Jaroslav Vrchlicky

Jaroslav Vrchlicky

Czech poet, playwright, translator
Date of Birth: 17.02.1853
Country: Czech

  1. Biography of Jaroslav Vrchlický
  2. Contributions to Czech Literature
  3. Last Years of the Poet

Biography of Jaroslav Vrchlický

Jaroslav Vrchlický was a Czech poet, playwright, translator, and the leader of the so-called "cosmopolitan" school in Czech literature. He was born into a merchant family, with his father being Jewish and his mother Czech. Vrchlický had a deep knowledge of world literature, which he acquired during his extensive stay in Italy and travels around Europe, leading to him being awarded a doctorate degree. He also worked as a professor of literature.

Contributions to Czech Literature

Vrchlický's career spanned around 40 years, during which he wrote over 100 volumes. He introduced cosmopolitan motifs to Czech literature, which had previously developed within narrow national traditions. His creative journey can be divided into four stages:

1871-1879: During this period, the young poet broke away from the traditions of Czech literature and the influence of German literature. He focused primarily on the literature of Romance countries. His works during this time reflected his belief in progress and evolution, skepticism towards nationalist ideals, and a cosmopolitanism that aligned him with the likes of Victor Hugo, George Sand, and Leopardi.

1879-1894: This period marked the peak of Vrchlický's mastery in his works. Influenced by Dante's "Divine Comedy" and Goethe's "Faust", he created "Fragments of an Epic" (2 volumes), which critics rightfully compared to Victor Hugo's "The Legend of the Ages". He also produced works such as "Eclogues and Songs", "Twardovski", "Sonets of a Solitary", "Music in the Soul", and "Frescoes and Tapestries". Additionally, he wrote a series of plays and tragedies based on Czech history, Byzantine and Roman history, and the Italian Renaissance. Notable works from this period include the trilogy "Hippodamia", "Brothers", and the comedy "A Night at Karlštejn Castle". However, towards the end of this period, his creative powers began to decline.

1894-1903: This period was characterized by a crisis and decline in Vrchlický's career. Nationalist critics, unable to forgive him for his humanistic universalism, labeled him as an incurable eclectic. During these years, he produced works such as "Windows in the Storm", "New Fragments of an Epic", "Gods and Men", and "Dedications".

Last Years of the Poet

In his final years, Vrchlický overcame his pessimistic worldview and created poems and epics filled with passion and vitality. Some of his notable works from this period include "Coral Islands", "Hidden Springs", "Tree of Life", and "Sword of Damocles". Vrchlický also translated several works into Czech, including Dante's "Divine Comedy", Torquato Tasso's "Jerusalem Delivered", Ludovico Ariosto's "Orlando Furioso", Charles Baudelaire's "Flowers of Evil", and various works by Victor Hugo, Leconte de Lisle, Leopardi, Parini, and other European writers.

This biography is based on materials from the Literary Encyclopedia 1929-1939.