Read CHAPTER XII of From a Terrace in Prague , free online book, by Lieut.-Col. B. Granville Baker, on ReadCentral.com.

Is another long one, but the last of A Terrace in Prague. It tells little about Kings of Bohemia, and more about Jesuits and the work they left behind to mark the influence they wielded. There are churches and statues of their erection, but you are left to decide for yourself whether you like those works or not. Several historic figures appear on the scene: Tilly, Waldstein, Koenigsmark the Swedish General, and his chaplain, Dr. Klee. Mention is also made of some Britons, among them one with the homely name of Brown, an honest soldier who lies buried here in Prague. A tale of a supernatural event. A further talk of the river and about excursions. Finally, an attempt at an epilogue.

You will, I hope, agree with me that a man who sits upon a terrace and writes about the things he sees and what he thinks about them is entitled to bring his observations to a close whenever he considers it fit to do so. That point is now within reach. From the first I warned you that this is not a guide-book, and therefore not under the obligation of giving you a full and detailed catalogue of all the sights of Prague and how to see them. There is little more that I propose to tell you, it being my object to entice you out here to see for yourself. I will wait for you on my terrace, if you like, and while waiting will cast a final glance round the scene that has, I confess, acquired a strong hold of me.

The Hradsany, seen on a dull, chill day, always recalls to me what I have read about those days since the Bohemians lost their all on the White Mountain, until they broke free again only a few years ago. On dull days the long, plain, featureless walls of the Hradsany seem the very expression of life under the later Habsburg Kings of Bohemia. They were, on the whole, worthy, well-meaning sovereigns, their chief trouble being, it would seem, a hereditary incapacity for seeing any point of view but that to which their forbears, Jesuit-trained, and of limited outlook, had educated them. They were quite impervious to new ideas, very tenacious of old ones, and fully convinced of their own divine right. The Habsburg line of policy towards Bohemia was laid down by Ferdinand II or shall I say for that monarch? at the Te Deum sung in St. Stephen’s Cathedral, at Vienna, to celebrate the victory of Rome over Bohemia’s religious freedom. It would seem as if the King had moulded his policy on the text of the sermon preached by Brother Sabrinus, the Capuchin friar, on that occasion: “Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” In carrying out this policy the King of Bohemia was ably assisted by the Jesuits. This congregation had been introduced into Bohemia by a former Ferdinand whose acquaintance we have made; the Jesuits had therefore stores of useful local knowledge at their command when they set about complementing the material victory won on the White Mountain by a spiritual conquest. The first thing was to re-establish Roman ritual, and the church chosen for this act was St. Martin’s-in-the-Wall, where, as I have told you, the Sacrament was first given in both kinds by Jacobelius in 1414. Then it was thought fit to remove the statue of King George Podiebrad from the west front of the Tyn Church. The effigy showed this national hero pointing with his drawn sword towards the chalice above his head, of which he had been such a valiant defender.

Then followed persecution, exile, imprisonment and corporal punishment, in addition to the turmoil and sufferings of the Thirty Years’ War. Ferdinand’s father-confessor was a Jesuit, Lamormain, and under the latter’s guidance Bohemia was being brought back to the fold, while elsewhere in Europe men like Tilly and Waldstein, whom Schiller preferred to call Wallenstein, were taking their part in the Catholic Reformation, with striking results, the sack of cities and the devastation of whole countries.

After the Catholic Reformers had seen to it that the leaders of the movement towards religious liberty had been put away, they set about bringing the Bohemians back to Rome in their own ingenious way. We have seen that among other remedies against heresy they introduced, or perhaps re-introduced, a national saint, John Nepomuk, had him canonized and an effigy of him set up on the Charles Bridge; this effigy was followed by many others, among them that of Loyola. Each pillar of the bridge that Charles built is crowned by the effigy of a saint or groups of saints, with most of whom, I regret to say, I am not acquainted. There are, however, some old friends Saints Ludmilla, Wenceslaus, Cosmas and Damain, and Adalbert who are intimately connected with the story of Prague. There is no denying the fact that these groups of statuary give a unique touch to the massive beauty of the Charles Bridge, but they do not appeal to me as works of art; this is probably due to my own shortcomings. To my thinking, the statue of St. George, which stands close by the south entrance to the cathedral on the Hradsany, is worth the whole collection on the Charles Bridge. This statue, the work of the brothers George and Martin of Aussenburk, was ordered expressly by Charles IV; it is an absolutely faithful representation of a knight’s armour as worn in the fourteenth century. For the rest, the statuary on the bridge was not run up in the space of a few years; the work extended over about two centuries.

