France Prešeren, oder Franz Prescheren (* 3. Dezember 1800 in Vrba (im damaligen Herzogtum Krain); † 8. Februar 1849 in Kranj, damals Krainburg) gilt als größter slowenischer Dichter.
France Prešeren wurde als drittes von acht Kindern einer bäuerlichen Familie geboren. Nach dem Schulbesuch in Ribnica und Ljubljana studierte er in Wien Rechtswissenschaften, wo er sich für Poesie zu interessieren begann. Nach seiner Promotion arbeitete er als Advokat. Während seines Studiums in Wien (1821-1828) lernte er am Klinkowströmschen Institut am Schlesingerplatz (Gedenktafel) den deutschkrainer Dichter Anton von Auersperg (Anastasius Grün) kennen, ebenso die slowenischen Literaturwissenschaftler Bartolomäus (Jernej) Kopitar und Matthias Tschop (Matija Čop). 1832 übersiedelte er nach Klagenfurt, um hier am 26. Mai am Apellationsgerichtshof (Gedenktafel am Neuen Platz) die Advokatenprüfung abzulegen, bei der er fast durchgefallen wäre, weil er auch für den Angeklagten recherchierte - dies beeinträchtigte seine gesamte weitere Laufbahn; er bewarb sich mehrmals vergeblich um eine Advokatur, die er erst 1846 in Krainburg (Kranj) erhielt. In Klagenfurt trat er mit dem Kärntner slowenischen Schriftsteller Urban Jarnik in Kontakt, den er in Moosburg besuchte, sowie mit dem Spiritual Anton Martin Slomšek. Prešeren gehört mit seinen deutschen Gedichten und Sonetten auch zur deutschen Literatur. In Laibach (Ljubljana), wo er von 1828 bis 1846 als Angestellter einer Rechtsanwaltskanzlei lebte, fand der Weltbürger nur wenig Anklang und vereinsamte; seine große Liebe Julia Primitz (Julija Primic) wollte von ihm nichts wissen, obwohl ein Teil der Ausgabe der Poezije im Akrostichon ihren Namen trug. 1839 lernte er in ihrem Haus die Arbeiterin Ana Jelovšek kennen, die ihm drei Kinder gebar, ihn dann aber verließ. Vereinsamt starb er an Leberzirrhose. Heute gilt er als slowenischer Nationaldichter.
Prešeren schrieb Liebes- und Naturlyrik, sowie ein großes historisches Epos Die Taufe an der Savica (Krst pri Savici). Im Jahre 1847 erschien sein Hauptwerk Poezije (Poesien).
Ein Teil seines Gedichtes Zdravljica ist heute die slowenische Hymne, sein Konterfei ziert die Rückseite der slowenischen 2-Euro Münze.
Nach Prešeren benannt wurde der Hauptplatz von Ljubljana, der Prešerenplatz.
This person, France Prešeren, is he who without hesitation, any school-age child in Slovenia will name as the greatest Slovenian poet. My aim is to describe the meaning this Romantic poet, whose two hundredth anniversary we are celebrating, holds for Slovenians and for their national identity.
France Prešeren is to Slovenians who Goethe is to Germans, Dante to Italians, Robert Burns to Scots, Pushkin to Russians, Mickiewicz to Poles, Shakespeare to English and---I don't know whom to name---to Canadians. One might surmise that outside of the Slovenian ethnic context---Slovenians number but two million in contrast to the large nations I've just named---we would learn little about Prešeren. Yet we can find some information. His biography, for example, we can read in the Encyclopedia Britannica. The encyclopedia has it that:
France Preseren Who was the man who is today the symbol of cultured Slovenians? How did he live? In brief: Prešeren was born in the village of Vrba near Lake Bled in Gorenjsko to peasant parents. This was at the time of Napoleon's wars, when he temporarily occupied the parts of Central and Southern Europe which were for centuries under the Austrian rule. In Vienna, the capital of Austria, Pešeren finished his law education, but was unable to open his own office until only two years before his death in Kranj. His request to do so had been five times denied. In the meantime he worked as a law clerk in the office of Blaž Crobath in Ljubljana, the capital of the Austrian province of Carniola (Kranjska), which then had a population of barely 12,000 inhabitants. He lived single and died poor, without providing for the two children he fathered out of wedlock with a young housemaid. In his poetry he sang of his unhappy love for an unobtainable middle class lady, Julija Primic, his poetic calling, and the fate of his nation. His poetic work is contained in the book Poezije, published in 1847.
