Bearslayer - Canto III Bearslayer And Laimdota Are Betrayed

A poem by Andrejs Pumpurs

Scene 1: Kangars and Spidala combine against Bearslayer

Kangars learns that Bearslayer was in the Devil's Pit

Upon the hills the forests gloomy soughed,
In mountain passes swamp mists blocked the light,
Dread serpents writhed and savage beasts roared loud,
While frightened owls called lonely in the night:
For travellers this was a fear-filled ground.-
Beside a narrow path, that marked the way,
And past the swamps and hills its passage found,
The house of falsely pious Kangars lay.

The day's last penitent sought grace to earn,
And soon received an absolution sure
From sins of every kind and sufferings stern,
Then Kangars lit his lamp and closed his door.
He put the people's offerings with his hoard,
Piled in a chamber other things to join;
A room in which, in chests and boxes stored,
Lay finest hides and gold and silver coin.

He muttered as he bent at these to peer:
"How truly evil if the Fiend that night ...!
But have I now perhaps bought life too dear?
The burdens of Hell's service are not light!
But evil deeds the witches close protect,
And from the folk great honour I command.
In ignorance the people show respect,
That gives me greater strength than wealth or land!"

"I have no mind to join that hero band
That suffers hunger, need and hardships great,
While striving for the folk and Fatherland."
Thus speaking, Kangars went in through his gate.-
That night, he heard a whirlwind raging round,
While distant evening thunder rumbled dour.
Upon his door then came a knocking sound;
He opened it, while wondering at the hour.

Then Spidala came in, all finely dressed,
Not like a witch but in a lady's state.
"Good evening, uncle," greetings she expressed,
"No visitor is usual here so late?"-
"None was expected," Kangars answered sure.
"The greater then the pleasure I can show,
To greet my beauteous neighbour at my door.
Does all go well? The answer I would know."

"All is not well," false Spidala replied,
"Some mighty force opposes firm our will.
To ask your help I've come," the witch then cried,
"Yet can our powers combined our goals fulfil!"
She then told Kangars that Bear Slayer saw,
And in the pit observed the work they wrought,
But though cast down in Staburags's maw,
Was yet alive, and Burtnieks now sought.

Close Kangars listened then, and felt great fear,
And anger too that witness there had been,
Whose words to ill-repute could bring him near:
Bearslayer must not tell what he had seen!
Now Kangars spoke: "Oh Spidala, you tell
Of young Bearslayer in the pit, and show
The gods protect him now and guard him well;
This makes him even stronger as our foe."

"For his defeat we need a different scheme,
To let this rash young man himself betray,
And seek out death, pursuing fame's sweet dream;
Example I will show you of the way.
For years upon our hills our foes no more
The giant, Kalapuisis, employ.
Word we will send to Peipus Lake's far shore,
The time is ripe, in Latvia to destroy."

"The Latvians I will urge to go to war.-
I know Bearslayer bold will not delay,
But in a fearless mood will go once more,
With Burtnieks to struggle in the fray,
Although they know that death will follow sure,
If Kalapuisis they meet and fight.
On Latvian soil no warrior can endure
Against the dread Estonian giant's might."

Perkons sends a storm to kill the Germans, but they are rescued

Then Spidala would thank him, but all round
The whole room glowed with fire, and thunder crashed.
It rocked the house and shook the trembling ground;
A storm broke out and rainstorms downward slashed.
The wild bears roared, the wolves all howled in fright,
And from the swamps they heard the night birds call.
In all of nature terror reigned that night,
When lightning sent by Perkons lashed the squall.

Both pale as corpses witch and warlock shook.
Their fear was greater than the forest kind's,
Because they knew that Perkons would not brook,
Nor bear the vice of evildoers' minds.
Then Kangars spoke: "You cannot go tonight!
Until the storm subsides, here must you bide."
He closed the windows and put out the light,
Into the darkness drew the witch inside.

They covered up their heads, crept into bed,
And hoped the storm would end, but feared profound,
For clap on clap of thunder still it bred,
And on the hills smashed oak trees to the ground.
In truth, the Baltic gods fought hard that night.
The lightning sent by Perkons split the sky,
And Antrimps threw up waves of mountain's height-
To meet the clouds he made the waters fly!

Meanwhile, nearby the storm had seized a ship
That mastless drove before the wind and rain,
And soon with all beneath the waves would slip:
The people cried for help, but all in vain.
Decreed by Perkons, death was close at hand.-
But Fate to human will free choice affords;
The Livian folk who dwelt upon the land
Rash saved the Strangers, soon to be their lords!

To end this night the morning sun rose red.
On rising, Kangars saw his guest slept on:
"So wild a storm I have not seen," he said,
"A frightful night! How good that it is gone.
To kill the Devil Perkons now would please!"
Outside, the roof lay torn off on the ground,
While in the yard criss-crossed lay broken trees,
As filled with wonder Kangars gazed around.

Then on the narrow path two men came near;
He watched them quickly walking to the gate.
One was a Riga fisherman was clear,
With him a stranger pale, in weary state,
Who wore long robes, a cross around his neck.-
The fisherman told Kangars of the night,
And how they saved the people from the wreck;
Among them was this man all garbed in white.

