The Queen's Court Manuscript with Other Ancient Bohemian Poems/Libussa's Judgment

For other English-language translations of this work, see Libussa's Judgment.




Ev’ry father in his household ruleth;
“Men should till, and clothes be made by women:
“If the household’s head be gone, the children
“Rule together jointly the possessions,

“Choosing from the household a Vladyka,
“For the common weal to seek th’ assembly
“With the Kmets, the Lechs, and the Vladykas.”[2]
Rose the Kmets, the Lechs, and the Vladykas,
And approv’d the legal just decision.

Why, Veltava, troublest thou thy water?
Troublest thou thy silver-foamy water?
Hath a tempest wild disquietèd thee,
In the wide sky scatt’ring streaming storm-clouds,
Washing o’er the tops of the green mountains,
Washing out the loam, whose sand is golden?
How could I not trouble thus my water,
When own brothers have engaged in quarrel
For the heritage that was their fathers?
Savagely together have they quarrell’d,
Chrudos fierce beside Otava winding,
By th’ Otava’s gold-producing windings,
Valiant Stiaglaw by the cool Radbuza;
Brothers both, and both are Klenovices,
Of the old race of Tetva, son of Popel,
Who with Czech and with his squadrons enter’d
Into the rich land across three rivers.[3]

Up the social bird, the swallow, flieth,
Flieth from Otava, winding river,
And upon the window wide is seated
In Libussa’s golden seat paternal,
Vyssegrad, her sacred seat paternal;
And she mourneth, and she waileth sadly.
When her sister heard her thus complaining,
Her own sister in Libussa’s palace,
She within the Vyssegrad the princess
Begs to hold a court for the decision,
And the brethren twain to summon thither,
And to judge them as the law commandeth.
Messengers the princess bids to issue
Unto Svatoslaw from white Lubica,
Where the useful oaken forests flourish;
Unto Lutobor from Dobroslaw’s height,
Where the Labe[4] drinketh the Orlica;
Ratibor from Kerkonossian mountains,[5]
Where erst Trut the savage dragon slaughter’d;
Unto Radovan from Kamen Most, and
Jarozir from hills with water streaming;
Unto Strezibor from fair Sazava,
Sam’rod from the Mza,[6] whose waves bear silver;

All the Kmets, the Lechs, and the Vladykas;
And to Chrudos and his brother Stiaglaw
For their father’s heritage contending.
When at length the Lechs and the Vladykas
In the Vyssegrad were all assembled,
Each takes place according to his birthright;
Clad in glitt’ring white ascends the princess
In th’ assembly grand her throne paternal.
[Forth there issue pacing] two wise maidens,
Well instructed in victorious science;
With the first are tablets law-declaring,
With the next the sword, that crimes doth punish.
Opposite them is the flame that judgeth,
And beneath them is the hallow’d water.
From her golden throne the princess speaketh:
“Ye, my Kmets and Lechs, and ye, Vladykas!
“’Twixt the brothers must the right determine,
“Who are for their heritage contending,
“For their father’s heritage together.
“Let them jointly both possess according
“To the edict of the gods eternal,
“Or divide the land in like proportion!
“O my Kmets and Lechs, and ye, Vladykas!
“It is your’s my sentence to establish,
“If it be according to your wisdom;

“If ’tis not according to your wisdom,
“’Stablish for the twain a new decision,
“That may reconcile the striving brothers.”
Bent themselves the Lechs and the Vladykas,
And began a whisper’d consultation,
Whisper’d consultation with each other,
And they did commend and laud her sentence.
Uprose Lutobor from Dobroslaw’s height,
And began in these words his oration:
“Glorious princess on thy throne paternal,
“We have well consider’d of thy sentence;
“Now collect the votes throughout thy nation.”
And the judging maids the votes collected;
In a sacred urn the votes collecting,
To the Lechs they gave them for announcement.
Radovan from Kamen Most arising
’Gan the votes by number to examine,
And announc’d the sentence to the nation
In assembly gather’d for decision.
O ye brethren twain, both Klenovices,
“Of th’ old race of Tetva, son of Popel,
“Who with Czech, and with his squadrons enter’d
“Into the rich land across three rivers;
“Thus about your heritage accord you;
“Ye shall rule it both the twain together.”

Uprose Chrudos from Otava winding,
Anger pour’d itself throughout his body,
All his limbs with savage fierceness trembled,
Like a bull he roars, his strong hand swinging:
“Woe to nests, to which the snake approacheth!
“Woe to men, o’er whom a woman ruleth!
“That a man o’er men should rule is fitting;
“It is right the first-born should inherit.”
From her golden throne Libussa rising
Saith, “Ye Kmets, ye Lechs, and ye Vladykas!
“Ye have heard the insults cast upon me;
“Judge yourselves, and give the legal sentence!
“Never more will I your strifes determine!
“Choose a man, an equal, from your number,
“That he may with iron sway and rule you!—
“Weak o’er you to rule is hand of maiden!”
Ratibor from Kerkonossian mountains
Rose, and thus began to make oration:
“Shame ’t were we should justice seek from Germans!
“We by sacred law have right and justice,
“Which our fathers brought into these regions.—

  1. This is the oldest and at the same time one of the most remarkable monuments of Bohemian poësy. It celebrates an historical contest between two Lechs (see Note C), (in this poem the brothers Chrudos and Stiaglaw, sons of Klen, of the family of Tetva the Popelide,) which occasioned Libussa, owing to the insults she then received, to select Przemysl the Manly for her husband, and give up to him the government of the country. This happened at the beginning of the eighth century. The poem itself, unfortunately only a fragment, is preserved to us in a manuscript of about the end of the ninth century, which was presented to the Bohemian Museum in 1818. This poem, critically treated, with explanations of all words and the entire contents, was published in Die altesten Denkmäler der böhmischen Sprache, von P. J. Szafarzik and F. Palacky, Prag. 1840.” The first nine verses appear to be the conclusion of a Parliament (sniem), which had treated of family law and rights.
  2. See Note C.
  3. These three rivers are still a problem in the history of the migrations of the Slavonic nations.
  4. The Elbe.
  5. The chain called the Sudetes.
  6. The Mies.