born Dec. 3, 1800, Vrba, Slovenia
died Feb. 8, 1849, Kranj
the outstanding Slovenian poet of the Romantic movement. Preseren studied law in Vienna, where he acquired the familiarity with the mainstream of European thought and literary expression that, through him, reinvigorated Slovenian literature. He later held posts in Ljubljana and Kranj as a civil servant and lawyer. His life was one of struggle and disappointment, and in 1835 the sudden death of his close friend Matija Čop and an unhappy love affair brought him to the verge of suicide.
Although Preseren was not a prolific writer, his work gave new life to Slovenian literature, the development of which had been checked by political and social conditions. The themes and prosodic structures of his verse set new standards for Slovenian writers, and his lyric poems are among the most sensitive, original, and eloquent in Slovenian. In his "Sonetni venec" (1834; "Garland of Sonnets"), inspired by his unhappy love, as in his laterlyrics, he expresses the national consciousness that he sought to stimulate in his compatriots. He also wrote satirical verses (1845) on contemporary literary conditions in Slovenia. The epic poem "Krst pri Savici" (1836; "The Baptism by the Savica") treats the conflict between paganism and the early Slovenian converts to Christianity and illustrates Preseren's patriotism, pessimism, and resignation.
There is even a book in English about Prešeren, written by Professor Henry R. Cooper, Jr. (France Prešeren, 1981). If you care to find the titles of editions of Prešeren's poetry or articles and books about him, simply type the name Prešeren in a Slovenian on-line catalog search (COBISS - Redirect). If you don't wish to spend money on purchasing Prešeren's books, you can obtain the poet's entire book of poetry on the Slovenian literature webpages (http://www.ijs.si/lit/leposl.html).
A great deal has been published about Prešeren in Slovenian. The bibliography of these works itself constitutes a thick book of 750 pages containing thousands of entries. Three long novels have been written about Prešeren's life (by Ilka Vašte, Anton Slodnjak, and Mimi Malenšek), an opera, and hundreds of other, shorter pieces of fiction. There are over two hundred musical adaptations of his poems. If you don't have a Slovenian bookstore or library nearby, general web searches can help (I suggest AskJeeves), or a Slovenian internet directory. Just out of curiosity, you might even try looking up "Prešeren" in the Slovenian phone book: besides numerous Prešeren surname entries, you will find Prešeren Road, Street, Square, Embankment, School, Choral and Drama societies, Publishing House, Theater---in general, quite intensive exploitation of the poet's name.
Lest I forget to mention it, Prešeren's portrait is on the Slovenian 1,000-tolar note. The anniversary of his death has become a national holiday, and his poem "Zdravljica" was selected as the text for the national anthem when Slovenia became independent in 1991.
The poem takes from the revolutionary spirit of 1848 a nation's freedom and independence (liberté) and calls for mutual understanding between equal, neighboring peoples (égalité, fraternité). It would be easy to use the poem as a source for contemporary international-minded slogans. The poem was especially popular during the Second World War.
Prešeren wrote relatively little during his lifetime. Truth be told, almost everything was contained in just one book of 1847, Poems (Poezije). Every year at least one reprint of Poezije appears, so that the reprints now number 156! No, by all evidence one cannot deny that Prešeren is an exceptionally important person to Slovenians.
Let us consider individual topics a bit more closely. I will say a few words on Slovenian attitude toward culture, on Prešeren's attitude towards those close to him and about his character and outlooks as they were evidenced in his relations with enemies and friends, about the women who inspired his poetry, and, finally, about the chief works of his poetic opus.
