Page:A Book of Czech Verse.pdf/53

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J. Neruda (1834–1891)

THE BALLAD OF CHARLES IV

King Charles, with Bushek of Vilhart,
Sat down beside an oaken board.
Together many a cup they’d drunk
And many a hearty wassail roared.
Come set out cups of gold, good page,”
In merry mood proclaims the king,
And pour out wine—nay fuller yet,
Today, Bushek, thou’lt see a thing.”

Hear me, Bushek, on these grapes
Last year our sun of home did shine.
Come, raise your glass and drink today
Of this, the first Bohemian wine.”
They drank—the king in fury spat.
I called it wine? This bitter froth!
This killing stuff! It twists the mouth.”
And down he dashed his hand in wrath.

I bring here vines from Burgundy,”
In rising anger spoke the king,
And from Bohemia’s noble land
I see such bitter wormwood spring.
For sure I’d tartest aloes reap
If I should sweetest peaches sow,
And here, if one would roses plant,
Hollow mockery would grow.”

 

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