The Soul Of A Century/Dreams of Palestine

The Soul Of A Century  (1943) 
Dreams of Palestine
by Svatopluk Čech, translated by Roderick Aldrich Ginsburg


Fond dreams of Palestine, land mythically strange,
From early childhood you have traced within my life
Your morning light, and your mystic shadows’ range,
The dread of your deserts and the joy of your fruit-trees rife.

Your distant shadows in my youngest days
Wove in my mind Bethlehem’s mystic star,
Within me, Jordan, your palm trees used to sway,
While your shrine, Jerusalem, shone brightly from afar.

Your peoples spirits gave my inner soul its cloak
Its own emotions, musing thought and fears
And with its tempting music there awoke,
Words to the harp-strings, strumming in my ears.

Like a foreign fragrance, heavy with fullness sweet,
It wafted me with the texture of its lore,
With its dreamy poesy, with sorrows’ pangs replete
In clouded dreams and fiery thought of yore.

Around me Jehovah rose with angered glares,
I heard the prophets’ voices that strangely shook,
On the Levite’s burdened backs, amidst trumpet blares
The covenant shone from the bloody brook.

I saw where Ruth once passed through the fields of grain
And on far Caramel’s, pleasant sloping side,
My fantasy wove on its charm again,
More beautiful than Solomon's cloak and pride.

Yon bluish lake, of biblical Simon’s fame
How you have pierced my soul, you distant height,
Where the Master wrapped himself with a blinding flame
And Golgotha trembled with a bloody fright.

Like a foreign bind-week that has been planted deep
About a homegrown bush, entwines its stem,
And weaves through blossoms that impertinently creep
On every side, to the bush-tops crowning hem.

Thus has the soul of Palestine from childhood days
Embraced us with its hundreds of varied chains
And slowly changed our beings and our ways,
Giving its imprint to our dreams and brains.

The Jewish tribe can proudly raise its head
Above all those who would besmear its birth
For with its soul, it slowly overspread
All men and slowly reached all points on Earth.

Our God, Our Saviour, the birth of man,
Our paradise, our Hell, our views of life,
Each thought with which, we would the unknown scan
Has parts at least of Hebrew faith and strife.

Thus I grew up with dreams of you, my Palestine,
But oft your foreign image crossed my thought
The glaring light of Suns that elsewhere shine
The breath of foreign races that you brought.

It seemed I felt a different blood in me
New, different thought, emotions, sentiment,
And differently, than where the palms grow past the sea
My scenes were colored by our blue-tinged firmament.

I oft was seized with a native stubborn pride
And tried to rid myself of foreign force,
And freely in my own way I had tried,
To see the world and seek the Unknown’s source.

To fashion my own God, in thoughts I oft would try,
Not like the Semites saw him long ago,
But as I sensed him with my inner I
And as I saw him, when the skies were set aglow.

But all in vain, to sever all of the ties
That grew so closely with every childhood day
Ere you’re awoke, around your forehead flies
Another cloud of Jordan’s birds of prey.

For thousands of years you have darkened Europe’s air,
Discoloring our darkest days it seems . . .
Will there come a day, when you will leave for e’er
Man’s darkened brows, Palestine’s ancient dreams?

 This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.


This work was published before January 1, 1928, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States (or the United Nations Headquarters in New York subject to Section 7 of the United States Headquarters Agreement) between 1928 and 1977 (inclusive) without a copyright notice.

The longest-living author of this work died in 1987, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 35 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.