I have told already, the poet Prešeren is a symbolic figure for today's Slovenian. In fact, it is little wonder that today, on the two hundredth anniversary of his birth, he somehow occupies the entire cultural scene. The government authorized a competition for the best electronic presentation about the poet. A feature film about his life, based on literary historian Matjaž Kmecl's screenplay, is currently in production. There are symposia and scholarly conferences and lectures, just like this one. With all of these events surrounding Prešeren, one might get the impression that the golden age of poetry has returned and that the art has reassumed that important place in the nation's culture that it had when the nation was formed in the nineteenth century.
Correct me if I am wrong, but I sense that the Slovenian cultural holiday on the anniversary of Prešeren's death (the holiday has been celebrated since 1945) is as specifically a Slovenian state holiday as Thanksgiving is in Canada or the U.S. That is to say, other nations do not mark such a holiday. I believe it might be difficult for an outsider to understand why it is such an important day for Slovenians, the day that two hundred years ago the attorney France Prešeren died. An attorney who wrote poetry in his free time, eventually attaining the status of the greatest Slovenian poet. Slovenia, independent now for ten years, has besides ecclesiastical holidays, dan upora (National Resistance Day [against the occupying forces in the WW II], 27 April), praznik dela (International Labor Day, 1 May), dan državnosti (National Day, 25 June), dan reformacije (Reformation Day, 31 October), dan samostojnosti (Independence Day, 26 December)---all holidays that mark important events in the nation's history. Yet the most important of these is 8 February, a cultural holiday (kulturni praznik), the anniversary of France Prešeren's death. On that day in the Slovenian cathedral of culture, Cankarjev dom (another institution named for a literary personage, Ivan Cankar, our greatest prose writer, who is also featured on our currency, on the ten-thousand-tolar bill), anyone and everyone of note on the national scene gathers to take part in a ritual awarding of Prešeren prizes to the most prominent artists, poets, writers, dramatists, painters, sculptors, architects, composers, set designers, choreographers, ballet dancers, directors, and other creative artists.
Literature in the nineteenth century greatly aided the formation of new European nation states' identities, including Germany's, Italy's, and Poland's; however, to the best of my knowledge, nowhere else did literature achieve such importance as in Slovenia. As proof of this, my colleagues like to cite the fact, unique worldwide, that in World War II Slovenians even labeled military units with the names of Slovenian poets, among them, of course, Prešeren's: the Prešeren Partisan Battalion and the Prešeren Partisan Company (founded 15 December 1941) and the Prešeren Brigade. Poets' burials have nonetheless always been major national events. Thus, with a great number of priests, they buried France Prešeren, over the course of many days Fran Levstik, and perhaps with the greatest pomp, in 1906, the beloved poet-priest Simon Gregorčič, called "the Gorizian nightingale".
Allow me to quote how the city of Kranj, where Prešeren died, parted with the poet:
On Saturday, 10 February at 8 o'clock they bore him to the central church. Here Dean Dagarin celebrated High mass with the deacons. His colleagues, the Kranj color guard, carried the deceased. And down the lane beside the coffin walked students of the Ljubljana Academy Legion, serving as an honor guard in pairs on both sides the entire time until Prešeren lay on the funereal catafalque. When, after the funeral rite, the poet was carried out of the church, the central square was crowded with people, so that one couldn't even see. He was buried to the music of the Kranj National Guard. The entire Kranj National Guard paraded after the funeral procession.
Not only after death, but also during their lifetimes poets in Slovenia can count on enjoying a certain reputation. In other countries, people often wonder that Slovenian poets receive honoraria (1700 SIT, or $CND 10 per line of verse) for their publications in literary magazines and that the state even pays them a special pension, though they may never have been employed anywhere. By tradition, our poets and writers are rewarded not only for having composed something good and attracted a large number of readers, but they are frequently cast in the role of national cultural, political, and moral authorities or arbiters. In the daily papers they speak out in the name longterm Slovenian interests, democracy, and humanistic ideals, criticize societal shortcomings and get themselves entangled in politics (Partljič, Peršak, Rupel, Šeligo), forgetting the while that Plato would have had them banished from the ideally organized state, likely because they were too naive, exclusive, radical, and did not consider the consequences of their decisions, being the true opposition of politicians, who are artisans of compromise and search for a middle ground most acceptable to the majority. Despite initial doubts about the politics of poets, one must admit that they and their poetry played a large, important mobilizing role at critical moments of the Slovenian nation's existence.
