Descriptions of warfare in The Rhyme Chronicle of Livonia

The Rhyme Chronicle of Livonia (Liulandische Reimchronik) is an account of the activities of the Teutonic Order . It was written around the end of the thirteenth century, and consists of 12017 lines of rhyming couplets written in Middle High German. It is the only major source of Baltic history for the years 1225 to 1290, since the only other chronicle, the one by Henry of Livonia, covers the period 1143 to 1225. The Rhyme Chronicle also begins its text with the first arrival of German merchants and missionaries in the region around Riga (referred to as Neiflant in the text) in 1143, and continues its story to the subduing and exile of the Semgallian tribe around 1290. Many of the events narrated here involve how the Teutonic Order and the the Order of Knights of the Sword made continual warfare with various pagan tribes and nations. The anonymous author seems to have been a member of the Teutonic Order, or closely associated with it. He seems to have been an eyewitness of events from the second half of this chronicle (line 8810 to the end) and seems to have participated in several battles. The battle descriptions are very lively, and the author has strong knowledge of war implements, weapons, techniques, formations and strategy. The text below begins at line 8605.

[8605] When the Master [of the Teutonic Order] had explored the land well, he spoke of a formal gathering, and summoned the commanders to Elbing, as I have learned. The administrators from Natangen and Samland were also summoned. There was a large number of Brothers from all over the land. One Brother was there with a report from Nieflant. I want to tell you a part of what had happened in Semgallen, when Master Ernst was killed and many Semgallians escaped being struck down by the sword, one saw them ride from the battle in a hurry. This happened at a time of fasting. The following summer, the Semgallians agreed to attack Terwetein. The said castle was located in their land. It happened on a day which had been previously agreed upon. In the settlement before the castle walls nothing which could be called Christian survived, being captured or slain. A dishonorable man called Bertold was there, the Semgallians liked him because he was a bowman, he became useful to them. If he would come over to them, they would spare his life. He did this and was glad. In a short while the Semgallians found plenty of crossbows and arrows in the dwellings outside the castle. Very swiftly they gathered them together. They were glad about the crossbows. The renegade Christian then took as many archers as there were crossbows. All those who did not know how to use them he began to teach to bend and to shoot. Because of this they let him live. Meanwhile the good Brothers had defended the inner castle in various ways. They intended to guard it and keep it in their hands. At that time an army attacked from all sides. Nameise had sent them, he was the leader of all of them. I cannot relate completely how much respect and honor the Brothers had lavished on him. He repaid this with treachery in such a way that his kin very soon after this came to regret it. Their own wickedness was great: many a man justly earned his death. Nameise himself left the land, as certainly will become known to you later. Now let us put down this subject and go back to our story.

[8673] When the Semgallians had come, as I have heard, they took shields and lances, they wanted the castle. There were fifteen Brothers in the Order castle. Some of them had been killed. The Semgallians were eager now for the others who were in the castle. The Brothers acted like true heroes. In spite of their small number, they made a stand. With shooting and with stones they began to hurt those who came within range. They did not give up, they went up onto the battlements, they defended moat and gate. Nameise did not give up there, he ordered his archers to shoot. The Brothers did not know that the treacherous dog had turned against the Christians; they had no idea that anyone would shoot, they wanted to take advantage of this. They showed themselves so much the more. Bertold was not slow, in a very short time he wounded many a than so that he forgot the defense completely. The others, upon seeing this, protected themselves better, and threw and shot so that they kept up their defense well to the fourth day. Truthfully one can say that their number was somewhat too small. Nevertheless, they agreed that they would risk their lives and leave the castle. A brave hero made known that he would burn the mill which lay a small distance in front of the court. The Brothers took the chance and quickly set fire to it. When the castle was burning well as they intended, a lady noticed this. She was a nun; she wanted to stay alive, to escape death. She intended to vault quickly over the fortification wall but she fell in between two planks. There she burned to death. May God help her soul from all distress.

[8729] The Brothers opened their gate, there in front they found their enemies before the castle standing grimly. There was many a man in the group with the Brothers. When Nameise became aware of them, he spoke firmly to his men: “Proud heroes, go now boldly at the troop of the Brothers.” He earnestly wanted this, it is true. The Semgallians were glad that the castle was burning before them. Also they saw that the Brothers were standing in a very small group, they were completely broken up. The Brothers defended themselves well but at last they were struck down. Here and there one was captured. Such was the outcome of the battle. It went according to the will of the Semgallians. A short time thereafter they held a court: they made a large circle into which a Brother had to enter. They all stood around and cut him to pieces. Some of the Brothers were sent to Lithuania. At once the Semgallians rebuilt the castle which had belonged to the Brothers, as I have read, and carried on war as before. What more shall I say about this ? When those in Riga heard this, Brother Gerhart, who was in the position of Master, came very quickly. He gathered the Brothers together. After they all conferred and agreed, he quickly sent a Brother to Prussia. He found the Master in Elbing, where a great conference was being held. Brother Cloz described events of which I began telling a while ago and now have completed. He told openly what had happened in Semgallen. When he was finished telling about it, he delivered another message and invited the Master to come to his land. He made it clear in his words that if that land were to be defended so that the heathen don’t ravage it, Brothers ought to be sent there; otherwise very soon they would hear a different story. This he made known to all. The Master was a blessed man, he understood these words well. Brother Konrad von Feuchtewangen thought only of God. He spoke: “I shall comfort all those in Nieflant so that they will rejoice. There are many mothers’ sons who would gladly travel there.” At once he took aside the Brothers who had come from German areas, as you have heard. With the Brothers’ agreement he sent them there quickly. Chosen were also Brothers who had been in Prussia. They were sent to Nieflant with the Brothers who had recently arrived with the Master, as you heard. They joyfully traveled along the coast through Kurland toward Riga. When they arrived at Riga, the Brothers there heard this and received them lovingly, both rich and poor.