The first step taken towards an outward display of regained power was the destruction by the Jesuits of that old church which stood on the Mala Stranske Namesti, in which, as I told you, the martyrs of 1621 partook of the Sacraments on their road to execution. The Church of St. Nicholas then reared its stately pile out of the medley of quaint old roofs and dormer windows immediately below my terrace. There were changes going on among those sleepy houses too, for the victory of the White Mountain and the Imperialist successes in the Thirty Years’ War had brought to Bohemia a swarm of foreign adventurers, officers in the Emperor’s armies, who acquired the property of exiled Bohemian nobility and set about building palaces for themselves. They are interesting too, these palaces in Prague, and some of them have beautiful gardens, as those of Fuerstenberg, Lobkovitz, Schoenborn and Waldstein. The latter palace has, indeed, more than ordinary interest on account of the strange man who built it.

Albrecht of Waldstein was a Bohemian noble of no very high degree, and belonged to a Protestant family. He seems to have had no great learning, but turned when he arrived at man’s estate to the dark sciences, more especially astronomy, and from the study of this science he hoped to look behind the veil of the future and read his fortunes in the stars. He rose, no doubt on account of his ability, to high command, to a position of more real power than that of his imperial master. He amassed a vast fortune, and built himself a huge palace in Prague from my terrace I could point to you its long line of roofs. To build his palace a number of smaller houses had to be pulled down, some twenty-three in all. Then Giovanni Marini, with his Italian and Dutch architects and landscape gardeners, set to work and built up this regal abode of gigantic proportions, a place as vast as Waldstein’s ambition and dreams of power and conquest. For all he was of Protestant faith originally, Waldstein had as patron saint St. Wenceslaus, to whom he built a beautiful chapel in his palace. There are gardens and fountains, a Sala terrena, said to be the largest in Europe; there are magnolia-trees as old as the palace; there is a bower of black old yew-trees screening the space where this warrior-statesman received the ambassadors of kings who sought alliance with him. There is an uncanny air of desolation over all this vast demesne, an air of unsatisfied ambition, of vain striving and infinite sadness of remorse. I can picture to myself Waldstein pacing along that alley of clipped trees, now overgrown, scheming and planning. I am sure he was one of those whose vision showed to them the endless possibilities of power wielded from Prague as capital of a great Central European State, that he was of one mind with George Podiebrad, Charles IV, Premysl Ottokar II, Libusa, and I will even include that Frankish adventurer, Samo. But Waldstein had to reckon with a Habsburg Emperor, King of Bohemia. The negotiations that his generalissimo had undoubtedly been carrying on with the French and the Swedes had roused the suspicions of Emperor Ferdinand, so Albrecht of Waldstein, Duke of Friedland, was rendered harmless; he was murdered by his own officers one night at Cheb (Eger,) a place you passed through on your way from Paris to Prague.

There is a quaint old-world atmosphere that clings about the Mala Strana, in its narrow streets and under its red roofs and dormer windows, an atmosphere that suggests all sorts of good deeds done in a quiet sort of way, of simple piety and a general steady level of intellectual effort. In this, I am glad to report, some English people, or rather Britons, took part. I have already mentioned Elizabeth Weston and her epitaph in the church dedicated to St. Thomas. This church has also been restored by the Jesuits; it was probably high time, for it had been dedicated in 1316, and was occasionally the scene of a “certain liveliness” which is likely to make repairs necessary. Apart from Swedes who used to come round pillaging, this church seems to have had its private, as it were parochial, troubles, a serious one in 1510, for instance, when a fracas arose one day during service between some Bohemians and some Hungarians. A fracas was always conducted with rapiers and daggers in those days, and must have been a picturesque, if inconvenient, event. It was all about a lady too, which sounds quite likely: it was said that she was not worth all the pother: this is the sort of thing some people would say. As a consequence of this fracas several Bohemians were executed for robbery with violence, which sheds a different light on the incident, but I do not think it matters much at this distance of time.

