The Queen's Court Manuscript with Other Ancient Bohemian Poems/Oldrich and Boleslaw

POEMS OF
THE QUEEN’S COURT MANUSCRIPT.

OLDRICH AND BOLESLAW.[1]

. . . into the forest black
To the nobles of the land,
And seven nobles there were met,
Each with a valiant band:
Beside him speedeth Vyhon Dub,
All in the gloom of night;
His band is of a hundred men,
All ready for the fight.
Sharp swords are in a hundred sheaths,
Strong arms to every sword,
And every heart to Vyhon true,
Attendant on his word.

They came into the midmost wood,
Right hands they reach’d around,
And whispering words together spake,
That none might hear the sound.

The night it passes the midnight hour,
Approaches towards morning grey,
And Vyhon to Prince Oldrich speaks,
And thus to him doth say:
“Ho, list to me, thou glorious Prince!
“God gave thee strength of limb;
“And wisdom and a prudent mind
“Thou hast received from Him.
“Come, lead us ’gainst the cruel Poles!
“Thy bidding we’ll obey;
“To right, to left, we’ll turn and wheel,
“As thou may’st point the way;
“Advance, retreat, at thy command,
“In every furious fight:
“Up, up, ye men of valiant heart,
“And arm yourselves with might!”

Lo! lo! the Prince the banner lifts
High in his mighty hand;
“With me, with me, against the Poles,
“The foemen of our land!”

Eight lords behind him storming go,
Three hundred at their side;
Three hundred men and fifty more,
Of valour prov’d and tried;
To where the Polish host is laid
In slumber scatter’d wide.

They stood upon the mountain ridge,
Fast by the forest deep;
Before them Prague lies motionless
In her quiet morning sleep.
Veltava[2] steams with morning mist,
Behind Prague the hills are blue,
Behind the hills the eastern sky
Assumes its morning hue.

“Down from the hill! but hush! no noise!”
Into quiet Prague they steal,
And each his weapon sharp within
His mantle doth conceal.

A shepherd goes in the grey of dawn,
And calls to the watch on high

To ope the gate; the watchman hears
The shepherd’s early cry,
And opes the gate, the gate that leads
O’er Veltava flowing nigh.
The shepherd steps upon the bridge,
And loud his horn doth sound;
The Prince upon the bridge hath sprung,
Sev’n lords behind him bound;
Each hastens on with all his men,
With all his men around.
The trumpets loudly ’gin to bray,
The drums like thunder rumble;
They plant their flags upon the bridge,
That all the bridge doth tremble.

The Poles are panic-struck around—
The Poles their weapons seize:
The lords redouble blow on blow—
The Polish army flees.
And hurry, hurry, to the gate
They speed the trenches o’er;
And hurry, hurry, still they flee
Th’ avenging blows before.

Thus God hath victory bestow’d!
One sun to rule the skies

Ariseth; o’er the land again
Jarmir doth king arise.
Joy spreads itself in Prague, joy spreads
Through all near Prague that lies;
And joy around from joyous Prague
Through every region flies.

  1. This poem treats of the defeat of Boleslaw Chrobry (Boleslaw the Brave), king of Poland, and the liberation of Bohemia from Polish dominion, in the beginning of the month of September, a.d. 1004. We have only about the third part of it remaining, contained in the pages of the Queen’s Court Manuscript (Book iii. chap. 25). From two strips of the preceding pages it is still to be seen, that the poem began with J(aromir). It was unquestionably written soon after the event it commemorates, as it agrees much better than the narrative of Kosmas with historical truth.
  2. Veltava, usually written Vltava, by the Germans called the Moldau, is the river upon which Prague (Praha) is situated.