[8813] The one who ruled the Masters’ city, took good care of the Brothers. When they were rested and their horses well cared for, he at once asked that they go where they were needed. Master Konrad, however, remained in Prussia, as I read before, well another year. What I tell you is true. He was to care for the two lands, and in his heart he feared that he could not defend both. He thought of going to Germany. He sent word to the kummenturen. They came at once. He told them what was on his heart. When they heard the news, they argued heavily against it. Master Konrad was clever. He spoke so sweetly to them that they gave in. After consultation he took a Brother who was suited for the land and left him there in his place. He requested all the kummenture to help this Brother so that they would receive recompense at the Last Judgment. With great lamenting he departed from there and commenced the journey to Germany. When he arrived at the High Master’s, who then heard his wards, Master Hartman did not waver, but ordered his messenger to hurry to all the commenturates everywhere. At once a great number of them came. Shortly after this Master Konrad let them know what had happened in Nieflant. When they had been told all that, as well as about the Semgallians, Brother Konrad von Feuchtwangen said to them all. “I am much too weak to be able to defend both lands; let one go in my place.” Yet they wanted to send him back again. But they could not change his mind: he wanted to be released from office. They chose a Brother to go at once to Prussia. He was sent to Nieflant with a handsome group of thirty-four Brothers, this is true.

[8869] He set out for Riga then. All his companions were in high spirits. He was very good to them all. It came about that they arrived joyfully and without incident in the Dune with two cogs on St. Margaret’s day, this is true. Dune is the name of a river known to many; Riga is situated on it: those who live there can assure one of that. A messenger hurried there and let the Brothers know that their Master had arrived. Their horses were out grazing; they at once sent for them. The burghers also learned about this: they were happy about the arrival and rode along with the Brothers toward the Master on the dunes. This area is known to many. They received him lovingly. He thanked the poor and the rich, as it was fitting for him: whoever came to him with welcome. Then many men rode with him to St. Jurian – the Court where the Brothers live is located in the city.

[8901] The Master did not neglect to bid the Brothers sit down. Wine and mead was poured; this was done with great generosity. After this they rode to their quarters. A short time after this the Brothers advised him to become well acquainted with the land. So he rode around Nieflant. He found many good castles there, well guarded by Brothers. His spirit rejoiced that he found the land in such good condition. Now I want to tell you what happened in Kurland before Master Konrad came there, while he was still in Germany, although he already had been told that he was Master of Nieflant. Now let us return to the place where I stopped when I spoke about the things which happened in Nieflant. In foreign lands Kurland and Nieflant are mentioned in place of each other, this is true. Who could exactly describe how each area is called? They call it all Nieflant.

[8929] I want to speak about a hero, and if the story were not too long, I could tell much about the heroic deeds he performed in his day in Nieflant. I roust forego speaking of this, because there were so many of his brave deeds. Now I will tell you his name. His praise was widespread in Lithuania and in Russia. His name was Brother Johann von Ochtenhausen and he was all a roan should be; his life was chaste and correct. Right after he joined the Order, his leaders sent him to Kurland. He accomplished many good things there: his praise spread there first. After this, a part of what he did in Nieflant is described; however, he is not mentioned by name there. Here starts a story about him.

[8951] The hero was in Goldingen. He was elected Vogt there, and was to be in charge of the Kurs there. He was brave and manly, and caused much grief to the heathen; they were weighed down by him. He was well acquainted with the approaches; he often rushed in to Semgallen and plundered and burned before Doblen and Terwetein. He often was successful in waking his enemies too early; he pursued them continuously. Once it happened that he was discussing a raid. After coming to agreement with the Brothers he summoned the Kurs in a hurry. When they heard this, they came at once. He took a small number of Brothers: four in all. Then he began to move toward Doblen. He led many a swift warrior on horseback and also on foot along bad roads and thick forests. They also had trouble with some marshes. Many a man carried his supplies on his back. Their Vogt was clever: when they were coming through the obstacles which were arranged on the border of the land, he had them leave their supplies there, so that they were completely lost. He took a small group of them men and also a Brother, this is true. He hurried to Doblenen, with his army following closely behind. He arrived at the gate and found ready warriors there already. They advanced toward him on the fields. He returned their charge with spirit. They did not abandon their attempt; their numbers were too large for him. The officer was quite worried about this. He had fifty men with him, and yet he attacked with such force that they retreated into their gates. His bravery took him too far. Often he rode into the gates far ahead of the Kur army. The Semgallians were aware of him often in their gates on that day. Finally a hero ran forward and hit the officer on his helmet so that he fell down in the dust. Yet a Brother was near him, who dismounted on the grass at the same time, and gave help to the officer. All the while the army advanced and rescued their Vogt by force. Then they went in front of the gate and threw spears back and forth well into the middle of the day. Many were killed there. Both sides made a great effort, yet the officer’s army escaped destruction. A part of the Kurs were wounded, but the Brothers were unharmed, those who had come with the officer to Doblen, as I have heard. The Brothers with their troops went to a beautiful field in front of the castle. They left the castle be. Horse-borne stretchers were prepared for the wounded. The officer was not well, yet he sat on a horse. His army was ordered well and well guarded by the rearguard. They returned to their own land.

