On Krok the Czech, Libuse and Premysl

Now that we have taken our time to discuss the Polish Krak and Wanda here and here, we have decided it was time to relay some information about the Czech Krok, his three daughters and his son-in-law – Premysl – the protoplast of the Czech ruling house, the ploughman Premysl (who, seems very similar in his background to Piast whom we briefly introduced here).

crocco

The below are excerpts from Lisa Wolverhampton’s translation of Cosmas’ Chronicle of the Czechs (with some, we think, improvements).  The pictures of the chronicle itself are from the Budisin/Bautzen Codex of Chronica Boemorum.  And so without further ado, we give the voice to Cosmas:

Chronicle of the Czechs

On Krok and His Three Daughters

“One particular man had arisen among them, called Krok, after whom a castle is known to have been named, located in the forest adjacent to Ztibecna and now overrun by trees.  He was a man absolutely perfect in his generations, exceptional for his wealth in secular things, discreet in considering lawsuits.”

krokcompanies

Krok with His Three Daughters

“Like bees to their hive, so everyone, both from his own tribe and from the common folk of the whole province, flocked to him to sort out their lawsuits.  Such a great man lacked a manly offspring.  Nevertheless, he fathered three daughters, to whom nature gave riches of wisdom no fewer than she was accustomed to give men.”

kazi3

Kazi was the emotional one

“The eldest of them was named Kazi who surpassed Medea of Colchis in herbs and song and the Paeonian master in medicinal art, because she often made the Fates themselves cease their unending work and oracles follow the commands of her song.  Hence the inhabitants of this land, when the lose something and despair of its recovery, say the following proverb about her: ‘Even Kazi herself cannot get it back.’ Like the place there the daughter of Ceres was abducted by a tyrant, her burial mount cash still be seen today, heaped up very high by the inhabitants of the land in memory of their mistress, on the bank of the River Mze near the road which leads to the province of Bechne, over the mountain called Osek.”

tetka2

The very Bohemian Tetka with a specimen of local fauna

“Worthy of praise though second by birth, Tetka was a woman of keen discernment lacking a husband.  She built a castle on the River Mze, named Tetin after herself, well fortified by the nature of the placem with rocks reaching steeply to the summit.  She taught the stupid and senseless people to adore and worship Oreads, Dryads, and Hamadryads, and established every superstitious sect and sacrilegious rite.  Like many villagers up until now, just like pagans, this one worships waters of fires, hat one adores groves and trees and stones, another sacrifices to mountains or hills, and still another beseeches and prays to the deaf and dumb idols he has made himself, so that they rule both his home and his one self.”

libuce

Libuse was able to see far

“Younger by birth but older in wisdom, the third was called Libuse.  She built a castle, the most powerful then, next to the forest which reaches to the area of Ztibecna, and called it Libusin after her own name.”

“She was truly a woman among women: cautious in counsel, quick to speak, chaste in body, upright in character, second to no one in resolving lawsuits of the people.  Affable, even lovable, in all things, she adorned and glorified the feminine sea while handling masculine affairs with foresight.  But because no one is altogether blessed, this woman of such quality and of so great praise – alas the terrible human condition! – was a prophetess [phitonissa].  Since she predicted many proven futures for people, that whole people took common counsel and set her up as judge over them after the dearth of her father.”

A Challenge to Libuse

“At that that time not a small litigation arose concerning the boundaries of a contiguous filed between two citizens, both among the more eminent in wealth and birth, men who considered themselves leaders of the people.  They erupted to such a degree into mutual conflict that one flew at the thick beard of the other with his fingernails.  Exposing the sounds of their confrontation and confounding each other disgracefully with a finger under the nose, they entered the court raving.  Not without a great din, they approached the lady and asked humbly that Libuse resolve the undecided case between them by reason of justice.  She, meanwhile – as is the wanton softness of women when they do not have a man whom they fear – reclined very softly deep in a painted coverlet, propped on an elbow, as if she had just given birth to a child.  Walking on the path of justice, not respecting men’s persons, she brought the cause of the whole controversy that had arisen between them to a state of rectitude.”

