She was in a very vulnerable position and was able to maneuver herself to safety by means of the church where she established such a good reputation that she was eventually made into Saint Radegund.
But her new life as a churchwoman concealed a dark past. She wrote a letter which has survived to modern times in which she writes to her cousin Amalfred recounting the fall of Thuringia and the death of her brother. In this thread I present to you haunting words from a lost world, alive only in the memories of a once noble maiden reduced to a sorry state. You can see very clearly she has maintained the old mindset where kinship is the central pillar of her worldview:
Late 560s AD:
The Thuringian War [The Fall of Thuringia] (English translation)
- Oh, sad state of war, malevolent destiny
That fells proud kingdoms in a sudden slide!
The rooves that stood so long in happiness are broken
To lie fallen beneath the vast charred ruin.
The palace courts, where art once flouished
Are vaulted now with sad, glowing ashes.
Towers artfully gilded, then shone golden-red,
Now drifting ashes blur the glitter to pallor.
The captive maid given to a hostile lord, her power fell
From the heights of glory to the lowest depths. (10)
The entourage of servants, standing resplendent, her youthful peers
Were dead in a day, besmirched with funeral ashes.
The bright attendant halo of powerful ministers
Now lie still without tomb or funeral service. The conquering flame belching, reddens the gold hair of her beloved
While the milk-white woman lies on the ground.
Alas, the corpses lie shamefully unburied on the field,
An entire people, strewn in a common grave.
Not Troy alone must mourn her ruins:
The Thuringian land suffered equal slaughter. (20)
The matron was rapt away, with streaming hair, bound fast
Without even a sad farewell to the household gods.
Nor could the captive press a kiss on the threshhold
Nor cast one backward glance toward what was lost.
A wife's naked feet trod in her husband's blood
And the tender sister stepped over the fallen brother.
The boy torn from his mother's embrace, his funeral plaint
Hung on her lips, with all her tears unshed.
So to lose the life of a child is not the heaviest lot,
Gasping, the mother lost even her pious tears. (30)
I, the barbarian woman, seek not to count these tears,
Nor to keep afloat in the melancholy lake of all those drops.
Each one had her own tears: I alone have them all,
Anguish is private and public both to me.
Fate was kind to those whom the enemy struck down.
I, the sole survivor, must weep for them all.
Not only must I mourn the near ones who died:
I also grieve for those still blessed with life.
My face often moistened, my eyes are blurred,
My murmurs are secret but my care unstilled. (40)
Eagerly, I seek for some greeting borne on the winds,
But of all those near ones, no shade comes near me,
He whose gentle looks once solaced me with love,
Is now torn from my embrace by evil fortune.
Ah, doesn't my care gnaw at you in your absence?
Has bitter destruction taken your sweet love away?
Oh Amalfred, remember how it wa in those first years,
How I was your own Radegund then.
An infant, how you cherished me then,
Son of my father's brother, kindly kinsman. (50)
What my dead father could have done, or my dead mother,
What only a sister or brother could be, were you to me.
With the press of a pious hand, sweet lingering kisses,
Your tender speech soothed the little child.
Then there was scarcely an hour that you did not come to me:
Now ages limp along without a single word.
How I writhed under the raging pain in my bosom,
Trying to bring you back, kinsman, wherever you might be.
Once, if father or mother or the cares of ruling held you,
However you hurried to me, you were always too slow. 60)
Fate was warning that I might lose you, dearest;
For I call you: impatient love cannot wait so long.
Then I was frantic when we did not share a house:
If you went out of doors, I thought you had gone far away.
Now the sun rises where you are and sets upon us;
The Ocean Sea binds me; the Red Sea holds you.
All the globe comes between us dear ones,
The world divides those whom no space parted once.
All that earth holds lies between our loving hearts,
If the lands were broader, the road would stretch yet further. (70)
But stay there, where the prayers of kindred may hold better things,
More luck than Thuringian lands ever brought you.
But while I am here, I suffer more cruelly under my burdens
For that you send no single sign to me.
The face I long for but do not see could be painted in a letter,
A man's image borne from the place which holds him.
Your strength might recall our ancestors, your praise our kin,
As your father's blush plays prettily on your face.
Kinsman, believe, you are not gone while a word remains:
Send a speaking page to act as a brother to me. (80)
Some have every gift while I lack even tears for solace,
Oh cruel fate that the more I love, the less I have!
