Zmai Iovan Iovanovich - The Chief Servian Poet

Tuesday, May 1, 1894
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Century Magazine May 1894 ZMAI IOVAN IOVANOVICH. THE CHIEF SIERVIAN POET. 3% "TS ARDLY is there anation which 3 g_ has niet \vitl\ a saddcr fate than ? (" ~ the Servian. Iirom the height ` ' of its splendor, when the em- - gif, pire embraced almost the en- §”i1£` tire northern part ofthe Balkan peninsula and a large portion of the territory now belonging to Austria, the Servian nation was plunged into abject slavery, after the fatal battle o|'1389attl1e Kosovo l‘olje,:1g:1inst the overwhelming Asiatic hordes. Europe can never repay tl1e great debt it owes to the Ser- vians for checking, by the sacritiee of their own liberty, the liarbarian influx. The I’oles at Vi- enna, under Sobieski, finished what the Ser- vians attempted, and were similarly rewarded for their service to civilization. It was at the Kosovo Polje that Milosh Obi- lich, the noblest of Servian heroes, fell, after killing the snltan Murat lI. in the very midst of his great army. Were it not that it is zt histori- cal fact, one would be apt to consider this epi- sode a myth, evolved by contact with the Latin and Greek races. For in Milosh We see both Mucius and Leonidas, and, more than this, a martyr, for he does not die an easy death on the battle-field like the Greek, but pays for his dar- ing deed \vith a death of fearful torture. It is not astonishing that the poetry of a nation capable of producing such heroes should he pervaded with a spirit ot' nobility and chivalry. liven the indomitable Marko Kraljcvich, the later incarnation 0t`Servian heroism, when van- quishing Musa, the Moslem chief, exclaims, “ Woe unto ine, Ihr l have killed a better man than myself!" From that fatal battle until a recent period, it has been black night forthe Servians, with but a single star in the tirmament- Montenegro. In this gloom there was no hope for science, commerce, art, or industry. What could they do, this brave people, save to keep up the weary tight against the oppressor P And this they did unceasingly, though the odds were twenty to one. Yet fighting merely satished their \vildcr instincts. There was one more thing they could do, and did: the noble feats of their ancestors, the brave deeds ofthose who fell in the struggle for liberty, they embodied in immortal song. Thus circumstances and innate qualities made the Servians a nation of thinkers and poets, and thus, gradually, were evolved their magnificent national poems, which were first collected by m - fsitwl xgu their most prolitic writer, Vuk Stehnovich ka- rajich, who also compiled the tirst dictionary of the Servian tongue, containing more than 6o,ooo words. These national poems Goethe considered tit to match the tinest productions of the Greeks and Romans. What would he have thought of them had he been a Servian? While the Servians have been distinguished in national poetry, they have also had many imlividnztl poets \vho attained greatness. Of contemporaries, there is none who has grown so dear to the younger generation as Zmai Iovan Iovanovich. He was born in Novi Sad (Ncusatz), a city at the southern border of Hungary,on November 24, 1833. He comes from an old and noble family, which is related to the Servian royal house. In his earliest child- hood he showed a great desire to learn by heart the Scrvian national songs \vl1ich were recited to l\i|n, and even as a child he began to compose poems. His father, who was a highly cultivated and wealthy gentleman, gave him his hrst education in his native city. Al'- ter this he \vent to Budapest, Prague, and Vi- enna, and in these cities he finished his studies in law. This was the wish of his father, but his own inclinations prompted him to take up the study ofmedicine. He then returned to his na- tive city, where a prominent official position was oliered him, which he accepted, but so strong were his poetical instincts that a year later he abandoned the post to devote himself entirely to literary work. His literary career began in 1'849, his first poem lu-ing printed in 1852, in a journal called “Srlwski I.ctopis"(“Servi:\n Annual Revicw"); to this, and to otherjournals, notably “ Neven" and " Sedmica," he contributed his early pro- ductions. From that period until 187o,besides his original poems, he made many beautiful translations from Petefy and Arany, the two greatest ofthe Hungarian poets, and from the Russian of Lemiontof, as well as from Ger- man and other poets. In 1861 he edited the coniicjonrnal, “ Komarac ” ( “The Mosquito”), and in the same year he started the literary jour- nal, “_l avor," and to these papers he contributed many beautiful poems. Ile had married in 1861, and during the few happy years that fol- lowed he produced his admirable series of lyrical poems called “ Giulichi," which proba- bly remain his masterpiece. In 1862, greatly to his regret, he discontinued his beloved jour-