“Yet he whose cause did not win the palm [of victory] on the judgment, more indignant than was fitting, shook his head three or four times, foolishly hit the ground thrice with his staff, and with a full mouth, saliva sprinkling his beard, cried out: ‘Oh, the injuries hardly to be tolerated by men!  A woman full of cracks treats manly judgments with a deceitful mind.  We know indeed that a woman standing or sitting on a throne knows little; how much less must she know when she is reclining on a coverlet?  Truthfully, this posture is more suitable to the approach of a husband than to prescribing laws to warriors.  They all have long hair, to be sure, but women are short on sense.  A man should rather die than suffer such things.  A disgrace among nations and peoples, nature has forsaken us alone, who lack a ruler and manly severity, and whom feminine laws rule.'”

notsofastlibuse

“Not so fast Libuse – where is your man?”

“At this the lady smiled, dissembling the insult made to her and concealing her heart’s pain in feminine modesty.  ‘It is,’ she said, ‘as you say: I am a woman, I live as a woman, and for that reason I seem to you to know too little.  Because I do not judge you with a rod of iron and since you live without fear, you rightly look down on me.  For where fear is, there is honor.  Now, it is very necessary that you have a ruler fiercer than a woman.  Just as the doves once spurned a white bird for a kite whom they had chosen as their king, so you spurn me.  They appointed as their duke a much fiercer hawk, who, inventing crimes, began to kill both the innocent and the wicked.  From then until now, the hawk eats the dove.  Go home now.  I will accept as my husband whomever you should choose tomorrow as your lord.'”

“Meanwhile, she summoned the aforesaid sisters, who stirred up matching rages.  With their magical skill and her own, she made a fool of the people through everything.  Libuse herself was, as we said above, a prophetess like Sibyl of Cumae, the other sister a sorceress of potions like Medea of Colchis, and the third an enchanter like Aeaean Circe.  What kind of counsel those three Eumenides obtained that night and what kind of secret they carried out was then unknown.  Nevertheless it was made manifest – clearer than light – to everyone in the morning, when their sister Libuse revealed both the place where the future duke was hidden and who he was by name.  Who would believe that they would request their first duke from the plow?  And who would know where plows the man who would become ruler of the people?  What does prophetic rage not know?  And what is there that magical skill cannot make happen?  Sibyl was able to predict to the Roman people the course of their destinies almost to the day.  She even – if we can believe it – foretold of Christ.  (A certain teacher inserted verses about the coming of the Lord, composed by Virgil for the persona of Sybil, in the words of his preaching.)”

“Medea was often able to lead Hyperion and Berecynthia back from heaven through her herbs and song; she was able to call forth rainstorms, lightning, and thunder from the clouds; she was able to make the Aegean king a youth from an old man.  By the song of Circe, the friends of Ulysses were transformed into various forms of wild animals, and King Picus into the flying creature which is now called a picos [woodpecker].  What wonder?  How much did magi in Egypt do through their arts, they who performed almost every kind of wonder with their song, as many wonders as Moses, God’s servant, was said to have produced from God’s power?  Enough of that.”

The Lecture of Libuse

“The next day, as was ordered, they convened an assembly without delay and gathered the people; at once everyone came together into one.  Sitting on the highest throne, the woman addressed the boorish men: ‘Oh most pitiable common folk, who do not know that you live free and that no good man gives up [freedom] except with his life.  You flee that freedom not unwillingly and submit your necks voluntarily to unaccustomed servitude.  Alas, later you will regret in vain, as the frogs regretted it when the serpent whom they had made their king, began to kill them.  If you do not know what the rights of a duke might be, I will try to tell you in a few words.”

betternagging

Everyone enjoyed Libuse’s lectures

“First, it is easy to appoint a duke, but difficult to depose one appointed.  For he who is now under your power, whether [it was] you [who] made him a duke or not, when later he is established, you and everything your will be in his power.  In his presence your knees will tremble and your mute tongue stick to the roof of your dry mouth.  Because of great fright you will hardly respond to his voice, ‘yes, lord, yes, lord,’ when by his command alone and without your fore judgment he will damn this one and slaughter that one, order these sent to prison and those hanged from the gallows.”

