F. Prešeren, A. Sládkovič: Were those ladies worth it? (blog)

marína dom_Lalíková

Locks of love on Marína´s house in Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia, (photo by: E. Lalíková)

When it comes to the similarities of Slovakia and Slovenia, we have one to share with you on the Valentine´s Day. It has something to do with our most famous poets – Slovak Andrej Sládkovič and Slovenian France Prešeren. If you have never heard of them, no worries, we got you covered.

Both poets were creating in the 19th century, when the national awakening was coming to life. The fight for the right to become an independent nation was everywhere – but especially in the literature. All the poets spent days and nights finding new rhymes to words like nation, independence, injustice and language. They searched for the evidence in the nature, folklore, everyday life of the village people.

And in this burst of nations, here they were: Sládkovič and Prešeren. Two guys, who just fell in love A LOT.

Not to be ironic, their poetry was connecting love and nation in the most brilliant way. The way Sládkovič loved Slovakia, was identical with the way he loved his muse – Marína. Or, at least he claimed so. However, on the Valentine´s Day, we will not talk about the national struggle. So let´s get back to those similarities – ladies.

Sládkovič fell in love while teaching the exceptional Marína. Somewhat we believe that she was radiantly beautiful and incredibly smart, because why else would he write over 290 stanzas for her? His Slovenian colleague Prešeren found his new meaning of life in Julija. He expressed his love in the same manner – through sonnets. Prešeren wrote the whole impressive masterpiece, Sonetni venec, which has remained the pride of Slovenes until today. He is considered the first author of the Slovenian artistic poetry, proof that Slovenes are just as capable of creating art through their language as any other European nation.

Yet what is the next parallel of these two? Firstly, they were criticised for writing about love and intimacy, when there were more important topics to cover. Secondly, both got heart broken and refused by their muses. They lived in their pain, digging in it deeper and deeper and expressed the process of this whole masochism in their art.

Now we are thankful to them, impressed even. But to be honest, if we were their friends back in the days of the 19th century, we would slap them both in the faces and tell them to get a life. To find a new woman, new hobby, new thing to write about. Tell them, that nation needs their attention much more, than some woman, who is more interested in the account of the man than in some fancy words written in the ordinary peasant language.

We would ask them, what we are also asking ourselves today: France, Andrej – were those girls of yours worth it? Were they really so exceptional? Or if you would look closer, you would find missing teeth, wrinkles, irritating lack of hygiene or would notice that they gossip about all of their friends, including you?

I bet we all know the answer. They wouldn´t care, just as the people do not care today. Love is blind, people are always hungry for passion and so it seems, it can move the humans to incredible or devastating actions.

But Prešeren and Sládkovič found the hole in the system. They have gone through their suffering in such a way that did not impress their muses, however, did help out their nation. They made the places they lived in – Ljubljana and Banská Štiavnica – the cities/towns of love. And – to conclude their masterpiece – they made the women who have refused them be always remembered as theirs – “Prešeren´s Julija” and Sládkovič´s Marína. So after all, they have won.

LJ ducks

Love locks on the Ljubljana bridge in Slovenia, (photo by: A. Jordan)

The females, who were perfect only on the paper, became with the sonnets immortal. And after all, we have to give them credit for that as well. Because hardly any big passionate love poetry was created out of pure love to poet´s wife and to the mother of his kids. All that those ladies often got was just a drunk and busy daydreaming husband, who did not help out at home. It was the “gold diggers” (as we could call them today) who got the sonnets from the poets and the rich guys as husbands.

So our SLOV:SLOV love story is at the end here. None of the poets found their happy ending, but they found their meaning in life and were followed by hundreds of artists, who were inspired by their work. After all, maybe love is not always about the happiness, but also may be the source of inspiration and the way how to set the inner genius free. Think of that when celebrating the Valentine´s Day this year and maybe take the time for some 19th century Central European love poetry as well ;-).

K. L., 2016

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