The Croatian poet Augustin (Tin) Ujevic (1891-1955) is one of the finest Southern Slav lyric poets and one of the great poets of Europe in the first half of the twentieth century. While Tin Ujevic's poems are hardly kwn in English, they are loved in his native Croatia and throughout former Yugoslavia. At least until the break-up of the Yugoslav Federation, many of Tin's lyrics were kwn by heart and quoted by people all over the country, even those who weren't particularly literary, in much the same way as some of W.B. Yeats's early poems, like 'The Lake Isle of Innisfree', 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' and 'Down by the Salley Gardens', are kwn and quoted all over Ireland and the UK.
Born in 1891 in Vrgorac, a small town in the Dalmatian hinterland, Tin Ujevic grew up in Imotski and Makarska, and attended the classical gymnasium in Split. His language and sensibility are indelibly marked by the rugged beauty of the Dalmatian littoral, that narrow, sunbaked, rocky coastline, backed by mountains, facing out over the Adriatic sea and the islands of Hvar, Brac and Korcula. Although Tin's major achievement is as a lyricist, his oeuvre is much broader than lyric alone. He was a writer of profound and discerning intellect, broad and capacious interests, inquisitive appetite and eclectic range. His Collected Works number sixteen volumes, including poems in many forms, from free verse to the Whitmanesque verset, prose-poems, essays, criticism, aphorisms, a book of thoughts and jottings compiled into a personal 'encyclopedia', and translations of fiction, poems and plays by authors as various as Poe, Whitman, Verhaeren, Rimbaud, Gide, Conrad, Meredith and Benvenuto Cellini, among others. Tin spent many years living in Zagreb, as well as periods in Split, Sarajevo, Mostar, and Belgrade. In his youth, his involvement in the Pan-Slav movement to establish a Yugoslav state earned him the disapprobation of the Austro-Hungarian authorities and the close attention of their police. From 1913 to 1919, he lived in exile in Paris, where he mingled in the same milieu as other radical writers, artists and intellectuals from Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia, as well as such figures as Picasso, Modigliani, Cocteau, Ehrenburg, and d'Annunzio. Throughout his life, he lived simply. Well-known as an anarchic bohemian, he was a frequenter of bars and cafes, and always poor. Typical photos show him wearing a battered and ramshackle trilby cocked at a lopsided angle.