“He will make you yourselves and from your midst, as he pleases, some slaves, some peasants, some taxpayers, some tax collectors, some executioners, some heralds, some cooks or bakers or millers.  He will establish for himself tribunes, centurions, bailiffs, cultivators of vineyards and fields, reapers of grain, makers of arms, sewers of various hides and skins.  He will force your sons and daughters into obedience to hi,m.  From even your oxen and horses and mares and cattle he will take, at his pleasure, whichever are best.  Everything yours, what is better in villages and in plains, in fields and meadows and vineyards, he will take away and reduce to his own use.  Why do I delay with these words?  Toward what end do I speak as if to frighten you?  If you persist in what you have begin and do not swear your oath falsely, I will now announce to you both the duke’s name and the place where he is.”

Libuse’s Quest

“At this, the base commoners jumped up with a disordered shout; with one voice everyone demanded a duke be given to them.  Libuse said to them: ‘Behold! Beyond those mountains’ – and she pointed to the mountains with her finger – ‘is a river not yet large, named Bilina, on whose banks a village is to be found, Stadice by name.”

“In its territory lies one newly cleared field, twelve paces in length and in width, which – wonder of wonders – while positioned in the midst of some many [arable] fields, yet pertains to no field.  There your duke plows with two parti-colored oxen: one ox is girded with white and has a white head, the other is white from forehead to rear and has white rear feet.  Now, if  you please, take my ankle-length robe and mantle, and capes fitting for a duke and go.  Report my and the people’s commands to that man, and bring back your duke and my husband.  The name of the man, who will think up [excogitabit] many laws upon your necks and heads, is Premysl (for this name means in Latin, ‘thinking upon’ [superexcogitans] or ‘thinking beforehand’ [premeditans]).  His subsequent progeny will rule all this land forever and ever.”

questers

Libuse’s most trusted servants were chosen for the mission and equipped with a detailed map

“Meanwhile, messengers were chosen, who would bring the lady’s and the common folk’s orders to the man.  When Libuse saw them delaying, as if they did not know the way, she said: ‘What delays you?  Go confidently: follow my horse.  He will lead you on the right road and bring you back, because that road has been trod by him more than once.’  Empty rumor and false conjecture both fly that , always at night, Libuse, on an imaginary ride, was accustomed to go there in the evening and return before daybreak  (Let Apella the Jew believe it!)  What then? Wise, though uneducated, well aware of their ignorance, the messengers proceeded, following the horse’s footsteps.”

“Soon they crossed mountains and eventually approached the village to which they went.  One boy ran to meet them; they said to him, inquiring: ‘Hark, excellent boy! Is not that village named Stadice?  If it is, is a man named Premysl in it it?’  The boy said: ‘It is the village you seek.  And behold, the man Premysl goads his oxen in the field nearby so that he might finish more quickly the work he is doing.'”

