An Anthem for Protectors
I had a notion some years ago, when I was working on The High Cruel Years, of an anthem for the Velorian Protectors, “Ye Who Are the Warriors of Skietra.” It was inspired by my having read about the Hussite hymn, “Ye Who Are the Warriors of God.”
It was strictly a hymn to begin with, sung by the followers of Jan Hus (1369-1415), a forerunner of Marin Luther who was burned at the stake for heresy. Between 1420 and 1431, Hussite forces defeated five consecutive papal crusades. Their defense and rebellion against Roman Catholics became known as the Hussite Wars. A century later, as many as 90% of inhabitants of the Czech lands were non-Catholic and followed the teachings of Hus and his successors. In the centuries that followed, the hymn became associated with Czech nationalism, and was no longer sung only by men, as witness this scene from a film based on the life of Czech soprano Emily Destinn (1878-1930):
Bedřich Smetana, the Czech composer, had already quoted from it liberally in “Tabor” (1878) and “Blanik” (1879) the final movements of his patriotic symphonic cycle Ma Vlast. As the Wikipedia entry says of the latter, “Once again, the Hussite hymn used in Tábor is quoted, though this time it is the third line which rings out in the march at the end of the piece. The original lyrics to this line in the hymn are ‘so that finally with Him you will always be victorious,’ a reference to the eventual victorious rise of the Czech state.” I find the heroic nature of the music perfect for Velorians in their epic war against the dark forces of the Aureans, but it’s heroic in another way: Smetana had gone stone deaf when he composed it. Imagine the strength of will and imagination it took to hear inside his head not only the themes, but how all the orchestral parts would fit together:
Below is one standard translation of the original lyrics:
Ye who are God's warriors and of his law,
Pray to God for help and have faith in Him;
That always with Him you will be victorious.
Christ is worth all your sacrifices, He will pay you back an hundredfold.
If you give up your life for Him you will receive eternal life.
Happy is he who believes this truth.
The Lord commandeth you not to fear bodily harm,
And commandeth you to even put your life down for the love of your brothers.
Therefore, archers, crossbowmen, halberdiers of knightly rank,
Scythemen and macebearers from all walks of life,
Remember always the Lord benevolent.
Do not fear your enemies, nor gaze upon their number,
Keep the Lord in your hearts; for Him fight on,
And before enemies you need not flee.
Since ages past Czechs have said and had proverbs which state,
That if the leader is good, so too is the journey.
Remember all of you the password which was given out.
Obey your captains and guard one another.
Stay sharp and everyone keep formation.
You beggars and wrongdoers, remember your soul!
For greed and theft don't lose your life.
And pay no heed to the spoils of war.
And with this happily cry out - saying, "At thee! Have at thee!"
Savour the weapon in your hands and shout, "God is our Lord!"
Like most such translations, the lyrics don’t necessarily fit the music, or scan, or rhyme, And with S.T. Mac gone, we don’t have anyone to create a Velorian translation that would. But for the record, here is he Czech version:
a zákona jeho,
prostež od boha pomoci
a dúfajte v něho,
že konečně vždycky s ním svítězíte.
Kristusť vám za škody stojí,
stokrát viec slibuje,
pakli kto proň život složí,
věčný mieti bude;
blaze každému, ktož na pravdě sende.
Tenť pán velíť se nebáti
velíť i život složiti
pro lásku svých bližních.
Protož střelci, kopiníci
sudličníci a cepníci
pomnětež všichni na pána štědrého!
Nepřátel se nelekajte,
na množstvie nehleďte,
pána svého v srdci mějte,
proň a s ním bojujte
a před nepřátely neutiekajte!
Dávno Čechové řiekali
a příslovie měli,
že podlé dobrého pána
dobrá jiezda bývá.
Vy pakosti a drabanti,
na duše pomněte,
pro lakomstvie a lúpeže
a na kořistech se nezastavujte!
Heslo všichni pamatujte,
kteréž vám vydáno,
svých hauptmanóv pozorujte,
retuj druh druhého,
hlediž a drž se každý šiku svého!
A s tiem vesele křikněte
řkúc: Na ně, hr na ně!
Bran svú rukama chutnajte,
bóh pán náš, křikněte!