets. This has undoubtedly been of great importance for the further development of Bulgarian poetry and poetical language. The poets of the late 19th and early 20th century in Bulgaria combined the functions which poets of different subsequent schools and periods had in other countries. Like lyrics in Russia in the early 19th century, lyrical poetry in Bulgaria suddenly bore an amazing richness of fruits during the period we have discussed here, and the term "golden age" could be applied to this period (about 1890-1920) in Bulgaria as much as it has been applied in Serbia.


Summing up our conclusions seems to be superfluous, since this would be a repetition of statements we have made throughout this paper. Much more detailed work could and should be done to establish similarities in particular cases; comparative research into the common traits or common ways of further development in the poetry of the South Slavic peoples (from 1920 to the present) [37] may provide interesting and rewarding results.



37. On Serbian-French contacts in the period of surrealism after World War I cf. H. Kapidžić-Osmanagić, Srpski nadrealizam I njegovi odnosi sa francuskim nadrealizmom (Sarajevo, 1965).


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