The Meeting with Premysl

“Approaching him, the messengers said, ‘Happy man! Duke produced by the Gods for us!’  As is the custom for peasants, it was not sufficient to have said once, so with puffed out cheeks, the predated: ‘Hail, duke! Hail, most worthy of great praise!  Release the oxen, change your clothes, and mount this horse!’  And they showed him the clothes and the nighing horse.  ‘Our lady Libuse and all the common folk demand that you come quickly and take up the realm fated for you and your descendants.  Everything ours and we ourselves are in your hand.  We elect you duke, you judge, you ruler, you protector, you our only lord.'”

premyslpremysl

When they saw Premysl, they knew he was their man

“At this speech the foreseeing man, as if unaware of future things, halted and fixed in the earth the prod he carried in his hand.  Releasing the oxen, he said, ‘Let us go to the place you came from.’  Immediately, quicker than can be said, the oxen vanished from his sight and were never seen again.  The hazel-wood prod which he had fixed in the ground produced three branches and – what is more miraculous – leaves and nuts.  Seeing such things happen thus, the messengers stood astonished.  In turn thinking the visitors, Premysl invited them to a meal, shook moldy bread and part of a cheese out of his cork-wovern bag, put the bag in the ground for a table, and placed other things on the rough cloth.”

“Then while they were eating the meal and drinking water from a jug, two of the branches or two of the bushes) withered and died, but the third grew much higher and wider.  Whence greater astonishment, mingled with fear, grew in the visitors.  Premysl said: ‘What are you astonished at?  You should know that from our progeny many lords will be born, but one will always dominate.  If your lady does not immediately hurry in this matter, but awaits the galloping fates awhile and does not quickly send for me, as many master’s sons as nature produces, your land will have that many lords.'”

“Afterward, dressed in a princely garment and shod with regal shoes, the plowman mounted his spirited horse.  Still, not forgetful of his lot, he took with him his boots, stitched in every part from cork, and ordered them preserved for posterity.  They are indeed preserved now and forever in the duke’s treasury at Vysehrad.”

The Wisdom of Premysl

“It so happened that, while they took a short cut, until now the messengers had not yet dared to speak more familiarly to their new lord.  Just like doves when some falcon approaches them, they first tremble at it but soon become accustomed to its flight, make it their own, and love it.  Thus, while the riders chatted, shortened the trip with conversation, and lightened their labor by joking and with jesting words, one of them, who was more audacious and quicker to speak, said, ‘O Lord, tell us: why did you make us save those woven cork shoes, fit for nothing except to be thrown away?  We cannot wonder at this enough.’  Premysl said to them: ‘I had them saved and will have them preserved forever for this reason: so that our descendants will know whence they sprang, and so that they will always live trembling and distrustful, and will not unjustly, out of arrogance, oppress the men committed to them by God, because we are all made equals by nature.  Now allow me to inquire in turn of you, whether it is more praiseworthy to be raised from poverty to honor or to be reduced from honor into poverty?”

hrrrrr

Premysl’s speech had to be reconstructed as no one in the rapt audience could pull himself away to write it down

“Of course, you will tell me that it is better to be raised to glory than to be reduced to indigence.  Yet some people, born of noble parentage, are later reduced to base indigence and made wretched.  When they proclaim their parents to have been glorious and to have had power over others, they are hardly unaware that they confound and debase themselves more when they lose through their own laziness what their parents had possessed through industry,  Fortune always plays this game of chance with her wheel: now she raises these men to the pinnacle, and now she plunges those into the depths.  Whence it might happen that earthly honor, which brought glory for a time, is lost to disgrace.  Truly, poverty conquered through virtue does not hide itself under a wolf’s pelt but lifts up to the stars as a victor him whom it had once dragged to the depths.”

The Meeting of Libuse and Premysl

“After they had traversed the road and eventually arrived near the burg, the lady rushed to meet them surrounded by her followers.  With their right hands entwined, Libuse and Premysl went indoors with great rejoicing, reclined on couches, refreshed their bodies with Ceres and Bacchus, and gave themselves up to Venus and Hymen for the rest of the night.”

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Libuse & Premysl together at last

“This man – who is deservedly to be called a man from his might – restrained this savage people with laws, tamed the untamed populace by his command, and subjected them to servitude by which they are now oppressed.  All the laws which this land possesses and by which it is ruled, he alone with only Libuse decreed.”

