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Journal of Croatian Studies, XXVIII-XXIX, 1987-88 – Annual Review of the Croatian Academy of America, Inc. New York, N.Y., Electronic edition by Studia Croatica, by permission. All rights reserved by the Croatian Academy of America.

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The introduction of vernaculars into neo-Latin literatures was a product of late medieval humanism, the Renaissance, and the Reformation periods. An important instance occurred among the Slavic nations: the Croatians created their vernacular in the late Middle Ages, when Roman-Latin humanism found its distinct expression in the Italian peninsula and its neighboring Adriatic coastal belt. The cradle of Croatian vernacular literature and culture was on the Adriatic coast where the Slavic tribes settled down next to the preserved Roman population in the seventh century, creating a Roman-Slavic symbiosis in subsequent centuries. Thus, the Roman-Slavic inhabitants of the eastern Adriatic coast came to belong to the narrowest common area of Roman-Italian civilization, that is, Italian peninsula. Both the Italians and the Dalmatians, as well as the other inhabitants of the eastern Adriatic regions, had similar backgrounds in Roman Christianity, in the Latin language, scholasticism, and feudal and bourgeois societies; they shared the motivations of humanism, the Renaissance, eloquentia vulgaris, and vernacular literature. Both societies had the same goals and effects. They both wanted to establish a national language and a secular literature as a cultural medium of communication. Our concern here is to explain how secularism became the dominant feature of Dalmatian-Dubrovnik culture at the dawn of the Renaissance and how, by assimilating new secular aspects of culture as one of its essential characteristics, what we call the Croatian vernacular gradually assumed the role and function of a common national language in most regions of Croatia in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance.


The independent city-states, villages, and islands of the eastern Adriatic coast (Dalmatia, the Croatian Littoral, Istria, at the head of which was the Republic of Dubrovnik) displayed a social and economical structure similar to that of Italy, where after centuries of economic stagnation in early Middle Ages there was a boom in manufacture and trade. (One finds a similar process at work in later periods of the Middle Ages, in the urban centers of Italy and those of the eastern Adriatic coast). As their Italian contemporaries, the Dalmatians were engaged in the same task of reconciling the classical culture with the new Christian one. For both groups ancient Rome was an inescapable model. The political institutions of the Roman Republic, the privileged status of her leading citizens, their characteristic virtues, the atmosphere of a society in which liberty and eloquence dominated, the rational temper of the Roman spirit, the wealth and the prudent moneymaking: all these aspects had manifest attractions for the progressive merchants of Italy and Dalmatia, and those on the other parts of the eastern Adriatic coast. All of these inhabitants of numerous Italian and Dalmatian city-states could see their prototypes in Roman citizens and their political and social activities. Their prime goal became to adapt and apply to their own culture Roman politics, law, administration, learning, philosophy, and business, as well as the values of justice and freedom. These medieval successors of the Roman Empire were eager to imitate all the virtues of ancient Rome. They were aware that in the Roman tradition they could find solutions for their everyday life, as well as aspirations to reshape earthly conditions and to create a profoundly humanistic respect for human life.


The Roman Republic represented the most attractive corpus of ancient models and patterns to be imitated in both Italy and the eastern Adriatic coast; the best proof of this lies in the existence of an autonomous parliamentary system both in the medieval Dalmatian cities and in the Republic of Dubrovnik. In the eleventh century one finds already in all Dalmatian cities the "priors" (heads of the autonomous city administrations) and the "tribunes" (military leaders). The prior was elected from among the city noblemen or patricians. He was the head of a city council consisting of judges, tribunes, and notaries, acting as a steering committee or originating body for the enactment of laws and decrees, which in due course were submitted for approval to the Municipal Assembly by way of Conlaudation populi. The parliamentary system enabled the citizens (common people and nobility) to take an active part in politics and social life, because municipal assemblies were attended by the bishop, clergy, nobility, and other citizens. This body of people's representatives, which in most city-states consisted of about 300 members, gradually evolved into a Senate. The Republic of Dubrovnik best displays this development (Gelcich 1884; Foretić 1980:52-4).


In these Italian-Dalmatian city-communes the essential antinomy was between public and private commitment; the commune or the republic was cherished as providing an opportunity for the exploiting of human potential to the full. Similarly, individualism is not at all characteristic of the Italian and Dalmatian humanists who adopted the classical Roman ideal of freedom. For them the vital core of liberty is not found within the individual, but only within society; history is the history of communes, not of individuals and their connection with "publicity" (Baron 1966:414). As already noted, the population of the Dalmatian cities and Dubrovnik was a relatively important factor, because of the part played by popular assemblies in making policy decisions. Especially during the earliest period of city-communes, internal relations within the city tended to be democratic, and documents speak of the people, resolutions made by "all citizens”, or made "with the prior, the clergy, and the entire population”. However, it must be borne in mind that by the age of Thomas the Archdeacon (1201-68) the author of the Historia Salonitana (first half of the thirteenth century), the difference between the nobility and the plebeians was already established (Klaić 1976:154-77).


In their external relations the citizens of Dalmatian communes demonstrated very early their great concern for the freedom of the Dalmatian cities. Or, more precisely, civic patriotism tended to preserve the independence of the cities themselves from ancient or invented feudal claims. One of the most conspicuous examples, described by Thomas the Archdeacon, is the episode that tells how Koloman, king of Hungary, and his dignitaries were "offended when Split refused to yield voluntarily and when the people closed the gates before the Hungarian army and prepared to fight. "Then the king and his dignitaries”, continues Thomas, "felt that they had been insulted by the people of Split and they threatened to destroy the city. They set up their camp not far from the city and began to devastate the fields and to loot." Under such conditions, negotiations began and "three imperial cities”, Zadar, Split and Trogir, opened their gates to Koloman (between 1105 and 1107; Šišić 1914:603-19; Klaić 1971:517-32). In return for their willingness to negotiate Koloman left the cities with a high degree of local autonomy and allowed them to develop quite freely. Koloman's privileges, given to Zadar, Split and Trogir, became a vital issue for all medieval communes in Dalmatia. Koloman seems to have accepted all the conditions set by the citizens and to have signed the texts prepared by them. Only the text of privileges given to the commune of Trogir has been preserved, but the autonomous rights of other communes were established along the same principles (Šišić 1944:17 f.).


As a unique city among the eastern Adriatic city-communes, Dubrovnik had always kept it balance in politics. As a mediator of commerce and of civilization, faithful by sentiment to Catholicism and to the pope, Dubrovnik was pushed by practical necessity to look for help of the Turkish and Christian powers. The history of this republic was not distinguished by strongly individual enterprises. Dubrovnik evolved under tenacious control for reasons of state, and in the common interest of all its citizens. Thanks to its constant internal independence Dubrovnik created a brilliant culture which also radiated to the rest of Croatia. This culture, and especially its Renaissance language and literature became the basis for national unity.


However, the Dubrovnik and Dalmatian Renaissance humanists and Latinists, as well as fifteenth and sixteenth century writers in the Croatian vernacular, were indebted to the earlier humanists for the great variety of literary styles, techniques, and attitudes they cultivated in their prose and verse. Likewise the development and establishment of the Croatian vernacular and its literature owed more to the rhetorical and scholastic writings of the eleventh-twelfth century Renaissance than to the later development which we usually call "Renaissance". This in itself suggests that the period of the late Middle Ages should be more fully studied, in sharper detail, in order to trace the beginnings of language and literature among the Croatians. This matter is of particular relevance to historians of medieval culture because the Croatian language was the first-born vernacular in the Slavic world, and among the earliest vernacular codifications in the neo-Latin community.


The ideological basis for such an early and relatively quick creation of vernacular literature among the Croatians must be sought within the development of the same intellectual trends in the Italian, Dalmatian, and Northern Croatian Littoral communes. Through these trends which the peninsula, including both Adriatic coasts, had embraced, a new intellectual synthesis and many cultural achievements made themselves felt. These achievements were not completely realized until the thirteenth century, but in the eleventh and twelfth centuries they were already set out in rudimentary forms. The ground was fertile with the seeds of a cultura Latina which continued the old and prepared the new humanism. As already stressed, Rome had been a source of creative vitality in thought and politics, as well as in art and architecture in various centuries of the Middle Ages; these Roman ideals had experienced a series of renaissances. The eleventh and twelfth centuries witnessed a new movement of ideas which gave rise to many undertakings in culture at large. A new art was born, first Romanesque, then Gothic. A new and scientific method was developed in philosophy and jurisprudence. A new figure appeared in literary culture, that of the educated layman. The people were still influenced by ecclesiastical models and ideals but their whole outlook was slowly turning toward a more secularized, worldly ideology.


