Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse/Literary Notes

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LITERARY NOTES

 

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Asnyk, Adam (1838–1897). Polish poet, the pessimism of whose early work, issued under the pseudonym El…y, became modified by the contemplation of nature, and ended on a note of complete reconciliation. He was also the author of historical plays and, more effectively, of comedies, but his importance lies chiefly in the perfection of form and harmony of style which distinguish his lyric verses.208

Aškerc,[1] Anton (1856–1912). Slovene poet, whose best work consists of ballads and romances, in which, without attempting any innovations of language, he contrives to write pleasant and effective verse. In Slovene literature his poetry finds a place midway between the classical diction of Prešern and the more modern achievements of such a poet as Župančič.313

Balmont, Konstantin Dmitryevitch (b. 1867). Russian poet, whose lyrical diction is remarkable for its eminently musical qualities. Balmont, as he himself proudly announces in "My Songcraft," has enriched the Russian language with new musical and rhythmical devices. His work as a translator is extensive—it includes Russian versions of Shelley and Whitman—but rather unequal in quality. Balmont has exerted a great influence on the development of modern Russian poetry.191

Bezruč,[2] Petr (pseudonym, according to "Ceská Lyra," of Vladimír Vašek, b. 1867). Czech poet, whose "Silesian Songs" contain some of the most powerful verses in the whole of Slavonic literature. In this one small volume, Bezruč has uttered the swan-song of the Silesian Czechs, whose numbers ("The Seventy Thousand") are rapidly diminishing through the encroachment of surrounding nationalities. Several of these poems are of local interest and are strongly coloured with dialect. But about half a dozen of them attain such a degree of tragic utterance, that the rugged and spontaneous language remains effective even in translation. Bezruč has, in fact, written revolutionary rhapsodies, whose blend of inspired ferocity and pathos is entirely free from empty rhetoric.222

Březina,[3] Otakar (pseudonym for Václav Jebavý, b. 1868). Czech poet, whose five small volumes represent the inner development of a spirit, searching, often tragically, for a solution of life's riddle. Březina's first volume, "The Secret Distances," issued in 1895, may be associated with the decadent movement (using the epithet in its widest meaning) which had affected Czech literature about that period. But his later books show him to be independent of contemporary influences. In these works he has elaborated a poetical philosophy, for which his unique style, with its wealth of imagery, mystical atmosphere and singular beauty of language, has proved a most fitting medium of expression. At the fame time, its transcendental subject-matter often renders Březina's poetry obscure to all but the most disciplined of readers.232

Bryusov, Valery Yakovlevitch (b. 1873). Russian poet, whose work has been strongly influenced by the French symbolists and also by Verhaeren. He has made numerous translations from both these sources. The polished and deliberate workmanship of his poems offers a contrast and a counterpoise to the impulsive and spontaneous lyricism of Balmont.194

Chekhov, Anton Pavlovitch (1860–1904). Chekhov's work as a novelist and playwright is so well-known, that it is hardly necessary to characterise it here. In the humorous and satirical sketch, of which a specimen is given in this collection, Chekhov is perhaps less typically Russian than in his more serious writings, but it is in this lighter medium that the general reader will best appreciate his literary qualities.3

Dučić,[4] Jovan (b. 1874}. Serbian poet, whose artistic style has been influenced by the French parnassians and symbolists. The perfection of form which he has derived from these sources, combined with his individual temperament, has endowed his verses with a delicate elegiac charm and subtlety of atmosphere.287

Gomulicki,[5] Wiktor (b. 1851). Polish poet and novelist. His writings, both in prose and verse, are admirable examples of elegant style and well-balanced composition. Although his subject-matter is derived mainly from various aspects of life in Warsaw, he has also dealt with the Polish peasant in a number of effective sketches.71

Gorodetsky,[6] Sergey. A prominent disciple of Vyatcheslav Ivanov (q. v.). He has re-animated popular legends in language whose primitive character has strong pagan and barbaric qualities. This poetry, which because of these features is hardly to be translated, represents the Russian spirit in its pure Slavonic aspect, without Byzantine and other admixtures.196

Hippius, Zinaida Nikolayevna (b. 1870). Russian poetess, the wife of Merezhkovsky. In addition to her verses, which are distinguished by a rather obtrusive modernity and leanings towards the metaphysical, she has written fiction and literary criticism. Her work, both in prose and verse, is pervaded by a nervous and restless atmosphere.199

