Evolution and Integration in the Poetry of Otokar Březina


In his first book, Mysterious Distances (1895), Březina is a poetic dualist of essentially the same type as Mácha; he expresses the same awe, only refracted differently. For Mácha that awe is closer to terror; for Březina, to pleasure. Březina moans and groans from an awe before life that does not stand still, but flees, in which each moment swallows the next, and which is therefore unreality, deceit, delusion, a dream, an illusion, hypnosis. Březina’s first book stands beneath the linked double melancholy law of memory and death, like Mácha’s entire oeuvre. It is no coincidence that one of Březina’s first poems, “Dead Youth,” is inspired by Mácha and imbued with his spiritual intonation all the way through to the concluding image, which evidently alludes to Mácha’s poetry: “in pensive mood I stood over the corpse of my own youth, like a lover over the dead girl he had seduced.” This type of image inspired by Mácha completely disappears from Březina’s later work.

Mácha and Březina are distinct human rather than poetic types; the difference between them is rooted in their life experience rather than in their fundamental spiritual disposition. Granted, already in this early poem Březina’s melancholy adds a new note to Mácha’s melancholy, but this difference is in effect a consequence of the two poets’ relation to life: positive for Mácha, and negative for Březina. The melancholy of Březina’s “Dead Youth” is more complex than Mácha’s melancholy; it is a double grieving: whereas Mácha simply mourns past joys and the bliss of youth because they have passed and will never return, Březina breaks down in “anguished moaning” in the belated realization that he never even lived the youth that he has lost forever. His grief over his lost youth is compounded by grief over the youth he never experienced, his horror at the opportunities he has missed forever: “the bitter blood of grapes from which [he] sucked no bliss and the fire of embraces rendered cold by thought” frighten him now. This ironic and tragic fate of disappointed spiritualism attains its final objective form in the poem “Sovereigns of Dreams” in his second collection, Light in the West (1896). Here the poet’s cursed brethren, whose joy in real life has been destroyed by the life of the imagination and who, in punishment for their pride, “which disdained the satiation of the earth,” long at last, in vain, “to suck out the dried juice of those grapes they’d unwittingly crushed in their princely dreaming.” “En toi la ręverie continuelle a tué l’action”:_2 this line from Vigny’s most personal drama, which is the key to all of the pessimism of this most profound and inner French Romantic, could serve as the epigraph to Březina’s first book of verse. Only this ironic premise, accepted in silence, gives meaning to the entire paradoxically tragic and at the same time methodical structure of Březina’s first poetry collection.

Whereas Mácha acted out his excruciating life drama alone, whole, in his own person, with unabated passion and veracity – whence the authentic, terrifying, “vital” tone of his poetry, Březina split himself into actor and spectator at the same time. He found his typical poetic attitude immediately in his first book: already in Mysterious Distances he is “Pale, spellbound, mute, like a sleepwalker lured from his bed,” and “hypnotized by the Unknown, with [his] dream he tread[s]” (“The Gaze of Death”). He is an actor or a puppet drawn by some power outside of himself, an objective power. That is the basis – and not only in Březina’s first book – of the theatrical and dreamlike nature of Březina’s poetry and all of its stylistic monumentality. Březina’s poetic dualism thus surpassed Mácha’s: he took it to its logical conclusion, and it split down to its very root. However, it immediately approached its own redemption at its origins, for it had to postulate an object outside of itself, if only, at this point, for aesthetic reasons – for a theatrical conception of life is not sustainable without dialogue, at least rudimentary, without apostrophe. Thus already in embryonic form Březina’s poetics acquired an objectively theatrical nature, which the poet later developed both subconsciously and through conscious artistic craft into a new poetic pathos. He eventually succeeded in creating a super-personal lyrical form on a dialogical and choral basis.

The process and course of Březina’s poetic objectification deserves to be traced and studied step by step, for that is the only way to come as close as possible to understanding the genesis of his oeuvre. As Březina is first and foremost a poet of the Will and its mystery,_3 we find a true dramatic and logical chain through his life work; a conscious struggle for poetic development; a well-organized assault in which weapons once captured or that have served their purpose are never tossed aside, for they may be continually adapted to new goals; and a cyclical interplay of works, in which the objective of the first spiritual act is at the same time but a starting point and precondition for the second act.

The poet’s first attempts at objectification are completely negative: at this stage objectification is deception and illusion for the poet. As for Schopenhauer, whose profound influence is evident throughout Březina’s first books in both their imagery and their mood, the senses are a source of delusion, for the subject is a priori imprisoned in them and they fabricate phenomena for him where no phenomena exist. At the beginning of his literary career, Březina is convinced that all knowledge and love, as well as any attempt to go beyond or outside of the self, is self-deception. In the telling poem “The Prisoner”_4 (who would not recall Mácha in this context?), he admits the tormenting and hopeless truth that his song is “walled-up alive” in eternal solitude, for he has realized that all activity, creativity, and spontaneity that he had ascribed to the object of his love (whom, in contrast to himself, a prisoner, he addresses as “the Uncaptured”) were merely his own activity and his own imagination projected onto the external world. Phantoms of his own mind, the scent of his own blood, had intoxicated him. His life circumstances were such that true life was impossible for him, for objective engagement in love and creative cooperation were rendered impossible. In his youth the poet lived an authentic life, a life of complete identification with another soul – that is, he was empowered, but a kind of ironic power, about which the poet speculates in vain, completely destroyed that unity for him and stole that kindred being from him._5 Indeed, every soul that was dear to him – his mother, his beloved – possibilities for life, possibilities for creative love and its objects – are mere phantoms of memory for the poet, and only through the medium of death and the cult of death may he commune with them._6 Only once in his life did the poet almost have the opportunity to break out of his imprisonment, the walls that confined his being in solitude: “once the breath of another life flushed me with the nearness of a kindred longing” – but it immediately vanished. It is not yet time for the merging of souls; the era of love has not yet come: it is still the era of mistrustful, egoistic, and small-minded misanthropy: “souls pass one another unrecognized and, upon meeting, each shades its glowing lantern, mistrustful.” For now only “a mute meeting in death”_7 is possible.

