Poems by Karel & Josef Čapek

From Lidové noviny, August 1936

by Karel Čapek (1890–1938)

When this century collapses, dead at last,
and its sleep within the dark tomb has begun,
come, look down upon us, world, file past
and be ashamed of what our age has done.

Inscribe our stone, that everyone may see
what this dead era valued most and best:
science, progress, work, technology
and death—but death we prized above the rest.

We set new records, measuring men and deeds
in terms of greatness; thus we tempted fate.
In keeping with the greatness of our needs,
our heroes and our gangsters, too, were great.

The 20th century, buried; nonetheless,
world, see what eras yet to come will gain:
Great new records, great inventions. Wretchedness.
Dictators. War. A ruined town in Spain.

SOURCE: Klíma, Ivan. Karel Čapek: Life and Work; translated from the Czech by Norma Comrada (North Haven, CT: Catbird Press, 2002), p. 209. Translator & poem title unspecified.


by Josef Čapek (1887–1945)

(from Poems from a Concentration Camp,
written in Bergen-Belsen, published 1946)

I was there in body, but in spirit, with all of you.
In every thought, I was only with you.
I saw only you and not what was going on there.
My soul was here; only my body was there.
How happy am I again, here among all of you!
I—that is to say, I—in truth, is it me?—
Oh yes—it is me.  Only my body stayed behind, there in the foreign land.
My body was taken by the foreign land.

SOURCE: Pichlikov, Lenka. Josef Čapek, Czech Modernist Innovator. New York Art Resources Consortium, Feb. 12, 2012. Translator unspecified.

System” [orig. 1908] by Josef & Karel Čapek

Karel Čapek: Selected Bibliography & Web Links

Karel Čapek’s R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), 1920-2021
Guide compiled by Ralph Dumain

Science Fiction & Utopia Research Resources: A Selective Work in Progress


Karel Čapek - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Josef Čapek - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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