2011 | 59 | 4 | 501-528
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Máchova báseň Čech

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This article is a discussion of the poem Čech by Karel Hynek Mácha (1810–1836), which is concerned with the mythical arrival of the Czechs to their new settlements in the Bohemian basin. For early nineteenth ‑century culture this was a highly important theme with many cultural and ideological implications and contexts. The supposedly peaceful arrival of the Czechs in a deserted land appeared particularly important. In the spirit of Herder’s ideas the non-belligerent, passive nature of the Slavs appeared thus to be confirmed. Czech national culture sought to oppose this image and in several variants created the motif of the victorious battles of ‘occupation’ of the Czechs. The most radical versions even represented the mythical Czechs as victors over the roman legions – these interpretations were clearly inspired by the German legend of Arminius (Hermann) and his struggle against the legions of Publius Quinctilius Varus in the Teutoburg Forest. Mácha strips the matter of the arrival of the Czechs of external contexts. He does not specify even the nature of the enemy or the area from which the ancestral Czechs allegedly came to the Bohemia. Instead, he limits himself to a depiction of the height of the victorious battle. Three texts, highly prestigious at that time, were an inspiration to him: the Rukopis královédvorský, the poems of Ossian in Czech translation, and the Iliad of Homer. The inspirations that Mácha found here, however, he combined into a relatively sophisticated, artistically demanding form. This is particularly evident in the form and manner of using verse of this kind. Because of its artistic quality, the poem Čech, which some experts considered a later forgery, turns out really to be Mácha’s work. It can reasonably be situated in the later period of the poet’s work. This chronology also demonstrates an essential feature of Mácha’s works, in which different elements of literature (particularly patriotic and subjective elements) existed side by side. The common denominator is the author’s endeavour radically to make aesthetic motifs that were common in the period, and to create an exceptionally artistic form.
  • Česká literatura, redakce, Ústav pro českou literaturu AV ČR, v.v.i., Na Florenci 3, 110 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic
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