Whence the cult of death in Březina’s early work: it is a lifting of the curse of the solitary soul and the breaking of its fetters; it is its entry into the company of others; it is an open path to love; it is a spiritual wedding, a ferment of pleasure and strength. Cheated of life, the poet listens with longing to hear “the tolling of my last hour, the angel of Mystery, tremble in metal tears from the towers of the Eternal City.”_8 In “Autumn Evening,” he hears “the rejoicing of souls redeemed by death.” “From eternal distances,” as if from the nearest phenomena of life, a voluptuously horrifying song of destruction sings to him the poems “Like the Night…” and “When You Sit Down at My Table…,”_9 which are no less than epithalamia of death: the mystery of death in these poems is evidently of an erotic nature. Death is a sexual act that transforms pain into pleasure, and during which spirituality mingles with sensuality. In many of Březina’s poems Death intoxicates, lures, and entices him like a sensual dizzy spell or a spasm: thus in “Evening Prayer”_10 he implores Death, “Bind me in my bed with your mortal languor, like maidens’ white arms, so soft is your embrace”; and in “Motif from Beethoven”_11 he writes: “And the longing for death, like a tide of sweet dampness and triumphant pleasure and the black wine of yearnings, like a soft repose on the alabaster of breasts, and like the desirous union of two nude shoulders, flows down in your agitated and intoxicated being, in the weary and oppressive captivity of the senses.”

To understand Březina’s sensually tinged erotic ecstasy before Death, we must be fully aware of the immeasurable suffering caused by his erotic isolation, which makes it impossible for him to love, that is, to live fully and authentically. From the poem “The Return,”_12 one of the most terrifying ever written, the attentive reader will discern that Březina was familiar with all of the torments of erotic loneliness and that he knew – not theoretically, but through the experience of his heart and blood – how love that cannot survive objectively, through actions, turns its stinger against itself and turns its favor into poison (the last line of the last stanza: “you will drink only brutal pleasure from the unclean chalice of my blood”). And in another poem, one of the most original ever written, “Perhaps Later…,”_13 he conceals his idealistic regret over a life rendered impossible in a gesture of revolt and vengeful rejection; it is here that he comes closest to Schopenhaurerian rebellion and its practical atheism. “At the foot of the mountain range of Death, where the dizzying cascade of glaciers mingles with the torrent of Eternity, exhausted, I want to sleep, and I want to dream the illusion of days, the deceit of blood, and the gloom of my own life like an oppressive nightmare kneeling on my chest.”

This erotic-ecstatic view of death is one of Březina’s most original poetic and philosophical conceptions. To my knowledge, Novalis was the only modern poet before him who expressed a similar attitude towards death, motivated by a similar desire for redemption through death. But Novalis’s erotics of death are different from Březina’s: lighter, more naive, more childlike and playful, closer to joy than to pleasure. This different tone is evident in Novalis’s culminating poem, “The Song of the Dead” (“Das Lied der Toten”), in which his conception crystallized in final form and which scintillates with sparks, which we may compare to similar poems by Březina: “Do praise our quiet strongholds, Our gardens, our rooms, Comfortable households, Our goods and chattels. Daily, new guests arrive, Some early, some late, The embers of new life Blaze forever on the wide hearths.” And several stanzas later: “Sweet charm of Midnights, Quiet circle of secret powers, Pleasures of cryptic games, Only we know you. Only we have arrived at the high goal, Betimes to flow into one current, Betimes to disperse into drops, And at the same time to sip.”_14

There is no doubt: the difference in intonation is a question not only of their different personalities, but also of the periods in which they wrote. The black shade of Schopenhauer separates Novalis from Březina, and it has been aptly illustrated that the sources of Schopenhauer’s pessimism are hedonistic. An oppressive sensuality lies like a heavy thunder-cloud over Březina’s erotic mystery of death and dates it as a new phenomenon in the history of the suffering and torment of the human heart.

With its explicit viewpoint, “Perhaps Later…” marks a turning point in Březina’s oeuvre. The poet could not tolerate his early divagation – specifically the poet in Březina – because of its vengeful coldness; if he had continued in this direction, he would have vanished into the fog of illusionist nihilism, which destroys not only the capability of appreciating acts in life, but also the possibility of living life itself more profoundly and intensely. A poet is a poet only for the price of a paradoxical love for life in spite of and in defiance of everything: he rejoices even in its pain and suffering and flares up even in its darkness and ice. The silenced wealth and unlived love within Březina had to be transformed into action and organized in a creative process to prevent it from turning against the poet, and it in fact became objectified in a poetic feat of great courage and strength. The fact that that feat is poetic or literary does not make it any less relevant to life – on the contrary: true poetry is always an amplified creative affirmation of life and it requires at least as much accumulated vital energy as a feat in the literal sense, a feat in the material world. Inspired by something other than logic, but that does not contradict logic – a positive act of love and faith, which had to anticipate their justification – he reversed all of the concepts he had hitherto used to classify the world and on which he had based his inner space and his forays. The power that, until then, he had sensed as the ironic and treacherous architect of his disempowerment, the power shaping his fate that he still felt to be greater than himself, full of paradoxical intentions, the power that cannot be measured by mere human reason,_15 he now saw as a providential power; and on principle he ceased to judge pain merely emotionally: instead, he saw it architectonically, as a means to an end. Pain thus conceived becomes edifying: “Through the fires of sunsets, like glowing coals reflecting the ardor of saints’ madness in eyes, with your whip the Lord drives the confused herd of my dreary thoughts onto the pastures of mystery.”_16

And death itself, observed from this new point of view, loses its absoluteness, ceases to be a goal and becomes a mere transition and starting point. The poet expresses this new symbolic attitude right away, at the very beginning of the first monumental poem of Light in the West, “Morning Prayer”: “At your order I rolled up the black tent of death that the soul spreads out to rest on its path, and, facing the sunrise, I said to my thoughts, which were kneeling on the pink carpets of morning: Pray.”

The poet is aware of the madness of his act, its superhuman and tragic nature. Already in the opening poem to Light in the West, he feels that his love and longing are somehow suicidal, that he has strayed from human roads and is now wandering uncharted paths: “By your oil sources, which tremble, burning, with the breath of centuries and shine with an eternal glow, I filled up my lamp; but I spilled its full bowl on myself and set myself aflame.” There are times when he cannot bear to look into “his fathers’ workshops”;_17 he knows that he is walking towards God on “the roads of death”;_18 he realizes that “we sing a hymn of words that mean death in all the languages of the earth.”

