Czech Baroque Literature

CZECH BAROQUE LITERATURE [Draft] | back | next

Various factors led to a weakening in the status of Czech in 17th-century public life. The Habsburg re-Catholicising of the Bohemian lands caused the emigration of educated Protestants who refused to convert - slightly over half of the estates changed hands, the decline of the gentry was hastened, and some 150,000 people went into exile. (See R. J. W. Evans, The Making of the Habsburg Monarchy 1550-1700, 1979, p. 201, etc.) The Thirty Years' War brought impoverishment of towns and peasantry and there was also a privileging of the use of German in public administration (though Czech remained in official use, especially locally). This weakening in the status of Czech became all the more apparent in the 18th century, when university education also turned from Latin to German.

Czech remained by far the majority language, however, and much valuable Czech literature was printed, including fine sermons and lyrical poetry, inspired by the revived spiritual and stylistic values of 17th-century Roman Catholicism.

On the other hand, all publications were subject to church censorship and copies of many "heretical" books were diligently sought out and destroyed.

The stylistic term Baroque is most familiar when applied to painting and sculpture, architecture and music of the 17th to 18th century - in Bohemia, amongst many other practitioners, the architects Christoph Dientzenhofer (1625-1722, of Bavarian family) and his son Kilian Ignaz (1689-1751), the Tyrol-born sculptor Matthias Braun (1684-1738), or the composer František Xaver Brixi (1732-71). It is also applied analogously to literature - as a love for bold emotive and sensual effects, the shaping of heightened drama and emotive response, working through contrast and paradox, a love of light playful ornament, and colourful natural detail, but also overwhelming mass and space, daring figures of speech and creation of illusion, suggesting movement in the static, expressing "God through this world", i.e. the spiritual, mystic and transcendental by the material, even coarse, and physical. (Not every literary work will fit all or even most of these definitions, but usually one finds some affinity.)

The Czech emigrés went mainly to Germany and Poland, also to Slovakia (i.e. Upper Hungary, where Roman Catholicism was not enforced). Jiří Třanovský (Tranoscius) from Těšín settled in Slovakia, and his famous hymn-book (Levoča, 1636 etc.) reached over a hundred editions as the standard work for Slovak Protestants. Much exile writing naturally cast a backward eye at Czech history and the recent past, for example the works of the two main exile historians Pavel Stránský (Respublica Bohemiae, Leyden 1634, again 1643) and Pavel Skála ze Zhoře (manuscripts of Chronologie církevní and Historie církevní). The main centre of the Unity of Brethren was Leszno in Poland, where the most famous of them, Jan Amos Comenius (Komenský) (1592-1670) went.