There was a monastery attached to St. Thomas’s Church, or perhaps the other way about, and the monks had a fine library. When the Swedes, quite uninvited, called at Prague and occupied the Mala Strana in 1648, their commander, Koenigsmark, sent his chaplain, Master John Klee, to pick up the library of St. Thomas’s: the Swedes were great collectors of books. Klee remained unmoved by all the entreaties of the good monks until one of them showed him some silver spoons. Klee began to waver; some one brought out a gilt cup; Klee fell, and left the good monks with their books, just carrying off the trifling tokens they had given him as souvenirs. A little kindness goes a long way.

In St. Thomas’s there is also a painting ascribed to Rubens over the altar. It looks doubtful to me, but the light was bad, and I could form no opinion as to the picture’s merit. Another painting in this church gave me a thrill, a Virgin and Child, both black! I hoped that at last I had discovered a picture I had heard so much of, “The Black Madonna” a famous picture with a stirring history. There are said to have been several “Black Madonnas” in Bohemia at one time, and that of Stara Boleslav was the most precious of them. St. Ludmilla herself had given this picture to her pious grandson Wenceslaus, who, as we know, was murdered at Stara Boleslav. Podiwin, the most trusty henchman of Wenceslaus, buried this treasure when his master was murdered. You could not well let it fall into the hands of Brother Boleslav, the hefty heathen; he would have been incapable of appreciating the beautiful legend of how the young mother, filled with anxiety on the flight into Egypt, prayed that she and her Child might be turned black while their exile lasted. The picture was found again in 1160 by a ploughman; the Saxons, on their raid into Bohemia in 1635, stole it, and Ferdinand II redeemed it and brought it back to Prague. It should be somewhere in this city. I will leave the search for it to you, when you pay your visit to Prague, which is surely inevitable now that you have read so far in this book.

A tall, very thin spire, that peers up near the mass of the Nicholas Church, reminds me of others of British race, who had their day in Prague and, I feel sure, contributed to its reputation for religion and piety. These were the Englische Fraeulein, as the German chronicler calls them; this means English virgins or maidens you cannot very well call them English misses whose Order, founded by Clara Ward in the seventeenth century, was introduced into Prague in the eighteenth by a Princess Auersberg. I am not sure how these ladies passed their time, nor what their object was in life, but no doubt they maintained that state to which they considered themselves called, and this alone should be accounted unto them for righteousness in a gay town like Prague.

There is yet one other Briton of whom I must tell you in connection with the story of old Prague. His name is Brown, and I met him, or rather his effigy, in Vienna many years ago. To give him all his style and title, or as much as I can recollect Field-Marshal Count Brown, but for all that a good stout Briton. He happened to serve the Empress Maria Theresia, and served her well. When her arch-enemy, Frederick of Prussia, came this way, Brown was one of those who came out to meet him; was wounded and died of his wounds in Prague. Frederick of Prussia was obliged to raise the siege of Prague, according to popular opinion forced thereto by supernatural powers. It is said that one night, just after the battle of Prague, fought some five miles out, at a place called Sterboholy, and while the siege of Prague was still in progress, the guard at one of the gates was surprised by a visitor. He appeared suddenly coming from the city on a black horse, dressed in ancient costume and wearing, mark you, a prince’s cap. He demanded right of egress, the gate was opened, and the night-rider vanished into the darkness. The next day came news of the Austrian victory at Kolin, and everyone knew that one of Bohemia’s ancient champions had decided the issue of that day. The pious generally ascribe the victory to St. Wenceslaus; if supernatural agency was at work, I am more inclined to attribute this ingérence to Brother Boleslav, the hearty heathen: it was more in his line.

