Cheskian Anthology/Poetical literature of Bohemia
THE earliest and most important commercial intercourse between the Slavonians and other european nations was carried on in the city of Julinum, at the mouth of the Oder, a city of whose extent, wealth, and influence, Adam of Bremen [Hist. Eccles. c. xii.] speaks with a sort of astonishment. Among its local regulations he mentions that the christians who traded there were not allowed to attempt to proselytise the inhabitants, whom he honors with this eulogium, that, though they observed the rites of paganism, there was no where to be found more courtesy of manners, nor a more benignant hospitality. In the ninth century the labours of Method and Cyrill led to the conversion of the Slavonians to christianity; and, in a truly popular spirit, Cyrill occupied himself in translating the bible into the language of the people, and got severely lectured by Pope John VIII. for celebrating the mass in an intelligible tongue. "Audimus etiam quod missam cantes in barbara (Slavina) lingua. Unde jam literis per Paulum Episcopum Anconitanum tibi directis prohibuimus ne in ea lingua sacra missarum solemnia celebrares, sed vel in latina vel in græca, sicut Ecclesia Dei toto terrarum orbe diffusa et in omnibus gentibus dilatata cantat." However, on a representation made personally to his holiness by Method, he was allowed to sing slavonic masses, and to explain "in auribus populi," all unintelligible latin words; but the spirit of the romish church soon subdued the benevolent purposes of the holy father, and before two centuries had passed away the popular bishop was denounced as a heretic in the Spalatro synod, and all who had celebrated mass, or who should venture to celebrate it in the slavonian tongue, were delivered over to undoubted damnation. The people appealed to the pope, but the pope fancied the slavonian language to be tainted with gothic heresy, and refused to listen. A happy thought saved the cyrillian translation. St. Jerome was a slavonian—born, undoubtedly, in Dalmatia—to him they attributed the invention of the old slavonian alphabet. The discovery was received with rapture—made its way to Rome—fell in with the prejudices of the time, and papal authority proclaimed the slavonian liturgy to be the work of the slavonian saint. Slavonian literature has no earlier records than this—but Bohemia was less influenced by it than the other slavonic nations. In the year 1080, king Wratislaw made an urgent appeal to Gregory VII., in order to obtain permission to employ the slavonian ritual, but his holiness sharply censured his "vain temerity."
The Bohemian language (Český Gazyk) may be traced up to the sixth century, and is one of the southern branches of the great slavonian stem. Its dialects are the moravian, the silesian, and the slowakian as spoken in upper Hungary. Previously to the introduction of christianity, it can only be tracked through the few and meagre latin chronicles which treat of Bohemia, and record merely the names of slavonian persons and places. In the year 845, fourteen bohemian princes were baptized, and soon after Bořiwoy proclaimed christianity from the throne as the established religion. Wenceslaw introduced from Saxony and Swabia a number of german priests, through whom the bohemian was greatly enriched, by words of both latin and teutonic origin, and by the creation of numerous conjugates out of slavonic roots. The oldest perfect specimen that exists of the bohemian language is a hymn written by Adalbert the second bishop of Prague in the tenth century as follows:
Hospodyne pomiluy ny.
Lord! have mercy upon us.
^† One of the old Slavonian writers tells us, that the bohemians turned the Kyrie eleison into good slavonic, by singing Kri olsa (meaning "the older in the bushes,") thus ridiculing the christian priests.
The fragments of ancient bohemian poetry which remain, are but the planks of a ship that has been long ago wrecked on the ocean of national vicissitude—but many of these have an historical interest even independent of their intrinsic merits. The earliest and most valuable remains are in the Kralodworsky MSS., and in the collection made by Hanka in four volumes, entitled Starobylá Skládánie. The Saud Libušin is the oldest remnant of bohemian verse. It is published in the third part of Krok. It is a simple narrative poem, which distinguishes it from the epic character of many of the longer contemporaneous pieces. But its genuineness has been strongly disputed. Hanka, Čelakowsky, and the more enthusiastic poets have contended for its antiquity; but it would not be fair to conceal what the great slavonian scholar, Dobrowsky, writes to me on the subject of this and other disputed compositions of the period. "His te monitum velim, ne fortasse aliqua vertas quæ certe jam supposititia censentur; conjecta a quibusdam qui nimio patriæ seu maternæ linguæ amore, hæc obtrudere incautis voluere. Talia sunt Elegia amantis sub Wysschřado arce ad fluvium Wltavam superiore, quam ego ipse, antequarn scripturam diligentius examinarem, historiæ linguæ Bohemicæ, p. 109 inserui et exposui. Novi jam auctorem quem tibi nominare possem. Poema hoc abruptum circa annum 1816 aut 1817 confectum membranæ veteri atramento satis recenti adscriptum mihi oblatum me ipsum fefellit. Alterum nimirum Libussæ judicium, ex phrasibus poematis Russici de Igore, et antiquis formulis poematum MSti Kralodworskiani compilatum circa ann. 1818 non nisi in Krokio expositum reperies, qui Tibi fortasse transmissus est. Impostoris hujus, auctorem sic appello, fraudem detexi primo quasi intuitu. Cum autem Rakovecki Polonus, cui missus fœtus hic fuerat, libro Prawda Ruska, eum exhibeat, opus fuit in Annalibus Vindobonensibus pluribus argumentis authentiam ejus impugnare. Zelotes Bohemici, non contenti poematibus Seculi xiii. in MSto Auboregensi, sic dicto a loco inventionis, maluerunt antiquiora effingere ad conjungendos Germanos qui antiquioribus gloriantur. 🞿 🞿 Ea omnia, quæ in MSto Auboregensi leguntur poematia, sine omni dubio genuina sunt, quamquam et hæc Zelotes Bohemici antiquiora esse putent saltem aliqua, quam sana crisis admittere possit."
In justice to the opinions of those who differ from Dobrowsky, I am bound to add that the MS. of Libuša exists in the museum at Prague; that Dobrowsky is accused of not having fairly judged it, because it interfered with one of his historical speculations, which denies the existence of a renowned leader named Čech, from whom the čechian (bohemian) nation received its designation. They state that the antiquity of the MS. has been admitted by almost every antiquary who has examined it—that no modernism of any sort has been detected in the language or the style—in a word, that the internal evidence of its genuineness is indisputable. Between such authorities I dare not attempt to decide; I give a translation of one of these disputed poems.
Ha ty násse slunce.
Thou Vyssegrad fortress,
Thou, haughty and daring,
Above the steeps rising;
Upon the rocks standing
Our enemies' terror—
Beneath thee the waters
Are rapidly flowing.
The vehement Uhltav
His stream urges onward:
And there on the borders
Of crystal Uhltava,
The foliage o'erhanging,
Spreads out its dark shadows;
The nightingale lonely
Sings gratulant music,
Or sorrowful music,
As joy or as sorrow
Has place in her bosom—
O were I the songster
Deep, deep in the forest
My wings should convey me,
To roam with my lov'd one
Late, late in the evening,
When Love is inspiring
All life, all creation,
And passionate longings
Thro' nature are throbbing—
I long, hapless mortal,
For the, thou divine one;
O pity my sorrow!
This poem was (according to Dobrowsky, who at one period advocated its authenticity) found by Linda on a parchment of not later date than 1310. There is some obscurity in the phrase syela hurastya in line 13. Dobrowsky suggests that it should be sjla chwrasti "many shrubs," and Čelakowsky translates it eine menge gebüsches. There is a version of this poem in german by Göthe.
But the most remarkable remnant of antiquity existing in the bohemian tongue, is a collection of old poetry, to which I have already referred, published by Hanka in 1819, under the title Rukopis Králodworsky. He gives the ancient text, and a modern rendering on the opposite side of the page. Of these interesting fragments W. Swoboda published a close and well-written version at Prague in the same year. These poems, written on parchment, were discovered in a chamber belonging to the church of Králodworsky (Königinhof) amidst a number of worthless documents. The MS. has been decided by competent judges to have been written at the end of the thirteenth century, though some of the poems are probably considerably older. They appear to have belonged to a far more extensive collection, of which they formed the 26th, 27th, and 28th chapters. Dobrowsky, in his history of the bohemian tongue and literature, lands the facility of style, the purity and correctness of the language, the grace, and the strength of these valuable records. As a specimen of the old bohemian language, and of the changes it has undergone during six centuries, I give the shortest of the poems with Hanka’s modernised version.
Wsirê poli dubecstoii
na dubci zezhulice
zenenie wezdi iaro
kakbi žlo zitko vpoli
biuesdi iaro bilo
kakbi zralo iablko wsadie
biwezdi leto bilo
kakbi mrzli klasi wstoze
biwezdi iesen bila
kakbidicuie tiesko bilo
biwesdi sama bila.
Wšjrém poli dubec stogj
na dubci žežhulice
že nenj wždycky garo.
gakby zrálo zjtko w poli
by wždycky garo bylo?
gakby zrálo gablko w sadě,
by wzdycky léto bylo?
gakby mozly klasy w stohu
by wždycky gesen byla?
gakby djwce téžko bylo
by wždycky sama byla?
On the field an oak-tree rises;
On the oak-tree sits a cuckoo,
And he mourneth, he complaineth,
That the spring endures not always.
What should gild the wheat in harvest,
If the spring endured for ever?
How should apples in the garden
Ripen, were it always summer?
How should wheat-sheaf be upgather'd
If there were no time but autumn:
Luckless were the maiden's portion,
If forefated to be lonely.
This is the song of a young woman, intended fancifully to convey the assurance that the flight of the seasons would bring a lover to her.
As specimens of this early poetry I give two of the historical ballads, and the whole of the lyrical pieces which have been preserved in this collection. The remarkable affinity both in measure and manner between these and the spanish ballads during the moorish epoch will be very obvious at a glance.
Benesh Hermanow; or, the Defeat of the Saxons.
Aiti slunce aisluneczko.
Wherefore look so gloomy?
Wherefore look so gloomy down
On oppress'd bohemians?
Tell us where our prince is gone,
Tell us where our hosts are staying;
He to Otto's court is fled.
Orphan'd country! who shall save thee?
Rescue thee from ruin's grasp?
Look! the foeman's hosts are coming,
Evil saxons—germans they;
What a line of long battalions
Rushing down the mountain-way,
Rushing down upon our vallies.
Wretched people! ye must give,
Ye must give your gold and silver,
Give them all that ye possess;
But your huts, your cottage-dwellings
Their marauding hosts will burn:
Ah! they stole our gold and silver,
Burnt and ravaged all our dwellings,
Drove our hapless troops away,
And are marching now on Trosky.
Mourn not, mourn not, coward peasant!
Soon the grass will grow again,
Which the foeman's heel hath trodden,
Green upon Bohemia's plain.
From these plains bright flowers we'll gather.
Garlands for our heroes wreathe:
Look! the vernal seed is bursting,
Happy change will wait us soon.
Lo! our fate already changes—
Look! for Benesh Hermanów
Calls the people all to counsel:
They shall drive the Saxons off.
Now the stream of people rushes
Through the forest and the field,
From the rugged rocky fortress.
Flails for weapons, lo! they bear,
And they pour upon the foemen.
Benesh, Benesh is the first;
Full of courage and of fury,
All advance—they cry "revenge!
Vengeance on our land-destroyers!
Vengeance on the saxon race!"
Vengeance bursts from either army,
Vengeance and the fiercest rage;
Vengeance glows in every bosom,
Vengeance reddens every eye.
Each the other wildly threatening,
Raging—mingling each with each,
Clubs o'er rival clubs are towering,
Spears are rising over spears—
And they crash 'gainst one another
As if warlike forests crashed—
As the lightning of heaven's thunder
Was the lightning of their swords.
Fearful sounds and frightful voices
Scared the deer into the woods,
Scared the birds into the heavens;
Echoes rising from the vales,
To the third ridge of the mountains
From their rocky walls resounded.
Smiting clubs, and sabres clashing
Like the awful voice of death.
Thus immoveable the armies,
Thus unconquer'd both they stood,
And their feet were firmly rooted,
Firmly rooted in the ground.
Benesh climb'd a rocky mountain,
Swung his sword towards the right,
There the army's strength seem'd weakest;
Swung his sword towards the left,
There the army’s strength was strongest;
There—up to the riven rocks.
