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The literature of the western Slavo-Servians has hitherto been altogether separated from that of their brethren of the oriental church, and treated as a distinct branch.[1] Their language, however, being essentially the same, we do not see why the rather accidental circumstance, that the former use the Roman letters, while the latter adhere to the Cyrillic alphabet, should be a sufficient reason for such a separation. The literature of neither of them has as yet treasures enough, to renounce willingly the claims which their mutual and naturally rich though uncultivated language gives to the one upon the productions of the other. We now proceed, in a short historical introduction, to show the origin of this separation; after making a few preliminary remarks on the character of the language as a whole, unaffected by its division into different dialects, not more distinct indeed from each other than is the case in almost every other living idiom.

The Servian language is spoken by about five millions of people. It extends, with some slight variations of dialect, over the Turkish and Austrian provinces of Servia, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Dalmatia; over Slavonia and the eastern part of Croatia. It is further the property of several thousands, who emigrated from their own country on account of the Turkish oppression, and are now settled as colonists along the south-western bank of the Danube, from Semlin to St. Andre near Buda. The southern sky, and the beauties of natural scenery existing throughout nearly all these regions, so favourable in general to the development of poetical genius, appear also to have exerted a happy influence on the language. While it yields to none of the other Slavic dialects in richness, clearness, and precision, it far surpasses all of them in euphony. The Servian has often been called the Italian among the other Slavic idioms. Comparisons of this sort are always superficial, and tend to give a false view of the character of an object. Be this as it may, the Servian is decidedly the most melodious of the Slavic languages, rich in vowels, and abounding alike in soft and powerful accents. The accumulation of consonants, with which the other dialects are so often reproached, is rarely, if ever, to be met with in Servian. The reader may compare the Servian wetar with wjtr, krilo with krzydlo or skrzydlo, pao with padl, etc. Those who ascribe this mildness of the Servian language to the Italian neighbourhood of Dalmatia, forget that the eastern Servians are remote from Italy. It is true that the dialects of these latter are at the same time full of Turcisms; but these are mere excrescences, which may easily be removed without touching the essential structure of the language. The Turkish words adopted into the Servian, are mostly nouns, and verbs derived from them; and may naturally be explained by their political relation to the Turks during so many centuries. If we may confide in a remark of the profound philologist J. Grimm, some foreign ingredients are useful and even necessary to languages. They act as a cement, and fill up gaps; nay, they not seldom serve to give to the expression colouring and pliancy. The attention of the civilized world, although directed at the beginning of the present century to the Servians and their heroic struggles, has only recently been excited in respect to their language; and this through the efforts of a single individual. We shall have more to say on this point in the section devoted to the literature of the Servians of the eastern church.

The ancient Illyricum comprised all the countries situated between the Adriatic and the Black Sea, and along the Danube and Save.[2] Towards the middle of the seventh century, we find this vast country mostly occupied by a Slavic people of one and the same race, alternately called Bulgarians, Croatians, and Servians. We find also six kingdoms gradually established by them: Bulgaria, Servia, Bosnia (Rama), Croatia, Slavonia, and Dalmatia; some of them powerful and of great influence in their time, but now and long since sunk into ruin, and existing only as Turkish or Austrian provinces. An impenetrable night rests on the early history of these regions; and if the judicious criticism of modern philologists has thrown comparatively some light on this general topic, still, their investigations have been of little consequence for the history of the language. All that it concerns us to note here, is, that as early as the seventh century a part of these nations were already Christians, converted by Romish priests. Among the remainder, Christianity as taught by Greek missionaries found a welcome reception in the eighth and ninth centuries, and soon was fully established. The oriental Servians had the chief seat of their power in the present Turkish province of Serf-Vilayeti; and governed by princes called Shupans, we see them in a constant war of resistance against the Greek emperors, and during several centuries also against the powerful Khans of Bulgaria; now conquered, subjugated, destroyed almost to annihilation, but recovering with effort and rising again in power, with such energy as to enable them under the great Tzar, Stephan Dushan, not only to hold all their neighbours in awe, but to take a menacing position towards Byzantium itself, and dictate conditions of peace to the imploring envoys of that proud imperial court. But this brilliant point of Servian glory, which even now after five hundred years still lives in the hearts of the people, and is the subject of a thousand legends and songs, was only a meteor. It vanished in almost the same moment that it appeared. Stephan's immediate successors, enfeebled by their domestic dissensions, sunk under the superior forces of the Turks, who had broken into Europe thirty-four years earlier. They soon became the conquerors of the Servians, though not without fierce and bloody struggles; and they still remain their masters and oppressors.[3]

The western Servians were early divided into small states, some of which adopted an aristocratic republican form of constitution. Among these, only the republic of Ragusa requires to be mentioned here, as the cradle of the Dalmatian branch of Servian literature. The local situation of these western states made them dependent on Hungary; and thus Croatia, Slavonia, Dalmatia, sometimes under the title of kingdoms, and now as dukedoms, became at length mere provinces of that larger kingdom, and ultimately of the Austrian empire. Bosnia and Herzegovina, which form the boundary between the Servians of the East and West, were subject to the influence of both; and are to the present day divided in religion and in language.

