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An Anthology of Modern Bohemian Poetry/The Daughter of Sláva. Prelude

For other English-language translations of this work, see The Daughter of Sláva.

Jan Kollár (1793—1852).

 

THE DAUGHTER OF SLÁVA

 

Prelude

 

Here lies the country, alas! 'fore my eyes that in tears are o'erflowing,
Once 'twas the cradle, but now—now 'tis the tomb of my race;
Check thou thy steps, for the places are sacred, wherever thou turnest.
Son of the Tatra arise, cast to the heavens thy gaze,

Or to the mighty old oak, that stands there yonder, incline thee,
'Gainst the treacherous time holding its own till to-day.
Ah, but worse than the time, is the man, who a sceptre of iron,
Slavia, on thy neck, here in these lands has imposed;
Worse than savage encounters and fiercer than fire and than thunder-—
He who in frenzy blind covers his kindred with shame.
O ye years of the past that as night are lying around me,
O my country, thou art image of glory and shame;
From the treacherous Elbe o'er the plain to the Vistula faithless,
From the Danube until Baltic's insatiate foam.
Where the mellifluous tongue of the sturdy Slave once resounded.
Now it, alas! is still. silenced by onslaughts of hate.
Who has committed this theft that cries for vengeance to heaven?
Who has upon one race outraged the whole of mankind?
Blush thou for shame, O envious Teuton, the neighbour o! Sláva,
Many such sins have thine hands often committed of old.

Ne'er has an enemy yet shed blood—or ink-so profusely,
As by the German was shed, compassing Sláva's decay;
Only of liberty worthy is he who can liberty value,
He who puts captives in bonds—he is a captive himself.
Whether our hands or our tongue he binds in the bonds of the captive,
'Tis but the same; he neglects rights of his follows to heed.
He who has cast down thrones, and for naught has shed blood of his fellows,
Into the hapless world carried the torch of dissent,
Scythian, Goth tho' he be, he has earned the guerdon of serfdom,
Not who to untamed hordes peace by example extolled.
Where have ye wandered, dear nation of Slavs that formerly dwelt here,
Now Pomerania's springs, now drinking deep of the Saale;
Peaceful stock of the Sorbs, and Obotritian offspring,
Where are the Wilzen, and where, grandsons of Uker, are ye?
Far to the right I gaze, to the left I searchingly turn me,
But 'tis in vain that my eye Sléva in Slavia seeks.

Tell me, thou tree, their temple of nature, under whose shadow
They to primeval gods offerings formerly burnt,
Where are these nations, and where are their princes and where are their cities,
They who the first in the North called into being this life?
They taught the use of sails and of oars to indigent Europe,
Taught how to sail o'er the sea, passing to bountiful shores.
Out of the ore-laden depths they dug the metals concealed there,
More from respect for the gods rather than profit to men;
They taught the farmer to till the bosom of Earth with the plough-share,
So that the lands that were bare yielded the golden-hued corn.
They by the peaceful paths, the lime-tree sacred to Sláva,
Planted and scattered around fragrance and shadowy rest.
Each taught his son to build cities and in them to carry on commerce,
While by the women were taught maidens the weaving of cloth:
O thou masterly nation, for this what recompense hast thou?
Torn is thy garland in twain, hatetully robbed of its form,

As to the hive of the stranger the bees for the sweet-scented honey
Throng in a swarm and there queen-bee and young ones assail,
So in his own domain the master is serf, while his neighbour
Slyly crept in and his neck woefully bound with a chain.
Where in the verdant groves sang the beautiful daughter of Sláva,
Now are the song-loving lips silenced by deafening sounds;
Where in marble arose the halls of the thunderer Perun,
Now from the ruins distress shelter for cattle has made;
Where to the heavens uprose the old-famed towers of Arkona,
Yonder the stranger's foot tramples the fragments to dust.
There they bewail the ruins of Retra's temples, the famous,
Where they arose now dig lizard and serpent their nest.
Son of the Sláva who comes from this land to visit his brother,
Is to his brother unknown, presses not warmly his hand;
Strange is his language that comes from lips and from countenance Slavic,

Countenance seemingly Slav sadly the hearing deceives.
For on her sons right deeply has Sláva imprinted her tokens,
Nor can the place or the time ever their traces erase;
Just as two rivers whose waters a single bed has united,
Still for long on the way parted their colours remain.
So by violent strife are these nations confusedly mingled,
Yet does their nature till now visibly sundered remain.
But have degenerate sons heaped often upon their own mother
Curses, and yet in their guilt cringed to the step-mother's lash;
They in their nature are neither Slavic or Teuton, but bat-like,
Half of the nature of one, half of the other possess.
Thus do the Osman hordes run riot in countries Hellenic,
Lofty Olympus is now crowned with the tail of a horse;
Thus the two worlds of the Indies has grasping Europe corrupted,
Civilization removed virtue, land, colour, and speech.

Nation and honour have vanished, the gods have gone with the language,
Nature alone doth remain—nature that ne'er can be changed.
Forest, stream, town and village unwilling their titles Slavonic
Altered; the form but remains. Spirit of Sláva is gone.
O who will come, these graves from a living dream to awaken?
Who will the rightful heir back to his country restore?
Who will tell us the place where Miliduch bled for his nation?
Who will a monument raise, keeping his memory fresh?
Where, in his wrath at reform, did Kruk in defence of traditions,
Take the command of the Slavs, fighting their cause to uphold?
Or how Bojeslav wielded in contest the sword of a victor,
And with statutes in peace guided his happy domain?
Now there are none remaining; the boorish countryman's ploughshare,
Crashing destructively on, breaks up the warriors' bones;
Wroth at the worthlessness of two generations, their shadows

Haunt the dim mist of decay, uttering cries of lament.
Uttering cries of lament that Fortune relentless continues,
Letting their grandsons' blood either decay or be changed;
Coldly in sooth would beat the heart of a man for his nation,
If he would shed no tears here, even as o'er his love's bones.
Ah, but be silent, O grief, serenely beholding the future,
Scatter with eye like the sun thoughts that arose in a cloud.
Greatest of evils it is, in misfortune to wrangle with evil,
He who assuages by deeds anger of heaven does best.
Not from a troubled eye springs hope, but from hands that are active,
Thus, and thus only, can now evil be turned into good.
Only the man but not mankind can stray on the journey,
Oft the confusion of some favours the rest as a whole.
Time changes all, and by time is truth to victory guided,
What in their error the years planned in a day is o'erthrown.

"The Daughter of Sláva" (1824).

 
Copyright.svg PD-icon.svg This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.
Original:

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

 
Translation:

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1970, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 30 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.