How Starína Novak Became a Hayduk
Heroic Ballads of Serbia
George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon
Novak and Rado drank the wine near Bosna the river cold,
With Bógosav. When they had drunk as much as they could hold,
Prince Bogosav began to speak:
“Starína Novak,” said he,
“My brother sworn, now speak the truth, so may God prosper thee!
Why didst thou join the outlaws? What constraint on thee was laid
To go to the wood to break thy neck, and to ply a wretched trade?
And in thine age, moreover, when thy season was past and sped?”
Starína Novak spake to him:
“Prince Bógosav,” he said,
“My brother sworn, since thou askest me, I will even tell thee the truth;
But it was through a hard constraint that I fled, in very sooth.
Thou mayst remember, when Yérina did Sméderevo rear,
She made me a day laborer. I labored there three year.
Wood and stone did I haul for her with my oxen and my wain,
And in the space of full three years not a penny did I gain;
Not even bark sandals for my feet could I win my labor by.
And that I should have pardoned her. When the town was builded high,
She would build towers and gild the doors and windows of the hold.
Each house in the vilayet she taxed three measures of gold,
That is three hundred ducats. Who gave, in the place might live;
But I was poverty-stricken, and had no gold to give.
With the mattock, wherewith I had labored, to the outlaws I fled amain.
I could not stay where Yérina, the accursèd one, did reign,
But ran to the cold Drina, and to rocky Bosnia fled.
When I came near Romániya, there Turkish wooers led
A Turkish damsel homeward. In peace they passed by me.
There remained the Turkish bridegroom; on a great brown steed was he.
In peace that Turkish bridegroom he would not let me pass,
But forth he drew a triple whip with three knobs of yellow brass.
Thrice he smote me on the shoulders. Thrice I prayed him in God’s name:
“ ‘I pray thee, Turkish bridegroom, mayst thou have courage and fame!
Mayst thou have a happy marriage, but pass me by in peace!
Thou seest how poor a man am I.’
“But the bridegroom would not cease;
But rather in his anger began to smite the more.
Then at last was I angry, for my shoulders were waxen sore.
With the mattock on my shoulder, the bridegroom did I smite
With one blow from the brown steed’s back, though the stroke was passing light.
And then I leaped upon him, and smote him where he lay,
Twice or thrice, till his spirit from the body fled away.
I reached my hand in his pockets, and there found purses three;
I put them in my bosom, and girt his saber on me.
I left the mattock at his head that the Turks might have withal
Something to bury him with; the steed I mounted, brown and tall.
To the wood of Romániya I went; the wooers saw me there;
But wished not to pursue me, or haply did not dare.
“It is forly year. The forest is better known to me
Than the house of my habitation was ever wont to be.
The roads across the mountains I watch them and I hold.
From the youths of Sárayevo I take their silver and gold,
And their linen and velvet for me and mine; and I can go abroad
And stand in the place of danger, for I fear none but God.”