Born in eastern Moravia near Uherský Brod (probably in Nivnice, though the family name comes from the nearby village of Komňa), son of a prosperous peasant, Komenský attended Brethren schools in Strážnice and at sixteen Přerov, widened his horizons by study in the Protestant German universities of Herborn and Heidelberg, and first of all took charge of the Přerov school, then became a church official in Fulnek, and finally last Bishop of the Unity of Brethren. After the Protestant defeat in 1620 he had to flee from Fulnek, losing his library and property. Soon after his wife and two children died in an epidemic, and after living in concealment in various places, he left for exile in Leszno in 1628. He spent 1641-2 in England, where his cause was adopted by Puritans, and translations of his works had begun to appear in the 1630s. Failing to secure his plans in England, Komenský accepted an invitation to Sweden (1642-8), where he settled in Swedish Prussian Elbing. (He met Descartes en route in Holland.) In 1648 he returned to Leszno, now Bishop of his church. Later he went to Hungary (working under the Calvinist prince in Sárospatak, 1650-54). After Catholic troops set fire to his house in Leszno, destroying much of his property, he went to Holland, where he is buried in the Huguenot cemetery in Naarden. Comenius' life-work came to be the "reform of human affairs" as he put it, especially a new vision of education for all. Komenský's Latin works on the importance and methods of universal education (e.g. Didaktika magna, 1657), school text-books (Janua linguarum and the visual textbook Orbis pictus, which impressed young Goethe) and works propagating spiritual, moral and social reforms, linked with his programme to enable a full adult comprehension of the divine order of things - "pansophy" in his terms, the intellectual ordering of knowledge (Pansophiae diatyposis, Via lucis) were known throughout Europe. His church revived in Saxony in the early 18th century as the Moravian Brethren and influenced Methodist thinking. His chief devotional and imaginative writing was in Czech, including his early Listové do nebe, and consolatory works reflecting his state of mind after the burning of Fulnek and loss of his family (two parts of Truchlivý and O sirobě), the meditative Centrum securitatis (Hlubina bezpečnosti), but above all his classic Czech-language work of allegorical fiction The Labyrinth of the World and Paradise of the Heart (1623, printed 1631, again in Amsterdam 1663). The author appears as a pilgrim who rejects a priori views of the world, wishes to see the ways of the world for himself, and finds the life around him a monstrous chaotic labyrinth in which human beings absurdly delude themselves, enslave and mistreat each other, striving after worthless possessions and impossible worldly happiness and mastery over things. He is guided through this labyrinth, a city with its trades and professions, by Knowall-Ubiquitous (Všezvěd-Všudybud) and Deception (Mámení), who bridle him with the straps of Curiosity and the bit of Obstinacy, and place spectacles on him (fortunately crookedly) which are ground out of Illusion and framed with the horn of Habit. Paradise of the Heart is reached only when he returns into himself and the Christ within. Komenský's language combines the pithy with the ornate, concrete with abstract, expressivity of sound and rhythm with studied architecture of syntax, high elements and low. The text is full of caustic observations, e.g. on the institution of marriage, pretensions of philosophers and academic scholars, competition for political power. In verse Komenský was a strong advocate of using classical (quantitative) metre in Czech, regarding it as being on a superior level to rhymed verse (see O poezii české, c. 1623-6). This he attempted in metrical versions of the Psalms. He also contributed about one-fifth of the items in his hymnbook Kancionál (Amsterdam 1659) and composed a Czech version of the Song of Songs. Two other short Czech prose works are his Smutný hlas zaplášeného hněvem božím pastýře and the famous Kšaft umírající matky jednoty bratrské, in which the dying mother becomes a self-stylisation, in which he bequeaths to his flock and nation his aspirations for justice, peace, and truth, the cultivation of his language and the independence of his home country. It was written after the Peace of Westphalia which put an end to Protestant hopes of return.

While Protestant Czech publications in exile, mainly religious texts, were smuggled into Bohemia, the Catholics naturally published in Czech a much larger quantity of their own devotional writings. Their religious verse and prose was sometimes of outstanding stylistic power and quality.

On the one hand, in their zealous and successful missionary drive to Catholicise, these writers, often from the Jesuit and other religious orders, produced impressive work, powerful in its emotive rhetoric and lyricism. On the other hand, of course, publications regarded as heretical in their views were prevented and many older books were self-righteously destroyed in the process.

Several Catholic authors produced poetic work of outstanding quality. Among the first of these was Adam Michna z Otradovic (c. 1600-76), organist in Jindřichův Hradec, music composer (e.g. St. Wenceslas Mass, still performed, and others), and author of three collections of religious lyric poetry, with melodies, Česká marianská muzika (1647), Loutna česká (1653) and Svatoroční muzika (1661). He perhaps typifies the sunny side of Czech Baroque, expressing delight in nature and human life, using ornamentally lyrical, paratactic enumeration of features and details, Christian flower imagery (violet, rose, lily), the everyday domestication of spirituality and biblical story (the Holy family), partly through familiar colloquial language, diminutives etc. He is an emotive, stylistically adroit poet, using spiritual eroticism (sometimes expressed in terms of secular love), fanciful use of fashionable foreign (a la mode) terms, refined mingling of secular and spiritual language and imagery with various layers of significance, not least of all highly musical use of language.

