Bohemian legends and other poems/The Youth from Hrušov

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Across the stony mountains,
Who comes in war’s array?
The warlike Zvikoš is it?
Quick, arm thee for the fray.
A charger waits to bear thee—
My son, grasp quick thy sword,
And hold the spear with courage,
I am too old for that horde.”

Thus spake the old Hrušovec
Unto his well-loved son,
And gave unto his brave hand,
A flagstaff bravely won.
Take now this golden banner,
’Neath which your grandsire fought
The heathen on the seacoast,
Where he great havoc wrought.

Many a time this castle
The enemy had won,
But when they saw this banner,
They feared it, every one.
Take it, my son, and cherish,
Yea, as thou wouldst thy life—
Come back with it triumphing,
Or die there in the strife.”

The old man’s voice was husky,
The lad from him must part—
The youth he caught the banner,
And pressed it to his heart;

Upon his breast was harness,
His sword was by his side;
His heart beat for his loved one,
With love he could not hide.

Her eyes with tears are heavy,
As she looks on the youth;
Her cheeks are pale with anguish,
God be with thee in sooth.”
A wreath upon the banner,
A ribbon on the sword,
Then she called out, “Be prosperous,
Come, living from the horde.

One heard the noise of battle,
The blows that fell apace;
New warriors rush to conquer,
To fill the vacant place;
The youth is with them, carrying
The banner of his land,
The sun is shining on them,
It lights the bloody band.

Upon the castle turret,
The maiden gazing stands;
She looks down on her lover,
Fighting those warlike bands;
Her heart with pleasure beating,
When high the banner flies;
Her hands to heaven she raises,
When low the banner lies.

Like a wild beast defending
The lair that is his home,
The youth is rushing onward,
His horse is all in foam.
But Zvikoš goes to meet him,
He strikes with might and main,
The arm that holds the banner,
The hand sinks down in pain.

The banner would have sunk now,
Had not the fearless youth
Caught it in his strong left hand,
And held it high in truth.
A lion was the stripling
In bravery; to and fro
One saw the banner waving
Like forest tree, I trow.

Zvikoš’ men are charging—
One comes behind the lad,
With mighty spear he strikes him;
His blood is running sad;
The left hand now is shattered,
The flag with blood is red—
His pale lips caught the banner—
The horse turned round and fled.

Fled onward to the castle,
And there the youth fell dead;
His pale lips held the banner
The noble soul had fled.
The maiden on the turret,
Like stricken doe, runs down,
She looks upon her lover,
Then dead she too falls down.

The plain is green with grasses,
A mighty tree stands bare;
The lightning struck it often,
For ages it stood there.
The castle is a ruin—
It frowns down from the hill,
But the memory of the youth
Lives in Bohemia still.