Bohemian Language And Literature. The word Bohemian is improperly applied to the principal nation of the western Slavs. The true name of the people is Czechs (Cechi, pronounced Tchekhi), from ceti, to begin, as they believe themselves to be the first of the family. The language is the harshest, strongest, most abounding in consonants, and at the same time the richest and most developed of the many dialects of the Slavic family, which itself is the northernmost relative of the Sanskrit, the culminating tongue of the Aryan stock. Nearest to the Czech are the Moravian and the Slovak of N. W. Hungary, both sub-dialects, and the Sorabo-Wendic of Lusatia, a cognate dialect. The southern and southwestern Slavs had obtained letters from Cyrillus who modified the Greek alphabet, and the Glagolitic characters, wrongly ascribed to St. Jerome, before the Latin mode of writing was adopted by the other branches of the family, in the form of the black letter, and recently in the Italian shape. In this language there are the five Italian vowels (both short and long - when long, marked by an accent), with an additional y (short and long), which is duller and heavier than %; one diphthong, ou (pronounced as in our); the pseudo-diphthongs of all the vowels with a closing y, and the diphthong e, pronounced ye.
B, d, f, k, l, m, n, p, v, sound as in English; but c is pronounced as if written ts in English; g before e, i, y, like y in yes; h harsher than in hen; r trembling and rolling, and not slurred over as in the English marsh, park; s always as in sap; t always as in tin; w like the English v; z always as in zeal. The following letters with the diacritic sign (v) are pronounced - c like English ch in chat; s like sh in shall; z like the French j, or the English zi in glazier; r like the Polish rz, almost like rzh, as much as possible in one utterance; d like the Magyar gy (dy in one utterance); t like the Magyar ty; n like the Italian gn in signorc, or Magyar ny. There is also a peculiar letter Z, with a cross bar as in Polish, having a heavy and dull sound unknown to the English. The letter x occurs only in foreign words. The combination ch is pronounced as in German, being the most strongly aspirated guttural sound; the trigramma sch represents two sounds, viz., s and ch, as in the German word Gldschen. Cz was formerly used for c, rz for v, and sz for s - The Czech language has no article, but has declinable demonstrative pronouns.
It has three genders, eight declensions, seven cases (nominative, genitive, dative, accusative, vocative, instrumental or so-ciative, and locative); three numbers (a dual only in nouns and pronouns); two kinds of adjectives, determinate and indeterminate; organic and periphrastic degrees of comparison; declinable numerals; six forms of the verb (with but one inflection), six modes (indicative, imperative, conjunctive, optative, conditional, and transgressive or participial). The passive voice and the future tenses are made by means of auxiliaries; but the terminations of persons and numbers are not less developed than in Greek and Latin. Great liberty in the sequence of words characterizes the syntax, which is analogous to the Greek and Latin. Metre predominates over the tones in the vocalism of words, so that the Czech language can vie with the Magyar in rendering Greek and Latin poetic rhythm. Great variety, force, and phonetic symbolism in the derivating affixes, enrich the language with a great number of expressions, and make up for its scantiness of metaphony. - Joseph Dobrovsky, the great Slavic linguist, divides the history of the Czech language and literature into six periods, commencing respectively with the following epochs: 1, the immigration of the Czechs; 2, their conversion to Christianity, A. D. 845; 3, King John of Luxemburg, 1310; 4, John Huss, who introduced a precise orthography, 1410; 5, the extension of printing, and the accession of Ferdinand I. of Hapsburg, 1526; 6, the battle at the White Mountain, and the expulsion of the non-Catholics, 1620. The discovery in 1817 of a part of the RnTcopis vralodkorsky (manuscript of Ko-niginhof), by Hanka, in a church steeple, brought to light a collection of 14 lyric and epic poems, alleged to have been written between the years 1290 and 1310, and superior to most of the contemporary productions of other European nations.