Březina’s creative act may be described in the realm of ideas and by rational means as follows: the poet found the supreme object, God, approached him in a dizzying, parabolic, comet-like flight, and thus acquired once and for all a medium that not only gives meaning to all past acts, but also justifies and sanctifies all revitalized efforts in the future. It is no coincidence that Březina adorns the threshold of his new collection with “Morning Prayer” like a triumphal arch. The very title of this poem corresponds to the antithetical “Evening Prayer,” in which his initial illusive nihilism culminated, and in which his hedonistic pessimism rose to a suicidal crescendo. “Morning Prayer” is not only undervalued by Czech literary scholars; it has not been assessed or appreciated in Březina’s oeuvre at all, although it is one of the greatest poetic structures in the world – a unique monument to collaborative and tragic love, a glowing flight of thought and emotion, equal to the greatest moments of all religious adepts – Master Eckehart, Jan Tauler, Pascal, and Kierkegaard. It is a poem that has found not an image, but an awe-inspiring attitude and action to be definitive for the final tragic paradox of divine love, for as a dramatic poet Březina – and I emphasize this again and again because it is so important – thinks in gestures and attitudes:_19 “And my dream shall rise with wings that reflect eternal morning, and like the giant phantom of an eagle it shall carry the earth in its red-hot talons, it shall push the black clouds of night to either side and lie at your feet, and it shall submissively fix the stare of its pride, blinded by the radiance, on the piercing of your look in the hissing gush of blood.” Now a great complementary value has been found for the reality of life; for it and in it everything has not only a purpose, but also a meaning: pain and joy, love and hate, dream and action; past and future, life and death. This poem contains in nuce and anticipates all of Březina’s future work; this is where the remainder of his oeuvre is conceived.

Hand in hand with this conception came the topos that we may call, after the poet, the legend of mysterious guilt. It necessarily accompanied his certainty and faith in God. In this new world, ethical through and through – cf. in “Morning Prayer”: “Permit me to respect the brilliance of your mystery in the angry glares of enemies, and to the times they send against me, let me say with a smile: My workers!” – pain and suffering had to be motivated and thus justified and sanctified by the concept of guilt – in particular, given the poet’s monistic conception at the time, hereditary guilt.

There are a number of lines in Březina’s oeuvre that demonstrate that for the poet existence in itself was linked to the concept of guilt or a curse, guilt that is incurred not by specific acts, but simply through participation in life. This is most clearly stated in the poem “The Sleepers Speak with Death” in The Builders of the Cathedral (1899): “Lo, the souls of thousands have finally opened up, and beyond all of their azure heavens lies an abyss. We know that everything has been cursed. The birds of the heights and the reptiles of the earth tremble before the more powerful. Nations of insects are waging a hundred-year war. Even in the purest world of the plants there is a struggle and a withering away, in which fragrant lunar ethereality succumbs to the onslaught of barbarian force. Life seethes with the turmoil of struggle and our hopes falter in its glow and steam: we live the pain of innumerable beings. Our blood, it seems, has gushed forth from the mysterious wound of Everything and flowed into our body, where it whirls in a convulsive pulse.” Likewise, the poem “The Waters Sang” mentions the fire of human blood “oppressed by a curse,” and therefore “burning eternally and inextinguishably”;_20 in “The Music of Blind Men,” “in millennia our souls go through the exile of the earth, blinded by the mystical wine of birth,”_21 and in “Guardians of the Dead,” the poet sees the enigma of human existence in the paradox that “so lightly, like the image of infinity in one’s eyes” people bear “the weight of mysterious guilt, the tragic dream of this universe.”_22 But worst of all: the curse affects even humanity’s ability to organize: “It lies on the brotherhood of souls and it has divided the speech of the builders.”_23

But the concept of existential guilt necessarily calls for its complement: redemption. From the very beginning all of Březina’s poetry was redemptive; the difference is that in the first collection he saw redemption in death and its ecstatic pleasure, whereas now, in his second period, he sees it in pain, work, and love. If earlier his poetry had surrendered itself to death with a self-destructive passion, as a river rushes into the sea or a waterfall into a lake, now, when his perspective is reversed, the concept of life, eternal life, life intensified and multiplied beyond all normal limits, obsesses the poet: he exhausts himself seeking ever new paths to it, longing for the broadest and most intensive collaboration, ruling out nothing and no one, gathering together and embracing everything, and weaving them tighter and tighter into his redemptive collective work.


The state of passive hypnosis and moral solitude to which the poet was fated and which made active love and creation in love impossible for him overexcited his longing, which grew to superhuman proportions. It hypostasized and externally projected his dream of a man of increased strength and power, a man that could do everything denied to his creator by parsimonious fate. In Březina a general law was fulfilled, one that is manifest in all romantic writing, whether poetic or philosophical, throughout the nineteenth century: romanticism, which consciously divorced itself from society and set itself in opposition to it, which analyzed all of the details and peculiarities of its “I” with morbid pleasure and cultivated in it precisely what distinguished it from general humanity, necessarily had to create as an antithesis, if only to maintain mechanical equilibrium: the idea of a higher man, an augur, a thinker, a poet, a lawgiver, a creator, a hero – in a word, a superman. Titanism in the most varied forms, from the meekest to the harshest, was a necessary creation of romanticism. In different degrees and for different reasons, Werther, Tasso, and Faust feel outside the norm of humanity, which fetters them; the greater capacity for suffering of Byron’s and Vigny’s heroes is proof of their moral superiority and the reason for their contempt for society. That is what inspired Sénancour to create his dreamer; Stendhal, his dilettante and beneficiary; Flaubert and the Goncourt brothers, their artist; Vigny, his poet; Carlyle, his hero; Emerson, his representative; and Nietzsche, his superman. These are all types onto which the authors projected their longings, which had been betrayed by contemporary society, and which embodied everything that could not exist in real life.

