Prince Marko and the Sword of Vukáshin
Heroic Ballads of Serbia
George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon
The sultan with an army is come to Kósovo;
An hundred thousand men had he where Sítnitsa doth flow.
With a saber of Damascus his herald goeth forth,
And full three hundred ducats the naked blade is worth;
And likewise was the scabbard worth ducats fifteen score,
And the cost of the cord of the scabbard three hundred ducats more.
No one was found for money to buy that scimitar,
But chance brought the Prince Marko on the herald of the tsar.
Said Marko: “The Damascus blade, thou herald, show to me.”
The herald heard and gave over the blade, but not a word said he.
Marko said to the herald, as he looked on the saber cold:
“Forty-five score of ducats will I give thee of yellow gold;
But harken, herald, let us go to some safe place hereabout,
That I may count before thee the yellow ducats out,
For I would not ungird me of the three gold belts this tide,
Since I am much in the Turkish debt in the camp on every side,
And I deem that for the saber they will not let me pay.”
The Turk would hardly await him, and hastened on the way,
And along the water of Sítnitsa they speedily are gone.
Prince Marko there ungirded him ’neath the white bridge of stone;
He spread a mantle of the green, he took the belts of gold,
And out he shook the golden belts while the Turk the ducats told.
Marko looked on the saber, and saw thereon displayed
Three Christian words engraven upon the shining blade;
And first “The Saint Demetrius,” and next “The Archangel” came,
And last of all upon the blade stood King Vukáshin’s name.
Marko saw and forthwith spake:
“O herald of the tsar,
By the one God I adjure thee; whence came the scimitar?
Was it left by thy father? Did thy wife bring it to thee?
Or was it won in battle, perchance, from an enemy?”
The Turk spake unto Marko:
“By God, thou chief unknown,
Unto thee now the inward of this matter will I own.
It was not left by my father, my wife brought it not to me;
But, chief unknown, I won it from a single enemy.
When with the Serbian empire fell both tsars at Kósovo,
Murad and Lazar, then I won the saber from the foe.
Early to water my fat steed to Sítnitsa I went,
And there my fortune brought me to a green silken tent.
Within was a wounded warrior most fierce—God strike him dead!—
The black beard of his lip that tide over his breast it spread.
He wore a great green mantle, and by him lay the sword.
When the wounded one beheld me, by God he me implored:
“ ‘Brother, thou champion unknown, now smite not off mine head;
Soon will my soul go from me, for my wounds are deep and dread.
Wait half an hour; by Sítnitsa there shalt thou set my grave.
Three belts of gold are on me, and a Damascus glaive
That is worth a thousand ducats, and here is my silken tent.’
“But I would not harken his prayer, and out with him I went,
Dragging the wounded hero. My saber then I drew,
And cut off his head; his leg I grasped, and his arm, and straightway threw
The hero into Sítnitsa, where swiftly the waters run.
There with the marvelous booty this saber for thee I won.”
When the Prince Marko heard it, to the herald did he say:
“O herald of the Turkish tsar, may God reward thee this day!
That was my own dear father, even Vukáshin, the king.
Hadst thou waited his soul’s departure, it had been a better thing,
And thou, O Turkish herald, wouldst have had a better grave.”
He drew, and cut the Turk’s head off with the Damascus glaive.
He grasped the milk-white hand and leg, and in Sítnitsa he threw
The herald of the tsar and said: “Go thou my father unto!”
To the army Marko wended with the gold and the scimitar;
Said the janissaries: “Prithee, where is the herald of the tsar?”
But to them said Marko: “I pray you, janissaries, begone!
He took his ducats and pennies to the sea to trade thereon.”
Said the Turks one to the other: “Hard must the Moslem strive,
Who cometh to Prince Marko a bargain with him to drive!”