The Marriage of Stoyan Yánkovich
Heroic Ballads of Serbia
George Rapall Noyes & Leonard Bacon
While still men dreamed not of the dawn, the gates were opened wide
In Údbina, and from the town a squadron forth did ride.
Four and thirty friends are there; before them is Mustay Bey,
The lord of Lika; (1) to Kunor wood he went to hunt that day.
For half a week he hunted, but nothing came to hand;
To Údbina and Lika he went homeward through the land;
When down through the fir forest to a spring be turned aside,
To drink and rest. He cast his eye ’neath a green fir that tide;
But when Mustay Bey of Lika came, the twigs of the fir tree shone.
A drunken warrior lay asleep in the fir wood alone;
All in the pure gold was he clad and in the silver fine;
On his head he wore a splendid cap with silver feathers nine,
And set beside the feathers a great wing silver-wrought;
For a thousand ducats and no less the silver wing was bought.
On his shoulders the hero weareth a mantle great and green,
And thirty knobs of yellow gold thereon are to be seen,
Each one of a golden measure; and one ’neath the neck is worn,
Three measure weight with a screw that opes, and brandy that holds in the morn.
On the mantle are three golden plates, of the weight of four good pound;
Two were of twisted goldwork, and one did the smelters found.
His breeches had golden buckles; and yellow, rich to see,
Were his legs as any falcon’s from the ankle to the knee.
From the buckles hung fine golden chains, and from them trinkets fair,
Such as the slender maidens aye at their sweet throats wear.
At his splendid belt were pistols of the Damascus gold,
Silver-inlaid was the great blade, with three gold hilts to hold;
In them are set three precious stones; it is worth three towns of the tsar.
On his breast was a musket, and golden the thirty hoops of it are,
And each hoop worth ten ducats, and thirty, one by the sight;
There was more of gold on the musket than of steel hammered and bright.
When the hero rose upward from the grass, the fir twigs crackled then,
But the Bey of Lika pinned him down with his four and thirty men.
When the hero looked up from the grass with a black and lowering eye,
He saw that the Turks had pinned him down, and his weapons were not by.
One of his foes with his great arms he gripped as with a girth;
The living heart was burst in the Turk as he hurled him to the earth;
And seven others, moreover, he slaughtered of the band,
Before the Turks could master the strength of the white hand.
But they captured him, and forthwith the white hand did they bind,
And drove him to white Údbina with his weapons tied behind,
That great and small might marvel how Mustay, of Lika the Bey,
Such a warrior with his weapons had taken in the fray.
And Mustay spake to him as through the open field they came:
“God’s love! Whence comest thou, lord unknown? What do men call thy name?
Whither wast thou going, and whither have thy comrades gone away?”
“What sayst thou, Mustay, of Lika that art Bey?
Hast thou heard of the Latin seacoast, and Kotári (2) set thereon,
And of Stoyan, the son of Yanko? I am Stoyan, Yanko’s son,
And I had no other comrade than God and myself alone;
And I had taken counsel to descend beneath thy tower,
And the slender maiden, Haýkuna, to lure her in that hour,
And take her to Kotári—but it was not God’s decree;
The thrice accursèd liquor it overmastered me!”
Said Mustay, the Bey of Lika: “Stoyan, well mayst thou speed!
Thou hast fallen into a hero’s hands who will find thee a wife indeed!”
Amid their speech to Údbina at last they made their way,
Beneath the tower of Mustay, of Lika that was Bey;
And great and small came out to gaze on the squadron in that hour,
And Haýkuna, Mustay’s sister dear, looked down from the slender tower.
At the tambour frame of coral a needle of glass doth she hold,
And she weaveth through the linen white a gallant thread of gold.
And when she saw the squadron forth from the forest come,
That led a fettered hero with his shining weapons home,
The tambour frame before her with her hand she thrust away—
Two of its legs were shattered—and to herself did she say:
“Dear God, a mighty marvel, a hero in evil stead!
By what guile did they bind him, for he is not wounded nor dead?”
But when she reckoned the squadron, were lacking seven men.
When the squadron came ’neath the white tower, she took his weapons then,
And bore away his weapons in the treasury to keep.