It is very characteristic for Březina that his dream, longing, and conception of a higher redemptive humanity were never individualistic, but collective from the very beginning. Březina did not conceive of his higher man as an individual who consciously distinguished himself from the average and was set off in the incandescent colors of debauchery or power, or the scarlet lines of crime, from the gray or dark background of generality, but rather as an entire human community, united by the age-old endeavors, longings, and tensions of innumerable generations working towards perfection and liberation. Immediately in his second book, Březina’s transformative “Myth of the Soul” culminates in a vision of a powerful race, “whose blood will scintillate with sparks, fanned by the supreme will,” vintners who “have lit sulfur in the barrels where the primeval wine has gone sour, strengthening the weak, and throw fire before them into thickened gases poisoned with sweat, so as to purify the distances and revive the fragrance in the air for the future crowds to breathe.” Later, in The Builders of the Cathedral, in the poem of the same title, he shifts this warrior type somewhat closer to pain, work, and inner joy. Alone among confused, silent, and divided crowds, his cathedral builders “recognize one another by signs”; they read “the promise of other heavens and another earth” in the material world; they are able to liquefy the solid forms of things into the original seething of creation; “pain and work for them were the redemption of mysterious guilt”; “inner joy, certainty of their path”; they welcome “the mother and sister of victories” in woman and “their mission was to millions of suffering brethren like the hiring of workers for construction.” “The Prophets” in the same collection are another variant of the same type – those with superhuman strength, “who have not known what pleasure is,” who have overcome egoism in all its forms and its pleasurable charms and temptations; the tragic and redemptive type, heroes of love, who come “unnoticed, your envoys, the conquerors of your kingdom.” They know the curse that “lies on the brotherhood of souls” and long to lift it; the nobility of the earth, they dream of its highest evolutionary possibilities, but they do not turn away from it. They do not treat it with proud disdain: “their hopes, capable of such high flight and songs, build their nests low, near the earth itself.” Their pain is “worthy of their strength”; it is the pain of “lingering time,”_24 the pain of insufficient means and ways of love. They desire “to fly through the centuries with the speed of light,” and they want “to enliven all souls” with the spiritual wine that is welling up from the earth, but is as yet unknown to her children.

In “Roundelay of the Heart” and “Madmen” in Hands, the poet gives clear and final form to his metaphysical hope; here he also clearly calls for the participation of all human beings in the superhuman type. In the first poem, among the reasons for which living is sweet, he lists as the last and greatest reason, “the imminent approach of a mysterious, bright man, a conqueror of space, who, alone among the millions of brethren who will be and have been, will transform the earth from pole to pole in accordance with your holy will and, with a mind that has learned lightness, dance, and song from obedient suns, will take his place on your mysterious council, among the princes of the cosmos.” Before that he speaks of “our mysterious participation in the work of all conquerors who mark events like flocks for shearing.” And among the dreams of the “Madmen,” there is the dream “of merging all of the millions into a Single Man, redeemed, the helmsman of the spiritual earth, who sails to the shores of your mysteries, raises sails passed down through millennia towards your holy winds, and names the flowers of your invisible gardens in a new language, as powerful as the language of angels and as pure as the language of children.” From the very beginning Březina overcame romanticism, which widened the rift between the individual and the collective to an abyss and exploited it poetically for sharp contrasts; Březina’s higher man, who is both redeemed and a redeemer of his little brothers, is not a rebel against God, as he was for so many romantics in numerous variants, but his envoy, who carries out his will.

It is possible to trace this objectification of creative and redemptive work through each of Březina’s collections, and it will be immediately evident that there is nothing schematic or abstractly straightforward about it. For Březina it is not a kind of mechanical progress of development, but a creative élan, to use Bergson’s term – intuitive creative acts that carried and organized with great effort and tension the uncertain and contestable forays of poetic thought. At the very end of Light in the West, in the concluding poem, “The Wine of the Strong,” Březina strikes the distinctive chord of all of his future work: the cult of strength. The vintners of the wine that the brethren pass in a chalice from hand to hand are “Sadness and Loneliness”; the poet suggests here that the wine is merely despair that has been given value, and that only the strong can drink it. The weak will only drink its dregs of slumber and apathy: “the punishment of the weak will be that they will forget their name when they awake, and the reward of the strong, that in the glowing darkness they will remember the islands of their captivity.” Like all creators worthy of that name, Březina too can say that his medicine is concocted from the most terrible poisons of this earth. How did Michelangelo put it? “E di quel c’altri muor, convien ch’i’viva.” And from what others die, I must live!

The poet has thus already redeemed his altruism from weakness: his altruism is truly strong, not sentimental. Březina has a cult of creative action, a cult of the man-creator, a cult of the act – and these give rise to what makes his work truly grand: its tragic nature, which is always there, even in his most optimistic dreams. Březina’s poetry is, however, full of love for the smallest and the poorest: “But I awoke,” sings his Queen of Hopes in Winds from the Poles, “and I submissively answered the miserable joys of the earth, when they nestled up to me fearfully, their eyes turned away so I would not see the tears falling from the dazzling brilliance of my too bright light”; “But the last of all (how we wailed with love!) the millions of disinherited, ants pouring forth from the quarries, slaves who slink through life as through forbidden orchards, pressed on around us”;_25 “and he dresses your poorest in robes of royal purple, which, though they are not visible to the brothers of the earth, are visible to angels.”_26 However, this altruism has its limits in the consciousness of justice: the poet respects and loves the smallest and “the last” and “the poorest” of all only as workers and participants in the creative work of redemption, and because he knows all of the dangers of this work, he tells the weak: “The lightning that kills the fated will show the fortunate the roads and distances, the scorching heat in which sick flowers wither will strengthen the stalks of wheat on golden wires, it will blind eyes accustomed to twilight, but it will prepare the eyes of the powerful for the flashing of lightning.”_27

Březina never gave in to superficial optimism or sentimental egalitarianism: his poetry is essentially tragic and heroic. The evolution of his work did not yield to a comfortable dogmatic idea, a refuge of spiritual complacency and laziness, or a suicidal mechanism, as in the case of so many of his contemporaries; it led to a dramatic conception full of uncertainty, betrayal, darkness and seething, disappointed efforts, vain tension, unexpected catastrophes, and incomprehensible peripeteias, unforeseeable and completely inaccessible to reason. Březina knows the mystery of the will, love, and sacrifice as the very center of all of the being and acting of the universe, and he emphasizes always and everywhere that only in their subconscious workshops, in which sound and the light of day are refracted differently and their action is governed by a logic different from rational logic, are spiritual battles waged whose outcome determines the future forms of the earth, the world, and life on them; and that there decisions and acts are born that cannot be lost or destroyed in the world economy and will re-echo, possibly transformed, sooner or later, perhaps only after tens of thousands of years. Březina knows that it is impossible to predict the consequences of human action, that “the wave that we have raised flows out through infinity, treacherous and revitalizing, in kinship with the millions of brethren.”_28 The power of the human will fills him with awe: it is “a princely heritage” that has come down to us “from the mysterious fall.”_29 In his second stage of development, Březina is precisely the opposite of a quietist or a deterministic spirit: he repeatedly invokes the sublime madness of heroism, the mysterious hopes of the human heart, moments of joyous certainty, the glory of ecstasy, the mute heroism of love and sacrifice, heroic submission and ascetic magnanimity, mystical recollections, the mysterious murmuring of blood, the painful beating of hearts – in a word, the inner absolute, inner integration against the evolutionary uncertainty, deceit, and flow of the external world. Březina is a great dramatic and heroic poet, despite all of the differences in his form, expression, temperament, and life experience compared to other poets of the same spiritual disposition, such as Heinrich von Kleist. Like Kleist, in opposition to the unsteadiness, inadequacy, and perfidy of the world Březina sets the secure feeling of the individual, his solid will, functioning with perseverance and the dreamlike readiness of a mechanism shifted out of equilibrium. Both are poets of the subconscious and its holy, vital mystery.

