The Head of Tsar Lazar

The Head of Tsar Lazar

Heroic Ballads of Serbia

translated by

George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon

When the Turks smote off Tsar Lazar’s head in Kósovo, the fair,
No Serb came forth to find it, but a young Turk found it there;
He was a Turk that a Serbian slave to a Moslem master bore.
And the young soldier thereupon he spoke his friends before:
“Brethren, most shameful would it be before God who is One,
That this lord’s head should the eagles tear, and the steeds trample thereon,
And the legions of the heroes.”
In the skirt of his spotted cloak
He bore Saint Lazar’s head where forth a spring of water broke.
Into the spring of water he lowered the holy head,
And there it lay in the cool spring till forty years were sped.
But the fair body at Kósovo, that was so white and wan,
The eagles did not tear it, nor the steeds trample thereon,
Nor the legions of the heroes.
Now praise to the Lord God’s might!
There were young carters that went forth from the town of Skupi the white;
To Nissa and to Vidin had they set out to go

The Maid of Kósovo

The Maid of Kósovo

Heroic Ballads of Serbia

translated by

George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon

Up rose the Maid of Kósovo before the break of day,
On a Sunday morn, ere the bright sun had risen on his way.
Unto her milk-white elbows she drew the white sleeves up;
She bore three loaves in a basket, and in either hand a cup;
Two beakers very beautiful, of hammered gold and fine;
The one held silver water, and the other ruddy wine.
She came to level Kósovo in pity and in ruth,
And weeping walked along the place of the battle of the youth,
The places of the slaughter, where the good Tsar Lazar stood;
And with her hands she lifted up the heroes in their blood.
The gallant lads she found alive, she washed with water fine.
She gave them of the milk-white loaves, and cheered them with ruddy wine.
To Pavle Órlovich she came, the ensign of his lord:
As yet he was alive, although sore smitten by the sword;
But by a shred of flesh his arm at the red shoulder hung,
And the wound showed his shattered rib and the white ghastly lung.

Tsáritsa Mílitsa and Vládeta the Voývoda

Tsáritsa Mílitsa and Vládeta the Voývoda

Heroic Ballads of Serbia

translated by

George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon

Mílitsa the tsáritsa went walking up and down
Below the wall of Krúshevats and the ramp of the white town,
And also Vúkosava and Mara, her daughters dear,
When Vládeta, the voývoda, on a charger brown drew near.
Sweated that steed had been, indeed, and the white foam stained his side.
 “God aid thee, marshal of the king!” Queen Mílitsa she cried;
“Why sweats the stallion? Hast thou not come from Kósovo this day?
Sawest thou not my lord and thine?”
And Vládeta did say:
 “God aid me, Tsáritsa Mílitsa! I come from Kósovo.
I saw not the tsar, but his white steed the Turks drove to and fro,
Up and down by Kósovo, and I dread that the tsar is slain.”
 When Queen Mílitsa had heard it, on her cheeks the tears did rain,
And anew she asketh the voývoda:
“What tidings of the tsar?
Sawest thou Yug’s nine children at Kósovo that are;

The Death of the Mother of the Yúgovichi

The Death of the Mother of the Yúgovichi

Heroic Ballads of Serbia

translated by

George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon

Dear God, a mighty marvel is fallen at Kósovo!
In the host were Yug’s nine children and their father the tenth also.
The mother of Yug’s children she prayed God in her pain
For the eyes of a hawk and a swan’s white wing to fly along the plain,
To see her nine strong children and Yug her lord beside.
And what she prayed for, verily, God granted her that tide.
God gave her eagle eyesight and the swan’s pinion white,
And she found low in Kósovo her children slain in fight,
And old Yug Bogdan with them, and beside them nine good spears,
And on the goodly spearshafts there perched nine falcons fierce;
Roaming about the lances the chargers nine did stray;
Amid them were nine lions. And the steeds began to neigh,
And the lions roared together, and the falcons screamed aloud;
But the proud heart of the mother I wot it was unbowed.
 But the lions and the horses she took them by the brows,

Musich Stevan

Musich Stevan

Heroic Ballads of Serbia

translated by

George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon

In Maydan white as silver, in his fair lordly house,
Idle sits Musich Stevan, on the good wine to carouse.
The servant Váistina poured it forth his thirst to slake,
And Stevan drank his fill thereof, and to the henchman spake:
 “My good son Váistina, I will lie down to sleep.
Do thou then eat thy dinner, and of the wine drink deep,
And then look forth on the open sky because of my behest,
To see if the day-star stand in the east, or the clear moon in the west;
To see if the time be come at last for us to gird and go
To the meeting place that the tsar hath set on the field of Kósovo.
Thou knowest the oath we took, my son, and the curse that then was laid
On the voývoda or henchman that Tsar Lazarus betrayed:
 “ ‘Who springeth of a Serbian house, in whom Serb blood doth run,
Who cometh not to battle at Kósovo, may he never have a son,
And no child of his heart whatever! May naught grow under his hand,
Neither the yellow liquor, nor the white wheat in the land!