This transformation was, in part at least, due to the fact that most of these literati and notaries were lawyers, trained at Bologna, Padua, Ravenna, or Naples, or in one of the centers of profession rhetoric like Capua (Haskins 1929:146; Schaller 1958:288). When the revival of Roman law and academic jurisprudence in Italy initiated the practical needs of notaries for governmental and administrative purposes, notaries also appeared in Zadar, Split, and Dubrovnik; these men were schooled in Italy and they introduced all the innovations which were taking place in Italian schools of civil jurisprudence. Thus, systematically written juridical records in the Dalmatian cities are preserved from the second half of the twelfth century, although they had existed much earlier in the form of court documents (Klaić 1976:233; Šufflay 1904; Jireček 1903:161-214). The earliest juridico-historical texts, which were written at the same time as the notarial business was established in the Dalmatian communes, are the Cartulary of the monastery St. Peter in Selo, written in the first half of the twelfth century (Novak and Skok 1952; Pivčević: 1984); the Cartulary of the monastery St. Maria in Zadar, written in the second half of the twelfth century; and the Cartulary of the monastery St. Krševan in Zadar, written in the third decade of the thirteenth century (Klaić 1976:241-4). These cartularies are written in Beneventan script. The earliest juridical text written in the Croatian vernacular is an Inventory of the landed properties of the monastery at Povlje, with a historical review. The preserved copy is from 1250, written in Cyrillic script. Until very recently this Inventory has been view as an official transcript of an older original whose oldest part (Brečko's document) goes back to 1184. In her thorough and persuasive analysis of the Inventory Dragica Malić has come to a more precise conclusion about the original from which the existing transcript of 1250 was copied. In her opinion the original of the Inventory had been composed only about twenty to thirty years (c. 1228) before Ivan, a canon from Split, copied it in 1250 (Malić 1988: 7-22).


Just as in Italy, in the Dalmatian city-states notarial business went to laymen as well as to the clergy. Only later in the thirteenth century were notarial jobs performed more and more by laymen. Then the society's needs for the laymen were given greater attention. Just as in Italy, the administration of justice in all cities, villages, and islands of Dalmatia, the Croatian Littoral, Istria and the Republic of Dubrovnik followed the canons of Roman law. On the basis of public Roman law, which was secular in its conception and outlook, the medieval Christian communes of Italy and the eastern Adriatic coast released themselves from ecclesiological encumbrances by secularizing their governments' foundations. Probably the most interesting juridical sources, not only in Croatian but in the entire Slavic legal system, are the numerous statutes of cities, villages and islands of Dalmatia, the Croatian Littoral, Istria and the Republic of Dubrovnik, which treat primarily the public law but include also some aspects of the specificities of the private law.[1] By the 1340s practically all the Dalmatian communes had their own "books" of statutes (Klaić 1976:248; Bratulić 1976:378). All of these statutes established the legal protection of citizens and the defence of their rights and liberties, as well as public order and security, the growth of commerce, the system of territorial taxes, and international liberty and peace.


Thus, during the late Middle Ages, the Republic of Dubrovnik and other city-states of Dalmatia and the Croatian Littoral assimilated fundamental concepts of Roman Christian civilization which opened up new dimensions in their politics. These concepts accorded with the numerous secular manifestations of government detectable in society at large. Implementing the Roman public law and Roman politics and ethics (which once more proved themselves vital auxiliary means), the humanists of Italy and the eastern Adriatic coast strove to create new possibilities for human progress and to introduce a series of reforms in all spheres of human activity and spirituality, as they sought for a new vision of man and his status in the universe. Placing man in the center of the universe, this new philosophy of life began to create those currents of thought which resulted in what we call "modern civilization".


It is natural that the clearest traces of late Roman civilization were strongly present in the coastal belt, where the immigrant Slavic population lived in the neighbourhood of the preserved Roman settlements. Although Roman-Slavic bilingualism dominated in the cities, the bishoprics to which the Slavic population belonged used the Latin language and were tightly connected to Rome and other centers of Catholicism. In the ninth and tenth centuries the Croatian princes often sent their sons to study in Cividale. In subsequent centuries, following the examples of the Romans, the Dalmatian nobility sent their sons to study in Bologna, Padua, Rome, Firenze, and other university centers of Italy, and later, in the thirteenth century, to Paris or Vienna. To understand this educational-literary movement as an integral part of the twelfth century Renaissance,[2] it is indispensable to say some words about the development of the school system in the Italian-Dalmatian communes.


In Italy and on the eastern Adriatic coast, far earlier than elsewhere in the Middle Ages political and social life was carried on in independent urban communities and far more people were involved. In numerous city-communes there was a relatively large class of urban patricians who took a leading part in public life and were in need of education. The middle class, the plebeian, also was integrated into the body politic and gained access to the cultural heritage of society. The general atmosphere in these city-communes was propitious to the reception of political ideas and institutions created by the ancient polis (Baron 1938:82 f.; Weiss 1949:53-55; Kristeller 1944-5:346-74). Gradually more and more people became involved in these new undertakings and awakened to intellectual self-awareness. In particular, citizens with academic training in law, rhetoric, and ars notaria played a vital role in the intellectual life of these communes, stressing the importance of education. This led to the establishment of a municipal school system, which in its turn produced a large group of educated laymen, lawyers, and notaries. Though ecclesiastical institutions and the clergy may have played a considerable part in it, this school system was far more practical and worldly in character than its equivalent in north European countries (Seigel 1968:173-225; Zaccagnini 1924:254-301; Davis 1965:415-435; Tremblay 1933).


Thus in the eleventh and twelfth centuries the citizens of the eastern Adriatic communes studied at municipal grammar schools in various cities of the peninsula. They frequented either the schools conducted for laymen by laymen in cities, or schools connected with cathedrals and monasteries in which the basic instruction was grammar and the required reading materials were classical literature. The most reknowned Italian school was the archgymnasium in Bologna, and its university, founded in 1088, became famous for the study of Roman law. It is interesting to note that Thomas Archdeacon of Split, the greatest Croatian historian of the Middle Ages, studied law and theology in Bologna. Likewise both a Tuscan Bernard, archbishop of Split and the writer against the Bogomils and a famous orator, as well as a Tuscan Treguan, later the Bishop of Trogir, the author of a hagiographic work, studied at the university of Bologna around 1200 (Katičić 1979:218). Some Dalmatians of the period went to study in Padua and other Italian centers of learning. A few of them even went to Paris. The thirteenth century witnessed the growth of schools into universities in Western Europe. Thus the archbishop of Split, Ugrin (1244-48), studied at the university of Paris. He was considered very erudite and a man with rather secular outlook (Katičić 1979:218-9).


The connections between the two Adriatic coasts were very lively. In the same way that the Dalmatians went to Italy to study or work - and some of them even lived there for the rest of their life - the inhabitants of the peninsula were visiting Dalmatian cities, and numbers of them settled down for a while or worked there during a certain period of time. Usually written records give only the names of well-known notaries, chancellors, or teachers who came from Italy. For example one reads of Giovanni di Conversini who was the chancellor in Dubrovnik (1383-87), or of Tideo Acciarini who was the teacher of Marko Marulić in Split (1427-90), or Niccolo Roccabonella who was a physician in Zadar, 1449-53 (Bazala 1978:44-8).


