The Head of Tsar Lazar
Heroic Ballads of Serbia
George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon
When the Turks smote off Tsar Lazar’s head in Kósovo, the fair,
No Serb came forth to find it, but a young Turk found it there;
He was a Turk that a Serbian slave to a Moslem master bore.
And the young soldier thereupon he spoke his friends before:
“Brethren, most shameful would it be before God who is One,
That this lord’s head should the eagles tear, and the steeds trample thereon,
And the legions of the heroes.”
In the skirt of his spotted cloak
He bore Saint Lazar’s head where forth a spring of water broke.
Into the spring of water he lowered the holy head,
And there it lay in the cool spring till forty years were sped.
But the fair body at Kósovo, that was so white and wan,
The eagles did not tear it, nor the steeds trample thereon,
Nor the legions of the heroes.
Now praise to the Lord God’s might!
There were young carters that went forth from the town of Skupi the white;
To Nissa and to Vidin had they set out to go
With Greeks and Bulgars; and they camped one night at Kósovo.
The carters ate their dinner, and thirsty they became;
And the candle of their lantern they lighted at the flame;
Over Kósovo up and down a water-spring they sought,
And them their fortune at that hour to the spring of water brought.
One of them spake: “A shining moon behold in the water fair!”
And the second answered: “Brother, no shining moon is there.”
The third was silent and nothing said, but he turned his eyes abroad
To the east, and called on Saint Nicholas, and on the very God:
“O God and Father Nicholas, succor me now!” he said,
And he stepped into the spring therewith, and forth he drew the head
Of Lazar the Saint of Serbia, and threw it on the grass;
Then he drank the water in a cup, for a thirsty man he was.
Before the thirsty lads had drunk, they looked where the head had been
On the black earth, but no head at all on the green grass was seen.
Forth went the sacred head alone, on the way across the plain,
Till it came to the holy body and was one with it again.
And when was risen the morning that broke so free and fair,
To the priests their tidings the carters bore, and many priests came there.
There were full three hundred ancient priests and twelve great bishops more,
And likewise at that season there came the patriarchs four;
In Pech (1) the one was ruler, and one of Tsárigrad, (2)
One in Jerusalem, and the last the earth for his province had.
And they put on the sacred robes with monks’ hats for the head,
And with them took the holy book, and mighty prayers they said.
And three days that great vigil and three nights did they keep;
They sat not down, nor rested, nor laid them down to sleep,
But aye they prayed Saint Lazar, that he would grant them to know
What church he loved: Would he rest in Krushédol or Ópovo,
Beshénovo, or Yasak, or perchance he fain would lie
In Shíshatovats or Rákovats, Kuvézhdin, or Jifsha thereby,
Or haply in Macedonia? He will have no churching there;
He will go to the church that he founded, Ravánitsa, the fair.
Under Kuchay he stablished it, the mountain sheer and dread;
He built it here among us with his treasure and his bread;
And because of it no wretched tears by the fatherless were shed.
(2) The tsar’s city, Constantinople.