The Establishment of Prague

“One day, at the beginning of the new reign of laws, the aforesaid Libuse, excited by prophesy, with her husband Premysl present and other elders of the people standing nearby, foretold thus: ‘ I see a burg, whose fame touches the stars, situated in a forest, thirty stades distant from the village where the Vltava ends in streams.  From the North the stream Brusnice in a deep valley strongly fortifies the burg; from the south a broad, very rocky mountain, called Petrin from rocks [petrae], dominates the place.  The mountain in that spot is curved like a dolphin, a sea pig, stretching to the aforesaid stream.”

“When you come to that place, you will find a man putting up the doorway of a house in the middle of the forest.  From that event – and since even a great lord must duck under a humble threshold – the burg you all build, you will call Prague [Praha, from pray, threshold].  In this burg, one day in the future, two golden olive trees will grow up; they will reach the seventh heaven with their tops and glitter throughout the whole world with signs and miracles.  All the tribes of the land of Bohemia, and other nations too, will worship and adore them, against their enemies and with gifts.  One of these will be called ‘Greater Glory,’ the other, ‘Consolation of the Army.'”

[these are references to Saint Vaclav and Saint Vojtech/Adalbert]

prague

Once the architects were done with theirs, Prague was built at an incredible pace

“More was to be said, if the pestilential and prophetic spirit had not fled from the image of God.  Immedaitely passing into the primeval forest and having found the given sign, in the aforesaid place they built the burg of Prague, mistress of all Bohemia.”

Meanwhile Somewhere Else But Close By

“At that time the maidens of that land, growing up without a yoke, pursuing military arms like Amazons and making leaders for themselves, fought together like young soldiers and trod manfully through the forests on hunts.  Men did not take them, but they took men for themselves, whichever ones they wanted and whenever they wanted.  Just like the Scythian people, the Plauci or the Pechenegs, man and woman also had no distinction in their dress.  Whence their feminine audacity grew so great that on a  certain cliff not far from the aforementioned [Prague], they built themselves a fortress fortified by the nature of its location.  It was given the name Devin, from a maidenly word [i.e., deva, a girl] .  Seeing this, young men, many of them coming together at once, angry with the women and very jealous, built a burg among the bushes on another cliff, no farther than a trumpet call [from Devin].  Present-day men call it Vysehrad, but at that time it took the name Chrasten from the business [chrasti].”

amazons

Unfortunately, as soon as Prague was built it was threatened by vicious Amazons

“Because the maidens were often more clever at duping the young men, and because the young men were often stronger than the maidens, there was sometimes war between them and sometimes peace.  At a time when they possesses peace between them, it pleased both parties to come together with food and drink as a token [of that peace].  For three days they engaged in festive sport – without arms – in an agreed upon place.  What more?  In no other way could  the young men have fun with the girls.  And so, like rapacious wolves seeking food, they entered the sheepfold.  They spent the first day merry, with sumptuous food and too much drink.  While they wanted to quench their thirst, another thirst sprang up, and the young men could hardly defer their happiness to the hour of the night.  It was night and the moon was shining in a cloudless sky.  Then blowing a horn , one of the men gave the signal to the others ,saying: ‘You have played enough, you have eaten and drunk enough.  Arise!  Golden Venus calls you with the hoarse rattle.’  Immediately, each of the men carried off a girl.”  Come morning and having entered into agreement of peace, supported by Ceres and Bacchus, the girls yielded the empty walls of their fortress to Vulcan of Lemnos.  Since that time, after the death of Prince Libuse, the women of our people are under the power of men.”

“But since all men have a journey to make, where Numa and Ancus have gone before, so Premysl, now full of days, who was worshipped like a god while living, was carried off to the son-in-law of Ceres after he established the rule of laws.  Nezamysl succeeded him in rule.”

Shaettner Rickover & Borg Corporation – Copyright ©2015, All Rights Reserved

July 4, 2015

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