It's so nice when the weekend becomes a little longer than usual. I love it. It's only one day, but still. And why is that?
See, it's all about this man:
Show this picture to any school kid in Slovenia, they will know who this is. Our greatest poet. Has any of your poets given you a day off from work? Does that exist in any other country?
Okay, it's not only about him. It is Culture Day on 8th February. There are celebrations, cultural events, free entrance to galleries and so, and - we don't go to work or school. That's it! A national holiday.
We're a small nation, we sometimes say. And soon someone will correct that statement, saying we are not small, but there are really few of us. The population of Slovenia is about 2 000 000. Quite a few cities have higher populaton than that, right? And we live on a not too large teritory. As you can imagine, our nation and language have been influenced by all our neighbours. The Italians - they occupied a great part of our land for almost thirty years. My dad was in an Italian school at the age of six. When he spoke the only language he could speak, his teacher took his cane and slapped his fingers. He was supposed to be quiet untill he learned some Italian. In other parts and other times Slovenes were supposed to use German in public life.
Well, the man in the picture above had a rich uncle who helped him get his education. His family were hoping for a priest, but he somehow became a lawyer. But he didn't want to practice in German, so he coludn't get a government job.
Apart from that, he was a poet.
He showed the Germans that our language was perfectly suitable for high poetry, just like any other. Not just the peasants' language as they named it. He wrote a lot of poetry, most of it sonnets. I like them. And even if someone says that they prefer another poet, his value was in that (at least as I see it) that he wrote all that without having seen anything like it ever written in our language before.
Among other things, he wrote a toast. Titled "A Toast". Okay, so he liked to drink. But this poem was a real poem, not just some drinking verses.
I'll just ut the eighth verse here, the one that we proclaimed our antheme:
|Živé naj vsi naródi,||God's blessing on all nations,|
|ki hrepené dočakat dan,||Who long and work for that bright day,|
|da, koder sonce hodi,||When o'er earth's habitations|
|prepir iz svéta bo pregnan,||No war, no strife shall hold its sway;|
|da rojak||Who long to see|
|prost bo vsak,||That all men free,|
|ne vrag, le sosed bo mejak!||No more shall foes, but neighbours be.|
Like it? I do. And I think it's right that we celebrate the Culture Day. Because culture is, in a way, what has kept this nation through history. And I think it's right that we celebrate it on a day, connected with this man.
The only thing that puzzles me is: why didn't they choose his birthday? Why do we celebrate it on the day he died?