Březina’s last words, like Kleist’s, are enthusiasm, will, ecstasy, the holy, and the unbroken naiveté of the believing and loving soul: this is a point from which it is possible to move the world and life. “The earth is deep enough for the graves of countless bodies, but the entire universe, blossoming with worlds, is not enough for the flight of souls.” And such souls are the conquerors and transformers of the earth: “We shall bind evil forces with a magic chain. And we shall force the earth to blossom as she has never blossomed before, until we go forth to meet immortality among the roses.”_30

Březina is a poet of great inner effort and tension: the dream as the last expression of inner integration is the coping stone of his vaulting. “For you too, O Eternal One, Thrice Holy, in the abysses of your inner being, where thousands of dead and future universes slumber, preserve your dream, and you approach it with the anguish of love through the mystery of centuries.”_31

This heroic conception of life is intensified more and more clearly by the consciousness that all spiritual acts are unique and lost moments will never return. Březina does not share the comfortable Nietzschean concept of the eternal return. On the contrary: the world is continuously in dramatic animation and transformation, and it does not have solid, fixed forms. It is not a storehouse of accomplished and dead states, and it therefore cannot be a ball or a toy, nor can it be a mechanism, or rationalism. Březina’s world is an eternal battleground, an object of continual forays and incursions that never cease, but that become more and more difficult. Březina’s world is continuously new, different, young, uncertain, dangerous, liquid, and seething. “Your caustic, abysmal currents roar in everything, they seethe in stone, blood, and thought, eternal wind recasts the clouds of things in countless forms, and no one has touched a single place twice with his hand or in thought.”_32 “The higher up, the deeper and more hidden the struggle, the more ominous the maelstroms of your glory; the closer to the eternal sea, the higher the source of the roar of the waterfalls of our thought; eruptions of fire in the collision of worlds are like drops of water.”_33 In a world thus conceived nothing happens twice, not even the lost opportunity for victory. Březina’s oeuvre is permeated throughout with the tragic awareness of “decisive moments” that will never return; “the heavy regret of lost victories, from which the darkness of our past is composed, for victories attained remain with us and before us, strengthening the atmosphere of our light.”_34 “In the ecstasy of love I want to sing to brotherly souls that there is no greater pain than that of their lost victories, that there is no greater joy than the intoxication of the gaze strengthened by eternity.”_35 “Love that has lost a single victory has been defeated a thousand times.”_36 What has been attained has been attained for centuries, and what has been lost has been lost forever: such is Březina’s formula, based on a logic that is truly intuitive and dramatic. In it there is a tension that never eases and an aggressiveness and onslaught that never tire, and it culminates in the tragic paradox that it reassesses suffering as pleasure and turns poison into a blessing. It is to this poetic culmination that Březina is led by his cult of creativity and heroism, his profound and passionate vital conception of development, which Březina, like Bergson, has the right to call creative evolution, in contrast to the mechanical development of Spencer.

This paradox is the inner spiritual style of Březina’s personality, his final, essential spiritual experience, as well as the basis of his external style. His metaphors, which join opposite worlds, form bridges over abysses and impassable maelstroms, turn back and unite the most distant rays in one focal point, all the while regenerating and rejuvenating themselves, are the external symbol of his inner ferment, his conquering of souls, his creative striving towards redemption.

Nothing was impossible for that paradox. It armed a sensitive, melancholy, and reclusive soul for collective love; it transformed a mystic into a worker and a hedonistic pessimist into a “submissive conqueror”; it imposed impersonal and superhuman tasks and goals on the poet’s work and joy: “Heavy armor weighs you down: you have been chosen to do battle for the liberation of all of the earth’s beings” – “you are joined with millions in secret brotherhood and you will rejoice only in the joy of millions” (“Answers,” Hands). It depersonalized all of the poet’s individual pain, turning it into a kind of purely metaphysical anguish, so he would not approach God with fear: “And no longer knowing pain other than the most mysterious losses, to fear your proximity on the threshold of your inner worlds – submissive conquerors, we follow you to your gardens, and all forces sent out against us join our ranks.”_37 And it dictated to Březina, the greatest Czech artist of the word, that art serves “the enrichment of means of understanding among souls,” a goal that presumes a conception of art similar to Tolstoy’s.

It also altered the speculative noetic foundation of Březina’s poetry. Březina was never a pantheist, as some commentators have claimed; however, some poems from his first period suggest that he was a monist. His monism gave way more and more clearly to pluralism, which is fundamental to the style of dramatic poetry of the tenor of Březina’s poetry. Cf. in Hands: “But the princes of the night celebrate their feast among the clatter of chalices! And your song is quiet, like a river babbling beyond the mountains, sweet bird of the soul!”_38

This paradox is evident in Březina’s later work as well, in his most original and striking conception: the conscious cult of joy. The poet, whose work was through and through tragic and dramatic, had finally managed, it seemed, to capture what had been, from the very beginning, the most precious and completely alien to him: joy. In the epilogue to Winds from the Poles, he characteristically describes it as a goal for multiplied and intensified strength: “our joy, a gift that is too heavy, that until now has fallen limply from our childlike hands” – mankind at the evolutionary stage of childhood cannot yet handle it. Faithful to this conception, in The Builders of the Cathedral, the poet measures the passage of time by the soul’s ability to handle joy. “A chill blows through the ends of our time and has already given us a benevolent autumn for the sowing of primeval suns; now the roses are blooming towards morning and souls are calling each other in the blue of joy, they are singing like birds, lining up in triangular array in the fragrances of the oceans.”_39


