COMMANDER OF THE MASLOVARE COAL MINE
near Kotor Varoš in Bosnia 1918
By the end of October 1918, just before the definitive capitulation of Austro-Hungary, Ivan returned from the battlefield to Banja Luka. For him the war was over. He became a civilian and a free man again.
As a lieutenant, already on 1 November 1918, like many of his comrades he placed himself at the disposal of the National Council and entered into the service of the Serb-dominated National Defense. The Military Command of the National Council in Banja Luka, in the decree of 4 November 1918, No. 3838, nominated him a military commander of the Maslovare coal mine near Kotor Varoš.
During the change of government, a tense situation in the Maslovare coal mine occurred: the workers staged a mutiny, partly because they had no food and lacked other necessities. The lives and safety of the management were threatened, and there was also a danger that the railways would remain without coal which was obtained from the Maslovare coal mine. Merz was asked to take command of the coal mine and to ensure the normal work under any circumstances. This was no easy task, but Ivan resolved it correctly. In resolving the crisis, he set out from the principle that brute force must not be used against the workers, but that their just demands must first be satisfied. He took from the military warehouses many of the things the workers lacked, such as shoes, straw mattresses, food and tobacco. The workers became very fond of him immediately and work was continued. They even sent him a fir tree for Christmas, although due to the unsettled political situation it was forbidden to cut trees in the woods and only rare families had a Christmas tree in their home.
Ivan stayed in Maslovare two months, until the end of December 1918. He had a lot of free time, which he largely devoted to reading literary works whose reviews and analyses he noted down in his Diary which was at that time kept with diligence. In the Diary, he continued to analyze his state of mind, not refraining from admitting his weaknesses. He was particularly enthusiastic with the lives of the saints whose biographies he read and who attracted him with their saintly lifestyles.
As these were the first days in the process of the forming of the new Yugoslav State, Ivan gave us very interesting views on the political affairs in those crucial days. His assessments and forecasts for the future of the nations which entered in the new state, formed under Serbian domination, proved incredibly correct, even prophetic. Even in those early days he forecasted the decline of the Karađorđević dynasty, etc.
In continuation, we publish his diary entries written during his stay in Maslovare.
Banja Luka, 24 October 1918 – (21 years and 10 months)
Review of the content and analysis of Racine’s work Iphigénie1
Banja Luka, 25 October 1918 – (21 years and 10 months)
The war has ended, return home, the new state is being founded
The world is dying of the Spanish flu. Modern science didn’t find the treatment for it. Austria is falling apart. In Zagreb, the National Council has been formed, unrests in Rijeka…
A new dawn!
Review of the content and analysis of Racine’s work Phèdre2
In the work, human defects and passions are presented to the point of absurdity. (…)
(Here follows an extensive review of the content of the work and analysis of its characters)
Banja Luka, 29 October 1918 – (21 years and 10 months)
Yugoslavia is being founded
Yugoslavia is formally free. The National Council under the leadership of Korošec, Pavelić and Pribićević is a legitimate authority. The Hungarian railway clerks have fled. The traffic is halted. Meetings are being organized.
Review of the content and analysis of Racine’s work Athalie
This is a biblical tragedy which mistakenly carries the title Athalie, and is likewise mistakenly taken to be a tragedy. (…) Athalie is no tragedy, because Athalie herself is not the main protagonist in which our attention is focused and whose death fills us with sadness. On the contrary: we are glad that she dies and are glad that Joas stays alive. Racine has simply dramatized a biblical story. (…) The work was written for a monastery at the time when Louis was underage; it carries some moralizing point. (…)
(Here follows an extensive review of the content of the work and analysis of its characters along with copious quotations)
Praises the book by bishop Keppler3 More Joy (Mehr Freude) and quotes a passage which he particularly liked
This is a beautiful book. It is the fruit of a deep spiritual life. The second part is magnificent; it is an apology for Christianity which is so faintly known today:
“Such spiritual joy can be experienced only by someone who is leading a spiritual life, who is used to retiring from the outside world and outside activity into the conclave of the inner world, who can resist the impact of the senses and create an inner world independent of the outside one with a beautiful landscape and secret depths from which the original sources of life emerge. The islands of the saints exist only in the silent ocean of the soul.”
“The will that was shaped and built for the king, which is not a slave of passions and feelings, and is connected to the forces of the other world which determine the weather for the soul on a certain day and hour is capable, in spite of all vacillations and changes, to set the barometer again on fair weather.”
Banja Luka, 2 November 1918 – (21 years and 11 months)
Political and social state of the people after the establishment of Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia is free. Four days ago, the local army (Dalmatian cavalry) gained independence. They broke into the warehouse of goods and food and looted everything. They also damaged the hospital. Underground people, crones from different classes, Italian prisoners, showed their heroism. There was shooting the whole day. The army was dispatched after two full days, and the National Council took over the government. These are mainly Serbs who act with inexhaustible energy, showing that they deserve freedom. Their suffering and tears which they shed in these last years in the dungeons strengthened them. Croats work only a little, and every action has a Serbian stamp on it.
Order was quickly reestablished; they established the national army. Although I am happy at being free, I cannot orient myself because everyone is looking at me with some scorn because I am a foreigner. But I hold that this crisis will soon be over. This is an opportunity for me to exercise humility and show that I am free in spirit, without any fear in front of institutions which look askance at all the foreigners.
But, everything is in God’s design, and, therefore, I do not fear neither for my parents nor for myself; He is the Father of all of us and takes care of his children until they die.
