Prince Marko and the Daughter of the Moorish King
Heroic Ballads of Serbia
George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon
His mother asks Prince Marko:
“Marko, my little son,
So many monasteries wherefore hast thou begun?
Hast thou sinned before God? Or by good hap hast thou won the gold abroad?”
Marko of Prilip answered:
“I will tell in the name of God.
Once, when I was in the Moorish land, at dawn to a cistern fair
I went, that Dapple might drink thereof; and behold, at the water there,
Were twelve Moors. Out of my due time I wished to water the steed;
The twelve Moors would not let me, and a battle did we breed.
Thereat I drew the heavy mace, and smote a black Moor down.
We smote against each other, eleven against one.
Two I smote down, and ten of them came furiously at me.
Then nine of them must I abide, for I had stricken three.
The fourth fell; eight were the champions against me that did drive.
But I struck again; on the red ground lay ruddy corpses five.
I slew the sixth, but was taken by the six that were left alive.
They bound me, and they bore me to the Moorish king along;
And the king of the Moors threw me into the dungeon strong.
Seven years was I in it: when summer was at hand
I knew not, nor when winter had come across the land;
Except that, when in winter the girls the snowballs cast,
Then would they toss a snowball into the dungeon fast;
And then I knew it was winter, as I lay within the tower.
In the summer, they would throw me a sprig of basil flower,
And I knew it was summer. The eighth year in prison that I was,
I wearied not of prison, but of a Moorish lass.
Unto the Moorish Sultan the daughter dear was she;
Night and morn to the window of the tower she summoned me:
“ ‘Marko, poor lad, in the dungeon I prithee rot not here,
But give true pledge thou wilt take me to be thy true love dear,
If I free thee from the dungeon, and thy Dapple from the hold.
Marko, unto thy heart’s desire will I gather ducats of gold.’
“When I saw that might was against me, and strength compelling me,
I took my cap from off my head, and swore to it on my knee,
A firm pledge to the cap I swore:
‘Thee I will never leave;
A firm pledge, and moreover, ne’er will I thee deceive.
E’en the sun is false; he warms not winter as summertide—
Never will I renounce the pledge; thereby will I abide.’
“Then thought the Moorish maiden that unto her I swore.
One night, at fall of darkness, she opened the dungeon door
And led me out of the dungeon, and Dapple from the hold,
And a better horse for herself. On both were holsters full of gold;
She brought a silver-hilted sword. On the horses we laid hand,
And forthwith galloped onward over the Moorish land.
When the dawn shone, my mother, I sat me down to rest;
And the Moorish maid, with her black arms she clasped me to her breast.
When I looked on her, my mother, she was black and her teeth were white,
And it was a thing unpleasing and dreadful in my sight.
The silver-hilted saber forth from the sheath I drew;
I smote her under her silken belt; the blade cut through and through.
I seized on Dapple; still the head of the Moorish maid spake on:
‘My brother Marko, wretched lad, leave me not here alone.’
Then, mother, I sinned in the sight of God, but gained much gold and gear,
Whereby the monasteries and churches fair I rear.”