The stranger wished to speak now with their lord,
And thus the man to Kangars he had brought,
Who better knew than he what to afford.-
Within the Stranger's eyes now Kangars sought,
And see, their souls communed across the seas!
The people's tongue the Stranger could employ:
"By 'Dietrich' called, as priest my God I please,
Who sent His Son to bring the world great joy."

"To trade we travelled to the Baltic shores,
Although the wreck has made this goal in vain
-Our God we thank, whose mercy is our cause-
And here my people helpless must remain,
Until a German ship the way is shown.
Thus, with a leader now I wish to meet."
In welcome Kangars spoke: "Your goal is known.
Fear not-your God's new presence here I greet."

"Although we do not trust each other's mind,
In mighty Kaupa's castle, that lies near,
Your welcome message fertile soil will find!
But rest today with me, cast off your fear,
Although the Baltic gods are mighty too!"-
Here Spidala rose up and joined the round;
They talked at length of many topics new,
Until the way to friendship deep was found.

Scene 2: The Estonian War

Bearslayer goes to war against Kalapuisis

The years passed by in peaceful Baltic lands:
Great changes came and much Bearslayer learned.
From Burtnieks he heard of warriors' fame,
And with Koknesis knightly wisdom earned.
Bearslayer read the ancient books with greed.-
They opened up deep knowledge well-springs clear,
That told of worldly life and human need;
Rest at the end, eternal spirits near.

The talisman that on his hat he wore
Stayed by him and surprising fortune brought,
When "Staburadze's maid" he met once more,
The fair Laimdota, daughter of the court.
For noble goals, in her he reason found,
For toiling too for Burtnieks the lord.
And in his heart love flared beyond all bound,
While in Laimdota too her spirit soared.

They often met, and in the evenings' glow
Together walked upon the lakeside shore.
She told him of a castle sunk below,
And tales about the Burtnieks of yore.-
To win the maiden's hand Bearslayer sought,
But from the hills the message came in haste,
That Kalapuisis great havoc wrought,
By striking down the folk and laying waste.

Fear seized them all, for none could hope to stand,
Who in the hills should face the giant's might.
Old Burtnieks sent news across the land:
The hero who could save them from this plight
Might claim as bounty any wish he made,
Laimdota's hand, if even that he chose.
Bearslayer then from Burtnieks leave prayed,
And with Koknesis sought to face the foes.

Old Burtnieks refused their wish at length,
Moved by the danger they would surely face,
But, knowing well the measure of their strength,
At last he gave his blessing with good grace.-
Soon, riding dashing colts, with sword in hand,
Into the hills they went to right the wrong;
Sent forth as saviours in the field to stand,
By youths and maidens and the sound of song.

Halfway they met swift riders seeking aid;
To Burtnieks a message grim they brought:
Estonian foes had made a border raid,
And burned and killed, and thus his help they sought.
They asked for aid from Burtnieks's Lord,
And knew that his agreement would be found;
If they should fight against Estonia's horde,
To send his men he was by honour bound.

What best to do the youths had to decide.-
They settled soon, since time was not to lose,
That one of them to Burtnieks would ride,
And with the hasting riders bring the news.
This task Koknesis took now, saying plain:
"Alone, Bearslayer, triumph realize,
And so Laimdota's hand in marriage gain.
I know your love, and will not seek the prize."

Bearslayer defeats Kalapuisis and befriends him

Beside his wood-framed hut, high on the hill,
Sat Kalapuisis and ate a calf,
Then with a suckling pig consumed his fill.
Beside him lay his club, a mighty staff,
A tree trunk with a millstone on it bound.-
On seeing bold Bearslayer riding past,
He seized his club and swung the weapon round,
So fast it caused a whirlwind's swirling blast.

The giant laughed, asked if his mother dear
Knew he had come, untimely death to face.
Bearslayer answered that the hour was near,
When giants in the world would have no place;
To Pakols, therefore, he would show the course!
In answer then his club the giant cast,
And sent Bearslayer tumbling, while his horse
Into the swamp with tangled club fled fast.

Bearslayer sprang up safe, swift at a bound,
Then drew his sword, and struck a mighty blow,
That brought the giant tumbling to the ground.
The giant grasped a pine in falling low,
With branch and roots the tree trunk loose he tore,
Which falling pinned him down across his chest!-
Bearslayer did not let him rise once more,
But made to strike his head off from his breast.

"Heroic youngster wait," the giant cried,
"Before I die allow me moments more
To speak some words that may assuage your pride.
Were you the babe a savage she-bear bore?
My mother told: When, from the Daugava's bank
A bear-cub comes, sent here to fight with me,
A fit opponent with a worthy rank,
The Baltic tribes will soon once more be free."

"The sea will bring dread monsters to our shore,
In iron clad, and full of boundless greed;
All living creatures, crops, and soil and more,
They will devour to sate their endless need!-
It is not wise in such a circumstance
To strive in war, and in the monsters' hands
Thus give our folk. This promise I advance:
An endless peace shall reign between our lands."

"Forth I will go and both our shores guard fast,
That, while I live, unwanted from the west,
The strangers will not come. And at the last,
When life is done, in Zunda I will rest."
Bearslayer quickly offered him his hand,
That Kalapuisis might gain his feet,
And said: "Henceforth let peace between us stand!
Though on the plain in war our peoples meet."

