The Hussite Wars/John Žižka

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APPENDIX I

JOHN ŽIŽKA

By Lenau

Trocnov’s forest peaceful lay,
Bathed in fading sunset’s glow;
E’en the treetops lay as still
As their roots deep down below.

Lost in thought a horseman neared,
On his arm reins loosely wound,
Pacing slowly, dreamily
Sinks his steed’s head t’ward the ground.

Suddenly the rider halts;
As from dreamland he awoke,
Leapt his blade from out its sheath,
Haileth thus an ancient oak:

Here at this oak’s gnarled trunk,
On a stormy thunder night,
By sharp birth-pains overta’en
Mother brought me forth to light.

Heard alone the wood her groans,
Midwife was the bitter blast,
That as blessings on the child
Lightning flashes round it cast.

’Gainst all dangers meant to brace me
For a warrior’s hardy doom;
Merciless the cold hail beat on
Moaning mother’s pain-torn womb.

Storm the first breath that I drew,
Thunderclap first caught my ear;
Hence a storm-bred suckling, I
Plunge now on my wild career.

Hus! beneath this oak I swear
Vengeance on thy death, for lo,
Hus, the earth soon crimson-red
With thy torturers’ blood shall flow.

Hus, so freely from their wounds
Shall their blood stream forth therewhile,
That it could a hundredfold
Quench at once thy blazing pile.

Hus, the soil shall turn as black
As their smouldering forts, and I,
Wheresoe’er a priest be found
I will slay him, he shall die!

From the dense smoke-laden clouds
Shall the eye of God grow dim,
That they could commit such crime
In the very sight of Him!

Quenchless, Hus; within my breast
Burns a spark from thy death-pyre;
As their crime, so my revenge—
They shall dread my righteous ire.

O Bohemia! Wilt thou list
To the oath I swear thee now?
Will my greenwood birthplace hear
This my solemn, sacred vow?

Soul and body here I tend
Freely for thy cause, until
Death o’ertakes me, list, Bohemia!
Stand thou still, my steed, stand still.