Another true poet was the Jesuit missionary Bedřich Bridel (1619-80), a meditative and mystic philosophical artist, rediscovered for the reader in the 1930s by Josef Vašica. Nature for Bridel is a refuge from noisy human vanity, but also a fountain of two-fold poetic imagery, of divine great goodness, and human sinful evanescence. Some songs resemble Michna's in lyrical colour, but he shows a more cosmic dimension of mysticism, the apprehension of nature as bodying forth of the transcendent. His best known poem is What is God? man? Co Bůh? Člověk? (1659), rich in visual metaphor, oxymoron, and litanic music. "Thou art the chasm's base, top, I am the littlest droplet, Thou art the orb of the sun, I am its tiniest sparklet, Thou art very bloom's blossom, I am but midday's gossamer, To Thy dew's dew, Thy new world, I am a bubble at evening." Other works of by Bridel include the Christmas verses of Jesličky (1658), Stůl Páně (1659), and Život Sv. Ivana (1656, enlarged 1657).

A third significant figure is the Jesuit Felix Kadlinský (1613-75), whose Zdoroslavíček v kratochvilném hájičku postavený (1665, again 1726) is a complete paraphrasing translation and poetic reworking of the German Jesuit poet Friedrich von Spee's (1591-1635) Trutz-Nachtigal oder geistliches poetisch Lustwäldlein (1649), revolving around the theme of the love of Christ and of nature. The title means something like "Counter-Nightingale" or "Defy-Nightingale", the poetic expression of Christian love out-rivalling the song of the nightingale. Here the love of Christ is expressed in the yearning of the soul for her heavenly bridegroom, in the manner of the Song of Songs, using the terms of secular love lyric. Pastoral poetry is adapted, for example in the figure of the Good Shepherd searching for His beloved shepherdess, the soul. Love of Nature, the creation and mirror of God, corresponds to love of God. Spee's emotive blend of literary and simple folksong quality in the treatment of sophisticated themes comes across remarkably well, though comparison with Spee's original (by Škarka) shows up imperfections, losses of image and resonance, as well as fresh domestication of detail and original imagery. Translation and adaptation, as before, in the transference of Renaissance humanism, and later (for the Romantics, the Parnassists, and the 20th-century Avant-garde) proved a fruitful literary activity in the Czech Baroque, both in verse and in prose. Devotional verse in similar vein was produced by Jan Ignác Dlouhoveský (1638-1701) (e.g. Ager benedictionis. Požehnané pole, 1670; Zdoroslavíček na poli požehnaném, 1670, etc.). Eventually six of Kadlinský's pieces were adapted by minimal alteration into secular verse by Václav Thám in his late 18th-century anthology Básně v řeči vázané (1785, 1812). This forms a rather blatant example of stylistic continuity between the Baroque and the Revival.

Important Catholic hymnbooks had begun to appear before 1620, in competition with Protestant collections. Important examples include those compiled by Jiřík Hlohovský (Písně katolické, 1622), and Václav Holan Rovenský (Capella regia musicalia, 1693). Another widely-used hymnbook was that of Matěj Václav Šteyer (1630-1692), called Kancional český or Svatováclavský (1683, 1687, with later editions in 1697, 1712, 1727, 1764). Notable in the posthumous 1697 edition is the section "On the last things of Man", O Čtyřech posledních věcech člověka, adapted freely by an anonymous hand from German and Latin eschatological hymns, expanding on the Todtentanz of the German Jesuit Petr Franckh (1574-1602). The Czech version of four songs is reworked, has stronger folk elements, is more drastic in its humour, and omits the classical references. Amongst Šteyer's prose works we should also mention his influential version of J. Manni's La prigione eterno del' Inferno (Venice 1666, 40 editions by 1701), Věčný pekelný žalář (1676), with its vividly expressed drastic scenes which aroused the misguided disgust of literary historians last century (J. Jungmann: "nejhroznější ze všech knih Českých"; J. Jakubec, Jar. Vlček). Many works of devotional prose were translations, for examples works by Martin von Cochem (1634-1712), a German Capuchin who worked in Bohemia, and produced a remarkable huge theatrical semi-fictional biography-novel of Christ's life. His colleague Edilbert Petr Nymburský (d. 1705) was responsible for the Czech version, published first in 1698 (1137 pp.) and reprinted a number of times (1717, 1729, 1746, 1759, even 1857, 1876), under the title Veliký život Pána a Spasitele našeho Krista Ježíše. [This in turn was the model for Jan Nepomuk Groh's (Kroh's) (1730-86) work of the same name, published in 1779.] Another much reprinted work in Czech was Zlatý nebeklíč, Cochem's prayer book for women.

