If you read our story of Jan Neruda, Czech poet and author, you know he was well known and highly regarded in Bohemia and beyond.
While conducting our research on Neruda we came across the English translation of one of his poems that particularly caught our attention. Why? This poem, Písně kosmické, was one of the poems taken aboard the Space Shuttle with U.S. astronaut Dr. Andrew J. Feustel! You see Dr. Feustel’s mother-in-law is Czech and that influence was so significant on him he took the Czech cartoon character Krtek along for a space shuttle ride as well as Jan Neruda’s poetry.
In 2009 astronaut Feustel took with him into space a copy of a very special Czech book. On his flight aboard Space Shuttle Atlantis, Feustel not only carried a Czech flag but also a copy of Czech poet Jan Neruda’s book “Cosmic Songs” (Písně kosmické). If you have ever read #22, “Do Frogs Exist There Too?” you will see why astronaut Feustel picked Neruda’s work to go with him into space.
Here, with the permission of the translator, D.P. Stern, is the English translation of “Písně kosmické”, or “Do Frogs Exist there too?”
It is a wonderful piece of poetry!
Do Frogs Exist there too?
Jan Neuda, 1878
Poem #22 in his book titled “Cosmic Songs” (Písně kosmické)
Translated by D. P. Stern and used with his permission
“Frogs sat around a puddle
And gazed at heavens high
Frog teacher pounding into skulls
The science of the sky.
He spoke about the heavens
Bright dots we see there burning
And men watch them, “astronomers”
Like moles they dig for learning.
When these moles start to map the stars
The large becomes quite small
What’s twenty million miles to us
They call one foot, that’s all.
So, as those moles did figure out
(If you believe their plan)
Neptune is thirty feet away
Venus, less than one.
If we chopped up the Sun, he said
(Awed frogs could only stare)
We’d get three hundred thousand Earth’s
With still a few to spare
The Sun helps us make use of time,
It rolls round heaven’s sphere
And cuts a workday into shifts
“Forever” to a year
What comets are is hard to say
A strange manifestation
Though this is not a reason for
Some idle speculation
They are no evil sign, we hope
No reason for great fright
As in a story we got from
Lubyenyetsky, great knight
A comet there appeared, and when
It rays were seen by all
The cobblers in a tavern
Began a shameful brawl
He told them how the stars we see
So many, overhead
Are actually only suns
Some green, some blue, some red
And if we use the spectroscope
Their light tells, in addition
Those distant stars and our Earth
Have the same composition
He stopped. The frogs were overwhelmed.
Their froggy eyeballs rolled.
“What more about this universe
Would you like to be told?”
‘Just one more thing, please tell us sir’
A frog asked, ‘Is it true?
Do creatures live there just like us
Do frogs exist there too?'”
Tomorrow for our Czech speaking fans we will bring you the poem as written in Czech.
Onward To Our Past®