KARLA SERBAM PRĚDUJE CHARLEMAGNE PREACHES TO THE SORBS
Jakub Bart-Ćišinski trans. Robert Elsie (from Sorbian)
Serbow nĕmski Karla bĕše zbil,
za to jich najradši nĕt by křćił.

Serbja bojachu so nĕmskej wody,
z kotrejž palachu jim wsy a hrody.

Njerodźachu zbožo nĕmskich bohow,
kotřiž brodźa we krwi wyše nohow ...

Karla zachadźeše, bĕ wšón zly,
hroznje kleješe na serbske psy.

Radźeše sej dołho z Hrabanom,
kak sej zawjesć z twjerdym pohanom.

"Před so sebi přinć dam Serbow jatych,
wy pak prošće za nich wšitkich swjatych!

Hdyž jich přemóhl wojerski mój mječ,
ty jim z křcenskej wodu dušc swjeć!"

"Dajće ze křćenskej so wodu myć,
bratřa sebi dobri chcemy być!

Křćeńca ludam twari jednotu,
w myslach tupi złósć a hroznotu.

Střasće z dušow stary zmylk a błud,
a kaž z nalĕćom so zhraba lud!"

Takle rĕčeše jim kejžor lestnje,
Miłoš, wjerch, pak wotmołwješe čestnje:

"Što nam pomhać budzeš z wodu křćenskej,
sam hdyž nječiniš po kazni sćenskej?

Zbožo lubiš nam a kazaš, mĕr,
krej pak twojeju je nohow ćĕr.

Knejza bijateho liza pos -
psy my njejsmy, k wutrobje sej woz'!

Serb ma česć a riap a mysl a nop!
To njech kejžor wĕ, to wĕ njech pop!

Wam su brónje falš a lža a lesć
nam pak sprawna mysl a rĕč je česć.

A hdyž do procha nas móhł by zbić,
ze krwju nihdy njebudźeš nas křić!

Našich lučinow was wabi skót,
našich polow wabi zloty plód.

Syć a žnjeć a drĕć so nochce wam,
ale skót a płód brać pohanam."

"štó chce krćeny być?" Ze złobu ržicy,
kejžor dźeše. - Zawołachu wšitcy:

"Nochcemy nic křiža mĕć, nic křćeńcy,
radši wšĕch nas zwĕšej na šibjency!"

"Mjelčće, serbske psy wy poklate!
Słowa zadaju wam njeswjate.

Cyłeho wam njewostaju nopa,
móc a dowolnosć mam wot biskopa.

K dźĕłu, wotročcy a wojacy,
na šibjeńcu lud tón šcerčacy!

Z hłowu k zemi knjezow, wójwodow,
na nich zešćuwajce črjódu psow!

Psy njech z hłowow žeru ćmowosć błudu,
z wutrobow njech žeru złósć a brudu!

Dosć sym z dobrotu jim rĕčał sam.
Psy nĕt pohanskim njech rĕča psam!"

Hoj, to hrozna bĕše bĕhańca,
hoj, to helska bĕše rĕzańca!

Z klećom šibjeńcy a z rućom ržachu,
psy so wujo na nje zatorh'wachu.

Psalmy mĕ šnicy a litanije
spĕwachu a hymnow melodije ...

Słónco wóčko wodzĕlo sej bĕ;
jemu hladać hrozno bĕ a zlĕ.

Do chroniki pisny Hraban knjez
(na kolenje bĕ so modlo zwjez'):

"Karla w Serbach sćenjo twari nam:
Ad majorem Dei gloriam."
The German emperor Charles(1) defeated the Sorbs in battle
So that he could christen them.

But the Sorbs feared German water,
Their houses and farms had too often been razed.

They did not want the gods of the Germans
Wading up to their knees in blood ...

Charles ranted and raged,
And cursed the Sorbian dogs in his fury.

With Hrabanus he long took counsel
As to how to deal with the steadfast pagans.

'Let the Sorbian prisoners appear before me,
And you can pray for their souls!

When my battlesword has vanquished them,
You save their souls with holy water!'

'Cleanse yourselves with holy water,
Let us all be brothers!

Baptism brings salvation to all peoples
And overcomes wicked and evil thoughts.

You will cast from your souls
Your errors of old and be reborn as a people!'

So spoke the Emperor calmly to them.
Prince Milo then nobly replied:

How can you help us with your holy water
If you yourself do not follow the teachings of your gospel?

You preach love and peace
With blood streaming down your legs.

Dogs lick the ones who beat them,
But we are not dogs, may you know that well!

We Sorbs have honour, courage and intelligence on our side,
Know this, Emperor, and may your priests know it, too!

Your weapons are lies, cunning and evil,
We have honour and speak the truth.

You may have beaten us into the dust
But you will never baptize us with blood.

You want the cattle from our land,
You want the ripening fruits of our fields.

You do not care to sow and reap yourself,
But steal the cattle and fruit from the pagans.

'Who wishes then to be baptized?' demanded the Emperor
Fiercely. All replied in unison:

We will have no cross, nor be baptized,
We would rather hang from the gallows!'

'Silence,damned Sorbian dogs,
I shall put an end to your blasphemy.

I shall have your heads, all of them,
I have the right and power from the bishop.

To work, serfs and soldiers!
Carry these men off to the gallows!

Off with their heads, princes, voivodes,
Set the pack of hounds on them.

May the hounds rip off their heads
And devour their hearts.

I am a patient man and have spoken in good will,
So let the hounds now speak to the Sorbian dogs!'

Oh, how appalling was the carnage,
Oh, how hellish was the slaughter!

The gallows resounded with screams and curses
As the hounds tore into the masses.

The priests, all the while, chanted psalms
And litanies and sang hymns.

Horrified by the sight of it all,
The sun itself took flight.

Hrabanus entered into his chronicle
(while praying on his knees):

'Charles brought the Gospel to the Sorbs
To the greater glory of God.'

(1) Charlemagne or Charles the Great (742-814 A.D.) was king of the Franks and emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
In 772, he launched a campaign to conquer and convert the Saxons, including the Sorbs. The genocidal war lasted some
32 years until Saxony was incorporated into the Frankish Empire. In the chronicle 'De partibus Saxoniae', death was
prescribed for any Saxon refusing baptism.

Trans. Copyright © Robert Elsie 1990 - publ. Forest Books


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