They say that Tisza4 has been murdered, and in Vienna and Budapest there is mutiny. The front is receding, and the Entente has recognized the state of the South Slavs. It is peaceful, and I am a civilian. Disputes regarding the form of government are already felt.
Maslovare, 14 November 1918 – (21 years and 11 months)
Compares the life of Christ and lives of the saints who, as mediators, are closer to him, prays for the grace of his sanctification
Christ’s life is too elevated and it is hard for me to rise to such heights, to understand him. The lives of the saints are not at that level, and they are more understandable to me; they are kind of mediators who provide introduction into the grasp of Christ’s greatness. I am now reading the life of St. Elisabeth of Thuringia and I read it very gladly. The world of Catholic literature which portrays great and holy people is opening up to me, whereas the profane literature pictures life as it is without pretensions at sanctification. Actually, it pictures the human beast – this is where Zola is right – which acts as it pleases the body; when it undertakes some ethical actions, this is only because sin begets pain and death and in order to remove them even a non-religious person is obliged to create some ethical principles which are today formulated in the science of law…
God, I pray for the Grace to burn my laziness and sensuality. Give my spirit the power over my stomach which wants to subjugate me. Sanctify my body and soul!
Review, critique and judgement of the work Jocaste by Anatole France
This is a description of Jocaste, a woman who married a man whom she doesn’t love, hiding her love for another who lacks the energy to propose to her, everything ending in suicide. (…)
(In continuation, there follows an extensive review of the content of the work, followed by Merz’s own comment, below.)
Life by itself as A. France presents it contains a degree of poetry. He presents the people of this age, the current generation as it is. It is a life without God, without any unearthly life. Therefore, these people go into coffee-rooms, play snooker, sleep until noon. Women are frightened when the police are coming, they are full of phantasms and feeling bored, not understanding life in the least, consequently they take their own life. This is an immense tragedy; we observe people who are created to be sanctified, to fill themselves with supernatural light through inner battle, and here they live as if this whole life was a mere accident of nature and after it emptiness follows. I am sure that A. France is not aware of that himself; the work ends with cynicism in the manner of Bazarov, full of tragedy. This is because the poet himself is waking to some unknown, warm hope. René, the main protagonist, discovers with ironic smile the symptoms of an incurable disease; this is a sad smile, reflecting the irony of his whole life after which there follows an equally puzzling chapter – death. It is a smile with a tear in the eye, a tear full of sadness for the lost paradise.
This is an interesting work, because it documents our age and one could weep over this humanity which lives so sadly, not knowing even the most primitive things. It is terrible to look at these people having such gifts (René is an excellent physician and scientist) and an incorrupt interior living alone for themselves, not being of use to anyone or sad and dissatisfied with a cynical smile, ridiculing themselves. (…)
Maslovare near Kotor Varoš (Bosnia). Picture from the time when Ivan was there.
Maslovare, 21 November 1918 – (21 years and 11 months)
Restrained himself not to kiss some teacher
I could barely restrain myself from kissing a teacher, Irma, with whom I shared a ride from Banja Luka. I thought that I was firm in this respect; even the typical female behavior, walking to and fro, getting closer, movement of the lips, speaking in interrupted sentences, everything was sending a message: come, kiss, embrace me. I was close to doing that, but with God’s help I restrained myself. Later, I observed her face in detail: the shine of the nose, thin blue capillaries above the nose, fine dark color below the eyes – all of this was revealing that her soul is not virgin, that she has been through a lot of student smooching. In all of that, sin was rather prevalent, and the evil dreams after this encounter revealed the tragedy of this sin. Apart from God, I thought of Zora; I am convinced that she would reject such a temptation with more bravery. Otherwise, I lost a lot of that inner joy which is a proof of God’s Grace.5
Maslovare, 23 November 1918 – (21 years and 11 months)6
Thoughts about the spiritual greatness of saints after reading the biography of St. Elisabeth by A. Stolz and criticism of modern literature
Oh, ideal life! How much struggle, how much search in old cultured people for an ideal of life; how close to Truth were Plato, Aristotle, and still, how many mistakes. We must be more than happy because Christianity with its legion of saints, I exclude Christ as he is too high, in the most varied of circumstances represent an idea of life which reaches the level of harmony with the entire macrocosm, so that, just like to the first Adam, everything yields to them.
Alban Stolz has written a classical work: the best biography of a saint that I read so far. Usually saints are portrayed as terrible, dark characters, with an angry skinning face who flagellate themselves – terrible! – whereas actually these are creatures of light, full of inner joy and happiness whose beauty is reflected in their bodies. These are ideal beings: superhuman in the best sense of the term. They are the lights and pillars of the Church who can grow to such unreachable heights on a single tree.
All religions and confessions can have saintly people in the Catholic sense; but to rise to such heights as St. Teresa, St. Elisabeth and St. Francis of Assisi is possible only on the tree of the mystical body of Christ, imbibing the Holy Spirit, so to say, directly and materially.
Stolz by himself is a great man; otherwise he could never understand certain moments of sanctity. Our entire life – as is said in the foreword – is illuminated by supernatural light; the meaning of every pain, every event Stolz tried to interpret in accordance with God’s will. It is impossible to quote all the details; the book encompasses an entire life and the whole life can be read without interruption. It paves the way to a new great art: the Catholic one. The work is the fruit of German Catholic literature and is a guidepost to us. It is full of eternal motifs: painting, music, sculpture, and what is essential and most important – life itself. They sanctify it and create people who will be the carriers of great ideas, who will fertilize every branch of culture and again create great works.
