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Vojislav Ilić (Serbian Cyrillic: Војислав Илић) (1860–1894) was a 19th century Serbian poet of finely chiselled verse, son of the Romanticist playwright and poet Jovan Ilić. He was born in the capital of Serbia, Belgrade.
Vojislav failed to complete his gymnasium education and was forced to take various clerical positions of minor importance. Living for the most part in penury, he wrote poetry extensively and soon became the leading Serbian poet in the last decades of the nineteenth century. As so many Serbian artists of that era, he died young, of consumption, in 1894.
His poetry exemplifies a classic example of modern Serbian language and features the standard Decadent motifs of the epoch: cruel nature (e.g. cold wind blowing across empty fields), and times of Elagabalus.
Jovan Jovanović Zmaj and Đura Jakšić and even married one of Jakšić's daughters. In certain aspects Vojislav does belong somewhat to all the four main periods of European literary style that he passed through in a period of less than 15 years, a unique phenomenon, but his great merit as a poet is that he emancipated himself from the affectations and puerilities of his masters. Literary critic Jovan Skerlić said one of the most striking aspects of Vojislav's activity is the attention he drew to the form and technique of poetic creation.
In 1885 he joined the Serbian Army as a volunteer and accompanied his detachment to Bulgaria but did not encounter the enemy. The short-lived Serbo-Bulgarian War gave Ilić another direction than the military. From 1887 until 1892 he was an editor at the Government Printing Press. In 1892 he taught at a Serbian grammar school in Turnu Severin, in Romania. That same year he was appointed press secretary at the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and afterwards vice-consul in Priština, then under Turkish rule. He died in Belgrade on 21 January 1894.
Aleksa Šantić, Danica Marković, and for a short while even Jovan Dučić, who soon went on to abandon Vojislavism for a new literary wave that Dučić and Milan Rakić would ultimately espouse, influenced by the French poets. This independence Dučić and Rakić owed in part perhaps to their studies and frequent travels abroad, both were in the diplomatic service. It was Jovan Dučić who put it best in perspective, Even if Vojislav did not succeed in becoming our greatest poet, he is certainly our most beautiful poet. But nothing diminishes Vojislav J. Ilić's standing in Serbian literature which remains on a firm foundation more than a century later.
Undoubtedly Vojislav J. Ilić achieved much for a poet who died young—he had not reached 34 years of age. He was, indeed, the poet of his period. Jovan Skerlić, the great Serbian literary critic, wrote: What Lukijan Mušicki meant to Serbian literature in the 1830s, Sima Milutinović Sarajlija in the 1840s, Djura Jakšić and Jovan Jovanović Zmaj in the 1860s, so too, did Vojislav J. Ilić make his imprint in the 1890s. He brought Romanticism to its conclusion and ushered in a new direction -- Vojislavism.
Vojislav J. Ilić was also an ardent follower of Vuk Karadžić's reforms. He displays richness of fancy and aptness of language, and his work has even stood the test of time. Various editions of his Collected Works have been published after his death, one in 1907 and 1909, in two volumes.
Vojislav has been credited for having influenced many poets that came after him, thereby paving the way for higher achievements in Serbian poetry in the first two decades of the twentieth century.