Paul Claudel, the great French poet and playwright who is so like Březina in many fundamental ways, based his Poetic Art on metaphor. For him metaphor is the instrument of a new and subtler logic, just as syllogism was the instrument of the older, less refined logic. According to Claudel, the starting point of the older logic is a general and absolute statement: it ascribes some quality or character to a subject once and for all. Regardless of time and place, for the older logic the sun shines, and the sum of a triangle’s angles is equal to two right angles. Through definitions it creates abstractions; its function is basically descriptive. Claudel compares this logic with “the first stage of grammar, which determines the nature and function of various words.” The second, higher logic, he asserts, resembles the structure that teaches the art of joining words, and it is in effect creative logic, for science is the knowledge of the universal, whereas every creation has uniqueness as its object. And even nature, he asserts, knows this art of metaphor and realizes it everywhere before our eyes: “it is an innate art, used by everything that is born.” And what is this metaphor for Claudel? Nothing more than “a new word, a dynamism that derives from the fact that two different things are at the same time linked simply by their being,” from the fact that they coexist. Everything that coexists, that is interconnected, is mutually contingent. Claudel derives the word for knowledge etymologically from common birth: connaissance – conaissance: I can know – at least actively, through a creative act – only that with which I have been born._40

Those are among the truest and most profound words that have ever been said about the creative process by creators themselves. Every process that is truly creative has its origins in the senses and the imagination: a poet is one who thinks in images. The word is thus in itself a poet’s creative act, and there is no conflict or division for the poet between knowledge and expression, thought and word. Whereas for a pure scholar the word emerges post factum as a means of communication, as a transcript of a thought or a kind of popularization of it, for the primary and true expression of thought is in mathematical, algebraic, and logical signs, for the poet the word is, on the contrary, the act itself, the expression itself, the creative process itself, the “let there be light” itself. Through the image, the metaphor, the poet truly and literally gains knowledge: in it processes and activities hitherto separated in time and space come together for him, in it he grasps the structure of the world, and in it his own creative activity and that of the world reach a peak for a time. Metaphor is not a description or a superficial record, but a musically creative and harmonic art, the art of enriching the world symphony with a new chord. Metaphor testifies to the fact that the world is always new, inexhaustible, unfinished, full of surprises; that it is reborn before your eyes with great effort and tension and, of course, danger as well.

Březina always had full consciousness of the weightiness and fatal consequentiality of his word, the creative poetic word; full consciousness of his blessed creative significance, strength, capacity, fertility. In “O Power of the Eternal Word” in The Builders of the Cathedral, he addresses the word in an apostrophe: “Liberator! Dissolving the dusk with another light into sweetness! Teach us a new prayer in our pain over the dreams of our brethren! A prayer calming the anguish of death and blood, increasing the anguish of love and growth, mastering invisible beings, exorcising the vampires of dreaming from the beds of our brethren!”_41 And similarly in Hands: “Holy harvest of the Word! From the springs of every grain a torrent of corn! Over every place where it has fallen, even the most hidden, thousands of Julys in fire!”_42 For Březina the word is not the toy of a virtuoso; all descriptiveness, all linguistic materialism is alien to him. His word does have sensual tenderness and sensual charm, but that is the consequence of its power and its functional fullness and precision, or at least the former is never gained at the expense of the latter.

The aggressiveness of Březina’s metaphors is unique, and unique not only in Czech poetry. When you read him, you have the impression that innumerable forces were entering his soul at once from everywhere in the world, that they were all pressing into it and seething there, laying siege to its gates. Březina’s spiritual view is distinguished both by the breadth of its field of vision and by the oppressive fullness of its simultaneous observations. His metaphors are true creative and pioneering metaphors, which contain within them the seeds of more and more new worlds, filled to overflowing with the seeds of more and more new creative gestures. He flits like a shuttle on an enormous loom and weaves into a single thick tissue threads of the most varied origin, which seem to be completely unlike one another and infinitely far apart. Březina’s use of metaphor became the poetic expression of his dramatic life paradox: metaphor united life and death, spirit and matter, love and pain, cruelty and sacrifice; it joined things that were far apart and separated things that were close together; it liquefied solids and solidified the fleeting and imperceptible; it revalued the entire inner and outer world; and it forced everything it touched to develop its latent energies and yield all of its evolutionary capacity. Metaphor takes the knowledge gained by the most exact sciences – mathematics, geometry, statistics, dynamics, optics, acoustics, chemistry, spectral analysis, magnetism, and biology – and turns them into yeast for the image-making process, and it makes them the bearers of the most perspicacious poetic suggestion. It anthropomorphizes everything, for that is the goal of art: to force even the most resistant and intractable material to feats of human love and human pain, human greatness and human strength; to give awareness to forms existing in the semiconscious; to sing their dark, nebulous, and murmuring striving towards a clear unifying image and extend their imprisoned, self-consuming inner tension into a rainbow spanning from horizon to horizon. Art reduces everything to a common denominator, and it is man.

It is characteristic of Březina’s imagery that it is not only visual; in addition to truly ethereal images, weighed on the most sensitive scales and containing distillates of distillates, Březina also has images that are, I would say, still half-imprisoned in matter, moaning and groaning in its subconscious, painfully emerging from it, and they are not any less powerful or striking. Březina seems to storm all of the senses at once in a swift attack; his images grow before you and spread out before you and tower before you; they entwine you and make you tremble with their vibration, which they transfer to you; they interpenetrate, but above all they mutually provoke one another into a dynamic state of madness, they ignite one another into an ever new vital explosiveness, and they shoot out the final, often most stupefying branches when the attention of the inexperienced reader and the expectation of the attentive and educated reader have already flagged.

The stylistic analysis that I cannot carry out here, but only hint at and suggest, will have to measure first, the intensity of Březina’s images, by emphasizing the distance between the realms and spheres that he fuses and unites; second, their dynamic expansiveness, by demonstrating how they grow in breadth and height out of a single root into a new trunk, branches, and twigs; and finally, their density, by enumerating the processes that seem to be pressed together under a single vaulting.

As examples of Březina’s imaginative intensity, I will purposely cite only a few of the simplest, most elemental figures from Winds from the Poles, in order to show clearly the direction my stylistic analysis will take. “In the roaring of winds you heard the strokes of light and the flight of the earth as it spun through space”; “for pain and light are forms of the one vibration of your mystery!”; “embrace transformed into light!” – in these three images, chosen purposefully for their relative simplicity, it is striking how Březina moves from material to spiritual processes, how he teaches us to conceive of matter and its realm as a function of spiritual organisms. In the first image, the atmospheric material process, the windstorm, is merely an allusion to and initiator into a much more powerful, complex, and subtle process, a process of astrophysics, which is, however, still considered here in its idealized reflection of spiritual invigoration and animation. In the second and third images, the poet clearly shows theoretically how he thinks and teaches us to think by associating and linking physical and moral, corporeal and spiritual ideas, with the former serving as the illustration and foil of the latter. This is always Březina’s symbolic method: nature in his conception is the entranceway to a church, the entranceway to the Spirit. The poet thus scores two great victories: first, he intimately includes nature in the great creative foray that is his poetry; secondly, he gives nature a stylistic significance, tragic character, and grandeur that it does not have in a purely naturalistic conception. There is no lifeless decoration anywhere; everywhere nature is a participating, initiated, and sanctified actor in his drama of creative tension and resolution. Březina’s universal dramatic dream of a grand spiritual assault does not stop even before nature: it subjugates nature to itself and makes it serve as an auxiliary force in his crusade.

