Prose from Poetry Magazine

Bohemian Poetry

by Ezra Pound
An Anthology of Modern Bohemian Poetry, translated by P. Selver (Henry J. Drane, London).

This is a good anthology of modem Bohemian poetry, accurately translated into bad and sometimes even ridiculous English. Great credit is due the young trans-lator for his care in research and selection. The faults of his style, though deplorable, are not such as to obscure the force and beauty of his originals.

One is glad to be thus thoroughly assured that con-temporary Bohemia has a literature in verse, sensitive to the outer world and yet national. Mr. Selver's greatest revelation is Petr Bezruc, poet of the mines.

The poetry of Brezina, Soya and Vrchlicky is inter-esting, but Bezruc's Songs of Silesia have the strength of a voice coming de profundis.


A hundred years in silence I dwelt in the pit,
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
The dust of the coal has settled upon my eyes—
. . . . . . . . . . . . .
Bread with coal is the fruit that my toiling bore;—-


That is the temper of it. Palaces grow by the Danube nourished by his blood. He goes from labor to labor, he rebels, he hears a voice mocking:

I should find my senses and go to the mine once more—-


And in another powerful invective:

I am the first who arose of the people of Teschen.
             . . . . . . . . . . . . .
They follow the stranger's plough, the slaves fare downwards.


He thanks God he is not in the place of the oppressor, and ends:

Thus 'twas done. The Lord wills it. Night sank o'er my people.
Our doom was sealed when the night had passed;
In the night I prayed to the Demon of Vengeance,
The first Beskydian bard and the last.


This poet is distinctly worth knowing. He is the truth where our "red-bloods" and magazine socialists are usually a rather boresome pose.

As Mr. Selver has tried to make his anthology repre-sentative of all the qualities and tendencies of con-temporary Bohemian work it is not to be supposed that they are all of the mettle of Bezruc.

One hears with deep regret that Vrchlicky is just dead, after a life of unceasing activity. He has been a prime mover in the revival of the Czech nationality and literature. He has given them, besides his own work, an almost unbelievable number of translations from the foreign classics, Dante, Schiller, Leopardi. For the rest I must refer the reader to Mr. Selver's introduction.
Originally Published: October 30, 2005

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This prose originally appeared in the November 1912 issue of Poetry magazine

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 Ezra  Pound

Biography

Of all the major literary figures in the twentieth century, Ezra Pound has been one of the most controversial; he has also been one of modern poetry's most important contributors. In an introduction to the Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot declared that Pound "is more responsible for the twentieth-century revolution in poetry than is any other individual." Four decades later, Donald Hall reaffirmed in remarks collected . . .

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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