Those dark days passed, and a century elapsed before the Prussians came pouring in again to disturb the Pax Austriaca which held Bohemia enveloped. They came as before, over the passes and through the Gate of Bohemia at that dear little town among the pine forests, Nachod. But all this is ancient history, is past and over, and the serene atmosphere of Good King Charless gracious days is glowing over Prague again. Old Prague, the somnolent city of centuries after Bohemias freedom went, is regaining her place and rising to her high mission as capital of a free and independent State, the most promising of those that arose out of the ruins of the Habsburg dynastys dominions. Old customs, no doubt, are vanishing: I have looked in vain for the bootmakers Fidlovacka and the tailors’ revels in Stromovka, the butchers’ special form of annual rejoicing seems also to have fallen into desuetude. Like pious souls, as they undoubtedly are, the butchers of Prague choose an ancient and respectable church for their peculiar celebration, which, to my thinking, has a somewhat pagan savour; indeed, the profoundly learned trace the practice back to the days when Thor was worshipped in the gloomy forests of Central Europe. The church chosen by the butchers for their special ritualistic function was that dedicated to St. James, son of Zebedee. This church was originally one of the oldest in Prague; it stands in that close-packed quarter of the Old Town, near Our Lady of Tyn. The present edifice shows no traces of its earliest aspect when founded by the Order of Minorities in 1232; it has been damaged and restored until its present appearance was evolved, but it seems to have been loyally patronized by the Old Town butchers, whose bravery, we know, did much towards safeguarding the city both during the Hussite troubles and against the Swedes. Stout fellows, those old butchers of Prague; their holiday diversion, observed each 25th of July, was to dress up a goat, to carry it to the top of St. James’s church-tower and throw it over into the street with “music and song,” in which the goat probably joined until he arrived on the pavement below. Strenuous enjoyment on a hot summer’s day, I should say, having been in personal contact with a goat myself on occasion, but I really cannot see where the fun comes in. By the aid of a map you may discern the church-tower of St. James’s, but you will no longer see the goat hurtling through space. One by one these dear old customs are dying out. Nevertheless, our Pragers still enjoy life, more than ever I should say, contrasting the city of to-day with that of some ten years ago. I have touched on some of the forms of amusement and recreation you may indulge in; you will also find a pleasant social life developing among the cheery and hospitable Pragers. And there is always the river, which among its many reflections, by the way, also includes those of a very modern and rather German-looking building which stands somewhat by itself among disconnected groups of old and new buildings, near that quaint old house by the Jewish Cemetery. The building I refer to is called the Rudolfinum, after one of the unhappiest of all the Habsburgs, and served originally as an academy of music. It still fills up with sound from time to time, though not necessarily with harmony; it is the Parliament of the Republic of Czecho-Slovakia.

The present tendency in Prague is to erect handsome modern buildings all along the right bank of the river: Government offices, Ministries chiefly, will occupy them. At present the different Ministries are housed in ancient palaces dotted about the city. Foreign Affairs are controlled (and very ably too) from the Hradsany, as is only right, and here are also the offices of the Presidency and the President’s official residence. The Ministry of Commerce inhabits Waldstein’s Palace, that of Finance the Palace of Clam-Galas, which is well worth seeing on account of its portico. But I fancy it will be some time before all the grand plans for reconstruction and bringing Prague up to the requirements of a capital city have been carried out, and the silver river will be quite content to reflect the glorious monuments of the past for some little time longer. The river, no doubt, could tell us a deal about the chances and changes of the mortals that lived on its banks; we have seen it reflect so many events, joyous, tragic, even comic. On the whole it wears a thoroughly contented look on its shining countenance the look of one who knows he is thoroughly appreciated. And knowing this, the river has put up with all manner of trammels which men call “regulation”; there are weirs and locks and all manner of improvements which not even Charles IV had thought of constructing for the good of his people. But then there are the islands left, and the Vltava’s friends, the Pragers, come down to those islands of an evening and make music, which must reconcile the river to changed conditions. One island, that of Kampa, has already been pointed out to you; there are others. Of these, two count for our purpose, namely, of getting the best we can out of glorious old Prague. Of these two islands, one is named Zofin, which is derived from Sophie, possibly the wife of Good King Wenceslaus. Mind you, I am not at all certain about this; there is a large bathing establishment on this island, which not only recalls the cheery memory of Wenceslaus, but also that of Susanna; therefore to bring in the name of long-suffering Queen Sophie does not seem to me quite nice: what do you think? The next island is a larger one, almost in midstream, whereas Zofin keeps the right bank and has just enough space for a very pretty flower-garden, and a well-kept restaurant where you may enjoy good food and good music under the shade of the spreading chestnut-trees. The larger island is called Strelesky Ostrov, which means that it has something to do with shooting. Indeed, in years of long ago, in the days of bows and arrows, and crossbow and bolt, when archery was compulsory, this island was the rendezvous of marksmen. Being a serious concern, archery, and subsequently all manner of shooting, was put under the spiritual charge of St. Sebastian. It is very sporting of this saint to have accepted this honorary office. Here again, on this island, you may dine and drink and listen to good music. You may also shoot at glass balls with an air-gun. Ichabod!

Wherever there is a good navigable river, there you have many occasions for excursions. Steamers of all sizes, painted in the national colours of Bohemia, white and red, ply up and down the Vltava. In fact, from Prague, now that all the locks are completed, you may travel down the Vltava to the Elbe and right away to New York by water if you will change at Hamburg.

