Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse/To Slavdom

Petar Preradović2707425Anthology of Modern Slavonic Literature in Prose and Verse — To Slavdom1919Paul Selver



With gesture of obeigance I bow myself down unto thy black earth,
Having set foot on thy domain, riddle of all the world,
Glorious, mighty, renowned, omnipotent Slavdom!
With eagerness my spirit trembles, unfurling its wings
And dauntless of eye, clutches at the hollow heavens,
Desiring now for glory of thee to soar loftily.
But bow should my voice be upraised high enough for thy world,
Where shall I, faced by thee, find strings potent enough not to be rended,
When my soul, enkindled with the flash of thy radiance,
Begins to thunder above? O would that, after my desire, I were able
To weave threads from the golden fabric of sunbeams,
That from shore to shore I might span them over the wan ocean,
And that I might take for my bow the gleaming rainbow aloft;

Then when I drew it across the strings, the ocean-depths should resound
With the immense roar of thy hidden powers, and the waves
Should be mingled above in that graceful allurement of Nature
With which breezes rustle and birds carol,
And the vault of heaven should re-echo it to me a hundred-fold,
Uniting it all again in mighty harmony.
Then, O then only, were it mine to fashion
Such a song as is meet for the rapture and glory within thee,
Thy bygone years, thy greater years to come. Whither has thy girth
O mighty Slavdom, surged up? Like to an ocean,
The hand of God has poured thee out in earth's bosom, and although
Foreignness with many and many a gulf eats into thy soil,
Yet art thou still ample enough, that when thou but stirrest,
With any limb of thine, all the earth is aquiver.
The stranger stands, dismay in his eyes, his hands crossed,
Upon thy coasts, and thanklessly marvels at thee
And shudders with foreboding of terror. Wherefore is he affrighted?
O, from thy greatness an unswerving conscience metes out unto him

Requital which is his due for monstrous transgressions against thee.
A pirate he cruised through thy waters, the banner of the cross
Was his ensign, enlightenment the feigned beacon he steered for;
But his sails were swollen with the foul breath of greed,
His hull guided by the hand of one rapaciously exulting in plunder,
A sword was his oar, a spear his plummet for thy depths,
And behind his vessel ever floated in blood a cluster of corpses—
Thy slain. Heaven itself would have wept
To behold the fruit of its gentle labours on the field of mankind,
Happiest race of them all, when a black curse
Mowed it down, and to behold the outcome of its tending,
Greatest in number of dwellers, when virulent savagery
Harried it to the bane of ages; in fine, to behold
An image most like unto itself upon earth, when in God's name
Godlessness evilly vexed it, and for the sake of the cross
Nailed, as it were to the cross, the gentlest of tribes.
The devoutest on earth,

But wherewith, O Slavdom, didst thou requite
This bloody debt unto the foreigner? Verily, by blood,
But by the blood of thy heroes in many a contest
With the sinister wildness of Asia, which with darkness
Threatened to quench even that tiny ray of twilight
Which flickered in the west of the World. Even then, conceiving
Thy task magnificent as befits thy potency, thou didst not strive
Many a time for vengeance when hazard favoured thee;
The best hazard didst thou shape for thyself, as a mediator
Towards a seeing and a sightless world—to be intercessor
For the one, and against onslaughts of the other
To hold out thine heroic breast as a shield.

And as thou stoodest proud
In twofold glory, so now thou standest on the marge

Of these two worlds as a giant whose stature can cope with
The supreme mission on earth: with one hand thou clutchest
Western stars of enlightenment, with the other thou sheddest them
Over the gloom of the east; but this is not thy sole renown;