Although the information about early education and its representatives on the eastern Adriatic coast is extremely scarce, and our knowledge about some facts of schools and curricula is scant, we do know that a grammar-rhetoric school had been founded in Dubrovnik by the thirteenth century. On the basis of its name, one can conclude that the school authorities were occupied with teaching the trivium. In 1434 the humanist Filippo de Diversis de Quartigianis from Lucca became the head of the school and reformed it. He was a master of grammar and philosophy, and he taught at the school until 1444. Later, in 1557, the school was transformed into a studium generale (Bazala 1978:28 and 45 Franičević 1974:47). In the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries several such independent municipal schools were established as permanent institutions in other localities on the eastern Adriatic coast and in the innerland of Croatia (Klaić 1976:582-6). Thus a school program, on the one hand, and vulgarization of both literature and knowledge among the citizens of the Italian and Dalmatian communes, on the other, created a new boom of classical studies in both the Italian and the Dalmatian centers of humanist learning. This fresh approach to stylistic and linguistic problems quickly spread among the early generations of Italian and Dalmatian humanists, who were notaries and jurists, the first champions of humanistic studies there in the twelfth century.[3]


In the thirteenth century a new change set in. There appeared a new flowering in the ars dictaminis which dominated the prose of the Italian chancelleries, and this was soon adopted by the medieval rhetoreticians from the eastern Adriatic coast and found expression in their writings in Latin. In particular chronicles were written by city officials, notaries and chroniclers against the backdrop of city life. Such are the already mentioned Historia Salonitana, the history of the Church in Split, written by Archdeacon Thomas in the middle of the thirteenth century, and Obsidio Iadrensis by an unknown author from the fourteenth century. In the fourteenth century there appeared several municipal historiographies. Miha Madijev de Barbazanis wrote the history of Split: De gestis romanorum imperatorum et summorum pontificium. Tracing the descent of the inhabitants of ancient Salona from the Trojan immigrants, Madijev tried to stimulate their patriotism and pride. A historian from the Split family of Cutheis also wrote a history about his own city: Summa historiarum tabula: De gestis civium Spalatinorum. In the same fourteenth century the chronicle of Dubrovnik was composed by Milecij. Giovanni Conversini de Ravena (1343-1408) wrote his Historia Ragusina. In the fifteenth century Giovanni Maria Filelfo (1398-1481) wrote an interesting history of Dubrovnik, the Raguseida. Also Drža Melicjak, Bishop of Kotor, wrote a church history, the Album capitulare in 1334 (Nodilo 1883:92-128; Bazala 1978:105-131; Klaić 1976:206-21; Klaić-Petricioli 1976:337-50; Katičić 1979:220-1). Having the city documents at their disposal these chroniclers and historians addressed a public not highly educated. In their writings they tended to use rhetorical devices of the type that were in current practice of ars dictaminis and ars notaria. The language and style these thirteenth and fourteenth century chronicles and historical writings in Latin merit further investigation. At present it is impossible to draw conclusions as precise or clear as we would wish.


This unbroken chain of revivals which sprang from a common source, Roman-Latin Christianity, took place first in Latin letters starting from the eleventh and twelfth centuries. At the same time this literary movement had not only a clearly-pronounced secular outlook, but a marked tendency to spread knowledge and education to as broad a strata of society as possible. Thus it brought about the rise of vernacular languages in neo-Latin Europe. And ultimately, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, this development transformed the vernacular tongues, both Italian and Croatian, into independent literary vehicles.


Enough has been said to show that these autonomous city-communes of the eastern Adriatic coast actively participated in a cultural union with Italy; they formed an integral part of Roman-Latin humanism with all of its characteristics. Not only the cultural-historical but also the linguistic framework of the Dalmatians paralleled that of the Italians. Thus, just as the citizens of these communes were imbued with a strong enthusiasm for reviving Roman universal authorities and virtues, they also adopted the Latin language which became the language of Christianity in the West. Actually, Latin was not imposed by the Church or by the law, but by Roman traditions of universalism and international order, both of which the Church inherited from the Empire. Once the decision was taken to extend the "pastoral care" of the Church to the new barbarian peoples, its inherited Latin, so masterfully adapted to the needs of Christianity by St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, and St. Augustine, was immediately transformed into a "mission" language. Thus classical Latin was transformed into Christian Latin, with a new spiritual purpose and a new social function that ensured its survival and its transmission to the new peoples. In Dalmatia, the Croatian Littoral, Istria, and the Republic of Dubrovnik, the Roman-Slavic culture met the Latin tradition of the Church on relatively equal terms, and it was there that a synthesis of the two elements was achieved which resulted in the formation of both a Croatian Christian and a Croatian secular literature and culture.


The earliest beginnings of vernacular literature descend from the eleventh century (Inscription of Baška), and were associated with missionary activities. In the period from the tenth to the thirteenth century, the Benedictines first organized the work of monastic schools, scholarship, and other cultural achievements among the Croatians (Ostojić 1963, 1964 and 1965; Klaić 1971:225-31; Krstić 1975:11-20; Katičić 1979:218 and 1982:39-51). Following the Benedictines' example, other orders also were founded, first in the coastal belt and gradually extended to other Croatian provinces, becoming the champions, guardians, and bearers of knowledge, enlightenment, and culture to all parts of Croatia. It is interesting that very early, or at the latest between 1089 and 1140, the Croatian chronicle, well known under the title Ljetopis popa Dukljanina (Presbyteri Diocleatis Chronica) was translated from the Slavonic language into Latin (ex sclavonica littera verterem in latinam) by a priest or a Benedictine monk in the region of Bar. Actually, the translator wrote the preface and added all the even that had taken place along the Adriatic coast from the arrival of the Slavs to his own time. Likewise he elaborated on the la chapters of the Chronicle. Unfortunately the text is preserved only in its later copies (Šišić 1928; Mošin 1950; Štefanić 1969:73-81).


It must be stressed at once that in the coastal belt texts coexisted in Latin and the Croatian vernacular. The latter appeared in Glagolitic script in the eleventh and twelfth century. By that time the Slavic liturgy was firmly rooted in Byzantine Dalmatia. In the eleventh century the center of the Glagoljaši was and remained the Byzantine Krk (island) and surrounding it islands: Cres, Lošinj and the Quarneri islands. Nada Klaić recently explained the exceptional eleventh century flourishing of Glagolitic literature not only in Byzantine Dalmatia where the Slavic liturgy had started its existence, but as seen in a constant extending of Glagoljica and its quick conquering of new areas, former domains of the Croatian kings, namely, the northern Croatian coast, the area of Zadar and Lika. A great number of these dioceses adhered to the antipope Honorius II (1064-1071) who supported the liturgy in Slavic and probably consecrated Cededa as a bishop (Klaić 1965:258-66; Banac 1984: 194-6). The movement against the feudalization and corruption of the Church, and against simony, led to the investiture conflict and the related crisis, which in turn provoked the beginnings of political thought not only in Italy but also in the Easters Adriatic provinces. All this agitation was reflected in a strengthening of the Slavic liturgy and Glagolitic writings, as well as in a broadening of the cultural and economic horizon. The movement of Croatian Glagoljaši was so strong that Glagoljica became the foundation of native literature in Croatia from 1060 to the middle of the thirteenth century. Likewise the Glagoljica penetrated into the Aquileian Patriarchy, into Istria and Carinthia. Its push towards Posavina (the Sava valley) was stopped by the establishment of the bishopric of Zagreb in 1093 as a branch of the Hungarian Latin church. On the coast, Glagoljica entered the cities themselves with the growing tide of Slav immigrants (Štefanić 1969:10; Banac 1984:201). But only in the Quarneri-Istria region did the Glagoljica and the Croatian vernacular dominate and make inroads in all fields of literacy and literature, becoming almost the only official language of the period (Štefanić 1969:29; Klaić 1976:223, 401). In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries the Croatian vernacular made its appearance in a more systematic way and rose to maturity. During that period it attained its full completion and elaboration, and it achieved wide currency throughout all the eastern Adriatic regions, penetrating into the innerland of Croatia. Thus the number of extant vernacular texts increases appreciably when we come to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.


The writings in the Croatian vernacular were not part of any conscious effort to have Croatian replace Latin. Latin had been and remained for a long time the language of culture. As in all countries under the Roman Church, medieval Croatia was in principle bilingual (Latin-Croatian), and Adriatic Croatia was even trilingual (Latin-Italian-Croatian). Owing to its Roman traditions and the political associations of the city-communes in Dalmatia and the Croatian Littoral, which favored and fostered both medieval and classical Latin language and literature, Latin remained the major and unmatched vehicle of expression for many centuries of the Middle Ages and up to modern times. The function of Latin as the language of administration, theology, science, art and international communication was not challenged among the Croatians during the entire medieval, Renaissance and post-Renaissance periods. It was the Croatian official language until 1847, which means that Latin was used longer here than in any other European country (Gortan-Vratović 1969:13). It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the Latin tradition for the development of the Croatian vernacular. Latin exerted not only one of the main formative influences upon the creation of the Croatian literary language and its literature, but it also laid the foundations of the edifice of Croatian culture in its entirety.


