Lithuania Literature

Lithuania Literature

To trace the first elements of a Lithuanian literature, it is necessary to skip the whole Middle Ages and go back to the century of the Reformation and to the energetic action explained by the Jesuits with the Counter-Reformation in the seventeenth century. This means that the centuries of Lithuania’s greatest historical splendor are devoid of any original written documentation. Such an anachronism is only understandable if we keep in mind the historical events that Lithuania had to undergo and above all those that accompanied and followed its laborious conversion to Christianity. This conversion, which took place more by force than by conviction, brings with it the first infiltrations of Western culture into the country, sacrificing what was original and characteristic in the anonymous production of the ancient Vaidilos. and of the Kanklininkai, a kind of sacred and profane rhapsodies of the times of paganism. Several elements of this early popular literature were then varied and reworked in the more recent poetry of the dainos and even more in the interesting narratives of the pasakos. For substance and form, the very rich collections of this purely popular literature constitute a precious mine for understanding certain still somewhat archaic traits of their current artistic aspect. These are documents of even more decisive importance for what refers to the evolution of the Lithuanian language, of which there is no trace in the official documents of the state until the end of the century. XIX.

The Lithuanian noble class, enticed by material and moral advantages, had moved away from the national language to adopt the Russian or Polish one. The rebirth of the national idiom did not begin until in the darkest period of the country’s political subjection, when, that is, from the people who had lost all contact with the noble and cultured class, men arose who, taking possession of the elements of culture, restored in honor the language of the fathers.

The first printed essays, in the field of Lithuanian national literature proper, appear in minor Lithuania, present-day East Prussia, and are due to Stanislao Rapagelonis (1545) author of a collection of hymns on the nativity and passion of Christ. His contemporary Abraham Kulviškis, who died in Vilna in 1545, translated the Psalms of David, while M. Mažvydis, in 1547, printed a work consisting of an alphabet, a catechism and a collection of religious songs. In 1579 Bartolomeo Vilentas translated from the German and published the Enchiridion. But it is more a question of attempts inspired by the will of proselytism with which the Reformation sought to wrest Lithuania from Catholicism rather than actual literary manifestations. More remarkable in this regard is the effort made by Giovanni Bretkūnas (1535-1602), author of a Colectas and a Postila, as well as a translation of the Holy Scriptures, a work that has remained in manuscript in the Königsberg archive.

To stem the lively Protestant campaign, which, using the national language, was trying to attract Lithuania into the orbit of Protestantism, the Catholic bishop Melchiorre Giedraitis (1577-1609) suggested to Canon Mykolas Daukša to publish a catechism and a collection of his sermons, to which the prelate added a preface, which remains one of the most interesting documents of the revival of the Lithuanian language. This preface stigmatizes with warm arguments the bad habit established among the nobles to use the Polish language, and among other things it is said that “whoever destroys the beautiful chain of love that is a language for the state, suddenly puts an end to harmony, to unity, to loving union; after which all that remains is darkness, chaos, despair and death “. For Lithuania 2015, please check

But the warning of the canon of Samogitia did not succeed in destroying the dualism that had by now been produced in Lithuania among the nobles who, while retaining national spirits and intentions, would have wanted the country to resign itself to the use of the Pole, and the people who remained faithful to your own language. In support of this second wholly Lithuanian current, as the elements of knowledge become accessible to the masses, new champions come mostly from the popular class. Thus in the seventeenth century the country’s aspirations towards a greater linguistic and literary awareness are refined and clarified while remaining in the context of religious competition between Protestants and Catholics who continue to compete in using Lithuanian as a language accessible to the people. Yes the publication of grammars and dictionary begins. In Vilna the Jesuit Constantine Sirvydas (1564-1631) in addition to his sermons publishes a Dictionarium trium linguarum, a grammar, and, in 1629, a study of Lithuanian dialects. He is echoed from Tilsit, in East Prussia, by the Protestant pastor Daniele Klein (1610-1666) with the publication of a Lithuanian grammar and a Compendium lituanicum germanicum. Nor should we forget a collection of Calvinist hymns by an anonymous and dedicated to Prince Janus Radzivill as “defender and protector of Calvin’s church and staunch defender of the oppressed fatherland”.

The writings of the century. XVIII and the first half of the century. XIX are gradually detached from previous models. They are increasingly affected by the Germanic influence in the territory of Memel and in East Prussia while retaining the Polish imprint in greater Lithuania. Foreign influence is becoming more and more overbearing and partly annihilates the impetus that the previous century had given to the rebirth of a Lithuanian culture proper.

However, we must mention the works of the two Rūgys father and son, better known by the Germanized name of Ruhig, that is a grammar and a study on the principles of the language (1745-1747). The father Ruhig also left one of the first collections of dainos with German translation, a collection which, through the mention of Lessing and Herder, was praised by Goethe in a study on Slavic and Baltic folklore. A special place in all Lithuanian literature deserves the great poet of minor Lithuania Cristiano Duonelaitis (1714-89) for his poem in hexameter Metai (The Seasons).

Lithuania Literature

Comments are closed.