Vanessa Redgrave
Stane Sever


1830   Matija Čop returns to his homeland  
n the other, 'poetic' part of his life, important events began to take place. Matija Čop, perhaps the most educated Slovene of the time, finally returned to Ljubljana and started socialising a lot with Prešeren. Čop's exceptional theoretical knowledge and above all his clear viewpoint on the need for the development of literature in Slovene were well matched to Prešeren's poetic talent and his wish for the Slovene language to become a more cultured means of expression, so that the Slovenes could take their place alongside the Germans and other nations. The Carniolan duo found a winning formula together. Needless to say, there were many obstacles to be overcome, from the backward Jansenist thinking in the area of spiritual matters, as advocated by the clergy, to police control and terror in the area of state policy, as maintained by Metternich's absolutist regime. Following Čop's advice, Prešeren began to introduce Romanic poetic forms, he started writing in tercets and stanzas; he also wrote his first sonnets and thus opened up new horizons for Slovene poetry. More and more new poems appeared, and so the idea of publishing an anthology of Slovene verse began to emerge. In 1830 there appeared the first edition of Kranjska čbelica (there were to be a further four), containing many of Prešeren's poems. This publication became the principal platform for Prešeren's work. The poetic fruit of Prešeren's friendship with Čop is represented mainly by the elegy Slovo od mladosti (A Farewell to My Youth), the Ljubezenski sonetje (Love Sonnets) and the satire Nova Pisarija (The New Writing). In this last poem, the poet brilliantly pours scorn on the current predominant teachings, according to which poetry was to be educational and utilitarian, as well as on the advocates of such teachings. The battle between the freethinkers and the traditionalists intensified, Prešeren in particular became increasingly sharp, so that the censor's office had to become more active. Even his mentor, Čop, had to hold Prešeren back, which was not to the poet's liking. When the third edition of Čbelica was being prepared Čop, relying on his reputation, managed to persuade the authorities in Vienna to allow him to be the one to check the texts to be published and thus the two men came into conflict. Čop wanted to calm things down and removed the poem Apel podobo na ogled postavi (When Apelles Exhibits his Painting) in which Prešeren told Kopitar that "a Kopitar should only judge shoes" (in Slovene, the word 'kopitar', in addition to its other meanings, can also be used to refer in a derogatory way to a shoemaker. Translator's note.). The poet was very upset by this and he wrote an angry letter to Čop. Later he apologised. The reasons for Prešeren's rash actions and occasional periods of despondency when he had no faith in the quality of his poems, should be looked for in his professional life. His unpaid work as an apprentice in various state offices did not bring the desired result; his superiors, even though pleased with his work, rejected his appeals for financial assistance; in addition it seemed that he would never get a permanent post. Thus Prešeren was forced to give up his career as a state employee; he got a permanent post as an apprentice legal clerk in Dr Baumgarten's office instead. The next big trial for Prešeren and Čop was the alphabet battle. Kopitar and his student Metelko tried to introduce a new alphabet, or rather twelve new letters, for which there were no grounds either in terms of substance or aesthetics. Prešeren eagerly participated in the battle with his famous sonnet about the spelling of the word kaša, whilst the more diplomatic Čop remained silent. The Czech poet Čelakovsky spoke in his place, rejecting the alphabet reform and at the same time, in his review of the first three volumes of Kranjska čbelica, praising Prešeren's poetry. This was the first favourable review from abroad, and it increased the confidence of the insecure poet. Following this Čop, encouraged by Čelakovsky, firmly attacked the new alphabet, which was soon after banned by court decree.

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