The Ostrov Song

Author unknown
Genre Religious
Keywords 13th century, Creed, daily prayer, personal piety
Title (in Czech) Ostrovská píseň
Title (in English translation) The Ostrov Song
Editor Andrea Svobodová – Kateřina Voleková
Translator Walter Schamschula
Edited source Praha, Archiv Pražského hradu, fond Knihovna Metropolitní kapituly u sv. Víta, sign. A 57/1, fol. 8v
Introduction Walter Schamschula – Andrea Svobodová
TEI P5 XML Encoding Jan Čermák – Michal Mocňák – Ondřej Tichý
Summary of content A paraphrase of the second paragraph of the Apostolic Creed dealing with the life of Christ.
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Introduction to the Text

Ostrovská píseň (‘The Ostrov Song’), also known under the incipit Slovo do světa stvořenie (‘Before the world’s creation the word’), is a document of early Gothic poetry in Bohemia which originated in the years between 1260 and 1290. The four stanzas contain a paraphrase of the second paragraph of the Apostolic Creed: Christ’s preexistence and life. The first stanza begins with a reference to the beginning of the Gospel of St. John: the Logos existed with God from the very beginning, before it was sent to the world because of Eve’s transgression. The second stanza refers to Christ’s birth and descent from David’s line. In the third, the author mentions the derivation of the name of the Christians (křesťané) from Christ, and Judas’ treason. In the fourth, Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection are announced. In brief terms and in an objective narrative tone, Christ’s preexistence and earthly life are thus presented.

Lyrical elements which digress from the objective tone of the narrative may be seen in some epithets like drahé naše spasenie (‘the sake of our dear salvation’), slavné vzkřiešenie vesele dáno (‘glorious resurrection is joyfully announced to us’), which attests the participation of the authorial ego, though still within a framework of a collective (group) emotional experience. Formally, the poem offers a more advanced structure than any earlier text in Czech poetry. There is a pattern of so-called tiradic rhymes, i.e. one based on an employment of the same rhyming syllable over several neighbouring verses, thus creating an effect of a formal tirade. The metrical structure is 8a 5b 8a 5b, with an alternation of two grammatical endings: -enie (the form of the verbal abstract), and -áno (the neuter of the past passive participle). For a detailed description of the metrical system see Schamschula (1991, p. 59).

Introduction to the Source

The song has been preserved in a single copy within a codex from the end of the 13th century that belonged to and originated in the Benedictine monastery of St. John the Baptist in Ostrov near Davle, on an island in the Vltava river south of Prague. This monastery was completely destroyed by the Hussites. Today, the codex is part of the Library of the Metropolitan Chapter in Prague and is currently kept at the Prague Castle Archives.

About this Edition

The given transcription was made according to the manuscript, taking into account the edition of Walter Schamschula, which selectively includes different readings of previous editions (cf. Schamschula 1991, see Existing editions below). The manuscript copy is written in the so-called primitive spelling, the transcription therefore presents the reconstructed standardized form.

The present translation has been taken, with the permission of Walter Schamschula, from the text of his edition. No textual changes have been made to the text, and only obvious typographical errors have been removed (cf. Schamschula 1991, see Existing editions below). The introductory information, based on Schamschula´s edition, has been supplemented from new contributions on the topic.

Existing Editions

Píseň staročeská ze XIII. století: „Slovo do světa stvořenie“, Adolf Patera (ed.), Časopis Musea Království českého 52, 1878, pp. 289-294 [semi-diplomatic transcription, reconstructed transcription].

Nejstarší česká duchovní lyrika, Antonín Škarka (ed.), Praha 1949, p. 70 [reconstructed transcription].

Výbor z české literatury od počátků po dobu Husovu, Bohuslav Havránek a kol. (eds.), Praha 1957, p. 109 [reconstructed transcription].

Ostrovská píseň/Song of Ostrov, in: Anthology of Czech Poetry, Alfred French (ed.), Ann Arbor 1973, pp. 6-7 [reconstructed transcription].

Ostrovská píseň, in: Česká středověká lyrika, Jan Lehár (ed.), Praha 1990, p. 126 [reconstructed transcription].

Ostrovská píseň/The Ostrov Song, in: An Anthology of Czech Literature. 1st Period: from the Beginnings until 1410, Walter Schamschula (ed.), Frankfurt am Main – Bern – New York – Paris 1991, pp. 58-60 [reconstructed transcription].

Slovo do světa stvořenie, Alena M. Černá (ed.), Praha 2011 [reconstructed transcription]. Available at: https://vokabular.ujc.cas.cz/edice/PisOstr

Ostrovské rukopisy, Josef Vintr (ed.), Olomouc 2014, pp. 97-98, 105-106 [reconstructed transcription].

Existing translations

Ostrovská píseň/Song of Ostrov, in: Anthology of Czech Poetry, Alfred French (ed.), Ann Arbor 1973, pp. 6-7 [translated by Mac Hammond].

Ostrovská píseň/The Ostrov Song, in: An Anthology of Czech Literature. 1st Period: from the Beginnings until 1410, Walter Schamschula (ed.), Frankfurt am Main – Bern – New York – Paris 1991, pp. 58-60.

Further Reading

Lehár, Jan: Ostrovská píseň, in: Lexikon české literatury 3/I (M–O), Praha 2000, pp. 703-704 [encyclopedic entry listing editions and literature up to 2000]. Available at: https://service.ucl.cas.cz/edicee/lexikon/lexikon/255-lexikon-ceske-literatury-osobnosti-dila-instituce-3-i-m-o

Sichálek, Jakub: K interpretaci Ostrovské písně, Česká literatura 52/5, 2004, pp. 599-622.

Edition


MECZ [online], The Ostrov Song, ed. unknown, trans. Walter Schamschula. KREAS Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Retrieved 07.12.2022, from https://mecz.kreas.ff.cuni.cz/publication/the-ostrov-song/ Bibtex citation

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