From these rocks they hurl'd huge fragments,
Hurl'd huge fragments on the foe.
Hark! the battle is rekindled,
Hark! from hill to plain—they groan—
Ha! they groan—they fly—the german—
Ha! they fall—the battle's won."—p. 6–14.
The battle which this ballad records was fought in 1821, and the internal marks of antiquity show that this poem cannot be of a much later date.
The next piece is intitled Jaroslaw, and is a sort of historico-poetical chronicle of the great combat between the Christians and the Tatars, which took place in the 13th century.
Zuiestuiu uam poiuiest ueleslaunu.
Tale of mighty strife and fiercest battle:
Listen now—collect your scatter'd senses;
Listen now—and hear the wond'rous story.
In the land where Olmütz rises proudly,
Towers a mountain—not a high nor bold one—
But the unaspiring hill, Hostaynow,
With its wond'rous image of God’s mother.
Long our land a quiet peace enjoying,
Prosper'd in the calm of wealth and comfort,
But a storm was gathering in the orient,
All about the Tatar monarch's daughter;
For her pearIs and gold and treasures, christians,
Christians, have been massacr'ing each other.
Kublay's beauteous daughter, fair as Luna,
She had heard of western lands and people,
Heard of lands, and serfs who dwelt upon them;
She was fain to see those foreign people,
So she soon prepared her for the journey.
Ten young men she summon'd to escort her,
And ten maidens for her person's service:
Richly for her journey she provided,
And, all mounting on the swiftest coursers,
They departed tow'rds the western sun-set.
As they passed thro' dark and dreary forests,
Glorioust in brightness and in beauty,
Shone the daughter of the tatar monarch.
She was covered o'er with golden garments—
All but neck and bosom—rich and gorgeous
Stones and pearls shone splendently around her.
So she was a marvel to the germans,
And they coveted her costly treasures;
Track'd her footsteps as she journey'd forwards,
Overtook her in the darksome forest—
Murder'd her—and all her treasures plunder'd.
When the Khan of Tatary, Kublya, heard it—
When he heard the fate of his belov'd one—
From his wide-spread kingdom he assembled
Armies—and he onward led his armies
Towards the setting of the sun at even.
When the monarchs of the western nations
Learnt the Tatar Khan was marching thither—
Marching 'gainst their thickly-peopl'd countries—
They agreed that each should help the other.
So they all assembled mighty armies,
Armies ready for the fierce encounter,
Led them forth upon the open country,
There encamp'd—and waited for the tatars.
Kublay calls around him his enchanters,
Sorcerers and magicians, seers and sages;
Bids them prophesy—and tell the issue
Of the struggle to the tatar emp'ror.
So the sorcerers, and the seers, and sages,
And magicians met, and the enchanters;
And inscribed on earth two separate circles,
Laid a sable bar within the circles,
Which they portioned in two equal pieces;
And on one inscribed the name of 'Kublay,'
On the other wrote 'the german princes.'
Then they sang an ancient incantation,
And the bars began to move in combat—
And the bar of Kublay swiftly triumph'd.
Then with joyous sounds the tatars shouted,
Every tatar sprung upon his war-horse,
And the battle mandate soon was issued.
All that pass'd was hidden from the christians;
On the heathen-troops they threw them boldly,
To the prowess of their army trusting—
So began the raging of the battle,
Arrows shower'd as thick as stormy hail-drops,
Spears smote spears as loud as is the thunder—
Swords flashed brightly as the flashy lightning,
And the armies rush'd on one another.
Fill'd with freshen'd strength and freshen'd courage
Now the christians gain'd upon the tatars,
And they soon had won a glorious triumph—
But the heathen sorcerers hurried forward,
Bearing in their hands the bar of
Re-awaken'd valor fill'd the tatars,
And they rush'd infuriate on the christians,
And the christians fled; anon, the heathen
Sprung like raging beasts among the flying—
Shields lay here—here decorated helmets—
Here a horse dragg'd down his knightly rider—
There 'neath tatar hoofs, a knight was lying—
Not to conquer—no!—to perish only—
There another cried on God's good mercy.
So the tatars triumph'd and-grew mighty,
Levies laid, and tribute on the people;
And possess'd them of two christian kingdoms,
Ancient Kiēv and the white Novgórod.
O'er the land the mournful story widen'd,
And the people gather'd troops to battle;
Four strong armies speedily assembled
To revive the death-fight with the tatars.
Then the tatars round their right-flank crowded,
Like the black'ning thunder-clouds when gath'ring,
All the fruits of earth to smite and scatter—
Far you heard the buz of tatars—swarming—
Then the hungarian squadrons all assembled
And attack’d the tatars—but the struggle,
Spite of all their art, of all their valor—
Spite of all their manliness avail'd not;
On their ranks the tatars fiercely press'd them,
Broke their ranks—and all their valiant army
Was dispers'd—and waste and desolation
All the land despoil'd. And hope deserted
All the christians—sorrow and dejection
Now possess'd their sinking souls as never;
And to God they pray'd in hitter anguish,
To relieve them from the tatar's fury.
"Lord! arouse thee—in thy terror rouse thee—
Save us, save us, Lord! or else we perish:
Save us from this terrible oppression!
They would bring our spirits to perdition—
They, a troop of wolves, our folds surrounding."
So one fight was lost, and so another,
And the tatars hous'd themselves in Poland;
Nearer, nearer drew they, all destroying,
Ravaging, they came, even to Olómutz—
Bitter misery press'd upon the people,
Nought was shelter'd from the heathen's fury.
One day and the next was battle raging,
And on neither victory had descended.
Ah! the tatars wax them strong and stronger,
As the autumnal shades at ev'ning gather—
And, amidst the gath'ring tatar forces,
Lo! the christians vibrate like a sea-boat!
And they hasten to that sacred mountain
Where is thron'd the wonder-working
"Rouse ye! brothers! rouse ye !"—cried Wenéslaw,
"With your swords the silver target smiting
O'er your heads the glorious banners waving."
Thus encourag'd rush'd they on the tatars,
Thickly crowded—in compactest body;
As if fire upon the ground were scatter'd,
So they pour'd upon the tatar forces;
Up the holy hill, and down its borders,
Up the hill, and to its wood-crown'd summit,
So in gather'd ranks the warriors crowded.
At the foot—a very wedge of courage,
Right and left, protected by their bucklers,
On their shoulders, lo! they bear their lances.
Rear behind the van, and third next second,
And the arrows from the hills are raining.
Now the darksome night the earth hath mantled,
Mantled earth—and heavy clouds the heavens;
And on christians and on tatars closes
Eyes that burn with passion and with fury;
Walls and trenches all around the mountain,
Raise and sink the christians hi the darkness.
But the morning in the orient wakens,
Wakes the forces peopling all the mountain;
Fearful is the crowd around the mountain,
Numerous more than eye can see—so distant!
Christian chiefs above the rest are towering
O'er the heights, up to the Khan's pavillion!
So the masses for the fray are portion'd.
All to the appointed stations rushing;
Upwards press they to the mountain-summit,
And with fearful shouts, which hills and vallies
With re-echoing voices loud repeated;
On the walls the christian hosts are gather'd,
And God's mother fills their souls with valor;
So they draw their arrows to their shoulder—
So they wave aloft their swords—the tatars
Must give way—the tatars must be vanquish'd.
Then what rage possess'd the savage tatars;
From his eyes the Khan roll’d clouds of darkness—
In three legions he his troops divided—
In three legions, lo! they storm'd the mountain;
Twenty christians fell beneath the tatar-—
All the twenty fell their posts maintaining,
And beneath the walls their bodies weltered.
Then the tatars storm'd the walls—loud shouting,
As if thunder-storms were shaking heaven:
So they rush'd upon the christians' ramparts,
‘From the walls they hurl'd their brew defenders,
Crush'd them even like worms, and left them scatter'd
On the open field—and long and bloody,
Long and furious was the fierce encounter,
Till the night upon their heads descended.
God of mercy! God! the brave Wenéslaw,
Brave Wenéslaw by an arrow wounded
From the rampart falls!—Heart-breaking sorrow!
Dreadful thirst burns up the christians' bowels,
With parch'd palate, ah ! they lick the dew-drops
From the grass—and now the quiet evening
Comes—and chilling night the evening follows,
And the night slow-dawns into the morning—
In the tatar camp is solemn silence,
And the day awaken, and mid-day scorches,
And all, agonized with thirst, the christians
Sink upon the face of earth exhausted—
Choked, they open their dry lips, and hoarsely
Pour a prayer to God's most holy mother;
Up to her they turn their feeble eyelids,
Up to her their weary arms outstretching,
Plaints of anguish pour they out to heaven:
"Ah! we can endure this thirst no longer,
With a thirst like this we cannot combat;
He who loves his life, his weal—had better
Seek for mercy, even among the tatars!"
Thus said many—thus repeated many-—
"Better by the sword to die, far better
Than of thirst—we'll quench our thirst in bondage,
Track my steps who think so"—thus cried Weston,
"Track my steps who die of thirst !" Uprising
With a bull's own prowess, see Wratislaw
Seize on Weston, and in fiercest language
Shouting—"Traitor! coward! christians' scandal!
Wilt thou rush upon-thy soul's damnation?
Virtue only seeks relief from heaven,
Not from bondage 'neath the savage tatars;
Run not, brethren! run not to perdition—
Ye have passed the worst—the fiercest sunshine—
God has help'd us thro' the heat of noon-tide—
God has mercy for his faithful servants—
Shame! O shame! such words should e'er find utterance!
But if ye will bear the name of heroes,
Rather than for thirst our mount surrender,
Let us die the death that God provides us—
If we yield us to the tatars' sabres,
Basely, vilely—we commit self-murder.
Slavery's yoke is God's abomination,
'Tis a sin accurs'd to bend to bondage—
Track my steps—me steps—ye men, whose courage
Will escort me to the virgin's altar."
So they crowded round, and sought the chapel—
"Lord! arouse thee in thy awful terrors!
Lord! restore their country to thy people;
Lord! revive us from our wretched sorrows!
Hear our voices calling on the loudly—
For our foes surround us—they surround us—
Save us from the snare-pits of the heathen:
Give us comfort, father! give refreshment—
Long and loud shall be thy people's praises;
Chase the foes that waste our hapless country,
And extirpate them, O God! for ever!"
Look! a cloud upon the sultry heaven—
Hark! the waking wind—the rolling thunder—
Darkness—darkness all the sky is mantling;
Lightning flashes fiercely 'midst the tatars,
And a copious rain fills every fountain.
Then the storm pass'd over—and the warriors
Once again assembled—every district
Sent its levies—and beneath their banners
All the gathering tribes advanc'd on Olmütz;
By their sides three mighty swords were hanging;
Quivers full of arrows rustl'd loudly;
On their heads they bore their polish'd helmets,
And beneath them leap'd their proud war-horses.
There were the awakening sounds of trumpets,
Noise of kettle drums and martial music.
So one army rush'd upon the other.—
Then like clouds the moving ascended,
And the fight was fiercer than the former.
Noise—confusion—swords together clashing—
Striking in the air of poison'd arrows,
Crash of spears, and whiz of many missiles—
Then was hewing down, and then was stabbing,
Mournful wailings then, and loud rejoicings—
Blood in streams flow'd forth like mountain-torrents,
Corpses lay as trees when fell'd in forests,
Here a warrior's head that's cleft insunder,
There a warrior's trunk, both arms dissever'd,
There another flung from of his war-horse,
Here, one stripp'd, upon his foeman lying
As a storm-rent tree upon the mountain;
Here, a sword to heft in bosom buried,
There, a tatar hath an ear off-smitten.
And what shootings then and groans and curses!
Yet again the christians are retreating,
Yet again the tater-hosts pursuing:
But the eagle, Jaroslaw, approaches;
Harden'd steel is on the strongest bosom;
Under it is wisdom's ready courage,
'Neath his helm the lynx-eyed glance of hero,
Glanced with all the glow of valor beaming—
Lo! he storms, as storms the hungry lion,
When he sees his destin'd prey approaching,
Or when wounded turns on his pursuer,
So Jaroslaw turn'd upon the tatars—
Like a hail-storm follow the bohemians—
And he sprung upon the son of Kublay—
What a fearful, what a bloody struggle!
couching spear 'gainst spear—then eager thrusting,
Each, as if to crush in dust the other.
