Bearslayer - Canto V The Journey To The Homeland

A poem by Andrejs Pumpurs

Scene 1: Bearslayer is victorious on the Enchanted Isle

They go ashore on the Enchanted Isle

Though Spidala revenge had gained
And borne Bearslayer's love away,
Within her heart deep hate remained;
More evil yet she sought to pay!
So with the crone she northward flew,
Set storms and tempests bursting free,
To plague Bearslayer and his crew
Upon the unknown Northern Sea.

That every man had died is sure,
Had North Wind's Daughter not shown guile.-
Now further trials they would endure,
Upon the strange Enchanted Isle.
Recovered from their early fear,
A host of captured ships they saw,
All drawn in there throughout the year,
Upon the island's lonely shore.

The ships all lay as though pinned fast,
The sea waves crashing all around;
Their crewmen frozen round the mast,
Stood still as stones and made no sound.
Of signs of life the isle was free,
Although a path led from a wood,
Across a bridge into the sea,
And at its end a palace stood.

Bearslayer and his crew of men,
Crossed on the bridge, went through the door;
But even there no sign again
Of any living creature saw.

That someone lived there, this they knew:
On tables food and drink were spread,
And in another room in view
Stood ready made for each a bed.-
Not long the sailors chose to wait,
But soon the feasting was begun.
They later did not hesitate
Into his bed then climbed each one.

Bearslayer warned, it was not good,
And they would risk their lives this way,
Unless someone as sentry stood,
To keep them safe until the day.
At this, Bearslayer they beseeched
Himself that night to stand on guard,
Their weariness the point had reached,
To watch all night would be too hard.

Bearslayer fights the many-headed demons

He armed himself and went outside,
Upon the bridge the watch to stand,
But for a time no-one he spied,
A deathly silence filled the land.
Then as time's passage midnight brought,
A rider came along the track,
But at the bridge his horse stopped short;
It baulked and tried to gallop back.

At this, the rider's anger grew.
He shouted in the horse's ear:
"What groundless fear is troubling you?
No enemy awaits us here.
Bearslayer bold, my greatest foe,
Is lost upon the Northern Sea.
He is too young the course to know,
Or come so far to challenge me."

On hearing this Bearslayer swore:
"You err, you hell-hound, doubt my power;
I have indeed come to this shore,
And stand before you at this hour!"-
A frightful demon with three heads,
The rider answered full of spite:
"If truly here a hero treads,
Then prove your strength and with me fight!"

Along the track they rode ahead,
Until thick forest blocked the way.
"Blow down some trees," the demon said,
"To make a clearing for the fray!"
"You have three mouths," Bearslayer cried,
"That is a task more fit for you!"
And, in a circle three miles wide,
The trees fell, when the demon blew.

The way now freed from blocking trees,
So hard the demon struck his foe,
Bearslayer sank near to his knees
Into the island's ground below.
But just as quickly back he fought;
His heavy sword flashed in a trice,
Its slashing blow the fiend's neck caught,
Lopped off one head clean at a slice.

Although the demon struggled hard,
Bearslayer hacked its shield to shreds,
And with his sword forced down its guard,
Then struck off both the other heads.
He took the body and the horse,
Deep in the forest both he led,
Back to the building traced his course,
His armour loosed, and went to bed.

Within the building, sleeping yet,
Safe at the bridge's end secure,
The sailors faced no further threat,
From evil forces guarded sure.

The whole next day they did the same,
In celebration drank and ate;
But asked Bearslayer when night came,
To stand once more and guard the gate.
He armed himself and went out then,
Lest on the bridge a guard should lack.
And, see, at midnight once again,
A demon rode along the track.

And half aloud the rider thought:
"Where can my missing brother be?
No chance that he Bearslayer fought;
The youth still roams the Northern Sea."
On hearing this Bearslayer swore:
"You err, you hell-hound, doubt my power;
That I am here you can be sure.
Your brother fell at midnight hour!"

This demon fiend, with six-fold head,
Then answered him in angry tones:
"If you have struck my brother dead,
Then I will hack and crush your bones.
Blow down some trees," it further cried,
"To make a clearing for our fight!"
"You have six mouths," the youth replied,
"That you should do this task is right!"

The demon blew and, six miles round,
No tree could stand, the blast defy.
It struck Bearslayer to the ground,
So hard he sank in to the thigh.
But just as quick the youth now fought:
His heavy sword flashed in a trice,
Its slashing blows the demon caught
And two heads fell, lopped at a slice.

In single combat long they strove,
Until Bearslayer could prevail.
He slew the fiend; its horse he drove
Deep in the forest's densest trail.
Exhausted by the savage fight,
Back to the building he returned.
He deeply slept throughout the night,
Into the day took rest well-earned.

The third night came: Bearslayer then
The others cautioned watch to keep.
The palace he would guard again,
But they were not allowed to sleep.
If he should need it, help they owed,
Within the night, to give him aid.-
The mirror that to them he showed,
Into his grasp then must be laid.

A bowl Bearslayer took in hand,
And filled it up with water clear;
Upon a table it would stand,
By Staburadze's mirror near.
If in the night-he told them all-
The water in the dish stayed clean,
Then they could stay within the hall;
No help was needed, this would mean.

But if they saw that in the night
The water sweet to blood had turned,
They all should rush to join the fight-
This loyalty his deeds had earned.

Bearslayer armour donned again,
And stood upon the bridge as guard:
At midnight, see, a demon then
With nine fierce heads came riding hard.

Upon the bridge its horse then propped,
It baulked and would no further go.
The rider asked why it had stopped:
"What do you fear? There is no foe!
If to Bearslayer had been shown
The way to reach this secret place,
Then both my brothers would have known,
And would have fought him, face-to-face."

Bearslayer roared: "Yes, I am here!
I killed your brother yesterday,
And at this bridge stand, free of fear,
That with your life the price you pay!"
Bearslayer's words held meaning plain,
And caused the monster long to stare.
"If you have both my brothers slain,
Your flesh alive to eat I swear!"

"Blow down some trees," the demon cried,
"To make a clearing for the fray!"
"You have nine mouths!" the youth replied,
"Why should not you blow trees away?"
The demon raised a storm all round,
That nine miles wide all trees displaced,
Then struck Bearslayer to the ground,
So hard he sank in to the waist.

