Page:The Bohemian Review, vol1, 1917.djvu/82

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right to govern itself, but was silenced by force, a race that could point to a splendid past and not much else. Tyrš believed that a nation manifesting so much vitality after centuries of oppression had a right to live; but their right must be defended and enforced, and for that more was needed than pride of the past. “Not the most glorious history,” says Tyrš, “but active and energetic present is a guarantee of the nation’s future.”

In order to maintain the individuality of the Bohemian nation, situated as it is in the heart of Europe, almost surrounded by the German flood storming successfully the frontier mountains in Bohemia, it was necessary that every individual member of the Czech people should labor intensively for the upbuilding of national wealth and culture. “The smaller the nation, the greater

Ženíšek 84. Dr. Miroslav Tyrš
Ženíšek 84. Dr. Miroslav Tyrš

activity it must develop to make up for the paucity of numbers.” In other words, what Tyrš desired to teach his people, is analogous to the doctrine that in modern years America dignified into the science of efficiency, and which in the industrial and military realm at least Germany practiced so successfully as to enable it to withstand attacks of greatly superior numbers. Not that Tyrš had in mind anything like the German apotheosis of the state and its crowned ruler through the complete submergence of the individual. On the contrary, he taught that every true, patriotic Bohemian must build up his own individuality so that his life work might be of high quality.

But the distinguishing characteristic of Tyrš and the Sokol organization founded by him is the emphasis put on the physical development of man as the primary postulate for the survival both of the individual and the nation. His inspiration Tyrš found in ancient Greece. He saw vividly the classical Hellas in its greatest days, its gymnasia for the boys and its national games for the athletes, through which the Greek man gained physical wellbeing and beauty of form and which had close connection with his unequalled appreciation of beauty in nature and its reproduction in art and literature. Tyrš was convinced, too, that it was this strenuous training of body which enabled Greek soldiers to conquer barbarian hosts and maintain the freedom of Hellas against overwhelming odds.

These were the views that Dr. Miroslav Tyrš embodied in the Sokol organization. In an incredibly short time the Sokols became the favorites of the Bohemian nation. Their society was by universal consent made the principal institution of the nation; their red shirts and brown uniforms graced every popular fete and ceremonial function; their halls became the centers of social life in the cities and towns of Bohemia, and their picked teams brought home prizes from athletic meets in all parts of Europe. Too much prosperity is dangerous; and Tyrš, who for many years guided the course of the Sokols, took steps to prevent the degeneration of the national army into a uniformed corps good only for ornamental purposes. Due to his wisdom and energy the Sokol movement was identified definitely and irrevocably with the well-equipped gymnasium, and the physical well-being and the discipline acquired there made of Sokols leaders in the great fight which Bohemia has had to wage without ceasing for freedom and self-preservation.

Originally the Sokol membership consisted principally of young men who were best qualified to take part in the strenuous discipline of body required by the organization. But since the Sokols stood from the very beginning for unselfish labor in behalf of the nation, they soon broadened out the scope of their activities. Boys, particularly at the age when they were leaving school, trade apprentices and factory youths, who had heretofore been left entirely without proper recreation and attractive meeting places, were adopted by the first organization of the nation. Today every Sokol Union, in America as well as in Bohemia, considers it a part of its duty to conduct classes in physical training for boys and youths and instill in them during their most plastic period the ideals of manliness, self-reliance, discipline and patriotism.

Women, too, have been taken into the ranks of the Sokols. If a sound body is necessary to the man, so that he might enjoy a wholesome life and be of value to his