Great, saintly people are the source of everything; they are the pioneers of the Kingdom of God on earth. And this Kingdom is not the world as the opponents of Christianity, often rightly, imagine – people who in beautiful warm suits go to mass on Sunday, while the poor women freeze outside, priests who are engaged in commerce and have no propensity for a modern sermon; this would be a life full of warmth and self-sacrifice where one would take pity on another and try to help and wouldn’t look (I am just reading The Famished Cat by Anatole France) with a smile on the lips when a young man makes an offense against the sixth commandment, this sin above the other sins, that eternal catastrophe which leaves a man without any spirituality and eternal glory for which he was predestined. No, in modern literature there is no love of one’s neighbor. Modern works were written by people who let loose their instincts, not basically different from animals – enjoying; or people who suffered but were unable to permeate and consecrate their pain to supernatural goals, but suffering instinctively just like the animals, in fury against their persecutors, complaining of social circumstances, of others, and never themselves. Precisely what makes man a man – a holy being predestined for glory (Kuvačić,7 pray for me!) such as humility, self-denial, is not found in our artists. Moreover, they imbue their so-called nature, their “I” (what in essence is their animal nature) with narcotic substances and write in such a super-animalistic state. It goes without saying that such art is sick and lethal. It is a glorification of “Überteufeltum”. (Stipe!)8
The absolute power of the spirit is unknown to a contemporary artist. If any of them experienced a battle for sanctity, he or she would be full of inexhaustible motifs. All of that would exuberate and enthuse. By contrast, contemporary art is naked; the cult of the nude, flesh and animal freedom – the consequences of these sins – despicable lives, poor, limited white slaves, this is its content. Great art, holy art! That act of St. Elisabeth when she crosses a stream and one female beggar (to whom she used to give alms) throws her into the water because there was a time when she was wearing silver and gold, and Elisabeth not only forgives her, but in her childish soul thanks her because she deserved that punishment – this has more worth than the entire Modern art.
The holy childlike naivete, more valuable than all the riches of the world, what has it created in practical life, what in art?! The greatness of Homer and our folk poetry is based precisely on naivete. And what about the work of art based on Christian naivete?! This will be the greatest work of art in the world; a masterpiece, brilliant and permeated with glory. That would be a work of art; and the life of holy souls are works of art above other works of art, superseding human reason, heavenly phenomena on earth in front of which one ought to kneel and cry of immeasurable joy, while millions of angelic voices in all the tonalities – from the highest sopranos to most resonant bases will sing: Gloria, Gloria, Gloria.
(Here follows a brief account of the biography of St. Elisabeth)
It is impossible to give the details, one would have to copy the whole book. Everything is a real, true, warm life. It is a work of immense cultural and historical value. This age is really portrayed magnificently. The prophecies of the Blessed Virgin Mary are interesting; a wonderful psychological analysis of her virginity, and even if it were only a legend, we would have to admire the artist who managed to enter into the psyche of the Madonna. Her life is so elevated that we, ordinary people, think we must perish. This is an enormous height; the work of God’s Grace. But, we shouldn’t despair because we are so far below her. She is the guidepost and we should be humble and pray and the dear God will not leave us.
St. Elisabeth, pray for us!
Maslovare, 26 November 1918 – (21 years and 11 months)
Philosophical and literary thoughts about laughter as the fruit of human imperfection
Laughter is the flower of this earth. On the other world, spirits will be happy, but they will not laugh. Sincere, pure laughter is the fruit of imperfection, a weakness which is the consequence of sin. Adam did not laugh in paradise; the expelled Adam in his lighter moments of idleness had the motive to laugh. And the centuries of culture are actually a treasury of laughter, because the consequences of imperfection of the current microcosm, accumulated through centuries are inexhaustible. The center of laughter is man who is largely the product of his environment, and depending on this environment a man is funny or less funny. Therefore, we see interesting representatives of funny characters in Molière, Daudet, Spitzweg and France. These are funny characters who became funny without any ethical guilt on their part. Therefore, for the judgement of the comical in literature only one thing should be relevant: is this comical trait caused by sin, i.e. a conscious transgression of ethical laws, or is it a consequence of imperfection. This imperfection too is, admittedly, the fruit of a sin, mostly hereditary (because the consequences of a specific sin committed by an ancestor are transmitted through generations) in a general sense, but it is not a sin of the concrete person because this person doesn’t know that he or she is thereby sinning. It would be a different matter if this character would become aware of his or her funniness but would be so lazy not to strive to get rid of it. In this moment, the entire humor is destroyed and its representative is a creature which should evoke our compassion, not our laughter. This is where modern art is particularly wrong. Not having a correct notion of sin, or clearly speaking, not having a unified world-view (even a pagan one), it presents as funny something that must move us to tears, to evoke our compassion. Let them only have a look at Molière, Shakespeare, Cervantes and others, and they will realize that the basis of classical humor is a firmly constructed world-view, whereas everything else is a terrible crime, a poison that destroys human dignity and human purpose. It is the sin of egoism, worse than salacious stories in today’s sub-animal humorous papers.
Review, analysis and critique of the work The Famished Cat by Anatole France
France has no established world-view and The Famished Cat is therefore not a cohesive work, either technically or on the level of ideas. This work in which France caricatures the Parisian bohemians in the manner of Spitzweg is nevertheless worth reading. These caricatures are the foundation of the work and they are the reason why it was written. Here one can see that the poet has made his unique judgement of these people and succeeded in presenting them in a certain light.