From the very beginning of its existence the Croatian vernacular came under the sway of Christian Latin and later of Humanistic Latin. It was on the foundation of Latin-Italian culture, rather than that of the Old Church Slavonic literary tradition, that a Croatian vernacular literacy and literature emerged in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. This does not mean that there were no connections with the Cyrillo-Methodian mission to Moravia and there was no traces of the Old Church Slavonic literature, which was especially fostered and to a certain degree preserved in Glagolitic liturgical texts (Hamm 1963:11-40; Nazor 1963:68-86; Tandarić 1978:115-124). Nevertheless the major characteristics, standards, and ideals of the Croatian vernacular and its literature stand in sharp contrast to the Old Church Slavonic and later Church Slavonic literary tradition of the Orthodox Slavs, which was based on Byzantine linguistic and literary models. And indeed, the Byzantine-Slavic tradition differed from Roman-Latin culture. In contrast to Roman-Latin monolingualism, and the linguistic universalism of Latin, there appeared under the strong influence of Byzantine literary models various linguistic levels of diglossia, constantly present in the texts of the Orthodox Slavdom during the entire period from the Slavs' adoption of Christianity from Byzantium in the ninth century to the final formation of their national languages in the nineteenth century (Nedeljković 1988). However, the description of the linguistic differences between the Roman-Latin and Graeco-Byzantine traditions exceeds the scope of this paper.


Medieval Croatian placed itself alongside Christian Latin in full dignity, both because it had acquired its own right to be regulated by the strict norms and rational rules of Latin grammar, and because it had grown ornate through literary embellishment, as proven by late medieval Croatian writings. Undoubtedly, the Croatian vernacular owes to Christian Latin some of its most distinctive features. First, it became an "ordinary person's language" from the very outset, accessible to all social strata. Democratic in both its form and its spirit, literary Croatian also attained simplicity, practicality, clarity, and sophistication, retaining at the same time its natural characteristics as a mother tongue. Even more importantly, it followed Christian Latin as a universalizing, “missionary” vehicle. In spite of the political disunity in the Croatian provinces, the regional dialects (Čakavian, Kajkavian, and Štokavian) were themselves developing organically towards a common, higher, supradialectal language. All levels of language diffusion and diversification were already far advanced in Medieval Croatian (Nedeljković 1986:59-61). Interference of Čakavian and Kajkavian elements is seen in the earliest Glagolitic texts, written in the northern regions of Croatia, as well as in the mixture of Čakavian and Štokavian features present in the first southern Dalmatian and Dubrovnik texts. This phenomenon of dialectal interference clearly indicates the tendency towards the creation of a common literary vehicle, acceptable and comprehensible to all the Croatian dialects (Hercigonja 1974:169-245, 1983:166-7; Kombol 1945:196; Damjanović 1984:40-1).


Croatian did follow the Latin-Italian model of literary development as outlined by Dante in his De Vulgari Eloquentia. As with the Italian envisioned by Dante, the Croatian vernacular was formed by extensive lateral borrowing, drawing on the actual usage of the various native classes and dialects, and sampled over as wide an area as possible. And that in turn was eventually supplemented by steep vertical borrowing, which meant drawing on Latin grammar to raise the horizontally - broadened basic speech to heights worthy of the sublime message of the Christian Gospels and of the elaboration and sophistication of Latin secular literature. Furthermore, the Croatian vernacular adopted the major criteria Dante laid down for a worthy Italian national vernacular. To qualify as a popular national language, Dante said, volgare would have to be illustre, cardinale, aulicum, and curiale ("Hoc autem vulgare, quod illustre, cardinale, aulicum esse et curiale ostensum est, dicimus esse illud quad vulgare latium appellatur, De Vulgari Eloquentia I, XVII-XIX). As luminous, that is illustrious in itself, Croatian gave the power of illumination to others. It was at the same time cardinal because it was capable of carrying all the other vernaculars around it, as on a turning door. By aulic Dante means "courtly" in the royal sense, suggesting the sort of language people would use at a national monarchic capital such as Paris or London. Actually, as the best realization of the Dubrovnik Renaissance language, the Croatian vernacular was to become a national language in all Croatia since it was widely understandable means of communication over a large geographic area. Like Dante's Toscan, the language of Renaissance Dubrovnik had enough time in two and a half centuries of free competition to achieve undisputed primacy over all other competing literary dialects in Croatia and to become the Croatian national language. In the period of the Croatian National Awakening (1830-50) the language of Dubrovnik played the same role in the process of unifying Croatian lands as did Dante's Toscan for the final unification and resurgence of Italy at the end of the nineteenth century. Finally, curiale, Dante's fourth criterion, which means "courtly" in the juridical sense, was also adopted and developed by the Croatian vernacular. In other words, it became a language that is "fair to all”, giving all the other vernaculars their due, or justice, like a true court of law.


In Italy, the juridico-political possibilities of the language stimulated the Italian rhetoreticians to look to texts of classical rhetoric and grammar, as well as to the doctrines of Cicero, one of the best sources by which politics was nourished. In the final development of medieval rhetoric a new tone of engagement and vitality characterized the ars dictaminis of the Italian communes; this stemmed from the political ferment in the new city-states and represented a fusion of secular ideology and almost sacramental religious purpose. Historians of Italian rhetoric emphasize an obvious continuity between Brunetto Latini's fresh and concrete restatement of the Ciceronian tenets of "civic eloquence" and the political rhetoric of the late fourteenth and fifteenth-century humanist chancellors. Dante himself had an admiration and profound esteem for Latini's rhetoric, which he expressed in the Divine Comedy: "m'insegnavate come l'uom s'eterna" (Inferno, XV, 85; Marzi 1910: chap. II; Seigel 1968:200-225).


Dante considered rhetoric of great importance for political life. The further cultivation of the forms of medieval rhetorical culture by humanists from the thirteenth century on brought about an important political development, the laicization of politics, which would find its most complete statement in the works of Machiavelli in the age of the Renaissance. The impact of political rhetoric upon Dante resulted in a profound change of his linguistic consciousness, a transformation which could serve as the basis of a “modern” political consciousness (Pagliaro 1963:238). Therefore he transformed his Florentine volgare into an instrument for contemporary political affairs and juridical debates. It served as a secular medium of communication and became the basis of the Italian national language.


As a creation of the late medieval humanism of Latin Christendom, patterned after the Latin-Italian model, Croatian emerged as a product of the great age of medieval humanism and classical scholarship, a time when the new social and juridico-political conditions that had begun to develop in the eleventh century tender to raise the level of secular culture. Therefore, it is clear that from its first literary developments the Croatian vernacular was designed to help secularize medieval culture. Lingua vernacula reveal its secular character not only in its rhythmical movement of clauses, used freely and organically, in its rich vocabulary and complex: sentence structure, in a new style of poetry and prose, but also in the new forms of social life and new ideals of moral conduct it depicts.


In this attempt to briefly illuminate the secular aspect of the Croatian vernacular, the focus must be highly selective. I shall try to illustrate with some examples of profane secular songs, as well as examples of religious ones in which secular and spiritual elements coexist. I will confine myself to a few poetical writings, first because lyrical effects and rhymed and unrhymed verse structure often allow a more succinct consideration of evidence than is possible with examples from the epic, romance, prose fiction, or drama of the time. Secondly, I deliberately do not consider secular prose manifestations of medieval Croatian literature because the rise of religious and secular lyrics is of much earlier date than that of prose works. We can postulate with certainty the existence of primordial bilingual (Latin-Croatian) lyrics whose tradition goes as far back as the outset of Christianity among the Croatians in the eighth century.


For this occasion I have selected some songs from the most precious collection of spiritual songs preserved in the Code Slave 11 of the Bibliotéque Nationale in Paris, or the so-called Paris codex of 1380 (Vajs 1905:258-75; Malić 1972; Štefanić 1969:364-73,377-8, 385-7, 397-9, 421-26). Comparisons and contrasts with the songs of earlier centuries are peculiarly difficult because so little has come down to us in writing in the vernacular. Nevertheless, these songs in the Paris codex must be qualified by attempts to fathom the lost literature and, even more, the lost oral compositions of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The levels of grammatical correctness, formal control, technical precision, and stylistic flexibility present in this glagolitic collection of popular songs and verses are significant not only for themselves but for what they may be able to tell us indirectly about earlier vernacular compositions that have not survived.


