The fourteenth century
The magnificence of fourteenth century Czech literature lies in the breadth and quality of poetry that appeared so suddenly, situating Bohemia firmly in the Western European literary context. Verse chronicles, epics, didactic literature and satire, courtly love poetry, sacred hymns, profane lyrics—such was the rich spectrum of Czech poetry in the fourteenth century, unequalled in any other Slavic literature at the time. For present-day readers, this rich poetic tradition serves as a reminder of the cultural unity of Bohemia with Western Europe; like other Central European cultures, Bohemia has always been oriented toward the West, something that the unfortunate political locution “Eastern Europe” managed to obfuscate.
The rich treasury of fourteenth century Czech poetry was the product of many well-educated and practiced poets working at the court in Prague, at the Caroline University, or in the monasteries. The oldest attested Czech hymn, from the fourteenth century, was based on a Greek refrain and bears some traces of Old Church Slavonic forms. This hymn, “Hospodine, pomiluj ny” (“Lord Have Mercy on Us”), was preserved as an integral part of the coronation ceremony of the Czech kings, which explains its antiquity. The typical fourteenth century hymn appears in rhymed octosyllabic quatrains, or even longer stanzas, as in “Kunhutina modlitba” (“The Prayer of Lady Kunhuta”). More interesting and indeed regarded as representative of...
(The entire section is 543 words.)