1. Literature of the Servians of the Oriental or Greek Church.

However small the circuit of country, properly called Servia, is in proportion to the whole extent over which the southern Slavi are spread, the name of Servians nevertheless appears to modern philologists as the best adapted for being employed as the common name of them all. Dobrovsky thinks it even appropriate to become the general appellation for all Slavic nations. Although of obscure derivation, it is at least sufficiently ascertained that it is of pure Slavic origin; glorious associations are attached to it; it is moreover still a living name, while the learned appellation of Illyrians, formerly more in use, is dead; and that ofBosnians, preferred by some Dalmatian writers, rests upon no satisfactory grounds. The name of Servians, however, was never, till recently, applied to the Dalmatians. It is indeed still rejected by themselves; and they continue to call themselves Illyrians.

Under the present head, besides the Servians proper, of whom great numbers have emigrated in early times to Hungary, are also strictly comprised the Bosnians, the greater portion of the inhabitants of Herzegovina, the Montenegrins or Czernogortzi, and the Slavonians of the Greek Church. These all use the same language and alphabet; but the four latter have no distinct literature, except some collections of popular poetry.

The literature of the eastern Servians, the result of their intellectual life as a nation, does not yet date back a hundred years; nay, if regarded from another point of view, it is not yet forty years old. Up to that time, all the Servians belonging to the Greek Church, notwithstanding the honourable example of Russia to the contrary, had written in the Old or Church Slavonic; or, in more modern times, in a language mixed up from this latter and several other dialects. Schaffarik remarks, that out of about 400 Servian books printed between the years 1742, or more properly 1761, and 1826, about one eighth part are written in Old Slavic; another eighth in the common dialect of the people; while all the rest vary between these two in innumerable shades and degrees.[4] This eighth part written in ordinary Servian, and essentially the same language which the Dalmatians and the greater part of the Croats speak, are all of very recent date. Indeed, with the exception of a single writer, Obradovitch, who found no immediate followers, the dialect of the people was in general despised by the clergy and those who laid claim to education, as being wholly unfit for books, and (as Vuk Stephanovitch strongly expresses himself) only proper for “cowherds and swineherds.” How the once flourishing literature of Ragusa could ever have sunk into oblivion to such a degree, is hardly to be conceived; as indeed, in general, the division so sharply drawn in respect to literature between those two branches of the same people, while they were still bound together by the strong ties of one and the same language of common life and in part also of the same government, belongs among the most remarkable facts in literary history.

The most ancient document of the Servian Old Slavic language, is out of the middle of the thirteenth century, viz. the Hexaemeron of Basilius, with a preface by John, exarch of Bulgaria. Then follow the “Acts of the Apostles,” written by the hieromonach Damian, A.D. 1324. Of higher historical importance are some secular writings from the end of the thirteenth to the middle of the fourteenth century, viz. a genealogical register of the Servian princes and the events of their reigns, called Radoslov, written by archbishop Daniel; a similar work called the Tzarostavnick; and above all the statutes of Tzar Dushan the Powerful, A.D. 1336-56. These statutes, dated from the year 6837, or A.D. 1349, not only afford us a good survey of the constitution of the Servian kingdom, but are a remarkable contribution to the history of its moral state at that early period, The philanthropist cannot but perceive, with satisfaction, the rare union that reigns in these laws of stern justice and true Christian benevolence, attempting to alleviate those evils which it was not in the power of an individual to abolish,—thehardships of slavery, the insecurity of property peculiar to those barbarous times, and those rash and bloody acts of self-protection, which are preferred by the powerful all over the world to the slower steps of avenging justice. It is indeed remarkable to observe, how these statutes not only counteracted the grosser vices and crimes, (which for the most part is the only object of laws,) but also favoured the characteristic virtues of the times, for instance hospitality. One statute ordains, that when a traveller asked for night-quarters at the dwelling of a landed proprietor and was not admitted, he had the right to take lodgings in his village wherever he pleased; and did he lose any thing, not his host, but the proprietor who had refused to harbour him, was bound to remunerate the loss.[5]

The monks of this and the following centuries must have written a great deal; as is proved by the many manuscripts that still lie accumulated in the numerous Servian and Macedonian monasteries,—the mere remnant of those which perished in the long tempests of bloody wars and desolating conflagrations. About fifty years after the invention of printing, some of the church books from time to time were published in Servia and Syrmia. The earliest Servian print extant is from the year 1493, viz. an Octateuch, published at Zenta in Herzegovina. In Russia they did not begin to print until sixty years later. In 1552 the Gospels were printed in Belgrade; in 1562 another edition in Negromont. But these faint signs of life soon became extinct; and we hear no longer of the least trace of literature among the Servians of the Turkish empire. Among the Austrian Servians also, literature seems to have been equally dead; with the exception of a History of Servia, written and left in manuscript by George Brankovitch, the last despot of that country, towards the close of the seventeenth century. A genealogical work published by Dshefarovitch at Vienna in 1742, had to be engraved, for the want of proper types. In the year 1755, under the reign of Maria Theresa, when some attention began to be paid to the schools of her Illyrian provinces, the archbishop of Carlovitz was compelled to have Smotrisky's Grammar[6] printed in Walachia, because no Slavic types were to be found in the whole Austrian empire. Some years afterwards, A.D. 1758, a private Slavic press was founded at Venice. In Austria, Cyrillic-Slavonic books could not be printed earlier than A.D. 1771, when a printing office was established at Vienna; the monopoly of which for all Slavo-Servian scientific works throughout the empire, was given to the university of Buda. From this one point, therefore, the whole literary cultivation of the Servians of the oriental church in the Austrian empire, could alone proceed.[7]