Then Jaroslaw on his valiant war-horse,
Bath'd in blood, turn'd on the son of Kublay,
And with dextrous push, his lance he planted
In his shoulder till it reached his haunches,
Lifeless on the grass he fell—his quiver
Made a hollow sound which told his story:
Then dismay'd they fled, the savage tatars,
Threw away their long-long pikes, and hurried—
Hurried where they might, in search of safety;
Hurried where the sun just starts at morning.
So was Hana freed from tatar-terrors.
Biehase ielen pohorach.
A stag o'er forest, field, and hill,
Wander'd at his capricious will,
Now up, now down the mountain side,
And shook his branching antlers wide,
And with his branching antlers he
Forced shrub and tree,
Well pleased to bound
With eager footsteps o'er the ground.
A youth speeds o'er the mountain's top,
Nor in the valley does he stop;
But with his battle weapons thrown
Across his shoulders, hastens on,
And with those weapons sharp and strong,
Breaks through the foeman's throng.
Alas! that youth no mountain pass'd;
A foe—a fierce and savage foe
His frown of darkness round him cast,
Smote that poor wanderer low
With battle-axe upon his breast:
A voice of mourning filled the groves—
And his freed spirit hasten'd to its rest.
Thro' his fair neck life's franchis'd spirit roves,
Thro' his fair neck and thro' his lovely lips.
Lo! there he lies—the warm blood flies
After his spirit,—but that spirit's fled,
And in the sanguine stream the green grass dips;
The cold earth drinks that rivulet of red.
Sadness o'erpower'd the heart of every maid;
The youth upon the frigid turf lay dead,
And o'er him grew an oak, whose branches spread
Widely around and proudly overhead.
The wild deer with his antlers high
Oft the tall oak tree hastened by,
And stretch'd his graceful neck the leaves among:
Of sparrow-hawks a throng
Came from the neighbouring woods to bide
Upon that oak, and screaming cried—
"The youth beneath a foeman's fury fell,"
And an the maidens wept, the tale remembering well.
Pleie dieua konopie.
Lo! a maid the hemp is weeding
In her master's garden-ground,
And a lark, towards her speeding,
Sings, "Why look so sadly round?"
"Well be sad, thou gentle lark!
They my lover have convey'd
To you castle-dungeon dark:
Had I but a pen to write—
Some sweet words of love I'd send him—
Thou, kind lark! shouldst take thy flight,
And with my kind thoughts attend him.
But I have no pen to treat him
With my love—so gentle bird!
With thy softest music greet him,
Music's most consoling word."
The light breeze is blowing
Around the king's forest:
The maiden is hasting,
She hastes to the stream;
She scoops with her bucket
The fresh flowing waters:
But look! to the maiden
The stream bears a nosegay,
A nosegay of fragrance,
Of violets and roses;—
The maiden outstretches
Her hand to obtain it:
She falls—Ah! she falls in
The cold running water.
O! had I but known it,
Thou beautiful nosegay!
But known on the borders
Who planted thy beauties,
In faith, I would give him
A ring of pure gold!
O had I but known it,
Thou beautiful nosegay!
But known who collected
Thy beauties and bound them,
In faith I would give him
The pin of my hair!
O had I but known it,
Thou beautiful nosegay!
But known who first flung thee
To swim on the streamlet,
In truth I would give him
The wreath on my head.
Ide mamila .
My gentle maiden sought the grove,
And lo! a cruel bramble tore
The maiden's snowy foot——
Ah! luckless maid! my gentle love
Can wander in the grove no more:—
O why—O why, perfidious thorn,
Hast thou my gentle maiden torn?
I'll tear thee from thy parent root,
And fling thee to the winds to boot.
Come! come! my loved one to the shade
Beneath the o'erhanging pine—
I'll hasten o'er the sunny glade
On you white steed of mine:—
My steed shall wander at his ease,
Among the meadows and the trees.
But come my lov'd one! come with me,
Come, let us seek the shady plain:
Poor girl!—she came—and tenderly
Breath'd this unconscious strain:
"O hapless maid! to thee—to thee
Hard will thy mother's language be—
Said she not oft—Beware of men—
And oft repeated it again?
Yet why beware—if men there are
Generous and noble—why beware?"
I flew across the flowery mead,
I flew, upon my snowy steed;
Dismounted—and my steed I tied
With silver curblets to a tree—
Then press'd the maiden to my side,
And kiss'd her, how transportedly!
And soon the lovely one forgot
Her wounded foot—our mutual kisses,
Till the sun sunk, exhausted not—
And then she whisper'd—"Angel! this is
The vesper hour—'tis time, indeed,
To wend us homewards,"—Then I leapt
With my sweet maiden on my steed,
And bore her to my home.
Achti , krasna !
O thou rose—thou rose so lovely,
Why so early didst thou blow?
Why when blown, so swiftly blighted,
Swiftly blighted—swiftly faded,
Long I sat—I sat at evening
Till I heard the cook's loud crow,
Slumber's weariness o'ercame me
As the splinters wasted low;
And I dreamt:—I dreamt I saw
One who brought to me—poor maiden!
One who with his right hand brought
Golden ring to grace my finger,
Ring with precious gems enwrought—
Where are now those gems?—I know not—
And that youth—I vainly sought.
Och wi lesi lesi.
Forests deep of Miletin;
Tell me why in summer—winter—
Why are ye for ever green?
Fain would I, my tears subduing,
Cleanse my heart of griefs and cares,
Yet, if tears bring consolation,
Why should I subdue my tears?
Where's my father—where's my father?
Sleeping 'neath the church-yard stone:
Where my mother—tender mother?
Over her the grass has grown—
I no brother have—nor sister—
And my lover—he is gone!
Čelakowsky supposes that the remainder of these MSS. were destroyed by the Hussites during the siege of Kralodworsky. In the Isvjestija Rossiuskoi Akademii Mr. Shiskov has published translations of this interesting collection.
Belonging to the 13th century are various religious fragments, and especially a rhymed legend of the twelve apostles; a letter from heaven, a translation of the psalter, and with the date of 1309, is a curious Bohemarius, or latin and bohemian vocabulary in hexameter verses, probably prepared by some ecclesiastic for the use of schools. As a philological reference, this is a valuable fragment, and a specimen will not be misplaced.
Meridies poleduye, vesper weczer, mane rano,
Diluculum swytanye, tibi sit crepusculum sumrak.
A translation of the new testament was made in 1311 by Balthasar of Tettan. What has become of this interesting work is not known—it was in the hands of the Kynsky family, and was for a month in the keeping of Dobner, who described it to Dobrowsky. The following hymn written by Wenceslaw has been very frequently reprinted.
King Wáclaw's song of love.
Love calls me from my deeds of fame
To his own sweeter service—I
Summon each cherish'd maiden's name,
And ask—to which my soul should fly,
And seek with her a brighter glory
Than ever fill'd the page of story.
But ill my service is repaid,
For Love has planted in my breast
A pang that will not give me rest—
Nor heeds the mischief he has made.
My senses are by passion driven,
On to the very gates of heaven;
Delight is handmaid to desire,
My eyes are bright with fire
Whose rays out-pour'd upon my heart
A sense of blessedness impart.
And then love strengthens while it grows,
And transport's fountain overflows,
My heart is like a stream of pleasure
That knows no ebb and knows no measure,
Which love pours out in eager joy—
Love—source of rapture—and annoy—
To which I turn me fond and true,
As opening roses to the dew.
And then thy honied lips I kiss,
O the unutterable bliss!
No thought, no words, can compass this.
But sorrows hurry love away,
And love retires—but sorrows stay—
Wilt thou forgive me, Nina! say,
If to my bosom's warmth I press
Thy bright, sweet, dawning loveliness,
Yet still with chaste desire—for thou
To no licentions will would'st bow.
This composition will be found in the 5th Volume of Hanka's Starobylá Skládanie. A similar poem exists in Germany, and it is a disputed question whether the teutonic or the slavonian is a translation of the other.
A great number of religious poems, partaking of the character of the later monkish productions of the same period, have been saved from oblivion; though, except as philological curiosities, they have no interest and deserve no attention. The bohemian language was currently employed for the purposes of poetry, and at the coronation of John, in 1311, the Abbé Peter von Königsaal says, in a passage quoted by Dobrowsky,
Turba Bohemorum canit hoc quod scivit eorum
Lingua, sed ipsorum pars maxima Tewtunicorum
The establishment of the university of Prague in 1348, led to the cultivation and extension of the bohemian tongue, acquaintance with which was made necessary to the attainment of a public office. The coronation oath was yearly proclaimed in the language of the people, and several pieces of plate are yet preserved, belonging to queen Elizabeth (ob. 1393), on which bohemian inscriptions are engraved. In the reign of Wenzel, the public documents were kept in the popular tongue. Belonging to this epoch, there exists the Kronyka česka, a rhymed bohemian chronicle, whose author is believed to be Dalimil Mezeřicky canon of Altbunzlaw. The (work is brought down to the year 1314. The object of the author is obviously to attack king. John, and to alienate from him the affections of the bohemian people. But his authority as an historian is valueless, and his merit as a poet of the lowest order. He has flattered the vanity of his countrymen by extravagant eulogiums on their virtues and valour, and pours out a full cup of slavonian hatred upon the teutonic races. Dobrowsky no very honourable testimony to his character, for, says he, "he is not ashamed of many gross lies." This mendacious chronicle was however translated into german soon after its appearance. It has been twice printed; in 1620, and 1786.
To some of the copies of this chronicle are attached divers historical and heroic tales in verse, a species of poetical composition accordant with the taste of the times.
Starobylá Skládánie also contains some curious poems from the MSS. in the library of the Prague cathedral; among which are Alan, a poem on the restoration of man to his primeval perfection; an octosyllahic poem of above 1500 lines. Sedm radostj Panny Marie, the seven joys of the virgin Mary; O smrtedlnosti, the memory of death; O sedmi stuaniciech, the five sources of sin; Sedmezcietma Blaznow, six and twenty sorts of fools. Two books of the distichs of Cato, in latin and bohemian, the bohemian being generally a ramification of the latin thought. These, and several religious compositions, belong to the 15th century at latest. They are almost wholly in octosyllabic verse composed of four trochees.'s
Smil von Riesenberg, who was in 1403 the governor of Czaslaw, wrote a rhymed book of youthful counsel, which, though referred to by several posterior authors, has not reached our time. A MS. dated in 1459, and entitled , rada"True Counsel," Dobrowsky believes to be wholly distinct from that of Riesenberg.
The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries produced many long poems. There is an epic of more than two thousand verses in rhyme, of which Alexander is the subject. This is probably an imitation of Philip Gualter de Chastillion’s Alexandreyda, written at the end of the twelfth century, and dedicated to William, the second archbishop of Rheims. Gualter's poem seems to have introduced a passion for alexandrian epics. The Poema de Alexandro is one of the most remarkable specimens of early spanish poetry, and there are no less than four poems in the french language on the same subject, and of the same period. The bohemian poem is in octosyllabic rhyme, but the MS. breaks off abruptly in the middle, at the 34th chapter, which is thus headed, 'Hic intrat Alexander montium altitudines.'
The appearance of John Hus associated Bohemia with that general demand for reform which exerted its irresistible influences over the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and gave to the language and literature of Bohemia an extraordinary impulse. Of all the passions which agitate masses of men, the religious are the most extensive in their operation, and the most irresistible in their demands—because they are grounded on strong moral convictions, and associated with the sublimest sentiments and sanctions which can operate on the mind; with duty—with God—and with eternity. A slight portion of light and knowledge teaches the absurdity and the danger of consenting to see with the eyes of other men, and to submit to the will of other men in matters which are believed to regard our own personal salvation; and it is equally hopeless for a banefully established authority to contend against, or to submit to, the demand for discussion and inquiry, when that demand becomes many-voiced and mighty. Opposed, it sweeps away opposition, and assumes a more terrible character—and yielded to, it fortifies itself in its new conquests, and goes forward with its requirements as it increases in power. In Bohemia, "the bible, the bible for the people," became the watch-word—the talisman—of reform; and the simple and emphatic demand for "the book of life" could not be overwhelmed by elaborate theses on the authority of the church—on the dangers and the crime of schism—nor by bulls and briefs which anathematised. heresy. John Hus translated several of the works of Wickliffe into bohemian. The truth he held dear be caused to be written on the walls of his chapel, and he put hymns into the mouths of the people, which became more terrible weapons than swords and staves. His memorable death sanctified and endeared his doctrines, and even women (to the prodigious scandal of the catholic clergy) wrote defences of the great reformer.
