Page 261 - Kosovo Metohija Heritage
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The Battle of Kosovo in its epic Mosaic
Svetozar Koljević
Much European Folklore is indeed “fakelore” by american standards. The interplay of the oral and the written traditions, often marked
by the merging of pagan, Christian and feudal concepts, has been a two-way traffic in europe at least since the Middle ages. Behind the literary culture of the monks or the scribes to whom we owe Beowulf, the Chanson de Roland, or the Nibelingenlied there were centuries of oral traditions. The Romantics resurrected these “fakelore” products as lofty, if abstruse, symbols of national identi- ty, which soon became a form of wissenschaftlich rather than popular or courtly entertainment. at the same time some “small” nations, often at the european cultural “pe- riphery,” were discovering their own folklore as a living spiritual expression of their national life. as a result of for- eign rule and cultural domination, they were denied the natural literary links with their medieval heritage, the flour- ishing literature of the Renaissance, and the grand delu- sions of the age of enlightenment; thus they cultivated folklore which for centuries absorbed almost all the avail- able national talent and performed the basic functions of “literary” expression. Such discoveries as the Kaleval or the irish or Serbo-Croat folk traditions had enormous ap- peal, not least perhaps because of the historical and cul- tural context of national revivals and struggles for politi- cal independence.
in this sense Vuk Stefanović Karadžić the greatest col- lector of Serbo-Croat folk traditions, was born under a lucky star. His family had come from Herzegovina, the cradle of Serbo-Croat heroic singing. Here the migrato- ry, largely Orthodox population had long and bitter mem- ories of lost national grandeur, memories which were daily revived in new blood-baths. Furthermore, Karadžić him- self happened to live at the moment when this tradition was experiencing its swan-song. The First Serbian Upris- ing, which brought together many fragments of long epic memory, gave its historical perspective to the whole he- roic landscape and attracted some of the greatest living singers—Filip Višnjić, Tešan Podrugović, Old Milija and others—into a common epic orbit.
Karadžić was also a unique collector in so far as he “combined in his own person both the lite rate and non-
literate cultures.”1 What other european collector could write down genuine heroic songs from his own memory? Moreover, when he came to live as an exile in Vienna (1813–14), after the failure of the First Serbian Uprising and the national cause he had personally served, his mem- ory was not only a storehouse of heroic songs. as ivo andrić observed, Karadžić’s memory was “an enormous inventory of Serbian reality and everything that was con- nected with that distant reality,” not “a mere mnemotech- nical phenomenon but at the same time the fruit and the measure” of his “intimate ties with his people and its des- tiny.” 2 in short, as he “grew up where heroic poems were sung and recited (as in the middle of Herzegovina),” he “knew many, many of them from his childhood and un- derstood them just as ordinary folk understand them.”3 His father’s house was the winter abode of many singers who came from Herzegovina and, as in the good old times, “all winter long sang and recited poems.”4 His grandfather and his uncle were singers; and even his father, who as “a pious and serious-minded man” cared little for songs,5 in advertently remembered such masterworks as “Pieces from Various Kosovo Poems.” and can one imagine a more exciting time or a better place for listening to he- roic songs than Loznica in 1807, where Karadžić worked as a scribe for jakov Nenadović, an Orthodox priest and a famous military commander who liked heroic songs so much that he could hardly eat his lunch or dinner with- out them? and when Karadžić lived in Srem from the end of 1814 to the middle of 1815, he had already been encour- aged in his work as a collector by jernej Kopitar, a great Slavic scholar and the imperial censor of Slavic books in
1 M. P. Coote, “Serbo-Croatian Heroic Songs,” Heroic epic and Saga, edited by Felix j. Oinas (Bloomington, iN: indiana University Press, 1978), p. 260.
2 ivo andrić, “Vukov primer,” Umetnik i njegovo delo, Eseji II, Sa- brana dela, Xiii (Belgrade, 1975), p. 116.
3 Vuk Stef. Karadžić, “Pravi uzrok i podetak skupljanja našijeh narodnijeh pjesama,” O srpskoj narodnoj poeziji, edited by Borivoje Marinković (Belgrade, 1964), p. 184.
4 Vuk Stef. Karadžić, “Predgovor,” Srpske narodne pjesme, edited by Vladan Nedić, 4 vols. (Belgrade, 1969) iV, p. 380. This edition will henceforth be referred to as Karadžić.
5 Karadžić, iV, p. 374.

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