This linking and merging of worlds and the most distant values, smelting and fusing them into a single focus of the will, does not take place without violence, and Březina, like all great masters of literature and art who endeavor to shape reality in accordance with their impatient and feverish dreams, is full of condensations that the schoolmasterly mind would be only too willing to call distortions. Oxymoron, apparent or real, is not only characteristic of Březina’s style; it is also essential to Březina’s conception of the life process. This device is typical of all great dramatists from Sophocles, in whose Oedipus the paradoxical nature of tragic irony is discharged in a wild game with related concepts, through Seneca, Shakespeare, Lope de Vega and Calderón, to Kleist and Hebbel! The entire breadth and length of the earth squeezes and presses into the poet’s mind, whose roused, aggressive gaze is especially capable of reacting to the disputes and opposites of souls and eras, to everything in which it perceives and discerns a splitting sprout, the origin of future growth, and only through the violent coupling of opposites, sometimes linguistic, sometimes conceptual, can the creator master and reevaluate his constructions in a tectonic structure. “Lo, it began to roar silently in flashes of lightning…” (Winds from the Poles); “I came to know the false sincerity of colors” (Winds from the Poles); “sadness is always more joyful, laughter is always more painful” (Hands); “when my thought seethed before the storm like a swarm of bees and the eternal voice of silence in it was dying in a heavy echo!” (Light in the West); “and January breathed on me in the snow from the blossoms of apple-trees” (Light in the West); “the sweetness of my grapes and the kisses of brotherly souls burn on my lips” (Winds from the Poles); “ silence fell in heavy strokes from earth to earth and from sun to sun, and a new silence rose from its echo from my depths, different from the silence of the earth, it seethed with the breathing of thousands…” (Winds from the Poles); “and in my weeping hopes of return resound in the ringing smile of light” (The Builders of the Cathedral); “the kisses of a single night, in which souls sing of death and future lives in a single blazing of lips, forever sick with the pleasure of a single flash of lightning” (Winds from the Poles)… these and numerous similar examples demonstrate that the stylistic paradox that more or less approximates oxymoron is Březina’s fundamental creative method, and wherever his gaze falls, it stirs up everything into dramatic ferment and discord. Březina thus became a great conqueror in the empire of the word: he expressed what was deemed inexpressible, he captured the magic of his will in the translucent mountain crystal of his expression, which, it seemed, would always vanish in anticipation of fog and dusk. “Nights of recluses, whose souls light their extinguished fires on stars and descend with them into the depths, where kisses have the powerful taste of death and silence” (Winds from the Poles); “Bitterly, like the bushes of lost gardens, in which women have breathed for ages, shaking off kisses in the darkness of the ardent wind, and in them the moon’s glow summons to pleasure, like silver circles over the white ankles of a captured dancer” (Hands) – these are examples of Březina’s synthetic power, which, with the light foot of a dancer, touches the slopes of high mountains on which, it was believed before him, only the wing of musical intuition could tremble. Try to describe in analytic sentences the live, warm, melodic and harmonic tissue of Březina’s poetry, to convey in scholarly prose the content of those dark underground wells, seething not with springs of water, but with the music of words, analyze and explicate what is reevaluated here in this hermetic marriage of word and concept, melody and harmony – and you will soon see that you need as many sentences as Březina has words.

“Lo, in the movement of centuries in which worlds once drowned in the depths of this world like wrecked frigates weighted down with riches, after they had left mysterious harbors shining, and foundered in the tempest hailed as creation – among the gale-winds fulminating with all the voices of pain and love, among the fires expanded by all the stars in the distance into the night of infinity like bloody sparks – over the sea of metamorphoses devouring its own wave for entire centuries and still unsated: like the coral islands the earth of Victories settled down” (The Builders of the Cathedral) – this unique passage is an excellent example of what I have called the dynamic expansiveness of Březina’s poetics. A stylistic analysis of this passage and other, similar melodic and harmonic poetic structures will show that the basic idea (here the storm sinking valuable freight) not only reassigns values and spiritualizes the passage, but also ramifies and dissects it, as poetic images are taken up and developed in the next phrase, and as groups of words stir one another up and set one another on fire and gush forth in pockets of sparks and seethe with a ferment that is newly revived and communicated to its neighbor as in a relay race.

This mysterious wedding feast of idea, word, and music, and logic, intuition, and aural sensuality, demonstrates that through his melodic and harmonic poetic method Březina perfects stylistic absolutism, in which the image is an end in itself in the sense that it is neither a paraphrase nor a reminder of the external world, but instead it is an independent and purposeful substitute for it. This is the stylistic absolutism, as I have shown in this book in my articles on Rousseau and Mácha, that is in itself the final, supreme formal postulate to which romanticism necessarily and fatally had to submit, in accordance with its own inner laws. But at the same time Březina overcomes this stylistic absolutism by creating an external process and object that is just as great, and that counterbalances the superhuman chimera of the overly exuberant inner being. What for even the greatest romantics was the opium and hashish that poisoned them because, as vain captives of their own pessimistic hedonism and illusionism, they could not escape their vicious circle, became for Březina, who managed to break out of the circle, if not bread, at least a parable and source of life. Březina, as a paradoxical dramatist of the love of God and one’s neighbors, a dramatist of universal redemption through the collaboration of all the living and the dead, a theologian of pain and sacrifice, and at the same time a devotee of the act and an indefatigable fanner of inner striving and tension, always and everywhere performs this transsubstantiation.