The birth of a popular religious and a profane vernacular lyric was not a sudden event. It had its previous relatively long tradition, and it developed within the church and in a medieval clerical milieu. Outside the liturgy with its hymns in Latin, popular religious songs were sung and performed at various occasions connected with religious cults and contemplation. Those are Christmas carols, Easter canticles, and many hymns celebrating the Virgin Mary, saints, and feasts of the church. Although their existence is attested to only in the thirteenth century in Dubrovnik, Zadar, Korčula (Gelcich 1882:17; Zaninović 1923:1-8; and 187-9; Novak 1957:61), as well as in other Dalmatian cities and the innerland of Croatia (Kniewald 1944:339-408; Boranić 1897:294; Bujas 1960:509-535), these songs must have been definitely the earliest literary expression in the Croatian vernacular. From the earliest times of Croatian Christian life there must have been a most urgent need for a popular Christian literature in the vernacular. In order to get the people involved in liturgy, public worship, and recital, these religious popular songs and hymns were translated in Croatian for ordinary worshipers who did not understand Latin. In time, the number of songs in the Croatian vernacular increased. It may be presumed that the transmission of these popular religious songs remained largely oral, because they were addressed exclusively to listeners who actively participated in the ritual singing. There was no need to write them down and record for posterity. Moreover, they were intended and designed to be memorized and learnt by heart, and used in immediate performances. Even in the twelfth century and later, a good deal of the poetry composed and sung was never written down.


The Latin tradition often preserves records of songs of which we have found as yet no written examples in the vernacular. The earliest evidence that such a popular chant in Croatian existed derives from 1177 when Pope Alexander III arrived in Zadar. The church historian Baronius has found a highly interesting document describing the welcoming ceremony. It says that, while the pope rode a white horse from the harbor to the church of St. Stošija, the priests and the people of Zadar greeted him with songs in the Slavonic language: cum immensis laudibus et canticis altisona resonantibus in eorum sclavica lingua (Novak 1957:61). Through careful study of the document, A.M. Strgačić confirmed that this singing was in the Croatian vernacular (1954:153-88).


The further development of the religious lyric in the city-communes of the eastern Adriatic coast continued to parallel that of Italy. In early thirteenth-century Italy, testimonies of such a popular devotional lyric are also scarce. However, new movement towards popular religious songs in the lay orders and confraternities gathered strength in the generation after St. Francis (1182-1226). These groups (Disciplinati or fragellants, Laudesi, Serviti, and others) adopted a characteristic popular religious lyrical form, the lauda, perhaps from profane dance-songs current at the time. Jacopone da Todi, a Franciscan poet, brought the lauda to its perfection (Ageno 1943-48:7-51). The direct links between these thirteenth century Italian creators and performers of popular religious lyrics and the Croatian ones are not established. Although the number of attested lauda songs in the Croatian vernacular is rather limited, the lauda existed and was included in the repertoire of the Franciscan redaction of the Missal and Breviary in the thirteenth century (Hercigonja 1975:157-8). And it seems very probable that the oldest preserved songs in the Paris codex of 1380 owe their innovations, especially their secular, realistic, and human content, to the influence of the above-mentioned Latin-Italian trend of popular, devotional songs.


The examples that follow are only fragments of what would be, ideally, a more extended inquiry. The first selection, which I have selected for this occasion is a spiritual song: Zač mi tužiš ("Why are you grieving, my soul"), a song imbued with deep lyricism. It is written with end-rhymes and lines of various length, and was sung. Originally it was created in the Čakavian-Ikavian dialect and later it was transmitted to the Dubrovnik region. Its free-verse structure and its skillful elaboration of content suggest a previously long standing tradition. Actually the song belongs to a group of medieval Latin lyric poems of human love such as the Song of Solomon which was adapted to Christian spirituality. Thus the ancient motif of human love was transformed into divine Love, by assuming that mystical symbolism is involved. The song Zač mi tužiš can be regarded as one of the well known versions of the so-called the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The song and its variations circulated in Roman Catholic Europe in the Middle Ages. As such the song Zač mi tužiš seems to be best interpreted as symbolizing the intimate experience of divine Love in the individual soul. Before the song was translated into the Croatian vernacular from its Latin original, it must have been adapted and synthetized in regard to its subject matter, language, style, and possibly worship. As the song Zač mi tužiš proves, the anonymous creator of this spiritual song adapted it to the Christian audience and achieved an admirable unity of both erotic, sensuous and graceful imageries of human love present in ancient pre-Christian songs and Christian allusions and allegories presented in full accordance with the theological teaching of the Church. Both elements are in full harmony in this song. Although the traditional motif of human love relationships are couched in theological concepts, they are still quite explicitly stated and recognizable as such. The language of the song in the Croatian vernacular has a sparkling freshness, as if it grew spontaneously out of praise and litanies:


Davori ljubvo moja Isuse,

ne hodi daleko ot mene ...


Hvalite ljubav moju, Isusa, nebo i zemlja i vse tvari

ki vse lĕpo krasi svojimi dari.

Hvalite, gore, polja i vsa drĕva

jere vas vsako lĕto lĕpo odĕva.

Hvalite, lĕto s cvĕtjem

i ptičice s željnim pĕtjem.

A nadasve vinu hvali

ti, človĕče, prepodobna tvari.[4]


The song Tu mislimo, bratja, ča smo ("There we think, brothers, what we are") was intended to be sung at the grave in the process of putting the sepulchral stone in place. The song is preserved in the same Paris codex, dated 1375. It is not so much a macabre vision of death as it is a very real, earthly picture of human death with all its consequences of the body's disintegration:


To smrt nosi ostru kosu,

otpasti je s lica nosu.

Ocĕre se naši zubi

vsi ležemo tamni, grubi.

Ognjiti hote naši skuti,

a ostati gnjila i šćuti.

Smrt nas, bratja, moćno žanje,

a mi lĕ zli nišće manje.[5]


The author casts light on the this-worldly conditions after a man's death. The picture is strikingly realistic:


Kad človĕka smrt postigne

tada ot njega vsak pobigne.

sam ostane bes pomoći

v tamnĕ grobĕ, v tamĕ noći.




Čemu ljubiš sa svĕt, brate,

ki na smrti mrzi na te.

Žena, deca, rod i mati

ne dadu ti s sobu stati.

Ostave to sama v grebi,

tvoje blago vazmu k sebi.

Tada ne bude nigdar blizu,

tvoje tĕlo črvi grizu.[6]


Every detail serves to present reality and concrete human feelings. No picture can be more real in any purely secular poetical description of a corpse falling apart in a closed coffin, in a grave. The language which conveys such a degree of reality is not only precise, highly articulated, and controlled, but at the same time elaborated to the level of a new secular instrument of thought.


In this song, alongside the profane and human, eschatological elements coexist. The anonymous poet includes the Last Judgement, Paradise, and the Inferno:


Ot smrti se probudite,

vsi pred Boga postupite.

Poslušajte božja suda

ot krivine i ot bluda.

Otvore se tada grebi

misliti će vsak o sebi.

Vsi hoćemo oživiti,

duša s tĕlom văzda biti.

Stati hote ljudi nazi,

priti hote s pakla vrazi.

Dĕla se hote vsa otkriti

ne moći se kdĕ ukriti.[7]


As do all the Croatian spiritual songs of the period, Tu mislimo, bratja ča smo contains impulses towards profanity and impulses towards piety, and it is these conjunctions that we must accept and try to understand as the direct result of historical existence with the kingdom of God. This is a significant, if not the most significant, aspect of Roman Christianity, which never was a mere doctrine or myth, but was always deeply involved with concrete historical situations and human existence. For the sake of illustration I will quote a few verses from a Christmas carol, Bog se rodi v Vitliomi ("God was born in Bethlehem"), from the same Paris codex. This popular song which was sung throughout all the regions of Adriatic Croatia displays the same unity of human and divine that creates a concrete this worldly situation:


Diva sina povijaše

ki vsim svitom obladaše.

Travicu mu prostiraše,

Bog v jasalceh počivaše.

Mladenac je slaji meda

ki na pravih slatko gleda.

Volak zimu odgonjaše,

oslak mu se poklanjaše.[8]


In the same collection of spiritual songs in the Paris codex one finds a song based mostly on a secular, profane motif. This is the Pisan svetoga Jurja, a chivalric-hagiographic legend about St. George, a dragon-killer, one of the most attractive and exploited subjects of medieval literature and iconography. Although St. George had been born as a knight, in order to fulfill God's will on earth, he played the role of the saint. God sent St. George to the city of Solin where he killed a horrible dragon and saved the life of the king's daughter. The culmination of the dramatic action of the song is the moment when St. George is killing the dragon who has just come out of the lake:


Sveti Juraj poče tako reči:

"ne mozi se, gospodična, bojati!"

V tom časĕ drakun iz jezera se isklonjaše.

Sveti Juraj ga zagledaše.