If the law of piety makes others seek out their servants,
Why, I ask, should those of my own blood abandone me?
To save the home-bred slave, lords have often braved the Alps
Where freezing snow has cemented the waters;
The lover enters the shadowy cave in the broken rock
Where no frost cools his burning ardor,
Barefoot, with none to guide him, he runs
And snatches his plunder from the forbidding hosts. (90)
The edge of the enemy's sword wounds him in passing
But he takes his desire, for love spares not itself.
But I, listening every moment for you,
Scarcely enjoy a moment with a carefree mind.
If a breeze whispers, I ask what place holds you now,
If the low clouds drift by, I ask for the place.
Did warlike Persia or Byzantium choose you as leader
Or the wealth of Alexander's royal city?
Do you live in Jerusalem near the citadel
Where Christ our God was born of a virgin mother? (100)
No letter on the page reveals where you are
Whereby my sorrow takes on heavier power.
For should earth or sea send no sign to me,
Then some swift-flying bird may bear a message!
If the monastery's sacred cloister did not keep me back,
I'd come unheralded to the region where you bide.
Swift would I pass by ship through tempest-tossed waves
Racing gladly through the gales on wintry water.
For love of you, would I press more strongly through shifting tides;
What sailors dread would never make me quake. (110)
If the wave broke the keel in the perilous waters,
I would still seek you rowing on the surface of the sea.
If by unlucky chance, the planks refused to bear me,
I would come to you exhausted from swimming.
At sight of you, I would deny the journey's perils
For that would sweetly take the sorrow from the wreck.
Yes, if fate had ripped from me at last my doleful life,
I would have you bear me to a sandy tomb.
I would come to you a sightless corpse if your pious eyes
Would turn at last to carry out my funeral rites. (120)
Surely you, who spurn my living tears, would weep at my burial.
Surely you, who deny me a word now, would make my plaint.
Oh, kinsman, why do I shun memories and delay my lament?
Oh deepest grief, why are you silent about my murdered brother?
How could the innocent have fallen into the wicked ambush,
Or was he ripped from the world by men of a hostile faith?
Thinking of him in the grave, all my tears well up again,
And I suffer again, and still speak tearfully.
While longing for you, he is eager to seek out your face
But his love is ungratified while mine thwarts it. (130)
He who never gave me a hard word, took all hurt to himself,
That he feared to give hurt has become the cause of sorrow.
The youth was struck down while in his first downy beard,
Nor did I, his absent sister, attend the dire funeral.
I lost him and could not even close his pious eyes
Nor lie across the corpse in final farewell,
My hot tears could not warm his freezing bowels.
I placed no kiss upon the dying flesh,
No embrace in my misery. I could not hang weeping on his neck
Nor sighing, warm the unlucky corpse in my bosom. (140)
Life was denied; how should I snatch the fleeting breath
From the mouth of the brother to the sister?
I might have sent the fringes I made while he lived to his bier.
Couldn't my love at least adorn the lifeless shell?
Brother, I salute you, and stand accused of this impiety:
You only died because of me and I gave you no sepulchre.
Twice am I captive who only left my country once,
Having endured again the enemy while my brother lay fallen.
Then, father and mother, uncle and kindred,
This grief recalls them whom I should mourn in the tomb. (150)
After my brother's burial, no day passed without tears;
He bore my joy away with him to the land of the shades.
Oh, how can the sweet royal kindred end in such misery,
The whole blood line from which he sprang?
I should have endured this evil, not bring it to my lips at present
Nor be soliciting your comfort for my wounds.
Oh kindly kinsman, I beseech, send me a letter now,
Sooth my raging fever with a friendly word.
This care for you is likewise from me to your sisters
Whom I recall with cousinly love in my heart. (160)
I cannot embrace the limbs of the kin whom I love
Nor, like a sister, kiss each eye greedily.
If, as I hope, they remain alive, I ask you to salute them
In greeting and send sweet kisses to me.
I pray that you may commend me to the kings of the Franks
Who piously honor me as a mother.
Health-giving breath and long life to you
And may your offices renew my well-being.
Christ hear my prayer: may this page find out my loved ones
And may a letter come back with sweet painted messages. (170)
That my long delayed hopes after such suffering
Will swiftly be fulfilled when your course is run.