PARAPHRASES FRO/II YYIE SERV]/Ill( I]l nal, “]avor"-a sacrifice which \vas asked of him by the great Servian patriot, Miletich, who was then active on a political journal, in order to insure the success of the latter. In 1863 he was elected director of an edu- cational institution, called the 'l`ekelianum,at Budapest. He now arclently renewed the study of medicine at the university, and took the de~ gree of doctor of medicine. Meanwhile he did not relax his literary labors. Yet, for his co\tn~ trymen, more valuable even than his splendid productions were his noble and unseltish eflorts to nourish the enthusiastn of Servian youth. During his stay in Budapest he founded the literary society Preodnica, of which he \V(1S president, and to which he devoted a large por- limi nf his energies. ln 1864 he started his liuiunts snli1it';||ju\||'- nal, “Zrnai" (“'l`he l)ragun”), which was so popular that the name became a part of his own. In 1866 his comic play “ Sharan ” was given \vith great success. In 1872 he had the great pain of losing his wife and, shortly after, his only cltild. How much these misfortunes affected him is plainly perceptible from the deeply sad tone of the poems which imme- diately followed. In 1873 he started another comic joumal, the “Ziza." During the year 1877 he began an illustrated chronicle of the Russo-Turkish war, and in 1878 appeared his popular comicjournal, “ Starmaii.” During all this period, he wrote not only poems, but much prose, including short novels, often under an assumed name. The best of these is probably “ Vidosava Brankovicheva." In recent years he has published 21 great many charming little poems Iiir children. Since 1870 Zmai has pursued his profession ns a pltysician. Ile is an earnest advocate of tzremation, and has devoted much time to the furtheratiee of that cause. Until recently hc was a resident of Vienna, but now he is domi- ciled in Belgrade. There he lives the life ofa trite poet, loving all and beloved by everybody. In recognition of his merit, the nation has voted him a snbvention. 'l`he poems ofZmai are so essentially Servian that lu tranrdate them into another tongue ap- peaus nest t¢|i|tt|1ussil|lt'. In ltvi-n satire fn-t: from Voltairiun venom, in good-lte;tt'tetl and spontaneous humor, in delicacy and depth of expression, they are remarkable. Mr. johnson has undertaken the task of versifying a few of the shorter ones after my literal and inadequate readings. Close translation being often out of the question, he has had to paraphrase, follow- ing :ts nearly as possible the original motives and ideas. ln some instances he has expanded in order to complete a picture or to add atouch of his own. The fourpoems \vl1icl1 follow \vill give some idea ofthe versatility of the Servian poet, but come far short of indicating his range. Nikola Ds/a PARAPHRASES' FROM 'I`l'Il£ Sl£RVIAN.‘ AFTER ZMAI IOVAN IOVANOVICII. THE THREE GIAOURS. IN the midst ofthe dark and stoitny night Feruz Pnchu awukes in fright, And springs from out his eurlained hed. The candle tremhles as though it read Upon his pallid face the thenie And terror ol' his nightly dreuni. llc calls to his startled favorite: “'l`he keys! the keys ofthe dungeon pit! Cannot those cursed Giaours stay 'l`|\ere in their own dark, rotting away, Where I gave them leave three ye.\rs ago? llad I but buried their bones! - hut, no! They come at midnight to clutter and creep, And haunt and threaten me in my sleep." “ Pacha, wait till the morning light! Do not go do\vn that fearful flight Where every step is a dead n\an’s moan! ruttin t.».“ma-mv will waiter ein. tune l\11t|l|tl1yi|\lut~|), |.\~1 the titatiins lit-we ll' thy hed lu: wuitn." - “ Nay, give me the keys. Girl,y<'>\.1 talk like a urinkled datne 'l`hat shudders at whisper ofa nante. \\’|ten they were living, their curses tnude A tliuttsnntl cowards: was l afraid P Now they are dead, shall my fear begin \Vitl1 the Giaour‘s curse, or the skeleton’s grin? No, I tnnst see theni face to face In the very tnidsl of their dwelling-place; And ask what need they have oftne That they call iny name eternally.” As groping along to the stair he goes 'l`he light ofthe shaking candle shows A litre ure A white stat natal me; liut if this he fear, it is fear to stay, I-'or something urges l\in\ on his way- 'l`hough the steps are cold and tl\e echoes mock- 'l`ill tlte rigltt ltey screams in the rusted lock. Ugh! what a blast from tl\e dungeon dank ! - Front the place where llunger and Death were wed ' Wht-nce even the snakes hy instinct fled, \’\'hilt~ Ihr- vriy li/:\|'|l~»r'|n|t\'l1\-il and sh|’:\|tl< ltintlilllnltt-\1u|'. ' I' is iulty |:||u'lt, » |Copyright, raw, hy uuitea uttuet-want Jetmsatt, Att fights martial.