Based on what I have said so far, it is possible to conclude that Slovenian poetry is the most important branch of literature, that literture is the most important line of art, art almost a synonym for culture, and that culture is that which distinguishes us. Although cultural affairs are allotted only 1.5% of the state budget, this has symbolic meaning for the people and state. There is a special Ministry of Culture and there is no danger of confusing culture with entertainment, as in the U.S. In Slovenia, we understand culture as an elite sphere of activity connected with the highest spiritual achievements. Some prefer to capitalize the word Culture and treat it as others do religious ritual. Culture is the realm of spiritual transcendence of all that is worldly. The difference between culture and religion is, among other things, the fact that only the national elite takes part in culture and therefore it cannot be as effective as religion, which engages all types of people.
Lest you get the impression of an exotic, culturally immersed Slovenian character, let me add that in daily life Slovenians act little differently than the rest of the world. During poets' lifetimes Slovenians have valued them no more than do other peoples and like to joke about them because of their detachment and peculiarities. Before going to bed, only a few zealous people, professional readers---Slovenian literature teachers who have to prepare lessons and students who have to answer their professors' questions---pick up a Prešeren's poem. All the rest turn on the television and watch soccer, where "our boys" carry the national colors. And if we compare the highth of prestigious Prešeren prizes for cultural achievements with the incomparable greater amount of money that, for example, soccer players earn, it turns out that "cultural conditions" in Slovenia in general are quite "normal."
For me, as a literary historian, it is, of course, very interesting, what kind of poetry France Prešeren wrote, what literary traditions he followed, what novelties he introduced, and other such scholarly questions. I am aware that these erudite questions are not really important to the role that Prešeren has in the national collective, and so I will leave them aside. In order to confirm one's Slovenian identity, it is sufficient to be convinced that Prešeren excelled in his poetic profession more than any other at his time or later. He used the Slovenian language to express the most complex personal and social problems and did this in a wonderous way. And thus he raised Slovenian to an envious cultural level and showed that it was capable of articulating even the most recondite questions. This when it was thought that Slovenian was suitable for only the most common, everyday uses and for the lower classes. Since a developed language was one of the key conditions for national identity, Prešeren in fact laid the groundwork for an independent Slovenian national identity. Historians date the birth of the Slovenian nation only to the second half of the nineteenth century, when at mass gatherings held in Slovenian there were first heard pronouncements for a Slovenian people and demands for national rights. There were not yet any such large national events in Prešeren's time, but Prešeren made a distinctive contribution to the formation of Slovenians as a nation. After his death, the memory of Prešeren died out in the popular imagination. His national acclaim came only twenty years after his death, when the poet Josip Stritar edited the first reprint of his poems and accompanied it with an exultatory essay. When Prešeren was "rediscovered," he quickly became a symbolic banner of Slovenian linguistic, literary, and cultural being.
The surname Prešeren is common in the Gorenjsko region. It is attested from 1440 on, and means a happy, mischievous person. (In English it would be rendered as Joyce.) The village of Vrba, where Prešeren was born, was a small but, because of transportation, rich village. He himself described the beautiful area around Vrba, with the Karavankan Alps in the distance and Bled with its island as "the image of paradise." This area was above average in the economic sense, too, thanks to which it was able to send many educated and prominent individuals into the national pantheon.