But yet Bearslayer was not slow,
Three demon heads their blood let spill,
But he received a second blow,
That drove him downward, deeper still.
Again he fought, and struck back strong,
Three further heads were tumbling sent.
They fought together for so long
Both were exhausted, nearly spent.

The fiend, who now had but one head,
Had sunk Bearslayer armpit deep,
Who now supposed the crew he led,
Their word to give him aid would keep.
But of his men not even one
Could help him in the battle hot.
All slept already, watching done-
His orders they had soon forgot.

So, hard his club Bearslayer threw,
And three miles even, far away,
Straight through their window in it flew,
And in the room caused disarray.
By such a noise disturbed from sleep,
The sailors sprang up to their feet,
Thought of the watch that they should keep-
With blood the bowl was filled complete!

To help the youth all courage found,
And ran to save him from distress.-
To drive him down below the ground,
The fiend stood close before success.-
They passed him Staburadze's glass;
The demon looked and quickly froze,
And helpless lay upon the grass,
While with their help Bearslayer rose.

From out the hole he clambered free,
And cut off quick the final head,
Then let his men his anger see:
They had not kept good watch, he said.

Although he thought the island now
Was safe and under their control,
The only thing he would allow
Was on all sides to make patrol!

Perhaps the demon brothers' men
Might still be there, he could not tell.-
He rested several days and then,
Bearslayer searched the island well.

SCENE 2: Bearslayer meets Spidala again

Bearslayer captures Spidala

Once through the forest's gloomy bound
They reached a pleasant valley's floor,
A cooling well within it found,
Near which a tree sweet apples bore.
The sailors hastened without thought,
There at the well to slake their thirst,
But stern Bearslayer caution taught,
Forbidding them to drink at first.

Deep in the water with his sword,
Triangular, a mark he slashed.-
Where just before clear water poured,
Not water now but blood there splashed!
At first, loud wailing cries were heard,
But soon again deep silence reigned,
And in the water nothing stirred;
As clear as amber it remained.

At this, he said they might drink free,
No harm would suffer, this he knew.
They drank, then hurried to the tree,
Where near the well the apples grew.
They sought as one the fruit to eat,
But loud Bearslayer gave a yell-
To seek here apples was not meet-
And raised his sword, the tree to fell.

Just at this moment from the tree
A frightened voice begged: "Harm me not!"
Alarmed Bearslayer jumped back free,
And in that moment, on the spot,
The tree became a maiden fair.
He looked at her, was sore amazed,
With feelings he could scarcely bear-
At Spidala his eyes now gazed!

Before his feet, herself she threw,
And for her life began to plead:
She would reveal great secrets true,
And make good every wicked deed,
No evil more do all her days.-
Bearslayer gave to her her life:
Foul fiends and giant foes he slays,
But with weak women seeks no strife.

Then Spidala confessed to him
Her every evil deed and ploy,
Through which, with Kangars plotting grim,
Bearslayer bold they would destroy;
How forth Laimdota they could lure,
And tricked his friend, Koknesis, too,
And that both friend and sweetheart pure
In faithfulness to him were true!

The ancient witch, whom once before
He saw within the Devil's Pit,
Upon the pleasant island's shore
A spell had placed, her plans to fit.
And all the ships this spell there drew
Upon the beach were helpless thrown;
She then bewitched the sailors too,
And every one was turned to stone.

The fiends Bearslayer there had killed
Were her three sons, foul demon beasts.-
The palace at the bridge she filled
With sumptuous meals to give them feasts.
But as time passed they wished to taste
The flesh of human beings sweet;
Stone sailors she revived in haste,
And gave them to her sons to eat.

Her sons' defeat she could not brook;
A fearsome anger now burst free,
Then of the well the form she took,
Made Spidala the apple tree.
If they had drunk deep from the well,
Before Bearslayer thrust his sword,
She would have cast a deadly spell,
That painful death would all afford.

His slashing sword blows deep inside
Had killed the witch-they heard her groan-
As Spidala would too have died,
Had not Bearslayer mercy shown.
In rapturous voice these words she cried:
"Success is yours, and Heaven's Sons,
With Perkons too, stand at your side,
Against all fiends and evil ones."

"But further deeds will be the cost,
Once to our Fatherland returned.-
While on far oceans you were tossed,
Our fathers' halls the Strangers burned!
Make haste, return home to our land,
On these oppressors vengeance wreak!
How happy with you I would stand,
Like chaste Laimdota virtue seek."

"I long salvation sure to win.
But who the Devil's grip can shake,
Escape a pact conceived in sin,
An oath in blood, once signed, can break?"

Spidala is freed from her pact with the Devil

Now Spidala concealed her face,
And bitter tears wept without end.
Bearslayer could not doubt the case:
She wished her evil ways to mend.
From nowhere came a sudden thought:
The little package which, that night,
From out the Devil's Pit he brought,
To keep in mind the evil sight.

He bade some men the package bring;
To Spidala he gave it then.
The moment that she saw the thing,
With heartfelt joy she cried again,
In gratitude fell to her knee.
Before Bearslayer's feet she lay:
"Your grateful servant I will be,
Bearslayer, now and every day!"

"This package is the pact I signed,
When evil deeds to do I swore.
With this I now can freedom find,
And break the Devil's grip once more.
For now I can dissolve the pact,
Can do good deeds, while yet alive,
And seek as much for good to act,
As once I would for evil strive!"

The magic staff forth now she brought,
With which the crone the sailors woke,
When human flesh her sons had sought,
Went to the beach to save the folk.-
She entered every ship and boat,
That lay pinned fast upon the shore,
And with the staff each sleeper smote,
And all rose up, alive once more.

To them it seemed a single night
That they had slept, and nothing more,
And so their sprightly step was light,
That took them round the island's shore.
Bearslayer stood and watched them long,
Then suddenly surprise he knew,
For with Koknesis in the throng
There stood Laimdota clear in view!

SCENE 3: The return to the Fatherland

Bearslayer, Koknesis and Laimdota are reunited

Escaped from in the convent's bound
Laimdota travelled with her knight
Through journeys long a seaport found,
And there a ship to give them flight.-
To foreign ports the sailors sought
To bring their goods and make their trade,
And on the Daugava's bank they thought
To see the castle newly made.

Of this Laimdota nothing knew,
Nor knew Koknesis, of this fort,
And of their loved ones nothing too,
Since far away they had been brought.
And thus it was their fervent will
To seek out soon the Fatherland.-
Though Destiny's wish all would fulfil,
The course proved longer than they planned!

