work in Montenegro and the lands which would subsequently form part of
the Kingdom of Montenegro depended, just as any other form of spiritual
and intellectual work, on the objective situation in which the population
found itself. The people, whose life was little more than a perpetual struggle
for survival and who forever carried the saber and the musket at their
side, could hardly devote themselves wholeheartedly and systematically
to art. Folk (epic) poetry, narration to the accompaniment of the national
musical instrument - the gusle (folk fiddle) - was for centuries the basic
form of artistic and literary expression. In the Coastlands, which had
for years been under Venetian rule, literary work was more diverse, precisely
as it was in the metropolis and in the western Mediterranean. The monasteries
in Montenegro, just as in the other Serbian lands, were the first and only
centers of literacy, fresco painting and spiritual life.
Great Progress and the Balkan Wars
| Contents | Chronological Table
Land of Montenegro
Orthodox Christian spiritual leaders were the authors of the first literary works.
Bishop Vasilije Petrovic with his Istorija o Cernoj Gori (A History of
Montenegro) is regarded as the founder of literature in his homeland. His
work (43 half-scap pages) was published in St. Petersburg in 1754, giving
the author his full resplendent title of "the blessed metropolitan of Montenegro,
Skadar and the Coastlands, and heir to the Serbian throne Vasilije Petrovic".
He announced his subject as being a description of the position of Montenegro
and its former rulers "with a supplement on the Serbian holy kings and
despots whoever and wherever they might be". This work was less true history
than a political memorandum. Its literary characteristics are evident in
the geographic descriptions of the authors native land and of the Serbian
nobility, their mutual relations and the Battle of Kosovo.
The first (chronologically speaking) Montenegrin pet is believed to be Bishop
Petar I. In point of fact, there are no known collections of poems by him,
his poetic work was mostly anonymous, but some works are known beyond a
doubt to be his. In the first place, there is the poem Pohvala Karadjordju
(In Praise of Karageorge) written in the decasyllabic verse. Through Vuk
Karadzic, we know that Petar I was the author of six poems about battles
against Mahmut-pasha Bushatli. Nicifor Ducic published in the Serbian Dalmatian
magazine in 1864 Poucenje u Stihovima ( A Lesson in Verse), which he attributed
to Petar I. The 200 decasyllabic verses were actually the bishops advice
of a political, national and moral nature conveyed to the people in the
most easily assimilated form.
The efforts of Bishop Petar II Njegos, and not only literary efforts, contributed
to Cetinje seeing the publication of several literary pieces in a short
time owing to the acquisition of a printing press, Njegos published his
first literary works; Lijek Jarosti Turske (Remedy for Turkish Fury), Pustinjak
Cetinjski (The Hermit of Cetinje), and the work by Sima Milutinovic, Dika
Crnogorska (The Pride of Montenegro) in 1834, and Narodne Poslovice (Folk
Adages) by Vuk Karadzic in 1836. The almanac Grlica (The Dove), which was
appearing from 1835 to 1839, included works by Njegos and editor Dimitrije
Milakovic, a series of originals and translations, such as Kratak Pregled
na Geografsko-Statisticko Opisanije Crne Gore( A Brief look at the Geographic
and Statistical Characteristics of Montenegro); folk poems, Istorija Crne
Gore (A history of Montenegro) by Milakovic and Pushkins Poem About Karageorge.
In the year 1845, Njegos published a collection of folks poems (61) entitled
Ogledalo Srpsko (Serbian Mirror), which was a kind of anthology, a reference
book about the "heroic feats and battles for liberation". The Mirror was
dedicated to Pushkin and contained several of Njegos's poems.
Njegos's opus was created under influence of great masters (Derzhavin, Lamartine,
Dantes), and advice by Sima Milutinovic Sarajlija, in an epic milieu. Thence
Njegos appears as a folk poet, whose, poems are sung by the bards to the
accompaniment of the fiddle, and as an artist with a philosophical turn
of thought. His greatest works are Luca Mikrokozma (The Torch of Microcosmos),
Lazni Car Scepan Mali (Scepan the Small, the Impostor King), Gorski Vjenac
(The Mountain Wreath), al a fine blend of poetry and philosophy. Gorski
Vijenac has been acclaimed as the "finished edifice of Njegos's philosophical
structure" and "the national Gospel".
Njegos's nephew Stevan Petrovic Cuca (born 1830, died 1857) may have had the ability
and the ambition to carry on, at least in some respect, the literary torch
of his great uncle, but fell at the hands of the mercenaries of Prince
Danilo. During his brief but turbulent life, he wrote some thirty lyric
poems, as well as several in the decasyllabic tradition.
Marko Miljanov Popovic (born 1833, died 1901), Haiduk, duelist, general, a true
moral giant, learned to write and took up letters only at an advanced age.
After example of Vuk Karadzic, he began by writing down folk poetry, and
then started to write down his own work. His best-known works include Pleme
Kuci u Narodnoj Prici i Pjesmi (The Kuc Clan As Described in Folk Narration
and Poetry), Primjeri Cojstva i Junastva (Examples of Manfulness and Heroism),
Zivot i Obicaji Arbanasa (The Life and Customs of the Arbanas), Nesto o
Bratonozicima (Some Facts About the Bratonozics). Skerlic wrote about Primjeri
Cojstva i Junastva: "This rare book is full of vitality and good health,
booth physical and moral", and this applies to all of Popovic's opus.
King Nikola (born 1841, died 1921) carried on the proud name of Petrovic not
only as prince and subsequently king, but also as an author. During the
sixty years of his literary activity, he created lyric and epic poems,
drams, short stories and a novel. Some of the lyric poems were published
in the collection Skupljene Pjesme (Collected Poems) in 1889, and the first
epic, Zenidba Bega Ljubovica (The Marriage of Ljubovic-bei) was created
in 1868. Nova Kola (New Kolos) is a collection of lyric and epic poems;
his drams include Vukasin, Kako se ko Rodi (As One is Born), Knjaz Arvanit
(Prince Arvanit); his best-known short story is Despa. King Nikola's biographers
are agreed that he had not published much of his work, and it is known
that he wrote right up to the end of his life.
Stjepan Mitrov Ljubisa (born in Budva 1824, died 1878) created his first works
under Italian influence and, after becoming acquainted with the work of
Vuk Karadzic, himself turned to folk literature for his epics, such as
Boj na Visu (The Battle of Vis), and his stories, such as Pripovijesti
Crnogorske i Primorske (The Stories of Montenegro and the Coastlands),
Pricanja Vuka Dojcevica (The Narratives of Vuk Dojcevic) and Kanjos Macedonovic.