After the partial revival of Servian literature in 1758, a considerable number of works were composed; and there are among them not a few, which, notwithstanding the mixed and unsettled idiom in which they are written, attest the general capacity of the nation, and may serve as imperfect specimens of the mass of talent buried there. Among the historical writers, we must name above all J. Raitch. He wrote on many different subjects; and also left behind him a whole library of theological manuscripts. His 'History of the Slavic Nations'[8] has given him a lasting reputation. Other historical writers of some merit, are, Kengelatz, Magarashevitch, Julinatz, Solaritch.[9] Writers on different subjects of natural philosophy and medicine, are, Orphelin, Stoikovitch, Beritch, Jankovitch, P. Hadshitch, etc. On statistics and geography the above-mentioned Solaritch, Vuitch, Bulitch, Popovitch, and others. In the department of theology, we hardly meet with a single book of a doctrinal character; but there are quite a number on ethics. The principal writers of the language, therefore, may perhaps be more properly arranged under the heads of philosophy (comprehending logic), rhetoric, ethics, etc. as Obradovitch, Raitch, Terlaitch, Lazarevitch, Vuitch, Davidovitch, Masovitch, etc.[10]

Poetry and belles-lettres being more dependent on the state of the language than purely scientific works, we can proceed no further, without first making our readers acquainted with the recent innovations of a few patriotic individuals.

It was Dosithei Obradovitch, born A.D. 1739 in the Banat of Temeswar, who first among the eastern Servians ventured to write books in the despised language of the country. The fortunes of this person are, in several respects, of uncommon interest. Brought up in a monastic school, he became monk when he was only fourteen years old. After several years of severe struggles, he fled. For twenty-five years he travelled over all Europe; and then returned to his comparatively barbarous native land, where he died in 1811, as inspector of the schools, and the instructor of the children of the celebrated Kara George. He left several works.

A far greater influence, however, has been exerted on Servian literature by Dem. Davidovitch and Vuk Stephanovitch Karadshitch, who have not only followed the same literary course, but were the first to defend both theoretically and practically the principle, that the Servians ought to write as they speak. Their boldness met with strong and decided opposition from the old school; and the contest and rivalry which have been the consequence, although tending for a time to prevent the progress of the good cause, cannot but have, ere long, beneficial results, by exciting the minds of the people to a higher activity than they have had until then occasion to exert.

Davidovitch published from 1814 to 1822 a Servian newspaper in Vienna, not exclusively of a political character, by which he intended to diffuse information on various subjects; the first undertaking of the kind in his language. His influence however is not confined to the language alone; as secretary of Prince Milosh, then at the head of the Servians, his influence on the general cultivation of his countrymen was very decided.

Vuk Stephanovitch Karadshitch, born 1786 in Turkish Servia, is the author of the first Oriental-Servian grammar and dictionary; and in the arrangement of the former has manifested the true spirit of a genuine grammarian. Besides these he has written several works of value, a biography of Prince Milosh, a series of annuals, a volume on the Proverbs, and idiomatic phrases of the Servians, etc.[11] But the best proof which he could give of the beauty, richness, and perfectibility of the vulgar Servian dialect, is his Collection of the Servian popular Songs, in four volumes, comprising nevertheless only about the fourth or fifth part of the similar treasures hidden among the mountains of his country. In making this collection, he very judiciously wrote down only those songs which he had himself caught from the lips of the Servian peasantry. There had already been a rumour among the literati of Europe, for more than fifty years, of the beauty and singularity of the Illyrian national songs, founded mostly on the communications of Italian travellers and the citations of Dalmatian dictionaries. Herder, in his valuable Collection of popular Poetry, gave two historical fragments from the work of a Dalmatian clergyman, A. Cacich.[12] Goethe also has a beautiful tale, taken from Abbate Fortis' Travels among the Morlachians. Both translated by means of the French; and although this double translation could not possibly do justice to the originals, they were sufficiently admired. But when Vuk's collection appeared, and a part of its contents was made intelligible to the civilized world by a translation attempted by the author of this work, imperfect and deficient as any translation of popular poetry must necessarily ever be, the public and the critics were nevertheless alike struck with the strong expression of the high and incomparable beauties of nature. All that the other Slavic nations, or the Germans, the Scotch, and the Spaniards, possess of popular poetry, can at the utmost be compared with the lyrical part of the Servian songs, called by them female songs, because they are sung only by females and youths; but the long epic extemporized compositions, by which a peasant bard, sitting in a large circle of other peasants, in unpremeditated but perfectly regular and harmonious verse, celebrates the heroic deeds of their ancestors or cotemporaries, has no parallel in the whole history of literature since the days of Homer.[13]

