Serbian Epic Poetry

The Banquet on the Eve of the Battle

(a fragment)

Prince Lazar his patron saint doth honour
On the fair and pleasant field Kossovo,
With his lords is seated round the table
With his lords and with his youthful nobles.

On his left the Jug Bogdan is seated,
And with him nine Jugovitch, nine brothers;
On his right Vuk Brankovitch is seated,
And the other lords in their due order;
Facing him is Milosh, that great warrior,
And with him two other Serbian leaders
Kossanchitch, and young Toplitza Milan.
Tsar Lazar lifts high the golden goblet,
Thus he speaks unto his Serbian nobles:
“Unto whom shall this my cup be emptied?
If it be old age that I should honour
Then, oh Jug Bogdan, I must now pledge you;
If it be high rank that I should honour
Then Vuk Brankovitch, I must now pledge you;
If the voice of feeling I should follow
To the Tsaritsa’s nine well-lov’d brothers
To the Jugovitch, my toast is owing;
If it beauty be that I should honour
Ivan Kossanchitch, I must now pledge you;
If heroic looks I now should honour
Then Toplitza Milan, I must pledge you;
If heroic deeds are to be toasted
I must drink to that great warrior Milosh,
I can surely pledge no other hero.
Milosh Obilitch, I drink to thee now,
To thy health, oh Milosh, friend and traitor!
Friend at first, but at the last a traitor.
When the battle rages fierce to-morrow
Thou wilt then betray me on Kossovo,
And wilt join the Turkish Sultan, Murad!
Drink with me, and pledge me deep, oh Milosh,
Drain the cup; I give it thee in token!”

To his feet leaps Milosh, that great warrior,
To the black earth bows himself, and answers:
“Tsar Lazar, for this thy toast I thank thee,
Thank thee for the toast and for the goblet,
But for those thy words I do not thank thee.
For—else may the truth be my undoing—
Never, Tsar Lazar, was I unfaithful,
Never have I been, and never will be.
And to-morrow I go to Kossovo
For the Christian faith to fight and perish.
At thy very knees there sits the traitor,
Covered by thy robes he drains the wine-cup,
’Tis Vuk Brankovitch, th’ accurséd traitor!
And when dawns the pleasant day to-morrow
We shall see upon the field, Kossovo,
Who to thee is faithful, and who faithless.
And I call Almighty God to witness
I will go to-morrow to Kossovo,
I will slay the Turkish Sultan, Murad,
And I’ll plant my foot upon his false throat;
And if God and fortune so befriend me,
I will take Vuk Brankovitch then captive,
Bind him to my battle-lance! Yea, tie him
As a woman ties hemp to her distaff,
And I’ll drag him with me to Kossovo.”