Ilić,[7] Vojislav (1862–1894). Serbian poet, a designation which he shares with his father Jovan, and his brothers Milutin and Dragutin. His chief merit lies in precision of form, derived largely from a study of the Russian romantic poets. In his choice of subject-matter and also in his rhythmical imitation of the hexameter he shows a fondness for classical antiquity. His poetical style, which aroused much admiration among his contemporaries, has been surpassed by the more subtle methods of such poets as Dučić and Stefanović.288

Ivanov,[8] Vyatcheslav Ivanovitch (b. 1866). Russian poet, who has distinguished himself by the technical qualities of his verse, the individual diction of his language and the originality of his ideas. His poetry, sometimes liturgical in tone, has been associated with the term "realistic symbolism." It is natural that such a personality as Ivanov, in whom are combined the poet, the scholar and the philosopher, should achieve a style, which, in spite of occasional obscurity, always has the charm of polished workmanship.197

Karásek ze Lvovic,[9] J. (b. 1871). Czech poet of pronounced decadent tendencies. His pose of aristocratic aloofness, perhaps not unconnected with the study of Pater and Wilde, has led him to a cult of style whose effects are to be traced in many coldly beautiful verses. Whether his cravings for the morbid and perverse are sincere, is a matter which lies outside the range of literature.244

Kasprowicz,[10] Jan (b. 1860). Polish poet of very strong racial individuality. His peasant origin accounts for the democratic tendencies of his work, but he has also written nature poems of great beauty. In addition to his original poetry, he is the author of translations from various European literatures. Amongst these are to be found renderings from Shakespeare, Browning and Swinburne.209

Klášterský,[11] Antonín (b. 1866). Czech poet and disciple of Vrchlický (q. v.). He is a great admirer of English verse and has translated (to name only a few) Byron and Longfellow, together with Elisabeth Barrett-Browning's "Sonnets from the Portuguese" and the complete poems of Oscar Wilde. Among his numerous volumes of original poetry, the most conspicuous is the collection of "Ironical Sicilian Octaves," which with their delicate but unsparing malice, contain some of the best modern Slavonic satire.248

Konopnicka,[12] Marya (1846–1912). Polish poetess, whose verses reveal a deep sympathy with oppression and suffering. She has also written excellent literary criticism, sketches of travel and numerous poetical translations, especially from the other Slavonic literatures.211

Kosor, Josip (b. 1879). Croatian poet, novelist and dramatist, four of whose plays, under the title, "People of the Universe," have already appeared in an English translation. His first collection of stories earned him the name of the Croatian Gorky. Kosor's work is marked by an impulsive energy which is not as yet sufficiently counterbalanced by a sense of form. In his plays, for example, the strength of the initial conception often suffers through this inability to maintain the central idea within its appropriate medium, and a curious blend of realism, symbolism and lyricism is the result. When he outgrows these defects, Kosor, who is of peasant origin and without literary training, will produce work of a very high order.291

Kostić,[13] Laza (1841–1910). Serbian poet of very marked individuality. He rendered the important service of introducing an accentual iambic rhythm into Serbian prosody, the basis of which is otherwise syllabic. Another of his innovations was free rhythm, a medium for which his energetic and rhetorical diction was peculiarly adapted. In addition to his poems, and a number of original dramas, he also produced translations from Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, King Lear and Richard III.). Kostić was the first Serbian poet who wrote in the Western manner.294

Machar, Jan Svatopluk (b. 1864). Czech author, whose work both in prose and verse, is of considerable interest. His early poems, included in the series "Confiteor," consist largely of sentimental lyric pieces which recall Byron, Heine and de Musset. In "Tristium Vindobona" and "Satiricon" he employs verse effectively for political satire, with strong radical and anti-clerical tendencies. His prose-works (in particular, the book "Rome") also contain much strongly polemical matter which has gained him numerous adherents, on the one hand, aroused great opposition on the other, and caused frequent anxiety to the Austrian censor. Among the Czechs themselves he has made many enemies by his liberal interpretation of the term "patriotism." Machar's most lasting poetical work is probably the series beginning with the volume "Golgotha," in which, following Vrchlický (who again was influenced by Victor Hugo's "Légende des Siècles") he set out to depict the most important events and personalities of history. The later volumes of the cycle however, show signs of haste, and the poetical style, never very subtle, is apt to become dry and mechanical.117, 251
Matavulj, Simo (1852–1908). Serbian novelist, a Dalmatian by birth, but with a close knowledge of all the Southern Slav regions. Hence, whether the scene of his stories is laid in Montenegro, on the Adriatic or in Belgrade, they are marked by the vivid reality which can he achieved only by one who is reproducing what he has constantly witnessed. Apart from their topographical interest, the stories of Matavulj have the merit of being written in a style whose leading qualities are ease and clearness.174

Merezhkovsky, Dmitri Sergeyevitch (b. 1865). Although Merezhkovsky is known in England as a novelist and critic, his first published work was a volume of poems, which were followed by others at a later date. Merezhkovsky's poetry is interesting, since it is that phase of his literary activity which, more than any other, reflects the image of his personality.10, 199


Minsky, Nicolai Maximovitch (pseudonym for N. Vilenkin, b. 1855). A Russian poet whose development covers a period of transition beginning with the influence of Nadson's rather shallow pathos and passing, after an interlude of symbolism, to rhetorical verses inspired by the revolution of 1905.200

Nazor, Vladimir (b. 1876). Croatian poet of the younger geveration. His sonnets and lyrical phantasies are full of a delicate charm and an admirable precision of form.296

Neruda, Jan (1834–1891). Czech author, whose varied activity both in prose and verse was of considerable importance. As a poet Neruda showed a width of range which up till his time had not been achieved in Czech literature. His ballads, his elegies, his patriotic poems, unite brilliant clarity of diction and directness of utterance. By his proseworks, Neruda has gained an almost unique reputation in his native country. His numerous feuilletons in "Národní Listy," the chief daily paper of Prague, became almost proverbial for their versatility and sparkling wit. He also wrote many sketches of travel and short stories, in which the homely humour is often similar to the style of Dickens.134

Novák, Arne. Czech literary historian and professor at the University of Prague. His numerous works of criticism, which already rank as authoritative, are distinguished by both erudition and insight.140

Preradović,[14] Petar (1818–1872). Croatian poet. Although his life was spent in the Austrian army, where he attained the rank of major-general, his verses reveal a deep attachment, not only to his own nation, but to all the Slavonic races. This tendency is strongly emphasised in his "Ode to Slavdom" (p. 300), one of the classical documents of Slavonic literature. As a contrast to the ornate rhetoric of this ode, Preradović wrote a number of delicate little poems in which he skilfully reproduced the spirit of Southern Slay folk-song.300

Prešern,[15] France. (1800–1849). The practical founder of modern Slovene literature. He rendered great services to the Slovene language which was still in the process of development, and introduced new metrical forms into Slovene poetry. His work consists of ballads, in which he took the German romantic poets as his model, sonnets, influenced in style and subject matter by Petrarch, and a lyric-epic poem, "The Baptism on the Savica." In spite of the derivative element in his verses, they are sufficiently marked by his own individuality to stamp them as the work of a national poet..319

Prus, Boleslaw (pseud. for Aleksander Glowacki, 1847–1912). Polish novelist. In such works as "The Emancipated" and "The Outpost" he deals with the problems of feminism and the position of the Polish peasant, thus preparing the ground for the younger generation of Polish novelists, who have treated similar subjects with more artistic finesse. His "Pharaoh" is a historical novel which has been compared with Flaubert's "Salambô." Prus is perhaps most successful in his short tales and sketches, whose kindly humour is well in keeping with the humane tendencies they pursue.

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Przybyszewski,[16] Stanislaw (b. 1868). Polish author, who has, however, written extensively also in German. His plays ("Snow," "The Golden Fleece," "The Guests"’) and novels ("Homo Sapiens," "Satan's Children") are strongly "modern" in tendency, and their psychological dissection of the human soul frequently encroaches on the pathological. His unbalanced and even hysterical style is doubtless a genuine manifestation of Przybyszewski's temperament. But this minutely analytical method is certainly effective when applied to the criticism of an artistic personality, as in his essay on Chopin (p. 88).88

Rakić,[17] Milan (b. 1876). Serbian poet, the patriotic and racial subject-matter of whose work is treated with admirable artistic finish. In his subjective lyric poetry a strongly elegiac and pessimistic tone prevails.308

Reymont, Wladyslaw Stanislaw (b. 1868). Polish novelist. After the short sketches which constitute his early work, he revealed great powers of style and composition in a series of longer novels. "The Promised Land" (2 vols.) depicts minutely the conditions prevailing in Lodz, the great manufacturing centre of Poland. In this novel, conceived and executed on a large scale, Reymont has created a remarkable gallery of the most diverse personalities. His greatest work, however, is probably "The Peasants" (4 vols.) a prose-epic dealing with the events of a single year in a Polish village. Reymont's powers of description, his detailed knowledge of Polish folk-lore and his masterly insight into human character have combined to produce a work which will remain one of the classics of Polish literature.111