The Taborites, or Hussites, under their great leader Žižka, occupy an interesting situation immediately after the death of John Hus. Their bishop, Nicolas of Pelhřimow, excited the displeasure of the magistracy of Prague by a tract which he wrote in 1420, and. which they denounced as tainted with heresy. In 1423, this body proclaimed its anti-reforming character more openly, and proposed to the konopist synod, that mass should be celebrated in "one of the languages unknown to the people." The enthusiasm of the Hussites, however, was not easily subdued, and the tone and temper with which they went forward in their great work may be judged of by that remarkable composition, written, it is said, by Žižka himself,—the song of war—beginning,
"a zákona geho."
This hymn, though somewhat rude in its language, and stamped with the fierceness of the times, became almost sanctified to the Hussites, and was constantly sung in circumstances of doubt and danger, and before attacking the enemy.
The following is a translation of this famous Taboritan ode.
God’s everlasting law,
Call on his name again,
And tow'rds his presence draw;
And soon your steady march your foes shall overawe.
Why should you faint or fear?
He preserve ye still;
Life, love—all—all that's dear
Yield to his holy will,
And he shall steel your hearts, and strengthen you 'gainst ill.
From Christ, a hundred fold
Of bliss ye shall receive;
For time—that soon is told—
Eternity he'll give;
And he that dies for truth immortally shall live.Lift, then, your lances high,
Ye men of knightly word,
For valor shall supply
Meet weapons from her hoard,
And ye shall bravely fight, ye servants of the Lord.
Why should ye dread the foe,
Tho' numerous they may be?
Will God desert ye? No!
For him, and with him, ye
Shall dissipate the base and boasting enemy.
Have ye not understood
Your ancient proverb—hear!
"Bohemians it is good,
"With a good Lord, to bear
"The flag of victory and its proud standard rear."Ye thieves, ye ravens, think
What perils round ye fly;
Ye stand upon the brink
Where fraud and avarice nigh,
Will fling ye to the abyss of night and misery.
Think—think while yet ye may,
And thinking—O retreat
From danger—while 'tis day;
O, thoughtless ones! 'tis meet
That he who slips should watch another's slippery feet.
Then to the bloody fight!
One only word—On! On!
Your weapons—for the right—
And God your trust alone;
Smite, smite—let none be spared! let mercy be for none.
The date of this composition is about 1490. Its author, John von Trotznow, is more commonly known by the name of Žižka. It was sung by the whole of the Hussite army whenever they were about to engage the enemy.
When the perfidy with which John Hus was betrayed, and the cruelty with which he was sacrificed are, considered, the temper of this hymn will hardly be wondered at. And the edge of bitterness was whetted anew by the martyrdom of Jerome, which followed that of his friend and master.
The rebellion of the bohemians necessarily made them obnoxious to the court of Rome, and in that recklessness of human suffering which so frequently accompanies the decrees of arbitrary power, the pope hurled his curses, not only against bohemians, but against all who should hold intercourse with a race which destroyed the then existing "social order." The evil which was thus inflicted became the source of good, and the bohemians, thrown upon their own resources, made rapid advances in the arts, in literature, and in general improvement. Kristan's medical writings obtained a wide reputation. A variety of theological and ethical works grew out of the then active discussions. Walečowsky wrote two books against the priesthood, of which, Balbin says, they are quam eleganter Boemice tam virulenter. The printing-press was employed in Bohemia as early as 1475, in the production of the new testament: in 1487, the psalter, and in 1488, the entire bible, was at Prague. In 1492, the resolutions of the bohemian diet were first printed.
Of the translation of the bible into bohemian, the oldest is that of 1411, of which a MS. is to be found in the episcopal library of Leutmeritz. Another copy, by the same author (Matthew of Prague), in the slavonic character, bears the date of 1418–14. The Benedictine monks produced a version in 1416, and several other translations exist, respecting which, Dobrowsky’s detailed account may be advantageously consulted.
Attached to a translation of the Trojan History of Guido di Columna, is a long poem, consisting of nearly nine thousand verses, entitled Tristram, and forming the fourth volume of the Starobylá Skládanie. Miller has given a translation of this poem in his collection of German Poetry of the 12th, 13th, and 14th, centuries.
The chronicle of Prokop (Prokopowa nová Kronyka), which Dobrowsky places in the middle of the 15th century, is another of the readable poetical productions of this period. It is the first in Hanka's collection, and consists of 1,100 octosyllabic verses. It was written by the historiographer of Prague.
The dispersion of the catholics under Ferdinand the 2nd, conveniently forms the modern boundary of the second epoch of bohemian literature. Its poetry is tinged with that religious feeling which characterised the age. The priesthood, who became the instructors of others, as they were the sole depositaries of instruction, gave to the literature which they created a superstitious and degraded tone, and swept away with their torrents of religious and sacred canticles—their dull, dubious and rhymed morality—almost all of natural feeling and generous enthusiasm. All Bohemia was possessed with the spirit of religious zeal—a spirit towering over and destroying every other. From the time of John Hus, down to the beginning of the seventeenth century, very few compositions can be found, which bear not the marks of the polemics of the time.
The specimens which immediately follow, are scraps of the fifteenth century. They exist only in MS. in the archives of Schwartzenberg, and are very superior to most of the poetry of the period.
Přečekage wše zlé stráže.
And sought the presence of my love;
The watchmen went their wonted beat,
I placed me at my lady's feet.
And with my loud-voiced songs, I broke
My lady's slumbers, and she woke;
She woke—and then sweet accents stray'd
From the loved bosom of the maid.
"'Tis time (she said), 'tis time to rise,
The dawning lights the skies,
The day draws near—and busy men
Wake to their wanted toils
"The little birds have mused them long,
Shaken their plumes and tuned their song;
Have tuned their songs and their flight,
And left me to my sorrow's night."
O why should separation's power
Divide us in auspicious hour?
Love! bound to each our hearts shall be,
And undisturbed by jealousy.
Night! silent are thy steps and slow,
Fain would I to my lady go;
Fain would I pour my fondest vow—
But nothing can console me now.
My heart is wrapp'd in dark distress—
In gloom, and in unquietness—
What can her absent charms replace,
What smile, where smiled her lovely face?O heaven! not long—not long, may I
For this, my distant maiden, sigh!
"Sigh not—it is enough for thee
To rest on my fidelity."
Kdež se žena nebogj.
Then be sure the house goes wrong;
Where the mistress master rules,
One's a fool, or—both are fools.
When the water leaves the haven,
When the black deserts the raven,
Then a crafty wife, I guess,
Will be cured of craftiness.
new year's good wishes.
Panj mila! k té twé milosti.
And joy hover round—and affection defend thee: And twirling thy distaff be smiling and gay,
And have all thy wishes, and have all thy way;
Let thy thread just be thick or be thin at thy will,
But hang not so far o'er the high window-sill;
I fear me thy spindle thou'lt break, which would vex thee;
Thy thread thou wilt lose, and that would perplex thee;
So take my good wishes—as meant—not amiss,
And may the new year be a new year of bliss.
Milowanie bez wjdánie.
Is darkness, and no star-lamp o'er it;
To see—without one dear embrace—
Is a dark field without a ﬂow'ret.
Wjli pak doktor as, wjli doktor wjli.
That wine—that wine's the thing to work a miracle.O would the doctor come and drink with us awhile;
Soon would he shout for wine! and not for camomile!
I think our latin cooks—if they would but confess,
Would like our ruby wine—and leave their dirty mess.
'Tis wine—'tis wine that makes our understanding bright;
That drives our flowing blood—and bids our hearts feel light.
And then, O brother mine! on light and joyous toe,
How gaily to our homes, how merrily we go.
How passing fair the moon then rolls about our head,
And whirls her silver wheel, and cheers us as we tread.
And then, and then, I say, while thro' the world I roam,
'Tis wine, 'tis wine that makes the flowers of life to bloom.
Milj chudj, tešme se, radost se nám .
Our garments are raining, and bald is our crown—
Beloved! want presses us—what shall we do?—
Why, want is one woe—discontent would make two.
Let's in to the inn, tho' we stay but a minute,
For the bottle looks mournful when nothing isin it;
Legs weary—bags empty—and what shall we do?—
Why—bearing one burthen—we need not make two!
On friday we dine—from a half-empty pot—
Sour broth—ragged bones—bread and water we've got;
And fish?—without doubt—in the Danube—the sea,
Which are fresher and sweeter than caught fish can be.And saturday comes—that's perplexing and rude-—
And sunday—with hunger—but when is the food?
We sit at the table—poor devils! to eat,
Were the table but covered, our task would be sweet.
Our cooks are sad pigmies—they cannot be less;
They needs must look small when they've nothing to dress—
Can they carve from a fog—-make of darkness a stew—
Or turn a stag's ghost to a venison ragout?
The bohemian press was in full activity during the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century—an epoch to which their historians attach the delusive title of the "golden age."—The circulation of the laws in the language of the people—its adoption for the celebration of the mass, and for the preaching of the clergy—the number of translations from classical and foreign sources, greatly contributed to enlighten and elevate the nation. Balbin's "Bohemia Docta" the works of Voigt, Pelzel, and Prochazka, give abundant details of the activity and literary temper of this period. Optst and Gzel published a grammar in 1533, which served to fix the bohemian orthography. Simon Lomnicky von Budeč, the only laureate of the bohemians, must not be passed over. His versification is harsh, though not without comic and satirical talent. He wrote songs continually for more than forty years, and produced, as may well be supposed, a countless number.
The two following anonymous poems probably belong to the sixteenth or seventeenth century.
We fix the horses in their stall,
And ask a gift from all.Come, my mother, come!
Let thy generous hand be seen,
Pouring presents on the queen.
Many a present thou—
Many a present thou shalt bring
For the queen and for the king.
We will build a throne
For the king, of precious stones,
And of gold that's fit for thrones.
For the queen we'll build
Thrones of peacock's feathers, dight,
With the flowers of May-time bright.
Household mother! come,
To the king a friendly greeting,
Welcome to the queen repeating.
Generous offerings your's—
Baskets seven of eggs provide,
And three kops of groats beside.
The Mother's Curse.
Časně ráno po neděli.
Hermann combed his faithful charger:
When his mother to him hastened,
And she offered him four apples—
"Whither art thou speeding, Hermann?
Wherefore hast thy courser saddled?"
"I am going to my maiden,
To my well-beloved Dortha."
"Go not thither, Hermann! go not;
Send thy saddled steed to bring her."—
"Nay, I will not be uncourteous,
Will not let the guests draw hither,
While I tarry in my dwelling."
"Then let Herman's neck be broken;
Never let him wend him hither."
Viola, and guitars are playing,
Bubnowaks, and drums and trumpets.
As they passed across the meadow,
Underneath the shady lindens,
Hermann's faithful charger stumbled,
Hermann fell—his neck was broken.
Long they stood, and long they counselled,
While the music still was playing;
Long they counselled—whether onwards,
Whether backwards they should hasten—
"Hasten, hasten, forward hasten,
To my gold and to my gledness—
If she may not be my portion,
She shall be my younger brother's."
Hurry, hurry, hurry onward,
Viols and guitars are playing,
Bubnowaks, and drums and trumpets.
So they sped them up the mountain,
To the towers of Nowosedlitz—
"Dortha! open! swiftly open,
Give the wedding-guests thy greeting."
Dortha opened, swiftly opened—
In an instant fear o'erceme her—
"Welcome! wedding guests! be welcome—
Tell me where ye left the bridegroom?"
"Safe at home we left the bridegroom
Making ready for the wedding."
"I have been at many a wedding,
Never saw I, never heard I,
That at home a bridegroom tarried,
Making ready for the wedding."
Dortha's mother then forbade them,
Till they brought the bridegroom thither—
"Mother! nay! but give the maiden,
Nay! deny us not thy Dortha."