Stoyan they cast in a prison that was fifty fathom deep;
Therein to the knees of the hero the water doth arise,
And the bones of captive Christians to his shoulder reach likewise.
The bey went unto the new inn, with his men the wine to drain,
And to boast to the Turks of Údbina what a captive he had ta’en.
The fair maid went to the dungeon door with a bucket of wine that tide;
She lowered it with a strong cord, and unto the hero cried:
“O hero, God protect thee, nor slay thee here in shame!
Whence art thou? what is thy country? what dost thou call thy name?
How did the Turks deceive thee, when thine arms behind they tied?”
Stoyan drank of the yellow wine, and to the damsel cried:
“Who calls from the white dungeon? My throat hath drunken full.
With the windlass half way up the hold the hero shalt thou pull;
From thence will I tell the story.”
The maiden harkened thereto;
The rope with hooks of steel let down, and half way up she drew.
Stoyan the son of Yanko. He questioned her and said:
“Who calls from the white dungeon?” Then appeared the Turkish maid:
“Even I, unknown hero, the sister of Mustay Bey.”
“O Haýkuna, may God in heaven thee slay!
I am Stoyan the son of Yanko, and in prison because of thee.
The Turks beguiled me when I was drunk, and bound have they taken me.”
The Turkish maid spake to him:
“O Stoyan, of Yanko born,
Fain would the Turks destroy thee. They will question thee tomorn
Whether to be a Moslem thy faith thou wilt put aside.
Become a Moslem, Stoyan; and I will be thy bride.
My brother, the Bey of Lika, two treasure towers hath he,
One his, one mine; if he dieth first, mine and thine shall they be.”
“Thou: damsel, Haýkuna, no more like a mad girl rave!
Though Údbina and Lika into my hand they gave,
By God I would not turn Moslem! In Kotári my treasure lay,
More than the Turks’, and a hero better am I than they.
If God it grant, fair damsel, before the noon hour ring,
The captains of Kotári over Údbina shall spring,
Over and roundabout it, and hence shall they rescue me.”
Said the maid:
“Speak not like a madman; ere that they will slaughter thee.
But to take me to be thy wedded wife, firm will thy faith remain,
If I free thee out of the dungeon?”
And Stoyan answered again:
“Firm is my faith, fair damsel, I will take thee before all;
Verily on mine honor I will not deceive thee at all.”
When the damsel heard, in the prison she lowered him in that hour,
And she wended her own way forthwith unto the slender tower.
A little time went after this; from the inn came forth the bey,
And the maiden staggered before him, as a fit were on her that day.
Mustay the Bey asked of her: “What aileth thee, sister dear?”
“A pain of the head and the heart is fallen upon me here;
A chill is come upon me; ’twere better, brother, to die.
But seat thee on the soft cushions, that I on thy breast may lie,
And there at last surrender my spirit in its sin.”
Mustay the Bey was sorry, for he had no other kin,
And over his white features the bitter tears he shed.
He sat upon the cushions, on his bosom she drooped her head;
One hand she laid on his bosom, with the other did she seize
In her dear brother’s pocket the stable and prison keys,
And the key of the treasure likewise. Then tossed she where she lay
On the cushion, and to his sister made question Mustay the Bey:
“Has not God granted thee, sister, that the pain should pass away?”
“Brother, he has, may God be thanked!” And he went to the roof outside,
To counsel with them of Údbina how Stoyan should die that tide.
But the maiden leaped to her feet, and wide the treasury door she threw;
And saddlebags of ducats and Stoyan’s armor, too,
She gathered in that hour from the dungeon white and cold.
She let out Stoyan, and led him from the cellars of the hold;
And released the steeds from the stables: the good white steed of the bey,
That ever more he rode upon in the heroic fray,
And the black steed of his lady; swifter is none in the land.
The damsel mounted the white, but the black is under Stoyan’s hand,
And forthwith over the broad field swiftly they got them gone
Over Ogóryelitsa, and from Kunor the wood, and on
From Kunor to Kótari. Then the son of Yanko said:
“Grievously am I weary, O Haýkuna the maid!
