Informácie zo súčasnej slovenskej literatúry
Renaissance, Reformation, Humanism, Baroque
The cultural and literary revival in Slovakia came as late as the renaissance and after its reformation. In 1301 the Hungarian Arpád dynasty died out and the Italian Robert d'Anjou became the Hungarian king. He involved Hungary in European humanist trends and - just like his successors - provided for the improvement of education and culture. The humanist oriented monarch Matthew Corvinus (he reigned between 1458 and 1490) did the most for culture and education. He founded the Bratislava university Academia Istropolitana with four faculties (arts, theology, law, and medicine) in 1467. It is true that the school did not last long and closed down after a few years. Its existence was more or less only connected with the monarch's initiative. The educational and cultural background needed to successfully develop higher education and keep it alive was missing. Its language of instruction was Latin. But even so, we can say that its establishment and existence shows that Hungary (and with it Slovakia) participated in large intellectual movements and transformations and did not stand apart from European civilisational and cultural initiatives. Slovaks were among those who taught at the Bratislava Academia and certainly among its students, too.
However, religious literature was the main genre cultivated in this period, too; there was no greater enlightenment of literature and so religious treatises, homiletic literature, etc. still prevailed. This trend became even more pronounced during the counter-reformation. The German (Lutheran) reformation affected Slovakia even more directly than the renaissance and humanism. It spread very rapidly over the whole territory of Hungary (the Calvinist reformation prevailed among the Magyar population in southern Hungary). There were many reasons for this. The Hussite movement had long been known in Slovakia and armies of so-called brethren (Jan Jiskra of Brandýs and others) made their way to Slovakia from Bohemia. They brought Czech with them, which the Slovaks adopted. But the Hussites' influence in connection with the reformation should not be overestimated. Another momentum accelerating the spread of the reformation movement was the fact that Germans governed towns in Slovakia and they generally accepted the Lutheran reformation. The weakening of state power (or rather its fall) as a result of the Turks' defeat of Hungarian forces near Mohács in 1526, with their subsequent penetration north of the Danube (occupation of Buda) also contributed towards the reformation's victory. The Turkish occupation of a large part of Hungary (it lasted 150 years) had serious implications for life in Slovakia. The northern part of Hungary (that is, the territory of Slovakia) became a part of the Austrian Empire and came under the direct influence of the Habsburgs. As for the Turkish occupation, Slovakia became a border area and the target of incessant marauding raids by Turkish gangs on Slovak territory. The Turks enforced taxes and captured people, who then had to redeem themselves or were taken into slavery. The skirmishes and battles with the Turks and suffering to which the population was exposed by the "heathen" Turks became a long standing theme of Slovak literature.
Another impact of the Turkish occupation of a large part of Hungary, which can be considered positive in the long run, was that important state and church institutions were moved to Slovakia. Bratislava became the political centre, where the Hungarian parliament held session and Hungarian kings were crowned. The monarch declared it the capital of Hungary in 1536. A university was founded by archbishop Peter Pázmán in nearby Trnava. It functioned between 1635 and 1777 and gradually acquired faculties of theology, arts, medicine and law. Its students and teachers came from all the nations of Hungary, including Slovaks. The language of instruction was Latin, but numerous books and publications printed in Trnava appeared in other languages, including heavily slovakised Czech. This linguistic practice was a sort of pre-preparation for the codification of an independent written language, so-called Bernolák, which was close to Czech, in 1787.