Then her mother clad her gaily,
Gave her many a splendid garment,
Led her forth, and gave the maiden;
And began a piteous mourning.
Viols and guitars are playing,
Kettle-drums and loud-voic'd trumpets.
When they passed across the meadow,
Underneath the shady lindens,
Dortha saw beneath her carriage,
Drops of blood upon the border—
"That is Hermann's blood! 'tis Hermann's!'
"Nay! it is no blood of mortal,
'Tis some tenant of the forest;
'Tis some doe, by Hermann slaughtered,
Venison for his guests providing.
Viols and guitars are playing,
Kettle-drums and loud-voiced trumpets.
So they hastened up the mountain,
And they entered Hermann's dwelling—
"Mother! come and greet the maiden;
Greet the bride, the wretched woman."—
"Shall I greet thee, wretched maiden!
Would that thou thy neck hadst broken
Ere that thou hadst known my Hermann."—
"Brother! go, and greet the maiden;
Greet the bride, thy hapless sister."—
"Sister! go and greet the maiden,
Greet the bride, thy hapless sister."
"Sister! sister! well I greet thee,
In a year a son shall bless thee."
And the mother deemed it evil
That her children greeted Dortha.
"Wherefore, wherefore, deem it evil—
I, at least, no wrong have done thee."
In the midst of evening's banquet,
Lo! the bell of death was tolling:
Dortha shrunk with fear and terror—
"Say! for whom that bell is tolling?
Ah! indeed it tolls for Hermann."—
"Hermann in his room is resting,
Suffering from a bitter head-ache—
'Tis some little child departed—
'Tis some little swaddled infant."
Dortha, from the table rising,
Took a knife from 'midst her tresses,
And she plunged it in her bosom.
She is with her Hermann buried;
In one grave they lie together.
If thou pass thro' yonder church-yard,
Breathe a gentle prayer of pity—
There sleeps Hermann near his Dortha,
As a brother near his sister.
This poem resembles many of the old slavonian stories; both in its manner and measure.The passage which Čelakowsky has thus printed,
A brzo prawdu poznala
W okamženj dokonala,
should rather be:
Dwa nože w čepenj měla
Geden si k srdci wrazila.
It is to be regretted that few ballads such as these are to be found among the traditional poetry of Bohemia.
Attempts were made, as early as the year 1515, to introduce the rules of latin prosody into bohemian verse; but as the accent invariably falls on the first syllable, it is clearly impossible that the bohemian language should be adapted to a versification whose character so much depends on the changing position of the accents. Komenius made such an experiment, and, in 1662, printed his "Cato" at Amsterdam, in bohemian hexameters; and Wenzel Rosa, overcome with delight at the attempt, reprinted the volume in 1670, but he confesses he was obliged to "count the feet with his fingers."
Though the battle of the white mountain, in 1620, was immediately fatal only to the reformers of Bohemia, yet its consequences were terrible to the whole bohemian people. Civil war in its worst shapes devastated the land, and so fierce were its visitations, that the jesuit Balbin, in one of his letters, expresses his surprise that, after so many proscriptious, exiles, flights, and sufferings, a single inhabitant should remain. The language of Bohemia was abandoned—its literature fell into decay. The taint of heresy had so deeply stained the works of more than two centuries, that they were all recklessly condemned to the flames. Banishment was the portion of the most illustrious among the bohemians, and an equal, undistinguishing malediction pursued every thing which bore a slavonian character. And long did the stigma of heresy attach to the productions of the bohemian press, so that works which had been published under the accustomed ecclesiastical sanction, were banished and banned by the Indices of 1729, 1749, and even as late as 1767. Nay, the work of a romish pope (the chronicle of Æneas Sylvius), and which appeared under the sanction of the archbishop of Prague, was condemned by the inquisitorial spirit of the time. Not catholicism alone, but ultra-catholicism (as Dobrowsky remarks) was required from the unhappy bohemians, and the free inquiries and high aspirations of Hus, and Jerome, and Zižka were to be superseded by the debasements of the monkish spirit, and the fierce and barbarous ignorance of a persecuting priesthood. Legends and lives of the saints—trumpery discussions about trumpery dogmas—and all those streams of pitiful and useless learning, in which civil and religious despotism seek to engage and to exhaust inquiry, were poured over Bohemia. The only poetical work of this epoch entitled to attention, is the Zdoroslawjček (the proud nightingale) of Spee, translated into bohemian by Felix Kadlinsky, who died in 1675. A little before his death, Zywalda published a volume of "Rhymings" (Zběhnutj Ssederáse sedm lét. Prague, 1668), which are of little value.
The eighteenth century is very bare of bohemian productions. A few devotional works, and one volume of geometry, appeared, and all the rest (says Dobrowsky), is "want and poverty." The establishment, however, of a bohemian professorship in the Vienna university, has done something to reawaken attention to the language, and to revive the literature, of Bohemia.
The collections of poetry by Wenzel Thám, (Prague, 1785)—the historical researches of Prochazka—the unwearied and erudite philological labors of the abbé Dobrowsky—the various contributions of w řeči wazanéJungmann—and the popular songs which have been gathered together by Čelakowsky, prepare, nay more, create, another and a better epoch. How consolatory, to see knowledge pouring forth her blessings in a thousand shapes—speaking in a thousand tongues—laboring with a thousand instruments—and triumphing in a thousand conflicts. A blessing be upon every laborer in the field of civilization—a blessing and an abundant harvest!
The pre-eminent services of the abbé Joseph Dobrowsky cannot be passed over in silence. There is scarcely any part of the field of slavonic philology which he had not cultivated, and diligently presented its harvest to the inquirer. He was, however, a grammarian, not a poet, and words to him were interesting because they breathe of antiquity, and not because they are the instruments for touching the strings of and pleasure. He had the verbo-mania upon him, and prized any three slavonian letters which he could discover combined in the first five or six centuries of bohemian history, more than the coin-collector values his brass Otho, or the Roxburghian his Wynkyn de Worde. He is lately gathered to his fathers, but no one is ready to take his place.
Dobrowsky's Lehrgebäude der Böhmischen Sprache is the most valuable work on the subject of the bohemian language. It is full of that research which characterises all the productions of the renowned philologist, He passes under the review of a sharp and busy criticism all the writers on the subject that have preceded him.
The bohemian alphabet consists of twenty-six letters, a, b, c, č, d, e, f, g, h, ch, i, k, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, š (or ss), t, u, w, y, z and ž: q is rather a vowel than a consonant, and nearly corresponds to our y: the hard q is unknown to the bohemians.
When the bohemians adopted the latin alphabet, they undoubtedly improved on the polish style of writing; though it is to be regretted that the slavonian letters should not have been retained, at least for the slavonian sounds, which find no representatives in the roman characters. The bohemians did not encumber themselves with so marry letters as the poles, but employed a far simpler system of orthography. The pole, for example, writes
being the same words.
The bohemian orthography is invariable, and the pronunciation equally so, every letter being uttered precisely as it is written. The vowels are separated into short and long, which are thus distinguished:
The consonants are divided into hard and soft; the soft generally follow an e or y, in which case these letters are converted into ě and i, or when the accent is on the y, into j, as běda, djtě, pěti, měnjm.—lf the soft consonant be either at the end of the word, or follow the a, o, or u, it is marked by an apostrophe, as buď, han’, leť, rozpáty, dás, tópan, pocitúgi.
The characteristic letters of the bohemian alphabet are
Like all of the slavonian languages it has a great number of sibilants, and, independently of the many words in which the letter s with its modifications is found, it is curious to trace how it has given the hissing character to words of greek, latin, and teutonic origin, in which it is wholly wanting; as, for example, zyma χειμα (hyems); žluč, χολη; plece, πλαται; zrno, granum; ljzati, lingo; praziti, frigere; , herz; čepice, kappe; celiti, heilen, &c. The letter f is wanting to its alphabet. Dobrowsky very ingeniously remarks, that the slavonians were exceedingly disposal to crowd the consonants into the first syllable, and to leave out the vowels in words of foreign origin, as for instance; brada, beard; mleko, milk: mrawy, mores; mru, morior; plny, plenus; breg, berg (mountain).
The resemblance between the bohemian and polish is great. About three-fourths of the whole number of words in both languages, are derived from a common root; but in the construction and pronunciation it has more affinity with the russian. It has the remarkable peculiarity of placing the accent on the first syllable, and of even submitting foreign words to this almost universal law; Lucerna, for example, is pronounced Lūcĕrnă.
The late writers on bohemian prosody contend, that of all living languages (the moravian and slowakian excepted, which are dialects of the bohemian), theirs is the only one whose verses may be measured by feet instead of syllables; the discovery is one of our own times, and escaped the observation of Dobrowsky, the most indefatigable of slavonian critics. It would not be easy, however, to produce more perfect hexameters than are to be found in the bohemian language. As an example, I give a translation of Bion's verses on the death of Adonis:
Zesnul Adon spanilý; upěgj tež s pláčem Eróti,
Wjce na purpurowérn, o Kyprido, lůžku nedřjmey;
Wstaň, ubohá,wstan, a w swé prsy bj se,
Bj a woley wšechněm; spanilý ach zesnul Adonis!.
Of the harmony and elasticity of the bohemian language, the following specimen of translation from Petrarch's sonnet "Stiamo, amor a veder la gloria nostra," is a remarkable example. The rendering could scarcely be closer.
Wěci nade přjrodu zwýšene a nowé:
Wiz, gacj okolo nj plynau půwabowé,
Ay swětlo, njmiž se nebe nám w odiw podáwé!
Gak ladné zlato s perlami protkáwá
Newjdané i raucho gegi purpurowé;
Gak plešj stinné doly, gasnj pahorkowé
Na nichžto gegi oko i noha postáwá.
Klonj se stárowěkým pod dubem prosjce,
By aspón pěkné nožky se udolknuly;
I nebe proniknutose njtj
A ljbost tagná geho zweseluge ljce.
Že krásné na ně oči gasnost wylinuly.
The simple lyrics which follow are those which are at this moment the most current among the bohemians. When peace succeeded to the agitations of the thirty years' war, it brought with it the old love and practice of music and song which characterise all the slavonian tribes. In these compositions are deeply stamped the habits and the position of the bohemian people. They are, almost without exception, modest, rural, and domestic. They recount no heroic deeds—assume no popular triumph—record no patriotic names. They are simple and pathetic developments of household sympathies—of the passion of love—or rivalry or jealousy—or of some of the infinite gradations of pain and pleasure which enter into the daily history of universal man. Some of them contain lessons of unobtrusive truth and wisdom: others record some affecting story. There is in i all of them an eagerness and cordiality, a happy choice of imagery, and a sportive and genial imaginativeness. I have always refrained from attempting to adapt them to english taste, and the occasions are very few in which I have wandered even from the phraseology of the original.
The language of art and civilization differs little among different nations; nationality must be sought among popular masses. The sublime abstractions of poetry find no chord of sympathy among the people—what the people admire and love must come home to their every-day thoughts and every-day affections. It must at least have the recommendation of simplicity. Its value and power depend on its being the faithful mirror of the pursuits, prejudices, and passions, of common life. It must not be measured by a high intellectual standard; nor be expected to pourtray those more delicate and complex sensibilities which grow out of excessive refinement.
Thus the only poetry which can become national must be suited to the national civilisation. It must be the representative of the affections which are natural to all, rather than of the cultivated intellect which belongs but to a few. It may not discurse into the realms of philosophy—for the multitude cannot follow it thither—it must not introduce the personages of mythology, for they are strange and unintelligible to the unlearned—it can only revert to such facts or fragments of history as are preserved in the traditions of the many—in a word, it must approve itself to the general understanding, which will never be highly elevated, and condescend to the intellectual mediocrity of the masses of mankind.