[9038] Then Nameise hurried there with many a valorous man. I cannot tell you their number. He was the leader of those in Terwetein. He decided quickly that he was going to pursue the Brothers. He made especial effort to hurry. He chose the best men who were in Doblen. The road was not spared; they chased and ran after the Brothers. Surely no one slept. They reached the rearguard. The voget was told this; he was still very weak, and this saddened him. God comforted him and made him well so that he felt strength returning. His heart experienced great joy. He set his troops in order at once for defense against the enemy: they were ordered on foot, and their horses were safely guarded; they did not intend to flee from there. Nameise came running with many men through a forest; they were grim and proud. When all the men who had come with him realized that the officer with his troops took defensive positions, those who were on horseback dismounted on the grass. Their army had followed swiftly. They hurried toward the Brothers. The officer was in front of his troops. When he noticed the enemies, he ran at them and stabbed. The formation broke up. What more shall I say about it? The Semgallian army was badly separated. They left fifty dead lying on the battlefield. The others had enough of fighting and fled to their land. They left as payment there well two hundred shields. The Semgallians fled as if they were wild. The Brothers divided their loot with the Kurs, however many there were. B a b o t e n was the name of a castle which had been burned down a long time ago; the battle happened by its wall. Forests and fields are laid out beautifully there. The Brothers and the Kurs began their return journey in good spirits. They received a warm welcome there. This was the outcome of the engagement. Jesus Christ was thanked, who deserves all praise.

[9103] It was not long after this that another expedition was discussed between the Kummentur and the Vogt. No time was lost, the Brothers were summoned. They without delay advised that the Semgallians should not be spared, and a raid be made on Doblenen. This vote was taken in Goldingen, a castle in Kurland. At once messengers were sent out to the Kurs. They were notified of the expedition. They gathered many eager men in a meadow surrounded by a forest, which had been assigned. The kummentur and the vogt with Brothers followed the Kurs to the meadow where the meeting was held. A large group of squires came there with the Brothers. When the army had all arrived, guides were chosen, and prepared to go to Doblenen. They had to brave many difficult passes, marshes and brush without count. As they passed through their last forest, it was near daylight. Swift men were chosen from those who had come, also Brothers were taken along, and told to follow the vogt. They left their horses there and hurried toward Doblen. The horses followed. The voget with his men advanced in such a way that they were not observed until they had reached the castle-mound and climbed onto the outer works. They woke many a sleeper, so that afterward he was not able to make any noise, and caught and slew well three hundred men and women in the holocaust, whoever did not escape into the castle, came into the hands of the Christians. The outer works were also burned. Much loot was taken. Now the kummentur also had arrived with his forces at Doblenen. The horses were brought for those who had come on foot to Doblenen, as you have heard. When each man took his horse and the plunder was gathered together, the army was brought to order. Then the Brothers with their army began the march back to Goldingen, and rejoiced. Women and children were driven along, as well as horses and much cattle from Doblenen to Kurland. They had their hands full of plunder taken in the battlements. When they arrived in their land, they divided all equally; whatever poor or rich men were among them, all received some booty. They also made offerings for the sake of God, and praised Him for His mercy. When they had arrived home from Doblen, as you have heard, the native folk went home. The Brothers rode to Goldingen with their troops. When their arrival was seen, those who had remained at home lost some of their worries. They all alike praised God from heaven. The Semgallians were greatly troubled that those from Kurland so often rode to them in Doblen. Yet they could not escape this: they were visited by many kinds of attack, and this was their misery.

[9193] Nameise, the leader at Terwetein, decided he would revenge the sufferings of the Semgallians. He rode to the Dune. He took along brave heroes armed according to the custom of the land. The march became known in Mitau. At once they sent messengers to Riga with the news. It was told to the marshal. His name was Brother Gerhard. Truly he carried it without shame, and was called von Katzenellenbogen. He was brave and well educated. He heard the news that Nameise was coming. He was glad of the warning. He sent for the Brothers and told them to be ready quickly. Their weapons were put on in a hurry after they were told. The Brothers were ordered to ride to the field with their men. The marshal himself came also. The pilgrims heard about it and came quickly.