His mother wanted him to become a priest, like five of his uncles, but he decided on law and graduated with honors. His mother, who attended a convent school in German Beljak and was known as an educated person, had the final word at Ribičevina, as the farmstead was called by those who lived there, and she stated her opinion on the poet's dilemmas in life and influenced has decisions, whether it had to do with education, choice of occupation, marriage, or inheritance. The custom in rich and large families was to educate as many of the young men as possible, as a rule for the priesthood, in order to make room at home for the oldest son, who would take over the homestead. The educated brothers would then take in as housemaids their unmarried sisters and provide for them. Of the seven Prešeren sisters and brothers, one brother died in his school years as the "most hendsome Ljubljana student"; a second become a priest, forgot how to speak Slovenian, took to drink, and in his later years was cruel to Prešeren's illegitimate children. One of the sisters married late in life. The others served at their brothers' homes according to the usual scenario; the third one, the unpersonable Katra, with the poet. The husband of one of the sisters took over the homestead and before long was able to pressure Prešeren's parents to leave the place.
Prešeren critics often emphasize his nonconformism, his free spirit, and efforts to rid himself of societal constraints and mores. But in the context of his family he did not behave this way; he somehow remained tied to his family, to his clan, and felt himself bound to it. The family, especially his mother, took part in decisions about his studies and occupation and his marriage ("he never said contradicting his father or mother"); he visited his relatives and corresponded with them. His childhood years the poet spent with his uncle priest in Lower Carniola (Dolenjsko) and his student years in Ljubljana, once again in proximity to relatives. Thanks to his mother's strong influence he had to exert a good deal of will and stubbornness to push his professional life in a secular direction---he tried to convince his mother that he was not fit for the priesthood because he could not sing.
How Prešeren looked we know only from written descriptions; the poet never had a photograph taken or a portrait made, though his friend Matevž Langus was a painter. Only after his death did his numerous portraits begin to appear, based on the recollections and stories of his contemporaries. Goldenstein painted the first one a year after the poet's death. More than a hundred followed (see Dr. France Preseren). Prešeren was described as stocky, average height, slender until age thirty, then more and more round. He wore a dark frock coat with a stylish high collar, top hat, and boots. He was dark complexioned, with a low forehead, small mouth, small eyes, and long, disheveled black hair. He spoke softly---not a very good speaker. He liked to express himself ambiguously.
Slovenian mythologize Prešeren's life, especially in school. We attribute to him the most noble qualities, in which his genious is expressed. And we do this most when we wish to blacken his enemies. Since Prešeren had a cheerful nature, he did not have bitter enemies, which, however, does not prevent us from wagging a finger at the few opponents and competitors he did have. To be fair, Prešeren made his own enemies by choosing systematically to irritate all prominent individuals in his epigrams out of his bohemian playfullness and arrogance. Drunk with his initial public successes, he wrote a good twenty epigrams at once. When he wrote, Prešeren was a fighter who demanded taking sides and also forced his friend Matija Čop and other companions---though they were more realistic and careful and distanced themselves from Prešeren's most aggressive poems and statements---into uncompromising battle with those who thought differently. Prešeren's overly proud and stubborn nature---and later in life his free thinking (Freigeist), social rebellion, and nonconformity---sometimes spurred him into conflicts with those around him. These two qualities were, to a great degree, the causes of Prešeren's professional failure.
The first person on the list of Prešeren's opponents was the Viennese state librarian, grammarian, and scholar Jernej Kopitar, to whom the student Prešeren gave his early poems to read. The stern man advised Prešeren to store them in a drawer for several years, and then he told him to improve them. Prešeren followed his suggestion to the letter to the extreme way and burned all of his poems, but his silent hate remained with him and came to fruition in the polemic about the standard Slovenian language. Although Kopitar was an undoubted authority on language questions, in Slovenian culture and history he earned the place of a whipping post in comparison to Prešeren. Every Slovenian knows by heart the verses with which Prešeren beats the scholar: "Let a Shoemaker [i. e. synonim to Kopitar in Slovenian] judge only shoes." The conflict was, simply put, over Kopitar's constructing his ideal for the language on the basis of the less educated people's speech, which was, according to the pre-Romantic view of the 18th century, authentic and uncorrupted. But for Prešeren it was a matter of being able to express in Slovenian more intellectually complex content as well, for which the common idiom was unsuitable. Kopitar was interested in literature for the common people, Prešeren in literature for the educated.