There are about 20 poetic and 50 prose works extant belonging to the epoch before Huss, such as Dalimil's chronicle in verse, of 1314; a song of 1346, on the battle of Crecy, where King John fell, and other historic legends; Thomas Stitny's book for his children, 1376; Baron Duba's judicial constitution of Bohemia, 1402; a politico-didactic poem, by S. Flaska of Richenburg; and various allegoric, dramatic, and elegiac compositions, besides translations of foreign works. Charles I. of Bohemia, known as Charles IV., emperor of Germany, founded in 1347 the Benedictine monastery of Emaus, in the Neu-Btadt of Prague, for monks who had fled hither from Croatia and in 1348 the university of Prague. John Huss revised the translation of the Bible, wrote tracts and hexameter poetry and gave a great impulse to the activity of the Czech mind. Notwithstanding the wholesale destruction of the Hussite writings, there yet remain, hidden in archives and libraries, many productions of the Calixtines, Taborites, Ho-rebites, Orphanites, and other Hussite sects, some of them by mechanics, peasants, and women. Many of these works were carried off by the Swedes, and are now in the library of Stockholm. Mere rhyming, however, prevailed over poetic inspiration in most of the verse of those times.
But the prose works of the 15th century, especially the state papers, are models of composition: concise, clear, and emphatic in style; so much so, that the Czech language was about to become a general means of civilization for all Slavs, and was even used in Lithuanian official documents. John Ziska, the leader of the Hussites (1419-'24), composed war songs, and a system of tactics for his troops. The work of Hayek de Hodetin, and especially that of Wenceslas Vlcek de Cenow, on Hussite strategy, are more important. The accounts of the travels of Albert Kostka de Postupitz to France (1464), of Leo de Ros-mital through Europe (1465), of the Bohemian Brother Martin Kabatnik in Asia Minor and Egypt (1491), of John de Lobkowitz to Palestine (1493), etc.; the spirited and elegant political work of Ctibor de Cimburg, the classic production of the same sort by V. C. de Wszehod, "The Art of Governing," and the great encyclopaedia of the canon Paul Zidek, with many works on economy, popular medicine, etc, are monuments of the Czech intellect in the latter half of the 15th century. After 1490 the kings ceased to reside in Bohemia, and German Catholics began to pour into the country.
Nevertheless, Czech literature attained its golden age between 1526 and 1620, especially under Rudolph (II. as emperor of Germany, 1576-1612), when the sciences and arts were zealously cultivated by all classes of society. Kepler (though a German) presided over the astronomic observatory at Prague, which then had two universities and 16 other literary institutions, including schools for females as well as males. The Czech tongue was now more developed even than the German, and was used in all transactions; in point of style the works of this period are inferior to those of earlier times, but the political and legal literature is superior to the rest. The following works are worthy of mention: George Streyc's psalms; Lomnicky's poems; Charles de Zerotin's memoirs and letters; Wenceslas Hayek de Liboczan's romantic chronicle of Bohemia; Barto's work on the religious troubles of 1524; Sixtus de Ottendorfs work on the diet of 1547; John Blahoslav's history of the Bohemian and Moravian brethren, perhaps wrongly ascribed to him; a universal history, now at Stockholm, by an anonymous author, but rich, clear, and trustworthy; genealogies and biographies by Brzezan; an excellent history by Veleslavin; the travels and fortunes of Ulric de Wlkanowa, Wenceslas Vratislas de Mitrowitz, and Christopher Harant de Polzitz, etc.
Matthew Benesovsky's glossololgy, and Abraham de Ginterrod's classic archaeology, are also memorable. There are several good works on judicial affairs and on religious subjects; for instance, that of Augusta, a bishop of the Bohemian Brethren. The translation of the Bible published by this society reached eight editions. It is in pure and elegant Czech, and was translated from the original in the castle of Kralitz in Moravia, by a society which Joseph Zerotin had collected and maintained there from 1579 to 1593. Count Slavata, one of the imperial Catholic party, who was thrown from a window of the castle of Prague by Count Thurn's associates in 1618, left a detailed documentary history of his times, in 15 vols, folio. That act of violence opened the thirty years' war, and brought about the sudden fall and decay of Czech civilization, which then sank to a low degree of debasement. The best men of the country perished by the sword and pestilence; others emigrated; German, Italian, Netherlandish, Spanish, and Irish adventurers took their place in all offices, dignities, and emoluments. Ferdinand II. imported Benedictines from Montserrat in 1624; and the Jesuits, escorted by the soldiery, ransacked every house for Bohemian books, burning all those published after 1414 as heretical.
