Serbian Epic Poetry

Kossanchitch and Milosh

(a fragment)

Milosh speaks to Kossanchitch his brother:
“Ivan Kossanchitch, oh thou dear brother,
Hast thou spied upon the Turkish army,
Seen how many warriors came from Turkey [3]?
Can we offer battle to the army?
Can we hope to vanquish it in battle?”

Ivan Kossanchitch thus speaks in answer:
“Milosh Obilitch, oh thou my brother,
I have spied upon the Turkish army
And a mighty army came from Turkey.
Were we grains of salt instead of warriors
Yet we could not salt that army’s dinner.
Fifteen days through Murad’s hordes I wandered
But I could not find an end or limit. [1]
From Mramór right up to Suvi Javor,
And from Jávor right up to Sazliya,
From Sazliya to the bridge of Chemer
And from Chemer to the fortress Zvechan,
And from Zvechan right away to Chechan,
And from Chechan up above the mountains [4]
Stand the Turks in serried ranks together;
Horse to horse, and hero touching hero,
Battle-lances like a magic mountain,
Like a cloud their battle-standards streaming
And their tents stretched like the snow in winter.
If the gentle rain should fall from heaven
Not one inch of ground could then receive it,
So thick stand the horses and the heroes.
Murad fell upon the plain of Mazgit,
Took by quick assault Lab and Sitnitsa.”

Then speaks Milosh Obilitch in answer:
“Ivan Kossanchitch, oh thou my brother,
Where has Sultan Murad pitched his tent there?
I have sworn to slay the Sultan Murad
And I’ll plant my foot upon his false throat.”

Ivan Kossanchitch thus answers Milosh:
“Thou art surely mad, oh thou my brother!
There where thickest press the Turkish warriors
Stands the tent of mighty Sultan Murad.
If thou hadst the swift wings of the falcon
And couldst swoop from out the clear blue heavens
Still thy swift wings could not save thy body.”

Then to Ivan swears the hero Milosh:
“Ivan Kossanchitch, oh thou dear brother,
Not by birth, and yet like my own brother,
Do not tell this story to our monarch,
It would but disquiet and alarm him
And then all the army might be frightened.
Speak unto our monarch in this manner:—
There has come an army out of Turkey
Big enough that we should give it battle,
But it will be light for us to conquer.
It is not an army made of heroes,
But old monks and pilgrims dressed as warriors,
Artisans are there, and slim young merchants,
Those who never yet have seen a battle,
But who for their bread have joined the army.
Say too—but whatever size the army
It has fallen very sick and ailing,
And the horses too all greatly suffer,
Some are lame, and none are in condition.”