As with Bearslayer, now the crone
Sent storms so that their way they lost,
And soon, from off their course far blown,
Upon an unknown sea they tossed.
They wandered blind a lengthy while,
Until one day the lookout hailed
On sighting clear a pleasant isle,
To which with gratitude they sailed.

Come near the isle, the ship raced fast,
As though a storm wind drove its quest,
Until, unstoppable, at last
It ran on shore among the rest.
Upon the isle a sage old man
Across the bridge now led them all
That to the palace entrance ran;
A sumptuous meal stood in its hall.

Then, after all had had their fill,
On their own ship they deeply drowsed,
And slept away the time until,
By Spidala disturbed, they roused.-
About their feelings who can tell,
Here with Bearslayer now to stand?
Upon his neck Laimdota fell,
Koknesis firmly pressed his hand.

How many words there now flowed free,
When each unchecked could full relate
Adventures faced on land and sea,
Of tribulations and harsh fate?
Bearslayer full believed his love;
Doubts disappeared-his trust was sure.
Again they swore by powers above
Their faithfulness for evermore.

Alone and separate from the band,
No contact Spidala now sought,
Until Bearslayer took her hand,
Her to the others gently brought.
He told them how, now free again,
Brave Spidala helped break the spell.
With gratitude Laimdota then,
Koknesis too, both thanked her well.

They asked her to become their friend.
And Spidala her friendship swore,
And vowed that she would help defend
Against all trials the future bore.
Well Spidala the island knew,
And so the other folk apace
She guided all its comforts through.-
It proved to be a fruitful place.

So fair it was some made a vow
To settle there, and thought it well,
Because the island's master now
Bearslayer was, who broke the spell,
That he should stay some weeks or more,
Until these folk a chieftain chose.-
Across the bridge now lived the four,
Within the palace of their foes.

This building Spidala knew too:
She showed her friends a wondrous hoard,
Preserved in chambers there to view,
Where many things to eat were stored.
Our countrymen here happy grew,
Had been content upon this shore,
But for the longing that they knew,
Their fathers' land to see once more.

They longed to serve the Fatherland,
To fight and make its troubles cease.-
But Destiny's will had not thus planned
A life for them of joy and peace.
Then came the day they chose, again
To journey back where they were born,
And so Bearslayer spoke out plain,
The people how to live would warn.

Koknesis confesses his love for Spidala

Koknesis, walking sunk in thought,
The island crossed with solemn stride,
The pleasant valley pensive sought,
Where, in the well, the witch had died.

Far off, a flame soon caught his gaze,
And near the well, his searching view
Showed Spidala beside the blaze,
With magic staff and package too.
Enchanted words aloud she spoke,
As both into the fire she cast:
"Into thin air, like dust or smoke,
Now vanish: Make me free at last!"

At this there reared up from the pyre,
And hung a moment in the air,
A writhing dragon made of fire,
That crackling vanished soon from there.
The earth devoured the fire away,
And twilight cloaked the valley floor.
Then Spidala fell down and lay,
While from her eyes flowed tears once more.

Touched now, Koknesis took her part,
And gently spoke and helped her rise:
"Why, little one, so sick at heart,
That tears flow from your comely eyes?"
Then Spidala felt rising shame,
Her answer spoke with voice so small:
"These tears I weep in joy's sweet name,
And for the future's hope they fall."

"I yearn to start my life once more,
The evil of the past put by.-
Forget whatever here you saw,
And let my secret with you lie.
Though soon our paths will separate stand,
Your memory long my heart will keep."
At this Koknesis took her hand,
And answered her with feelings deep:

"Oh, Spidala, your secret dark
For all my life will stay well hid.
Already but the half you mark
Of wicked things that once you did;
Then why should I remember them?
But I a secret now must tell,
Which, if your heart does not contemn,
Will link our paths together well."

"Fair Spidala, I love you true.
Come, travel now with me life's quest!"-
When Spidala his heart's love knew,
She paled and asked with heaving breast:
"Have you not yet, Koknesis, learned,
Whom you as bride seek to persuade?
Beside this well just now I burned
A compact with the Devil made!"

"I know," then said Koknesis stern,
"But that it vanished also saw!
I know too what respect those earn
Who fall and yet rise up once more.
More surely to their feet they rise
Than those who never fall have known."
When Spidala, stunned by surprise,
Still hesitated, this his tone:

If his first love her could not reach,
Then it had been a better fate
To stay as stone upon the beach.-
At this she did not hesitate:
"If love so strong is felt by you,
I cannot seek another man;
So take me, I will be as true,
As in this world a woman can!"

With joy Koknesis held her tight,
And kissed her tears away complete.-
A warm breeze wafted through the night;
It was Great Laima's blessing sweet.

They return home safely

Then came the day they homeward sailed,
Their ship set forth upon the sea.
The island's magic power had failed,
And from the spell the ship was free.-

His friends Koknesis told his love,
Bearslayer and Laimdota too.
Both now rejoiced, since from above
Such happiness is sent to few.
All sorrows now they soon forgot,
That they had suffered in the past.
Their strong desire to leave this spot,
Back to their land of birth at last.-

No more delays to block them seemed;
The North Wind sent no raging storm,
As though the great Sea Mother deemed
Their journey worthy to perform.
The far horizon showed them clear,
Thick forests that they joyful hailed,
The shore rose up, drew ever near.-
Into the Daugava's mouth they sailed.


Scene 1: The Midsummer's Eve Festival

The people come together and give thanks

In Latvia now Midsummer came,
Called forth its children with one word,
The country over, all the same,
Now "Ligo, Ligo," clear was heard!

The nightingale with sweet refrain
By every brook and streamlet trilled.
Midsummer, Liga's Eve, again
The carefree folk with pleasure filled.

Up to the Azure Mountain borne,
The logs burned bright, for fires thence hauled.
The Ligusoni Priests' loud horn
All to the festive evening called.

And thence they came, both young and old,
Both great and small, a happy throng.
The men brought mead from honey gold,
The wives brought cheese and bread along.
The lads and lasses with them bore
Soft grass and wreaths of flowers too,
That on Midsummer's Eve all wore,
Adorned themselves, and pleasure knew.

