Great minds would not necessary been great if they did not live in a time of significant historical upheavals. Those moments, when the whole world changes, when the poet’s homeland is transformed, reborn and people’s lives are scarified, seem to be kinds of fuel that deepens artist’s pain, refinements his talent and thus makes him great.
In 1925 in Corfu, Miloš Crnjanski, who is considered to be one of the most prominent authors among Serbian writers and poets, wrote his poem Serbia, on which this essay will focus. Zdenko Lešić once said about Crnjanski that from the very beginning he was a poet who was fully aware of avant-garde nature of his poetic venture. His aim was to freed language by changes “in word, in feeling, in thought” as well as to discover new possibilities through which poetry could be expressed. As it has been already mentioned, this work will analyze Crnjanski’s poem, Serbia.
The year 1925 historically belongs to the period between the two world wars. World War I, and therefore Serbian Golgotha, ended with the Treaty of Versailles signed in 1919. The short twenty years period between the two biggest conflicts in world’s history was not, however, ample time, for country like Serbia, to make quick recovery from wounds sustained after Austrian invasion of Serbian territory, a huge number of war victims, and an epidemic of typhus. It must be emphasised that Corfu is not, by any means, an accidental place of origin of Serbia. It was there where the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, officially called Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, was formed after a meeting inside the Municipal Theatre of Corfu. In his book, Lirika Itake, Crnjanski writes about Corfu and describes the atmosphere in which Serbia was written:
„Tu, kraj kanala, u more, veliko je groblje
Na toj utrini velike krstače na kojima piše:
,ZA PRAVDU I SLOBODU’ /.../
Vrćamo se u Krf putem koji vodi kroz ta groblja.
Krajevstvo Srba, Hrvata i Slovenaca nije na njih potrošilo do sada ni toliko kolikokošta, na Krfu, magarac”.
Through verses of Serbia one can see how Crnjanski becomes emotional over the massive destruction of his homeland and that what remained from it after the war. But the very first thing that is visible for the reader is the title of the poem. It must be noted that Crnjanski took an old, archaic term, ‘Serbia’, instead of using an ordinary place name, ‘Srbija’. By doing that, the poet gets us to understand that ‘Serbia’ is a name of a permanent, hardly available absolute. The title also suggests that ‘Serbia’ is an old state, which against all odds, still exists. Unlike in Stažilovo and many other poems written by Crnjanski, the structure of Serbia is not clearly defined. There is neither a specific number of verses in stanza nor of syllables in verse. Thus, Serbia has thirty-two stanzas of one, two, four, five and six verses. Eighteen of stanzas are quatrains. When it comes to verses, the majority of them (113) consist of 14 syllables, which mean they are fourteeners/ tetradecasyllabics. There are also: - 6 verses consisting of three syllables;
- 2 lines consisting of four syllables;
- 2 verses consisting of nine syllables;
- 5 lines consisting of ten syllables;
- 4 lines consisting of thirteen syllables;
- 2 verses consisting of fifteen syllables.
What can also be observed in Serbia is the rhetorical tone of the poem. The lyrical subject tells the story of his homeland and by that also reveals the deepest secrets of his heart. According to Aleksandar Petrov “retorička intonacija je [...] vidno prisutna Serbiji, ali je prisutna i intimno-ispovedna, naročito u onim partijama u kojima subjekt u perfektu i aoristu govori o sebi i svom životu”. Therefore, by using both the aorist and the perfect tense, the lyrical subject tells the story of his life:
“Isplivah groblju, u nesvesti, kao modar rak.