Betzko - A Hungarian Legend

A poem by Hanford Lennox Gordon

Stibor had led in many a fight,
And broken a score of swords
In furious frays and bloody raids
Against the Turkish hordes.

And Sigismund, the Polish king,
Who joined the Magyar bands,
Bestowed upon the valiant knight
A broad estate of lands.

Once when the wars were o'er, the knight
Was holding wassail high,
And the valiant men that followed him
Were at the revelry.

Betzko, his Jester, pleased him so
He vowed it his the task
To do whatever in human power
His witty Fool might ask.

"Build on yon cliff," the Jester cried,
In drunken jollity,
"A mighty castle high and wide,
And name it after me."

"Ah, verily a Jester's prayer,"
Exclaimed the knightly crew,
"To ask of such a noble lord
What you know he cannot do."

"Who says I cannot," Stibor cried,
"Do whatsoe'er I will?
Within one year a castle shall stand
On yonder rocky hill

"A castle built of ponderous stones,
To give me future fame;
In honor of my witty Fool,
Betzko shall be its name."

Now the cliff was high three hundred feet,
And perpendicular;
And the skill that could build a castle there
Must come from lands afar.

And craftsmen came from foreign lands,
Italian, German and Jew
Apprentices and fellow-craftsmen,
And master-masons, too.

And every traveler journeying
Along the mountain-ways
Was held to pay his toll of toil
On the castle for seven days.

Slowly they raised the massive towers
Upon the steep ascent,
And all around a thousand hands
Built up the battlement.

Three hundred feet above the glen
(By the steps five hundred feet)
The castle stood upon the cliff
At the end of the year complete.

Now throughout all the Magyar land
There's none other half so high,
So massive built, so strong and grand;
It reaches the very sky.

But from that same high battlement
(Say tales by gypsies told)
The valiant Stibor met his death
When he was cross and old.

I'll tell you the tale as they told it to me,
And I doubt not it is true,
For 'twas handed down from the middle ages
From the lips of knights who knew.

One day when the knight was old and cross,
And a little the worse for grog,
Betzko, the Jester, thoughtlessly
Struck Stibor's favorite dog.

Now the dog was a hound and Stibor's pet,
And as white as Carpathian snow,
And Stibor hurled old Betzko down
From the walls to the rocks below.

And as the Jester headlong fell
From the dizzy, dreadful height,
He muttered a curse with his latest breath
On the head of the cruel knight.

One year from that day old Stibor held
His drunken wassail long,
And spent the hours till the cock crew morn
In jest and wine and song.

Then he sought his garden on the cliff,
And lay down under a vine
To sleep away the lethargy
Of a wassail-bowl of wine.

While sleeping soundly under the shade,
And dreaming of revelries,
An adder crawled upon his breast,
And bit him in both his eyes.

Blinded and mad with pain he ran
Toward the precipice,
Unheeding till he headlong fell
Adown the dread abyss.

Just where old Betzko's blood had dyed
With red the old rocks gray,
Quivering and bleeding and dumb and dead
Old Stibor's body lay.

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