The Queen's Court Manuscript with Other Ancient Bohemian Poems/Benes Hermanow

For other English-language translations of this work, see Beneš Hermanow.

BENES HERMANOW.[1]

O tell me, Sun, thou gentle Sun,
Why thou dost mourning go?
And wherefore thou dost shine on us,
A people full of woe?
Where, where’s our prince, our army? He
To Otto’s court is gone;—
Who from the foe our land shall free
Thus orphan’d and alone?

In columns long the Germans march,
The Germans Saxons are,
Into our country from the hills,
That wave with woods afar.
“Give, give, ye wretches, silver, gold,
“And all that ye possess,
“Or else ye shall in flames behold
“Mansions and cottages!”
And they have burn’d our all, have ta’en
Our gold and silver too,
Our cattle they have driv’n away,
And now towards Trosky go.

O do not, peasant, do not mourn!
The grass again will grow,
Although it long has trodden been
By footsteps of the foe.
Twine, twine, of wild flowers twine a wreath
For your deliv’rers brow!
The green corn glitters fresh again,
And all a change doth know.

Yea, quickly all a change did know,
Lo! how the people all
To council Benes Hermanow
Against the foe doth call!

Now stream the peasants where the wood
’Neath Hrubá Skála grows,
And each is weapon’d with a flail,
That ’gainst the Saxons goes,
’Tis Benes leads the van, the folk
Doth follow wrathful wise,
And vengeance, vengeance every man
Against the plund’rers cries.

O anger fierce and savage wrath
Did fill both armies then,
And in the inmost breasts did storm
Of the enraged men!
And fury in the foemen’s eyes
Against each other glows,
And club ’gainst club on high they raise,
And spears to spears oppose.
On one another rush’d the hosts,
As wood on wood were hurl’d,
And like the lightning of the sky,
So gleam’d the swords they whirl’d.
A fearful cry arising thence
The forest beasts doth fright,
And scareth all the wingéd fowls
To the third ridge’s height.

And from the rocky hills throughout
The vales upon the breeze
Spread strokes of maces and of swords,
Like fall of ancient trees.

Thus motionless both armies stood
Against each other there,
On heels that firm implantéd stay,
On legs that steadfast are.
But Benes wends himself on high,
And towards the right doth swing
His sword, the army thither hastes;
Then towards the other wing
He points, towards the left they rush;
Thence towards the rocky pass;
And from the rocks upon the foe
They hurl the stony mass.
Now to the plain the fight descends,
The Germans they must fly,
The Germans they must shriek aloud,
The Germans they must die!

  1. With this poem begins in the Queen’s Court Manuscript “the 26th Chapter of the Third Book, of the Overthrow of the Saxons.” This overthrow of the Saxons, accomplished by Benes, the son of Hermann, took place in the year 1203, when, during the absence of King Przemysl Otakar I. at the Court of the Emperor Otho IV., an army belonging to the Margrave of Meissen entered Bohemia, to avenge the repudiation of Queen Adela or Adelheid.

    This Benes, son of Hermann, who appears in old Bohemian records between 1197 and 1220, was Castellan of Budisin (from 1217 to 1220).

    From him or his brother Markwart descends the still flourishing Bohemian family of the present Counts of Waldstein.