This state of things lasted far into the 18th century. While it prevailed, many of the so-called Bohemian heretics and rebels Germanized their very names. The Jesuit Anton Konias, who died in 1760, boasted of having burnt 60,000 books. The exiles, however, continued to cherish their native literature, and printed several books in Poland, Saxony, Holland, etc. The Hungarian Protestant Slovaks did very much in preserving Bohemian letters. In Bohemia and Moravia there appeared but few works, among them Bezovsky's chronicle, the lays of Volney, and the hexameter essays of Rosa. John Amos Comenius, the last bishop of the Bohemian Brethren, wrote an Orbis Pieties in several languages, and although his Latinity is barbarous, his native style is pure, lively, and forcible. The Swedes, who were expelled from Bohemia in 1640, carried many literary treasures home, among others the AzbuMvidarium or Alpha-betum Slavorum, in Glagolitic characters, on parchment, now in the great book at Stockholm; also the Alphabetum Rutenum in Cyrillic characters. The empress Maria Theresa decreed, Dec. 6, 1774, the cessation of persecutions against the Protestants, and remodelled the system of education, introducing normal and other schools.
Joseph II. ordered that German should be the language in the high schools and in all public affairs. But, thanks to the exertions of Count Francis Kinsky, and of the historian Pelzel, the Czech language was introduced into the higher military institutions, and the sciences were freed from German trammels. The Czech culture soon rose from its long lethargy, and writers appeared in all branches of literature, among whom the following must be particularly mentioned: Pelzel, Prochazka, Kramerius, Parizek, an author of good school books, and Tomsa, a linguist. The father of modern Bohemian poetry was Anton Puchmayer, a clergyman (1795-1820), who was also well versed in Polish and Russian. He was followed by the brothers A. and T. Negedly, Rautenkranz, Stepniczka, Hnievkovsky, who was also a good prose writer, Svoboda, and especially Jungmann, and Chmelensky, a lyric poet. The higher classes, however, continued to be estranged from native letters until lately, although since 1776 a chair for the Czech language has existed even in the university of Vienna. Printing had been introduced into Bohemia in 1476, and Vrtatko lately even claimed a share in its invention in favor of Bohemia, on the ground that Gutenberg was originally from that country, and that the press was freely developed in it, without the aid of Germans. The above-mentioned discovery of Hanka, the introduction of the Czech tongue in the high schools, the efforts of the supreme burggraf Kolowrat in the foundation of a national museum (1822), and other favorable circumstances, have more recently produced a sudden rise of Bohemian literature.
We must be content with notices of its more prominent writers and productions. Schafarik and Pa-lacky first recommended the old metres in verse. A committee on the language was formed in the museum in 1831. Langer wrote lyric, didactic, and satiric poems; Roko, an epic; Holly, an epic, Svatopluk, and a "Cyrillo-Methodiad;" Kollar, elegies; Schneider, songs and popular ballads; Stiepanek, Klicpera, Ma-hacek, Vocel, and Turinsky, dramas. Opera libretti were produced by the last named, by Svoboda, and by Chmelensky. Prizes were offered for the best dramatic works, and a national theatre was founded by subscription. The foremost of the modern poets are Kollar, whose masterpiece is the Slmy dcera ("Daughter of Glory "), and the song-writer Celakov-sky. In tales the favorite author is Erben; and the songs and ballads of Schneider are in the mouths of all. Among the properly romantic poets we find Macha, Halek, Neruda, Fric, and Barak, most of them living. Czech fictitious literature is comparatively poor. We must also mention Jungmann's "History of Bohemian Literature," Schafarik's "History of Slavic Literature," and the latter's translations from Aristophanes, Schiller, Burger, and others.
A new scientific glossology was produced by Presl, professor and director of the cabinet, and author of many works on natural history. Palacky is at the head of the historical school, and is a writer on aesthetic and critical subjects. So was Schafarik, who also wrote an eminent work on " Slavic Antiquities" (3d ed., 1863-'4). Philosophy, theology, the natural sciences, and mathematics have found numerous votaries. Of late, owing to the liberty of the press and the all-absorbing nationality struggle, Czech literature has taken a more political turn, the periodical press being particularly active. Czech grammars and dictionaries are numerous, some of them, like the irorka of Dobrovsky, Celakovsky, and Jungniann, of great philological value.