"But we will now ensure their rage is spent;
Between our lands this war shall be the last."
They bound his wound, then to the valley went,
And soon the cruel Estonian war was past.-
But where the giant fell and wounded bled
Remains impressed a pit into the hill,
That yet today is called the "Giant's Bed",
And buried in the swamp his club lies still.

Bearslayer and Laimdota plight their troth in song

All sweetly singing, forth Laimdota came
With other maidens through the castle gate,
To greet the heroes and to mark their fame,
When Burtnieks's men were saved by Fate,
And homeward rode, safe from Estonia's war.
With oak-leaf crowns the maidens decked each brow-
Alone, Laimdota's wreath Bearslayer bore,
And with this song she made a solemn vow:

"The oaks still grow on Latvia's ground,
With sturdy branch and jagged leaf.
Still in our folk are heroes found,
Who guard our land with strong belief;
We deck their brows with oak-leaves round,
And sing their praise and show no grief."

"Sing of Bearslayer in our lore,
The giant fell at his strong stroke.
There in the hills the youth struck sure,
To save us from Estonia's yoke.
The foe destroys our land no more,
No village burns nor daunts the folk."

"Our brethren safe their fields will till,
And brew their beer at autumn-tide.
To newly-weds with joy we will
In song and dance success and pride.
Bearslayer's quest I shall fulfil,
And be his virtuous, upright bride."

With joyous heart Bearslayer heard these lines,
They filled his soul with feelings deep and grave.
He sought to show the maiden his designs,
And with this song his answer pure he gave:

"Where stout oaks grow the linden thrives-
Where heroes dwell are damsels pure;
The Latvian warrior proudly strives,
That in our land fair maids endure.
And willingly men give their lives,
The Fatherland defending sure."

"In guarding Latvia's maidens fair,
They earn their oak-leaf crowns anew,
The foemen's strokes unyielding bear.
Then Laima brings their bride to view.-
Oh fair Laimdota, beauty rare,
I pledge to live and die for you."

Moved by the youthful people's greeting song,
Soon Burtnieks himself to sing began.-
In warrior hearts the joyous mood was strong,
And brotherhood stirred deep in every man.
All bade Laimdota enter through the door,
A meal awaited there the heroes bold;
At Burtnieks's order there was more,
For mead was served to greet them to the fold.

When then Laimdota served them the drink she brought,
Bearslayer found that all there pleased him dear.
For in their toasts his future joy they sought,
And with their words his destiny's path made clear:-
The evil plot to kill the gallant boy
Was by the will of all the gods made vain,
And turned from grief into a larger joy,
From which Bearslayer endless fame would gain.

Scene 3: Bearslayer rescues the Sunken Castle

Bearslayer finds his way into the Sunken Castle

Time passed: One evening down Bearslayer went
Into the stronghold's massive crypt alone,
Where learnèd volumes safe the ages spent.-
He saw, half open in the floor of stone,
A trapdoor that he had not seen before.
He took a lantern, wanting now to know,
And looked inside where, dropping from the door,
A narrow flight of steps led down below.

He took the stair into a cavern deep;
Within the earth he strode a tunnel through,
Until he reached an ancient castle's keep,
Which, from the distance he had walked, he knew
Beneath the middle of the lake must lie.
Within the rooms were many things on show
-Old scattered weapons caught Bearslayer's eye-
And in one chamber shone a lantern's glow.

He slowly entered in, where chests he saw
And shelves with ancient volumes heavy grown,
And wooden tablets carved with words of yore.-
There in the centre, on a slab of stone,
A lantern dimly burned, and by its light
He saw a woman, parchment in her hand,
Who did not mark Bearslayer come in sight,
As, deep in thought, the document she scanned.

But as he neared, by chance she turned her head.
"Laimdota!" then Bearslayer joyful cried.
"Forgive that I disturb your thoughts," he said,
"For me to meet you here gives greater pride
Than some fair goddess in a wondrous place.
Within the vault I found the secret door,
And passing through into the cavern's space,
Thus entered this enchanted castle's core."

"Allow me but a moment here to stay,
To look into these parchments and their spell;
Is this the place of which you spoke that day?"
"It is," she said.-"But yet I cannot tell
How I forgot to close the door, for none
Without my father's word in here belongs.
Still, stay! -Your entry to the castle now is done-
And we will read the texts and learn their songs."

Bearslayer spoke: "To stay I were content,
My whole life here with you and with these books!"
"Haste not, Bearslayer, such a wish to vent,"
Then swift Laimdota said with warning looks,
"Your words may rise up to the gods' stern ears,
Who oft fulfil our wish in unsought ways.-
Above all here, where in the coming years
Will lie for me the joy of future days."

"I, Burtnieks's youngest daughter, yearn-
Can but a hero stay here through one night,
Within this castle rest, yet still return,
And join the living folk at morning light,
The castle then will break the magic spell,
And in the morning, at the hero's side,
Will rise and greet the sun it once knew well!"-
Bearslayer took her hand and ardent cried:

"Of Burtnieks the youngest daughter fair,
Within the castle of your sires I ask,
If you will love old Lielvarde's heir,
And make him strong to carry out this task,
To break the spell within these halls to lie?"
To this Laimdota earnest answer made:
"Together we shall live and striving die,
That to the folk our service will be paid!"