A few words about the positive side of the work. Reading the descriptions of these people, one unwittingly remembers Spitzweg, with one difference – Spitzweg is much brighter and lighter, whereas these people are surrounded by some tragic veil so that laughter is interrupted at one point by a tear in the eye; these are poor, fruitless people, grown from a soil without God and apart from nature, among the walls of Paris, in the maelstrom of character-less modern society, sucking the poison from the books of modern philosophy, with its immense range of different world-views. It is natural that the products of such circumstances must be comical people, comical almost without their guilt, but this is a bitter humor because it evokes in the reader sympathy towards these people who will die, not succeeding in rising at least a little bit above the comical everyday events in which they are caught. (…)
(In the continuation, there follows a lengthy review of the content of the work, quotations from the works, analysis and critique of its characters).
Building of the management of the Maslovare mine in which Ivan worked as director
Maslovare, 27 November 1918 – (21 years and 11 months)
Review of political circumstances and nomination of the King of Yugoslavia
They say that King Peter has been nominated the King of Yugoslavia. I obey if this is a deal brokered by Korošec into whom I trust, but I am very sorry that it is not a republic, which will ultimately emerge. Apart from that, I don’t find the Karađorđević dynasty very likeable. However, if the state will be democratically ordered with a king as figurehead only, without the possibility to decide on war or peace, and if the power of veto is taken away from him, it will be good.
Current circumstances in which he lives and works, criticizes his weak faith, fears the wolves, shoots at a dog
I am leading an immensely comfortable life: I can freely say an ideal life. I work for myself and read to my heart’s desire. I listen to the people, especially women. A terrible immorality has taken over the people. Women are sunk into insipidity and stubbornness; especially a certain Toda Lazarević, a beautiful waitress who, in her stubbornness doesn’t yield to anybody.
Otherwise, I criticize others a lot, and I myself am a terrible coward. I am afraid of wolves, and a little while ago I fired a couple of shots at the dog of my landlord Urbais and luckily, I missed. This is an excellent opportunity to exercise faith in practice; to go into scary places at night. God, God help me overcome this unfortunate cowardice in me.
Maslovare, 29 November 1918 – (21 years and 11 months)
Overview of the current political situation, Serbs usurp political power, base their authority of force, Catholics depressed, forecasts the collapse of the Karađorđević dynasty
Really, the mentality of the Serbs is completely different from the Croatian – Catholic one. In them one sees such immense enthusiasm, such happiness as if they were in heaven. They usurped the will of the nation and proclaimed Peter the king, although the Muslims and Catholics opposed this. They commit the same mistakes into which Austria had fallen: they build their power on force.
The Croats – Catholics won their freedom, but they are all depressed. This is because they feel that now they have much less freedom then before. If Peter really starts to rule and the Serbs try to conquer all, there will be resistance which will topple the Karađorđevićs from power. We do not need kings and hegemonies: we want justice and love!
Catholics cannot be so enthusiastic because they have that unconscious cosmopolitan character which doesn’t know enemies who are completely evil, or friends who are ideals of goodness. The Catholic mentality is unconscious in our people, and they will never show such revolutionary tendencies which demand even innocent victims. The Catholic evolution is slow and merciful. Someone might retort by saying that without a revolutionary tendency this overturn and freedom would never come about. Not as fast. But this is actually only a formal freedom which the people don’t understand; the intelligentsia is drunk on happiness and alcohol, and the peasants are facing a material, but most of all, moral ruin. The Serbian peasant has fallen morally very low. I still don’t know our peasant. Freedom is really a beautiful thing; but the effects of freedom are still not felt as they should be.
Review, analysis and critique of the work Blue Bird by M. Maeterlinck and his philosophy which is not fit for life
It is a beautiful dream, but the fruit of a comfortable life. Only one side of life is touched, of course, the happy one, and the mystery of suffering, fear, heroism doesn’t touch the author at all. The philosophy reflected in this drama can satisfy only the bourgeoisie of the rich and the poor who are leading their normal, pre-war lives. Today this work does not satisfy us in the least; this generation is facing new, eternal problems which we want to solve. Not a word is found on this in Maeterlinck’s work. Christianity has resolved these problems long ago, and this world war only confirmed its truth and greatness. This work is the product of a Flemish life where misery and pain were non-existent. To be poor in their land meant not to have cakes and sugar every day, but all the other necessities were available in abundance. But how is this work going to satisfy a man who doesn’t have clothes in the midst of winter, neither shelter nor food. Here the response about different ways of happiness does not satisfy, and Christianity with a single parable “foxes have dens and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head” shows that there is Someone who is carrying his cross beside him (Drago: sermon of a military chaplain) and with its philosophy of patience and a view on supernatural life resolves every detail.
We must acknowledge Maeterlinck’s noble tendencies and the understanding of this side of life (that people seek happiness within and around themselves, not where they are not), and thus they will be much happier. Here he got close to Christianity who also loves these small, naïve joys (Keppler, Mehr Freude and St. Francis), but reading this work one feels pity at such an enormous effort of these people who are sincerely looking for Truth somewhere far, without bothering to look near them, without seeing Christianity. With this, Maeterlinck speaks against himself: isn’t the blue bird so close, hasn’t Christianity solved all the problems universally? Looking for the Truth, Maeterlinck didn’t solve the most important problem, the problem of death, or, if he believes his story, he is more naïve than a child. Maeterlinck portrays death symbolically: dead persons exist for him only in human imagination, and when we don’t remember them, they are asleep. In other words, objectively they don’t exist anymore. Nice consolation! In that case, I don’t understand happiness either – to be good, when it vanishes with death, what does it mean to be good at all? Among the modern people, everybody is convinced that they are good, and again we have such crimes and such catastrophes occurring.