Rydel, Lucyan (b. 1870). Polish poet and dramatist, much of whose lyric poetry is inspired by Polish folk-song. His historical drama, ‘"The Magic Circle," which achieved a great success, is a faithful depiction of popular manners and in its style is strongly coloured by the language of the peasants. On the other hand, Rydel has also written purely artistic verses in the manner of Verlaine, while in his mythological sonnets he attains highly decorative effects.212

Shevtchenko,[18] Taras (1814-1861). The greatest of Ukrainian poets. From his early years he was familiar with the rich store of Ukrainian folk-song, and it was from this source that he derived both the variety of his rhythms and the strength and purity of his language. In the easy unstudied directness of his poetry, Shevtchenko may be compared with Burns, whom he recalls also in the unhappy circumstances of his life, during which he suffered serfdom, imprisonment and persecution. Besides his poems and drawings, Shevtchenko also produced an autobiographical novel entitled "The Artist" 61, 204

Sologub,[19] Fyodor Kuzmitch (pseud. for Teternikov), b. 1868. The novels and short stories of Sologub are becoming familiar to English readers. His verses often present the same morbid qualities as his prose; but, as the examples in this anthology will show, neither the one nor the other is exclusively occupied with the darker aspects of the soul.25, 201

Sova, Antonín (b. 1864). Czech poet. If Březina's name is associated with symbolism, Machar's with realism, Sova may be credited with a mastery of impressionism. His early work consisted largely of descriptive and decorative poetry which records the effective observation of town and country scenes. In subsequent volumes Sova is concerned with the more complex matters which lie beneath the surface of life. These poems, in which Sova's subtle and exquisite lyrical style (a mean between Machar's rather prosaic directness and Březina's shadowy music) develops to a high degree of perfection, reveal the conflicts of a sensitive spirit with inner and outer circumstances. And as Březina in his last and ripest volume, "The Hands," arrives at a passionate optimism, so in "The Harvests," the struggles and torments of Sova's earlier manhood are clarified in a placid affirmation of life.260

Staff, Leopold (b. 1878). Polish poet of the Younger generation. His verses are often marked by an elemental vigour which contrasts with the keynote of pessimism sounded by many of his contemporaries. Besides his lyric poems, he has written an epic, "Master Twardowski," based upon the Polish version of the Faust legend.215

Stefanović,[20] Svetislav (b. 1877). Serbian poet. Just as Dučić has enriched modern Serbian poetry by studying the work of the French symbolists, so Stefanović has come under the influence of the English poets, especially of the pre-Raphaelite school. The poetry of Stefanović, who handles the sonnet with great skill, has that polished stateliness for which the Serbian language is so adapted. He has also translated Wilde's "Ballad of Reading Gaol," several of Shakespeare's sonnets, together with various poems of Keats, Tennyson, Swinburne and Rossetti.309

Szczepanski,[21] Ludwik (b. 1872). Polish lyric poet, whose verses reveal a tendency towards mysticism, as in the collection "Lunatica," and towards realism in his "Viennese Sonnets."216

Šantić, Alexander (b. 1868). Serbian poet from Mostar. His work is distinguished by strong racial qualities. In addition to verses in which he reveals his close sympathy with the peasants, he has taken the picturesque scenery of his native district as the theme for a number of charming poems. His subjective lyric poetry is elegiac in character. As a master of metrical form Šantić ranks high among modern Serbian poets. His translation of Heine's "Intermezzo," for example, is regarded as a great achievement.312

Šrámek,[22] Fráňa (b. 1877). Czech author, whose work, both in prose and verse, shows considerable promise. In "Flames," a volume of fragile, impressionistic short stories, the influence of such writers as Gorky and Dostoyevsky is very pronounced, but here, as also in the one-act play, "June," (p. 150), Šrámek gives adequate evidence of individual artistic qualities.150

Tetmajer (Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, b. 1865). Polish poet and novelist. His literary career began in 1888, when, with Adam Asnyk as judge, he was awarded the first prize for a poem on Mickiewicz. Tetmajer's work consists partly of purely esthetic writing, such as the "Poems in Prose," and partly of that very different type of production in which he is inspired by the wild scenery of his native Carpathians and the strange national type who dwell there. It is in this phase that Tetmajer's lyric temperament is revealed at its strongest. (See, for example, the poem entitled "Czardas," p. 220). In a number of prose-sketches Tetmajer has admirably reproduced the character of the district and inhabitants, not by paraphrasing their legends and traditions, but by narrating purely imaginative incidents in the spirit and often in the language of the people. His novels dealing with society life present, in tone and feeling, a complete contrast to the naivity and freshness of these peasant tales.218