An ingenious criticism on the popular poetry of the bohemians may be seen in the Prague Monthly Periodical (for August, 1827), written by M. Müller, the aesthetic professor in that capital. There is truth in the observation, that history and heroism have furnished few subjects for bohemian national songs: and this, he says, is the more remarkable when they are compared or contrasted with those of other slavonian races, and especially the servian and the russian. But how should such songs exist—or, if they ever existed, how should they be long preserved, in a state of society where no man dares to be a bohemian? That freedom of thought and expression which opens to the poet the great expanse of space and time—the whole field of the past and the future—which allows him to revel in all that is delightful in recollection, and in all that is beautiful in anticipation—is denied to the minstrel of Bohemia. He may neither record the struggles of his ancestors for liberty, not dream of the day when self-government shall give to his country whatever of happiness she is capable of enjoying. Love, of all the passions which he is permitted to sing, is that which allows the widest scope to his imagination—and love is the ever-ruling subject of his verse. And surely their popular poets have treated this with exquisite tenderness and effect, and have given it many varied forms of sweetness and strength.
Müller says of his countrymen, that "the key to their hearts is easily found, and that the sentiments by which they are lightly and easily moved, find a swift expression in songs and proverbs. In no country is there so much of singing and dancing as in Bohemia. The bohemian sings with the sweat upon his brow—his festivals are worthless unless accompanied by music, and his devotion seems to burst forth in all its power when the united voices of the congregation are blended in a common hymn. The chorus of the people always follows the tones of the hand organ, and when winter gathers the choristers into their domestic abodes, they soon grow impatient for the return of spring, that they may breathe and sing anew in the fresh air. Our harp-minstrels, our french-horn, and clarionet players go forth into the whole of Europe, and yet we have no want of music at home."
But M. Müller appears to me to depreciate too much the value of popular poetry as the auxiliary of history. The historian ought not to be a mere chronicler of important facts, for such facts cover only a small part of the domain of history. Great changes are constantly going forward—changes of the highest interest and importance—which are scarcely to be exhibited in individual events—but which it is the undoubted duty of the historian to display. A love story may throw more light upon the manners and civilization—upon the state of morals and politics of any age—than the details of a battle. Poetry is not indeed a very convenient instrument for historical narration. Its imaginativens and its passions little suit the sobriety of the chronicler. It has always some purpose to serve of pride or pleasure. Its materials, if not poetical, must be made so, and truth be abandoned wherever it interferes with that excitement which it is the first end of the poet to create. But if the authority of song in positive and specific facts must be looked on with distrust, and examined with scrupulous care, it is not the less an admirable mirror to show
"The very age and body of the time,
"Its form and pressure,"
and I cannot but think that it might be made far more subservient than it has been made, to the elucidation of history.
The bohemians have great masses of popular songs. Scarcely is a new air introduced ere a number of words are found to suit it. Čelakowsky mentions having been present among an assembly of peasants, when a young girl started a verse— another completed it—a third began a second verse—and so they proceeded until a little poem was created. If such a production have merit, it travels from mouth to mouth, improving as it goes, till it is found worth while to print it, and it is sold on a coarse scrap of paper at a country market or fair. At Prague, on the great way to the Domo Church, many ballad-sellers and ballad-singers are daily found. M. Müller thinks the blossoms of bohemian popular poetry are fading—and no doubt they are—for the poetry of civilization—the poetry of schools and books—the poetry of cultivated intellect—is superseding, and will supersede, the more natural and artless strains which are the charm of a ruder state of society. And with the generations of older time, much of the spirit which animated them is departed, and we cannot enter fully into the intensity of their emotions, nor give to their words the energy they received from the associations which were then attached to them.
Of all the slavonian ballads, the bohemian are the most musical. They are not to be read, they must be sung. Their general character is the expression of tranquil pleasure—their decorations are the scenery of pastoral life—and their subjects the domestic affections. Their more quiet accompaniments are flowers and rivulets, and the green turf—roses for maidens—rosemary for lovers—and the asociations of the most impassioned fragments are rocks, and mountains and dark clouds. But none of them have the wild mythology, nor the fabulous historical adornings of the more oriental slavonians.
I have not used a collection of bohemian songs, České národni , by Ritter von Rittersberg, published at Prague in 1825. They are german as well as slavonian, and do not appear to have been selected with any regard to their poetical merits. In truth they are not much better than the "London cries," and appear mostly gathered up from among the inhabitants of towns. They are many of them translations from austrian german—and have little of the raciness, and less of the simplicity, of slavonian popular poetry. The object of the collector was, I believe, rather to exhibit the music of Bohemia, than to publish the best specimen of its songs.
Naš kohautek kokrhá, kokrhá.
The mom begins to shine;
My love is thinking—thinking of me,
Gentle mother mine!
Sweet youth! my heart’s own child! how sweet,
Thee with thy maiden's kiss to greet—
And ask a kiss from thee.
Mother! awake from rest—from rest,
Father says "Up, and away."
Make ready the feast—make ready the feast,
For thy daughter's marriage-day;
Thy daughter's marriage-day is this;
She must awake to bliss—-to bliss,
And leave the pillow she prest.
And O! my lover draws near—draws near—
I see his eager speed;
He will soon be here—he will soon be here,
He and his snowy steed;
Haste, thou dear, thou lovely boy—
Haste my hope, my love, my joy,
Hasten to claim thy dear.
My heart is glad—my heart is gay,
It springs like a lark above;
O day of delight—delightful day,
Which gives me all my love.
I had many a fear—my fears are gone,
I shall not journey—journey alone,
An orphaned virgin's way.
Když sem gá šel skrz les.
The maidens were there—and that oat-grass were mowing;
And I call'd to those maidens—"Now say if there be
The maiden I love 'midst the maidens I see."
And they sighed as they answered, “ Ah! no! alas! no,
She was laid in the bed of the tomb long ago."
"Then show me the way where my footsteps must tread,
To reach that dark chamber where slumbers the dead."
"The path is before thee—her grave will be known,
By the rosemary wreathes her companions have strown."
"And where is the church—and the churchyard—whose heaps
Will point out the bed where the blessed one sleeps?"
So straight to the church-yard in sadness I drew,
But I saw no fresh heap, and no grave that was new.
I turned—a new grave slowly rose at my feet,
And my heart froze all o'er with a damp icy sweat.
And I heard a low voice—but it audibly said,
"Disturb not—disturb not the sleep of the dead.
Who treads on my bosom—what footsteps have swept
The dew from the bed where the weary one slept?"
"My maiden! my maiden! so speak not to me,
My presents were once not unwelcome to thee."
"Thy presents were welcome—yet none could I save,
Not one could I bring to the stores of the grave!
"Go thou to my mother—and bid her restore
Every gift to thy hands which I valued before,
Then fling the gold ring in the depth of the sea,
And eternity's peace shall be given to me.
And sink that white kerchief deep, deep in the wave,
That my head may repose undisturbed in the grave."
Of this remarkable production two versions are given by Čelakowsky, i. p. 4, and iii. p. 16.
Přes ty pusté lesy.
Far, far art thou removed, my love,
Far, far away! Ye rocks divide!
Ye vales! be level as a plain;
Fall down, ye woods, my love that hide,
And let me see her face again—
And bless me with one living glance,
Of that enrapturing countenance.
W kralohradě na zahradě.
Blooms a roselet fair and bright,
See, it has been sprinkled over
With repeated dews of night.
In the kingly palace garden,
See the bud that rose-tree bears;
Twice—my lovely maid—at even,
Twice—hath bath'd it with her tears.
In the kingly palace garden,
There we poured our last adieu!
And behind that lovely rose-tree,
Gave our parting kisses too.
Když sem šel skrz dubowy les.
Within the oaken-grove—
And near me grew, as morning woke
A rosemary-tree above.
I gathered many a rosemary-branch,
And twin'd them in a wreath,
And threw it in the flowing stream—
The fresh cool stream beneath.
And said, whoe'er this wreath shall see,
And save it from the tide,
That maiden shall my mistress be,
That maiden be my bride.
And morning came—and many a maid
Her pitcher went to fill,
They watch'd the verdant rosemary-wreath
That floated on the rill.Ludmila saw the flowers, and stretch'd
Her hand to grasp the wreath,
Poor dove! she fell-the stream roll'd on—
'Twas silence all—and death.
And thrice, and thrice the funeral bell
Toll'd with a heavy tone:—
And tell mel—ye, who know so well,
What mortal soul is gone?
"It is thy maiden—'tis thy joy—
See, 'midst that mist of gloom,
They fit her shroud—four black-rob'd men,
They lower her in her tomb."
O God belov'd! and dost thou take
My maiden in thy wrath!
Sweet bird of mercy! to her grave,
O, show me now the path.Behind that mountain—in yon aisle,
A choir of priests outpour
Hymns—and five paces from the church,
The green-sod wraps her o'er.
Then let me mourn, and let me weep—
And to her grave I’ll go—
And there eternal watches keep,
Communing with my woe.
And then my eye shall shed- dark tears,
Till they are clos’d in death,
And time shall hang upon my bier
That fatal rosemary-wreath.
Gak gsau tu cestičku.
Our footsteps have trod o'er
The path of the mountain,
The messengers rode o'er;
Rapidly, rapidly on:
They brought from my maiden
A message of sweetness:
They brought it in fleetness,
From her I won.
From morning's first waking,
To slumbers of even,
Till frown'd the arch'd heaven,
Mantled in cloudiest gloom;
They came o'er the water;
They brought me sweet kisses,
From beauty's own daughter,
In all her bloom.
When o'er the green hillock
The flowrets we blended,
Maiden, we twin'd them for thee.
And, O! could I whisper,
Sweet maiden! and dearest,
O say, if thou hearest,
How dear to me!
Pase owčák, pase owce.
Bending tow'rds the fertile vallies,
Passing near the birchwood tree—
And a hat of green has he.'Neath an oak, his path commanding,
Were two smiling maidens standing:
"God be with you!" said the swain;
And they laugh'd, and laugh'd again.
One was white as dovelet flying,
With the snows of winter vying:
And the other twitter'd there
Like a swallow in the air.
"Come, young shepherd! we will take thee
To the mountain; we will make thee
Love's own couch; thy flocks shall stray—
And what matter?—where they may."
So they seized him—so they led him
To the mountain; there to wed him ;
Flocks and fold—and where are they?
Canst thou tell the-shepherd? Nay!
Rozbořené staré .
Maiden's song for the dead.
The very towers that time destroys,
Time may rebuild as built before;
But ruins of departed joys—
These can be rear'd to joy no more.
The forests which the axe hath laid
In dust, may spring to life anew;
But—have the dying or the dead
A germ which spring can waken too?
My love is wrapp'd in mortal clay—
But were a granite bed his own,
With mine own nails I'd dig my way,
Through even the hardest granite-stone.
Death Song of the Horseman.
So beautiful, whose ray
Has led me thro' the night—
Has lighted all my way.
And thou, most fair of all,
The first—the morning star,
At whose awakening call,
I sought my love afar.
Thou moon, in clouds bedight,
So distantly above,
Thou bringest to my sight
My pure and distant love.My father oft to me,
While yet ,an infant, said:—
"Poor boy! his lot will be
To fare on bitter bread."
My mother o'er me sigh'd,
And said—"Poor child! for him,
Life's cup will be supplied
From parch'd and scanty stream."
And oft my brother's tongue
Said—"Luckless boy! take heed,
For, O! thou hast been flung
Upon a sorry steed."
My sister too replied—
All love, all kindness she:
"The sabre at his side
Hangs not becomingly."
My friends cried.—"O, beware,
And ne'er to battle go:
For pain and death are there,
Thou may'st not meet a foe."I went to battle—met
A foe—and now I die:
To her I worshipped—yet
I turn my dying eye.
I sit upon my tomb,
My friends are far away:
And ere they know my doom,
The worm will seize its prey.
Then grave a grave for me,
Within yon grassy wood,
For there my love shall be,
In evening's solitude.
O! if that angel hie
With gentlest greetings there
I ask no tear—no sigh—
But one—one hallowed prayer.
Bylatě stezička šlassana.
She weeps—she weeps—how bitterly!
And lo! her lover passes by,
With proud and with reproachful eye.
"O come, on Sabbath morn to me,
And I will wreathe a wreath for thee."
Morn came—he came not to the maid,
And then the flowery wheath decay'd.
The rain rush'd-down—the flowrets died,
Because the youth his vow belied.
O I saw it shine,
I will pluck the floweret,
And it shall be mine.No! it was no floweret,
'Twas my cherish'd one—
And he shone so brightly,
For with love he shone.
Husička diwoká letěla z wysoka.