They danced, they ate, they drank,
And down their offerings put;
The priests, the folk to thank,
Led to the altar's foot,
Poured goblets full of mead,
Burned costly herbs and rare,
Whose sweet aromas, freed,
Rose swirling in the air.

Together they all sang
The famous songs and prayers,
That to the goddess rang,
And solace brought from cares:

"With love we look to you,
Ligo, Ligo,
Linked here in friendship true,

"Our humble farms now bless,
Ligo, Ligo,
Fill barns with your largesse,

"Now saddle your grey horse,
Ligo, Ligo!
Ride round our fields your course,

"Sow seeds of grass and grain,
Ligo, Ligo,
Fine barley grow again,

"For meadow grass we pray,
Ligo, Ligo,
Our heifers give fine hay,

"Let hay our heifers eat,
Ligo, Ligo,
Our colts feed oats grown sweet,

"Make all the flowers grow,
Ligo, Ligo,
That on our hillsides blow,

"Let maidens braid their hair,
Ligo, Ligo,
With wreaths of flowers fair,

"Give young men on all sides,
Ligo, Ligo,
Hardworking beauteous brides,

"To all our daughters yield,
Ligo, Ligo,
Strong men to till the field,

"Come to our farmyards near,
Ligo, Ligo,
Your children visit here,

"Guard us from evil's spell,
Ligo, Ligo,
That we may love you well,
Ligo, Ligo,
And of you we may tell,

The ancestors' spirits call the people to live in harmony

While rich the sound of song rose high
Across the vale and woodland's tops,
The shadows of their sires gone by
Appeared within the sacred copse.
Beneath the leafy oaks once more,
To guard the people's soul they sped.-
The priests these heroes passing saw,
And reverent covered each his head.

The eldest of the priests then spoke,
The teachings of their fathers told:
In harmony and peace the folk
Each to the other ought to hold;
To give their brethren help and aid,
When they were caught in suffering's grip.-
Then soon both old and young obeyed,
And all joined hands in fellowship.

They promised friendship through the land,
And those in strife with fellow men
Went to them, offered warm their hand,
And lovingly sought peace again.

There in the grove upon the hill,
Close to the gods come face to face,
The folk could settle every ill,
Blessed by the spirits' saving grace.

In groups there seated on the grass,
The fathers and their wives agreed
Within their family gifts to pass,
While jugs and horns, filled up with mead,
Passed all along from row to row,
And each one drank a healthy pull.
Then bread and cheese passed to and fro,
And all was tasted to the full.

They ate and drank, discussed the year:
Men had with workmates much to say,
And women saw, again drawn near,
Clan sisters come from far away.
And even greybeards friends could spy,
Their childhood comrades there could find,
Companions from the days gone by,
The age of youth, now left behind.

Midsummer's Eve best pleased the young;
Their songs through wood and valley rang.
The lads in crowds to love gave tongue,
Hot-blooded songs of passion sang.
The lasses answered, love denied-
But in each maid was clear the case,
The time she scarcely could abide,
Until her love she would embrace.

Now closer pushed the youths in rows,
Close to the maidens to advance,
Until each found the one he chose,
And hand in hand they joined the dance.

Scene 2: The struggle begins

The Lord of Lielvarde brings terrible news

Beneath the oak trees on the hill,
That by the sacred grove near stood,
The priests and chieftains talked their fill
Of war and peace, things bad and good.-
The runic scriptures in the grove
Showed grim portents that warning gave.
To know their fate the leaders strove;
Their faces and their talk were grave.

Old Burtnieks was plain in view
With Aizkrauklis, and though delayed,
The Lielvarde Lord came too,
And soon a speech the old man made.
He warmly uttered greetings strong,
As old companions welcomed him,
Then took his place before the throng,
And told them there his tidings grim:

"You Chieftains gathered on this hill,
Do not yet know the fate that looms,
The threat that all with fear must fill,
And Latvia's folk to serfdom dooms.-
Near Daugava's mouth, as well you know,
Upon the river's bank arrayed,
The Livians let the Strangers go,
And settle there to work and trade."

"But later they were joined by more,
By men in armour iron-clad,
Who with the spring came by the score,
And works have done that we forbade.
They now control the river lands:
At Ikskile a castle-work,
At Salaspils a fortress stands.-
In these like beasts the plunderers lurk."

"Like cunning foxes first they sought
With everyone to be a friend;
Like ravenous wolves then victims caught,
All prey devoured, right to the end.
The Livian lands are now laid waste,
Each village plundered, burned in spite;
The men and women slaughter faced,
Who stood against the Strangers' might."

"Survivors even lose their soul,
Compelled a foreign faith to take.
And clear we see now that their goal
Is conquest of our folk to make.
They seek to break the people's pride,
Upon them serfdom's yoke to place,
Among themselves then to divide
All lands within the Baltic space."

"Upon a day now passed not long,
The people made report to me
Of foreign soldiers armoured strong
To Leilvarde riding free.
Still full of hope, great haste I made,
And armed my people straight away.
We stood behind our palisade,
Drawn up to face them in the fray."

"I asked them plainly why they came.
A mighty knight then forward went,
And said that Daniel was his name,
By Riga's Bishop he was sent
To seize all Lielvarde's space.
But if I wished he would allow
That I might live there by his grace-
In my own home a vassal now!"

"His own stone castle he would build,
That for himself to raise he planned,
And hostages to take he willed,
From every village in my land.
From farms a tenth part was his now,
And of their crops a share was due.
The Church's Father for each plough
Would take from them a levy too."

"Such shamelessness I bitter spurned.
It would destroy my ancient home:
Possessions plundered, houses burned,
The people would be slaves to Rome.-
Together with a little band
I fled to safety from their ranks,
And came to Dabrels in his land,
Found refuge on the Gauja's banks."

"Some Latvian Lords who shared my plight,
Came to this stronghold, where they thought
With warriors bold to stand and fight,
And threw up ramparts round the fort.
They, with the Livs as allies, tried
To stand against the Strangers' strength;
All hoped that though some would have died,
They would defeat the knights at length."

"By Daniel warned about their stand,
A troop of knights the Bishop sent,
To travel to the Gauja land;
Among them riding, Kaupa went.-
In Turaida in open show,
The Christian faith he now professed,
And formed deep friendships with the foe,
That all his people sore distressed."

