The Death of Marko Krályevich
Heroic Ballads of Serbia
George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon
Prince Marko rose up early on Sunday before the sun,
On Mount Úrvina by the seacoast. And as he rode thereon,
Dapple the stallion staggered sore; from his eyes ran bitter tears.
Marko it grieved. He spake to the steed:
“A hundred and sixty years,
Dapple, my gallant stallion, are gone since I came on thee.
Never hast thou staggered; yet to-day hast thou staggered under me,
And thou sheddest tears. God knoweth there is no good from the sign:
The one of us is in danger; thy life it is or mine.”
While Marko spake, a vila on Úrvina’s steep side
In summons to Prince Marko lifted her voice and cried:
“Knowest thou, Marko, my brother sworn, why stumbles Dapple, thine horse?
He sorrows for thee, his master, since soon will ye part perforce.”
Said Marko to the vila:
“May thy throat ache for this!
How should I part with Dapple? Cities and emperies
Have I not passed over and traversed, from the east unto the west?
And Dapple, my steed, was ever of all good steeds the best;
And I was the best of the heroes. He shall not from me be led,
While upon Marko’s shoulders remaineth Marko’s head.”
Said the vila:
“Marko, my brother sworn, none shall take Dapple so.
Neither shalt thou die at a hero’s hands by any saber blow,
Nor by the shock of the heavy mace, nor piercing of the spear;
For any hero of the earth, Prince Marko, have no fear.
But Marko, God shall slay thee, the ancient slayer of men.
If thou wilt not believe me, go up to the mountain then.
Aloft shalt thou see two slender firs on the left and on the right;
They have overhung the mountain with the summits of their might.
And all the air is spicy with their fair needles green;
And there runneth a spring of water the slender trees between.
There turn and dismount from Dapple; to a tree the steed shalt thou tie.
Raise thyself over the water-spring that bubbles up hard by,
And look at thy face in the water. Thou shalt see when thou shalt die.”
Marko obeyed. Aloft he looked on the left and on the right
At the firs that overhung the mount with the summits of their might,
And all the air was spicy with the fair needles green.
There Marko halted Dapple in a little space between,
And to a fir tree in the midst the charger did he tie.
He raised himself o’er the water-spring that bubbled up hard by;
And when Marko looked on the water, he saw when he should die.
He wept apace and spake apace:
“Ah, lying world, fair flower—
Fair wast thou and too little have I roamed thee in my hour,
Three hundred years; and now must part from thy pleasure and thy power!”
From his girdle the Prince Marko drew out the iron glaive,
And he went to the steed Dapple, and Dapple’s neck he clave,
That Dapple might come never to a Turk, a prize of war,
And do him bitter service bearing water in the jar.
When he had slaughtered Dapple, he buried Dapple the steed;
A better grave the horse he gave than to Andrew, his brother, indeed.
The mighty glaive, thereafter, he broke in pieces four,
Lest it should come into Turkish hands, and the Turks should be glad therefor,
And rejoice for the sword of Marko to their hand that had fallen then;
And lest, moreover, he should be curst by any Christian men.
When he had broken the saber, in seven the spear broke he,
And threw it among the fir twigs. The rough mace mightily
He grasped, and from Úrvina hurled it into the thick blue sea;
And Marko said: “When that club of mine ariseth out of the main,
Then will there be a hero upon the earth again.”
When he had ruined his weapons, then pen and ink he drew
From his belt, and from his pocket white paper fresh and new.
And he writes a letter:
“Whoever over Ùrvina shall fare
To the cold spring between the firs, and finds brave Marko there,
Let him know forthwith that perished at last is Marko the bold.
About him are three money-belts. What treasure do they hold?
Therein is a lordly treasure of ducats of yellow gold.
One belt will I give with my blessing to him who buries me;
With the second belt let churches be sculptured splendidly;
And the third belt I bequeath it to the maimed and to the blind,
That they may sing of Marko and his fame be kept in mind.”
When the letter was written, he thrust it upon a twig of the fir,
Whence from the road it might be seen by any wayfarer.
The golden writing-set therewith into the spring he threw,
And his good mantle of the green from off his shoulders drew.
He spread the mantle beneath the fir, and the sign of the cross made then;
He pulled the sables over his eyes, and lay there, nor rose again.
Dead was Marko beside the spring. For a week, from day to day,
Whoever saw Prince Marko that traveled along that way,
Deemed that the good Prince Marko asleep was lying there;
And, fearing to awake him, a long way round would they fare.
Where’er is found good fortune, misfortune cometh apace,
And wherever evil hap is found, good cometh soon in the place.
Abbot Basil of Athos from the church Vilíndar the white,
He it was spied Prince Marko, with Isaias his acolyte.
He held his hand: “Lightly, my son, see that thou wake him not.
After sleep is Marko moody; he may kill us on the spot.”
But the monk saw how Marko slept. The letter he espied,
And he read throughout the letter that told how Marko died.
The monk dismounted from the steed, and raised up Marko the bold.
Marko was dead. The bitter tears down Basil’s cheek they rolled,
And he sorrowed sore for Marko. The belts of golden pelf
He ungirded from the hero, and belted on himself.
On many a grave he pondered, where to bury Marko dead.
He chose; and got him on the horse, and to the seashore sped.
In a ship he laid Prince Marko. And to Athos the Holy Height
He bore him, to Vilíndar, the stately and the white,
And there the funeral liturgy over the prince he read
And likewise sang the requiem before they graved the dead.
There the old man buried Marko. No mark he placed him o’er,
That none might say where the hero lay, and mock at him therefore.