The secular literary verse of the Baroque era, which survives mostly in manuscript form, is usually stated with some justice to be less impressive, less lyrically resonant than the best of anonymous folksong. Love verse of the genteel at this time is typified by gallant a la mode vocabulary (the use of fashionable foreign Romance-origin words). A notable example of the genre is by Václav Jan Rosa (prob. 1620-1689, lawyer, grammarian and lexicographer), his long (3,272 lines) manuscript poem Discursus Lypirona, to jest smutného kavalíra, de amore aneb o lásce (1651, note the typical contemporary pairing of Latin and Czech terms in the title). The text is peppered, partly in a spirit of entertaining artifice, with words like kontent, afligýrovaný, suplikovat, molestýrovati, etc., evidently entering Czech via German usage (-ieren verbs). In his systematic grammar Čechořečnost (1672) Rosa played a little at being a purist, too, making up some fanciful long-winded native words, but here he cheerfully exploits foreign words of politesse: one senses a Baroque facetiousness in all this. Rosa also attempted a classical-metre poem, Pastýřské rozmlouvání o narození Páně, which he published in his grammar. Anonymous love verse related in style to Rosa's is found earlier in the manuscript Song-Book of Anna Vitanovská, Zpěvník Anny Vitanovské (1631), showing popular features as well as a la mode expressions, which had evidently filtered into genteel courtship usage from aristocratic circles (the nobility favoured French and Italian in their salons rather than German). It was the late 19th century before so many Romance words again entered poetic usage (esp. with the art-loving Decadents).

Other secular poems of the time are social-critical, satirical or less readily definable in their lyric themes, often showing a stylistic connection with the spiritual verse. Socially critical themes appear for example in the manuscript prayer verses Lamentatio Rusticana (1644) by the Utraquist turned Catholic teacher and choirmaster Václav František Kocmánek (1607 Čáslav - 1679 Prague), who laments the human sufferings and depredations of the Thirty Years' War. Here too there is Baroque stylistic shaping: the author ends each stanza with succeeding phrases from the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, etc., rhyming these with the previous lines and slotting them into the overall sense. The heavy burdens of peasant feudal labour are similarly the theme of Píseň českých sedlákův o jejich těžkostech (1680), a spiritual-secular song recorded in the Quodlibet collection of Evermod Jiří Košetický (1639-1700). Somewhat closely related in its emotive diction to the spiritually erotic songs is another late 17th-century poem collected by Košetický entitled "On a hind" (De cerva: Ó Diano, v čem jsem já tě, zarmoucená mátě, tak k hněvu popudila? anonymous, 1694), one of a group on hunting themes (also e.g. O drozdu, O koroptvičce, O křepelce; De cerva is printed by Kalista). Another genre is the drinking song, e.g. Holla, holla, veseli buďme in the same collection, simpler and more popular in character, yet still literary in flavour (with foreign words etc.)

The most colloquial language is to be found in the drastic accounts of murders and other crimes provided by witnesses in legal records of interrogations, e.g. Černé knihy práva loveckého na hradě Buchlově (for the years 1562-1654); or Kniha svědomí (Liber testimonium) 1594-1605, Louny. It shows how close contemporary spoken Czech was in word order, syntax, etc. to modern usage, closer than the often very Latinate style of educated prose writers.

Grammatical writing is represented most notably by Václav Jan Rosa's already mentioned Čechořečnost seu Grammatica linguae Bohemicae (1672), a perfectly sound work which has been much maligned for Rosa's elaborate Baroque neologisms. The dictionaries of this period include Komenský's Thesaurus, lost, some of the material from which was used in Rosa's Czech-German Thesaurus linguae bohemicae, which likewise remained in manuscript. A printed dictionary was the trilingual work by Kašpar Vusín, first published in 1700.

