Bohemia's claim for freedom/Introduction


IT is to be feared that the average educated Englishman knows very little about Bohemia. Very likely he would never have known even that it has no sea-coast if Shakespeare had not inadvertently said that it had. But the present war is teaching the English what their school-masters, for some reason, have never taught them—a little history and geography. And the ancient though fallen kingdom of Bohemia, like the ancient though fallen kingdom of Poland, is likely to play a considerable part in the coming resurrection of the nations. Austria has been to Bohemia, as to Poland, an influence almost more unpardonable than that of the savages of Prussia, not because she did worse, but because she knew better. Austria built, and is still building, her power upon the ruin of Christian countries which have been her own bulwarks against the heathen. As she repaid the rescue by Sobiesky with annexation, and the Crusade of Servia with conspiracy, so she owed her possession of Bohemia to the Moslem victory at Mohacz.

Austria has never grudged the blood of her neighbours in defence of her religion. But the Prussianised Austria of to-day is confronted in Bohemia and elsewhere with something which the Prussianised spirit can never understand—the rejuvenation of defeat. An English neo-pagan poet said that only one god had ever died: but he might have added that only one has ever risen from the dead. This conception of the birth that begins in death is inconceivable to the northern barbarian; and the immortality of the martyred nations bewilders and confounds him. These small Christian States not only survive defeat, but celebrate defeat. They date from defeat; not, like the heathens ab urbe condita, but rather ab urbe capta. The Bohemian song and proverb says, "More was lost on Mohacz's field," as the English (perhaps recalling their naval adventures) say, " Worse things happen at sea." And a modern Servian sculptor is planning a colossal monument for the scene of the Servian ruin at Kosovo. The Prussians have no colossal monument upon the field of Jena.