Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/104

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Jiří Mařín: Parallel. Jiří Mařín:
Dedicated to Thos. G. Masaryk.

After the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620 when the revolt of the Czech nation was brutally suppressed by Ferdinand the Habsburg and which date marks the end of Bohemia’s independence, a terrible period of repression and agony ensued: executions, confiscations of property, expatriation and conversion to Catholicism by brutal force were numerous. The best Bohemians went into exile, amongst them also the great pedagogue, bishop of the Unity of Bohemian (Moravian) Brethren, John Amos Komensky (Comenius) who visited also England and entreated especially Axel of Oxenstjerna to include among the conditions of the peace of Westphalia the permission for Bohemian exiles to return home, but in vain. Komensky himself died in exile. The present fate of the Bohemian nation who with great difficulties awoke from a state of deadly agony to a new life, resembles the fateful period after the Battle of the White Mountain. For the Czechs and Slovaks it is again a question of extirpation by the Habsburgs and the Germans. And again a great Bohemian fled abroad, Thomas G. Masaryk, who is working for the salvation of his nation in exile. The poet wrote these verses while prisoner of war in Russia during the great Russian retreat. They are a clear proof of the indomitable faith of the Czecho-Slovaks in the victory of right and justice.

The poet’s real name is Ferdinand Písecký. He has just left this country to return to Russia, after delivering a course of lectures in the principal Bohemian settlements in the United States on the Russian revolution of which he was a witness.

It is one and the same,
Even as then,—three centuries agone:
Scattered the flock, in thousand decaying
On mountains, broad fields, fallen in alien service
Amid the fountain of life, already grown turbid,
Oozed loathsome, corroding venom
Wtih heady current, set astir by white hands
Of adept and wily hangmen.
Hangmen with smoothly shorn faces,
White-gloved hangmen
In a dazzling glaze of white linen,
From which glitters challengingly, white lustre, golden lustre;
Hangmen in gay-colored tunics,
With haughty clanking of spurs,
Hiding with gold their innermost emptiness;
Hangmen in black, brown, violet-hued raiment,
With shaven pates, with pampered bellies,
Even, even as three centuries agone.
Then was there gloom and never a star of salvation,
On all sides dead stillness, full of horror and dread.

And from this place of horror and of dying,
Fittingly called a seeming paradise,
There then went forth a good and peaceful shepherd,
Bearing at heart a flame of mighty love,
Bearing in spirit tears of all the flock,
And searching out for it another life.
Even as Moses craved to split the rock,
To find a spring amid the desert heat,
Wherein the wretched flock, unaided, dies . . .
O goest thou, good shepherd thou of souls,
Prophet severe, who scourgest from the temple
Base traffickers . . .