Tsensky (N. S. Sergeyev-Tsensky). Russian novelist, whose early work, written under the influence of Andreyev, is consequently pessimistic in character. In his prose style he has endeavoured to create new devices for the vivid presentment of objects and ideas. Although this desire to avoid the hackneyed has led him into the use of affected impressionistic images, he often succeeds admirably in reproducing the atmosphere suited to the setting of his stories.58

Theer, Otakar (b. 1880). One of the most gifted among the younger Czech poets. The rather obtrusive decadence of his very early verses was followed, after an interval of over ten years, by the collection "Anguish and Hope," in which his personality is revealed in stronger and riper manifestations. Pessimism is not absent, but it is modified by a wider knowledge of life. In this volume, Theer gives proof of great technical skill. The variety of his metres and the melodious diction of his language are admirable. His later poems in free rhythm, which are rather of an experimental nature, appear to be lacking in the spontaneous qualities of his best verses.274
Vrchlický,[23] Jaroslav (pseudonym for Emil Frida, 1853–1912). The greatest name in Czech literature. The mere quantity of his work is astonishing. It consists of (1) over 80 volumes of lyric and epic poetry, (2) 30 plays, (3) 12 libretti for operas, (4) over 12 volumes of prose, (5) nearly 50 volumes of translated verse, (6) over 35 translations of plays, (7) 6 volumes of translated prose. These translations include the whole of Ariosto, Camoens, Dante, Tasso, together with extensive selections from Byron, Victor Hugo, Shelley, Tennyson, Whitman, Calderon, Goethe (the complete "Faust"), and several anthologies of modern English, French and Italian poetry. By this enormous body of work, Vrchlický enriched the Czech language and widened its metrical resources, while he influenced the progress of the literature to an extent which it is difficult to estimate. In his original work Vrchlický was most effective as a lyric poet. He wrote in this medium with a freshness, a fervour and a melodious charm which, in his best poems, can be compared with the lyrical style of Swinburne or d'Annunzio. The facility with which he composed, led him at times into rather shallow improvisations, and some of his critics are apt to lay stress upon these weaker aspects of his productions, although such lapses are comparatively rare. In the same way, Vrchlický has been reproached for the close attention he paid to foreign literatures, while other Czech poets were more exclusively national. But the critics who urged this against him did not realize that before Czech literature could become truly national, it must first be made international. By Vrchlický's efforts, it was raised to this higher plane, and before the close of the 19th century, it had acquired the status of a European literature. Both as an original poet and as a translator, Vrchlický influenced a number of writers who, often with marked success, have continued and amplified the work which was begun modestly in 1874 with a small volume of translations from Victor Hugo.276

Župančič,[24] Oton (b. 1879). The most prominent Slovene poet of to-day. His lyric verses, which soon passed through an early decadent phase, urge the younger generation to seek for noble ideals. Together with a warmth and freshness which often recall the style of Slavonic folk-songs, they combine the technical finesse of the ripest modern artistic poetry.320

 
  1. Pron. Ashkerts.
  2. Pron. Bezrutch.
  3. Pron. Bjezina (French j; accent of 1st syllable)
  4. Pron. Dutchitch.
  5. Pron. Gomulítski.
  6. Accent on 3rd syllable.
  7. Pron. Ilyitch.
  8. Accent on 2nd syllable.
  9. Pron. Zelvovic (as one word, with accent on 1st syllable).
  10. Pron. Kasprovitch (accent on 2nd syllable).
  11. Pron. Klahshtersky (accent on 1nd syllable).
  12. Pron. Konopnitska (accent on 3rd syllagle).
  13. Pron. Kostitch.
  14. Pron. Preradovitch (accent on 2nd syllable).
  15. Pron. Preshern (accent on 1st syllable).
  16. Pron. Pshybyshevski (accent on 3rd syllable).
  17. Pron. Rakitch.
  18. Accent on 2nd syllable.
  19. Accent on 3rd syllable.
  20. Pron. Stefanovitch {accent on 2nd syllable).
  21. Pron. Shchepanski (accent on 2nd syllable).
  22. Pron. Shrahmek
  23. Pron. Verchlitsky (ch as in loch).
  24. Pron. Zhupantchitch (ch as French j, accent on 1st syllable).