The Trnava university was the work of Jesuits and its main mission was to convert strongly protestant Slovakia back to Catholicism. With the support of the Habsburgs, the military minded Jesuits (they also used coercion) succeeded in reversing religious development during the 17th century and the country, which had been 90 percent protestant (evangelical), became catholic again with only a small minority of protestants (10-15%), a ratio which has been preserved to this day. However, rebellious Hungarian princes led class uprisings against the emperor and Austria as a whole for many decades. These were Gábor Bethlen, István Bocskay, György Rákóczy, Ferenc Rákóczy II, and Imre Thőkőly, most of them from a Transylvanian background and Slovakia. All of the rebellions' political aims included equality of religious rights for protestants with the preferred Catholics. After victorious military campaigns, the imperial court had to give way during peace talks and make certain concessions regarding protestants in Hungary. But the fact is that full religious equality only came when the enlightenment King Joseph II, son of Maria Theresa, released his Edict of Toleration on this issue in 1781. On the other hand, the above mentioned class uprisings also disunited the country and hampered the development of normal economic and cultural life, since the armies of both sides - rebel and imperial - pillaged the country and pauperised its people to an equal extent. If we add the Turks' invasions (which, incidentally, almost every leader of the Hungarian uprisings joined on one front against Vienna), it is no wonder that this part of Europe lagged significantly behind the other countries for a long time.
The reformation in Slovakia contributed to the development of education. New schools were founded everywhere the new religion triumphed. There was also a project at the university level (the palatine, i.e. the highest royal official, Juraj Thurzo, proposed it but it was not implemented). Slovak evangelicals could acquire a higher education at the Prešov college, which had a high pedagogical level. The counter-reformation halted the development of reformation education. However, literacy helped to consolidate publishers, who published books in various languages. The evangelical church was consolidated organisationally at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries and this also influenced the nature of the period's literature. Religious confessions, catechisms, sermons and other religious works were written and published. The counter-reformation, which forced protestants to defend their position and polemicise with their catholic adversaries, left an even clearer mark on literature. Various defences appeared, generally in Latin (the language of learning), but also in the national language, i.e. slovakised Czech. As we know, the reformation renounced Latin everywhere and preferred local languages. Slovak evangelicals used so-called "Bible" for worship, which was the language of the Czech translation of the Bible published in Kralice in Moravia (from where it got the name Kralice Bible) in 1579 - 1594. One of the translators was the Slovak Pavel Jesenský. Evangelicals in Slovakia retained Bible in church practice even after the codification of written Slovak in 1843 and only stopped using it in the second half of the 20th century.
The reformation and counter-reformation split Slovak society into two camps - catholic and evangelical. The initial dramatic tension between them (the confiscation of protestant churches by Catholics, imprisonment and departure or flight of pastors into foreign exile, mostly to Germany, accusation of pastors of plotting against the throne and subsequent dissipation of pastors to the galley, etc.) gradually abated, although not completely. The results of this split were also reflected in a certain double-tracked development in culture. To say that there were two cultures would be going too far, but for a long time two elements were developed separately and without a greater degree of co-operation. Language also divided them at times. The catholic camp adopted Bernolák's linguistic reform, but the evangelicals - as we have mentioned - stayed with Czech. On the whole, evangelicals slovakised Czech less than Catholics when they used it as a language of literature and culture. It was not until the 19th century, after the general adoption of the written language (on the basis of a central Slovak dialect) that Slovak culture started to become more integrated. The revolutionary struggle for national emancipation and equal rights within Hungary and later activities connected with the cultural institution Matica slovenská (1863 - 1875) also united it. But Andrej Mráz, author of the History of Slovak Literature, still stated in 1948: "It is certain that few historical events brought into Slovak life as much conflict, crushed cultural powers as much as this confessional split, which in ever new forms marks our fate to this day." But he adds: "It can be shown that both confessions complemented each other in the sector of cultural work, our national education's endeavours and conquests are the fruit of both halves of the divided religious whole, one half´s share intervened into the endeavours of the other and in the higher synthesis they can not be separated from each other..."
