Bohemian legends and other poems/Kryspek's Goblet

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For other English-language translations of this work, see Kryspek's Goblet.


In Kralovice, two hundred years,[*]
The family of Kryspek sleep.
Within the family vault they lie,
And none can wake their slumbers deep.
Oh, listen to their banquet dread,
For sure upon this earth ’tis said,
There never was a sadder meal;
Come listen to their bitter weal.

When the Bílá Hora battle,
Spite of all valor had been lost,
And the poor Bohemian country
Had to give itself up for lost,
Then the hangman’s business flourished,
And the ground with blood was nourished;
From the battle now lost for aye,
Came Kryspek’s men, one sad day.

Long before the war now raging,
Jitka’s beauty had minstrels sung.
Every virtue had the maiden,
And praised she was by every tongue.
Seventeen summers had she wandered
In the castle hall, and pondered,
While the striplings from far and wide,
In useless longing for her sighed.

From far and wide they came to woo—
The Castle Kačerov was sought
By noblest youths, who wished to wed
The beauteous maiden, so well taught.

But only one, a noble youth—
Bores, whose words were words of truth,
Found favor in the maiden’s sight;
He was a brave and goodly knight.

The marriage day was fixed and came—
It should have been their wedding eve,
When all at once the trumpet’s sound
Called on the warrior youths to leave
These pleasures, and to go to war—
The enemy was at the door.
Brave Boreš, with his soldiers few,
Joined Šlik, and Budoec “The True.”

The enemy was stronger far—
The poor Bohemians lost the day;
Their homes were sacked, their lives were lost,
The noblest did the conquerors slay.
But midst it all the Kryspek race,
Lived all forgotten on their place;
They even dared to dream that they
Were stricken from the list away.

For vengeance with a bloody sword
Struck down the noblest of the laud;
And as the blow fell not, they thought
They had been pardoned out of hand.
One evening as the Vesper rang,
Passed through the gate, with marshal clang
The noble Boreš, wild to see
His Jitka, wife that was to be.

To-morrow”—went from lip to lip—
To-morrow is the wedding day;
To-morrow let us hope no storm
"Of grief, or sorrow, dim the day.”
All things were ready for the feast,
To-morrow they would fetch the priest.
Well pleased they sat them down to sup,
By generous cheer and brimming cup.

The clock struck ten, they were about
To drink the bride and bridegroom’s health;
They wished them joy and a long life—
They wished them happiness and wealth,
When suddenly a trumpet’s call,
From herald sent, fell like a pall,
"And changed their mirth to silence dread.
The herald seeks my lord,” was said.

With strange misgiving went the lord,
To meet the stranger in the hall;
All joy from out his heart had fled,
He dreaded news that would appall.
But when he saw the herald’s face,
And heard the doom against his race,
He knew that all his fears were true,
The conqueror’s heart no mercy knew.

Pale like a corpse, he back returned—
Like one who from the grave comes back—
And slowly said, with choking voice:
Our brothers died upon the rack!
The hour of Kryspek doom is near—
Our glory faded—life made drear.
Our mildest punishment, to roam,
Outcasts from country, and from home.”

Then bidding all the servants leave
The room, until the dawn of day,
That not a soul should enter in,
Nor rouse their slumber till the day.
For if we want you, we will ring;
Yea, in the morning, we will ring.”
And when the servants left the hall,
He shut the door, and spake to all:

What is to lose, when land is lost?
Who loses honor, loseth life.
What joy shall then my grandchild know,
In poverty and daily strife?
If such a desperate fate is ours,
To languish but a few more hours—
To see our country die, and then
To die, nay, let us now be men.

Here, where my childhood’s days were spent;
Here, where my father’s bones were laid;
Where I in manhood’s strength have lived,
And wed your mother, beauteous maid;
Where you were born, my children dear;
And loved, and honored, far and near,
We must forsake, and wander far
In banishment, oh evil star!

Our mildest punishment to roam—
Made beggars in an evil time,
Banished from everything we love—
Made butts for every idle rhyme.”
Then dropping poison in his glass,
He smiling drank, and said, “Alas,
That I should ask, ‘Who goes to death?’”
We all,” they answered with one breath.

We all,” they answered with one breath.
And merrily the goblet went:
From hand to hand they passed it on,
And thirteen drank as on it went.
Father and mother, child and youth,
The bride, and bridegroom, all, forsooth,
Drank gladly of the deadly wine.
They praised the cup, they praised the wine.

Twelve o’clock struck; they heard the bell
Call out to prayer in the night;
They prayed to God in prayers low,
To help them in the deadly fight.
One whispered, then his voice was still.
Another fell, against his will,
But seven lived the light burnt low,
Then out it went they all lay low.

So Kryspek and his family died,
United in a common death;
The bride and bridegroom, hand in hand,
Sat by each other cold in death.
Hand clasped in hand, around the board,
They found them, but their souls had soared
Beyond their tyrant’s little might,
Into the everlasting light.

^  *NOTE.—The bodies of the Kryspek family, for some reason or other were embalmed; one can see them in the castle in Kralovice.