Dismount from the white charger; of sleep I have sore need.”
But she said:
“By thy courage, Stoyan! Drive forward the black steed
On unto flat Kotári; sleep cometh with little aid.
But for some squadron of the Turks yet am I sore afraid!”
But he harkened not. From the horses they descended on the grass;
With his head on her bosom Stoyan slept; like a foolish lamb he was.
But the maiden cannot slumber. Before the white day’s hour
The bey’s wife rose to visit the girl in the slender tower.
Very sick was the damsel, when darkness fell yestreen,
But now in the slender tower no more the girl is seen;
And the money from the treasury is gathered up and gone,
And no longer in the dungeon lieth Stoyan, Yanko’s son.
Forthwith came back the woman into the slender tower;
She fired the great alarum gun suddenly in that hour.
On the green roof the bey heard it; what was come to pass he knew,
And swiftly with his fingers he searched his pockets through,
And found that from his pockets the keys were stolen away.
“My brothers, men of Údbina!” then shouted Mustay Bey,
“Stoyan, the son of Yanko, with the maid is fled abroad.
Up on your feet, my brethren, as ye believe in God!”
Strange is the Turkish use. Their steeds were ready saddled there;
They seized their steeds and over the wide field did they fare.
They reached the Kunor wood, and through the forest did they pass
Unto Kotári. Haýkuna looked up from the green grass;
Often she looked to Kunor. A crest rose far away,
The dust of horses and heroes, and she knew her brother, the bey,
And the thirty men of Údbina. Stoyan she dares not wake,
But above the face of Stoyan she weepeth for his sake.
When Stoyan started from slumber, he bespake her in this wise:
“What ails thee, Turkish damsel, that the tears run from thine eyes?
Dost thou weep for thy brother, Mustay Bey, and his great treasury?
Or haply is it that Stoyan no longer pleases thee?”
Quoth the maiden:
“Sorrow-stricken may thy mother be this tide!
I weep not for my brother nor the treasure of his pride.
We have brought the treasure with us, in the midst of my heart art thou;
But the bey with the thirty of Údbina is hard upon us now.
Ride the black to Kotári; our lives are thrown away!”
When Stoyan heard the damsel, unto her did he say:
“By God, I will not, maiden! They have stirred my anger up;
They pinned me down on the grass when I had drunken of the cup.
Now will I make exchange of gifts with thy brother, dear indeed!
Do thou ride the black charger, and give me the white steed;
The white is a little better, when I go thy brother to meet.”
Stoyan leapt on the good white steed; the black she mounted fleet,
And galloped to white Kotári; but Stoyan against the bey.
And it were worth the trouble, to sit and watch the fray,
And behold a mighty marvel, how thirty smote at one:
The palace that sent thirty forth waits the return of none.
Stoyan smote off the thirty heads, and he seized on Mustay Bey;
Hands bound behind, he drove him to where the damsel lay.
He spake to the damsel as he drew the silver-hilted blade:
“Thus, Haýkuna, ’twixt brothers exchange of gifts is made!”
He swung the silver-hilted sword, but she threw her arms on high:
“By thy courage, leave a sister a brother for swearing by!
For thee also a sister might weep, and be full of woe.
Turn him now back to Údbina, and give him leave to go.”
Stoyan turned back the saber; tighter he bound the bey,
And set his face toward Údbina, and unto him did say:
“When thou comest unto Údbina, to drink with the men thereby,
Tell thou the whole truth to them, nor ever speak a lie;
And here will I grant thy life to thee in the fierce single fray.”
Forth in his bonds to Údbina alone went back the bey;
But to flat Kotári Stoyan the Turkish damsel takes,
And his christened wife he kisses whensoever he awakes.
(1) Lika is a district in Croatia. Mustay Bey is the favorite hero of the Mohammedan Serbs of Bosnia, in whose popular poetry he occupies a place like that of Prince Marko in the ballads of their Orthodox kinsmen. See Murko, “Die Volksepik der bosnischen Mohammedaner,” in Zeitschrift des Vereins für Volkskunde, Berlin, 1909, pp. 13-30.
(2) Not Cattaro, but a town in northern Dalmatia.