Serbian Epic Poetry

The Maiden of Kossovo

Early rose the maiden of Kossovo,
Early rose she on a Sunday morning,
Rose before the brilliant sun had risen.
She has rolled the white sleeves of her robe back,
Rolled them back up to her soft white elbows;
On her shoulders, fair white bread she carries,
In her hands two shining golden goblets,
In one goblet she has poured fresh water,
And has poured good red wine in the other.
Then she seeks the wide plain of Kossovo,
Seeks the noble Prince’s place of meeting,
Wanders there amongst the bleeding heroes.
When she finds one living midst the wounded
Then she laves him with the cooling water,
Gives him, sacramentally, the red wine,
Pledges with her fair white bread the hero.

Fate at last has led her wand’ring footsteps
Unto Pavle Orlovitch, the hero,
Who has borne the Prince’s battle-standard.
From his gaping wounds the blood is streaming,
His right hand and his left foot are severed--
And the hero’s ribs are crushed and broken,
But he lingers still amongst the living.
From the pools of blood she drags his body
And she laves him with the cooling water,
Red wine, sacramentally, she gives him,
Pledges then with fair white bread the hero.

When at length his heart revives within him,
Thus speaks Pavle Orlovitch, the hero:
“Oh dear sister, Maiden of Kossovo,
What great need compels thee here to wander,
Thou, so young, amongst the wounded heroes?
What dost thou upon the field of battle?
Dost thou seek a brother’s son, or brother,
Dost thous seek perchance an aged father?”
Answered him the Maiden of Kossovo:
“Oh dear brother! Oh thou unknown warrior!
None of my own race am I now seeking,
Not a brother’s son nor yet a brother,
Neither do I seek an agéd father.
Wast thou present, oh thou unknown warrior;
When for three whole weeks to all his army
Prince Lazar the Sacrament was giving
By the hands of thirty holy fathers,
In the splendid church of Samodreha?
When Lazar and all the Serbian army
There the Holy Sacrament have taken,
Three Voyvodas last of all did enter:
First of them was Milosh, the great warrior,
Ivan Kossanchich was close behind him,
And the third, Toplitza Milan, followed.

“I by chance stood then within the doorway
When there passed young Milosh, the great warrior,
In the whole world no more splendid hero;
On the ground his clanking sabre trailing,
Silken cap with proudly waving feathers,
Many-coloured mantle on his shoulders
And around his neck a silken kerchief.
Then he gazes round and looks upon me,
He takes off his many-coloured mantle,
Takes it off, and gives it to me, saying:--
‘Here, oh Maiden, is my coloured mantle,
By it thou wilt keep me in remembrance,
By this mantle shall my name live with thee.
Now, dear Maid, must I go forth and perish
There where camps the noble Prince’s army;
Pray to God for me, dear Maid, my sister,
That I may come back again in safety.
And that all good fortune may attend thee
I will marry thee to my friend Milan,
Him whom God has given me as brother,
My friend Milan who is my sworn brother.
In God’s name and good Saint John’s, I promise
I will be a groomsman at they wedding.’

“Ivan Kossanchitch was close behind him,
In the whole world no more splendid hero;
On the ground his clanking sabre trailing,
Silken cap with proudly waving feathers,
Many-coloured mantle on his shoulders
And around his neck a silken kerchief,
On his hand a golden ring is shining.
Then he gazes round and looks upon me,
Takes the golden ring from off his finger,
Takes it off and gives it to me, saying:--
‘Here hast thou my ring of gold, oh Maiden,
By it thou wilt have me in remembrance,
By this gold ring shall my name live with thee.
Now, dear maid, must I go forth to perish
There where camps the noble Prince’s army;
Pray to God for me, dear Maid, my sister,
That I may come back again in safety.
And that all good fortune may attend thee
I will marry thee to my friend Milan,
Him whom God has given me as brother,
My friend Milan who is my sworn brother.
In God’s name and good Saint John’s, I promise
I myself will give thee to the bridegroom.’

“Then Toplitza Milan follows after,
In the whole world no more splendid hero;
On the ground his clanking sabre trailing,
Silken cap with proudly waving feathers,
Many-coloured mantle on his shoulders
And around his neck a silken kerchief,
On his hand a golden ring is shining
And upon his arm a golden bracelet.
Then he gazes round and looks upon me,
From his arm he takes the golden bracelet,
Takes it off and gives it to me, saying:--
‘Here, oh Maiden, is my golden bracelet,
By it thou wilt have me in remembrance,
By this gold ring shall my name live with thee.
Now, dear maid, must I go forth to perish
There where camps the noble Prince’s army;
Pray to God for me, dear soul, my darling,
That I may come back again in safety;
Then, dear Maid, that good luck may attend thee,
I will take thee for my true belovéd.’

“And then went away these mighty leaders,
And to-day I seek them here, oh brother,
Seek them here, upon the field of battle!”

Pavle Orlovitch then makes her answer:
“Oh dear sister, Maiden of Kossovo,
Dost thou see, dear soul, those battle-lances
Where they lie most thickly piled together?
There has flowed the life-blood of the heroes;
To the stirrups of the faithful horses,
To the stirrups and the girths it mounted,
Mounted to the heroes’ silken girdles,
And the three have fallen there together.
Now return thee to thy fair white castle
Lest thy skirts and sleeves with blood be spattered.”

To the hero’s words the maiden listens,
Down her white face are the fast tears falling;
She returns then to her fair white castle.
From her white throat pour her lamentations:
“Woe is me, what fate I bear within me,
I but touch the young and tender sapling
And the fair green pine must surely wither.”