[9219] A Brother and a hundred men had come from Wenden to Riga to defend the land, as I have heard. They had been notified. They came in a courtly manner, with a red banner which was crossed by white, in the manner of the Wends. Wenden is the name of a castle from which this flag became known, and it is located in the land of the Letts, where the women ride in the same fashion as men do. I can tell you this in all truth, this is the banner of the Letts. One hundred of them had come to Riga at this time to guard the land, as you have heard. A Brother was their leader. They obeyed him gladly. He had also come with his retainers to the Marshal, as you have heard. The marshal chose a position to which he ordered his army to ride. A court was located in the vicinity with few inhabitants; it was not far from the city. The army did everything he ordered; they waited there until they despaired. The field was cold and bare. Sentries were stationed. Nameise ran into them, and one was captured. If he had been unknown to Nameise, he would have been in trouble. He at once asked to be told how things were with the Brothers. He denied everything in his desperation, because he feared a terrible death.

[9259] It was not too early in the day. They hurried toward Riga. Nameise and his men became aware of the banners and the shields of the Brothers all over the field. He was in such a hurry to flee that none of them killed the sentry. they returned to their land. Many discarded their shields in order to escape better, and fled in two groups. Nameise fled across the land; his other army ran into a river called the A. Now the sentry was so near that he saw the banners of the Brothers. He hurried to his masters, called and waved his band. The marshal rode up to him and asked for news of how he had fared, whether he had seen the enemy. He asked to be told the truth. He said: “I certainly noticed them, I barely escaped them: they had captured me! It would have fared badly with me, if Nameise hadn’t saved me. He had intended to raid here with his Semgallian troop. When he saw the banners, he asked me how large the army was. I said: ‘The might of the Brothers from Estonia and from the land of the Letts has gathered here.’ This was unwelcome news to him. They wanted to kill me. Nameise opposed this. He was so eager to flee that they let me ride.” “Let us not delay,” spoke the whole army: “we rejoice about this news.”

[9503] Quickly the army was put in order, so it could follow the heathen. The marshal hurried ahead and found the tracks of the heathen, who had come against the river A. The banners followed him closely. They all chased so eagerly that many a horse was run to death. Before midday, as I have heard tell, the marshal had come so near that he observed the enemy. He attacked with his troop. The enemy wished they were at home. Yet they had luck: thirty of them did fall through the ice, yet they had such presence of mind that they left the horses lying in the ice and fled sadly to the shore. No one followed their tracks. I shall tell you why. Whoever did not break through the ice, was in a great hurry to get home. The marshal followed those: he did not stop to take booty. Some were so unwise that they left the Brothers. When they saw the horses lying down and floating in the water, they wanted to get some benefit from this. The marshal was not aware that his troop was doing this. Among his number were five Brothers; all in all there were nine, three squires and an excellent knight, who was considerate of God and men. I will repeat what he said before Riga, when they were pursuing the enemy: “Today at noon I shall already receive my meal in front of the throne of heaven, near Our Lady.” He was called the vogt of the pilgrims and came from Westphalia. His horse stopped from exhaustion, so he had to be separated from the Brothers. Nameise fled over land and ran onto the ice. When he became aware of the knight, he attacked him with his band. The knight was killed by him: one heard people lament for the hero. Nameise was in a hurry to reach home. When he saw the eight in front of him and saw the Brothers, he attacked again with his men. He had thirty men with him; he easily attacked the eight. The Brothers were not aware that the enemy’s band was following them. Nameise attacked them angrily with the naked blade, and this was their destruction. The Brothers were slain; two had to go along, they were led to Terwetein. The marshal of the land was among these. Those with the banner chased after them, in great hurry to catch the enemy. When they came so near that they could distinguish the horses who had been hauled out of the ice, they asked: “Where has the marshal gone?” The men spoke: “He is in pursuit. Warriors, hasten: he has ridden away with a small force.” There was no lingering; many a horse felt the spurs. They soon arrived at the place where the knight lay slain: this worried them. They did not stop their chase until they saw the killed men on the ground, and the marshal was lost to them. This gave them both sorrow and anger: they would gladly have fought right there, had the heathen been there. They still continued the pursuit for a while, and then turned back to Riga. Thereafter the marshal of the land was sent down to king Thoreiden, who was called ruler of Lithuania. There he was forced to fight a combat; both combatants were killed. So Brother Gerhard died; may God gladden his heart in the heavenly kingdom: everyone wishes this for him.

[9405] Now you have already heard how Master Konrad arrived in Nieflant with Brothers. Now I shall tell you how he entertained himself there while he remained Master. When he had inspected the land, he spoke with the bishops who were in the land. He was able to win them to his side; you should certainly believe this. When he saw the king’s vassals and talked with their leader, he had such sincere words for them that they joined his supporters. Whatever he desired from them, was given him willingly. I will avoid a long description and tell you in few words: when he received the support, his heart rejoiced greatly. After approval from the Brothers’ council, he hurriedly sent out messengers to all corners of the land. A day was appointed when everyone was to gather in Riga. When this became known, each vogt with his men arrived willingly. One of the bishops was called Friedrich; he was a man who never neglected his virtue. He himself came to join the men with his knights, this is true. He was born of Haseldorf, and officiated over the Dorpat bishopry. That city is well known to many. The leader there sent a handsome troop of the king’s vassals. When they had arrived in Riga on the appointed day, they were received well, as one should valued guests. Whatever should be done to show honor, was not neglected. Then the army was arranged after many a banner for a campaign. They arrived in Semgallen. Doblen was the name of a castle which they besieged and received much damage. Whatever was in the outer works was destroyed; unless they escaped to the castle, they had to pay with their lives. A catapult was constructed and stationed in front of the moat.