Local Catholic scholars continued to profess a strong devotion to Bohemia's national history, and ecclesiastical and learned traditions. They wrote much of their material, often strongly patriotic in tone, in Latin, opposing ignorant foreign attitudes which sniffed dangerous heresy in any older Czech-language writing. Sometimes they sailed rather too close to the wind for some establishment sensitivities. A leading example is the patriotic historian Bohuslav Balbín (1621-88), whose Epitome historica rerum Bohemicarum (1669, printed 1677), was initially banned, perhaps for reminding of Bohemia's one-time elective monarchy. Transferred from Prague to Klatovy, Balbín subsequently wrote here his famous unpublished defence of Czech language culture, originally titled De regni Bohemiae felici quondam nunc calamitoso statu ac praecipue de Bohemicae seu Slavicae linguae in Bohemia authoritate deque eius abolendo impiis consiliis aliisque rebus huc spectantibus brevis et accurata tractatio. It was only printed in 1775 by F. M. Pelcl (under the title Dissertatio apologetica pro lingua Slavonica, praecipue Bohemica). Balbín's other important works include the multi-volume encyclopaedic historical geography of Bohemia Miscellanea historica Bohemiae (1679-1687, further volumes published later) as well as a literary and rhetorical treatise Verisimilia humaniorum disciplinarum (1666, again 1687, 1701).

Other patriotic historians were Tomáš Pešina z Čechorodu, Dean of St. Vitus, who specialised in Moravian history (Prodromus Moravographiae, to jest předchůdce Moravopisu, 1663, and, in Latin, Mars Moravicus, 1677), and later the Moravian priest Jan Jiří Středovský, who wrote on the Slavonic mission of Constantine and Methodius in Sacra Moraviae historia (1710). Czech-language historiography continued with some works on local history, Jan Kořínek's Staré paměti kutnohorské (1675) and Jan Florián Hammerschmidt's Historie klatovská (1699), as well as a reworking by Jan František Beckovský's of Hájek's chronicle, Poselkyně starých příběhův českých (1700), drawn on later for an anonymous popularising compilation Země dobrá, to jest země Česká (1754).

Drama was a favourite entertainment for the general populace. In yards of inns or farms various seasonal plays were performed and dramatised legends of saints (e.g. o Dorotě, o Barboře, o Jiřím). The Rakovník Christmas play, by Jan Libertin (1654-1732), dating from the 1680s, is a well-known example. (Marxist critics have liked to note the scene in which three shepherds dispute with the three kings about who Jesus was born for, the rich or the poor: the answer of course is that all are equal in the sight of the Lord, who is king and shepherd, will make the poor spiritually rich, throw down the proud from their throne, and who desires all to be pure in heart.) Kocmánek is another 17th-century author of Czech biblical plays (Actus pobožný o Narození Syna Božího) and some burlesque comic dramatic interludes: Intermedium kratochvilné o sedlském hňupu, ... o ženě sedlské, ... o krobiáních.... a kind of derivative of Italian commedia dell'arte, the simple peasant, the scolding wife, the charlatan doctor, the madman, etc. Not only Revival dramatists, but also modern avant-garde producers such as E.F.Burian in 1938-9 have drawn on this popular theatrical material.


The early to mid eighteenth century is stronger in the literary qualities of its religious prose than in the production of notable poetry. The Catholic devotional verse tradition remained active, of course. There were new editions of Šteyer's hymnbook, also the collections of the Jesuit missionary Antonín Koniáš (Cytara Nového zákona, 1727) and Jan Josef Božan (Slavíček rájský, 1719), who was financed by Franz Anton Graf von Sporck, a lavish patron of the arts and opera, also remembered for his "Bonrepos book" (1720) with its anonymous Czech verses on repentance and mortality.