Vuk Stephanovitch Karadshitc,[14] in his successful attempts to reduce a language, which hitherto had been merely an unwritten dialect of the common people, to certain general rules and principles, had, besides the more philosophical part of the work, also to adapt the Slavonic alphabet to his purpose. The mixed and unregulated language, which up to his time had been employed, had been written alternately with the Old Slavonic and the Russian letters. To the Russian language, with its multitude of sounds, the latter is perfectly suitable; in Servian, however, several letters could be easily spared; while others had to be added. Some change of the alphabet seemed therefore necessary. As those Servians among whom Vuk was born, and among whom chiefly he had gathered the treasures of remarkable poetry, which serve as so beautiful a base to their young literature, all belonged to the Greek or Oriental Church, he seems never to have thought of the possibility of adopting the Latin alphabet, which had already served for several centuries for the once flourishing literature of their Catholic brethren, who spoke essentially the same language.

We are ready to acknowledge that the Slavic alphabet, as arranged by Vuk, is better adapted to express the sounds of the Slavic languages, than the Latin; it is at once simpler and richer. But we nevertheless cannot help regretting, that he did not yield to the various reasons, which on the other side spoke in favour of the Latin alphabet. It was already used by some millions for the same language, and had been so for centuries. It would have given a history to the young Servian Literature built on the solid foundation of that of Ragusa. It had been, with the exception of the Russians, adopted by all the other Slavic nations. It would have indeed estranged him, seemingly, from his nearer countrymen, who made the most passionate objections against his innovations, even as they were; but as they, at any rate, had to go to Austria for a literary education, this opposition would probably not have lasted longer than it will last now. There was some fear, that, with the Roman alphabet, the Roman chair would try to get possession of their church; but those were not the times of Rome's power; and the Turkish patronage seemed to secure them against such arrogance. One thing is certain. Instead of strengthening for ever the artificial wall of separation between the two classes of Illyrico-Servians, it would have undermined that which already existed; and Vuk, by his strong philosophical-grammatical talent, would soon have gained influence enough on the Illyrico-Dalmatian literature to mend the imperfections of their orthography, and to induce the Croats and Servians to give up their capricious varieties. The many detached parts of the products of Illyrico-Servian intellect would have grown into one great whole; and would have become at least accessible to foreigners; who, puzzled by all these varieties of letters and forms of writing, lose the courage to penetrate into a structure where they meet so much confusion at the very door. Indeed, whether they turn to the eastern or to the western branch of the Southern Slavi, they find equal individual and provincial anarchy; a state of things which the latter at least have taken great pains to amend.

Vuk published at Vienna, in 1824, the Gospel of St. Luke, as a 'Specimen of a translation of the New Testament into Servian.' What part he had in the version printed at Leipsic by the British and Foreign Bible Society, and now circulated among the Servians, we are unable to say.[15] Modern educated Servian poets, upon whose writings the very general interest which the national popular poetry has excited, and no doubt also their own consciousness of its power, have had a favourable influence, are the following: Lucian Mushitzky, bishop of Karlstadt, a writer in many departments, and the author of odes and other lyrical pieces, all of them highly esteemed by his countrymen; Milovan Vidakovitch, Mich. Vitkovitch, J. Popovitch, G. Kovatzevitch, etc.

More generally known is Simeo Milutinovitch, the author of several small volumes of poetry, and of a larger epic poem entitled Serbianka, which describes the Servian war of 1812. In 1837 he published an historical work on Servia during the years 1813-15. Both these latter narratives are valuable, as he himself had been an eye-witness of many of the events described; had acted as secretary to Czerny George, who could neither write nor read; and was afterwards also employed by Prince Milosh.[16]

Two interesting collections of the popular poetry extant among the inhabitants of Montenegro and Herzegovina were published in the course of a few years by Tshubar Tshoikovitch; one of them edited by J. Milowuk, himself a modern Servian writer of praiseworthy activity; the other by the collector himself.[17]

Last, although not least, the present Vladika or bishop of Montenegro, must be named among the modern Servian poets. The constitution of this little mountain state, half warlike, half patriarchal, is an anomaly in the system of European state governments in general. They form a community of about 20,000 families, pressed into the valleys and scattered along the slopes of the dark mountain ranges between Cattaro, Herzegovina, Bosnia, and Albania; covering a surface of 80 or 90 geographical square leagues. Hitherto they have been permitted to enjoy a perfect independence in respect to both their great neighbours, Austria and Turkey. They look up only to the emperor of Russia as a kind of liege lord; but more in his quality of Head of the Slavic-Greek Church, than in that of a powerful sovereign. They stand under the rule of a Vladika or bishop; who, besides being their spiritual guide, is their chief judge and their leader in war; as also, since 1832, exclusively their executive magistrate. Up to that time they were accustomed to elect a governor; but he assumed too much power; and the post had become hereditary in the family of Radonich. They therefore dismissed him; and his functions were likewise intrusted to the bishop.