There are walks and excursions within easy reach of the centre of the city. You take a tram it is quite worth it, and is comparatively easy on a Sunday afternoon to anyone who has played “forward” in a “rugger” team. When buying a tram-ticket always make a sound like “pshesses” at the conductor. He will not mind it in the least; in fact, he will take special pains about punching your ticket, which, by virtue of the strange noise you made, enables you to change into another tram. The tram takes you to the outskirts, where you may start walking or just sink into a beer-garden, according to your degree of physical fitness after the journey. You will be pleased to hear that the edict of King John anent no drinks within two miles of the city has been withdrawn, so you may settle down in the Stromovka or the Kinsky Garden for the afternoon. This latter garden, by the way, is one of the most attractive features of Prague. One of the Kinskys sold it to the town, which makes the best use of it and keeps it in good order for the benefit of the public. You will also do well to visit that little chateau place which you will see on entering the garden. In it you will find a delectable collection of old Bohemian and Moravian costumes, furniture and household goods which will help you to realize how and why these people cling so tenaciously to all that pertains to their race.

Touching the Kinsky Garden is another one, also beautiful, called Nebozizek. These gardens are separated by a wall that descends from the top of the height down to the street below, the “Famine Wall” it is called, for a thoughtful King of Bohemia, Charles IV again, caused it to be built in order to provide work during a lean year some centuries ago. A gap in the Famine Wall, which you reach by shady winding ways, gives you a glorious and unexpected view of the Hradsany; the winding ways lead you up to the summit of the Petrin, as this height is called, where you may find an outlook tower, a church, a diorama showing a scene from the Thirty Years’ War, and a beer-garden so entertainment is provided for all tastes. There is a way down from the top of Petrin shaded by chestnut-trees, its stages marked by fourteen chapels, the Stations of the Cross, until it narrows in between garden walls over which you see Strahov and the Hradsany rising in graceful dignity out of a maze of red-tiled roofs and foliage.

Then you may wander on past Strahov and over open rolling country to the battlefield of the White Mountain and to the Star, those places of tragic memory in the history of Bohemia. It is usual to speak slightingly of the immediate environment of Prague as being uninteresting and indeed unlovely; I protest strongly against this, and that because I have traversed the fields and lanes on foot, not dashing through the landscape in a motor-car, and therefore claim to have seen the scenery round about the capital. The citizens of Prague seem to be of my way of thinking, to judge by the numbers that set out on Sundays to the heights that encompass the town on its western side. The good people of Prague enjoy their Sunday beer in the Star Park Restaurant, and take their walks abroad among the pleasant valleys that run down to the river on its left bank. From the plateau of the White Mountain you may find your way into one of these pleasant valleys, that of the sarka. You enter it by a narrow rocky gorge, and as it has a distinctly romantic look, legend has fastened on to it and echoes a tale of Bohemian Amazons led by a lady of the name of sarka, who was discontented with the dominance of mere man. The legend is somewhat obscure, but as the Bohemians, like other people, prefer a happy ending to their stories (they have till recently known but few in their own history), we may take it that the Amazonian ladies arrived at the natural issue out of their troubles. Amongst these rocks is an open-air theatre where concerts are given; here one glorious Sunday afternoon in autumn I was once again privileged to hear Kubelik play.

The sarka brook trips along gaily towards the Vltava under overhanging rocks, by wooded slopes and fresh meadows. It tries to be useful in driving the “Devil’s Mill”; that sinister personage seems to have started quite a number of such concerns in Bohemia. It is a pleasant little place, tucked away among rocks and trees, and its chief business appears to be the supplying of refreshments. Of the occasional rocks that jut out above the trees, one claims to be the jumping-off place of a Prague damsel who was tired of life; such places are pretty frequent in all scenery with any pretence to romance. Given a rocky eminence, you will always find that somebody or other has leapt therefrom and thus given it a name, the “Maiden’s Leap” or the “Knight’s Leap.” It is obvious, for instance, that the Vysehrad, the rocky eminence on which stood the first castle of Bohemia’s rulers before ever Prague was built, should have a jumping-off story. A knight was imprisoned in the Vysehrad Castle; he asked leave to ride round the castle, for change of air no doubt, when suddenly he wheeled about, put his horse at the river and leapt of course he got safely away. Let us hope that the damsel of Prague who leapt into the sarka Valley also fell soft and got away.