"The Gauja fort for Christ to win,
With knights he soon began to seek.
The mind of Dabrels doubt put in,
And made our fathers' gods seem weak.
He said the Bishop had come here,
To hold from Riga's Castle sway,
And cherish as his children dear,
All those who would the Pope obey."-

"High on the ramparts Rusinš spoke,
Sought Kaupa's message to reject,
As was the custom of his folk,
His helm removed to show respect.
A heavy arrow from a bow
Then struck his unprotected head,
And mortal wounded by the blow
Down to the ground he toppled dead."

"All were enraged by this base deed,
Ran from the palisade pell-mell;
They charged the Strangers without heed,
And slaughtered them until night fell."

"But reinforcements soon were sent
To help the Strangers in the fray;
The Latvians then withdrew and went
Into their fort to wait for day."

"For days and weeks sharp was the fight,
Until at last the stockade fell,
Defeated by the foemen's might,
Like heroes though our men fought well.
At length the Latvians, nearly all
Found death upon the ramparts high.-
And having lost this sheltering wall,
Our people's lands defenceless lie."

"The Bishop soon his ranks will fill;
In sorrow, Lords, such news I send,
But, if we do our gods' just will,
Our fight will know a happy end.
For still in Latvia's rolling lands
Are men by whom sharp spears are made,
And still a hundred hundred hands
That well know how to wield a blade."

"So, sound the trumpet, beat the drum,
Our warriors brave to war to send,
And straight they will as one man come,
To fight for freedom to the end!"

Bearslayer comes to lead them in the fight

While, shocked, the chieftains listened well,
Around them through the valley wide
The songs of Liga silent fell.-
But then a hundred voices cried:
"Bearslayer, see, where he comes near!"
Rejoicing, people called his name.
Into the grove, unchecked by fear,
With his companions now he came.

Bearslayer, with Laimdota, and
Dark Spidala their sires embraced,
While firm Koknesis gave his hand.
Reunion's joy all gloom displaced.
A special joy the fathers knew
To see their children safe that day-
Now with the young folk close in view,
Grave peril's threat seemed far away!

With his companions close to him,
Bearslayer in the council sat.
To all reports he listened grim,
And what had passed he learned from that.
His heart felt deep and burning pain,
His eyes in anger glowed with hate,
When, told the story once again,
He learned of Lielvarde's fate.

The priests proclaimed the night at end,
And prayed that all their people dear
The god's salvation would defend,
But urged their sons to show good cheer,
And courage, if they must, to fall,
For other folk to give their life.-
At this, in thoughtful manner all
Now homeward went, prepared for strife.

The chieftains knew that soon their lot
Would be to fight upon this ground,
But still upon this hillside spot,
The sun's first rays the council found.
They sat together, talking more:
As one they pledged to make a stand,
Destroy the Strangers in a war,
Or drive them all from out the land.

Upon their spears this oath they swore,
Bearslayer their commander made,
The whole assembled host before,
And named Koknesis to give aid,
With Talvaldis as second man.-
Then, once again to friendship sworn,
At last the chiefs, as time fast ran,
The Azure Mountain left at dawn.

Bearslayer's captains, in a band,
With Aizkrauklis and Spidala rode,
Laimdota too was close at hand,
To Burtnieks his sire's abode.
The youthful couples wished, once there,
To celebrate their wedding vow,
And in this ancient manor fair,
Take priests' and fathers' blessings now.

Bearslayer's Wedding

"Why does my garland sit
So crooked on my brow?
How could it straighter fit,
Weighed down with gossip now!"

"While I my garland wore,
Of Laima was no heed;
I wear it now no more,
And, weeping, Laima need."

"Oh thatch a house with reeds,
Put silver pegs beneath,
So that our sister, needs,
Can hang her oaken wreath."

"The rattling bridge astride,
The groom now rides in view.
My kinsmen, if you ride,
Your swords will rattle too!"

"Look where in warrior's state
My kinsmen do great deeds,
With swords attend the gate,
And calm their fretful steeds!"

Within the castle's palisade
The relatives thus joyful call,
Awaiting suitors there arrayed,
Who ride up, seeking, to the wall.
With many friends Bearslayer rode
Beside Koknesis to the fort,
According to their ancient code,
Like strangers, entrance there they sought.

They asked about a place to rest,
For each, and also for his colt.-
Within the gates now every guest
Demanded answers to unbolt:
From whence they came, to where they rode,
If they were safe to have inside;
Until Old Burtnieks forth strode,
Himself the gates then opened wide.

Within the hall were tables laid,
With sumptuous meals for feasting fit,
And in the centre, clear displayed,
Chairs where the suitors had to sit.

They asked to see the fairest maid;
The wedding party led in some,
But they rejected all displayed,
Until Laimdota forth had come,
With Spidala, and joined the folk.
They wore rich clothes, and on their head
Were decorated wreaths of oak,
Bound with brocade and precious thread.

The suitors rose and praised each bride,
And sat them in the chairs in state,
And both men stood there close beside,
And now began to ask them straight
If they would sell their garlands here.
Such precious goods with payment high
They willingly would purchase dear.
To which the guests made this reply:

"Not with a sack of gold or more,
Can maidens such as these be bought.
Through neither riches, nor through war,
Can maidens such as these be caught."

But after both were full agreed.
And when the men had promised fast
To guard them well, meet every need,
The maidens gave consent at last.

To marry both, the priests now came.
With ivy twined round leaves of oak
Their hands were joined in Laima's name;
Meanwhile the priests this blessing spoke:
"Just as the supple ivy curls,
And round the oak itself entwines,
So with the slender new-wed girls,
Whom love now with their groom combines!"

The grooms before them gifts now spread-
With tears her wreath gave up each bride.
Then on their heads were placed instead
Expensive caps of marten's hide,
Adorned with silver was each hat.
Each new-wed bride went with her man
Up to the table, where they sat.-
The wedding banquet now began.

All day into the night it went;
Led by the songs of choirs sweet,
They danced until their strength was spent.
But when the pairs went to their seat,
Old Burtnieks, grown stern, required
That banqueting should early cease.-
Much sooner, then, the guests retired
Than if their land had been at peace.

Scene 3: The Latvians enjoy early success

The Latvian warriors gather from all sides

The new-wed pairs did not have long
Their joyous unions to fulfil,
Nor happiness to fashion strong,
For Destiny's harsh unswerving will
The grooms soon called into the field,
From loving arms the husbands tore,
To where in armour spears men wield,
And where their legs wade deep in gore.