Another contemporary who has angered everyone that likes Prešeren was the poet Jovan Vesel-Koseski. Vesel-Koseski was an attorney and finance official in Trieste. He earned fame in the first Slovenian newspaper, Novice, as an author of verbose patriotic verses and for some years he overshadowed Prešeren's poetic reputation so much that the editor of the education-minded Novice, Janez Bleiweis, did not even invite Prešeren to publish there. That this was understandable is seen by the fact that the the greatest authority on esthetic matters at that time, Prešeren's friend and mentor Matija Čop, thought highly of Vesel's early poetry. A caricature by the well-known Slovenian painter Hinko Smrekar clearly shows how public opinion was divided about the two poets.
In a newspaper article of that time Prešeren was depicted as a white swan and Koseski as a proud eagle. Prešeren is advised to write not only love poems, to take up serious topics as well, on Koseski's example. What a symbolic occurrence: the poet rivals had such similar names---Koseski's surname Vesel would be in English the same as Prešeren---Joyce.
A third opposition of enmity to Prešeren's plan for a national cultural birth were the efforts of certain contemporaries to unify the Slavic languages, eliminating the small ones in favor of one, great, common language. This was known as the Illyrian movement (the unification of South Slavic languages) and Panslavism. Its proponent was the Styrian (Štajerska) poet Stanko Vraz. Prešeren's home region of Carniola (Kranjska) and Vraz's Styria were both Austrian provinces. (The territory of Slovenia belonged to the Habsburg monarchy for almost its entire history.)
The difference between them was that the majority of the population of Carniola was Slovenian, while Slovenians lived only in the southern part of Styria and the rest of duchy was German. That is why Vraz felt more ethnically vulnerable that Prešeren. The two poets were friendly, however, they agreed that they wrote in such different Slovenian that they understood one another poorly. For example, to Vraz Prešeren's great poem, Krst pri Savici, was difficult to understand. And in Ljubljana, the editors of the newspaper Illyrisches Blatt did not want to print Vraz's poems because they would be incomprehensible to a reader in Carniola. Vraz wished the Carniolan literary idiom to make some concessions to Eastern Slovenian (Styrian) language; since Prešeren did not wish to satisfy him, although his mentor Čop was for the idea, Vraz ceased writing in Slovenian and took up Croatian. He moved to Zagreb, Croatia, where he felt more secure in his Slavic identity. Thus he intentionally rejected his native language in order to gain the ethnical survival of his people. The cultural ties between Styria and Zagreb continue to this day. Even the majority of today's Maribor University professors received their doctorates in Zagreb. Vraz's dilemma and decision attest to the thin line between the young Slavic standard languages, as well as to the lack of clarity about the Slovenian language territory. Only today can one grasp, with Vraz in mind, how questionable, courageous, and risky was Prešeren's decision for Slovenian literature in the first half of the nineteenth century. Others, too, like Prešeren's personal friend Count Anton Auersperg, would later question the sense of an independent Slovenian language and literature.
Prešeren was a regular visitor to fun gatherings where he acquired many sympathetic acquaintances, but he had only two real friends, Andrej Smole and Matija Čop. These were two very different personalities. The first was a bohemian reveler, the other a serious scholar. Each fitted his respective pole of Prešeren's ambivalent nature. In his youth, Prešeren associated a lot with Smole, the son of a rich Ljubljana innkeeper (what is today Pri Figovcu), who was, however, an irresulute (inconstant) character and so undone by disappointment in love that he became a drunk and lost his entire inheritance in debauchery. Smole planned a Slovenian newspaper, collected folk songs, and translated English drama. Incomparably more introverted was Prešeren's other friend, Matija Čop, from the neighboring village of Žirovnica. He was a classical philologist, teacher at the lycee in L'vov, Ukraine, and later in Ljubljana, and then a librarian at the Ljubljana lycee. Čop authored the first history of Slovenian literature. He knew many (nineteen) languages, was uncommonly well-educated, and served as a mentor to Perešeren in his poetic calling. Though they took the same position on language questions, Prešeren was more boisterous, making it Čop's task to blunt Prešeren's more radical statements.
