Unicode: Jaroslav Vrchlický

Czech poet (b. Emil Frida 1853, d. 1912)

"Miloval jsem. Nech mne spat!"

Vrchlicky, a prolific lyrical and epic poet, translator, and dramatist, was one of the foremost members of the Lumírovci, and a great contributor to the cosmopolitanism of Czech literature. His original works include 80 volumes of poetry and the libretti to Antonín Dvořák's Svata Ludmila (an oratorio) and Armida (an opera). His translations include works by Dante, Petrarch, Goethe, Schiller, Ibsen, H. C. Andersen, Shakespeare, Shelley, Byron, Tennyson, Poe, Whitman, Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Mallarmé, and Verlaine.

The influence of Vrchlicky's extensive career as a translator can be seen in his choice of verse forms in his own poetry. For example, he honoured the Greek poet Sappho by writing a poem about her in her own metre:

From Vrchlicky's "Sapfó":

Mtrvá, mrtvá v hlubinách věků dávno,
Sapfó, dřimáš, nad tebou času vlny
dmou se, hlubší, děsnější nežli hrob tvůj
       v lesbickém moři.

Although Vrchlicky's verse has been criticized for paying insufficient attention to the natural rhythm of the Czech language, his cosmopolitanism enriched the metrical vocabulary of Czech verse. His poetry is often playful, and his delight in the formal properties of his work can be seen in his fondness for puns and willingness to tackle such tricky forms as the sestina.

Arne Novák writes that Vrchlicky was at his poetic best in three situations: "when his passionate gaze fell upon an open grave, a happy cradle, or a passionate embrace."

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