Although the office of the Vladika had been formerly purely elective; yet towards the close of the seventeenth century, through the influence of Vladika Daniel Petrovitch of Niegosh, it became hereditary in his own family; a member of which since that time has always been appointed by the Russian emperor. As the Greek bishops belong to the monastic clergy, who of course are not permitted to marry,—while the secular clergy are required to do so,—the succession goes in a collateral line. The present Vladika, Peter Petrovitch Niegosh, a man of uncommon size, handsome features, considerable talent, and a highly respected character, was partly educated in Russia. When his predecessor died,—a powerful man who had ruled for fifty-three years, during which time he had led his flock to many a bloody battle, and who was canonized as a saint by the present bishop,—this latter was appointed by the emperor Nicholas. But as he was then only fifteen years old, Montenegro was governed by a sort of guardian; and the Vladika did not enter upon his office until he had completed his eighteenth year. The wisdom, the energy, the consistency in his improvements, which, he has displayed since that time, constitute him, in connection with his youth, one of the most remarkable personages of our time. His chief aim seems to be to make Montenegro a member of the great civilized family of Europe, without depriving her of her freedom and independence; and the firmness with which he proceeds further and further in a course, where he meets with difficulties at every step, deserves praise and admiration.

The first circumstance which directed the attention of literary Europe to this remote corner, was a visit of the present king of Saxony, who in 1838 made a botanical excursion into those “black mountains.” [16] Since then, the celebrated Egyptian scholar, Wilkinson, has visited it; and this country is no longer closed against travelling artists. The Vladika has naturally the manners of a gentleman; he is said to speak French, and to understand German, Italian, and of course Russian. That he is considered as one of the best riflemen and horsemen in his country, we cannot esteem as of much importance in a bishop; but he studies also the classics and translates the Iliad for his own pleasure. His Servian poems seem mostly to have been written on particular occasions. He addressed an ode to the king of Saxony after his return to Dresden, which unfortunately not a person of the whole court could understand; and the author of this volume, who happened then to be at the “German Athens,” was applied to for a translation.[17] In their own productions, all these educated writers imitate the modern literature of other nations further advanced in civilization, especially the Germans. Milutinovitch has even a tinge of their philosophy. There is no want of talent; but there is no nationality in them. Nothing of that wonderful amalgamation of the East and the West; of mountaineer wildness and Christian principles; of barbarism and civilization; nothing of that interesting blending of Asia and Europe, which we feel entitled to expect from the poetry of Servians, who stand on the border between Muhammedanism and Christendom. Nothing which these educated writers have hitherto produced, can be compared with the effusions of their old blind men, and of their peasant lads and girls, that is, their popular poetry.

Vuk's grammar, printed at Vienna 1818, before his dictionary, has since been rendered accessible to other European nations by Grimm's translation. Another Servian grammar has been published in German, by Schaffarik. Vuk's judicious alphabetical arrangement and orthography, we are sorry to say, have not been generally adopted; and the Russian alphabet is still partly in use, with a number of letters superfluous for the Servian language, which has not the shades of sound they are meant to denote.

The political movements in Servia, during the last twelve years, have of course been exceedingly injurious to the development of its infant literature. While it seemed, under the energetic administration of prince Milosh, in a fair way of progress, the confused cries of war and insurrection since his abdication have drowned the modest voice of the young muse. Of late, indeed, intelligence from that country has been so rare, that we are unable to give a picture of the present state of things.

2. Literature of the Dalmatians or Illyrico-Servians of the Romish Church.


It is not without some hesitation that we approach a region, into which we cannot penetrate without stepping through a border of perfect darkness. We allude to the introduction of the Glagolitic alphabet; the great antiquity of which, supported by numerous traditions and legends, as well as by its venerable and almost hieroglyphic look, Kopitar's recent investigations and discoveries have again made probable; without, however, throwing any more light upon its origin.

As Christianity was first introduced into Dalmatia by Romish priests, the Latin language was of course adopted for religious purposes. But so soon as the people became acquainted with the liturgy of Methodius in a language intelligible to them, this innovation met with such a general and heartfelt welcome, that all the severe decrees of synods, nay, of the holy chair of Rome itself, were unable to stop its progress.

Even more than a hundred and fifty years afterwards, when Methodius was solemnly declared by pope Nicolas II. a heretic, and the Romish mass again introduced, the attachment to their own language was too deeply rooted to be taken away at once. Hence the Old Slavic idiom, with the pope's reluctant permission, continued to be the language of the Church service. It appears, however, that the alphabet which their priests employed for writing their ecclesiastic documents, was not the same with that used by other Slavi of the oriental church: but was of a different character, and evidently not derived from the Greek, with the exception of a few letters. It was called the Glagolitic.

Glagol signifies in Old Slavic the word or rather the verb; but the reason of the application of this term to the Illyrico-Servians of the catholic communion (Glagolitae), and to the language of their sacred writings (Glagolic or Glagolitic ), has not yet been ascertained; all that has as yet been asserted by Slavic philologians being mere hypothesis. The oldest monument known up to 1830. in which these letters were extant, was a Psalter of A.D. 1220. This Psalter was by tradition ascribed to St. Jerome himself, who was in general called the inventor of the Slavic, that is the Glagoliticalphabet. According to a popular legend of the Dalmatians, this father, who was a native of Illyria, also translated the whole Bible into the Slavic; but it has been since clearly proved, that while (as is well known) he corrected the old Latin version of the Bible, he yet never wrote a single line of Slavic.

