The Maid of Kósovo

The Maid of Kósovo

Heroic Ballads of Serbia

translated by

George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon

Up rose the Maid of Kósovo before the break of day,
On a Sunday morn, ere the bright sun had risen on his way.
Unto her milk-white elbows she drew the white sleeves up;
She bore three loaves in a basket, and in either hand a cup;
Two beakers very beautiful, of hammered gold and fine;
The one held silver water, and the other ruddy wine.
She came to level Kósovo in pity and in ruth,
And weeping walked along the place of the battle of the youth,
The places of the slaughter, where the good Tsar Lazar stood;
And with her hands she lifted up the heroes in their blood.
The gallant lads she found alive, she washed with water fine.
She gave them of the milk-white loaves, and cheered them with ruddy wine.
To Pavle Órlovich she came, the ensign of his lord:
As yet he was alive, although sore smitten by the sword;
But by a shred of flesh his arm at the red shoulder hung,
And the wound showed his shattered rib and the white ghastly lung.

She moved him from the pool of blood, she washed him with water fine;
She gave him of the milk-white loaves and of the ruddy wine.
Gasping for breath he leaned to her, and tremblingly he said:
 “My sister, wherefore turnest thou the bodies of the dead?
What hard doom is upon thee, thou Maid of Kósovo,
That thou liftest up the heroes whose crests are fallen low?
Seekest thou then for some young man, whose last good day is done?
For thy father, or thy brother, or thy dear brother’s son?”
 Answered the Maid of Kósovo:
“O champion unknown!
I seek not father, nor nephew, nor a brother of mine own.
Knowest thou, O my brother, how the good Tsar Lazar went
With the squadrons of the army to take the sacrament?
By the fair church in Samodrezha the thirty mass-priests stood
For three weeks, with the offering of Christ his flesh and blood.
Thereby there came three captains, that to communion passed,

Milosh and Ivan Kósanchich, and Milan Tóplitsa last.
Milosh, the hero of the earth, through the gate before me strode;
The clanking saber at his side rattled along the road;
His silver plume flashed on his cap, of silk was his raiment fair;
His scarf and his spotted mantle, likewise of silk they were.
And forth and round about him his eyes went wanderingly,
Glancing in pride from side to side, until they fell on me.
He doffed the spotted mantle; aloud to me did he cry:
 “ ‘Take now the spotted mantle, to remember me thereby.
Lo, I go to perish, dearest, in the leaguer of the tsar!
Pray for me, now, belovèd, that I ride back from the war,
Returning from the battle with a great victory home.
Pray now for me, belovèd, that the good hap may come.
To Milan, my brother sworn to me by God and by St. John,
I will give thee to plight thy troth, when the good morn comes on;
To my brother, my sworn comrade, of the living and the dead,

For I shall be his groomsman whene’er he shall be wed.’
 “After him Ivan, the hero of the earth, before me strode;
The clanking saber at his side rattled along the road;
His silver plume flashed on his cap, of silk was his raiment fair;
His scarf and his spotted mantle, likewise of silk they were.
On his hand he wore a golden ring, and his eyes went wanderingly,
Glancing in pride from side to side, until they fell on me.
He took the ring from his finger; aloud to me did he cry:
 “ ‘Take, maiden, now the golden ring, to remember me thereby.
Lo, I go to perish, dearest, in the leaguer of the tsar!
Pray for me now, belovèd, that I ride back from the war,
Returning from the battle with a great victory home.
Pray now for me, belovèd, that the good hap may come.
To Milan, my brother sworn to me by God and by St. John,
I will give thee in marriage, when the good morn comes on.
It is my right in all men’s sight before the priest to stand,

And like a brother give thee for a bride into his hand.’
 “After him Milan, the hero of the earth, before me strode;
The clanking saber at his side rattled along the road;
His silver plume flashed on his cap, of silk was his raiment fair;
His scarf and his spotted mantle, likewise of silk they were.
On his shoulders was a golden cloak, and his eyes went wanderingly,
Glancing in pride from side to side, until they fell on me.
He took the cloak from his shoulders, and aloud to me did he cry:
 “ ‘Take, maiden, now the golden cloak, to remember me thereby.
Lo, I go to perish, dearest, in the leaguer of the tsar!
Pray for me now, belovèd, that I ride back from the war,
Returning from the battle with a great victory home.
Pray now for me, belovèd, that the good hap may come—
A fair and lovely fortune in the season when I shall ride
Hither again from the slaughter and the battle to my bride.’
 “They went out of the city and the altars where they kneeled,

And through the broken battle I seek them o’er the field.”
 Quoth Pavle to the maiden:
“Sister, incline thine ear!
Seest thou yonder, sister, the splendor of that spear.
To the stirrups of the stallion, the brave blood flowed thereby,
And the horses of the heroes were drenchèd bridle-high;
Stained was the shining armor, their girdles and their greaves.
They are dead, sister. In their blood dip not thy milk-white sleeves,
But get thee from the battle to thy home of the white hall.”
 And the maid heard, and with a cry upon her love did call.
She came unto her white-walled home, weeping and wild and pale,
And there she mourned her loss alone, with moaning and with wail:
 “Ah miserable! If I reach forth to touch the good green pine,
So will the green bough wither in this sad hand of mine.”