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Original scientific paper

Croatian Written Heritage as a Historical Source: Occasional Verse and the Austrian Empire in the First Half of the 19th Century

Jelena Lakuš orcid id orcid.org/0000-0002-1161-5444 ; Filozofski fakultet Sveučilišta J. J. Strossmayera u Osijeku, Osijek, Hrvatska


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Abstract

When Dalmatia became an integral part of the Austrian Empire by a decision
of the Congress of Vienna in 1815, rigorous censorship affected book production
in Dalmatia too. It remained both quantitatively and qualitatively behind much of
Central and Western Europe. Its most significant part belonged to the occasional
verse. Comprising approximately forty percent of the overall book production, it
seemed to be the most popular (and acceptable) genre of the period, and it is one
of the reasons why the 19th century has sometimes been called the “golden” age of
the occasional verse. Occasional poetry was written for or prompted by a special
occasion such as the Emperor’s birthday, a coronation, an anniversary, his arrival in
the city, a funeral, etc. However, occasional poetry was also written to celebrate the
engagements or weddings of the members of upper-class families or other significant
events of their personal lives, to commemorate their funerals, etc. It was also
produced for special occasions, such as bishop investiture, first mass of Catholic
priests, etc. In spite of such great popularity, it can rarely be found in the collections
of the most significant lyric poetry, being qualified as poetry without larger
esthetic value. Only recently has it attracted the interest of researchers, mainly literary
historians and Latinists. However, historians place it on the margins of their
interest, although occasional verse may be regarded as a very precious historical
source, which is the main point of this paper as well. The paper analyses occasional
poetry from three aspects – socio-political, cultural and communicational, suggesting
that it does not only reflect the age when it was written but also the past times.
The analysis has been carried out on occasional verse printed in all three publishing
and printing centres in Dalmatia of the period (1815–1850) – Zadar, Split and
Dubrovnik. Research has shown that occasional verse was usually written in Italian
and Latin and rarely in Croatian. A large part of occasional poetry was dedicated to
the Habsburg Emperors Franjo I and Ferdinand I, the former Emperor being obviously
more popular among the authors. The paper discusses the reasons for this
popularity, suggesting that this kind of “court” occasional poetry was more common
in Zadar and Split. On the other hand, Dubrovnik noted more occasional verse written
to celebrate the important events in the lives of their patrician families, which
suggests a strong aristocratic spirit of the historical Republic of Dubrovnik. The
paper provides several examples of both kinds of occasional verse, and ends with
the conclusion that occasional poetry does reflect the local (Dalmatian) spirit and
can thus be considered an important historical source.

Keywords

Dalmatia; occasional poetry; Austrian Empire; 19th century

Hrčak ID:

71708

URI

https://hrcak.srce.hr/71708

Publication date:

5.5.2011.

Article data in other languages: croatian

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