Ján Hollý

Priest and national revivalist Ján Hollý (b Borský Mikulas 1785–d Dobra Voda 1849) was a poet and translator who wrote in Bernolákovcina, Anton Bernolak's codified Slovak. He was one of the greatest Slovak and Slavic poets and a key representative of classicism in Slovak literature.

Hollý created a substantial body of his works in the village of Madunice, where he liked to write poems in the Mlíč woods under an old oak tree.

Born into a peasant family, Ján Hollý was educated in Skalica and Bratislava before going on to study Philosophy and Theology at the University in Trnava.

Hollý was consecrated as a priest in 1808; during his life he served as parish priest of Pobedim (1808), chaplain at Hlohovec (1811) and parish priest of Madunice (1814-1843).

During his student years Hollý began to translate Greek and Latin heroic poems, the most important one being his translation of Vergilio's Eneada, which also became a template for his own composition Svatopluk - the first national epic poem.

During his own career as a poet Hollý presented mainly the heroic personality of the Slovak people and their Christian history, which was the oldest among the Slavs. His works also presented the cultural and spiritual mission of Sts Cyril and Methodius in Great Moravia, and wrote their biographies.

Hollý's poetic genius was manifested in the fact that at a time of low national self-esteem and self-belief he created a massive epic style drawing upon the history of the Slovak people, focusing on their heroic character and presenting the life of a simple people in a interesting and magical way.

As an author Hollý wanted to present the glorious past of his nation to strengthen the process of forming a new national awareness in the fight against feaudal ideas.

Alongside his epic works Hollý also created a smaller body of poems known as selanky ('idylls'). Ten of these were published in Zore I (1835), 10 in Zore II (1836) and one in Zore IV (1839). The selanky formed a transition between epic and lyric poems, jeremiad and odes.

Hollý was one of the most talented poets writing in the Bernolákovcina language, the first Slovak language standard developed by Anton Bernolák, based on western Slovak dialects spoken around Trnava, with some elements from the central region. Hollý's work was admired by the young Ľudovít Štúr and inspired many of Štúr's followers, even after the Central Slovak language was chosen in preference to Bernolákovcina as the basis for the Slovak literary language.

Hollý lost all his posessions and suffered personal injury in a fire on 3 May 1843 and had to ask the Church for accommodation. Thereafter his eyesight got worse, restricting his work.

Hollý also had many followers and friends in the Czech Republic, where for example K A Vinarický enthusiastically translated his poetry. He died in 1849 at Dobra Voda where a memorial has been erected over his grave. A Memorial House has been established at Borský Mikuláš.