Otherwise, it is interesting to read this work because with its nobility and a classical peace it has a pleasing effect: but due to its modern disbelieving philanthropy it deserves to be put on the index. This work will have a good impact only on people who live nicely and honestly, but if you put in front of these people any elementary pain, if they are put to shame or persecuted, not being able to illuminate with this eudemonistic philosophy this dark side of life, they will resort to suicide. I spoke to many people who hold this world view who said that in case of misfortune they will kill themselves.
And there are so many people who suffer incessantly, so many who slave for years and years hungry and thirsty, so many whose toil has come to nothing. What could we hear from those who are practically always pursued by misfortune and in the end, die exhausted? Should they have committed suicide? Is pain meaningless? Maeterlinck has no answer. Therefore, he will be a favorite of the city audiences who life happily but will not penetrate into broader circles. His philosophy is not fit for life.
Analysis of the drama: The Blue Bird is a symbol of absolute happiness, the secret of life, the stone of wisdom, something like God, only Maeterlinck didn’t feel the greatness of that. It is a type of pantheism and materialism, similar to the primeval force, electrons with primeval energy who are the source of movement, as well as happiness. (…)
A Christian artist could never create such a work because he is faced with a life view that is complete, his task is only to discover its greatness, to delve into it and to build it within himself. If a modern artist fully went through this battle, he would have to arrive at the result that the blue bird is God’s love. Such an artist would have to convert, and his work would retain the structure of Maeterlinck’s work, but with a Christian idea. It would be a work of art in the full sense of the word. As it is, it has many beautiful extracts, but the foundations are too hollow. (…)
(Here follows a very detailed account of the drama, literary analysis of the characters and a literary assessment of the technique by which the play was built, with a comment and critique of the writer’s claims which are contrary to the Christian world-view).
Forest railway track for the transport of coal from the Maslovare mine to Banja Luka
Maslovare, 12 December 1918 – (22 years)
Review and critique of Beaumarchaise’s comedy The Marriage of Figaro
(…) This comedy already represents a decadent art and only such company is able to enjoy it. Everything is centered around the motif of lewdness which the writer elaborated too carelessly. Such content is not at all fit for a comedy, maybe some drama. Art must always stand in harmony with life: it must edify and sanctify life, and not ruin it. Although the end of the comedy is partially ethically satisfying – the count remains cheated and Figaro gets the inviolate Susanna – still all of them – Figaro, Susanna, the countess and other characters are low people who take chastity too lightly. (…)
(Here follows a review and retelling of the content of the comedy, literary analysis and assessment of the characters)
Maslovare, 13 December 1918 – (22 years)
A short review and comment of the comedy A Night in Venice by Alfred de Musset
Maslovare, 16 December 1918 – (22 years)
The death of the Bosnian Archbishop J. Stadler
Stadler9 has died… He had many opponents; they called him an Austrophile, a rich man, merchant… I felt that he must be an extraordinary person when they persecuted him so much…
(An extended review and comment on the lyric drama André del Sarto by Alfred de Musset and criticism of his neo-pagan understanding of love and life.)
This is a vivacious lyrical drama which provides interesting reading. It is one of the rare Musset’s dramas in which the dramatic action is so strong that it could be put on stage. It carries the subjective, lyrical character and Musset’s mentality of adoration of women, love, beauty with a refined erotic point; he has lived through this content and the historic story of André del Sarto is only a vesture, because Musset in the drama presented himself in the character of Cordiani. The work is an apology for love, women and beauty.
So, the romance has come to life again and reestablished the ruptured connection with religion. Musset remained standing half way. All his ideology is Hellenic; he is a lyric epigone of the Renaissance. That all-powerful cult of beauty and love which played such an important role in Musset’s life is the same which was the inspiration for classical artists, the inspiration for which they lived and died. This absolute adoration of women is hardly understandable for us today, but it actually existed. But, as this life-view, although hiding great truths in it, is not by itself an ideal to which everything else must be subjugated, by ethical consequence it must cause catastrophe in life. Great Christian ideas of self-denial and sacrifice are the only ones capable of elevating a healthy yearning for love. Abandoning oneself absolutely to that love, as Musset’s protagonists do, is a terrible crime! All idealization of the persons and motifs is in vain, because the seducer of a woman, no matter how platonic their love may be (in Musset this is connected to the bodily passion, as human nature demands), remains a weakling and an unworthy man. Musset presented Cordiani in a rather ideal manner, because according to Musset’s pagan ideology this love is an elementary element of fate which destroys everything that opposes it. (…)
It is difficult to ethically analyze the entire drama: it is composed entirely on neo-pagan foundations and is the fruit of a lyric soul permeated with the cult of beauty and love (l’art pour l’art) according to a natural instinct without any philosophical foundation. Christianity would resolve the motif of love of a woman in a completely different way that would ethically satisfy all sides. Many tears would be shed in the process, sacrifice and heroism would be demanded… and this conceals in itself great poetry.
