Dienstag Dictung XXXVI; Jarní Noc - Extended Edition!

Noc tiše zpívala, šum prvních zelení a jarních vod
byl její melancholické písně doprovod;
ve výši hvězdy, světelné kalichy nesmírné,
dýchaly těžkou vůni nadzemských vegatací,
a ruce bratří mých, jak při smrti na prsou zkřížené,
ležely tiché a zklamané a jako kámen stížené,
zlomeny przací.

Však jejich ruce duchové k hvězdám se rozpjaly,
miliony duší na zemi a ve všech světech objaly
dlouhý oddech radostných procitnutí,
sváteční vření věčnáho města,
duchových křídel šumění, hra větrů v mystickém osení,
orchestrů neviditelných zapění,
zdvihló se v taktu jejich tajuplného gesta.

--Otakar Březina

Spring Night

Night softly sang, murmur of early grass and springtide rains

Mingled its music with melancholy of her strains;
On high the stars, radiant calyces unbounded
Breathed heavy scent of herbage unknown to earthly soul,
And my bretheren’s hands, crossed as in death upon their breast,
Lay in stillness and delusion like unto a stone oppressed,
Smitten with toil.

But their spirit-hands to reach unto the stars were braced,
Myriad souls upon the earth and in all worlds they enlaced
And a long sigh of joyous awakenings,
A deathless town’s solemn throes,
Rustling of spirit-wongs, winds at play in mystical seedling-ground,
Unseen orchestras’ intoning sound,
Moving in tune with their secret gesture arose.
Jessica mentioned that it might be fruitful to have a bit of commentary for Dienstag Dictung. It pulls together a lot of things that I find wonderful and sharing is caring.

I found Spring Night here, in a 1920 collection called Modern Czech Poetry. The author, Paul Selver, describes Otakar's seclusion in the wilderness of Moravia (reminds me of C. Ives) and his similarities to W. Whitman. Otakar Březina is the pen-name of Václav Jebavý (1868-1929), a Czech symbolist poet. His works show the influence of scientific discoveries on the one hand and Catholic, medieval mystics on the other, always with that rural separation from "modern" society.

This poem is enigmatic. Enigmas intrigue me. There are voluptuous strings of nouns (oh, yeah, calyces is the plural of calyx, which is something "cup-like", especially the shape of something on your pelvis and kidneys. ?), perfumed whiffs of pantheistic nature, Czech nationalism. The force of the poem descends to winter, to toil and oppressed stone. The hope of spring comes with the second stanza, all the words rise, or promise to rise. My Czech is not good. I know how to say what my name is and ask "How are you?". I am very grateful for their regular pronunciation system, and with that I can piece together this poem. Being a symbolist, the sounds most likely have a meaning of their own. It is a beautiful, consonant rich, Slavic tongue.

Vítěslav Karel Mašek (1865-1927) was an art nouveau Czech painter. His painting The Prophetess Libuše depicts a mythical Czech matriarch (along the same lines as King Arthur to the English) who founded Prague and began the Přemyslid dynasty which dates back before the 800s. Bedřich Smetana's opera Libuše (performed in Prague in 1881) gives another depiction of this nationalistic figure. 

This painting was a perfect fit for the poem. It's somber, night colors cover everything except the jewels and ornaments of her apparel. She is a symbol, a metaphor, a goddess rather than a person. She promises growth with her outstretched branch of peace, a "secret gesture" of solemn significance.

For more in this line of thought, czech out Leoš Janáček's (1854-1928) On an Overgrown Path for piano or Bohuslav Martinů's (1890-1959) excellent oratorio The Epic of Gilgamesh

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Dienstag Dictung Extended Edition!

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