Znamenijem svetago križa on se znamenaše,

šćita i sulice rukarna potresnjaše,

tr drakuna v grlo probodjaše.[9]


The medieval author uses this secular motif to lyrically express the relation between mankind, the saint, and God, who initiated St. George's deed. The song is written in verses of rhythmic prose rich in assonance and rhyme, which were widely in practice in medieval secular poetry all over Europe. The versified form of this popular medieval legend in the Croatian vernacular points to its very early existence in Croatia, where it most probably was adopted and adapted from an older Italian version of the legend (Fancev 1943:631; Štefanić 1969:369).


Certainly the most powerful manifestation of profane, secular aspects in early Croatian poetry is the song Svit se konča[10] ("The light is dying away"), which recently has attracted great attention among Croatian medievalists (Hamm 1959:91-9 and 1970:93-98; Štefanić 1969:370-3; Hercigonja 1975:175-7; Krešić 1984-85:78-83; Malić 1972:27-8 and 56-60). The song has been preserved in the same group of ten in the Paris codex, and it too is written in Glagolitic letters. Its author expresses the most progressive and revolutionary ideas of the time. In it an anonymous Glagoljaš sternly attacks the corrupt ways of the clergy. He accuses all the monastic orders: the Dominicans, the Franciscans, the Cistercians, and the Carmelites all, he claims, strive to amass money and the riches of this world:


Grdinali, biskupi i opati

misle, Boga ostavivše, lĕ o zlati.

Duhovna rĕč ot njih se ne more imati

ako im se pénezi prije ne plati.


Simuna v tom nasléduju ki to zače.

Kako mnoga duša v mukah plače,

nijedan to ne razmišlja, ji, pje, skače.

Gdo bi rekal: zlo činite! - zlo ga vlače.


Mala bratja i koludri, predikavci,

remetani, karmeliti, kavčenjaci,

vsi popove, koludrice i vsi djaci,

vsi se nazad obratiše kako raci.

. . . .

Licemĕri, vražji posh, svĕtom hine,

zlato, srebro i čto mogu moćno pline.

Antihristu put gotove, zlo v tom čine.

Se su oni kĕmi duš mnogo gine.[11]


The criticism of the corrupt clergy and the highest church hierarchy reveals the diffusion of anticlerical ideas among the Glagoljaši. The stylized poetical form of the Svit se konča proves that these ideas must have been spread much earlier than the end of the fourteenth century when a copy of this satirical text was written. The song Svit se konča has the literary verve of the finest twelfth-century satires. In twelfth century Europe anticlerical satires, inspired by the preceding investiture conflict, became numerous, pressing and violent. The authors of poetical satires attacked on the avaricious, gluttonous pope and cardinals striving for luxuries and political power in the highest religious hierarchy. It seems very probable that the Svit se konča continues the same literary trend of the twelfth century European moral satires created in numerous centers of disaffection and severe criticism of the corrupt clergy. Actually, these twelfth and thirteenth century centers became the hot-beds of new-Reformist ideas which would culminate in the works of John Wycliff, Jan Hus and others. Since in his accusations the author of the Svit se konča includes the order that were founded in the thirteenth century (The Franciscans and the Dominicans), the earliest version of this versified satire could have appeared only at the end of the thirteenth century. With it exposures of the human frailties of the clergy, this anticlerical song reflects a new historical situation and casts more light on the wide range of secular impulses in the Croatian literature of the time. The satire, irreverently mocking and fervently attacking corruption in the Church's rites, demands direct expressions and precise use of the language in order to penetrate to the essence of the problem. Thus the words of the Svit se konča are not intended to ornament but to create concrete meaning and present the real, existing situation - the truth.


The last lyrical song belonging to the same period of Croatian late medieval humanism illustrates a number of remarkable linguistic-literary features; these features cannot be accounted for by anything in the poetic tradition or written records up to its time. This is the earliest preserved Croatian translation of the Song of Songs. As one of the world's oldest and most beautiful hymns of love, the Song of Songs was included in the vesper service celebrating the birth of the Mother of God (September 8). It is found in a number of fourteenth and fifteenth century Croatian breviaries. The oldest text is found in the Breviary of Vrbik No 4, from the middle of the fourteenth century, and in the Vatican Breviary Illyr. 6 from 1379. This text has been analyzed for its translational technique, and carefully compared with the Song of Songs in the Vulgate and the Old Latin Bible. These methods, as well as the determination of its stylistical-rhythmical structure, have shown that the Croatian translation of the Song of Songs is a startlingly free creation and stylization of a preeminent classical poem (Hamm 1957:195-230; Hercigonja 1975:145-154). However, one should bear in mind that already in the Carolingian period the Latin language of the Song of Songs with its obvious Solomonic background began to be freely adapted and amplified in verse. Verse paraphrases of the Song of Songs became a well-established genre in Roman-Latin Christianity (Schwietering 1957:264-94). Therefore this "authentic" or "spontaneous" elaboration of the Song of Songs in the Croatian vernacular could be at least partially based on one of its freely paraphrased Latin sources.[12]


At the same time, the Croatian author of the Song of Songs was most probably inspired by the beauty and uniqueness of the deep feeling of love which the Latin text presented to him. He tried, on his part, to elaborate and interpret this highly poetical and touching text according to his own feelings. Moreover, in spite of its verbal borrowing from the Song of Songs, this song was clearly written with the vernacular love-dialogue in mind, and it shows how close and yet how indefinite the relation between learned and vernacular verse might be (the problem of the origin of such popular spiritual and secular poetry is discussed below). In the process of creatively adapting this text of idealized love, the Croatian poet masterfully rendered the Latin language of the Song of Songs into a refined and subtle speech of tender love, increasing emotionalism of this poetical subject whenever possible:


Vsa krasna esi, priĕtelnice moĕ;

i skvrnĕ nĕstĭ v tebĕ.

Pridi ot Livana nevĕsto moĕ;

pridi ot Livana.

Pridi da vĕnčaeši se ot glavi amanskie;

ot vrha sanir'skago i ermonskago;

ot lica l'vov'; ot gorĭ pard'skihĭ.

Ob'ĕzvila esi srĭdce moe

sestro moĕ i nevĕsto moĕ;

ob'ĕzvila esi srĭdce moe

v' edinomĭ pozrĕn'i očiju tvoeju;

v' edinomĭ vidĕnii vlasĭ tvoihĭ

šie tvoee.

Kolĭ krasna esta s'ska tvoĕ

sestro moĕ i nevĕsto moĕ.

Krasnĕe sutĕ prsi tvoe vina;

i vona rizĭ tvoihĭ pače vsĕhl aromatĭ

Sat' kapae; ustnĕ tvoi

nevĕsto moĕ.

Medĭ i mlĕko pod' ĕzikomĭ tvoim';

i vona rizĭ tvoihĭ

pače vone t'm'ĕna.[13]


The quoted passage clearly demonstrates that for the first time the Croatian author recast his Latin original in an already existing language of exalted human love, which must have existed as "institutionalized" in literary modes and fashions in the preceding period before the Song of Songs was written down. Undoubtedly, the Song of Songs had been familiar and widely popular among the people. As such it must have been translated orally into Croatian much earlier than it had been recorded in writing.


The theological allegory of the human soul and Christ, or of Christ and His Church is clearly presented in both of the oldest preserved texts. The shepherdess Sanamica (Sunamitis) is the bride and Christ is her bridegroom.[14] Nevertheless, the passion and the excitement which the words of the Song of Songs convey above all else are bound up with the human way in which the Glagolitic poet experienced this song, and imbued it with the feeling of inspiring love. The bride charms her beloved by her physical beauty. And with touching directness the bridegroom invites his bride to come to him:


Vstani i pripravi se

priĕtelnice moĕ

Krasnaĕ moĕ;

i pridi priĕtelnice moĕ

po okancu ot kamene

meju gramaču;

i ĕvi m'nĕ lice tvoe.[15]


In a series of lyrical celebrations of love, the Glagolitic poet also expresses a strong sensuality which achieves its climax in the moment when the bride is expecting the meeting with her bridegroom:


Otvori ti mnĕ ses'tro moĕ.

nevĕsto golubice. neporočna moĕ

ĕko glava moĕ plna estĭ rosi.

i krai vlas' moihĭ kapalĭ noćnihĭ.


Svlĕkoh' se is' sukne moee.

kada oblĕku se va nju.

Umihĭ nogi moe kako oskvrnju e.

Vzljubleni moi po okancu vnide.

i utroba moĕ vstrepeta v' prikosneni ego


Vstahĭ da otvrzu vzljublenomu moemu.

i rucĕ moi kapati načesta mir'roju.

i prĭsti moi plĭni mir're iskušenoe.

