3267973Bohemian Poems, Ancient and Modern — Preface1849Albert Henry Wratislaw


IN the present Volume I lay before the English public a selection from an almost entirely unknown literature, a literature of the existence of which it was scarcely aware. Connected with the Bohemian Slavonians in no distant degree by blood and name, and a member of their oldest, once their royal family, though myself a native of England, I have thought it a sacred duty to make myself personally acquainted with their language, their feelings and their strivings, and as far as my isolated efforts can avail, to make them known in the country of my birth and education.

All the translations, except one, have been faithfully and carefully made from the Slavonic, and on some occasions even correctness of rhyme has been sacrificed, in order more faithfully to represent both the letter and spirit of the original poems. The poem ‘Wratislaw’ is taken from an Annual published in German at Prague, and although the writer, under whose name it appeared, Carl Rain, professes to have translated it from the old Bohemian, I was never able to hear of any ancient Slavonic original. I translated it in the year 1845, and have now reprinted it as, at any rate, a very beautiful Bohemian production, and an extremely skilful imitation of the Ancient Ballads of the nation.

Several of the poems in the Queen’s-Court Manuscript, which appear in the present volume, and also some modern pieces, have already been translated by Dr Bowring. With respect to the latter I do not come into competition with him in any single case; with respect to the former very wide discrepancies will be found upon a comparison of our translations. I would request the reader not to pass judgment against me without comparing either the original or the excellent German translation of Wenzel Swoboda, which is appended to every edition of the original manuscript.

I cannot in conscience conclude without expressing my thanks for many kindnesses to my friends in Bohemia and Moravia, especially to the members of the Citizens-resource in Prague, to Mr Hanka, Librarian of the National Museum, to Dr Tieftrunk and to his two nephews Vaclaw and Karel, my teachers, through whose well-directed assistance—although our only medium of communication was German, the language of all others least adapted to assist in the study of Slavonic—I was enabled to attain a considerable proficiency in Bohemian, and make the translations I now lay before the public, in the short period of a Cambridge Long Vacation. There is abundance in the Bohemian literature which is well worthy of attention, but the duties and avocations of my position prevent me for the present from increasing my selection from it; and indeed my translations may more fitly be called a selection from my own reading, than from the productions of the Bohemian Muse.

I have added at the end of the volume a few original pieces of my own, partly to give it a more portly appearance, than the reasons above explained allow me to do from Slavonic sources, partly from what I hope will not be construed into any thing worse than a harmless and pardonable vanity.

Christ’s College, Cambridge,

November, 1849.