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Vladimir Vidrić

Vladimir Vidrić
[From Wikipedia]

Vladimir Vidrić (April 20, 1875 – September 29, 1909) was a Croatian poet. He is considered one of the major figures of the Croatian secessionist poetry.

Vidrić was born in Zagreb, in an affluent family of Slovenian origin. He was one of the leaders of the group of demonstrators that burned the Hungarian flag on the occasion of the emperor Franz Joseph's visit to Zagreb in 1895. He studied law in Prague, Graz and Vienna. After obtaining his Ph.D. in 1903, he did not pursue an academic career, but became a lawyer.

He started writing poems in high school, but his real literary start was the poem Boni mores, published in Vienac in 1897. He wrote very little before his premature death: around 40 poems, most of which were published by him in the collection entitled simply Pjesme (Poems) in 1907.

He was known for his adventurous life, great intelligence and prodigious memory (he used to spend whole evenings reciting poetry to his amazed friends; he always did admirably well at school) and his affiliation with the controversial progressive political circles.

Vidrić died in obscure circumstances in the mental hospital in the Zagreb suburb of Vrapče.

As a rule, his poetic atmospheres develop from a concrete scene. The poet is lost or hidden in a mythological character. His images of a barbaric, classical and mythological world are very personal. Vidrić was an impressionist with a very strong visual imagination.

His best poems - like Jutro (Morning), Dva pejzaža (Two landscapes), Adieu, Ex Pannonia, Dva levita (Two Levites) - include some of the best verses ever written in Croatian. Some of his contemporaries, such as Matoš, accused him of technical imperfections, wrong accents in rhymes and raw style. Actually, regarding the structure of his poems, he was a man before his time, since he did not base his rhythm on feet, but on the main accents.

This is how Vidrić was described by the great Croatian literary historian Ivo Frangeš: Vidrić's world feels like a fragment of an ancient vase, where the incomplete nature of the preserved scene is used to strengthen the effect. It is a miniature world, painfully clear, with a miraculous third dimension that goes far beyond our everyday ideas of width and depth.

Anniversary of the death of Vladimir Vidrić

There is no great art without great pain, wrote the historian of literature and book critic Antun Barac in his widely known monograph on the literary work of Vladimir Vidrić.

On 29 September 1909, in a clinic for the mentally ill in Stenjevec, Vidrić departed this world leaving behind a legacy of only some forty poems from his sole poetry collection Pjesme.

Vladimir Antun Ljubosav Vidrić was born on 30 April 1875 in a family of lawyers in Preradovićeva street in Zagreb. After finishing secondary school he went to study law in Prague. He entered political history leading a group of protesters who burnt the Hungarian flag in Ban Jelačić Square during the 1895 visit of the Emperor Franz Joseph to Zagreb. Heading the protesters and bearing the student flag, Vidrić’s involvement in this event was rather conspicuous. Owing to such circumstances subsequently he was directly associated with the actual leaders, championed by Stjepan Radić, put on trial and sentenced to several months in prison. All these events were documented in an article published in the newspapers Banovac in March 1895, which is now available on the portal Croatian Historic Newspapers. After serving his sentence in Bjelovar, he graduated in law in Vienna, successfully passed his bar examinations and started working as a lawyer. During that period everyone around Vidrić were fascinated by his incredible memory for numbers and no one saw a poet in him. He was able to memorize extremely long numbers, multiply or divide them by heart, read them backwards or at specific intervals.

Notwithstanding that he wrote his first poems already as a secondary school boy for the first issue of the student journal Lovor, the poems Boni mores – which was later renamed into Pomona and published under a pseudonym – and Mrtva ljubav, both published in the journal Vijenac, are considered his first works. Vidrić authored a rather small number of writings, exclusively of poetical nature. Vidrić included a greater part of his poems, most of which had already been issued in the journals Mladost, Život, Vijenac and Savremenik, in only one published collection. A characteristic lyrical atmosphere of his poems and their modernist imagery and impressions instantly attracted public attention. Nature features prominently in Vidrić’s poetry and he belongs to the finest Croatian landscape poets. Dva pejsaža is the most famous of his anthological poems. Vidrić’s art was much questioned through various theories according to which his poetical expression was declared to be artificially structured prose and lacking in authentic rhythm, until the publishing of the aforementioned monograph by Antun Barac. Since then the prevalent attitude towards Vidrić’s writings is that he expressed his pain in such a discreet, even deliberately secretive, manner, that sometimes that pain is barely discernible.

His collection Pjesme, published in 1907, opens with the poem U oblacima and tellingly closes with Adieu. In a manner similar to that of the greatest poets and with almost geometrical precision, Vidrić structured his collection by first disclosing his lyrical creed and ending with a messianic announcement of something “behind” the mind. In its entirety the collection represents a parting with everything known and surrendering to the mysterious “dame”.

As it is stated in an article of the newspapers Dom i svijet from March 1922 (available on the portal Croatian Historic Newspapers), despite the highly organized outer structure characteristic of older Croatian poetry, by skilfully placing just two or three words Vidrić managed to create such poetical contours that were truly rare in modernist poetry.

The composer Branimir Sakač set to music three poems by Vidrić (Silen, Pejsaž, Adieu) and their musical scores are available on the website Digitized NUL Heritage.

The rather lengthy article by the writer Ulderiko Donadini, published in the journal Kokot in May 1917 and available on the portal Croatian Historic Newspapers, concludes as it follows: The beauty of his poems is much like the beauty found in nature, in which, through our states of mind, we may see the symbols that our souls desire.