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The Poetics of Apocalypse: Ragusan Poets on the Great Earthquake of 1667 in Dubrovnik and its Surrounds

Slavica Stojan orcid id ; Zavod za povijesne znanosti HAZU, Dubrovnik. Hrvatska

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 394 Kb

str. 113-148

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Historic experience on the whole as well as literary perception agree on how difficult it is to confront a natural disaster such as earthquake, literature and poetry in particular being one of the powerful devices to describe and render the pain and misery of these apocalyptic scenes of human suffering. Most of the authors who wrote verses on the Great Earthquake of Dubrovnik did not actually experience it, their poetics being mainly based on the accounts of contemporary observers and victims, or on their own impressions stirred by the destroyed city more than several decades afterwards. Although the description of tragic events appeals to the reader by arousing deep sympathy for the victims, the poetic language is void of contemporary juices. The reader is aware of the poet’s gap of tens of years and the fact that the most tragic images had already crossed the bounds of memory. Through apocalyptic discourse the poets describe the destroyed and burnt down city quarters, piles of debris, yet ignore individual losses, individual suffering and personal tragedies midst this corpsed scenery. While writing on the victims, the poets speak of nameless bodies of no age or class status, thus creating an amalgam of lords, servants, government officials as equals in death. One may rightly say that these verses were in a way commissioned by the government within a project designed to show the world the scope of Dubrovnik’s tragedy as well as the Republic’s efforts to start its restoration. In this respect paramount are Gradić’s diplomatic endeavours to neutralise the pressure of hostile Venice towards ailing Dubrovnik, just as genuine in a poem imbued with powerful emotional moments. Even the poets who lived through the Great Earthquake avoid to write verse based on their own experience, but offer general scenes of apocalypse instead. Post-earthquake poetry of Nikola Bona/Bunić may be characterised as propaganda. Faced with the ruins of his family house and the loss of entire family under its debris, Jaketa Palmotić chooses to speak not of his own emotional breakdown but of a tragic fate of a young merchant, most likely fictional, who, by digging the debris of his house, finds his dead wife holding their dead child in her arms. The city’s apocalyptic state tied down the soaring minds of the poets. The crisis dictated their lives and careers: they served the state by assuming diplomatic duties and sought poetic inspiration among patriotic motifs. Exception to this were the poets such as Andrija Zmajević and Ivan Bolica Kokoljić who, as natives of Boka, experienced the tragedy beyond the concept of general destruction which prevailed in Dubrovnik after 6 April 1667.

Ključne riječi

earthquake motif in literature; Great Earthquake of 1667; poetics of apocalypse; literary imagology; literature and diplomacy

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