Stežar' vrat' moih.

otvorih' vzljublenomu moemu.

on že uk'lonil se bĕše ot mene i otstupilĭ.

i duša moĕ rastaĕ se

egda vzljublenikó bist' mnĕ.

Vziskahĭ i i ne obrĕtoh' i.

vĭzvah' i i ne otvĕća mnĕ.


Obrĕtu me straže strĕguće grada.

poraziše me. ĕzviše me.

i vzeše m'nĕ plaščĭ moi.

strĕguće stĕnĭ.


Zaklinaju vi

dešćere erusolimskie

ašče obrĕćete vzljublenago moego.

da vĭzvĕstite emu

ĕko ljub'voju iz'nemagaju.[16]


These quoted lines from the Croatian text of the Song of Songs justify the way that in rendering one of the most powerful and touching love songs, the Croatian author stylizes and refines his own language with extraordinary artistry. He fully and forcefully articulates one of the highest human emotions - love - through rich and precise, yet poetic and subtle words; his language serves for both concrete, human feelings and lyricism.


In this regard the Croatian version of the Songs of Songs is, no doubt, a forceful evidence of the existence of a "literary", elaborated vernacular lyric with natural simplicity and refined technical accomplishments in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This popular lyrical poetry must have existed from the most primitive times. In the process of rendering the Song of Songs into Croatian, its authors must have borrowed and adapted certain verse-forms (and even in some other cases tunes) from the vernacular. On the other hand, the high poetic qualities of the songs of the Paris codex move the reader with realistic scenes, strings of poetic clichés, well-elaborated rhytmical patterns, witty and succinct vocabulary, and sophisticated range of lyrical expressions in Croatian. This quality is so marked that the formative poetic influence of the Latin language is here unquestionable. In regard to the development of medieval Croatian lyrics within the sphere of nonliturgical popular religious poetry, one cannot but agree with Vjekoslav Štefanić who maintains that the Latin language exerted constant influence upon the Croatian vernacular and that the patterns of Latin church hymnody with its six-, eight-, and twelf-syllabic verses influenced the development of Croatian popular spiritual songs (1969:49). Scholars also have pointed to the similarities between a number of the earliest popular religious songs in the Croatian vernacular with the same songs in Latin, from which the Croatian songs had evidently been translated (Rešetar 1902:218; Fancev 1943:631). The Latin popular lyrics that grew up alongside the liturgy provides the indispensable basis for understanding the evolution of medieval and Renaissance lyrical forms in the Croatian vernacular. The vernacular accomplishment is too great to have been achieved in vacuo; we can here say with certainty that these songs presuppose both Latin and vernacular traditions that have not survived in writing.


One should bear in mind that the clerics (not necessarily priests, but whoever had received a clerical education) were involved with creating popular religious songs. They composed first in Latin, and then translated and adapted in the Croatian vernacular. As already mentioned, from the earliest time the clergy must have developed an interest in popular religious songs in the vernacular. Doubtless they were the first creators and first artistic performers on every kind of lyric. Later, the medieval clerical world which was trained in Latin produced a popular repertoire of both religious and secular poetry for their own entertainment and usage at Church or public celebrations. As Štefanić correctly insists, these non-liturgical songs of popular devotion and secular impulses were intended primarily for brotherhoods and monastic circles (1969:50). Thus, the development of popular lyrics with strongly-expressed secular motifs and tendencies was the result of ancient and scarcely separable popular religious poetry.


The comparison of Latin and Croatian vernacular lyrical forms in some cases, however, provides no simple solution to the problem of origins. Various scholars have different interpretations of the presence of symmetrically rhymed octosyllabic verses in seven of the ten songs in the Paris codex collection (Hercigonja 1975:158-186; Slamnig 1970:25). No doubt the achievement of fully developed, mature lyrics in the Croatian vernacular, present in these songs, points to the existence of a previous long and vigorous tradition, both sacred and profane, in Latin and in the vernacular. Generations of clercs before these songs were written down must have known vernacular songs and at times adapted them. The symbiosis of religious and profane seems to have been made gradually over a number of centuries. In some cases, no doubt, religious poetry borrowed from the vernacular songs certain elements and vice versa. Therefore, in some cases the bilingual lyrical songs (Latin-Croatian) of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries prove nothing about the priority of either Latin or vernacular song. On the contrary, their similarity and closeness in structure and melody point to that these songs had coexisted in each language in medieval Croatia from the first and that from the earliest time they had inspired each another.


The vital historical importance of these songs in the Paris codex lies in the fact that they prove the existence of an accomplished poetry in the Croatian vernacular (Čakavian-Ikavian dialect) at the end of the fourteenth century, but a poetry the originals of which had existed much earlier. If we compare these songs to the Renaissance ones, the similarity in the whole range of lyrical modes and techniques is so striking that we can conclude that already in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries practically all the basic types of medieval and Renaissance lyrics had evolved. The well-established syntactical patterns, regularized rhytmical forms, and rich vocabulary in which these songs are written convincingly demonstrate that the Croatian vernacular was firmly codified and that it had established its strict literary norms by the end of the fourteenth century, if not earlier. This same process of development appears in moral-didactic texts, in secular novels (the Aleksandrida, the Rumanac trojski), apocryphal legends and hagiographies, and church drama, as well as in diplomatic and juridico-legal texts and various kinds of correspondences and treatises. It occurs to the texts written in Croatian, in all the three scripts: Glagolitic, Cyrillic, and Latin. As stressed by Julije Derossi, the whole corpus of the Croatian literature proves that the Medieval Čakavian literary language played the role of a nationally functional and communicative means of expression (1978:81-7).


The Croatian vernacular assumed the role and function of a national language in its formative period, emulating its unrivalled model, Medieval Latin. From its outset this language created to serve the needs and spiritual ideals of the new secular culture, assimilated the essential aspects of late medieval humanism inherent in Latin, among which the secularization of culture was chief. Unlike the other Old Slavic literatures with exclusively ecclesiastical culture, the Old Croatian literature and language, with its clearly implicit spirit of late medieval humanism, belonged to the new world of the Italian city-states. This world was already outgrowing the strict religious traditions still dominant in most of Europe. It was this new type of world which was developing new forms of social life and secular culture that were to find their most forceful, mature and exquisite expression in the age of the Renaissance. In this sense, the first literary works, especially the first artistic lyrics in fourteenth century Čakavian Croatian, approach the level of the Italian Trecento. These same artistic lyrics, viewed poetically and humanly, display their own internal coherence and high level artistry. Therefore the Croatian vernacular and the Old Croatian literature are of great cultural-historical importance for medieval Slavic and neo-Latin studies.




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* The nucleus of this article was presented at the 19th National Convention of the AAASS in Boston, on November 8, 1987, sponsored by the Association for Croatian Studies.


[1][ One finds, for example, the Liber statutorum civitatis Ragusii (1272), one of the oldest constitutions in history; Liber omnium reformationum civitatis Ragusii, which includes the regulations until 1358, and its later appendices the Liber Viridis (1358-1460) and the Liber Croceus (1460-1803); the Statute of Split (1240-1312), the Reformationes of Split (1385), the Liber consiliorum of Split (1347), the Statute of Zadar (1305), the Statute of Trogir (1322), the Statute of Šibenik (1305-1322), and some other city statutes. There exist also the statutes of the islands of Korčula (1214), Brat (1305), Hvar (1331), Lastovo, Mljet, and some other islands along the eastern coast. Paralleling these statutes, written in Latin, there appeared the statutes, written in the Croatian vernacular in the area where the Glagoljica dominated: the Istarski razvod (1275), the Law of Vinodol (1288), the Statute of Krčko (1362), the Statute of Senj (1388), the Kozljački razvod (1395), the Statute of Poljica, which was written before the year of 1444, the Statute of Kastav (1490), the Statute of Veprinac (1507), the Statute of Mošćenice (1501), the Statute of Trsat (1640), and some other-city statutes (Klaić 1976:244-50 and 402-6; Hercigonja 1975:118-125 and 403-4; Bratulić 1976:363-82; Katičić 1979:220).


[2] In historical thought, when one identifies a century with a movement, the boundaries of the century (like those of any historical period) must be seen as flexible and relative. Charles Homer Haskins aptly stressed the problem as follows: "By 1200 the medieval renaissance is well advanced, by 1250 its work is largely done. In a phrase like 'the renaissance of the twelfth century', the word 'century' must be used very loosely so as to cover not only the twelfth century proper but the yeas which immediately precede and follow, yet with sufficient emphasis on the central period to indicate the outstanding characteristics of its civilization. For the movement as a whole we must really go back fifty years or more and forward almost as far" (1927:10).