The mystery, in which the origin of the Glagolitic was and still is buried, gave birth to the singular hypothesis already above mentioned.[18] The discovery however of several very ancient Glagolitic manuscripts, and especially of one which could be proved to be older than the Council of Spalatro[19] destroyed it at once; but unfortunately, without clearing up the mystery either of its invention or of its introduction.

Another Glagolitic manuscript of some interest may be mentioned here. It was generally known, that the kings of France were accustomed, at their coronation at Kheiras, to take the oath on a large book, called Texte du Sacre, bound in gold or gilding, and covered with unwrought precious stones, which contained the Gospels written in some unknown hieroglyphic language. When in 1717 Tzar Peter I. visited Rheims, this book was shown to him among other curiosities, and he exclaimed at once: “This is my own Slavonic!” This view was soon spread among Slavic scholars. But the precious parchment was written in two columns, and in two languages. What idiom could the other be? The French, it is said, took it for Greek: more probably for Coptic. In 1789, a learned English traveller, Thomas Ford Hill, was shown some Glagolitic manuscripts in the imperial library at Vienna; whereupon he declared without hesitation, that this was the mysterious writing of the Rheims manuscript. Before the Vienna scholars, Dobner and Alter, then at the head of Slavic matters, had time to investigate the matter further, the revolution broke out, and the precious document disappeared. No trace was left of it; and for half a century the patriotic Slavic scholars supposed they had cause to lament the loss of a document of the very highest antiquity. It was conjectured that the book had originally been brought to France by some Slavic princess; for instance, by a princess of Kief, who is said to have been sent for by Henry I., son of Hugh Capet and king of France in the beginning of the eleventh century. Application was made on the subject to Sylvestre de Sacy; whose report gave some hope, that the precious relic might still be preserved. Search was made by Kopitar in Italy and at Paris, but all in vain. At last it was again found at Rheims by the Russian scholar Stroyef;[20] who, however, seems not to have been acquainted with the Glagolitic writing, and therefore laid little stress on it. The volume was stripped of its costly ornaments, and had therefore been the more easily recovered during the reign of Napoleon; who endeavoured, as much as was in his power, to restore the spoils of the revolution, while he himself filled Paris with the spoils of all other nations.

The librarian at Rheims, in order best to meet the numerous inquiries of Slavic scholars, caused a fac simile of it to be taken; audit was finally committed to the learned Kopitar's care. It was now discovered, that this long deplored document contained two unconnected portions of the Gospels; one in Cyrillic letters, the other, considerably longer, in Glagolitic; and both executed with remarkable calligraphic skill. The Glagolitic portion was marked with the date 1395. It was written at Prague, and presented by the emperor Charles IV. to the Abbot of Emaus; with the injunction, that these Evangelia should be chanted at mass; and the remark was added, that the accompanying Cyrillic portion was written by St. Procopius with his own hand. Procopius was one of the patron saints of Bohemia, who died in 1053. How this valuable manuscript was finally removed to France, is still unexplained. At Rheims nothing further was known, than that it had been presented by the Cardinal of Lorraine in A.D. 1554. A rumour ascribed to the Cyrillic portion a Greek origin; the Glagolitic part was generally considered as a relic from St. Jerome's own library. This supposed immediate connection with two saints, may well account for the reverence with which the book was treated in France.[21] A splendid edition of this work, under the patronage of the emperor of Russia, was prepared by Kopitar, and appeared in 1843 at Paris.[22]

Although the use of the Slavic language was in a certain measure authorized by the pope, yet the clergy of Dalmatia preferred unanimously the Latin for their theological and ecclesiastical writings. The Glagolitic literature was therefore almost exclusively limited to copies of the productions of their Cyrillic brethren. The Glagolitic letters had, however, the precedence of the Cyrillic alphabet, in respect to printing. The first printed Glagolitic missal, is of the year 1483; whilst the earliest work printed in the Cyrillic letters is not older than A.D. 1491. In the sixteenth century books were printed at Zengh (Segna), at Fiume, at Venice, and at Tubingen, with Glagolitie letters. In the year 1621, the emperor Ferdinand II. presented the Propaganda with a font of Glagolitic types, which he obtained from Venice. Several improved breviaries and missals have since been printed at Rome. In our day, this city possesses the only Glagolitic printing office in existence. On the Dalmatian islands, books are still copied in manuscript, just as before the invention of printing.

Among the Dalmatian clergy, there were a few who united a real interest for the preservation of their language and for science in general. Raph. Levakovitch improved the breviary in 1648, in respect to language; the archbishop Vincenz Zmajevitch, ob. 1771, a great patron of the literature of his country, founded a hundred years later a theological seminary in Zara. Matthias Caraman, on occasion of a new edition of the missal by the Propaganda in 1741, undertook a fundamental revision and correction of it. The Propaganda also founded a Slavic professorship in the Collegia Urbano; and for the benefit of this Society a new translation of the whole Bible was resolved upon, which however has never been published. A notice of the exertions of the priest Rosa belongs rather to the history of Dalmatian secular literature.