From the melancholic impressionist and hedonistic pessimist of his early verse, Březina metamorphosed into a heroic, superhuman poet who melted down his misery and despair through magical, transformative art and turned it into armor that made him invincible, armor like that “armor of silver lights” the army of angels wears in one of his poems, and whose “reflection rouses innumerable sleepers from oppressive dreams with a smile.” From a sensitive poet of the nerves and their sensations, Březina matured into a dramatist you cannot fail to recognize in his work by all of its inner and outer signs. How characteristic it is, for instance, that in Březina’s poems you so often encounter pronounced and typical shifts and postures that embody all of the action! Let us take as an example the awe-inspiring, monumental image he creates of a woman giving birth to a child: “and when her secret name is called, a pallid woman in agony, as though on steps slippery with blood, mounts to the enchanted sources of life, which are driven into the circle in the moaning of centuries, in the jealous seething of invisible beings, and with a cry of horror she lies back, pales, and with painful flames presses her booty to her breast with her hands: wailing life meeting this sun” (Hands) – each word is the horror and awe of fatal tension and fatal resolve and responsibility, and the whole: tragic posture itself and tragic action itself._43

Březina’s drama is supported by the rhythm prevailing in his middle and later books, i.e., free verse, for this rhythm is the rhythm of human breath, which is powerfully released each time the entire being has exerted immense effort from the depths of dramatic excitement, and whose breadth changes, narrowing or expanding, depending on the profundity of inner turmoil._44

And only a great dramatic poetic power with the mad courage to anthropomorphize cosmic processes and see the history of the universe as the history of the poet’s own soul could attain what I believe to be the artistic, stylistic peak of Březina’s lyrics: the creation of spiritual families and genera (types). Throughout all of Březina’s oeuvre we find poems that bring together all of the legacy and heritage of centuries, processes, forces, powers, curses, and spells or dramatic and ironic situations in several typical spiritual postures, shifts, lines, questions, exclamations, laments, or incantations. Read “The Martyrs” – of bodies, love, silences, inherited guilt, sin, supreme longing; read “They Stood for a Long Time” in Winds from the Poles; read “The Prophets” and “The Builders of the Cathedral”; read “The Madmen” and “The Blind Men” in Hands, and you will be amazed at what a rich creator of spiritual forms Březina is, what power of objectification he has mastered, and how he manages to maintain an overall equilibrium among various forces and join them in a temporary armistice in an artistic plasticity that testifies to their vitality.

It is on this type-creating art that Březina based his superhuman choral and roundelay poetics, in which the mute and heavy worlds of the elements, the stars, and suns sing, and he was able to transform horror, pressure, distress, and despair through the evolution of his dramatic verse into a whole nation of joyful cries, certainties, wings, and souls, capable of populating even the most barren desert, and he thus created a new style and hitherto unfathomed evolutionary possibilities for poetry, which he redeemed from the most dangerous captivity of solipsism.

Translated by Kirsten Lodge.


Translated from F. X. Šalda: Vývoj a integrace v poezii Otokara Březiny. Duše a dílo. Podobizny a medailony. Melantrich, Praha 1950, p. 131–156; Soubor díla F. X. Šaldy 2.

“In you continual reverie has killed action.” Chatterton I, 5.

“And whose force has a single fear: his own mystical will!” (“Psalm in Honor of the Supreme Name,” Light in the West). “We tremble over the power of our will, which in the enchantment of this life has been left to us as the princely inheritance of a mysterious fall…” (Hands, 1901).

Mysterious Distances.

“Friendship of the Soul” (Mysterious Distances).

“My Mother”; “Silent Pain”; “Anniversary” (Mysterious Distances).

Light in the West.

“The White Glow of Light…”; Mysterious Distances.

Light in the West.

Mysterious Distances.

Mysterious Distances.

Mysterious Distances.

Mysterious Distances.

Lobt doch unsre stillen Feste, Unsre Gärten, unsre Zimmer, Das bequeme Hausgeräte, Unser Hab’ und Gut. Täglich kommen neue Gäste, Diese früh, die Andern späte, Auf den weiten Herden immer Lodert neue Lebens-Glut. […] Süsser Reiz der Mitternächte, Stiller Kreis geheimer Mächte, Wollust rätselhafter Spiele, Wir nur kennen euch. Wir nur sind am hohen Ziele, Bald in Strom uns zu ergiessen, Dann in Tropfen zu zerfliessen Und zu nippen auch zugleich (Novalis, Schriften I, herausgegeben von J. Minor, 114ff; English translation by Karin Beck).

“I Hear in My Soul,” Light in the West.

“The Mystery of Pain,” Light in the West.

“Why Do You Turn Away, O Weak One,” Light in the West.

“Psalm in Honor of the Supreme Name,” Light in the West.

And, of course, in settings as well. Many poems in Březina’s first book are set in a chamber, a bed; the poet lives “in silent reclusion”; his Belovčd comes “over the black carpet that Night has woven into a full wave through the darkness towards [his] bed”; the sky oppresses him “like heavy gray vaulting”; “the pall of night descends over his head”; there is no movement or, if there is, it is only “through the corridors of an abandoned cloister.” A comparison of these settings with those of Březina’s last poems, such as “Places of Harmony and Reconciliation” in Hands, demonstrates the evolution of this tangible aspect of his work well. The abandoned cloister of the first book is transformed here into a “palace” with “crystal halls of your silences” and “corridors of azure heavens,” in which “by the most secret magic reflection our thoughts are visible to all like the purest constellations in the sky.”




The Builders of the Cathedral.

How can one fail to recall Dostoevsky here, who felt the same way; what he likes best in the young generation that is just coming of age and that does not promise much is its impatience, its speed, and the decisiveness with which it acts.

The Builders of the Cathedral.

“Grace,” The Builders of the Cathedral.

“The Final Ripening,” Winds from the Poles (1897).



The Builders of the Cathedral.

Winds from the Poles.

“Guardian over the Dead,” Hands.

“Madmen,” Hands.

The Music of Sources.

Opening poem of Winds from the Poles.

“Love,” Winds from the Poles.



“When the Sky Lights up Your Windows…”

Paul Claudel: Art poétique: Connaissance du Temps.

“Vigil III.”

“Dithyramb of Worlds.”

It is worth adding another posture typical of Březina’s poetry: “Do you remember that cry carried through the centuries, when life first moved, stupefied by your glow, and, paralyzed in the ecstasy of amazement, began to stagger away from the night on its knees?” (Winds from the Poles).

In the last poems of Hands the more realistic free verse gives way to traditional, closed, and conventional verse, evidently once again as a consequence of the dramatic paradox that governs all of Březina’s oeuvre: for Březina there was an inner necessity, once he had attained growth and mastery on the empirical level, to transfer his achievements to the higher sphere of melody and harmony and to idealize them in it abstractly and generically.