Bearslayer drew her close. She pressed her face
Against his chest. Two mighty spirits there
In lofty virtue soared to heaven's space
Like rising stars-such moments pure are rare!
Upon the lake the waves broke white with spume,
In moonlight glow the castle's rooftops shone;
Light shadow spirits flitted through the room,
Smiled down upon the lovers-then were gone.

The youthful pair but of themselves took note;
The happy moment's joy they would not share.
And soon they knew how when first lovers dote,
True love's sweet bliss can conquer worldly care.

Oh, blissful joy-filled moments, soon you go,
So like a dream, a sweetly fading tune.
Oh, paradise on earth we briefly know,
Why drive you forth your favoured ones so soon,
Your pleasures but a fleeting moment show?
Why give them bitter sorrow as your boon?

But does not briefest joy pain overthrow,
And blunt of life the sharpest anguish keen?
Be sure it does! If once true love we know,
Life's further joys or sorrows nothing mean-
Love only is remembered as we go,
Though we a lifetime naught but grief have seen.

While both the lovers felt a joy divine,
An evil presence in the lake close by
Looked in the window with a will malign,
A water snake-false Spidala's grim eye!
Soon marked Laimdota that the time was late,
She had to leave because the time had flown.
Bearslayer through the night resolved to wait;
Since he stood firm she took the path alone.

Bearslayer conquers demons and raises the Sunken Castle

Past midnight hour the castle grew so dank,
Bearslayer only warmed himself somehow,
By lighting in the hearth a broken plank.
He waited then for what would happen now.

In all the rooms a sudden whirlwind ran,
And seven demon fiends rushed through the door.
They bore a coffin with an ancient man,
Like scythes his teeth, like knives the nails he bore.
Although at first it seemed that he was dead,
He moved himself and uttered ghastly groans,
With opened eyes, "How cold I am!" he said.-
An unwished shudder gripped Bearslayer's bones.

He scarce could bear a voice so fearsome grim.
He banked the fire, then from the coffin's bounds,
Drew forth the man and said these words to him:
"Grow warm, you hell-hound, only-cease these sounds!"
But now the old man snarled, and tried to seize
And tear Bearslayer's ears with his sharp tooth.-
It seemed he knew Bearslayer's strength would ease,
So he could fight and overpower the youth.

Bearslayer struggling held him in the fire;
His hair was burning, but despite this plight,
Bearslayer swore: "No rescue from the pyre,
Until the castle rises to the light."

A noise was heard, and through the open door
Rushed Spidala the witch, and with her came
The seven demons who had come before,
With pitchforks armed, reflecting red the flame.
They fell upon Bearslayer one and all,
And with their forks they made to stab at him:
There at the fore-they answered to her call-
Came Spidala, her eyes aglitter grim.

Bearslayer was hard-pressed to face such odds,
Until of Staburadze's gift he thought
-The mirror that she gave him from the gods-
And from his clothes her magic glass he brought.
He held it out in Spidala's wild face,
And horrid wailing sounded in the gloom,
While all the demons shrank down in their place,
And spun like motes of dust about the room.

The dust cloud ebbed, the spinning whirlwind died,
A cool breeze cleaned the air and light now shone.-
A sage old man emerged and greetings cried:
"Our people's founder in the days bygone,
I Viduveds now guard the Latvian folk!
That you, my son, these demons here could slay
Has saved this castle from the dark world's yoke.-
Tomorrow it will see the light of day."

"Light to the people too the things will bring
Their ancient sires collected in this cell,
Among them laws, which from the Godhead spring;
Remember these and you will prosper well!-
I warmly thank you that you won this fight;
Rest now with gods in Burtnieks's keep.
Your task is done and peaceful through this night,
My maidens fair will lull you into sleep."

The old man vanished in the glow once more.
And afterwards three beauteous maids came by;
Reed pillows, sheets and blankets warm they bore,
And for Bearslayer made a bed to lie.
Full weary grown he lay down for the night,
Sweet heavenly songs then sounded in his ear.-
With easy breath, his drowsy eyes closed tight,
He slept at peace, freed for the night from fear.

Next morning-light into the air to take-
Bearslayer, chests and documents were raised.
But with them rose the castle from the lake!
Of Burtnieks the folk were sore amazed;-
A castle stood upon an island bold,
Bathed in the centre of the lake in light.
Her father, straight Laimdota quickly told,
Bearslayer in the castle spent the night.

At once he knew that broken was the spell,
Rejoiced to see the ancient castle saved,
Thence with Laimdota went, pleased well,
And found the youth asleep, all dangers braved.

Laimdota gently roused him, and he saw
That golden sunlight through the pane shone free.
He jumped up quickly and embraced her sure,
Said, kissing her, "You now belong to me.
The shackles broken that kept us apart!"-
"Praise to the gods, praise to the spirit band,"
Said Burtnieks. "The maid gives you her heart;
I give you blessings from her father's hand."