It is not certain at what time, nor by whom, the Latin letters were first adopted for the Servian language. The earliest teachers of the occidental portion of that people having been Romish priests, they of course used their own letters for writing such Slavic words or names as occasion required. The Latin alphabet probably came into use without any particular pains, long before the introduction of the Glagolitic letters. These, in their awkward hieroglyphic form, were little adapted to supersede the Latin forms. The example of the Poles and Bohemians could only encourage the first Dalmatian writers to continue in the same course; although each of these nations follows a different system of pronouncing the same letters. The orthography of the Dalmatians remained, however, for a long time entirely unsettled: and is so still in some measure. A greater difficulty arose from the absurd practice of the Slavonians and Croatians, who, although speaking and writing the same language, yet write and print it each according to a different system of combination; thus limiting the perusal of their own scanty productions almost exclusively to the few readers of their small provinces respectively, whilst the remainder of their countrymen are hardly able to understand them. This division, however, compels us likewise to separate in our sketch the literature of the Dalmatians proper, and that of the catholic Slavonians.

Literature of Dalmatia Proper.

The neighbourhood of the Italians exercised in very early times a happy influence on the literature of the Dalmatians. The small republic of Ragusa, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, was at the zenith of its splendour and welfare. Celebrated Italians were teachers in her schools; and the persecuted Greeks, Lascaris, Demetrius Chalcondylas, Emanuel Marulus, and several others, celebrated over all Europe for their learning, found an asylum within her walls. Thus the treasures of the classics and of the Italian middle ages became familiar to the noble youths of Ragusa, until, in the beginning of the sixteenth century, poetry began to appear in a national dress. The Italian influence remained strikingly visible. Blasius Darxich, Sigismund Menze, Mauro Vetranich, and Stephen Gozze (ob. 1576), are mentioned as the first Dalmatian poets. The latter wrote a comic epic, the Dervishiade, which met with great success. A poem of the same kind is Jegyupka, the Gipsy, by Andreas Giubronavich, printed at Venice 1559. Dominic Zlatarich (ob. 1608) translated Tasso and the Electra of Sophocles, and was himself a lyric poet.

The annals of this period, towards the end of the sixteenth century, report likewise the name of a lady, Svietana Zuzerich, as an Illyrian poetess; called also Floria Zuzzeri, as an Italian poetess; for she wrote with success in both languages. Several other ladies followed the example, as Lucrezia Bogashinovich, Katharina Pozzo di Sorgo, etc.

During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Ragusa enjoyed peace, and a degree of wealth and prosperity most favourable to high attainments in science and literature. The first Slavic theatre was founded here, and the dramatic art seems to have been considered so honourable, that even noblemen acted publicly; as is related of Junius Palmota, who died in 1657. The noble names of Palmota or Palmotich, Gondola or Gondolich, for they appear alternately both in the Slavic and Italian form, are very frequent in Ragusian literature. Junius Palmota wrote tragedies; selecting his subjects principally from Slavic history. But his most esteemed production is a Slavic version of a great Latin epic on Christ, by M.H. Vita, which may be considered as a kind of precursor to Klopstock's Messiah. John Gondola, a dramatic writer before him, translated Tasso's Jerusalem Delivered; and left many lyrical poems.

In the year 1667, a horrible earthquake in a few moments destroyed the prosperity of the state for whole centuries. It was as if the genius of the Ragusian literature had been crushed under the ruins. From that period we find all that relates to literature in a rapid decline. The catastrophe itself, however, furnished the poets with a new subject. In the same year, N. Bonus published a poem entitled, The city of Ragusa to her Rulers; and Jacob Palmota (ob. 1680) wrote an elegiac poem, The renovated Ragusa. But the most interesting production of this period is a collection of national songs, published by the Franciscan monk, And. Cacich Miossich.[23] This work, although executed with little critical taste or judgment, and disfigured by many interpolations, might have given to the literary world a foretaste of the treasures, which fifty years afterwards were to be discovered here.