These little valleys that lead down to the river are all the more delightful as you seem to come upon them by surprise. The general aspect of the high ground above the river is that of a highly cultivated undulating country with prim and rather uninteresting-looking clusters of white-washed cottages gathered round the church-tower with its quaint bulbous top-hamper which, to my thinking, recalls the Dresden china Zwiebel Muster of one’s youth, but is really supposed to be due to eastern influence. Again, from the river you see wooded slopes, cherry orchards and factory chimneys. But turning down towards the river you suddenly come upon a jolly little tinkling brook, falling over rocks that peep out of gorse bushes, winding about among lush meadows where geese chatter contentedly, and seem so far remote from broad acres under waving corn that you get the “wind on the heath” all to yourself, and feel yet farther removed from smoking factories. And even these latter blend with the landscape in a manner which English factories can never acquire. They are tucked away in cosy little valleys, and even in large groups do not disturb the harmony of the landscape. They also seem an expression of the national character, steady and hardworking, yet capable of fitting in completely with the joyous beauty kindly Nature spreads all about.

Within easy reach of Prague, with its hundred towers, are many historic places, landmarks in the story of Bohemia. Foremost among these is the Castle of Karlov Tyn. It stands on a rocky spur in a wooded valley, between four hills. You catch a sudden and fleeting glimpse of it as you approach Prague from Paris by the line that runs along the winding River Berounka. If you are blessed with the healthy curiosity of the traveller in foreign parts, you will insist on a closer inspection of this lordly castle. It looks new; this is the result of well-meant restoration undertaken some years ago; it is really of great and historic antiquity.

Charles IV, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and first Bohemian King of that name, began the building of this castle in 1348 as a fitting casket for the Crown jewels and the charter of the land he loved. During the reign of subsequent Kings of Bohemia, this castle, though it passed through many of the vicissitudes peculiar to mediaeval history, kept up its traditional importance in the land. It was besieged by the Hussites in 1422, and parts of it were burnt down and allowed to go to ruin. Over a century later it was restored, but suffered eclipse after the Thirty Years’ War, was even in pawn for several years, and did not quite retrieve its fallen fortunes until after the coup d’etat of 1918. The deeds by which the two leading patron saints of Bohemia gained sanctity are set forth in quite well-preserved frescoes.

While on the subject of castles and you must forgive me for rambling, I should like to tell you about another one that stands some little way farther up the valley of the Berounka, tucked away out of sight of the railway. The history of this Castle of Krivoklat dates yet farther back than that of Karlov Tyn, for we read of its restoration in the twelfth century by Prince Vladislaus I, a scion of the House of Premysl. Charles IV loved to live here, and restored the place for the first of his four wives, Blanche of Valois. Other guests more or less distinguished visited here, some of them involuntarily; these latter were generally lodged in the Huderka Tower suitably fitted with oubliettes. Among these guests were two already mentioned, a leading religious light, John Augusta, Bishop of the Bohemian Brethren, and another less certain light, Kelly, the Irish alchemist. “Irish alchemist” has rather a racy flavour; the idea of an Irishman engaged in such pursuit suggests endless ingenuous possibilities. With Kelly was also the Englishman, Dr. John Dee, who was in like condemnation. No doubt the two were a precious pair of rogues, but King Rudolph II had asked for trouble by encouraging alchemists from all over Europe to visit him in Prague. The present-day compeers of Dee and Kelly are no doubt the self-constituted experts on politics, finance, commerce and other questions which puzzle international commissions, conferences and such-like amenities of our times. Anyway, Dr. Dee and Mr. Kelly failed to give satisfaction, and so were incarcerated at Krivoklat. A charming place it must have been when the forests were denser and shy deer tripped down to the water’s edge of an evening. Charming it is still with its haunting memories that seem to linger more fondly than at Karlov Tyn, perhaps because the modern renovator has not been so busy here. The quaint old corners still have an old-world, homely look which the renovator invariably destroys. Despite the trees that add deep shadows to the sombre masonry, you may yet call up visions of knights tilting in the uneven overgrown courtyard while fair ladies looked on from a balcony specially added for the purpose, and in such manner as to produce a very quaint effect of perspective. You may yet imagine yourself as one of a reverent crowd listening awestruck to bold utterance of religious truths from a Bohemian preacher in that beautiful pulpit of carved stone which still adorns the gateway that leads to the inner court. And if you have the gift of placing yourself back among those earnest seekers after truth who lived in and suffered for their faith, you will draw nearer to the real spirit of the sons of Bohemia.