[9463] Other news then arrived. An army had arrived there from Lithuania.. When the facts became known, they let Doblen stand. The castle escaped being stormed. The catapults were destroyed and the army was set in order to march against the Lithuanians. The heathen army arrived in haste in an area called Slackenkappen. The army of the Brothers was in good order, and marched against the Lithuanians. When they were so close that they could distinguish one another, the heathen saw how powerful the Christian army was. They then wanted to retreat to their land. The marshal galloped in pursuit. The army came to difficult terrain, where the marsh had not yet frozen over. The army was sad and angry that the enemy army escaped. Bishop Friedrich was sorry that they could not be caught. Why should l make a long speech on this? They returned to Riga unharmed. When it became known that the army was returning, Jesus Christ, worthy of all praise, was honored, as well as His dear Mother, Mary my Lady. The Master and the bishop went to the court of the Brothers. The pilgrims and king’s men received a warm welcome there. The Master and bishop Friedrich then parted as close friends. When all the men had gathered there, they then all returned home, this is true.

[9507] This happened in the winter. The following year the Master called a conference to discuss a journey to Semgallen. The Master himself at once rode to the bishops and the king’s vassals, and won their support with his pleas. They pledged him their assistance. They were on his side, this is true, those from Dorpat and Leal as well as the third bishop from Riga. A day was appointed when they were to be ready. Messengers were sent all through the Brothers’ land. The native warriors and the men of the Order were notified of the time when they were to come to Riga. The gathering was held there. When the time had arrived, as you have found out before this, the leader brought there a noble group of the king’s vassals. He was called lord Odewart. Many banners were to be seen: a large number came to Riga from all over the land. A praiseworthy number of Brothers from the land had come. Along came burghers of Riga: this had for a long time been their custom. Whatever pilgrims had come to Riga, were all gladly taken along. The lord of Ruwen came there also with a courtly following.

[9543] When the troops were ready at the appointed time, at once they began to move from Riga by ship and by land as well, and arrived by Mitau on a lovely dell. The army was arranged nicely on a wide meadow. They were well received there, as dear friends should be. They rested well during the night. In the morning, as dawn was breaking, mass was sung for the army. Master Konrad von Feuchtwangen was the leader of the army. He did the very best he could. When the army was set in order for the journey after many a banner, the army arrived in front of Terwetein. The heathen reached a decision and ran toward them on the field. There they received a counter-thrust: they were driven back in. One Semgallian was killed. Many a tent was set up on a lovely field in front of Terwetein. They raided around themselves with a vengeance. The time of year was such that their grain was ripe. This was mowed down like grass. The grain was gathered in by the army. When it was after midnight, the heathen did a notable thing: they themselves burned down their own outer works to the ground all around the castle itself. The army which had camped around the castle was large and powerful. The next day a parallel was constructed and set upright, and pushed to the moat. But before this the Master had sent for the army from Kurland. They had gone to Doblen. There they were unwelcome, since they did mischief to the Semgallians. They burned down the outer city and left the castle. They numbered fourteen thousand in all. Now the parallel arrived, as you have heard, along with many a ribald on the moat. An angry battle began. Many hundred wagonloads of lumber was brought for filling in the moat. Fires were set all over. The castle burned on several sides, fires were put out heroically.

[9604] Before the storming was completed, the Semgallians requested the Master to allow their king to come to there for the good of Christendom; and that they would gladly pay taxes and keep peace with the Christians as before. The Master was not happy with this suggestion because he felt that it was not sincere. They had often lied and deceived the Christians. Now there was present an honorable knight. When they discovered this (he was called lord of Ruwen), they called to him at once to be so kind and ask the Master to let them have peace. They would live as it was right. The probest of Riga was also there, as well as prediger bruder, this is true. The lord of Ruwen called those to him and went with there to the Master and mediated for the Semgallians. The Brothers said at once: “We will be sorry for it if they ask to join the Christians.” The lord of Ruwen said: “You ought to be glad of it; now change your minds. We all think that is for the best.” In spite of what was said by anyone against this, the will of the Semgallians happened. They were given a peace treaty, according to which they were to pay taxes and never do any harm to the Christians. The treaty was sworn on by both sides, as customary, with oaths. The army did not remain there long but disbanded. The parallel was taken down, and they began to journey home. When the army arrived at Riga, the Master received the guests and thanked them. Master Konrad von Feuchtwangen was rich in honor and virtue, many a knight saw that for himself. He invited them to be his guests. The archbishop of the city had to be among the guests, as well as many a noble pilgrim. Much honor was shown to lard Odewart and the king’s vassals. When they were no longer tired, and when whoever had come along on the journey from Semegallen had been shown a friendly welcome, as I read before, shortly after that they joyfully returned home.

