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A Tribute to Princip: Metapoetry and Commentaries

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image of Transcultural Studies

Just after the end of the Great War Miloš Crnjanski wrote a poem dedicated to Gavrilo Princip, the assassin of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, in Sarajevo, on 28 June 1914. The title of the poem is “A Tribute to Princip” (“Spomen Principu”), and it was first published in Crnjanski’s early book of poetry Lyrics of Ithaca (Lirika Itake, 1919). Forty years later Crnjanski wrote a commentary on the poem, a sort of its prose paraphrase, and entitled it “On the Poem about Princip” (“Uz pesmu o Principu”); it was published in his Commentaries on Lyrics of Ithaca (Komentari uz Liriku Itake, 1959). Although by no means as significant as his famous poem “Sumatra”, and equally famous “Explanation of Sumatra”, that is considered a kind of Crnjanski’s personal poetic manifesto, as well as a poetic manifesto of Serbian modernism in general, “A Tribute to Princip” and its explanation represent an equally important testimony to Crnjanski’s poetic sensibility and his literary inspiration. The subject of the poem, the manner of poetic expression, on the one side, and the prose style of its commentary, on the other, clearly indicate what was considered by young Crnjanski the main role of the new, modern poetry he was advocating for: the break with the tradition, the rejection of the old and no longer productive poetic and national myths, and the affirmation of the new role of poetry in the everyday life. Therefore, opposing the standard interpretation of the poem, in this paper I argue that “A Tribute to Princip” is not a political poem but a “poem about poem”, which we could read as metapoetry or a poetry poem, providing that we apply the term with a little more freedom.

Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade,


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