How Milosh Obilich Slew the Sultan Murad

How Milosh Obilich Slew the Sultan Murad

Heroic Ballads of Serbia

translated by

George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon

Tsar Murad sat beneath his tent with the pashas of his power
And his viziers, and counsel took what way to smite the Giaour
And win with least disaster; when lo there came from afar
The vizier Osman running to claim reward of the tsar.
He kissed the hand and the garment, himself to the earth he bowed,
And thus to Murad, the Turkish tsar, the vizier spake aloud:
 “Murad, the Sun of all the East, holy Mahomet’s heir!
Rejoice! the Serbian empire thou hast conquered everywhere!
Here come three Serbian voývodas that have chiefly made us fear;
They come hither to surrender, for down have they turned the spear.”
 It pleased the Sultan Murad; it was pleasant in his ears;
Woes plagued him not. He spake unto the pashas and viziers:
 “Brave pashas, glorious viziers, my captains of command,
Shall I reach to the Wallachians my foot or my white hand?”

The Battle of Kósovo

The Battle of Kósovo

Heroic Ballads of Serbia

translated by

George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon


A gray hawk from Jerusalem, with a swallow in his beak,
Flew onward into Serbia, Tsar Lazarus to seek,
Nay, it was never a great gray hawk with a swallow that flew so far,
But Elijah, our Lady’s messenger, with her tidings to the tsar.
Tsar Lazar read the letter:
“O king whom the Serbs revere,
Wilt thou choose for thine own the Kingdom of God or an earthly empire here?
For if, instead of a heavenly rule, thou choosest an earthly realm,
Leap astride of the steed this tide and do on hauberk and helm;
Belt about thee the girdle of war and look to saber and dirk,
Tighten at need the girth of the steed—and here shalt thou slaughter the Turk.
But if thou choosest the Empire of Christ, and a kingdom of God’s own,
Build him a church by Kósovo, but not of marble stone;
But found it on silk and satin and its corners in scarlet fine.
Therein shall thine armies take of Christ the white bread and the wine.
Thou shalt marshal the army of the Serbs, and upon that dreadful day

Fragments of Kósovo Ballads

Fragments of Kósovo Ballads

Heroic Ballads of Serbia

translated by

George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon


I
Murad the tsar hath come in war down upon Kósovo;
He sent a letter to Krúshevats that the tsar his will might know:
“Ho, Lazar, lord of Serbia, with sense it scarce accords,
That there should be one empery ’neath the power of two lords,
One rayah that pays double tax! We cannot both rule here!
So render me up your city keys and the taxes for seven year.
But if thou wilt not send them, abide at Kósovo,
That to our hand we may sunder the land with a keen saber blow.”
When the fine-written letter Tsar Lazarus had read,
He looked upon the letter and bitter tears he shed.

Tsar Lazar and Tsáritsa Mílitsa

Tsar Lazar and Tsáritsa Mílitsa

Heroic Ballads of Serbia

translated by

George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon

Tsar Lazar sat at dinner; and with him at the wine
Sat Mílitsa, the Tsáritsa, beside her lord to dine.
Unto her lord said Mílitsa:
“O Serbia’s king and crown,
To-morrow unto Kósovo the army goeth down,
Thy voývodas and captains. No man thou leavest at home
With a letter to go to Kósovo and hither again to come.
Thou leadest my nine brethren, Yug Bogdan’s children nine.—
Leave me one brother of them all to cheer this heart of mine.”
To her spake Lazar of the Serbs: “Which wilt thou have with thee
In the palace?” And she made answer: “Let Boshko stay with me.”
Then spake Tsar Lazar:
“Lady, to-morrow, when day comes on,
And the white dawn breaketh, and the world is warmed of the great sun,
And they open the gates of the city, go thou unto the arch,
Wherethrough unto the muster my hosts begin to march.
The spears shine over the chargers: before them will Boshko ride,

Ban Strahin

Ban Strahin

Heroic Ballads of Serbia

translated by

George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon

Strahin was ban of Banska that by Kósovo doth stand;
And such another falcon there is not in the land.
He rose up in the morning:
“Ho, all my knaves, give heed!
Get ye down to the stables and saddle me my steed.
Deck him out fair and seemly, and gird him with the girth;
For hark and hear me, gallants, I go roving o’er the earth.
Weary shall be the milk-white steed, before I shall alight
Where dwell my wife’s good kindred in Krúshevats the white—
Her brave old father Yug Bogdan and her good brothers nine,
Her gallant kin shall take me in and cheer me with the wine.”
Then forthwith all the servants unto the ban gave heed,
And from the lordly stable led the white falcon steed.
And then the brave Ban Strahin himself the steed arrayed;
He set on him a saddle of velvet and brocade,
Redder than sunset water, more shining than the sun!