Whilst Slavic poetry found so many votaries among the Dalmatians, it is a remarkable fact, that all their historians wrote in Latin or Italian. They possess indeed a very old chronicle, of the date of A.D. 1161, written in the Slavic language by an anonymous Presbyter of Dioclea, and translated by himself into Latin; but in the more flourishing period of the Dalmatian literature, the love of their own language was overcome by the stronger desire of a more universal reputation than any works written in Slavic could procure for them. The names of N. Ragnini, Francisco Gondola, Razzi, and Caboga, must here be mentioned. The dialect of the country, however, found some advocates even among the clergy. For some theological works it was preferred to the Old Slavic; or at least the Latin letters were chosen for this language instead of the Glagolitic types. An Old Slavic translation of the Gospels and Epistles by Bernardin de Spalatro was printed with Latin letters, Venice 1495. At the same place appeared, in 1613, Bandulovich's translation of the same holy books in the common language. A Jesuit, Barth. Cassio, A.D. 1640, had translated both the Old and New Testaments; but the printing of it was prevented by the bishops. Anton Cacich wrote a work on moral theology, in the common dialect of the country: and several ecclesiastics of high standing published works for religious instruction in the same language. The period following the catastrophe of Ragusa was fertile in theological, or rather religious, productions. The works of the archidiaconus Albertus, as also of Gucetich and others, contain treatises for spiritual edification, devotional exercises, etc. Biankovitch, bishop of Makarska, wrote a treatise of Christian doctrine, Venice 1708, in the common Dalmatian dialect. But this dialect found its most ardent champion in a priest, Stephan Rosa, who exerted himself greatly to have the old church Slavonic entirely superseded by the Dalmatian-Servian language. He made a complete translation of the whole Bible, and sent it to the pope, requesting that it might be printed and introduced under his high authority instead of the Cyrillic Bible. At the same time, he proposed that the mass should be read in the Dalmatian dialect; dwelling especially on the circumstance, that the Cyrillic language was an ingredient of the Greek church, and consequently the use of it in sacred things a species of Greek heresy. The pope appointed a committee to examine the new translation; the result of which was, as may easily be supposed, the rejection of a measure which savoured so strongly of Protestantism. From the time of this decision in A.D. 1754, nothing was done to provide the catholic inhabitants of Dalmatia, Bosnia and Slavonia with a version of the Bible, until at last a new translation, the first satisfactory one in the language, made by the Franciscan monk and professor Katanesich, was accepted and introduced in 1832 The merit of having procured it to be printed and published, belongs to the late primate of Hungary, cardinal Rudnay.[24]

The inconvenience of such an anarchical state of orthography, and likewise in part of the grammar itself, must of course have been felt very early; but it would seem that in this department also, the Dalmatian writers acted with more zeal and diligence, than success. The above-mentioned Barth. Cassio, and after him another Jesuit, J. Micalia, endeavoured in the first half of the seventeenth century to settle the orthography and subject it to fixed rules. Ardelio della Bella, a member of the same order, published in 1728 a dictionary and grammar, in which he abandoned the way opened by his predecessors, without however finding a better one. Jos. Voltiggi endeavoured to establish a third system of pronunciation and orthography; his dictionary and grammar appeared in the year 1803. A few years later a useful grammar was published by Appendini; also the great dictionary of J. Stulli, a work of considerable merit, and far excelling all previous works of the same kind.[25]

All the different systems and rules of orthography, exhibited and laid down in these works, had unfortunately no permanent result. The Dalmatians, the Slavonians, the Croats, and the Servians in Hungary, whenever they used Latin letters, all continued to write each in their own way. This continued until about twelve years ago; when new efforts began to be made to unite all the different branches of the Illyrico-Servians, and if possible also the Servians of the Greek Church, in the use of one general system of orthography. We have seen above the anarchy in respect to their literary language, which some years before the two Servians Davidovitch and Vuk Stephanovitch had found prevailing among their Cyrillic brethren; and what pains they took to introduce the pure dialect of the people (essentially the language of the Dalmatians) as the literary language of the whole race; as also the efforts made by Vuk to establish a new alphabetical system. It can hardly be doubted that these efforts; the interest they excited; and, above all, the claims preferred by some eminent scholars connected with them; roused the jealousy and just ambition of the Illyrico-Servians. They were far from being willing to give up the name of Illyrians for that of Servians; they felt themselves a part of a great whole, but they wanted to be acknowledged as the principal part. In order to become strong, they had above all to unite, A gentleman of uncommon energy and intelligence at Agram, Dr. Ludovic Gaj, the editor of a Croatian periodical, took the matter in hand. He prepared a new system of orthography for all the Illyrico-Servian dialects, founded on the Bohemian model, and greatly approved by the Bohemian scholars. He himself established a printing office in order to carry out his plan. At the same time he enlarged his paper, which now became “The Illyrian National Gazette;” and contrived to secure patrons of name and influence. Schaffarik declared himself decidedly in his favour. How far he has succeeded, and how far in general the few Illyrico-Servian literati have been able to keep up their budding literature during the recent tempests of the times, we are unable to say. We may say truly that we have wished for Dr. Gaj's system of union the very best success; and have expressed above, how desirable we deem it in every respect.[26]

Literature of the Catholic Slavonians.

The Slavonians of the Greek Church make use of the Cyrillic letters; and their productions belong therefore to that division of Servian literature.[27] We have seen above, that the catholic Slavonians also neither speak nor write a different dialect; but that only their mode of writing, the strange combination according to which they express the sounds of the same language, separates them from the Dalmatian Servians.[28] To enter into the details of these varieties would be of little interest for our readers.

The light of the Reformation penetrated at an early day into Slavonia, and gave birth to a kind of limited theological or ecclesiastical national literature. But the catholic clergy soon succeeded in extinguishing it; and in the same proportion, the Latin language continued to supersede the dialect of the people. In more modern days, the Latin has been preferred by nearly all catholic Slavonic writers; and their own literature is now almost exclusively limited to works for religious instruction, catechisms, prayer-books, etc.

But although their language was thus relinquished in a practical point of view, it remained nevertheless the object of investigation to some of their profoundest scholars. Thus the Latin works of Prof. Katancsich, are almost all of them devoted to Slavic philological inquiries, etc, The translation of the Bible mentioned above, was made by the same learned individual.[29]