"This covenant our two great clans will lead,
To take the task of saving Latvia's folk!"-
From then the pair the ancient books could read,
And of their teachings oft together spoke.
With wonder then Bearslayer clearly saw,
That of the books Laimdota took good heed,
And well could talk about the gods' high law,
Of human virtue and of hero's deed.

Laimdota tells Bearslayer how the Devil sank the castle

One evening, in the castle sat the two,
And thus Laimdota deep the youth amazed:
"Now from a parchment I will read to you
About our Sunken Castle that you raised."

"Far to the east, past seven kingdoms grand,
Rose up a cloud, shaped like a saddled colt,
Upon which Perkons sat with whip in hand.
Each whip crack smashed great rocks with lightning bolt,
Made humans tremble, hill and valley quake.
Then Perkons spoke and all the earth took heed:
'Who keeps my laws with me the path may take,
And to a new land westward will I lead!'"

"But, fearful of the god, stood silent all,
Until the tribe of Burtnieks bold grew.
Its legendary fighters strong and tall,
Then said: 'Great Perkons, we will come with you,
As pious subjects we will heed your mind,
If you but lead us to the fair new land!'
With Perkons at the head, the tribe behind,
They walked far to the west, a sturdy band."

"By savage creatures harried on the track,
Foul fiends and giants, dragons fed their fears.
All fell on them, but Perkons drove them back,
And Burtnieks's men fought with their spears.
At length they won through to the western bound:-
The place they settled called the 'Baltic Sea'.
A fruitful valley in this land they found,
And chose the site where future life would be."

"They built a castle there and cleared the plains,
Sowed barley fields that Perkons fertile made.
From Patrimps and Saulite came ripe grains,
From Uzinš autumn honey in the glade;
The Gods' Sons made from it a heady brew.
The brides were fair, the tribe grew greater still.
Both springtime's spirit came, and Liga too;
Her golden kokle's songs filled vale and hill."

"Upon the Earth this was the Golden Age!-
The Devil, who such fortune could not bear,
Commanded that a mighty whirlwind rage,
And suck a massive lake into the air,
Then in the valley down its water pour.
The whirlwind blew until, to calm its lust,
An old man, who a three-pronged pitchfork bore,
Prepared the fork into its midst to thrust."

"Another, seeing this, cried: 'Wait, until
I say a water spell. Within the gale
Is water seeking place, that down will spill
And fill our valley should the wind now fail.'
Not understanding this, the first thrust through.
The lake poured roaring down, the valley filled,
And Burtnieks's castle sank from view.-
All seemed then lost, but Liga different willed."

"Beneath the flood she played the kokle long,
So beautiful the rocks grew soft and broke;
A tunnel opened, and with Liga's song,
Into the light came out the rescued folk."

Scene 4: The story of the creation

The Earth is formed

Another time, Laimdota read anew:-
"In the beginning nothing was. But plain
There shone an endless light, from which all grew.
No start or ending marked God's perfect reign.
He was the world's pure soul, good spirits' kin.
The Devil still obeyed his God in all,
Beside him stood and knew not stain of sin,
Although his mind was close before the fall."

"To make the world, God asked of him one thing:
To fly deep down, primordial ooze to view,
To find there slime, a handful back to bring.-
The Devil found the slime when down he flew,
But wondered why God had for it a plan.
To copy God he thought some slime to save,
A handful placed inside his mouth's broad span.
The other handful then to God he gave."

"'Earth, form!' God cried, and down the slime He threw,
And from this handful formed the level plain.
Within the Devil's mouth the other too,
Became so large he spat it out again,
Where from the ground it raised the hills up soon!-
From His own substance God a handful chose,
And shaped it saying: 'Form now, Sun and Moon!'
To light the Earth their gold and silver rose."

"Such was the beauty of the Sun and Earth,
God loved them both and gave the Gods' Sons life,
And to the Daughters of the Sun gave birth.
The largest one the Moon took as his wife:
The many thousand stars their children are.-
The Gods' first Sons were godlike heroes all,
And Earth's broad lands divided near and far,
Among themselves they took them in their thrall."

"The sons of Perkons -five stout youths all told-
Then built the spirits' beautiful abode.
He fashioned for the Sun fine steeds of gold,
Which through the sky from dawn to dusk it rode,
Then in a boat returned to morning shore;
Sailed through the night, and in the dawning rose,
The while the sea its horses swimming bore
-Which Antrimps as his dwelling-place now chose."

The Devil rebels against God

"Soon Patrimps gave the Earth its verdant loam,
And springtime's spirit added flowers and grains;
The way paved Pakols to the soul's last home.-
But many things changed through the Devil's pains,
And were not as they had been at the start.-
All stones were soft and God gave firm commands
To shun them while He gave them form apart,
And shaped them all at once from shifting sands."

"But here the Devil sought his Lord to mock,
To find out through what means God would condemn,
If he should tread upon the yielding rock.
He sought great stones and firmly stepped on them,
And in that moment all the rocks grew hard!-
Upon the Daugava's bank yet stands a stone,
That still today the folk can clear regard,
And as the 'Devil's Footprint' now is known."

"In ancient times, on trees no branches lay,
With only trunks, straight standing they were made.
The Devil had a scythe for reaping hay,
While Perkons' sons forged God a chisel blade.
God took this scythe one day-the Devil slept-
And with it hay in masses in He brought.-
Not knowing God had scythed, with tool inept
To use a chisel too the Devil sought."

