Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse/I
I am the seer of the folk by the Bezkyds;
God gave me not to them. He heeds but the country
Where gold of the corn stretches up to the skyline,
Where pansies are fragrant, forget-me-nots blossom,
Where cymbal and fiddle make music for dances,
Where cities are broad and castles majestic,
Treasure-filled churches and skiffs on the river,
Trusting in heaven, and gladness and glee.
He whom God had condemned to a sulphury chasm,
He whose lips in their starkness no prayer ever uttered,
Sat on a crag with a time-old defiance.
He stared with an eye that was murky as nightfall,
'Neath the hush of the Bezkyds and 'neath Lysá Hora.
A century's grip, the yoke that has humbled
The collier's neck as a bough in the bending,
Turbulent grasp of the foreigner, dragging
The vanishing speech from the lips of the children,
The sign of betrayal, of hands in entreaty,
—For a hundred years' span his gaze it had haunted—
Stirred up a demon.
He smote at the boulder.
Down from the crag leapt the hideous prophet,
Nurtured from serfdom, from blood of betrayal;
He sobbed at the moon and he railed at the sunshine,
With a clench of his fist he threatened the heavens,
And each of the slayers, though golden their lustre,
And though at their feet were bowed down as to godheads
Yonder at Těšin the colliery bondsmen.
He clutched at the dust in his wrath and defiance,
The bounty for life that the demon had given him,—
Down from the crag leapt I!
In August, when sunrays are ruddy and slanting,
When spurtings of heat ooze out from the boulders,
The Morávka torrent is parched in its courses,
Below are uplifted the arms of the miners,
The blacksmiths are pounding the iron in its redness,
On the fields that stretch onwards at Krásná, at Pražma,
Women bow down in the glow of the sunshine.
I roused myself up from this peaceable people,
Even whose cradle was guarded by serfdom,
Even whose childhood was fettered by bondage,
Ill-plighted scion of miners and blacksmiths;
I sped me from Ostrava, Witkowitz, Baška,
From Frydlaat, from Orlová, Dombrová, Lazy,
I flung in the pit my hammer and mattock,
I left in the field my mother and sister,
I snatched from its hook my grandfather's fiddle,
My tune I began.
Once, haply, resounded
Strains of delight from it, youth and affection.
Three strings were rended.
I flung from the church the foreigner's preacher,
From the foreigner's school I beat out the master;
By night I enkindled my woods they had taken;
The hare I entrapped in my overlord's coppice.
They dragged me to Těšín, God tangled my senses.
'Neath Lysá I play to the goats and the squirrels,
Beneath the red ash-tree to sparrows that perch there.
From hamlet to hamlet in heat I have wandered,
In heat and in cold, ’mid snow and 'mid rainfall.
I have played behind hedges and played beneath windows;
Only a single string has my fiddle,
The heavy sigh of the seventy thousand,
That have perished 'neath Lysá, hard by Bohumín;
They have perished amid their wrenched-away pinewoods,
In the wrenched-away Bezkyds slowly they perish,
They in Šumbark have perished, in Lutyň have perished,
In Datyne perish, in Dětmarovice,
They in Poremba perished, they in Dombrová perish.
A stirring has come o'er the seventy thousand;
Long ago on the Olza was pitched an encampment,
Far have we yielded beyond the Lucyna,
Crossing to Morava, beyond the Ostravice,
A nation of silence, a stock that is gone.
As David in front of the ark, so before them
Like a mad snake to the sound of the reed-pipe,
Doth dance the quaint bard of the seventy thousand,
The Bezkyd Don Quixote, with juniper spear-shaft,
Armour of moss and a helmet of pine-cones,
A mushroom for shield, and he peeps from the spinney,
Eager to seize on the stern arm of judgment,
The knight's tawny sword in the golden-wrought corselet.
I, Petr Bezruč, the Bezruč of Těšín,
Vagabond fiddler and piper of madness,
Lunatic rebel, and mettlesome songster,
Ill-omened owl on the turret of Těšín,
I play and I sing, while the hammers make thunder
From Witkowitz, Frydlant, and under Lipiny.
Around are rich men of a faith that I know not,
(O Petr Bezruč, how lovest thou them!)
Men who have names that are lordly and peerless,
Haughty as stars and lustrous as godheads;
(O Petr Bezruč, who shattered your home?)
Around there are women in velvet, in satin;
Around there are men, glorified, mighty,
In the city of gold, by the side of the Danube,
Around there are poets, from Vltava's marges,
The lovers of women, as Paris has bidden.
The string in despair 'neath the bow is aquiver,
The heavy sigh of the seventy thousand;
I sing to the stones and I play to the boulders,
I play and I sing.—will ye give me a kreutzer?