An Anthology of Modern Bohemian Poetry/Preface
In the present collection an attempt has been made to introduce modern Bohemian poetry to English readers. It will be seen that the majority of the poems, with one or two obvious exceptions, are of recent date. Kollár's elegy was written as early as 1824, but was included here because of its importance as a landmark in the revival of Bohemian poetry, and as a general expression of the Slavonic temperament Erben’s "Willow" also appears, for although it is a product of the early fifties, it is an excellent example of the Slavonic ballad, and the "Garland," from which it is taken, plays an important part in the Bohemian poetry of the nineteenth century. The poems of Hálek, written in 1859, were introduced, not so much for their intrinsic value, but rather as a means of gauging the progress made in Bohemian poetry during the course of a few years. A comparison of Hálek with Vrchlický, Sova, or, to take an extreme case, Březina, will make this clear.
This collection makes no attempt at being exhaustive. That would be entirely beyond the scope of one volume. Indeed, it would hardly be possible for any one man to translate an exhaustive anthology of modern Bohemian poetry, so extensive is the available material. The present choice was made largely as a result of personal likings, and it is difficult to see how a translator can adopt any other course, if he is to do justice to his originals. As a result, however, it is necessary to point out that the relative importance of a poet does not always correspond to the number of poems by which he is here represented. It is, of course, only fitting that poets like Březina, Sova and Vrchlický should appear as often as they do. But, on the other hand, Neruda and Čech have only one poem each to their credit, which, to some, may appear a somewhat meagre allowance. This is true, to a certain extent, of Heyduk, Machar, and Zeyer. In the main, however, this collection will be found to be fairly representative of the poetical output in the Bohemian language during the last twenty or thirty years.
As regards the translations themselves, they have been made as literal as possible, and the metres of the originals have been reproduced as far as the varying rhythms of the two languages permitted. In the case of Kollár's elegy, this has led to the somewhat risky experiment of writing English hexameters and pentameters. It should be pointed out that those poems which appear in rhymeless metres (chiefly those translated from Březina) are rhymeless in the original.
My best thanks are due to the Editor of the "New Age," by whose courtesy I am permitted to reprint certain of these translations.
In conclusion, I have much pleasure in acknowledging my indebtedness to Dr. Josef Karásek, of Vienna, by whose able writings on Slavonic matters I have been largely guided, and Fr. S. Procházka, of Prague, whose kindly interest in my work has done much towards its completion, and to whose generosity I owe the two sets of drawings included in these pages. By their liberal encouragement, advice, and presents of books, they have both helped me greatly in the accomplishment of my task. To them this book is gratefully dedicated.