[9667] The following happened in August. The following autumn after this an army was sent from Lithuania to Prussia. King Thoreide was sending it. Nameise went along. Kirsburc is the name of a castle which still lies in Prussia. He was heard and seen there breaking the treaty he had made at Terwetein. He was unfaithful to his oath; he never again returned to his country called Semegallen. This is how the treaty with the Semgallians was broken. It was not too long after this that Master Konrad von Feuchtwangen was successful in his plea that his will be done; that both Prussian and Nieflant be placed in the hand of a Master called Brother Manegolt. He was respected because of his piousness. The Master of Nieflant was gladly subservient to him. Now I want to tell you how well they agreed, as was also apparent in their holding each other dear. Whatever one of there asked of the other, was done at once, and both of them benefited from this. The Master of Nieflant sent out his messenger. He announced by letters that Master Manegolt should come to him for the sake of the welfare of the land. When the request was made known to him, he prepared willingly. After meeting with his Brothers he swiftly traveled along the seashore through Kurland. When those in Riga found out that Master Manegolt was coming, he was received well, as a Master should be. To whichever abode he came, he was happy to receive friendship. When he had inspected the land and had spoken with the Brothers who were in the land, he behaved in such a way that they were happy about him. Master Konrad then asked him – he began the request very gently – to release him from office. No matter what anyone said against it, because of his plea it happened that he was released of Nieflant, so that he was no longer blaster there. He had held office, this is true, two and a half years in that land. Then he was released from this responsibility. Another Brother was elected to be Master of Nieflant: by the name of Brother Willekin. This valiant knight was elected in Velin. After the election Master Manegolt with his Brothers returned to Prussia in good spirits.

[9741] Messengers were then sent from Acron to Prussia. They told of the difficulties of the Order: the High Master was dead. The blaster was summoned to Acron. When he had heard this, hastily he had letters written, and had them carried to Nieflant; he announced this bad news to the Master of the land and asked him to send suitable Brothers to Acron. Three Brothers were chosen and were willingly sent with recommendations to Prussia. When the blaster heard that those from Nieflant had arrived, he was himself ready in a short time. So on the set day, he with the Brothers he took along, arrived in Acron. It is true that there were wise Brothers from many a land who had come to the election. A virtuous hero was chosen and elected to the office of High Master. This honorable knight was called Brother Burkart. Gladly he was handed the seal and the ring to be worn in honor. When the election was over, Master Manegolt requested that he be relieved of Nieflant. He was told to go to Prussia. The man who had been selected before this in Velin, as I read to you, was approved by letter. After this many noble men left Acron. A number of these did not reach their home. Master Manegolt died on the sea, according to God’s will, three Brothers had been sent with him from Nieflant; two of them died; the third survived and brought the letters back to the land from which they had been sent. When it was heard in Nieflant that one of the messengers arrived, and the letters were read, which approved Master Willekin for the land, everyone rejoiced. He lived in peace with poor and with rich in the land many a day, and served God eagerly.

[9801] It happened during his time that the Lithuanians were seen raiding the land of the bishop. They plundered and burned. The news was heard that they had come to Aschraten: this castle lies by the Dune, and Brothers live in it. The kummentur quickly sent news about this trouble to Kokenhusen. This castle belongs to the bishop. At that time in it a Brother was the main officer. He made great effort to do harm to the enemy. He was soon ready and recruited many a swift warrior from the town for this cause. The natives were quite willing. He collected a good troop. The Lithuanians had found out that there was an intent to march against them and protect the land. When they heard of this, they wanted to hurry back to their land, since they feared defeat. They took their plunder and without concern crossed the Dune and wanted to be on their way back to their land. During this time the kummentur in Aschraten had sent his messengers all over the land, as I have read. In a short time those who heard the news gathered willingly at Ashraten. He was glad about this from his heart. He did not delay long, but told the Brothers to arm themselves. They gladly did whatever he said. When his army was ready, the kummentur was told that the heathen had left. When he had heard this, he was angry at the enemies. The Dune was well frozen over; he crossed it. The Brother from Kokenhusen, of whom I read before, also came, with many swift men; he was eager to get to the enemy. They followed. Their reconnaissance went ahead and came across the tracks of the heathen. The Lithuanians also became aware that the Brothers’ army was following them. They were arrogant and camped in a forest. They spoke: “The Brothers are coming. We haven’t taken enough from them, they bring their goods to us here themselves. We should be in high spirits!” So spoke the Lithuanians. They had cut a barricade of trees around themselves and their horses, so we hear the book say. The Brothers arrived with their troop. They were glad from their hearts about what they saw. They dismounted; the heathen ran toward them. Many a man on both sides suffered from the blow of a sword. The battlefield was red from blood. The Brothers forced their way into the barricade; sixty of the heathen were slain; one of their leaders was killed, and the others were forced to give way. They left many a horse there, shields, spears and swords. Who­ever escaped on foot to Lithuania, thought they were lucky. Schoriat was killed on the battlefield for revenge; his friends could well lament for him.