War's trumpet Burtnieks now let
On every hilltop brassy sound,
On every lofty mound they set
At night the watch-fires burning round.
And every chieftain did the same,
Passed on the sign the rest to show-
A signal that to all soon came,
To gather and to war to go.

In every village homestead then,
Across the Latvian country broad,
The people's sons, the younger men,
Prepared for war, grasped spear and sword,
And saddled up their dashing steeds.
Each sister and each young man's bride
Adorned their helmets, then must, needs,
With tears and singing part-way ride.

Now soon on every road and track
-They slept at night beneath a tree-
A gathering host streamed to attack,
And after two full days or three,
Together came upon their course.
Bearslayer led thence further groups,
And at the meeting-place in force
"All hail! All hail!" rejoiced the troops.

Old Burtnieks rode with them too,
And Lielvardis-both of those
Close by the fighting in full view
Wished to remain until the close.
No longer there Laimdota more
Nor Spidala at home would stay;
The two young brides forth to the war,
Rode with the army on its way.

There, where the River Gauja falls
Through gorges to the valleys' bounds,
With palisades and earthen walls,
Stood many strongholds built on mounds.
Beside the streams in forests dense,
There lived the clans and Latvian Lords.
Led by Bearslayer riding thence,
Here entered now the warlike hordes.

When they, in nests along the way,
A German infestation found,
The vermin pest was cleared that day.-
They further marched and reached the ground
That used to Dabrels to belong.
Here they encountered German knights,
Who there had built a castle strong
And fortified it for their fights.

Bearslayer took it back again,
And many German knights there died,
Who lost their lives against our men.-
The host rolled on then like a tide,
Far, in a surging wave, it flowed
Unstoppable through vale and wood,
Advanced until the soldiers rode
To Turaida where Kaupa stood.

Here in the Livian people's lands,
They plainly saw as they passed by,
Each village lay in German hands.
In fields of barley and of rye
The golden grain swayed full and fat;
The Livians ploughed and sowed the fields,
But Strangers ate their fill of that,
Then sold the straw and other yields.

And closely with the castles merged,
Stood foreign churches, places where
The priests and monks the people urged
The Christian faith with them to share.
But by the Strangers converts here
Were held as servants in their thrall;
And from the Livians every year
They took a tribute from them all.

A band of those not Christian turned
Into the unknown forest spilled,
In deepest thickets clearings burned,
And chopped down trees their huts to build,
There kept the ancient gods' commands.-
But even here the Bishop's spies
Could search them out and made demands
Of tribute that to all applies.

The recapture of Turaida

Alarmed by this advancing horde
The Strangers fled from their estates,
Left monks and churches to the sword,
Withdrew inside Turaida's gates.
Where soon, attacking in a ring,
From all around Bearslayer fought,
But found it not an easy thing,
To conquer them the way he sought.

High on the walls were many knights
Whose heavy bolts, in hundreds loosed,
Drove back the Latvians from the heights.
But then Bearslayer's men produced
A scaffold built of wooden planks,
On which, in deepest dark of night,
They breached the castle wall in ranks,
And to its ramparts brought the fight.

The struggle filled them all with dread,
And both at times had to withdraw,
For both sides suffered many dead.-
Bearslayer, at the very fore,
Slew many knights, until at length,
The armoured Germans all saw clear
That not their strongest matched his strength,
And seeing this the knights knew fear.

So great this fear that at his sight
They threw their swords and shields aside,
And let Bearslayer, without fight,
Choose those who lived and those who died.-
Bearslayer razed the castle's stone,
While monasteries and churches high
In piles of ashes down were thrown,
To Strangers refuge to deny.

False Kaupa was not there himself,
But safe in Riga's Castle walls,
Where more and more he kept his wealth,
And dwelled within the Bishop's halls.

Among the foes who captive fell
Was Dietrich too, the man of prayer.
With lying tongue he sought to tell,
At Kaupa's wish he had been there,
Who gave to him the castle's ground.
He therefore asked that as a guest
All those be seen, whom there they found,
And granted life and spared arrest.

Bearslayer honoured Kaupa still,
And so he thought to grant them this,
But strong the Livs opposed his will,
Since much with it they found amiss:
For by this person's lying tongue
A hundred times they were deceived,
By word and deed they had been stung,
The cruellest blows from him received.

Thus, if Bearslayer would allow
That Dietrich and the others live,
To render justice they asked now,
The ruthless priest to them to give.
At this Bearslayer gave consent
That Dietrich there should pay the price,
And to the sacred grove they went,
To give their gods a sacrifice.

But if a prisoner rode a grey
That, stepping thrice across a spear,
With left hoof each time led the way,
This was a sign that showed them clear,
The gods refused this man to take.
The cunning Dietrich knew this lore,
And so arranged the test to make
And saved himself, though death seemed sure.

The Strangers-those who were not dead-
Were stripped of weapons, armour too,
Bare-headed all to Riga led.-
Then all the captured land in view
Bearslayer gave the Livians back.
Behind he left Talvaldis then
To guard the Gauja from attack,
Together with the Livian men.

Bearslayer took a second force;
Swift with Koknesis forth he rode,
And with his father set the course
To what was once their own abode.

The return to Lielvarde

In Lielvarde now they saw,
Like Turaida the Strangers thronged,
And settled there with manner sure,
As though to them it all belonged!
Great anger Lielvardis felt
At what his folk had had to face,
For Daniel Bannerov harsh dealt,
And of compassion showed no trace.

There in the ancient stronghold's stead
He raised a castle's walls up high,
And from it launched a reign of dread,
In lands that near the Daugava lie.
Forth thence he sallied and returned,
Destroyed and looted any day,
Both villages and houses burned,
Oppressed the folk in every way.

Some elders then from him had fled,
Who by such horrors were appalled.
When to the woods their clans they led,
A halt to plundering Daniel called.
Swift messengers to them he sent,
Who said oppression now had ceased;
With them to live in peace he meant,
And all invited to a feast.

These elders, yet who did not know
The depths of Daniel's evil mind,
Believed him and resolved to go,
And peace with him there thought to find.
Outside the wall with them to meet,
To a pavilion Daniel went,
Invited them to drink and eat,
And seemed to speak with good intent.

But suddenly, from them concealed,
While at the table they felt sure,
He quickly went out in the field,
And locked the stout pavilion's door-
His murderous plan to start a fire!
Around the building men piled straw,
Then on all sides they lit the pyre,
And soon they watched the hot flame soar.