Drank the fresh water of our fountain.
Drank the fresh stream and left the troubled:
My thoughts of love for thee were doubled.
My thoughts for thee—for thee, my lover!
All else I pass regardless over.
Fain would I wed—but they impede me;
And say—that love to want will lead me.
To want and woe—no bread—no baking—
No gathering hay—no harvest-making.
That want shall waste—and labor fag me—
And by my hair my husband-drag me,
My spirit is tending
To thee, my beloved,
And only to thee!
I see her returning,
And fearing and mourning,
That never—O! never,
Her youth shall she see.
The moon is departed;
I fly, eager-hearted,
That no one may ravish
My maiden from me.
Ye doves! that are plighted—
Ye clouds! by heaven lighted,
Watch over my maiden,
My advocates be!
Za tjm našjm dworem.
Two oaks that spread their branches green,
Their verdant heads uprear:
But have you seen, those trees between,
A maid, with eyes of dazzling sheen,
Waxing in beauty there?
O, silly boy!—such dreams dismiss—
List to my counsel—list—though this
Is counsel hard to bear—
Love's poison is—the bane of bliss—
There's canker in its sweetest kiss,
And paleness and despair.
One hour, and only one,
I wandered with my love;
We wander'd, and alone
We wander'd thro' the grove—
And now—sweet maid! farewell,
God's blessing be thine own!
The heav'n has many a star,
In such a night as this is;
But all, when couhted, are
Far fewer than thy kisses;
They are not—nor shall be,
While time is time—to me
So bright as thou, by far.There's many a temple high,
That towers above the plain—
But oftener times have I
On thy soft bosom lain,
Than all those temples number'd:
I'll slumber where I've slumber'd,
Till earth is whelm'd again.
Která ge panenka stydliwá.
The modest youth—but ah! she knows
He saw her—and she hurries by,
Deep-blushing like a scarlet rose.
O, silly youth—are you afraid.
And could you not your thoughts disguise?
For when you pass'd the blushing maid,
You pull'd your klobuk o'er your eyes.
Ach holka, holka.
Thou hast black eyes:
Will they deceive me,
Will they despise?
"No! were they blacker,
Never would they,
Crows gather acorns
On the oak-tree;
God alone knoweth
Whose she shall be.
Whose but mine—she swore
Mine to be of yore;
'Twas behind our dwelling, she
Swore it 'neath the greenwood tree,
Mine alone to be!Come—be the meadows
Love's vernal scene—
And I will buy thee
Garments of green.
Which thou shalt wear
Short and becoming—
Speed we, my fair!
Speed we o'er mountain,
Valley, and hill—
Our nuptial music
Shall be a rill.
And the green-turf, love,
Our bed of down;
There will we slumber,
Thou—thou mine own!
The last verse is not in Čelakowsky's printed collection: he has had the kindness to supply it in MS. It is this:
Na tey budem spati
A se milowati
Když sem plawal přes moře.
I bathed me in the open sea,
A nightingale flew by,
Dropp'd a red-rose leaf over me,
And, singing, sought the sky.
I seized it with a wondering thought,
And found—O bliss! O bliss !—
The little blushing rose-leaf brought
My maiden's virgin kiss.Alas! fond dream! that maid is dead—
The gard'ner plucks a rose,
And pluck'd—it fades, it hangs its head,
And pale and paler grows.
I pluck'd a rose—that rose I plac'd
Upon my breast—the gem,
My eager breast a moment grac'd,
Then sunk upon its stem.
Kdes holubičko blaudila.
Thy wings are weary—thy plumes are wet—
Whence, wanderer! dost thou come?
"All over the seas I sought my love,
And I am hasting—hasting yet,
To our own—our mountain home."
Má zlatá stezičko uzaučká.
So lovely once—so hateful now—
O why, while wandering, wandering here,
Do grief and gloom my spirits bow?
I totter o'er that narrow way,
Where erst I tripp'd so lightly on;
My lover's steed was wont to stray,
In these green fields—but he is gone.
With what intensity of bliss,
I hail'd the smiling earth and sky;
Scenes! that were then all blessedness,
Why turn'd to desolation? why?
The flowers have droop'd—the light is fled;
The fruit hath fallen from the tree;
The wreath I wrought to bind his head,
The stream hath wafted to the sea.
The last verse is not in Čelakowsky's printed collection: he has been so kind as to communicate it in MS.
Co gsem ti dala!
"Trhal gsém u řeky ořechy,
Ona mně uplowála."
Panjmámo gede k nám.
He comes in his splendid car;
A feather behind his hat has he—
Like an emperor from the war.
O see he has taken the feather'd pen,
He has opened an unwrit scroll:
Will he write my name—which again and again,
He has written on his soul?
While the art of writing was possessed by few, the accomplishment was deemed by the many a special mark of distinction.
W zeleném hágečku.
Two lovers seek the wood together,
For shelter—when a mighty bough,
Riven by the fierce and stormy weather,
Falls—and they both are corpses now.
'Tis well! their-fate is bliss—far sweeter
That both should die—than one remain
To mourn—a solitary creature—
Thro' wearying, wasting years in vain.
Což se mně, má milá, hezká zdáš.
When the bride has entered the wedding-car, a small flag is waved over her, and the women sing,
More beautiful yet at the altar will be:
"Then take me, dear youth!
O take me, and. see
My beauty shall brighten in love and in truth.O take me—O take me—thy bride shall become
The guardian—the mother—the charm of thy home;
Will rise with the morn,
Give the cattle their corn,
And the spindle my hands shall for ever adorn."
Žito žito, žitečko!
Who shall harvest thee?
For my lover lingers far—
Will not come to me.
Blade of wheat! thou golden blade,
Who shall bind thee round?
For my lover lingers far—
Where shall he be found?
Mother! mother! mother mine!
Changeful is my heart,
Cleanse, O mother mine, away
All its fickle part.On my feet my slippers seem,
Made of beauty lead—
Mother, mother, mother mine!
I would hide my head.
Young and radiant oak-tree, why,
Young and verdant oak?
Why dost turn on me—on me
Such an angry look?
"Nay! no angry look on thee
Turn l—yet I may
Mourn thou art so fickle—maid!
So the people say."
Tell a weeper, dost thou weep?
Dost thou weep o'er woes and fears—
Golden sparks should be thy tears,
If alive to sympathy.Star of melancholy mourn,
Light for me thy midnight urn;
If some wield-sorrow swept
By thee—often hast thou wept,
Mournful starlet ! weep with me!
Když gsem šel od mily.
I left my maiden to repair
With other maids to morning-prayer
And as I pass'd, the cuckow spoke,
From the green oak:
"O thou my golden, golden dove!"
"Stretch out thy hand, my love."
Mother! look round thee,
Round thee and see,
All the youths struggling,
Struggling for me.Fierce is the struggle,
Eager and wild:
Does thy heart gladden?
I am thy child!
And who shall tell
The tides of grief that in our bosoms swell?
Yes! we must part,
And grief's worst smart
Asks—Has he—has he a forgetful heart?
For that were woe,
Peace to o'erwhelm—and hope to overthrow.
O why oppress,
O why distress
My soul—by breathing of—forgetfulness?'Tis a light thought,
By coldness taught;
A foolish fancy—that betokeneth nought.
There's many an eye
Where is their wonted gladness fled—and why?
Where is it gone,
Thou blessed one!
Flown o'er those hills—beyond those forests flown.
I scatter'd tares—
I gather'd cares,
And all the noisome weeds the fetid morass bears.
The earth whirls on:
I stand alone,
Stretch out my hand in-vain—and vainly grieve and groan.
Powěz ty mně, hwězdičko má.
Art thou gloomy—art thou gay?
Art thou gloomy—O be bright—
Pour on me thy streams of light!
Pour thy streams of light on me,
And awaken memory.
Gak žiwa gsem na buku .
I never on a beechen tree, perceiv'd an acorn grow—
Did ever youth desert a maid to wed a widow? No!
O look upon that maiden's cheeks so rosy, fresh, and fair,
And see the widow dragging on, in solitary care.I never knew a juniper that flourish'd on the mead—
Did ever maid desert a youth, a widower to wed;
Look on that youth's all-healthy cheeks, so rosy, fresh, and fair,
And see the widower dragging on his solitary care.
Pase w zelenem hágečku.
The shepherdess within a sunny grove,
In the black wood, a shepherd—watch'd their sheep,
"O come to me, sweet love!
Come hither! thou shalt keep
Joy in my bosom treasur'd deep."
Wyšlo slunjčko za horau.
When the sun soars yon mountain above,
That at even sunk brightly below,
And my eyes meet the smiles of my love,
What raptures my heart overflow!Where my lover abides, I abide,
When absent, I summon him near;
When far, to hispresence I glide,
For him all my jewels I wear.
Does he seek the green vale—does he lead
His charger to graze and to rest?
I gather the grass for his steed,
The freshest and greenest best.
At evening with him I retreat
To the pear-tree, and gathering there
The corn-ears, he binds round the wheat,
Till labour hath brighten'd his hair.
Gold is that heart of thine:
My lover is coming on faithful steed,
Make ready the chamber, make ready the hall,
They must be swept and garnish'd all;
And he shall find a welcome indeed.
Mother! sweet mother mine!
Gold is that heart of thine:
Go forth, my mother, the youth to meet,
I will make ready the chambers and ball-—
Yes! I will sweep and garnish them all,
And we will give him a welcome sweet.
Mother! sweet mother mine!
Gold is that heart of thine;
My love is fording the running water;
I see him threading the narrow way—
He hastens hither—O misery—nay!
He has taken the path to the Rychtar's daughter.
Gdi ma milá.
You say that beauty is a rose,
And you are right—I cannot doubt it;
Show me the garden where it grows,
And I will never be without it.
I'll pluck it every day—and be
Fresh as the buds the dews drop over,
A never-fading flower to thee—
Be thou to me—a faithful lover.
Na Tureckém pomezj.
A watchman hath one child alone,
O God! O God! what bliss 'twould be,
If I could call that girl mine own.I sent a letter to the maid,
And sent a ring—"The ring is thine;
So give me, sweet, thy love," I said,
"And leave thy father's house for mine."
The letter reach'd the maid, she ran,
And placed it in her father's hand:
"Read, O my father! if thou can,
And make thy daughter understand."
Her father read it—not a word
He said—but sigh'd—as he arose—
"O Lord of mercy! righteous Lord!"
What heavy: heavy sighs were those.
"My golden father! tell me why
Such sighs—such sadness—never pain
Heav'd from the breast a heavier sigh—
What did that wretched sheet contain?""Sweet daughter, I have cause to groan,
When misery on my heart is pil'd;
A turk demands thee for his own—
He asks thy father for his child."
"My golden father! give me not—
O, if thou love me—do not so!
I will not leave thy watchman's cot—
Nay! with the turk I dare not go.
"I tell thee what I'll do—I'll make
A coffin, where I will be laid,
And there my seeming rest I'll take,
And thou shalt say—The maid is dead."
And so she did—the moslem o'er
The threshold sprung—"Ill-fated maid!
O God of mercy and of power!
The maid is dead! the maid is dead."
The mourning turk his 'kerchief drew,
And wip'd his wet; and weeging eyes:
And hast thou left me—left me too—
My precious pearl—my gemlike prize?"
He bought himself a mourning dress,
A dress of rosy taffety—
"Why hast thou left me in distress—
Of flowers the sweetest flower to me."
He bid the death-bells loudly toll
From every Turkish mosk—and ye
Might hear the heavy grave-song roll
From Turkey even to Moldawy.
The turk sped homeward—and the maid
Her coffin left—for purer air:
"Now God be with thee, turk!" she said,
And truth was in the maiden's prayer.
gsem šla gedenkrát přes hágeček.
Alas! they stray:
I met a sportsman on the way.
The sun shines out in warmth above;
Ah! warm above:
My heart it blossoms forth in love.
And there we sit till eve draws near;
Ah! eve draws near—
The sportsman shoots a wandering deer.
It is no deer—it is a doe;
Alas! a doe—
O maiden! thou hast planted woe.Time flies—and soon the grass is mown;
Alas! 'tis mown—
Would I had ne'er that sportsman known!
She wash'd the linen by the stream;
Alas! the stream:
And bitterly upbraided him.
