Monday, April 28, 2008

1.4.06


"He can wait!" exclaimed Zbyszko.

"Be careful not to show him that you are troubled, because he may enjoy it."

After these words they approached the retinue and joined the duchess' court. The envoy of the Teutonic Order, having noticed them, immediately assumed an expression of pride and disdain, but they ignored him. Zbyszko stood at Danusia's side and began to tell her that from the hill the City of Krakow is visible, at the same time Macko was telling one of the musicians about the extraordinary strength of Lord of Taczew, who had broken the spear in Zbyszko's hand, as though it were a dry stem.

"And why did he break it?" asked the musician.

"Because the boy attacked the German, but only for fun."

The musician, being a nobleman, did not consider such a joke proper, but seeing that Macko spoke about it lightly, did not take it seriously either. The German was annoyed by such conduct. He glanced at Macko and Zbyszko. Finally be realized that they did not intend to dismount and that they did not pay any attention to him. Then something like steel shone in his eyes, and he immediately began to say goodbye to the duchess.

At the moment of departure the Lord of Taczew could not contain himself anymore and said to him:

"Go without fear, brave knight. The country is quiet and nobody will attack you, except maybe for some careless youngster."

"Although the customs of this country are strange, I was seeking your company and not your protection," answered Lichtenstein; "I expect to meet you again at the court and elsewhere."

In the last words a hidden menace rang; therefore Powala answered seriously:

"If God will permit."

Having said that, he bowed and turned away; then he shrugged his shoulders and said in an undertone, but loud enough to be heard by those nearby:

"I could lift you from the saddle with the point of my spear, and hold you in the air long enough for three prayers."

Then he began to talk with the duchess with whom he was very well acquainted. Duchess Anna Danuta asked him what he was doing on the highway. He told her that the king had commanded him to keep order in the environs while there were so many wealthy guests coming to Krakow. Then he told her about Zbyszko's foolish conduct. But having concluded that there would be plenty of time to ask the duchess to protect Zbyszko, he did not put any stress on the incident, not wishing to spoil the conversation. The princess laughed at the boy, because he was so anxious to obtain the peacock tuft, the others, having learned about the breaking of the spear, admired the Lord of Taczew, especially as he did it with one hand.

Being a little boastful, he was pleased in his heart that they praise him. Finally he began to tell about some of the exploits which made him famous, especially those in Burgundia, at the court of Philip the Courageous. There, during one of the tournaments, he grabbed an Ardenian knight, pulled him out of the saddle and threw him in the air, even though the knight was in full armor. For that exploit, Philip the Courageous presented him with a gold chain and the queen gave him a velvet slipper, which he wears on his helmet ever since.

Hearing this, they were all amazed, except for Mikolaj of Dlugolas, who said:

"In these effeminate times, there are no more such strong men as there were when I was young. If a nobleman now happens to shatter a cuirass, to bend a crossbow without the aid of the crank, or to bend a cutlass between his fingers, he immediately considers himself a very strong man. But in old times, even girls could do such deeds."

"I don't deny that before our times people were stronger," answered Powala; "but even now there are some strong men. God gave me strength, but I do not consider myself the strongest in this kingdom. Have you ever seen Zawisza of Garbow? He can surpass me."

"I have seen him. He has shoulders are as broad as castle’s wall."

"How about Dobko of Olesnica? Once at the tournament given in Torun by the Order, he defeated twelve knights for his own and our nation's glory."

"But Staszko Ciolek, from Masovia, was stronger sir, than you or your Zawisza and Dobko. They say that he took a peg made from fresh wood in his hand and pressed the sap out of it."

"I can press the sap out myself," said Zbyszko. And before anyone could ask him to prove it, he broke a branch which he pressed so strongly, that really the sap began to ooze from it.

"Ah, Jesus!" exclaimed Ofka, widow from Jarzombkow, "don't go to the war, it would be a pity if man like you should perish before his marriage."

"It would indeed be a pity!" replied Macko, suddenly becoming sorrowful.

But Mikolaj of Dlugolas laughed as did also the duchess. The others, however, praised Zbyszko's strength, and as in those times iron strength was appreciated more than any other quality, the young girls cried to Danusia:

"You should be glad!"

And she was glad although she could not understand what benefit would be from the piece of compressed wood.

Zbyszko having forgotten all about the Teutonic Knight now looked so proud of himself, that Mikolaj of Dlugolas had to bring him down to earth:

"There are better men than you, therefore do not be so proud of your strength. I did not see it, but my father was a witness of something more difficult, which happened at the court of Charles, the Roman emperor. King Cazimir (Kazimierz) went to pay him a visit and with him went many courtiers. Among these courtiers was a man called Staszko Ciolek, son of Governor Andrew (Andrzej), who was noted for his strength. The emperor began to boast that he had a Czech who could strangle a bear. They had an exhibition and the Czech strangled two bears in succession. Our king not wishing to be outdone, said: 'But be cannot overcome my man, Ciolek.'
They agreed that they should fight in three days' time. Many ladies and famous knights came, and the Czech and Ciolek grappled in the yard of the castle. The contest did not last long, hardly had they come together before Ciolek broke the Czech’s backbone, crushed all his ribs, and left him dead to the great glory of the king. They have called him since, the Lomignat (bone crusher).
Once he carried without help, a bell which twelve men could not move from its place."

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