Antonín Koniáš, also an author of sermons, became a notorious mythic figure for later literary historians with his list of condemned heretical books Clavis Haeresim claudens et aperiens. Klíč kacířské bludy. . zamýkajicí (1729 and 1749), a local counterpart to the Papal Index, followed by Index Bohemicorum librorum prohibitorum (1770), but about this time the church lost its hold on censorship. (Jesuit control was lost in 1759, the last Jesuit left the new Censorship Commission in 1764, and the Society of Jesus itself was suppressed by Papal bull in 1773, and not renewed until 1814,)

The religious prose tradition remained strong in the 18th century. The Catholic publishing fund Svatováclavské dědictví, founded in 1669 by Šteyer, had printed the important St Wenceslas Czech Catholic Bible (Svatováclavská bible) in 1677-1715. The most lively cultivated Czech prose is to be found in abundant Catholic sermons and related devotional literature. Significant authors include Daniel Nitsch (1651-1709, Berla královská Jezu Krista, 1709), Bernard Jestřábský (Vidění rozličné sedláčka sprostného, prob. 1716), Bohumír Hynek Josef Bilovský (1659-1725, sermons mainly 1720-24: Cantator cygnus... to jest Hlas duchovní labutě, 1720, Doctrina Christiana... Křesťanské cvičení, 1721, Pia quadragesima... to jest První postní rozvažování, 1721, Coelum vivum... Nebe svatosvaté, 1724; also author of a verse legendary composition on Jan Sarkander, a local priest-martyr of 1620, Církevní cherubín anebo... Jan Sarkander, 1703), František Matouš Krum (d. 1733, Pastorella betlemská, 1722, Candidus et rubicundus, 1723), the Franciscan Damascenus Marek (Trojí chléb nebeský, 1727), Ondřej František de Waldt (1683-1752, Chválořeč neb kázání na některé svátky, 1736), Antonín Jarolím Dvořák (Divotvorné vítězství medotekoucího učitele a claravallenskýho oppata svatého Bernarda nad hrůzoplnou smrtí, 1743), Tomáš Xaverius Laštovka (1688-1746/7, Čtvrtý Článek víry katolické, Trnava 1748), etc. Bilovský has been singled out in his sympathy for peasant interests (but that is a general feature: concern for the morals and well-being of the flock, e.g. against drinking, fornication, etc.). These sermons often contain entertaining anecdotes; they also use colourful language, combining elaborate, even Latinate rhetoric with colloquialisms and even striking vulgarisms, exploiting poetic sound effects, word play, altogether piling on the expressive devices - though a later sermon writer like Laštovka can adopt a cooler, more measured idiom, colloquial word order, and a more relaxed and straightforward literary syntax. The intimate relationship between the emotiveness of the Baroque sermon and the spiritual lyrics is self-evident.

Sophisticated literary or genteel Czech secular verse remained a virtually absent quantity in print, and one must assume it was not really practised. The aristocracy read French and Italian and was not interested, and the bilingual middle-class drift towards spoken German did not encourage its production either. The many printed pedlars' songs, however, telling of loves, misdeeds, horrors, executions, etc., mixed elements of literary and popular oral style, and themselves influenced the coming generation of Revival versifiers (e.g. Šebestián Hněvkovský). Manuscript works include the verses of circa 1700 called "Satire on the Four Estates" (Satira na čtyři stavy, almost 9,000 lines long, in dialogue form) and some later "Verses on gingerbread-making" (Verše o perníkářství, e.g. Píseň pernikářů, 1744). The work of some rural autodidacts also belongs in this miscellaneous category, such as the verse of the sheep-farming authors Václav and Lukáš Volný, printed in 1710, while those of Lukáš's son Jiří remained in manuscript until 1822. Another verse author was the Kojetín teacher Jan Tomáš Kuzník (1716-86), who wrote in dialect, though educated. František Jan Vavák (1741-1816), peasant mayor of Milčice in the Poděbrady area and author of notable memoirs, Paměti (1770-1816), is really a figure of the Revival period, but we might note the Baroque genre "Peasants' Lord's Prayer" (Pater noster rusticorum Otčenáš sedlákův) which he recorded in 1775.

Related to the pedlar songs in their audience were books of popular reading matter, pedlars' songs, etc., often undated. Stories such as o Mageloně, o Meluzině, Jenovefě etc. had Czech versions before 1620 but were more widely read later. An early 18th-century book of this kind is Fortunatus, material from which was used by Kramerius in his Revival work Zdeněk ze Zásmuku.