But Musset wasn’t writing for life, his works have no pretension to build. Musset is an idealist, and this drama by its topic and philosophy is the guidepost for a modern naturalist drama which draws consequences from this philosophy: freedom of love in the broadest sense is the motto of modern drama and modern life. (…)
Relationship of the lyric and drama in Musset, search for the Truth and God’s love
What is fit for lyrical poetry is not fit for a drama. A drama must be an objective rounded whole; a harmonious life-view built on an idea. A lyricist is freer in expressing his subjective feelings, his inner turmoil, even if they are the consequence of a sinful state. Therefore, this drama should be taken as a dramatized poem which is the product of Musset’s disappointment in love: he believed that he had caught the phantom of love, and she double-crossed him. Lyrics give momentary feelings, extracts of inner life. It goes without saying that only a great man who either searches for the Truth or advances in love of God can be a good lyricist; these poems can be the pearls of lyrical writing, they can extol the greatness of God, just as hell is an anthem to God’s justice. The lyric background of André del Sarto can be seen as a lyric extract (poem) from Musset’s life-history of searching for Love. If he failed in finding true Love but found something else instead, it is not a matter for literary criticism to debate whether he steered off the road by his own guilt or not. Musset is worthy of reading and studying, even if he didn’t find the solution he was looking for. For us it suffices that he was searching! (…)
(Here follows and extensive review and narration of the content of the drama, literary analysis of the characters, along with a comment and critique of the views which are not in accordance with the Christian world-view.)
Maslovare, 17 December 1918 – (22 years)
A review and critique of the drama The Moods of Marianne by Alfred de Musset
In this drama two age-old literary motifs are elaborated: love towards a young woman with an old husband and the motif of a timid lover. Ethical shortcomings and an excessively subjective understanding of art influenced this work too, and therefore, like the other two works, it doesn’t represent a harmonious whole. (…)
The character of Marianne is extraordinary… Yes, this is a modern woman who lives instinctively (i.e. sinfully) without any ideology. This woman is not among the people who contribute to cultural development, it is a woman that was exploited and suppressed for centuries, and who was only a matter of love and pleasure, and never a creature of reason – a human being. This is a lover who is the center of decadent poetry of all the centuries, and Musset did not have the spiritual power to rise above temporality and like Sophocles, Dante, Shakespeare and Goethe perceive what makes a woman a human being and a woman.
(Here follows an extensive review, analysis and comment of the drama and its characters.)
Decadent poetry of the cult of beauty and love ignores ethics and its values
This whole poetry is the product of an age in which people were fed and safe. There was no struggle for life or fear. People were idle, and therefore, they analyzed and observed themselves and everything around them one-sidedly. Ethical motifs for this whole poetry have no value; they create people and types without any ethical pretensions. All social forms are merely a backdrop (the marriage of Claudius, etc.) and the only reality is refined eroticism. An age which knows no battle or heroics cannot understand ethics: for them it doesn’t exist. For this reason, they turn all their attention to esthetics: the cult of beauty is everything, but as its only foundation is the subjective instinct, it creates only subjective values, not objective – eternal ones. In that same age of idleness, beautiful nature where one doesn’t think of death, the sexual drive is always on the surface, and therefore, we see that in such epochs the poetry of love – even if the erotic element is spiritualized – is the main pillar of the arts. An age without ethical values cannot create a great work of art.
Maslovare, Greta’s birthday, 18 December 1918 – (22 years)
May God have mercy on her!10
Review of the content and critique of the comedy Fantasio by Alfred de Musset
From the ethical viewpoint, this work is Musset’s best drama. Social economy and its result satisfy us completely. The character of the work is also subjective, only in this work it is not so bothersome.
(Here follows an extensive narration of the content of the comedy)
A review of the biography of St. Josaphat Kuncević11. A preeminent place of biographies in literature, saints like Alpine mountains
The lives of God’s saints are the most elevated topic of literature. A biography, even the worst one, hides within itself so much poetry and so much value because this is the life of the saint itself. God’s Church is a garden in which different saints thrive. All of them are so similar, and again, what a difference between a St. Teresa and St. Francis, St. Elisabeth and St. Thomas, St. Augustine and St. Josaphat. All of them are super-humans who share the same foundation: a mystical union with God, absolute mastery over the body and an evangelic love of their neighbor. Due to the Grace of God, some excelled in their organizational work, others in mystical and poetic life, a third in material struggle, a fourth in the scientific arena. All these are precipitous heights like Alpine mountains where the air is clean and from where one observes mankind from a completely different perspective. And we, ordinary people are like tourists who desire to reach those peaks, but having arrived at a certain altitude cannot go further… Either we slip or fall into the precipice.
In the life of a saint surely the most interesting is his or her own spiritual and bodily life; his activity in society is only a consequence of the above. St. Josaphat used to rise at 2 a.m. in the summer and at 3 a.m. in the winter. He ate in the evening, after having completed all his assignments, slept on a hard bunk, abstained from meat and flagellated himself until blood was flowing from him. In prayer, people saw him, as they did many other saints, illuminated by an unearthly light and elevated above the ground. What was going on in his soul in those moments, we cannot even guess. Due to God’s Grace, which he derived by prayer, he attained such bravery that he went into death joyfully. Really, for a saintly soul there is no great and more elevated desire than the crown of martyrdom.
This is the crown of inner satisfaction for having gained mastery over the body and for being similar to his Betrothed so that he can, united with him in the cross, feel the greatest inner delight possible in this world. Such was his inner life.