"The grass still stood.-Unfit as reaping hook,
The chisel was in anger cast away.
The blade then struck a tree and hold firm took.
Since then strong branches all the trees display."

"The Devil had fine cattle but unhorned,
With rounded solid hooves and bluish hair.
God built himself a byre; the Devil scorned:
'What use a byre when yet no cows are there?'
God answered then that cows he would provide!
Next night he took them from the Devil's lair,
And gave them all sharp horns, and coloured hide,
And cloven hooves-the Devil's pen was bare."

"The Devil went and God's new byre soon found.
The cows were there, but strange he found the sight
Of cloven hooves, bent horns, and all around
Were spotted cows and beasts with faces white!"

"God wanted then a dog, and to the Devil said:
'Up to the mountaintop this stout staff bear;
From clay a creature shape with snout and head,
Two eyes, two ears, four legs, a tail and hair;
And three times strike it with this staff, cry bold:
'God made you!' and the thing will straightway live."
The Devil struck three times as he was told,
The dog sprang up, its homage God to give."

"The Devil now himself desired a pet,
But bigger far than God's, with darker pelt.
Hairs of his own above its eyes he set,
Cried out, as with the staff a blow he dealt:
'The Devil made you!' But it lacked life's zest.
When 'God has made you!' were the words he said,
The creature lived, and nuzzled to his breast.
'Hail, wolf,' he cried as to the woods it fled."

At last God chose to make the human race;
To do this from the Earth He took pure clay.
One eye and ear alone possessed the face,
Though arms and legs the body could display.
'No evil see, nor hear, nor do,' He praised,
'And walk a righteous path avoiding strife,
True virtue show, from endless Godhead raised.'-
With His own breath then breathed it into life."

"The human being slept while breathing light:
'Here wait for morning,' God contented spoke.
'The rising sun will wake you from the night.'-
The morning sun into the world awoke
Of all creations yet, the one most fine;
With freedom's spirit filled and with free will,
So noble that it strives to grow divine,
To seek the good, and highest goals fulfil."

"But now the Fiend God's creature would enslave,
And in the night another eye and ear,
Another nostril too the human gave,
And of his essence breathed in-hate and fear.
Then said: 'Now evil you can see and speak,
And henceforth not just lofty good will know,
But stumbling helpless, blind the path will seek,
And good and evil, both directions go.'"

"God saw the human, dangerous and wild,
In treachery that falls on other folk,
And kills, destroying all the good and mild,
And in His heart a mighty anger broke.
He could not bear the Devil in his sight,
And drove him forth to Hell's forbidding shore.
He cursed the Devil to an endless blight,
And banished him from Heaven evermore."

"The Devil gave foul fiends and dragons life,
And on the good a bitter war he waged.
All gods and Gods' Sons faced him in the strife,
And fighting too, both Earth and Heaven raged.-
From Perkons thunder roared, vast whirlwinds blew,
And, spitting lightning, down the mountains sank.
The rising sea up to the heavens grew,
And soon engulfed the mountain's lofty flank."

"Though, beaten, to the boundless pit now run,
Still man's corruption seeks the demon pack,
Trapped in the web of evil they have spun.-
But Perkons sees them, strikes and drives them back."

The tasks of humankind

One evening, thus Laimdota spoke in turn:
"Bearslayer, now the Guardian's words well heed,
He wrote them that we understand and learn;
These ancient wisdom's teachings I will read."
Aloud Laimdota read to him this view:
"Time is eternal. Thus it brings no peace
To seek beyond, and endless life pursue.
Time comes, time goes, and rolls on without cease."

"This satisfies the gods, the Earth, the Sun,
But sates not us, who fleeting moments live.-
Yet human life will through the ages run,
For who its count of years the day can give,
Since first upon the world gazed human eyes,
And who can know when last these eyes will close?
Our kind survives though each of us soon dies,
And will so long the Earth existence knows."

"To help the great undying human race
To prosper and a perfect state achieve;
To live and die to give it lofty place,
This is our task, ere worldly life we leave.
And like each person, too, our human kind
To godlike wisdom's state itself can raise.-
But then to ancient gods it soon grows blind,
Who made the Earth for it in bygone days."

"With higher gods, new faith the old amends,
The old alone as heresy holds sway.
This is the mighty task for mankinds' friends,
To stand and guard the folk from evil's way,
Which, fair disguised, will freedom's spirit break.-
But from the gods derives the people's mind.
Inspired by this, their laws themselves they make,
And for these laws their chiefs and rulers find."

"But should these laws the leaders not fulfil,
For their own gain the people sore oppress,
Like all bad servants here the people's will
Can drive the rulers out and end distress.
For freedom's lovers clear the task at hand:
To make just laws that goods and life protect,
On lofty human morals firmly stand,
And nature's deathless wisdom give respect."

"Then in the folk all hate will fade at length,
If they acknowledge nature's perfect law,
And recognize its hidden wondrous strength.
This is the task for those whose gifts are pure:
With glowing ardour strive with spirit vast,
Respect great nature, love the countryside,
Part wide the misty curtain of the past,
New form themselves and build the future's pride."