Other areas in which early to mid 18th-century Czech-language publications exist include medicine (human - for midwives, Heinrich von Crantz, translated by Fr. Kyrchner, Výborné naučení pro báby, a jiné při porodích pomáhající osoby, 1756, another translation by Josef Zlobický is Vedení k pravému, a dokonalému babímu umění, 1772, - and veterinary (on the care of horses, Lékařství koňská, 1718, a version of Meister Albrecht, Arzneibüchlein der Rosse), also mathematics, Gruntovní počátek mathematického umění, 1734, - and land surveying, Petr Kašpar Světecký, Prý hrubě vážený, nyní ale zavržený, neboližto reformirovaný falešné zemoměření, 1738. Another landmark was the first regular newspaper, the Rosenmüllers' Český postilion neboližto Noviny české (Sobotní/Outerní pražské poštovské noviny), published from 1719 up to 1772 (surviving sets of volumes are few and incomplete).

Reliable grammars were produced by Václav Jandit (Grammatica linguae Boemicae, 1704, reprinted in 1705, 1715, 1732, 1739, and 1753), and the Slovák Pavel Doležal (Grammatica Slauo-Bohemica, Pressburg, 1746). Scholars have liked to remind us however of the eccentric and malformed neologisms of Jan Václav Pohl, ill-qualified teacher of Czech at the Vienna military academy (Gramatika Česká oder die böhmische Sprachkunst, 1756, Pravopisnost řeči čechské, ředlně založená, též i důkazmi obráněná, 1786) and Maxmilián Šimek (Handbuch für einen Lehrer der böhmischen Literatur, 1785).

Latin drama continued to be practised by the schools, alongside more popularly conceived works in Czech. The Jesuit college in Prague had performed dramas almost every year from 1560, as did other colleges, in Krumlov, etc. The most fertile Latin dramatist was the Jesuit Karel Kolčava (1656- 1717), who was known abroad and published a set of 23 Latin school plays Exercitationes dramaticae (1703-5), e.g. Tyrannis triumphans et triumphata seu Anglia, vol. 2, on the English War of the Roses. Theatre was also practised by the nobility, for example Johann Adam von Questenberg in Jaroměřice in Moravia, and Franz Anton Count Sporck (1662-1738), already mentioned, the sculptor Matthias Braun's patron, who had an Italian opera company which performed in Prague and his Baroque centre of Kuks from 1724.

Popular musical plays were also performed, such as the Brno dialect song-plays (e.g. Pergamotéka or o Landeborkovi, both pre-1750). Familiar European material was performed in the puppet theatre, attended by adults, as shown by the repertoire, based on the figures of Faustus, Hercules, Don Juan ("Don Šajn"), Jenovefa etc. The oldest manuscript is from 1770: Strašlivý hodování neb Don Jean, mordýř svého pána bratra Don Carlos. National elements (Oldřich a Božena, Břetislav, Posvícení v Hudlicích) entered at the time of the Revival in the south Bohemian puppet theatre of Matěj Kopecký (1775-1847).

There is of course the vast area of popular folksong, fairy tales and the like, of which, as noted above, there is some evidence from earlier centuries, e.g. the songs mentioned in the 14th-century Play of Mary Magdalene. Hymns were also often sung to familiar song melodies, as recorded by their opening words in the hymnals. Collection of this material began on a larger scale in the late 18th and 19th century (e.g. in the manuscript Zápisky of the noble-born officer Jan Jeník z Bratřic, 1756-1845) and has had an enormous influence on poetry writing ever since, initially and most notably on the Romantics, who loved to identify elements of ancient pagan customs and myths, as often as not more imaginary than real: a great deal of the folklore they collected had its immediate roots in the Baroque era and reflected its Roman Catholic spiritual culture - indeed drew on its literate culture - though there are embedded survivals of ancient beliefs in this material. At their best the orally transmitted songs and ballads have a pithy and compact emotional simplicity and power of language inextricably interlinked with melody which puts most educated poetasters to shame. Only the finest literate poets of later times, such as Erben, were able to draw on their methods and produce more than shallow sentimental imitations. The best-known standard 19th-century collections were done by the poet and archivist K. J. Erben (Prostonárodní české písně a říkadla, 1863, again 1886) and (for Moravia) by František Sušil (Moravské národní písně s nápěvy, Brno 1872).

© James Naughton, draft last revised 2001
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Last updated: January 2018