And this reflection leads to yet another historic spot within easy reach of Prague, Tabor. This is a pleasant little town some two hours by rail from the capital. Seen from the railway as it stands on a gentle rise, its tall church-tower and red roofs reflected in the waters of a winding lake, it looks what it is now, a very peaceful spot. But if you go about its narrow streets you come upon many relics of the town’s eventful past. It comes as a surprise to find that the side towards the south, towards Austria, descends precipitously to the River Losnice, a striking contrast to the placid lake which first greeted you. This lake was called Jordan, the city Tabor, by those who, following the teaching of Hus, ordered their lives and thoughts by Holy Writ. The Hussites under their leader ZiZka, one of the ablest generals of all time, had decided to build them a city and fixed upon this site for the sake of its undoubted strategic value and its capacity for defence.

Tabor, however, takes me rather too far afield; I mentioned it for the benefit of those who study archaeology; these will find interesting instances of Bohemias fifteenth-century architecture in this the stronghold of ZiZka and the followers of Hus.

In these my reflections on things seen and noted from “a Terrace in Prague” I have endeavoured to arouse your interest in this grand old city. I have pointed out to you from the terrace of my choice monuments to a glorious past, to a glowing vital history of this the capital of an ancient realm. I leave it now to you to fill in the gaps I have left, either purposely for I want you to come here and see for yourself or inadvertently; and I have already admitted my limited knowledge of a great subject. So come out here and choose your point of view, and carry on the reflections I have started; there is endless scope. As Luetzow says: “When throwing a stone through a window in Prague you throw with it a morsel of history.” This is not meant to encourage stone-throwing, a practice that meets with little appreciation here. What is meant is that there is a vast field lying before you, as you look out over the city, a field which will render you good returns for any attempt you make to cultivate it. If your outlook be academic, at your feet lies one of Europe’s oldest universities; if your interests turn to architecture, this little work alone should give you some idea of the wealth of material lying here to your hand. If you are one of those rare mortals who study history for the sake of applying its moral to the conduct of the world’s affairs, then you have here a deep well from which to draw inspiration. Look at those figures that rise above the heads of their fellows in the shadowy pageant of Bohemia’s capital, at those whose vision carried well beyond the narrow frontiers of their country and the limitations of their age. Ottokar II and Charles IV, George Podiebrad and Waldstein, all these saw the inner meaning of Libusa’s prophecy: “I see a grand city, the fame of which reaches to the skies.”

Libusa’s prophecy has been fulfilled, her forecast of Prague’s place in the world has come true. In the days of Ottokar II, Prague held high place as a capital of a great State. Charles IV rescued this city that he loved, and made of it the rallying point of Central European culture. King George Podiebrad felt the high importance of this his native country’s capital, and from it he wove his web of treaties and agreements for the betterment of Central Europe by means of his League of Peace. Dark Waldstein had formed great and ambitious plans, possibly not so altruistic as those of his spiritual kinsmen, the great men mentioned above. You have seen how one after another these giants of Bohemia saw their plans brought to nought. Ottokar II succumbed to the first Habsburger that threw his shadow over Bohemia. The successors of Charles and George Podiebrad could not stand up against the forces of reaction that beat down Bohemia’s efforts towards finding herself and taking her rightful place in the comity of nations. Of Waldstein’s plans and ambitions there are only dark traces, obscure indications; he, a man of penetrating vision, must have realized the possibilities of his country, and must have been bent on securing for it the place it is entitled to. But he in his turn perished at the instigation of a Habsburger. And so we see the searching light of greatness light up the city from time to time, and in almost regular intervals of a century at a time; then came heavy banks of cloud to obscure the fair prospect. The clouds have rolled away again; again bright sunshine draws out the memories of Golden Prague and raises hopes of a glorious future. This time the fate of Prague and the land and people she stands for does not depend upon dynastic considerations nor the will or vision of one ruler or another. The destinies of Prague are in the hands of a sovereign people; it is theirs to make or mar them.

Here is matter for deep study, such as will in time justify prediction. Mark also well the signs of the times as you look out over Prague, and note whether the spirit of the great departed has not returned to inform the people of Bohemia and of the lands that make up the Succession State of the old Austrian Empire, the Republic of Czecho-Slovakia.

If I have succeeded in arousing your interest, my task is completed; it is then for you to take up the tale “From a Terrace in Prague.”