Banners to celebrate Mr. Neurath? Banners to celebrate the German army? “No”, replied the Czech nation, “we will raise banners in honour of the Czech poet”.
Žižkov is drowning in a flood of flags. On the periphery, in a half-ruined house that perhaps fifty years ago was a little factory and is now a car repair shop, the flag decoration begins and stretches through Žižkov to the National Museum, in front of which lines of people and school groups have been standing with flowers since morning. The National Partnership also laid a wreath! Who all lays wreaths at your coffin, K. H. Mácha! But it doesn't matter, you know that this time it's important for the nation to have a sanctuary. I just got a phone call from G. saying he got a ticket for me for the funeral tomorrow.
Our maid asked me when Mácha had died, and when I told her it was a hundred years ago, she was surprised that he only had a famous funeral today. She asked if he was a patriot. She thought it was only when people lost something that they knew what it was worth. Perhaps she meant that the nation had lost its freedom, perhaps it had lost a poet.
Crowds of people are standing on the embankment, awaiting the transfer of Mácha from the Pantheon to Vyšehrad. The police parade has already passed, the street lights are on.
It'll be evening again.
G. told me that people should read your poems rather than go to parades and parties.
See, I don't know what your judgment is, but I don't ask people to read poems. It's enough if someone reads them now and then. But I do ask of verses that they should have a life in them that would permeate the spirit of the nation without being read. The immortality of the poet does not mean that he is taught in the national literature. It means that he comes alive in the people, whether they be individuals or multitudes. And Mácha is certainly immortal today. The crowds accompanying his coffin are led by the idea of oppressed freedom. It all happens through him, and that is why he is immortal.
Evening is approaching, a May evening, cold and unkind. The riverbank is lined with throngs of people. Is this the poetic justice,
Why talk about justice, why talk about Máj, why talk about love, why talk about despair! Talk of poetry, talk of immortality!
The funeral procession just passed.
Soldiers on horseback in front. Then a carriage with two priests in white mitras. The priests watch over the Czech Poets' Tombs. They show themselves to the public in their circle, insofar as their infidelity can be overlooked, covered up, forgotten. Give to the poet that which belongs to the poet! Then followed a car and behind it the coffin draped – I wanted to write – in the national flag.
8th May on Monday
I actually spent yesterday afternoon at Mácha's funeral. If Saturday's procession was dignified, Sunday's funeral seemed like an empty and boring ceremony. I exclude from this judgment all the people who were crowded in every inch of Vyšehrad. I also exclude the many other nameless participants in the funeral: the old lady and the young girl, who both carried a bouquet of white elderberries in their arms, and the husband of the old lady with the white elderberries, who grumbled singingly: And let the light of eternity shine upon him. Amen. From this I also exclude Nezval,* who was crowded among those who were given tickets only to stand; from this I also exclude Gabriela Preissová, who complained during the procession around the church that people only speak of Janáček with regards to Jenůfa and not her; that she should have given some play or another to the Estates Theatre rather than to the Švanda Theatre. Whatever your opinion of Gabriela Preissová and Nezval, they are known figures and, in a sense, colleagues of Mácha. (He would probably have been amused by their speeches.) Otherwise, the organisation of the National Partnership intervened in such a way that one wonders: who actually died?
* Today he writes pathetic eulogistic verses about Gottwald. (3/XII/48)