Cheskian Anthology/Antonín Puchmayer

2676314Cheskian Anthology1832John Bowring

Antonín Puchmayer.

Born 1769—Died 1820.

ANTONIN Puchmayer was born in Teyn, a town on the river Vltava, on the 17th January, 1769—and died at Prague, in 1820. He was the most efficient and zealous among those bohemians who endeavoured to re—create a taste for the language and literature of his country, and the collection of Poems of which he was the editor, was the first fruits of a renewed attention to the subject. He was a philologist too of considerable merit, and had a little before his death completed a Rusian Grammar, dedicated to the empress mother, which she acknowledged by the present of a costly ring—an honor which found no recipient, for he was dead when it arrived. He translated sundry works from both french and german. He was latterly an ecclesiastic of Radnice.

Of Puchmayer's collection of bohemian poetry, the Ode to Žižka is undoubtedly the most remarkable piece. A romantic interest attaches to this hero of his nation, and his zeal for reform has already consecrated his name in every protestant country.

Puchmayer's volumes, though not distinguished by great poetical excellence, were undoubtedly the principal instrument in awakening the slumbering spirit of the bohemians, and gathering it round their language and their songs. For nearly two centuries the bohemian tongue had been silent; and though its earliest renovated accents were not of the highest eloquence, it is impossible not to watch with sympathy the earnest and patriotic attempt to revive the feelings of independence and dignity which do not abandon high-minded individuals in their adversity, and still less high-minded nations.

Žižka's history, which may be well studied in Pelzel's volumes, is full of soul-stirring passages. He has been compared to Hannibal for the sagacity and variety of his stratagems, and the extraordinary readiness with which he created to himself resources in circumstances of doubt and difficulty. Like other great men, and especially like those greatest of men, who have devoted themselves, and sacrificed themselves to an unsuccessful popular cause, he has been delivered over to ages of calumny, from which some after and more enduring ages of glorious fame will rescue his memory. To the name of Žižka, rebel attaches—to that of John Hus, heretic—to that of George Poděbrad, usurper. Time will tear away the scrolls which falsehood has attached to their histories—and write Patriot—Reformer—Hero:—and the words will be indelible.

ODE on J. Žižka von Trotznow.

Kdo zwláště předčj w bogi nad wlastence.

Who rears his country's fair renown,

Shall earn a patriot's lofty praise—

Yes! he shall wear a laurel crown,

And him shall sing the poet's lays;

What prouder fame, what greener bays

Can history offer?—be his meed

Eternal laud within the shrine,

Lighted by glory's lamp divine,

That every triumph, every deed

Thro' everlasting years may shine.

Žižka! Bohemia's chief—arise!

Of murdered[1] Hus th' avenger thou!

Thou hast o'erwhelm'd thine enemies

In the fierce battle-field, and now

They perish in the dust below.

And the whole world has seen how great

A patriot's victory may be;

When arm'd, Bohemia!—arm'd for thee.

(O laurels on thy bidding wait,

To crown thee for eternity!)

And see! what crowded german bands—

Steeds clamp and weapons dang—from Rhine

And Oder's thickly-peopled lends;

And mountain-warriors there combine

From distant Alp and Appenine:

Hungarians too—and neighbouring poles,

And practised saxons—tell us why

Ye lift your swords, your lances high?—

O! popish briefs—and popish bulls

Have preach'd of our apostacy.

Like blackest locust-clouds they come,

Our own Bohemia to enslave;

And who—from such a storm—our home—

Our country can protect or save?

For what. avail the wise or brave?

Who can resist the torrent's sway?

"When they are nigh we disappear—

It is not doubt—it is not fear;

They drink the rivers on their way,

And every where their banners rear.

Thy voice, re-echoed o'er the land,

Wakes all Bohemia at thy name;

And every heart—and every hand

Are quicken'd by the living flame

Of courage—but what lust of fame

What mad ambition lur'd our foes—

We came—we look'd—our hero then

Summon'd his hands of chosen men,

And as the storm the surge-scurf blows

We scatter'd all their might again.

Still Žatetz's plains are bleak and bare,

Still towers old Brodsky's mountain dell,

Where, as the greyhound drives the hare,

Thou, with thy Tabrites didst compel

All—all to fly—but those who fell:

Proud Praga looks on Žižkow's[2] hill,

Still pleas'd that hallow'd spot to see,

Where Žižka leagued with victory—

And dreams play'd round Bohemia still,

The dreams of peace and liberty.

Then Germany—who felt the shame

Of Swabia's daring enterprise,

And that our Hus—Bohemia's fame—

Had been the bloody sacrifice;

There, where the Rhine so swiftly flies,

Rais'd up her flag—thou saxon mound,

Ye austrian hills, now witness bear,

How, towering o'er each mountain there,

Bohemia's lion roar'd around,

Bohemia's banner flapp'd the air.

Then glory, with her golden ray,

And silver trumpets pour'd thy praise;

And wing'd her bright and rustling way

O'er the wide world—thy fame to raise,

And bid the nations on thee gaze.

But with thy victories did she tell

What deeds of darkness and of dread

Were round those glorious victories spread,

And that thy name had been the spell,

From which all life and blessing fled?

Žižka! thy fame had blinded thee,

And fortune, with accustom'd sneer,

Had dregg'd her cup with treachery,

And pour'd her poisons in thine ear.

Whose valor came thy valor near?

Thou, like the illustrious Hannibal,

When he, on Cannæ's glorious day,

Swept all the Roman hosts away,

On thine own Cannæ didst appal,

And overwhelm Germania.

Thou hadst a glorious triumph then,

When midst a whole world's envying,

In victory's loud and joyous train,

Thou didst thy golden booty bring,

And on Bohemia's altars fling:

How loudly was the welcome pour'd

From every patriot Českian tongue,

Man—child—youth—maiden—woman flung,

To thee, thy country's son ador'd,

The wreaths their busy hands had strung.

Why didst thou dip that sacred vvreath,

O Žižka! in thy brothers' blood?

Why bow thee from thy height—beneath,

And turn to evil all thy good?

Why didst thou loose thy savage brood

On monks and nobles—in thy rage

Give reins to riot—overthrow

Castles and towers—and deaf to woe—

Whelm all—and rear o'er all a stage,

Where error and where crime might grow.[3]

Those ruins[4]—which seem curs'd—and frown

As if some evil ghosts were there;

Where bravery scarce dares stay alone,

O what a woeful page they are,

Of man in passion's fierce career:

The very winds that whistle thro',

Seem shuddering midst the gloomy pile:

There spectra meet—and sigh awhile;

And as the screech-owls cry to-whoo!

The fiends of evil shriek and smile.

  1. It cannot be forgotten that the emperor Sigmund gave a "letter of safety," written with his own hand, to John Hus, when he went to the council of Constance. "No man is bound to keep a promise made to a horetic."—And Sigmund, that imperial cold-blooded murderer—who thus justified the perfidy of which he was the willing instrument, was one of the pinks of chevaliers—one of the models of knighthood—of his day.
  2. The hill where Žižka was encamped, before this period, called Wítkow
  3. Zde powēz skreyš, tam laupeže.—Here, heresy's seat—there, rapine's.
  4. The finest ruins in Bohemia are those left by Žižka.