Vanessa Redgrave
Stane Sever


1835   Life is a prison ...  
he year 1835 was probably one of the darkest in Prešeren's life. His uncle Jožef, the only member of his family who had supported him without fail from his childhood in Kopanje onwards, died. Julija Primic got engaged, admittedly following her mother's decision, but she did not show any special feelings towards the poet either. Prešeren once, at a dance in Kazina, gave her a notebook containing all the poems he had written in her honour; she accepted the gift, but rejected him, telling him "not to get in her way with his love". But in the middle of the summer, a far greater misfortune happened. Matija Čop, his mentor, maybe his only real friend, drowned in the River Sava near Tomačevo. The sensitive and self-conscious poet needed Čop at his side, he needed his knowledge and open-mindedness, his encouragement and direction, and above all, he needed his understanding. Prešeren's pain is shown in the elegy he wrote in memory of his friend in German. The poet Oton Župančič says it is one of the most beautiful poetic works ever written, but it is somewhat surprising that Prešeren wrote it in German. Undoubtedly he wanted to make clear Čop's value and importance to the Germans of Ljubljana, including the Germanised Slovenes, who could not or would not understand the Slovene language. The elegy to Čop, in addition to demonstrating Prešeren's poetic talent, also confirms his creative power. Prešeren wrote the long and complex poem in a foreign language very quickly, in a week, whilst still working at the lawyer's office, and in addition he was put in charge of recording Čop's possessions. This was a difficult task as many were interested in Čop's extensive library and tried to get their hands on his precious books. Around this time, Prešeren finally lost his faith in his friendship with Miha Kastelic, who shamelessly went after Čop's possessions; in addition, Kastelic's role in dragging the unfortunate scholar from the Sava has never been fully explained. Rumour had it that Kastelic offered little help to the drowning Čop. Prešeren was now increasingly lonely: Andrej Smole was far from Ljubljana, and he had no other really good friends; but he was able to count on his drinking pals and there was never a shortage of those. Čop's death pushed the poet into the deepest crisis of his life; he drank too much, neglected his work at the office, completely failed as the manager of Čop's legacy and, according to some testimonies, he was even thinking of suicide. Around this time he wrote the famous poem Kam? (Where Now?), as well as the beginnings of what is probably his most important work Krst pri Savici (The Baptism on the Savica), which was published in the spring of 1836. This poem is in many ways so surprisingly unlike Prešeren's other writing that reviewers and interpreters of his work were quite confused by it. The poet himself said in a letter to Čelakovsky that "The Baptism was above all a metrical exercise, to gain favour with the clergy". This very unusual and controversial statement still arouses those researching Prešeren's work, and it points, above all, to the torn and sensitive state of the poet's spirit under the pressures of everyday life, which he found harder and harder to endure. We will not go into a detailed analysis of The Baptism, leaving this task to modern students of Prešeren.
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