Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #107, A Tale on 4 Levels, 1

Danyo’s Men Makin’ Inquiries; image colorized and modified by the author,  obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Brawl by Brouwer, WellcomeV0019463, in the public domain.
Danyo’s Men Makin’ Inquiries; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Brawl by Brouwer, WellcomeV0019463, in the public domain.
In this episode international politics gets personal.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Sixteenth Era, Part 7, 1320 C.E., Chelm

A Tale on Four Levels
I. The Peshat*

* Jewish biblical analysis perceives four main levels of the text.
The first is the literal, or obvious level, the peshat, or p’shat
…Danyo returns to the estate all drunk and in a rage….
He’s pacin’ like a tiger as I peek in the door. I walk in. He looks at me. He ain’t drunk.
“We got some problems, you and me. Them rebels, them bootlicks of Wenceslaus* are conspirin’ to steal this estate from me, and undermine *Casimir’s Vladislov*, our rightful king, and stretch their grip into this land that God gave us Poles.”
* Wenceslaus II of Bohemia; *-* Vladislov I, son of Casimir I
“Is their army already marchin’ on us?”
“Shee-it! Nothin’ as easy as that. They bought a judge or bribed a prince. Now they claim my land as their rightful fief. Somethin’ like that. Vladislov just sent envoys to bring me to court.”
Says I,
“Request a year’s reprieve to gather your statements, documents, and deeds.”
And though sceptic and bitter, sharp-tongued and resigned, he makes his request and the envoys agree to a three-week delay for this friend of the king. And so our frantic searches begin for written documents and testaments from local burghers, soldiers, and priests who might remember Danyo’s deeds that earned him the merit to obtain this fief.
“Just as urgent, we must learn who bought the ear of the court and the judge, their motives and their evidence.”
Danyo howls.
“That means nothin’ in a court. Who pays the judge the greatest sum buys the judgement of the court.”
Danyo calls Batkol and me first of the morning to go to court and to every church and to the record hall, to dig out documents that might infer or prove the loyalty of the family Shvarn, and this the fief that they had earned.
“What shitballs want to steal my home? They’ll end up in the shithole they dug. Get facts, suspicions, rumors, lies. It don’t matter; it’s all good.”
Meanwhile, Danyo and some street-fightin’ friends start bangin’ on doors and bangin’ on heads.

II. The Remez*
1. What the Archive Reveals

* This is the 2nd level of Jewish biblical exegesis: hints, allusions, allegories, parables
Maybe the town hall has some deed granted to Danyo’s ancestors.
Behind a long bench a toothless old man and a scruffy brute with a shaven head…
“We’re lookin’ for deeds of property for our prince and master, Danyo Shvarn.”
Like that farce of *Balaam sittin’ on his ass, bangin’ into walls till his ass complains*, this place was a farce that went somethin’ like this…
*-* Bemidbar/Numbers 22:21-30
The toothless one starts sprayin’ his spit, his words all soundin’ like mumf and umf, while the knucklehead is all slouch and grin with a grunt-grunt here and a snuff-snuff there, till finally with a cough he’s out with it:
“Za magister say zis here be hard. Much much troubles; too much reads; looky here and looky there and we so busy zese many a day.”
Batkol sees I’m ready to burst, so she pulls my arm and says real loud,
“Let’s go tell our master these men won’t help.”
Much coughin’ and sputter and grumble and sigh.
“Mum, zis man’s poor and his wife be sick, and who can work all worry-to-deaf? And me, my chillen be hungert all day. A-night of cries, a-morn of fresh tears. Nor who can sleep nor who can work?”
Smilin’ all sweet-like, Batkol turns around,
“Then maybe you’ll let us search the deeds!”
“Oh no, mum, no mum, zat nary be. No ones back here, no ones but us!”
Then Batkol rummages in her sash and pulls out two little silver coins.
“You boys got troubles. Why not lock up? Toothless can seek out herbs for his wife and when he comes back, you can slip out and fill a sack with turnips and beets, and maybe even a little cake.”
They look at each other, suppressin’ grins, and a moment later the doors be locked and toothless disappears out a back door, while knucklehead signals us to follow him.
Into a dark and narrow stair. Down to a musty catacombs piled high with boxes, barrels, and chests caked in mildew, mouse turds, and mold. He brung down a flickery candle stub.
“Zis should do you’s to find zat deed.”
and his clompin’ steps fade up the stairs.
Batkol heaves out a desperate groan, but I look around for the best kept box and pry it open with the knife in my boot. It’s a treasure trove of contracts and deeds on parchment with official seals and stamps. Batkol growls,
“Are you out of your mind? There’s no way you’ll find Danyo’s deed.”
“Wrong, my dear. It’s in my hand!”
Holdin’ a fistful of parchments I laugh. A quizzical look comes into her eye, and then a great and hearty ‘HA!’ blurts from her mouth.
“Oh! You’re bad!”
I slips the documents into my shirt, careful and smooth against my chest, and we climb back out of that niterous hole. As we walks past bonehead, I shrugs and says,
“We thanks you kindly. You was right. Who has the time to find anything in that dark and dreary and creepy place, but rather to catch our death of bad air? May the Lor hasten your goodness of days.”
I can’t say if he’s pleased or confused as he unbolts the door with a dull gawk.
Back at the manor we get to work collectin’ goose quills, scrapin’ soot from lamps, boilin’ bones and hoofs, carefully skivin’ the ink from these skins, and learnin’ these backwards Latin hands*. Hardly a day and a half’s work exceptin’ the calligraphic skills. And now, behold, Danyo’s deed!
* calligraphic styles
In the next episode we can only imagine how the priest explains to his compatriots what happens in his chapel.
About the Author
I am a writer, educator, artist, and artisan. My poetry is devoted to composing long narrative poems that explore the clash between the real and the ideal, in the lives of historical figures and people I have known. Some of the titles of my books are: The Song uv Elmallahz Kumming A Pilgimmage tu Jerusalem The Pardaes Dokkumen The Atternen Juez Talen You can listen to podcasts of my Eternal Jew posts on my personal blog, Textures and Shadows, which can be found on my website, or directly, at: I live just outside Washington, DC with my bashert, and we have two remarkable sons. Those three light my life.
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