Anniversary of the birth of Stanko Vraz
On the eve of the 202nd anniversary of his birth, we commemorate a unique romantic poet, influential promoter of the ideas of Croatian National Revival, prominent partaker in the Illyrian Movement and the first Croatian professional writer, Stanko Vraz, whose real name was Jakob Frass. His charisma frequently made him stand out among his contemporaries and he enriched the cultural scene of his time by attitudes which were not always in tune with the social mainstream. His literary work – although Vraz greatly relied on his various role models – is one of the most original and remarkable achievements in Croatian literature of the 19th century.
Stanko Vraz was born in Cerovec in Slovenia on 30 June 1810 under the name of Jakob Frass. In 1836 he changed his name into Stanko Vraz. He graduated from secondary school in Maribor, Slovenia and spent the last two years of his secondary education in Graz, Austria. He spoke five languages and translated classical Latin works and Slavic poets. From 1839 he lived and worked in Zagreb as one of the leading protagonists of Croatian National Revival.
His intense involvement in versatile activities – as a poet, literary critic, writer of travelogues, translator, and committed writer of articles about the Croatian language and national traditions and customs – certainly makes Vraz one of the most distinguished members of the Illyrian Movement. In 1842, together with Vukotinović and Rakovac, he started publishing the literary journal Kolo. Through his critical views he argued in favour of the European criteria and against dilettantism, and he insisted that literary writing be based on the traditions of folk and Slavic literature. The most valuable part of his literary achievement is his love poetry. As the author of Đulabije and the collection of sonnets Sanak i istina, he introduced into Croatian lyric poetry a novel, light and authentic style, in contrast to the expressiveness and rhetoric prevalent in the poetry of the majority of the Illyrianists.
Đulabije, a collection of romantic poems written in the Polish verse form called krakowiak, where eternal love for a woman blends with the love for the homeland and eventually transforms into universal human love, was dedicated to Vraz’s great love – the niece of Ljudevit Gaj, another prominent Illyrianist, Ljubica (Julijana) Cantily of Samobor.
In his satires and epigrams he ridiculed the imperfections of social and literary life, especially tamburitza players and writers and singers of patriotic songs and poems. Aspiring for a form which would most befittingly express his poetical ideas, Vraz used various structures – from classic sonnets over romances and ballads to ghazals – and in this way enriched our national literature. During this relentless quest Vraz occasionally wandered off his path, writing mediocre verses and wrestling with language, which in itself is not so surprising since he was a Slovenian. Nevertheless, despite all his weaknesses, Vraz managed to put into his poetry many true and personal moments, from bright and cheerful verses to gloomy motifs and atmospheres.
The greater part of his rich manuscript heritage, of which the most well-known works are Đulabije, Glase iz dubrave žeravinske and Gusle i tamburu, is preserved in the Manuscripts and Old Books Collection at the National and University Library in Zagreb. Đulabije also inspired the Croatian composer Božidar Širola, who set it to music.
Two years ago, marking the 200th anniversary of the birth of Vraz, the National and University Library in Zagreb put on the large exhibition Stanko Vraz at the National and University Library in Zagreb, which was accompanied by the publication of a special catalogue.
Stanko Vraz passed away in Zagreb, on 20 May 1851.