But let's return to the times of humanism, renaissance and upcoming baroque. Let us mention at least a few renaissance and humanist authors. Many applied themselves beyond the Slovak ethnic group's borders. Ján Sambucus (1531 - 1584) studied at a number of European universities (he attained the title of master of free arts in Paris) and was a professor at the Viennese university, imperial historiographer and physician. He wrote Latin poems, corresponded with many important European humanists, and was instrumental in the publication of many works of classical literature (Lucian, Plato, Horatius, Plautus). After studying in Wittenberg, Martin Rakovský (1535 - 1579) became rector of a school in Louny, clerk of the Hungarian chamber in Bratislava, and finally vice-governor of the region of Turiec. He focused on history and law, but is at the same time the most important author of Latin humanist literature in Slovakia. He published Elegiae et epigrammata (1556), a poetry anthology, and a whole range of other verse in Prague. He published the work De magistratu politico (On world authorities) in Leipzig in 1574, which is proudly ranked among world humanist literature. In it he gives reasons for the establishment of authorities, describes seven royal virtues and provides a brief history of the world. Vavrinec Benedikt (1555 - 1615), professor of mathematics and classical languages at Charles University in Prague from 1603, is the author of the first Czech grammar book (Grammaticae Bohemicae... libri duo, 1603), which was one of the best elaborated grammars for a long time and is the first ever systematic Czech grammar. In it he notes the differences between Czech and Slovak and in the introduction reproaches his fellow Slovaks for not looking after their language: "But here I really feel that I must especially berate my fellow Slovaks, in whom there is the greatest negligence in cultivating their language - so much so that some there (and I speak from experience) boast not only that they do not read Czech books, but that they do not even have one in their libraries. So it happens that when they come to speak of things in the local language, they must speak half in Latin... I am not compelling them here to use Czech, but I encourage them to practise and cultivate their own language, especially as they abound in schools not only in towns and cities, but also in the countryside." Ján Jesenius (1566 - 1621, his family came from Turiec) was a rector at Charles University and physician also famous for carrying out the first public autopsy in Prague. Since he participated in the Czech Estates of 1620, a year later (in 1621) they executed him together with another 26 Czech noblemen at the Old Town Square in Prague. He is the author of a number of professional (medical) and philosophical publications, but also occasionally wrote poems. He expressed his political opinions most fully in the work Pro vindiciis, contra tyranos, where he rejects Machiavellian doctrine. He went to Slovakia several times and intervened to prevent Ferdinand Habsburg from being chosen as the Hungarian king because he was against religious freedom and freedom in general at the Hungarian parliament in Bratislava.
Two Slovak playwrights also worked in the Czech lands: Pavel Kyrmezer (? - 1589), came from Banská Štiavnica and worked as a priest in Moravia. He wrote Czech plays in verse on biblical subjects (Komedie česká o bohatci a Lazarovi - Czech comedy about Lazarus and Dives, 1566; Komedie nová o vdově... - New comedy about the widow, 1573; Komedie o Tobiášovi - Comedy about Tobias, 1581), which also have a social aspect: criticism of the rich and empathy with the poor. Kyrmezer's plays form the pinnacle of dramatic art in the period of renaissance and humanism. Jur Tesák Mošovský (1547 - 1617), came from Mošovce in Turiec, was a pastor and deacon in a number of parishes in Bohemia, and worked in Prague from 1608. He wrote in Latin and Czech. He published around 40 mainly religious works. But his verse comedy Ruth (1604) is well known. The author added various characters and figures from folk mythology (devils) and the present to his biblical subject. Another literary genre is mostly connected with the reformation: so-called spiritual lyricism, which arose from religious needs (the poems were used in hymn books as religious songs), but exceeded them in that the author managed to express effectively the emotions, desires and suffering of man in an uncertain, dangerous and chaotic era. Many poets cultivated spiritual lyricism, but we should at least mention the most important: Ján Silván (1493 - 1573), a preacher and later a councillor in Domažlice in Bohemia. He is the most important renaissance poet. He published a collection of his life's work in 1572 entitled Písně nové na sedm žalmů kajících a jiné žalmy (New songs on seven penitential psalms and other psalms). He based his poems on biblical motifs, but did not develop them conventionally. He attempted to assert his own individuality. His work centres on a troubled individual who suffers because of external circumstances, but mainly his own weakness and ungodliness. His faith wins the battle over his own scepticism. Eliáš Láni (1570 - 1618) continues along Ján Silván's line. Little has been preserved of his spiritual poetry, but even in these fragments, his strong poetic personality shines through. The authentic emotions he describes with expressive language are very effective poetically. Like Silván, he also combines personal experience with allusions to the situation of the era (Bocskay's rebellions, Turkish invasions, religious conflict) with suggestive results.
