Page:A Book of Czech Verse.pdf/15

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INTRODUCTION

Across the face of Central Europe, in generation after generation, there have passed the feet of marching men. Sometimes they have come, moving through on their way East or West, and have left behind them a trail of charred ruin: sometimes they have stayed to impose their rule. On these occasions they have invariably found themselves opposed by a national resistance which drew strength and inspiration from the cultural traditions of the linguistic group. Thus the invaders have come to attack these traditions, to burn the books which expressed them, and to repress the language in which they were written.

During the systematic persecution which followed the battle of the White Mountain the Czech language was reduced to the status of a dialect fit only for lesser breeds, and unworthy to be the vehicle of literary expression. But throughout that century and a half of darkness, the cultural heritage of the past was handed down from generation to generation, the mother teaching to her child the songs of the people, and fostering a love for the language and the soil of the homeland. Thus, when some measure of freedom returned, like the spring after the long Bohemian winter, the influence of the folk song was a major factor in the literary revival of the eighteenth century, and its influence has continued up to the present day. Not only did writers like Čelakovský and Erben compose in the style and idiom of folk poetry, but, from the bitter outpourings of the

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