"Who striving seek the highest good, each one
Will earn great fame and honour with the best.
Their mourning friends, when once their course is run,
Will weeping lay them to their final rest.
And, cradled safe in Mother Nature's womb,
From people's hearts their names will never fade.
In realms of light they soar above the tomb,
Whom Gods' bold Sons eternal life once gave."

Then, silently, Laimdota closed the tome,
And placed it in a chest with others too,
And said: "These chests to more are dusty home,
A task for many years to read them through.
Perhaps in later age some humans bold
Will bring them to the sunlight, in them pore,
And teach the folk the wisdom that they hold,
About the past, its knowledge and its lore."

Scene 5: The Latvians are deceived by the Christians

Laimdota is stolen by the Germans

On All Souls' Day a feast was made complete.
Much strove Laimdota, for upon this night
Old Burtnieks departed souls would greet,
And dear ones' spirits lost to death requite.
Bearslayer worked as did Koknesis too:
They cleaned the barn, the drying rack made sound,
Raked smooth the yards and cleaned the oven's flue,
Pine needles strewed with sand upon the ground.

The barn for spirits is the favoured place:
Behind the fireplace household gods safe dwell,
Within live dwarves, while on the roof's broad space,
There stands a dragon, neighbours' spite to quell.
In wintertime when threshing work is done,
In empty barns at midnight goblins roam.
But on this night the barn such spirits shun,
To yield to honoured souls their rightful home.

The two young men had cleaned and decked the space,
Put back the chairs, brought tables to the shed,
Where now Laimdota set a cloth in place,
Laid on it honey, milk and new-made bread,
And plates of soft-boiled barley with dried pork.
Then Burtnieks the windows opened wide,
And placed on both smooth wooden planks to walk,
To help departed souls to come inside.

Together came the family to relax,
And with Laimdota came a maiden throng,
Put baskets filled with finely carded flax
Beneath the tables, while they sang this song:

"From up above, from down below,
Tread in a basket fit,
Tread in the yarn, before you go,
And in the reed chair sit!"

"Into the barn, Mother of Souls,
Go in my father's door.
Go in so light, no mark unrolls
Upon the white-sand floor."

"Mother of Souls, I ask you true,
Enjoy the feast we share.
Enjoy the feast we offer you,
And still my body spare."

"Oh, spare my body, stand me by,
Preserve me while life runs.
Preserve me safely so that I
Can give our people sons."

As darkness came they lit both torch and brand.
They stayed together up to midnight's stroke,
When Burtnieks pronounced: "Young people, stand,
Go silent to your beds, no noise evoke.
Allow to me to stay here quite alone,
With shadows of each dear departed one!"
All went away in silence on their own,
The sacred night's deep peace disturbed by none.

Next morning Burtnieks, in pensive mood-
Expecting thence Laimdota soon to bring
From in the barn the souls' uneaten food-
In solemn tone Bearslayer told this thing:
"My son, last night the spirits showed portent:
For you and your Laimdota saddest fate.
-May Perkons and the gods such times prevent!-
But where is now Laimdota? Why so late?"

Bearslayer sought her at her chamber's door;
He called and knocked but answer there was none.
Returning then he sought to reassure:
Perhaps her work outside she had begun.
Throughout the castle now the maid they sought,
But none had seen her though they hunted well.
They went into her room, which nothing brought-
She had not slept there, that was plain to tell.

Both felt concern: They ran out now to view
Both castle grounds and all surrounding space.
But all was vain. Worse was, Koknesis too
Was missing from the castle-void his place.
Shocked, Burtnieks returned home full of fear.
"It pleased the gods," he said, "to strike us hard.
We must take action, since to me is clear,
That evil hands now close Laimdota guard."

"We must act fast," he said, "Call forth my men.
Pursue the traitors, yet they may be caught."
"Too slow that way," Bearslayer answered then:
"By me alone the foe is better sought.
I swear to find Laimdota, bring her back,
Or else Bearslayer no more will be seen."
Saluting then he set out on the track,
And left the place where happiness had been.

Kaupa sets out for Rome

In Turaida, within a castle hall,
Of three men talking voices could be heard.
False Kangars shared with Dietrich priesthood's call,
The chieftain, Kaupa, was of them the third.

The German priest a way perfidious found,
The fiery chieftain in his web to snare:
He told what things in German life abound,
Of heroes of the folk, and culture rare,
And of the faith that man and God unites.-
Of Rome's High Father too the plan unfurled,
Together with the brotherhood of knights,
To spread the sacred faith across the world.

Here Kangars aided Dietrich in his work
-Though Kaupa's mind so much he had in grip,
His fathers' gods the chieftain soon would shirk.-
From Germany had come a mighty ship,
And all the merchants wished now to remain,
A city at the river's mouth to build,
Which for the Baltic folk would bring much gain,
If only mighty Kaupa all this willed.

He read a letter from the Pope's great home,
Who Kaupa sent good words and blessings fair,
And wished the chieftain's presence there in Rome.
Moreover, Dietrich said that Kaupa there
With his own eyes the German land would see,
And through the Holy Father earn much fame.-
In Kaupa surged the wish in Rome to be,
He felt the Pope gave honour to his name.