The necessity of introducing folk forms into Church life, Romanic color is not the only one
Christ came into the world to sanctify all nature, to sanctify every person and every nation. Therefore, I hold that it is a mistake on the part of the Church leaders when they fear giving greater freedom to national forms of Church life.12 It is precisely in this that the eternal nature of the Spirit which leads the Church must be shown, that He can hold this great organization together in unity and power along with every form, every language, every national element whose mentality and specific color were placed in the service of elevating the Church. The Roman color has until now given the greatest values to the Church, but it is not, even in the designs of God’s Providence, the only color. National liturgies must be attached to the vine of the Church, and so, the huge torrents of life will enter into her which will regenerate the entire nation. It is hardly understandable for us today, but the history of the Church will judge differently. The Church is a living organism which develops, and she has just lived through the Romanic or Latin phase because the Romanic nations were the carriers of the Catholic culture until now. The Germans, due to Protestantism, did not contribute by far in equal measure to the development of the Church, and all the future now rests on the Christian Slavs. If they join, it will be all the better for them, and the Church will gain enormous values; they will pull the Church from under the Latin sphere and broaden her international horizon so that great old books of wisdom like Thomas’s, Augustine’s will appear in national languages; folk customs will rule the Church and some Truths, to whom the nature of these nations is more inclined and who were somehow unnoticed and obscured until now, will emerge in their sanctity and greatness in the form of new saints out in the open.
The problem of Eastern-rite Catholic Churches is the most important for our current circumstances; Bosnia has the great mission to unite the Orthodoxy to Rome and thus become the signpost for the entire East. There will be a great battle, as is visible from the life of St. Josaphat. Religious negligence and ignorance are the greatest enemies of this union. Josaphat was persecuted and killed because of this. It was only after his death that they saw his greatness and a vast crowd for whom he sacrificed himself converted. The Russian Church until the most recent times persecuted in a bloodthirsty manner the Eastern-rite Catholic people and the memory of that man.
Maslovare, 20. XII. 1918. – (22 g.)
Review of the content, analysis and critique of the drama Don’t Play with Love by Alfred de Musset
This is by far Musset’s most powerful drama; all of the poet’s virtues and mistakes are exposed here. The talent for caricature is unique and in this play it reached its peak. (…) One sees also the elementary shortage of the poet’s art which destroys art and kills the happiness of life. The poet revels in numerous sins which he presents in the play. (…) There is no human love prepared to sacrifice itself. Musset has grown up in an egoistic society which has everything necessary for living and which doesn’t care in the least for the pains and needs of one’s neighbors. Here we find romance which lasts as long until sacrifices are demanded. (…) We admire the Musset’s technical prowess in creating such characters, but like him, we cannot enjoy them; these are nasty people. (…) And to describe such people with gusto defiles and violates art! (…) Everything is love, everything is centered around love! (“Happy” are the people who have no other worries, don’t have to struggle with life and can only analyze love feelings in all their nuances!) (…)
Criticizes Musset’s understanding of love and marriage
That Musset’s only religion is the love of a woman is proved by the final words from this drama which he quotes in a letter to Georges Sand. (…) There is some truth in Musset’s philosophy in which love sanctifies a marriage. But Musset got stuck in that and here his enormous one-sidedness is manifested: he never strived to resolve the problem of marriage in poetry. All the marriages in his dramas are only an outer social form, and all marriages which he presents us or about which he speaks are without children. It is strange that Musset got stuck right here; did he use artificial means not to beget children from his loves? It would be incredible for an idealized concept of his love, but a child is a real fact which he couldn’t fit into his philosophy of love. Therefore, there is no mention of a child anywhere; this also proves the inadequacy of his philosophy. (…) He is dissatisfied in spite of all his philosophy and in the depths of his soul there remains a feeling that he didn’t resolve the problem… Naked truth and poetry of human imperfection permeates all his works. (…) All of Musset’s dramas were written from 1830 until 1834, i.e. between his 20th and 24th year. It is, therefore, understandable that a poet at such a young age couldn’t create anything positive, ethical. He had a huge lyric talent and for him at that early age, while the sexual life is the strongest, love played the greatest role. It was his religion. (…)
(Here follows a detailed account of the content of the drama, analysis of characters with numerous quotations from the play)
Maslovare, 27 December 1918 – (22 years)
Holy poverty! Not worrying about sensual pleasures! To give away everything and ardently love one’s neighbor, how much joy it carries with it! And fear vanishes by itself. Therefore, try to live a certain period of time as your conscience tells You, and you will be happy, not fearing death.
Fear of the night and wolves is only the proof that something is wrong with you. Why do you fear, man of little faith! I don’t sleep; I am always with You and watch over You even if you think that I sleep. As on the boat – you are no safer in a warm, closed room compared with a dark forest surrounded by howling wolves. Why are you afraid of death and pain? I know when and how you are going to die, and I burn with love for You, so do you think that I’m going to leave You?! Even if I allow the wolves to tear you apart, don’t you think that this is my decision and that I don’t love you less for that? Don’t fear anyone, my son, and if Your body rots, You will go on existing.
O, my God, give me the strength to love You ardently, to believe in You so firmly that I can walk through the places which threaten me with death without any fear, innocent like a child to whom no one has been talking about fear.
Banja Luka, 28 December 1918 – (22 years)
Review of the content, analysis and critique of Molière’s drama The School for Husbands
This is among the worst of Molière’s dramas. But, in all the works it pops out clearly that the structure is ethically founded (e.g. he doesn’t touch the sanctity of marriage), although the details are in themselves realistic. At the end, the observer is satisfied: justice wins.