[3] The eleventh and twelfth century notaries and jurists and the thirteenth century rhetoreticians, the Italian dictatores, were the ancestors of the fourteenth century humanists (Kristeller 1944-45:560 and 563-4), but these medieval intellectuals themselves were also the humanists. The viewpoint of this study is that the long history of humanism began in Antiquity. It revealed itself most forcefully in Roman politics, ethics, philosophy and jurisprudence. Roman humanism sustained an unbroken evolution from Antiquity through the medieval centuries and into modernity. The Renaissance humanism evolved out of medieval humanism. There is boundary between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Gilson 1944:337-43; Kristeller 1955; Cantimori 1959:340-65 - to quote only the names of a few scholars, for some further reflections on the problem see: the New Cambridge Modem History The Renaissance, I, 1975).


[4] Štefanić 1969:368-9. See also the interpretation of Zlatko Posavac (1986:38) My literal translation of the quoted verse into English is:


"Praise, my love, Jesus,

do not go far away from me .. .

 . . .

Heaven, Earth, and all creatures!

Praise my love, Jesus, for He

embellishes all with His gifts!

And you, mountains, fields, and all trees!

Thank and praise (Him), because He dresses

you beautifully every summer! And you,

Summer with flowers! Give thanks and praise!

And you, little birds with longing song,

and above all, you, man, a Godlike creature,

(all of you) thank and praise (Him) . . .


[5] Štefanić 1969:424. John Thorp translated the song Tu mislimo, bratja, to smo ("The Lament over a tomb") into English verse; the quoted verses in Thorp's translation are:


Its swinging scythe comes on apace

And chops our noses off our face.

The worms their ugly work begin;

Our skulls take on a ghastly grin.

When putrification ends its reign

'Tis only thighbones will remain.

And yet despite this horrid fate

Our wickedness does not abate (Krešić 1984-85:85).


[6] Štefanić 1969:424. The English translation of the quoted fragment is:


All other men will promptly shun

The man whom death has overcome.

Friendless, helpless, must he lie

In darkness wrapped eternally.

. . . .

You love this world? My brothers, why?

For it will loathe you when you die.

Nor mother, wife, nor child, nor kin

Will let you stay among them then.

They will consign you to the grave,

And all your treasure they will have.

No friend will come your corpse to greet,

Except the worms that come to eat (Krešić 1984-85:85).


[7] Štefanič 1969:425. The English translation of the quoted verses is:

From death's long sleep at last awake!

Before your God in trembling quake!

For He as judge will arbitrate

Upon your sins, and fix your fate.

The tombs that day will surely gape,

And none his judgement will escape.

For all at once will resurrect,

Their souls and bodies intersect

Naked will we stand in fear

While devils out of hell appear.

Our deeds of life will open lie

And none escape God's searching eye (Krešić 1984-85:87).


[8] Štefanič 1969:386. My literal translation of the quoted verse into English is as follows:


The Virgin swaddled her Son

Who was Lord of all the world.

She smoothed for Him the hay

And the Lord lay in the manger.

The infant is sweeter than honey

who regards the just with tenderness.

The ox dispelled the cold of winter,

The donkey bowed adoringly.


[9] Štefanič 1969:367. My literal translation of the quoted verses into English is:


St. George began to speak:

"Do not fear, my lady!"

At that moment the dragon emerged from the lake

St. George caught sight of him.

With the sign of the cross he signed himself,

He roused his shield and lance

and pierced the dragon in the neck.


[10] Since I have accepted Josip Hamm's interpretation of the word svit as 'light' (1959:98), my translation of the first sentence Svit se konča is "The light is dying away". Although the word svit has two meanings: 1) light and 2) world, I have chosen the former for the following reason. Namely, the first sentence Svit se konča ("The light is dying away") is closely connected with the second sentence i sunce jur zahodi ("and the sun already declines"). It seems more probable that the author of the song had in mind the sun light since he immediately continues to speak about the sun set. The sun light itself has its metaphorical meaning of everyday life on earth which exists during the sun light, that is life, the world. Therefore both interpretations are acceptable for they convey basically the identical idea. Štefanić and other Croatian medievalists prefer the interpretation of svit as 'world'. Therefore, John Thorp translated the first sentence svit se konča into English as "the world is coming to an end" (Štefanić 1969:371; Krešić 1984-85:78-81).


[11] Štefanić 1969:372. John Thorp translated the song Svit se konča ("The World is coming to an end") into English verse; the quoted verses in Thorp's translation are as follows:


Cardinal, archbishop, bishop, abbot, priest,

All worship gold for God: their cure - their gold increased.

You want to hear one holy word from them at least?

It all depends, my friend, how well their palms are greased.


Devotedly they dance the dance of simony.

While wretched souls in sore distress cry 'confort me!'

They dance and guzzle on the round of perfidy,

They dance and muzzle those who would cry infamy.


Dominicans, Franciscans, dirty eremites,

Cistercians and both calced and discalced Carmelites,

The nuns and priests, the deacons and the acolytes,

All go contrariwise, like crabs or catamites.

. . . .

They're wolf-paid shepherds, devil-priests, and hypocrites,

Who for the plunder of the faithful train their wits;

They pave the way for Antichrist by digging pits,

Down which we fall straightway to where the Devil sits (Krešić 1984-85:81)


[12] This possibility in no way diminishes the value of the Croatian poetical text. Medieval and Renaissance literature lived by its own rules and poetics which we are only now beginning to understand and have sympathy for. We need not only to "suspend our disbelief" with respect to the content and form of such literature (as being "true" or "false" in our experience), but also with respect to its originality. Imitation was a governing principle in medieval and Renaissance poetics, which stressed: 1) the value of literary traditions over that of originality (certainly in opposition to our own age); 2) the desirability of making ancient texts and indeed all literary sources available to a wide circle (the tendency had started already in the period of late medieval humanism, as discussed above; see pp. 9-12; and 3) the healthy educational value of translating texts from prose to poetry and vice versa, as well as from one language to another: translation was a frequent and respectable literary occupation in that age. This problem of evaluation of medieval and Renaissance writings from the viewpoint of our modern standards is especially acute, for it is too easy to produce a distorted view of Croatian medieval and Renaissance literature by applying criteria more appropriate to Romanticism and to the age of Positivism, ages whose linguistic-literary standards are unfortunately carried on and still preserved all the way down into the present.


[13] Hamm 1957:219. The English translation of the quoted fragment reads as



You are all fair, my love; there is no flaw in you.

Come with me from Lebanon, my bride; come with me from Lebanon.

Depart from the peak of Ama'na, from the peak of Senir and Hermon,

from the dens of lions, from the mountains of leopards.


Tou have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride,

you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes,

with one jewel of your necklace.


How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride!

how much better is your love than wine,

and the fragrance of your oils than any spice!

Your lips distil nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue...

(The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha, revised standard version, ads H.G. May and B.M. Metzger, New York - Oxford Univ. Press, 1977, 815-21, esp. 818).


[14] Instead of the voice of Jesus Christ one finds the denomination: Milosti Hrista, i.e., "Love of Christ," in the Breviary Vatican Illyr. 6; see Hamm 1957:198.


[15] Hercigonja 1975:152. The English translation of the quoted verse is:


Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away.

O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,

in the covert of the cliff,

let me see your face ...


[16] Hamm 1957:221-2. The English translation of the quoted fragment is:


"Open to me, my sister, my love,

my dove, my perfect one;

for my head is wet with dew,

my locks with the drops of the night."

I had put off my garment,

how could I put it on?

I had bathed my feet,

how could I soil them?

My belowed put his hand to the latch,

and my heart was thrilled within me.

I arose to open to my beloved,

and my hands dripped with myrrh,

my fingers with liquid myrrh,

upon the handles of the bolt.

I opened to my beloved,

but my beloved had turned and gone.

My soul failed me when he spoke.

I sought him, but found him not;

I called him, but he gave no answer.

The watchmen found me,

as they went about in the city;

they took away my mantle,

they beat me, they wounded me,

those watchmen of the walls.

I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem

if you find my beloved,

that you tell him

I am sick with love (pp. 818-819).


In comparison with the songs of the Paris codex the language of the oldest translation of the Song of Songs in Croatian is more archaic than the language of the songs of said collection. The language of the Song of Songs is replete with a number of Church Slavonic elements typical for the fourteenth and fifteenth-century Croatian breviaries in which the Song of Songs was included.