He swore a German city to condone,
Resolved next day within their ship to sail,
With Dietrich leading to the Holy Throne.-
On their return vowed Kangars not to fail.

At Daugava's mouth soon after All Souls' Eve,
Slow on the tide a German vessel swayed.
A throng looked on while, casting loose to leave,
Last goods in haste were dealt in final trade,
And for their castle men the Germans hired.-
To go on board, soon Kaupa there appeared,
And Dietrich too into the ship retired.
With greetings warm the watching folk all cheered.

From high upon the ship now Kaupa spoke:
"My countrymen, of wonders I am told,
Of famous German lands and wealthy folk.
A friendship thus with them we will unfold,
And let them build a castle on our soil,
Through which for us new springs of trade will flow,
Our riches will increase, reward for toil,
Our land will thrive, the wealth of all will grow."

"To German shores to seek this out I go:
But first my promise firm to you I give,
To tell what we must do, so soon I know.
Until that day with them in friendship live."
The people cheered, their caps rejoicing threw:
"If they with good intention friendship hail,
Long live then Kaupa, and the Strangers too!"-
Then with fair winds the mighty ship set sail.

But Kangars of their friendship knew the cause,
And understood full well the Germans' heart.
With Spidala he stood upon the shores,
And, spiteful smiling, watched the ship depart.

Bearslayer is consumed by sorrow, and disappears

Just then was heard: "Bearslayer now is here,
Who brought the giant low." The crowd spread wide,
As from his weary horse he sprang down clear.-
He knew that Kangars had an evil side,
And raging at the priest he loudly roared:
"Reveal now, traitor, what Laimdota's lot,
Or else your bones will feel my hacking sword.
Her disappearance is your evil plot."

In place of Kangars Spidala words found,
As on the far horizon sailed the ship:
"Look, there, where she to Germany is bound."-
Bearslayer cried: "We are in murder's grip!
Such wicked deeds the people will not stand,
But will strike back, for open I will say,
That you and Kangars magic means command,
And for yourselves the people's faith betray!"

"Oh people, do not trust the Strangers' guile,
If love for freedom and our faith you feel!"-
As all the people heard his deeds so vile,
False Kangars summoned strength the breach to heal,
Lest in this moment fame and power he lose.
These words he spoke: "Young hero, for this shame
Like you, the wrath of Perkons I would choose,
Did I not know you wrongly give me blame."

"Soon Kaupa's eyes in German lands will see,
How far to trust the friendship they have shown.
Your second charge too gives no blame to me:
Laimdota did not wish to go alone.-
Since Kaupa planned to take some youths from here,
To gain the wisdom Germany entails,
Your friend, Koknesis, rushed to volunteer;
As lover of Laimdota now he sails."

"Last night was opportune from you to part,
To go with Kaupa to the German shores.-
Be sure, young hero, in the maiden's heart,
Though praising all your deeds, she was not yours.
To make you sad she did not have the will,
Through unrequited love. Her heart's behest
She yet knew well, and was resolved to fill:
She knows now joy, with true love in her breast."

If Perkons of a sudden walked abroad,
Bearslayer's mind had not been more amazed.
Both pale and shocked he lowered then his sword,
That set to strike at Kangars had been raised.
Deep in his heart struck pain that knew no end,
Like stabbing knives his soul felt jealousy.
Could thus Koknesis prove so false, his friend?
And chaste Laimdota too? How could this be?

Though naught he shared with Kangars of this view,
Another reason plain was not to find,
Why both Koknesis and Laimdota too,
In secret left the castle gates behind.
But thoughts like these Bearslayer gave no place.-
Through Kaupa's voyage to the German shore,
For him all things now had a different face;
Of Kaupa's motives he had doubts no more.

"Your innocence," he cried, "my thoughts refuse,
But I will wait while Kaupa sails the sea,
Or for a ship from Germany with news;
But warning take, if you have lied to me!"
Regarding them no more, he rode away.-
Then Spidala rejoiced with devilish glee;
The longed-for moment now had come this day;
Bearslayer's fate was worse than death could be!

In sadness deep, Bearslayer homeward rode.-
With joy old Lielvardis saw him come,
But marked at once his sorrow's heavy load.
When asked, Bearslayer told his care's full sum.
Then Lielvardis said: "Do not despair,
Do not lose hope. Strange ways can Fate fulfil.
Perhaps, though things against it witness bear,
A blameless maid, Laimdota loves you still."

Calmed by his father's soothing heartfelt view,
Bearslayer sent to Burtnieks to tell,
Of fair Laimdota's fate all that he knew.
In Lielvarde's halls he chose to dwell,
Though mourning sorrow occupied his days.-
Alone he walked the cliffs where Daugava flows,
The water's white-capped waves drew then his gaze,
He bitter raged at Destiny's cruel blows.

He yearned to roll like waves down to the sea,
That with the North Wind's icy blasts wild fights,
To gaze upon the North Wind's Daughter free,
With her to bide, beneath the Northern Lights.
The young man deeply longed to calm his breast,
And cool his fevered brow, and felt compelled
No more to be in Lielvarde guest.-
And soon none knew the place the hero dwelled.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Bearslayer - Canto III Bearslayer And Laimdota Are Betrayed' by Andrejs Pumpurs

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy