2625298Songs of the Slav — Preface1919


Although the Czecho-Slovaks have a great literature, particularly rich in poetry, but very little has been introduced to the American public. This has perhaps been due mainly to the fact that the Czechs did not possess their independence and consequently were considered an insignificant nation submerged within the shadows of the former Austro-Hungarian empire. Since the World War has resulted in liberating oppressed nationalities, and Czecho-Slovakia has again regained her ancient independence, undoubtedly a greater opportunity will be offered to learn more about the language and literature of that liberty loving people.

As is usually the case with a nation held in subjugation, so with the Czecho-Slovaks, their poets kept alive the national spirit until their liberation. The purpose of this little volume is not only to present a few specimens of Czecho-Slovak poetry, but also to show how Czecho-Slovak poets kept the fires of Liberty” burning, while awaiting “dawn’s redemptory glow.” For, in the words of Jablonský,–

Ask thou what's more beautiful,–
Hither lay thy right hand:
Tis the heart, beloved son,
Beating for native land.”

Of the poets herein represented, Jan Kollár, the Slovak poet, is known as the poet of Pan-Slavism. Vítězslav Hálek was the forerunner of the modern school of poets, instilling idealism and enthusiasm into the then newly resurrected national life. Svatopluk Čech has the distinction of being the most popular of all the Czech poets. Petr Bezruč, “first bard of Bezkyd, and the last,” is the Mountain Poet of (Lower) Silesia. Blowing into a “dying flame,” he has kept alive the Czech national spirit of that region against the combined efforts of the Germans and the Poles. J. S. Machar is the leading poet of Czecho-Slovakia in the present day.