Bohemian legends and other poems/Jan Amos Komenský (Comenius)

JAN AMOS KOMENSKÝ (COMENIUS).[*]

 

All hail to thee, Komenský, though thy name
Must not be honored where thy cradle stood,
Nor happy troops of children sing thy fame,
The little ones you loved and understood.
Yes, all the world can honor thee, but those
For whom you strove, your brothers must be still—
Forbidden by a minister, they rose,
To do thee honor, ’gainst a tyrant’s will.

Prague like a bride arrayed herself with flags,
And windows blazed, and music played for thee,
And e’en the beggars put away their rags,
And students dared to dream that they were free.
All hail to thee, Komenský! though thy fate
Was but an exile’s—home you never had—
Poor and a wanderer, honor came too late
To minister to one so old and sad.

Thine was the Christian’s faith, the dauntless heart,
That in the darkest night still dreams of dawn;
Thine was the effort, thine the glorious part,
To help the children in a world forlorn.
Thy voice was heard in every noble cause,
And Europe listened to Moravia’s son.
In many lands you helped to make the laws,
For schools, and scholars, till thy days were done.

Thine was the patriot’s zeal, thy native tongue
To make more rich, by works that shall not die,
And far away in foreign lands you sung
Your burning words, that ended with a sigh.
All hail to thee, Komenský! though thy bones
Will never rest within thy land of birth.
In Naarden is a grave that in all zones
Will be remembered by the learned of earth.

All hail to thee, Komenský! tyrant’s might
Can never pluck the laurels from thy brow,
Nor will thy brothers let oblivion’s night
Enshroud the grave where thou art lying now.
Thou wert an exile but thy grave shall be
Crowned with a laurel wreath from thy dear land,
While sympathetic nations mourn to see
The tyranny that crushes thy loved land.

All hail to thee, Komenský! homeless here,
Thou now hast found a home in realms more fair.
An orphan now a Father wipes the tear
And lays the conqueror’s crown upon thy hair.
What matters if thou sleep in alien soil—
Thy grave is honored, be it where it will.
Dishonor only rests on those who toil
To bind their fellowmen against their will.

 

^ * On March 28th, 1892, the Bohemians wanted to celebrate the three hundredth anniversary of the birthday of the renowned pedagogue, John Amos Komenský, like the rest of the world, by making the schoolchildren free. For no reason on earth, the Austrian government forbid this celebration. In spite of this, Prague, and every city, even the castles and villages, hung out flags and illuminated the windows. I was asked to write a poem on the subject. Komenský was also Bishop of the Moravian Brethren, and exiled by Ferdinand II. with the other Protestants. The rector of the Prague University in his own right dismissed the students, and over five hundred paraded the streets, singing national songs. No parents sent their children to school, so that the teachers had to close the schools. A deputation was sent to Naarden (Holland) with a magnificent wreath to lay on his grave, which was done in the presence of hundreds of Dutch who had gone out on purpose to honor his grave.