(Here follows a short account of the content of the drama and analysis of its characters)
Banja Luka, 3 January 1919 – (22 years and 1 month)
Review and comment on Pascal’s work Thoughts, criticizes his Jansenistic spirit and the lack of Christian joy and mysticism
I don’t like the first part: these are the debates and dissertations purely theoretical about various philosophical methods. The second part is very interesting and here Pascal’s spirit is strongly felt, his talent to defend and elevate Christianity with the meticulousness of a genius. These are known things today, but they reveal his genius, how strongly he understood life and the Bible. There are also some heresies there, and everything is permeated by his illness; therefore, he is too rigorous. There is little talk about the joy of life and the joy of creation (of the Christ’s Church), which is also a characteristic of Christianity. The proofs are clear, but everything is too permeated by the strict Jansenistic tone, and it looks as if this life is a misfortune for man, and that holy people should walk around with sad faces. And reality is just the opposite! Inner joy which comes about due to abandoning to God’s will transmits a part of glory into this world. Pascal’s prayer is proof that he arrived at a certain degree of elevation and could go no further. This is a feature of an ordinary, honest soul, but one doesn’t feel the eternal elevation of Mysticism, the scent and poetry of Heaven when it is close by. What a difference between the outpourings of saints (O clement, o loving, o sweet Virgin Mary – St. Bernard) and those long prayers of Pascal into which he weaves the proofs of reason only to convince himself in the truth of Christianity. Pascal is a speculative Christian philosopher, far from mysticism. His thoughts about the coming of the Messiah, about the original sin, about the blindness of the society of his time are mostly in accordance with the teaching of the Church. (…)
Epilogue of Ivan’s war path
CHAPEL CONSECRATED TO THE BLESSED IVAN MERZ ON THE FORMER ITALIAN BATTLEFIELD
As a conclusion of the war period of Ivan’s life we bring this item of interest. The first chapel built and consecrated to the Blessed Ivan Merz is not in Croatia or in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in Italy, on the former battlefield during World War I in the Dolomites where Ivan Merz stayed on the other side of the frontline. On Monte Lefre, at an altitude of 1300 m, in the village of Villa Agnedo near Trento the local Bishop Luigi Bressan on 19 September 2004 blessed the picture of the Bl. Ivan Merz and the newly built chapel dedicated to the Croatian Blessed. Numerous volunteers participated in the construction of the chapel, especially the Italian “alpini”. So how did this project come to be realized? The greatest merit for the building of the chapel and its consecration to the Bl. Merz goes to the parish priest from Trento, don Lucio Tomaselli, from Villa Agnedo by birth. This is how Don Lucio explains it: “In Prnjavor and surroundings many Italians were living, coming from the surroundings of Trento, who moved to Bosnia by the end of the 19th century. When the last war began in Bosnia and Herzegovina, they came back, unfortunately as refugees, back to the homeland of their grandfathers and brought with them memories of spiritual values of the country in which they have lived until then, among them the memory of the Bl. Ivan Merz. When we started the construction of the chapel on the Lefre mountain, we decided to consecrate it to Ivan Merz because it was precisely in these mountains that the Blessed Merz in the time of war through the experience of suffering underwent his deep conversion to God and the beginnings of his ascent towards sanctity.” On the occasion of the consecration Don Lucio prepared a brochure in Italian language with texts from the Bl. Ivan Merz’s war diary. So, the area on the former battlefield, where the Bl. Ivan Merz through the sufferings and distress of war began his ascent toward God and sanctity with this chapel gained a deserving mark.
The Bishop of Trento Msgr. Luigi Bressan blesses the picture and chapel dedicated to the Bl. Ivan Merz
Italian worshippers at the blessing of the chapel.
1 Merz wrote the review of this work in his Diary in French.
2 This review was also written in French.
3 Bishop Paul Wilhelm KEPPLER, (1852–1926). A well-known professor of theology in Germany, the writer of many valuable spiritual books and articles. Became the bishop of Rottenburg in 1895.
4 See Diary entry of 26 July 1914.
5 Here ends the 14th notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary, covering a period from 25 September until 21 November 1918.
6 This is the beginning of the 15th notebook of Ivan Merz’s Diary, covering a period from 23 November 1918 until 15 July 1919.
7 See note about the late Fr. I. Kuvačić in Diary entry of 31 July 1918.
8 German: Überteufeltum – the word doesn’t exist in a German dictionary, but is an amateur complex word consisting of two words, meaning the devilish presence in modern art which is being glorified by that same art.
9 Archbishop Josip STADLER (1843–1918), born in Slavonski Brod, completed his studies in Rome, and upon return to Zagreb became professor of philosophy and theology. With the renewal of a regular church hierarchy in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1881, he was nominated the first Bosnian archbishop. He was initiator of numerous pastoral activities, built the Sarajevo cathedral, seminary, seminary in Travnik, and a range of charities. He also initiated several magazines. He was the founder of the order of the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus. The procedure of his beatification is in progress.
10 This is the last time that Merz mentions Greta in his Diary. After this date, she disappears from his life! Five years have passed since her death (she died in July 1913). His Diary entry of 8 July 1914 becomes fully actual now. Speaking about his former love for this girl he wrote: “It has passed, I remember, it ennobled me, but one can live without it!” Other values and ideals are now in front of him.
11 St. Josaphat KUNCEVIĆ (1580–1623). Born in the Ukraine of Orthodox parents. Entered the order of Basilian monks and accepted the Catholic faith. Became the archbishop of Polock. Worked tirelessly for the union of the Orthodox Christians with the Roman Church. For this reason, he suffered martyrdom and death in 1623. His body was taken to the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome.
12 This is a very interesting reflection by the Bl. Ivan Merz.. Many of these prophetic ideas came true at the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965). Merz felt a need for these changes and wrote about this fifty years earlier!