Gentis Slavonicae lacrumae, suspiria et vota (Tears, sighs and pleas of the Slovak nation, (1642), a composition by Jakub Jakobeus (around 1591 - 1645), which is written in Latin and characteristic of the period, is another work which introduced the national theme at that time. The author was of Czech origin, an evangelical pastor in Prešov, and excelled as a Latin humanist poet. The above mentioned work is an extensive epic-reflexive verse composition. It centres on the "Mother of Slovaks", a figure symbolising the difficult fate of the Slovak nation, which suffered from both the Turks and the imperial army. Jozef Minárik, an expert on early Slovak literature, regards the composition as "a civic-political poem" and concludes that: "Its essential element consists of very strong national and patriotic ideas for the time, which are a more emphatic expression of bourgeois thinking, forming a new level of patriotic sentiment and awareness here." This trend intensified a few decades later when it took the form of defence of the Slovak nation against Hungarian voices refuting Slovaks' historical position in Hungary. The best known work in this defence genre was Apologia, whose author (it was published anonymously) was probably Ján Baltazár Magin (1681 - 1735). It was a reaction to the libel from Michal Bencsik, a law professor at Trnava university who wrote a demeaning piece about the citizens of Trenčín, and Slovaks and Slavs as a whole, citing the fable (from Anonymous Chronicles) that Svätopluk sold the Magyars Great Moravia for a horse. In his work, Magin developed the so-called hospitality theory, which meant that the forefathers of the Slovaks invited the Magyars to their land as guests. More defences of the nation, usually connected with praise for the Slovak language, appeared during the age of enlightenment. They gained a political nature during the national revival.
We have mentioned that the pinnacle of literary expression in reformation Slovakia was spiritual lyricism, in which sovereign mastery of the theme often reflected the authentic atmosphere of the era and formed the lyrical subject. Slovak literature of this period was, however, more colourful and richer in genre. Besides dramatic literature (there were numerous simple dramas), we should mention so-called historical songs, memoirs and travel literature, which generally related to the persecution of evangelical pastors during the counter-reformation. The historical songs (Píseň o zámku muránském - Song about Muráň Castle, Píseň o sigetském zámku - Song about Sziget castle, Píseň o dvúch uherských pánoch a tureckého císare dcére - Song about two Hungarian lords and the Turkish emperor's daughter, etc.) were folk-like, mostly anonymous, epics. They feature historical events, particularly battles against the Turks and Habsburgs. They are essentially historical adventures close to folk art and mentality, and often have a developed, dramatic story about seizing and defending castles, being taken into slavery, escaping or being bought, with love motifs and a balladic ring. They were written by students, small squires, bourgeois, etc. It was a genre designed for recital more than reading. It is very likely that in their time (and clearly even much later), these historical songs were widely heard and read, that they were spread orally and that they saturated the masses' desire for encounters with art.
On the other hand, the memoirs and travelogues were written by important men, the majority being literary active pastors who went abroad more or less voluntarily and published their books there. They wrote in Latin and German, but also Czech. Some were imprisoned in Slovakia (Joachim Kalinka), some were captured by the Turks (Štefan Pilárik), others fled from religious persecution or chose exile because they did not want to convert to Catholicism; many were sentenced to the Spanish galleys in Naples by the special court in Bratislava in 1674 (for alleged conspiracy). This genre is varied, but irregular in style. Some authors are objective and factual, others fictionalise with relish; some only focus on their own fate, others record the social conditions in the countries they visit and include various landmarks they saw on their way. Their travelogues are not simply observations; they also show discernment. The memoirs and travelogues of three authors sentenced to the galley and bought by German traders in Naples are almost like adventure stories. These writers were Tobiáš Masník, Ján Simonides and Juraj Láni. Each treats the theme in his own way. Their fates were so dramatic that even despite their weak literary skills (far too many descriptive passages in certain cases), they made thrilling reading.
The issue of religion dominates poetry in the reformation and baroque periods. But there were also attempts at world poetry. Peter Benický (1603 - 1664) was a bilingual poet; he wrote in Hungarian and Slovak. In addition to the collection Magyar rithmusok, he also wrote Slovenské verše (Slovak verses, 1652), but this remained a manuscript and was not published until one hundred years later. The verses are thematically diverse, the author focuses on upbringing, education, family life, but also court intrigues; he criticises the corrupt nobility and writes sympathetically about the serfs. As he himself was a squire and had both property and serfs, he showed his philanthropy by forgiving his serfs' debts. He noticed virtues, but mostly character flaws. He used folk sayings and proverbs in his poetry. He drew from both humanist reading and personal experience. The dominant mood in his poems is stoicism; the poet can be ironic but is prevailingly pessimistic about the passing of time, which destroys all that is constant, human happiness and love. Benický was a mannerist, but he already had one foot in baroque.
The most striking representative of Slovak baroque poetry is Hugolín Gavlovič (1712 - 1787), a Franciscan monk. He was a pastor and later a teacher in a count's family, then fell ill with TB and healed himself in the countryside, or to be more precise, in a sheepcote. The title of his first book of poems Valaská škola mravuv stodola (Shepherd's school of virtue, 1755) also relates to sheepcotes in a way. Another of his poetry books is entitled Škola kresťanská (Christian school, 1758). Both were published after his death. His calling as a pastor led Gavlovič to moralise and educate in the spirit of Christian worldview. But he was a strong poet and thus managed to exceed his original didactic aims and convincingly depict man's fate in different situations. The aim of educating which he implemented here required a wide range of themes. The author focused on social "opposition": authority and serfdom, master and servant, parent and child, etc. He used these oppositions to present his own opinion and teaching. Advice on how people should behave towards each other. Škola kresťanská has a similar nature, but the author's advice does not regard this life, but the next, for which one needs to prepare.
Adam František Kollár
The work of Augustín Doležal (1737 - 1802), an evangelical pastor in a number of towns and nephew of the linguist Pavel Doležal, can be placed at the turn of baroque and enlightenment. He became well-known through the long verse composition Pamětná celému světu tragoedie (Tragedy Memorable to the Whole World, 1791). It is a versed poetic dispute, whose participants are Adam, Eve and their son Seth (in the dialogue he is the opponent). In it the author addresses permanent theological issues: the existence of evil in the world, faith versus atheism, God's goodness and punishment for sins, inequality between the sexes, etc. It is clear that the poem's subject is still baroque (the author called it a "saintly novel"), but enlightenment can be seen in some ideas regarding man's personal freedom and social elevation of the masses. In one poem, Doležal sings of Joseph II as his Edict of Toleration.
Ema a Max. Rozprávka o psíkovi Gagarinovi
Jana Šajgalíková, Daniela Olejníková
Pohyb k nehybnosti
Vladimír Petrík, Vladimír Barborík
Žiť svoju báseň
Ján Štrasser, Ivan Štrpka
The Bloody Sonnets
P. O. Hviezdoslav / Preklad John Minahane / Ilustrácie Dušan Kállay
Pramene k dejinám Slovenska a Slovákov XIIIc - Slováci a nástup socializmu
Slovenské dejiny II
Timrava vo výbere Dany Podrackej
Povedz slovo čisté
Básnik v čase
Pramene k dejinám Slovenska
literatúra bodka sk
Peter Balko, Peter Prokopec
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