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!

May he like iron be rusted, and his stock dwindle alway!’ ”
 And thereupon brave Stevan on the bolster soft he lay.
Váistina the henchman, he sitteth him down to dine,
And at his good lord’s table he hath his fill of the wine,
And he goeth to look at the open sky because of his lord’s behest,
To see if the day-star stand in the east, or the clear moon in the west.
And he seeth it is the season for them to gird and go
Unto Tsar Lazar’s meeting place in the field of Kósovo.
He went unto the stables and led the horses forth;
He saddled the steeds, and on them set caparisons of worth,
One for himself, and the other is for his lord that tide.
And he bringeth a flag from the palace, with a great cross glorified;
Silk is the flag and golden are the crosses wrought thereon,
And the icon of Stevan’s patron, the icon of St. John.
He set the banner against the wall, and went unto the tower
To wake his lord, but his lady came to him in that hour,
And she greeted and embraced him:

“Brother in God,” said she,
“My servant Váistina, by God I conjure thee,
And by St. John moreover. A faithful knave art thou,
Henceforth shalt thou be my brother; but awake not thy master now,
Since an evil dream of a flock of doves this night is come to me.
With falcons twain from my lord his place to Kósovo did they flee;
Amid the camp of Murad they lighted nor came again:
That is your omen, brother. So ponder lest you be slain.”
 But the servant Váistina, unto the dame said he:
 “Sister, I cannot break my faith with the lord of thee and me,
For thou wast not at the swearing, nor knowest what curse 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!
May he like iron be rusted, and his stock dwindle away!’

“And I dare not break my plighted faith to thy lord and mine this day.”
 And he went to his lord in the tower: “Rise up, it is time to go!”
Stevan stood up before him, and washed his neck and brow,
And put on lordly raiment and an inlaid saber fine;
To the fair glory of his God he drank the yellow wine,
And to his own good journey and the fair cross did he drain
The wine at his own table: he drank not there again.
 They mounted the two good chargers, they spread the banners abroad;
The drums beat and the flutes blew loud, and the chiefs rode forth with God.
Over the field of Kósovo did the white morning stand;
The Maid of Kósovo met them with a cup in either hand.
The cups are golden and empty. On her arm is a tire for the head,
A cap with milk-white feathers that are wound with silver thread,
And all about the midst thereof is it wrought with golden braid,
And a row of pearls, moreover. Unto her Stevan said:
 “God’s aid be with thee, my sister! And where hast thou seen the fight?

Where found’st thou the cap? Give unto me the silken cap so white,
That I may find whose is the cap, what marshal’s it may be,
And be lucky upon my journey. And I will keep faith with thee.”
 Answered the Maid of Kósovo:
“Thou lord of kingly mien,
My mother roused me at daybreak; at no fight have I been.
I would draw water in Sítnitsa. He had overflowed his banks;
And, brother, he beareth the horses and the heroes in their ranks,
And turbans, and Turkish fezes, and the Serb caps white as milk.
I plunged into the Sítnitsa, and seized the cap of silk,
And I bear to my little brother the fair cap silken and white,
For I am young, and the feathers are pleasant in my sight.”
 She gave the cap to the marshal; I wot he knew it well!
He smote himself, and the sad tears down from his cheeks they fell.
The golden buckle on his sleeve rent the satin on his knee:
“Grief unto God! The prince’s curse hath fallen upon me!”

He gave her the cap, and royally out of his pouch he told
In the hand of the Maid of Kósovo three ducats of yellow gold:
 “Take, sister! I go to Kósovo and the battle on the plain.
By Christ, I will give thee a better gift, if I come back again!
But if I die in the fight thereby, aye keep my gift in mind.”
 They spurred the steeds and hard away they galloped like the wind;
They forded the flood of Sítnitsa, to the tsar’s camp they drew.
Three Turkish pashas Stevan smote down and overthrew;
Against the fourth was he storming, but the Turks o’erwhelmed him then.
With him died Váistina and twelve thousand of his men.
There did the folly of the Serbs make as of nothing worth
The glory of Tsar Lazar and the Kingdom of the Earth.