Prešeren lost both of his friends early; so, too, did his plans for marriage fall through. Those who would marry him he turned down (first the noble middle class woman Maria Kaetana Khlun and later the mother of his illegitimate children, Ana Jelovšek). Those he tried to win disdained him. He was turned down by the innkeepers' daughters he courted (Zalika Dolenc and Jerica Podboj) and, what stung him most, his muse, Julija Primic, to whom he dedicated the most beautiful portion of his poetic works. The best match would have been the well-to-do Khlunova, but their distance and, perhaps, her age (she was two years older than Prešeren, who had an eye for fresh young girls, the youngest of whom was thirteen) undid the potential union. For Julija's family Prešeren was financially and socially too low. They were looking for a rich match for their daughter.
It is surprising how many coarse words Prešeren critics have used on the house servant Ana Jelovšek, who lived with Prešeren from her age sixteen to twenty-nine in a common law marriage. She has been faulted for her lack of education, mothering, and insensitivity because she put pressure on the poet when she demanded that they get married after the children were born. Slovenian feminism has not yet managed to correct this most chauvinistic chapter of Slovenian literary history, though recently Gregor Kocijan gallantly came to the defense of Ana Jelovšek.
In his time and yet today Prešeren was known for his love poems. He published his first poem ("Dekelcam") in the Ljubljana German-language Illyrisches Blatt. In the early poems women are coquettish and proud, declining the poet's love. Through the years another type of female develops---an unobtainable ideal love. The ideal's name was Julija Primic, a sixteen-year old young lady from a middle class family. For his muse's birthday in 1834 he wrote and published a wreath of sonnets as a special supplement to the newspaper. It was printed without the censor's knowledge and secretly sent to select recipients. In it, Prešeren asks Julija to harken to his love, that his pen might be inspired and he would set to creating great poetry for the cultural good and redemption of the nation. The wreath of sonnets was a formal novelty. In German poetics of the time, the sonnet was the chief proof of a nation's linguistic culture. Prešeren masterfully wove fourteen sonnets together. By writing the name of his muse in an acrostic from the first letters of each sonnet, he grievously offended the Primices and closed his path to Julija. The wreath of sonnets has been since mythologized and is a typical Slovenian poetic form.
Another great poetic work with emphatic national importance is the epic Krst pri Savici. Prešeren composed it in 1834 and in 1836 published it himself in 600 book copies at Blaznik's printshop. He soon sold two hundred, a considerable number at the time. The work has five hundred lines. It tells of the struggle between pre-Christian and Christian Slovenians in the Bohinj valley in the year 772 and the defeat of the pre-Christian rebels in battle, after which only the leader Črtomir remains alive. When after the battle he secretly meets with his betrothed Bogomila, who had been a priestess of the goddess Živa on Bled Island, she informs him that she herself has been baptized, and that Črtomir might survive the battle, she had promised herself to Mary. Then Črtomir is convinced to receive baptism at the Savica waterfall. He will become a Christian priest.
The poem thematizes the basic Slovenian dilemma, which consciously determines national existence even today. The dilemma is whether we will preserve our identity in proximity to peoples who speak other languages by adopting another culture. Črtomir offerd an answer by resignedly accepting a foreign culture, a foreign religion---that is, by conforming to a more industrious and successful neighbor. The answer is in a compromise: we will preserve our language if we accept a foreign culture. The poem's narrative is involved and open and provoked many different interpretations. After a long time, the poem became one of Prešeren's works that pleased the Slovenian ecclesiastical circles. In Prešeren's biography, the poem marks a farewell to his love for Julija and his best friend and mentor, Čop, who had drowned in the Sava river. The spirit of the poem, its elegic sense, and resignation is far from the optimism of the wreath of sonnets.
The pinnacle of Prešeren's Slovenian poetry is surely the poem "Pevcu" (1833), which in a tightly thought out and harmonized form speaks of the disjointed, unharmonious poetic nature. In addition to works mentioned, Prešeren wrote ballads and romances and adaptations of folk songs; he was more vulgar in his many epigrams and satires, and especially towards the end of his life in setting down occasional, here and there very indecent (sexually explicit) verses.