[9899] Master Willekin then wondered how he could make the Semgallians unhappy and bring them trouble, so that they would be relieved of them. He asked his Brothers how he should achieve this. The Brothers at once suggested that he build a castle in the land, this would benefit Christianity. When he had heard this advice, he was glad from his heart. He didn’t rest until he had collected all that was necessary in the way of clothes and food. The Master was so wise that he did not forget anything in the way of provisions but had everything taken to Mitau. When his wish in this had been done, the winter after this he collected men for an armed expedition. No effort was spared by him to secure bishops’ and king’s men; from them he received many a brave man, and a large troop from the people of the Brothers. When the army had gathered at Riga, the Master was glad. He brought them to a lake called the Balat. Many a banner was seen there. The army was long, its ranks spread wide. Then they rode towards Mitau. Many sleds were loaded full there. The army from Terwetein came in order to do damage to the Semgallians. The Master decided he wanted to build on a hill. A praiseworthy thing happened there: with the consent of the Brothers a castle was built. It was called Heiligenberg; its name has become well known. The castle was well stocked; whatever is needed in an emergency was there for their use. Two catapults were brought there. When the moat was completed and a ballista set up, the castle was really well supplied. Then they began their return journey and left there well over three hundred men. The others all rode away, The Master and his Brothers, the knights and the crusaders, all those who left the castle returned to Riga. The Master’s wish had come true, every man rode home and thanked God in heaven. They rejoiced and gave praise to Him because the task had been completed just as it was planned from the beginning.

[9961] In the castle about which I have been talking, knights were left, and crossbows with arrows. After some time an army of Sameitians attacked them, they are also called Lithuanians and are a vicious heathen tribe: they carne there with a great force the day after the Brothers with their people had turned again toward Riga. The army camped all around the castle on a field. The heathen have no tents: regardless of whether it is warm or cold, their huts are made from wood and branches which they can break off (trees). They set up many of these before the castle, I am not lying. Those who were in the castle of Heiligenberg did not get along with those from Terwetein in those days. Many were made unhappy by their fighting. There was but a narrow space between them. Because of this, they very often came from their castles into the valley, the troops of both castles clashed. When the Lithuanian army arrived, as you heard before, the Semgallians were glad. They wasted no time. the Semgallians with the strangers hurried up to the ramparts which were described to you before. The Brothers saw this at once and quickly came out in front of the gate. They found their enemies before it, a powerful army of Lithuanians. The Brothers prepared for defense. Among them they had many a famed man and brave, well trained squires. They stood by one another bravely, no one wanted to retreat. Then many spears were flying, the Christian ones out and the heathen ones in. The Christians shot with crossbows. This was too much for the Lithuanians, they began to retreat. The Brothers let them be. In this battle one Brother was killed before the castle. I can’t tell how many of the heathen: here and there one was carried away who had quite forgotten about the Brothers. The hate of the Sameitians grew. They agreed on a plan and carried it out in action. They intended to take the castle no matter what. This later was a disadvantage. They had many a strong pagan drive to the forest for wood. They brought logs and timber back and put it on the field. They built large ribalds. The field was long and bare, so that one could easily see all they did. The Brothers acted accord­ingly. Little rest did any of them have by night or day: they made ramparts and moats. A parallel was constructed. The Brothers had a formidable task, yet none of them gave up because of this. The squires were eager, all the people were, this is true. They spared no effort. When the castle was ready, the men were organized for defense suitable against the heathen army.

[10041] Let me tell you about the activities of the pagans. In ten days they had made many a big ribald. The work troubled them little, they had brought many thousand carts of lumber for the filling of the moats. On the eleventh day many a heathen lamented, since he lost his life there, and his soul came into great misery. A powerful attack was made, many a ribald was driven by the heathen toward the moat. Some were killed while doing this before they arrived at the hill. The Brothers acted like true heroes, they shot many heathen dead. The Lithuanians did not want to give up the attack because of this danger. They stood like a wall. The heathen shot wooden arrows. But it happened to many a heathen that, when he wanted to bend down, his limbs escaped from him, so that he sat down on the ground and completely forgot to shoot: this came from the harassment of arrows. Death came to many a man in this way. And yet the Lithuanians did not give up; they were intent to carry off with them the possessions of the Brothers. This determination brought ill luck to many. One saw many a Sameitian being led away like a German bride. The white snow grew to look like blood and the field all blood-colored. The Brothers soon realized that the ribalds were on the moat: they directed their, catapults there. The heathen were pressed hard then, they took such great harm that they completely abandoned the ribalds. They left many dead there and fled from the battle area. Many a man displayed bad manners there by being forced to fall down and lift his leg toward the castle, while death broke his heart. Many a man also looked as if he were pulled by the leg, so that his comrade fled from him. This continued the whole day. I cannot fully tell how great was the joy of the Christians when the dead were gathered up before their eyes and loaded onto the sleds. The spirit of the heathen was dimmed because so many of them were shot dead, as I have just read. As it was near evening and the battle was ended, their dead were quickly burned. After this they returned home at once with the wounded; many of them died afterwards. They lamented sorely their losses which they suffered at Heiligenberg. Those who had lost their relatives in the heat of battle there were angry about the raid. Three and a half hundred of them were dead and many were so badly wounded that they never again fully recovered. The Brothers were not driven away, they remained in Heiligenberg against the will of the Semgallians. This continued to aggrieve the heathen. On the third day after the battle the Semgallians conferred; they were extremely angry. However, they agreed to burn down Terwetein. Immediately after this they left for Racken which is the name o£ a castle. Those in Heiligenberg thanked God and were happy.