With yet greater pride canst thou upraize thy chivalrous head
Heavenwards. Upraise it, upraise it undaunted and joyous
For the world to behold, that everywhere it may see upon thine heroic brow
The kiss of light wherewith God's love hallows thee
For his holy toil here below. Over the unbounded expanse of heaven
The Creator has inscribed by the stars the statute of Love,
And by the eternal course of His decrees through eternity
Has ordained its potence. Thus as His minister,
Everywhere and ever Love labours unfalteringly it moulds, beautifies,
Softens and smoothens, pacifies, tames and subjugates,
Assunges, ennobles, sanctifies, makes like unto God
All that is God's in the world—thee He chooses and empowers
From among the race of mankind to be hero
And idol of her. Ah, it fares ill upon earth
With those favoured by heaven: for heaven they
are in travail, and of hell
They cannot long elude the toils; thus already
Thou bindest upon the thread of thy life
Ages of suffering, and upon each limb of thy huge body

Thou feelest all human griefs diversely grievous.
Thou art mauled by hatred, selfishness and discord, by wrath,
By evil and envy art thou mauled, every passion engrafted
Upon thy weal by alien blood. Thy blood ever seethes in thee
With poisoned ferment, through it all thy bowels
Are set astir, thou reelest, swoonest, and mutely art stunned;
But yet with no step dost thou cease from advancing
Further upon the path to Unity; not to that one
Where treacherous foes unceasingly slander thee, nor to that one
Whose token is one head adorned by an all-embracing crown
Which outrages all (under such a crown
Every human head would droop) but to that one, which must needs be crowned.
By the garland of hundred-fold federation, the concord
Of all wills, since it bestows happiness on all.

Concord is dawn, proclaiming
The eternal day of love; already thy countenance is aglow

With the flush of health—thy countenance which was pallid

From grievous slumber. Already unto thee Krkonoše,[1] Triglav, Tatra, the Balkans,
Ural and Velebit are aflame like new Horebs
Where the spirit of God is speaking afresh; already unto thee, Volga,
Vistula, and Danube, Vltava, Save and Drave are gleaming
Like new Jordans, wherein are baptised the new-born thoughts
Of the new age; already the dew of thy tears is everywhere radiant
With hope of solace at hand; hazes of morning
Already converse with thee in golden images of coming lustre;
Early breezes, a gentle foreboding of joy, already with their pinions
Fan thy bosom and brow, setting aquiver thy ponderings,
And mustering little by little thy chaotic emotions;
Thy spirit is striving against its last slumber, thy heart
Is grappling with its last weariness, thou shakest and heavest,
Strainest and rubbest thine eyes, already thou art at the point
Of rousing thee, of gazing in concord upon
God's beauteous day, whereof love is the sunrise: oh, ere long,

Ere long thy tribes shall rally them, shall arise and clasp
One the hand of the other, with a kiss they shall evoke happiness
And heroic prowess, one unto the other; ere long shall love
Blaze up as an overwhelming pyre of happiness, and all thy broad focus
Shall be its domain, with every heart that is thine
For its fuel; resplendent shall be its exemplar
And hitherto unheard of, unseen in the world;
The world to its utmost shall be amazed thereat, and shall marvel,
Gazing and gazing; till, dazzled by this torrent it shall surrender.
And with it shall merge into a single realm of love, into that realm
Which upon earth is foretold by the divine books.
Thus in the world's mighty design thou hast ret thee astir
Potently, in mankind's eternal contest for advancement,
Its strong protector, the hem of whose garment
All tribes upon earth should kiss in thanksgiving!

But so long as
This prison-planet, the which is called black by its captives,

So long as it shall engender all dismay and wretchedness,
Whereby it needs must punish its captives, cherish not

Hopes that it will show itself beholden to thee: because of the very keys that thou bearest,
Its bondsmen shall call thee their jailer, and shall hate thee; only when
A worthier humanity renders it softer, when the world
Gazes forth, unwaveringly discerns and verily traces
Heavenly order on earth, then only shall they acknowledge thee
And ever extol thee as key-bearer of heaven. But for now,
Only thy young generation together about the tomb
Of fallen biases are linked in a single chain
And with a tumult, whereby the pulsing spirit of time
Thunderingly heralds the march of humanity, will fashion a psalm
Of praise unto thee, and with this melody already
The world on all four sides is re-echoing.

  1. The Giant Mountains (known in German as the Riesengebirge).

 This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.


This work was published before January 1, 1929, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

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This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1929.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1970, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 53 years or less. This work may 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.

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