The Death of the Mother of the Yúgovichi
Heroic Ballads of Serbia
George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon
Dear God, a mighty marvel is fallen at Kósovo!
In the host were Yug’s nine children and their father the tenth also.
The mother of Yug’s children she prayed God in her pain
For the eyes of a hawk and a swan’s white wing to fly along the plain,
To see her nine strong children and Yug her lord beside.
And what she prayed for, verily, God granted her that tide.
God gave her eagle eyesight and the swan’s pinion white,
And she found low in Kósovo her children slain in fight,
And old Yug Bogdan with them, and beside them nine good spears,
And on the goodly spearshafts there perched nine falcons fierce;
Roaming about the lances the chargers nine did stray;
Amid them were nine lions. And the steeds began to neigh,
And the lions roared together, and the falcons screamed aloud;
But the proud heart of the mother I wot it was unbowed.
But the lions and the horses she took them by the brows,
And the good falcons with them, and brought them to the house.
The wives of her strong children afar they saw her come,
And calling like to cuckoos went out to lead her home.
Moaning before the neighing steeds and the loud beasts thereby
Wept the nine noble ladies, and the hawks took up their cry.
Yet wept not that stern mother, and her heart was undismayed,
About the middle of the night the steed of Damyan neighed.
Then spake the mother to Damyan’s wife:
“My daughter, what is this?
And wherefore neighs in the nighttide that dappled steed of his?
Is he hungry for the milk-white wheat? Doth he thirst for Zvechan’s wave?”
And the fair wife of Damyan in this wise answer gave:
“My mother, Damyan’s mother, no wheat the steed doth crave,
Nor in the darkened nighttime doth he thirst for Zvechan’s wave;
But aye hath Damyan taught him, and bidden him abide
To champ his oats till midnight, thereafter forth to ride.
Now he sorrows that his master mounts not his back this tide.”
Yet wept not that stern mother, and her heart was undismayed.
That morn flew by two ravens, unto the shoulders red,
Upon the blackness of their beaks the milk-white froth it shone;
And they bare the hand of a hero and a golden ring thereon.
In the bosom of the mother, the dead hand they let fall;
And unto her daughter, Damyan’s wife, in a loud voice did she call:
“My daughter, wife of Damyan, what hero’s hand is this?”
And the daughter made her answer: “Our Damyan’s hand it is;
Shall I not know the ring I gave the day that we were wed?”
The mother lifted the hero’s hand, and fondled it, and said:
“O hand, who plucked thee off, and where apple-like didst thou grow?
Thou grewest in my bosom; thou wast plucked in Kósovo.”
Then swelled her heart within her, and her soul was rent in twain
For her children and their father that at Kósovo were slain.