Jenko’s legacy

Simon Jenko, the poet of the Sora fields, was born on 27 October 1835 in Podreča near the village of Mavčice. He attended school in Smlednik and Kranj, and he was an outstanding pupil.


In 1847, he moved to Novo mesto to live with his uncle Nikolaj and the town soon encouraged his poetic beginnings. Six years later, he was a seventh-grader in Ljubljana, where he and his classmates began to write for the Vaje (Exercises) magazine. This was a collection of student’s manuscripts in which they published their poetry and prose. Jenko published many of his most beautiful poems in Vaje. Most of the students who participated in this magazine, Vajevci, as they were called, went to Vienna after finishing school in Ljubljana, but Jenko went to Klagenfurt, where he worked for the newspaper Venec. He was interested in literature from a young age, and of course he also read the first Slovenian almanac of poetry, Kranjska čbelica.


Soon, however, he joined his friends in Vienna, where he attended law school in the autumn of 1857. He published in the Kmetijske in rokodelske novice newspaper and later in Slovenski glasnik. He published three short stories, Spomini (Memories), Tilka and Jeprški učitelj (The Teacher from Jeprca), as well as some of his most beautiful poems; the cycles Obrazi (Faces or also Paintings) and Obujenke (Woken-up poems) were also written in Vienna. Jenko’s poetry includes patriotic and satirical poems, but above all love poetry and lyricism, with which he looks at nature. Many of his poems have been set to music. During his studies, he earned his own living as a home tutor and he stayed in Vienna longer than anticipated.


In his memory, the Slovene Writers’ Association awards the Jenko Award for the best collection of poetry.


In the autumn of 1863, he returned home to Praše, where he studied and at the same time prepared his poems for publication in a printed book. With the money he received for selling the poems for printing, he passed his first bar exam, then later he passed two more, but not the final one. In October 1864, his only book of poetry, simply entitled Pesmi (Poems), saw the light of day, with the year 1865 printed on it. To this day, it is considered one of the most influential collections of poetry in Slovenian cultural history. However, the unflattering review that accompanied the publication made Jenko very depressed and put a halt to his work.



During that year, he worked as a clerk for the notary Strgar in Kranj, and became attached to Maria Mandelc, the sister of his friend and contributor to the Vaje magazine, Valentin. In the summer of 1866, he started to work as a trainee at the lawyer Valentin Prevc in Kamnik, where he also helped to establish the local public reading room. And three years later, he moved with this lawyer’s office to Kranj. Although already ill, he refused the help of doctors and died on 18 October 1869, in his 34th year. After his death, Josip Stritar wrote him an elegy, At Jenko’s Grave.


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