[10129] Then the Brother who was the commander of the besieged castle which recovered so well in such danger, left nothing undone. He reported all the good news to the faster as one friend still does to another, about what had happened at Semgallen and how Terwetein was burned down. When the Master found out about this, he became glad from his heart about what he heard, and praised God in heaven. The castle was all that one could wish, the castle which shall be named so often that its name will become familiar to you: it was called Heiligenberg. Those who were in the castle were seen to act in such a way that it was to the detriment of their enemies. Many a time they were seen before Racken and Doblen. They could not avoid this, the Brothers came often with their troops to do them harm. It was hard on the Semgallians that they rode so often against them. They were oppressed by the castle. They sustained so many losses from this in both goods and people that if one were to enumerate it all, the story would become much too long. They sang many a lament for their relatives and kin. They began to think of how they could possibly repay this. They came often, driven by their hate, onto the field before the castle. They brought the repayment bravely before the gate: there they found the Brothers with fearless, distinguished squires and many a swift warrior from among the people. When the Semgallians came there against the troops of the Brothers, they attacked each other in such a way that if lord Ecke had ever done this, and lord Dietrich from Bern, they would be praised highly. Many a strong attack was made: after the crossbows were used, they retreated back to their land. In this way many a man lay dead there. The castle often had this kind of entertainment. The strain on the Brothers was great, yet none of them ever despaired. They took pleasure in keeping watch, in chopping and digging; they never complained about lifting and carrying beams, nor of any other trouble. Each of them honored the other; they opposed the enemy together. This worried the Semgallians. Finally they tired of the game that shot so many of them there, and they came there less often. They observed the roads which led to the castle: if anyone was caught on one of these, he had to live according to their wishes, die or pay ransom.

[10201] It happened during a fast that the Semgallians were seen moving toward Riga: they wanted to make war for the sake of plunder. It was heard at Heiligenberg. At once messengers were sent. The warning arrived in Riga, the marshal of the land heard that they intended to make war on Riga. He said: “We shall certainly prevent that.” He told the Brothers to arm themselves and they gladly did what he ordered. Very soon he was ready along with them. They rode before the city. Some of the burghers also came there, and a small band of pilgrims. Whatever Letts had come to Riga were taken along. Some of the Livs were also there; they joined the army gladly. So the army numbered four hundred and fifty over all. They camped close there that day and occupied themselves with many kinds of activity, with swimming and jumping, with running and wrestling. When it came toward evening, the army of the enemy had not been seen. The burghers rode into the city. The marshal told his Brothers that they should go to the stall. All of the people went there. This was also the name of a well-known court by Riga: the horsestall of the Brothers. The marshal o£ the land ordered the gates to be left open. He said: “We shall overcome them, if God wills that they come here to us. Let everyone bravely prepare his lance so that we will always be the first to attack. If they want to come in here to us, we shall forestall them and come out in front.” The gates remained open. The marshal was not through yet: he sent scouts out riding, Brothers and good squires. He thought that everyone would be well guarded in this way. Afterward he found out he had been wrong, since all protection is nothing if God does not choose to guard us.

[10253] This can be seen in the things which I shall now tell you. Sentries were posted, as you learned before. It was the time of the year when nights are dark and cold, so that they did not see the approaching army. All their watching was in vain. The army of the enemy carne to Riga without anybody noticing, until they entered the stall. The Brothers were sleeping everywhere, the native people slept apart. A squire noticed the enemy and called in a loud voice: “Enemies.” He woke the crowd which was sleeping there. If God had not given them some protection, none would have survived. This is obvious because the stall was full of enemies. They did no harm to anyone until they saw the Livs flee. They fled as soon as they woke. This did not help the Brothers. The Brothers quickly came to the defense against the heathen band. They threw many a spear at the heathen, but their army was too big for the Brothers: they were only eighteen in number. All the native soldiers fled. The Brothers remained in this predicament fighting, five of them were killed, the others were badly wounded, only three of them remained able-bodied. Some squires were killed and after all this the soldiers were heard lamenting. The stall was burned down at once by the Semgallians. They turned toward the city with their army and rejoiced. The burghers closed their gates, they left the enemy outside. A short while after that in the light of day the Semgallians went home. The dead were picked up and buried with care and divine service. The rites appropriate to the dead were not forgotten. Messengers were sent to the Master. He was fully informed. He spoke wisely: “God’s will has always been done and will surely be done with respect to us. We must always give Him praise, whether it be loss or gain. Whatever comes to us by His grace, we must fully accept as good, for He does nothing without reason. If it went as we thought right in all things, that would be bad for our souls. God knows full well how He is to act with us: it shall be according to His will. We have also recovered from misfortune at other times. One has also often seen that much good has happened to us. Heavenly God, He who is full of goodness, knows when luck will be with us again. May He help us to keep His commandments in the midst of any trouble.” Thus spoke the Master full of excellence. Let us leave this story now and begin another one.

This text is from The Rhyme Chronicle of Livonia: A Translation, with Introduction, of Major Parts of the Middle High German Lilandische Reimchronik, by Ausma Regina Jaunzemis Mullen (Stanford University, PhD diss., 1974). This translation is also published in The Rhyme Chronicle of Livonia, translated by Ausma Jaunzemis (Echo Publishers West, 1978)

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