Petar Preradović (Grabrovnica near Pitomača, 19th March 1818 – Fahrafeld, Austria, 18th August 1872) is the most important poet of the Croatian National Revival and the first great poet name of the newer Croatian literature. Even though he had been declared a bard during his life, Preradović joined the Illyrian movement relatively late, while the rebirth entered its final phase. He dedicated himself to a military career and began studies at the military school in Bjelovar and then graduated from the military academy in Wiener Neustadt. He served in garrisons all across the Austrian Empire ( Pest, Milan, Glina, Postojna, Cremona, Vienna, Timisoara, Arad). He gradually advanced through the military hierarchy and attained the rank of a general at the end of his career.
Since he spent so much time living abroad, he nearly forgot his mother tongue. However, in 1840 in Milan he met with Ivan Kukuljević Sakcinski, a prominent Illyrian, who sparked the patriotic fire within him. Persuaded by him, Preradović – who had been writing verses up to that point but in German
– translated Gundulić’s Osman and poems by Macha, a Czech romanticist.
He started writing the first Croatian verses once he relocated to Zadar in 1843, and he achieved a sensational success with his reveille entitled Zora puca („Dawn breaks“) published in 1844 in the first edition of the new magazine Zora dalmatinska. This was followed by a fruitful period of creation during which Preradović cooperated with all important Croatian literature magazines. He published his first collection of romantic verses entitled Prvenci in Zadar in 1846, and in 1851, after being transferred to Zagreb, he published his collection entitled Nove pjesme. Quite often, he would write his verses in German and then translate them into Croatian and fine-tune them with the assistance of his friend, Ivan Trnski.
Preradović divided his poetry into four groups according to the thematic criteria: patriotic, love and various songs (general themes and reflexive lyrics). He called the songs he translated from foreign languages „tuđinke“. Even though he won the audience of that time with his patriotic lyrics and songs that became an integral part of the national romantic repertoire( Putnik, Djed i unuk, Na Grobniku, Rodu o jeziku, Jezik roda moga), he also wrote several melancholic love songs full of emotions in neo-Petrarchsim style. Some of them have entered all anthologies of the Croatian poetry (Mrtva ljubav), while some were made into songs and continued to exist as an integral part of the urban culture (Miruj, miruj srce moje). He also wrote several reflexive songs broadening the horizons of the Croatian poetry with the themes of tragic human existence, questions regarding faith, God, death, future of the human kind (Smrt, Ljudsko srce, Bogu, Prvi ljudi). Preradović passed away in Fahrafeld in Austria and was buried in Vienna. His remains were transferred to Zagreb in 1879.
Krešimir Nemec, PhD, CASA