Before I met that sportsman there;
Alas! 'twas there—
I was a rose—all pure and fair.
Beauty and purity are gone;
Alas! are gone—
He is gone too—the faithless one!
He to another breast hath crept;
Alas! hath crept—
And then the maiden wept and wept.
Ah! go not to the grove, ye fair;
Alas! ye fair—
For ye may meet a sportsman there.
Pod wašjmi okny.
Pursues its calm course;
Then come my beloved,
And water my horse.
"Nay! nay!" said the maid,
"I am but a poor child,
And I am afraid."
There grows near your window,
A green olive tree!
And let me, sweet maiden!
Partake it with thee.
"Nay! nay!" said the maid
"I’m but a poor child,
And I am afraid."
There blooms near your window,
How many a rose!
And why art thou mourning
Thy premature woes?
"I mourn not! O no!
Yet sweet 'twere to me,
Could my eyelids o'erflow."
Why hang down your eyelids,
As if lull'd in sleep,
Your mother more caution
Desires you to keep.
Child thou art to blame—
Retire thee, retire!
The neighbour's cry "shame."
"O no! my gold-mother,
Of shame do not tell—
I said to my lover
Farewell! and farewell!"
She broke the pledg'd vow,
Their hearts were both rent,
He unsheaths his sword now."
Kdyby se tatjnek newadil.
I'd frankly own that I was walking
With one—whom he could not discover—
Frown he or not—it was my lover.
And if my father would not scold me,
I'd tell him what my lover told me;
And what he gave—a secret this is—
Scold he or not—'twas love's sweet kisses.
And if my father would not wonder
I'd tear the secret's veil asunder—
Wonder or not—my lover made me
A sweet and solemn vow to wed me.He vow'd—sincere and eager-hearted—
E'en while he kiss'd me as we parted,
With thee he would not leave me longer,
But claim me when the wheat is stronger!
Nenj tak matička dbalá.
Thy love thine infant daughter nurst;
Sweet songs that infant daughter heard—
Another babe is now preferr'd.
When I was weak and young and small,
O! thou wert love and kindness all;
Now if a youth but speak to me,
I hear reproachful words from thee.Reproach me not—my mother, now!
But let me take the marriage vow—
At love's soft name my bosom sighs,
And love is bursting from mine eyes.
Gá gsem Češka hezaunká.
Blue eyed; fair and airy;
Would you know my name? my name
Is no name but Mary.
What's to you if I have fled,
Fled to love's embraces,
Eaten hips of eglantine,
Slept in thorny places.What's to you, if I allow
Youths of love to chatter;
Let them rattle at my door,
Surely 'tis no matter!
I will marry—wherefore talk—
Wherefore talk, my mother;
Am I yet a year too young?
Must I wait another?
No! I'm young—and I am fair—
Gay—blue-eyed and airy—
Would you know the maiden's name,
Sir! her name is Mary!
Co ten ptáček štěbetá.
Upon the oaken tree?
"The maid a lover hath," I heard,
"And yet so pale is she"False bird! thou liest—speak the truth,
Or hide in shame thy head—
For though 'tis true I love a youth,
I am not pale, but red.
False bird thou liest—I will go
And stop thy chattering wholly;
A gun across my shoulder throw,
And shoot thee for thy folly.
Žala u lesjcku.
There came a knight on knightly steed—
It was no knight—no knight, in truth,
It was her own beloved youth.
Green is the lovely rosemary,
Sweet maiden! glad and joyful be!
From war's alarms thy youth shall rest:
Why sink thine eyes upon thy breast?Be green thou flowret of the tomb—
O wretched is the maiden's doom.
Three years I waited—lingering on—
He came not; when three years were gone."
What didst thou here, sweet maiden! say,
Didst come t' weep for one away?
And did thy blooming roses fade,
When distance threw me the shade?
What did I?—Nothing—but despair;
Sigh'd with the breezes of the air;
Wept with the melancholy dew—
Love from the maiden's bosom flew—
I am betroth'd—and wedded too."
And a dog and cat;
Stony bread, and blunted knife,
Thoughtful husband—wicked wife—
When such blessings dwell together,
Tell me, man of patience, whether
Patience tolerates that.
The winds are against the windows dashing;
Come, maiden! whose eyes with light are flashing,
Come to the window, and look at heaven!
No! not on a day so dark as this is—
No! not to the window—sweet maiden of blisses—
But come to the door, and give me two kisses,
And I will give thee seven.
An ever-busy creature,
Is gaiety and gladness all,
Through every freak of nature:
The morn-light—eve-light hear her sing,
With all heaven's smiles upon her—
And we've one hand our glass to swing,
And one for her we honor—
So while the lark is joyous, we
May pass existence joyously.
Upon the garden tree—
And who shall gather thee, sweet maiden!
O, who shall gather thee.
I cannot reach so high, sweet maiden!
I cannot reach so high—
Will distance love's delusions deaden?
Farewell!—I go—I'll try.
- To the intercourse with this city Dobrowsky attributes the existence of the words torg and torv, in swedish and danish, for market—it is a word of pure Slavonic root.
- The apprehension that heresy would clothe itself in slavonian garments seems to have been constantly present to the church of Rome. It would indeed have been a dangerous experiment to have allowed polemical writings in languages which at Rome could find, probably, no interpreters. In the eleventh century, the monk of Sazawa talks of "per Sclauonicas literas hæresis secta hypocrisisque aperte irretitos ac omnino peruersos"—and Pope Gregory VII. in 1830, urgently counselsI Wratislaw against the imprudence of employing slavonians in religious services.
- On this occasion they confounded "Sclavonica lingua" and "Gothicæ literæ," deeming them identical. A foreigner was a goth—a goth an arian—an arian an undoubted child of perdition—and thus passion whetted its weapons upon ignorance, and attacked fiercely and blindly whatever it mistrusted.
- Dobrowsky thinks it likely that this hymn is only a translation of one heard in Hungary, and introduced into Bohemia by Adalbert. Hajek says, that Adalbert brought it from Rome ready written on parchment, and with sundry explanatory notes attached.
- P. 50—See also Hormayer's Vienna Archives for 1826.
- Krok is a literary Bohemian periodical, edited by Dr. J. S. Prest, of Prague, and frequently containing interesting and erudite dissertations on the language and writings of Bohemia.
- vsělikỳ —all life—omnis creatura.
- This poem is given in the Starobylá Skládánie. i. 200. There are a few errors in that copy. Line 5, instead of na přiekře stogiessi, should be na skaalye stogiessi; line 6, for po strak read postrack, line 14, for po hladeček read pochla dček; line 27, snabženstuiem read snabzenstviem.
- i. e. Manuscripts of the Queen’s court.
- It is very remarkable that an English name should occur in this ancient and spiritied ballad.
- This is the universal style of the old slavonian poetry.
"It is the snow on the hills—No! it is no snow on the hills; It is the tent of Hassan."
"Look at the oak tree upon the plain—how green and strong—O no! it is no oak tree—it is a young and mighty warrior."
- Wsie drsieyhi luczki sczech—laučka (modern diminutive of lauč, a splinter or chip of pine-wood used instead of candles in the north of Europe.
- See Script. Rer. Bohem. II. Prague, 1784.
- Geschichte der Böh. Litt. 93. Ed. 1792.
- Among the prose compositions of this period, I cannot refrain from mentioning a bohemian translation, the Travels of Sir John Mandeville. It was made in 1445 by Laurentius from the german version. This Laurentius, was a sort of lord of the bed-chamber to Wenceslaw.—Balbín also translated a chronicle of the Roman Emperors from the latin, and a Dream-book (Snár'), of which there are several MS. copies.
- Since the above was written, the industrious and successful Hanka has discovered a MS. containing the rest of the poem. And his researches have had other grateful recompense. He has found an ancient MS. containing a collection of pieces in prose and verse, the most remarkable of the latter, being Wăda Wody s Winem, or the dispute between water and wine. Hanka informs me he has also had the good fortune to fall on in latin etymological lexicon composed by Solomon, bishop of Constance, who died in 920. The MS. was written in A. D. 1102, and contains more than fourteen hundred bohemian, and five hundred teutonic glosses; the bohemian throws much light on the slavonian mythology. Hanka means to publish this work. It is to be hoped, that no impediment will be thrown in his way, which one cannot but fear, from the arbitrary suppression of the fifth volume of his collection. It is not much to allow that those who have no hopes for the future, may be permitted to indulge in the memories of the past; else it had been better that these MSS. should still have slept in the darkness of a temporary obscurity, than have been disinterred by learned industry in order to be delivered over by timidity or tyranny to eternal oblivion.
- I give a fac simile of the hand-writing of John Hus, from a MS. existing at Prague.
- From Tabor, a Turkish and Magyar word, meaning—a field, a camp. There is a town and a mountain so called in Bohemia. The word is frequently used as synonymous with Hussite.
- A bohemian proverb—"Že podlé dobrého pána, Dobrá gjzda býwá"—it is good to ride under a good Lord.
- Tristram Weliký Rek-báseň hrdinská, xiii. weku wydaná od Wáclawa Hanky. , 1820.
- Latinská . A common bohemian phrase for apothecary.
- Sátky z nás opršely—Our clothes rain from us—i. e. they fall of in rags.
- Effigies virorum eruditorum atque artiﬁcium Bohemiæ et Moraviæ, 1773, 1783. Auctores Voigt, Born, at Pelzel.
- F. Prochaska de sæcularibus liberalium artium in Bohemia et Moravia fatis commentarius. Pragæ, 1782.
- It was republished in 1588, and spin in 1643.
- A tři kopy —And three three-score groats. This expression is evidence of the antiquity of this song, as this manner of counting has been obsolete in Bohemia for two centuries at least.
In measure and manner this song resembles the servian Kralitze, or song of the queen, of which some account will be found in Vuk's Servian Dictionary (art. Kralitze.) The bohemians have not so many of these national compositions as the servian's, nor have they preserved those slavonian habits, which remoteness from european influences has left untouched among the latter. The peculiarities which characterise a sect or people must be sought where civilization, or intercourse with other nations, has not yet amalgamated or destroyed their individuality. But these songs in praise of her who becomes the chosen queen of the village, are common among all the slavonian tribes. We have our drawing for king and queen on twelfth night, but there is no antique poetry, that I recollect, to adorn the sport.
- Konjček zlámal nožičku—literally, the steed broke his foot.
- The bohemians and moravians have also the , an r pronounced with the assistance of the tongue and the teeth;
- For a very curious paper on the subject, see Krok.
- Že budu mjt chlapce—youth—lad—boy.
- Potěšuj—a term of great endearment.
- dřjmota—slumber—from dremota(Russ).
- Orig. Liduska—diminutive of Ludmila—bohemian tutelar saint—formerly Lidunka and Lidka.
- přjkrow—the black cloth which covet: the bier.
- The bohemian word šwjtořiti, conveys admirably the sound of the swallow.
- Literally, "I would [make my way] to him with my nails through the hard rock."
- The slavonians frequently employ imagery of this sort as an introduction to their poetry.
- Gen se mu bleyskaly wlásky—till his hair shines.
- za tau rychtárowic. The Rychtar (german Richter) is the village magistrate.
- Můg zlatý pantáto:—the common slavonian term of endearment.
- Rose—the colour of the musselmans' mourning.
- Hrana.—The mark of reverence paid to the dead. For three days after their decease, the bells are tolled unceassingly from twelve to one o'clock.
- Do Moldawy—Moldavia.
- Tenkrát mé srdéčko láskau kwetlo—Then my heart flowered in love (amore florebat).
- i. e. He is gone to the wars.
- Kdyby gen tatjnek nebrankal—Brankati—a gentle scolding, not of ill—nature and anger, but rather of reproach. It is derived from the crookling of doves.
- Hoch—a word meaning equally youth, and lover.
- Gen až pšenička se wymeta—When the barbs shoot from the ears of corn.
- Hageg děwčátko maličký.—Hageg is the expression used by nurses as they rock the cradle.
- Šjpek—the red hips of the wild rose.
- The rosemary is the nuptial plant—and is introduced as the symbol of marriage.
This pretty, simple song has never been published. M. Čelakowsky sends it to me in MS.—one of the countless courtesies for which I have to thank him.