Back 12 - Next 

Njegoš and the Mountain Wreath

Petar Petrović ll (Njegoš) - Copyright © by Tesla Memorial Society of New York
Petar Petrović ll (Njegoš)

Perhaps the best known of all of Montenegro's prince-bishops is Petar Petrović ll better known as Njegoš after his birthplace of Njeguši. He was born in 1813 and ruled from 1830 to 1851. He succeeded his uncle Petar l.

Like his uncle Njegoš was a religious ruler and would-be centraliser, but his impact on his people's history was due less to his spiritual and political activities than to his poetry. However, his fame as a poet did not come immediately. As Milovan Djilas points out, some thirty years elapsed before scholars began to draw attention to the importance of his work. Once established, however, his reputation was assured, at least until dissenting voices were raised in the present age. In particular, his great epic poem The Mountain Wreath crystallised for Serbs and Montenegrins everywhere the nationalistic spirit of the age….The poem's setting is early eighteenth-century Montenegro and it takes as its immediate subject the alleged massacre of Muslim converts in the time of Vladika Danilo. However, its broader message - that of the need for Serbian Orthodox Christians to rise up against their Ottoman Muslim oppressors - emerges powerfully from the poem's dramatic choruses and monologues, recounting the Kosovo disaster and glorifying the fourteenth century Serbian hero Miloš Obilić, assassin of the Ottoman Sultan Murad. Not only is tyrannicide celebrated, but the poem insists that a murderous struggle between Christians and Muslims is the price to be paid for future liberty:

As Wolf does on the Sheep impose his might,
So tyrant lords it over feebler fellow;
But foot to place upon the Tyrant's neck
To bring him to the consciousness of Right -
This of all human duties is most sacred!
If thou canst calmly bloody sword embrace,
If thou canst swim through blackest night,
Such sacred strife shall sanctify thy dust.
Europe's cleric from his Christian altar
Doth scoff and gibe at Asia's Minaret:
With thunderous strokes the Asiatic club
Shatters those fanes where Crucifix is reared,
Blood innocent is shed within our shrines,
And relics scatter'd to the winds in dust.
Above a world of travail God keep silent:
The Crescent and the Cross, great symbols twain,
Do no advantage gain save in a world of slain.

For most of the modern period The Mountain Wreath popularized Montenegro as the crucible of resistance to foreign oppression and did so at a time when struggling against foreign oppressors, particularly those of an alien faith, was seen as particularly noble. That the country was small, poor and mountainous added to the piquancy of its plight and the heroism of its struggle.

[pp: 186-187]

Realm of the Black Mountain: A History of Montenegro. 2007. [C.Hurst & Co]

 Back 12 - Next