The heat and smoke inside burst through,
And all the elders loudly screamed,
While Daniel and his butcher crew
Stood on the castle walls and beamed.
With devilish laughter they looked back,
But laughter turned to looks of fear
When, riding from the forest track,
Just then they saw armed men appear.

With shield and heavy spear arrayed
Bearslayer rode them all before.
He heard the shouted cries for aid,
And straight away broke down the door.
Then with the help of other men,
He quickly to the rescue went.
The elders hailed Bearslayer then,
As though by Heaven he were sent!

Their gratitude was not concealed
That rescue safe they had received;
And then the elders plain revealed,
How Daniel's lies had all deceived.
On hearing of this devil's trick,
Bearslayer's anger knew no bounds;
He called his men together quick,
And swore to take the castle's grounds.

Although the knights fought hard and long,
And strove the fortress to defend,
They could not block Bearslayer's throng,
Who took the castle in the end.
Then every captured knight they slew,
And only one could still survive.
Just Daniel Bannerov lived through,
Was taken prisoner, yet alive.

The knight was given, on that day,
Into the village elders' hands,
Revenge to take in their own way
For his base deeds within their lands.

Bearslayer and Laimdota know brief peace

Of Lielvarde word spread wide,
It was Bearslayer's home once more!
In every house on every side,
To all, great joy the tidings bore.
As though new-born all felt fresh life,
And those, who to the forest's space
Had fled from there to hide from strife,
Returned and took their former place.

All hurried then in joyful ranks
To Lielvarde's castle gate,
To greet Bearslayer and give thanks
That he had saved them from harsh fate;
Their mood was bright with victory's glance.-
A feast gave Lielvardis there,
Where all could eat and drink and dance,
And booty was divided fair.

The chiefs exulted, then one day,
All thought of Daniel's crimes once more.
They dragged him out, led him away,
And took him to the Daugava's shore.
"You, German dog," to him they cried,
"Through you we felt the fire's scald!
But power now is on our side-
To you we give the water's cold!"

They took a plank of wood at last,
And on his back tied to the beam
Placed Daniel there, with ropes made fast,
And pushed it in the river's stream:
"Sail to your homeland back," they mocked,
"Go seek your brothers' welcoming hands!
And take the foreign faith, here blocked,
Away with you to other lands!"

By fear they had not felt before
The Strangers all were gripped when told
About the mighty feats in war
Performed by Latvia's hero bold.
They ran away from every side
And fled to Riga with one mind,
In its cathedral sought to hide,
In those strong walls a haven find.

But even there, in this dark hour,
No longer safety Albert knew-
That soon in Baltic lands his power
Would fade away, this was his view.
And so, to get more armoured knights,
He sailed the sea to German shore,
Men to recruit to fight his fights,
And in the spring renew the war.

In Riga, ruling in his place,
He left false Kaupa, who explained,
He would protect by God's good grace
All Christian Strangers who remained.

The danger now was fully spent,
Bearslayer knew, throughout the land,
And so his soldiers homeward sent.-
In Lielvarde, hand in hand
Peace with Laimdota now found there.
She worked inside all to restore,
He strove the buildings to repair,
And farmyard labours oversaw.

Koknesis too from war returned,
And Aizkrauklis, from battle spent.
With Spidala, to rest well earned,
To Aizkraukle all three now went.
From them with love they took their leave
Bearslayer and Laimdota both;
In parting sought not deep to grieve,
To friends' good fortune made an oath.

Old Lielvardis, with his friend,
To Burtnieks's castle rode.
The two old men wished in the end
To make together their abode.

To satisfy their own deep needs
Now lived Bearslayer and his bride.
Although great fame came through their deeds,
And honour from the people's side,
There on the Daugava's pleasant shore
At last they found what, all above,
Their hearts throughout had missed so sore-
Sweet happiness and married love!

Scene 4: The death of Bearslayer and the conquest of Latvia

The secret of Bearslayer's strength is revealed

The springtime came and, once again,
Clothed hills and valleys all in green;
And wakened nature's creatures then,
That frisky gambolling could be seen.
Within our Fatherland it seemed
That warlike times had safely passed.
All stayed at home because they deemed
That springtime work should start at last.

They fixed the plough and beat the share,
Worked hard each fence and yard to mend.-
And even Kangars sought fresh air,
And worked his garden beds to tend.
He cut off branches, stakes drove in,
To help the plants there healthy grow.
His face looked sullen now, and thin,
And let despairing feelings show.

The seed sown in his Fatherland,
As everywhere, so with him too,
Had borne a bitter fruit unplanned,
And disappointment now he knew.
The people no more came in need,
As once in droves to him they poured;
The Strangers took of him no heed.-
But something else within him gnawed:

Bearslayer lived unharmed, and worse,
Had lasting fame among the folk,
And Spidala fled Satan's curse,
When from his grasping claws she broke.

His future now was death, he knew,
And all the torments that would give;
Condemned he was, his last years through,
With bitter heart each day to live.
And so he scarcely felt more fear,
When, as the sun was growing dim,
He heard a voice, his garden near,
In hollow tones that greeted him.

He raised his head, and at the gate,
There cruel Dietrich came in view.
Then Kangars spoke, these words to state:
"I truly am amazed that you
Should visit here, your presence show.
Did growing fat on roasted meat
Within stone castles tedious grow?"
Then Dietrich thus could Kangars greet:

"The feasts I ate there did not pall;
But soon of them will be no more,
Unless your powers heed my call.
If you will help, reward is sure."

He said it was the Bishop's will,
New troops to Riga soon to lead,
But all would be in vain while still
Bearslayer all the Baltic freed,
And stood against the German force.
From Kangars aid they sought, to show
Of bold Bearslayer's strength the source,
So that a knight could lay him low.

Then Kangars gave this answer back:
Ten times he had upon the Earth
Loosed giants and his demon pack,
But all had been of little worth.
Bearslayer killed them all in fights,
And had escaped each plot in turn.
If now Bearslayer scythed down knights,
That were to Kangars small concern.

But yet, another circumstance
Led him to be the hero's foe-
Though just what plan would have a chance
Against the youth, he did not know.
Hell's demons often served him well,
Consulted, they might find a way.
If in his hut were fit to dwell,
Then Dietrich there some time could stay.

