Nad Tatrou sa blýska "Lightning Over the Tatras" is the national anthem of Slovakia. The origins of the anthem are in the Central European activism of the 19th century. Its main themes are a storm over the Tatra mountains that symbolized danger to the Slovaks, and a desire for a resolution of the threat. It used to be particularly popular during the 1848-1849 insurgencies.
23-year-old Janko Matúška wrote the lyrics of "Lightning Over the Tatras" ("Nad Tatrou sa blýska") in January-February 1844. The tune came from the folk song "She dug a well" ("Kopala studienku") suggested to him by his fellow student Jozef Podhradský (1823-1915), a future religious and Pan-Slavic activist, and high-school professor. Shortly afterwards, Matúška and about two dozen other students left their prestigious Bratislava Lutheran Lýceum (preparatory high school and college) in protest over the removal of Ľudovít Štúr from his teaching position by the Lutheran Church under pressure from the kingdom's authorities, who objected to his pro-Slovak activism
"Lightning Over the Tatras" was written during the weeks when the students were agitated about the repeated denials of their and others' appeals to the school board to reverse Štúr's dismissal. About a dozen of the defecting students transferred to the Levoča Lutheran Gymnázium. When one of the students, the 18-year old budding journalist and writer Viliam Pauliny-Tóth (1826-1877), wrote down the oldest known record of the poem in his school notebook in 1844, he gave it the title of "Bratislava Slovaks, Future Levočians" ("Prešporský Slováci, budaucj Lewočané"), which reflected the motivation of its origin.
The journey from Bratislava to Levoča took the students past the High Tatras, Slovakia's and the then Kingdom of Hungary's highest, imposing, and symbolic mountain range. A storm above the mountains is a key theme in the poem.
No authorized version of Matúška's lyrics has been preserved and its early records remained without attribution. He stopped publishing after 1849 and later became clerk of the district court. The song became popular during the Slovak Volunteer campaigns of 1848-1849. Its text was copied and recopied in hand before it appeared in print in 1851 (unattributed, as "Volunteer Song," Dobrovolňícka), which gave rise to some variation, namely concerning the phrase zastavme ich ("let's stop them") or zastavme sa ("let's pause"). A review of the extant copies and related literature inferred that Matúška's original was most likely to have contained "let's stop them." Among other documents, it occurred both in its oldest preserved handwritten record from 1844 and in its first printed version from 1851. The legislated Slovak national anthem uses this version, the other phrase was used before 1993.
On 13 Dec. 1918, only the first stanza of Janko Matúška's lyrics became one half of the two-part bilingual Czechoslovak anthem composed of the first stanza from a Czech operetta tune, "Where Is My Home?" (Kde domov můj?), and the first stanza of Matúška's song, each sung in its respective language and both played in that sequence with their respective tunes. The songs reflected the two nations' concerns in the 19th century when they were confronted with the already fervent national-ethnic activism of the Hungarians and the Germans, their fellow ethnic groups in the Habsburg Monarchy.
Only the first two stanzas of Matúška's lyrics were legislated as the national anthem of Slovakia after it and the Czech Republic became independent countries in 1993. The reference to the Tatras in it has a parallel in the interpretations of Slovakia's coat of arms that was defined during the period when Matúška wrote the lyrics. A historical take on the national seal explains the three peaks as symbolic of the mountain ranges of the Mátra, Fatra, and the Tatras, another one sees all three as symbolic of the Tatras, yet another one as a representation of the mountain group of Vysoká in the High Tatras.
|Lightning Over the Tatras|
|Nad Tatrou*1 sa blýska,||There is lightning over the Tatras,*1|
|hromy divo bijú.||thunderclaps wildly beat.|
|Zastavme ich, bratia,||Let us stop them, brothers,|
|veď sa ony stratia,||for all that, they will disappear,|
|Slováci ožijú.||the Slovaks will revive.|
|To Slovensko naše||That Slovakia of ours|
|posiaľ tvrdo spalo.||has been fast asleep so far.|
|Ale blesky hromu||But the thunder's lightning|
|vzbudzujú ho k tomu,||is rousing it|
|aby sa prebralo.*2||to come to.*2|
|Only the above stanzas have been legislated as the anthem.|
|Už Slovensko vstáva||Slovakia already arises,|
|putá si strháva.||tears off its shackles.|
|Hej, rodina milá,||Hey/yes, dear family,|
|hodina odbila,||the hour has struck,|
|žije matka Sláva.*3||Mother Sláva/Glory*3 is alive.|
|Ešte jedle*4 rastú||Firs*4 are still growing|
|na krivánskej*6 strane.*5||in the direction of*5 Kriváň.*6|
|Kto jak Slovák cíti,||Who has feelings like a Slovak,|
|nech sa šable chytí||let him get hold of a sabre|
|a medzi nás stane.||and stand among us.|
One of the trends shared by many Slovak Romantic poets was frequent versification that imitated the patterns of the local folk songs. The additional impetus for Janko Matúška to embrace the trend in "Lightning Over the Tatras" was that he actually designed it to replace the lyrics of an existing folk song. Among the Romantic-folkloric features in the structure of "Lightning Over the Tatras" are the equal number of syllables per verse, and the consistent a−b−b−a disyllabic rhyming of verses 2-5 in each stanza. Leaving the first verses unrhymed was Matúška's license (a single matching sound, blýska—bratia, did not qualify as a rhyme):
Another traditional arrangement of Matúška's lines gives 4-verse stanzas rhymed a−b−b−a with the first verse made up of 12 syllables split by a mid-pause, and each of the remaining 3 verses made up of 6 syllables: