February 8, 2011

Culture Day – Slovenia

A poet named France Preseren died on February 8, 1849, and about a century later the Slovene National Freedom Council declared the date National Culture Day. All I can say is, he must've been some poet!

According to a writeup in the University of Oslo, Preseren was so important to Slovenian history, he became “a kind of synonym for it.” Preseren's poem “The Toast” was chosen for the national anthem. His fame isn't as great in other countries, but apparently he should be right up there with the best of the Romantic poets.

A Romantic Poet?

Perhaps you think a romantic poet must write about love, kisses, and—well—romance. Actually, poets of all eras have written about love and romance, but Romanticism, or the Romantic Era, refers to certain art and literature that was painted/written/created during the late eighteenth century (late 1700s) to the mid-nineteenth century (mid 1800s) in Western culture. The Romantic artistic movement was, at least in part, a rebellion against the Industrial Revolution, against aristocracy, and against scientific explanations of natural phenomena. Romanticism promoted emotions, including horror and terror, and it promoted awe for and enjoyment of untamed nature.

In the case of Preseren, he had a largely unhappy love life—he loved a woman who never loved him back—so his poems tended to be about “unrequited love.” His “wreath” or “crown” of sonnets ties together his unhappy love life with what he saw as Slovenia's unhappy history of being ruled by outside powers. Slovenia was for many years a conquered land ruled by the Roman Empire, the Hapsburgs, and Yugoslavia. Since 1991, however, Slovenia has been independent, and today it is the richest of the Slavic nations per capita (per person).

Where is Slovenia?

This small country is in Central Europe. It borders on Italy, Croatia, Hungary, Austria, and the Mediterranean Sea.

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