That night then Kangars all alone
Tight shut himself within his room,
That Dietrich, if he heard him groan,
Would not know fear within the gloom.
At midnight then a whirlwind's throes
Shook hard the house from all around;
Where Kangars dwelled loud groaning rose,
And then was heard a screeching sound.

So horrible that, out of fear,
On Dietrich's head stood up his hair;
He crossed himself, such sounds to hear,
And loud recited every prayer.-
No pause to sleep by day or night,
Long Kangars strove, help to invoke;
The third day at the morning's light,
These earnest words to Dietrich spoke:

"Accursed to all will be the day
Bearslayer's secret was exposed;
As traitors, curses too our pay.
Here through our deeds, quite unopposed,
The Evil One will soon be free
To do at will each wicked deed.
My guilty henchman, hark to me,
To what I tell you pay good heed."

"A mother bear Bearslayer bore;
The babe a holy hermit sired.
His mother's line gave strength, but more-
Through her the youth bear's ears acquired,
And if opponents can prevail,
And both his ears slice off with speed,
His mighty power at once will fail.
Enough! Go now. No thanks I need."

Bearslayer and the Black Knight fight to the death

The Bishop, Albert, now brought back
A host of knights to fight anew.
Among them was a knight in black,
Who well the work of plundering knew.
He claimed his mother was a witch
Who guided him with magic charm,
And he in devil's arts so rich,
That never wound could cause him harm.

This Black Knight Dietrich chose, to fight
And be his weapon in the fray,
To beat Bearslayer's strength and might,
And best him in a cunning way.
He welcomed Kaupa too once more,
To help them conquer with his sword,
And in the name of God he swore,
In Heaven all would find reward.

One day Bearslayer resting sat,
Close by Laimdota in their hall,
And idly talked of this and that.
But over her now hung a pall;
She was not happy as at first.-
A time her thoughts she still concealed,
Then in a trembling voice conversed,
And with these words her plight revealed:

"Bearslayer, my beloved, speak,
What can it mean that many a day,
Against my wish, my mood is bleak,
And in my heart cold fear holds sway?
I am so happy, but I fear
That something could disturb our joy,
For reasons that I do not know,
And soon perhaps our life destroy."

Before Bearslayer love had shown,
To calm her sorrow had contrived,
The keeper of the gate made known,
That friendly riders had arrived,
And asked if he might let them through.-
On looking out the window then,
Bearslayer at the gate could view,
With Kaupa in their midst, strange men.

Bearslayer did not hesitate-
He recognized great Kaupa clear-
And said to open up the gate,
As guests, with honour brought them near.
Now Kaupa said that they were sent
By Bishop Albert to make peace,
And through the land as heralds went,
That friendship strong might never cease.

Bearslayer never sought a war
Unless the cause were justified.
And so good will to Kaupa bore,
And willing let him come inside.
At Lielvarde they all stayed
As honoured guests so long they would.
And for them there Bearslayer made
The best provision that he could.

But still Laimdota restless grew,
The Black Knight near her could not bear,
Although he sought to change her view
With gracious words and flattery fair.

Bearslayer ordered contests held,
And tournaments were staged at length.
Then came a day when both had felled
Opponents beaten by their strength.
The Black Knight to Bearslayer spoke,
And made a challenge to a fight.
The youth refused him with a joke;
He did not wish to give a slight.

The Knight, however, angry seemed,
And answered in a mocking way:
No test of strength for him he deemed,
To beat Bearslayer in a fray,
Despite the boasting he had heard!
Bearslayer did not tarry more,
But at the Knight without a word
Swung hard the heavy sword he bore.

At first Bearslayer thought it sport,
And jousted in light-hearted way;
But, fighting fierce, the Black Knight brought
Great strength and litheness to the fray.
And suddenly in swift attack
Bearslayer's ear clean off he slit.
Enraged, Bearslayer struck him back;
His blow the Knight's stout armour split.

The Black Knight's blood began to pour,
But bold Bearslayer's sword had cracked.
The Knight saw this, and struck once more-
The other ear his slash clear hacked!
Bearslayer's anger knew no bound:
He seized the Black Knight in his grasp;
Their deadly struggle shook the ground,
As now they fought to their last gasp.

Three times Bearslayer seized him fast,
And seemed the heavy Knight to beat.
Three times he staggered at the last;
The Knight broke free with kicking feet.

The watching men stood pale with fear,
As though their feet were rooted deep,
While to the edge the two came near,
Right to the lofty cliff-top steep.

The Daugava takes Bearslayer to its bosom

His foe at last Bearslayer flung
Into the river's depths to drown,
But round with heavy armour hung,
The Black Knight dragged Bearslayer down.

The waters made a cracking sound,
The waves surged high and took the pair,
And, in their fight together bound,
Down in the depths they vanished there!

Into the Daugava's surging flood
Now sank the setting sun's pale glow.
A thick mist rose and dripped like blood;
The waves sighed mournful down below.

The foaming waters parted wide,
And took the hero to their breast.
An island rose up in the tide,
And in this place he sank to rest.

Within the castle fearful screams
And cries of lamentation rose,
And now Laimdota-dead her dreams-
To end her life that moment chose.

The Latvian warriors, stricken sore,
His kin and brethren, all in sum,
Now, one by one, fell in the war,
By stronger forces overcome.

The Strangers gained the upper hand,
And ruled as lords, cruel and depraved:
The well-loved people of the land,
For centuries were all enslaved.

But still, though ages long pass by,
The grieving folk his memory keeps.-
For them, in death he does not lie,
But in a golden palace sleeps.

Below the island risen there,
He lies within the Daugava's breast,
With Latvia's folk their fate to share,
And close to Lielvarde rest.

From time to time, late in the night,
The Daugava boatmen sometimes see
Two men in combat on the height,
In struggles that they cannot flee.

While in the castle ruins, clear,
A little flame there flickers bright.
The fighting men the edge come near,
But take no heed, so hot their fight.

Until at last they cross the bounds,
And deep into the depths they drop.-
A scream within the castle sounds,
The little flame's bright flickers stop.

It is Bearslayer struggling there
The Strangers to eradicate.-
But long Laimdota's watching stare
Upon his triumph yet must wait.

But still, the day will come, is sure,
When he the Black Knight will cast down:
In Staburags's raging maw,
His deadly foe alone will drown.

Then for the folk new times will dawn;
At last their freedom will be born.

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