The Queen's Court Manuscript with Other Ancient Bohemian Poems/Ludisa and Lubor


Ho! old and young! your ears be lent
To combat and to tournament!
Beyond the Elbe, in ancient days,
A Prince, good, rich, and glorious, sways;
He hath an only daughter bright,
Both his and all men’s dear delight.
That maiden she is wondrous fair,
Of stature tall and stately air;
Her cheeks are white, and, sooth to speak,
Red blushes bloom upon her cheek;
Her eyes, like heaven, are clear and bright,
And on her neck, that is so white,
The golden glitt’ring locks descend
In twisted ringlets without end.

This Prince he sent his message out,
That all the nobles round about
Should to his castle hasten straight
Together to a feast of state.
And when arriv’d th’ appointed day,
From lands and lordships far away,
The nobles in the prince’s hall
To the great feast assembled all.
The drums and trumpets clamour loud,
Before the prince the nobles crowd,
Each to the prince due rev’rence paid,
The princess and the lovely maid.
Then at the table long they sit,
As each man’s rank it doth befit.
They brought them flesh of hart for meat,
They brought them drink of honey sweet;
It was a joyous banquet there!
It was a splendid banquet rare!
Through ev’ry limb doth vigour glow,
And mirth in ev’ry mind doth grow.
Then to the lords the prince doth call:
“Sirs, be the reason known to all,
“Why I have summon’d you this day!
“Most valiant Sirs! I wish t’ assay,
“Who is the man most worth to me
“Of all your gallant chivalrie.

“In peace to think on war is wise;
“The German on our border lies.”
Thus speaks the prince; the silence flies;
Up from the board the nobles rise,
Each to the prince due rev’rence paid,
The princess and the lovely maid.
The drums and trumpets sound again;
Before the castle on the plain,
Upon the plain of wide extent,
Each arms him for the tournament.
The prince upon a balcony
Sits with his senators on high,
The princess with the dames is there,
Ludisa with the maidens fair.
The prince his nobles gives command:
“Who in the tourney first shall stand,
“To bid arise of right is mine.”
The prince to Strebor gives the sign,
Strebor doth Ludislaw defy;
Each springs upon his steed on high,
Each takes his sharply-pointed lance,
Then on each other swift advance.
Together there they struggled long,
Till shiver’d were their lances strong,
And each so weary and o’erdone,
That from the lists they both are gone.

Anew the drums and trumpets sound;
The prince commands his nobles round:
“The princess shall the next ordain
“To tourney on the listed plain.”
The princess doth to Serpos cry,
Serpos doth Spytibor defy.
Each leaps upon his gallant steed,
Each takes his pointed spear with speed.
Serpos on Spytibor hath sprung,
And from his lofty saddle flung;
Then quick himself dismounts; his brand
Each seizes in his mighty hand;
Blow on the black shields follows blow,
Bright sparkles from the black shields flow.
Now Spytibor a stroke hath made,
On the cold earth is Serpos laid;
But each is wearied and o’erdone,
And from the lists they both are gone.
Anew the drums and trumpets sound,
The prince commands his nobles round:
“Ludisa shall the third ordain
“To tourney on the listed plain.”
Ludisa Lubor bids arise,
And Lubor Bolemir defies.
Each springs upon his gallant steed,
Each takes his pointed lance with speed;

Quick in the lists they both appear,
Each at the other aims his spear;
Together with their spears they sprung,
And Bolemir from horse is flung;
Far flies his shield, and squires convey
The fallen from the lists away.
The drums and trumpets sound anew;
Lubor bids Rubos rise in view.
Quick Rubos springs upon his steed,
And against Lubor fierce doth speed.
Sever’d his lance by Lubor’s hand,
Cleft is his helm by Lubor’s brand;
Rubos falls backwards from his steed,
Squires bear him from the lists with speed.
Again the drums and trumpets call;
Lubor defies the nobles all:
“Whoe’er with me will combat try,
“Into the lists now let him hie!”
The knights together talk aside,
Lubor doth in the lists abide.
Zdeslaw his long spear swings around,
On which a wild bull’s head is found,
His fiery steed he mounteth free,
And thus with words of pride quoth he:
“My ancestor the wild bull slew,
“My father German bands o’erthrew,

“My prowess then let Lubor try!”
Together hurtling furiously
Their heads together struck with force,
And each is fallen from his horse.
With eager speed their swords they drew,
And fiercely fought on foot anew;
Their swords with so much might they wield,
That with the strokes resounds the field.
Lubor beside his rival sprang,
His sword upon his helmet rang,
The stricken helmet flew in twain;
Then sword on sword he struck again;
Out of the lists his sword is flown,
And Zdeslaw on the ground is thrown.
The drums and trumpets loudly call,
Round Lubor throng the nobles all;
Before the prince they lead him there,
The princess and Ludisa fair.
Ludisa doth the victor grace,
And on his brows a wreath doth place,
A wreath of oaken foliage made.
Loud roll’d the drums, the trumpets bray’d.

  1. This poem is intituled “Begins of a famous Tournament” in the Queen’s Court Manuscript (Book iii. Chap. 27). Such tournaments were first introduced into Bohemia under King Vaceslaw I. (Wenceslaus I.), between 1230 and 1253; the poem therefore can only have been composed in the latter half of the thirteenth century, and is perhaps without reference to any definite event.