Serbian Epic Poetry

Tsar Lazar and Tsaritsa Militsa

Tsar Lazar sits at the evening banquet,
With him sits the Tsaritsa Militsa;
Says to him the Tsaritsa Militsa:
“Tsar Lazar, oh golden crown of Serbia,
Thou wilt go to-morrow to Kossovo,
And wilt lead the men-at-arms and nobles,
But thou leavest no one in the castle
Who for me could carry hence a message
To Kossovo, and bring back your greeting.
Thou dost lead away my nine dear brothers,
Thou dost lead away nine Jugovitchi;
Leave me one at least of these my brothers,
That I have a brother left to swear by.”

Then the Serbian prince Lazar makes answer:
“Oh dear lady, Tsaritsa Militsa,
Tell me thou then, which of thy nine brothers
I shall leave with thee in thy white castle.”
“Leave me Boshko Jugovitch, oh monarch!”
And the Serbian prince Lazar makes answer:
“Oh dear lady, Tsaritsa Militsa,
When the white day dawns again to-morrow,
When the day dawns and the bright sun rises
And the great gates of the city open,
Walk then, lady, to the city portals;
That way goes the army in its splendour,—
All the battle-horses with their lancers.
Boshko Jugovitch will ride before them,
In his hand will bear the battle-standard,
And then stay with thee in thy white castle.”

When the dawn has broken on the morrow,
And the great gates of the city open,
Then walks out the Tsaritsa Militsa;
She stands there beside the city portals
And beholds the army in its splendour:
All the battle-horses with their landers,
Boshko Jugovitch before them riding.
Of the finest cloth-of-gold his garments,
And the standard with a cross emblazon’d,
Oh my brothers, falls in folds around him,
Covers him and rests upon his charger.
On the standard, lo, a golden apple,
From the apple rise the golden crosses,
From the crosses hang long golden tassels
And the tassels droop upon his shoulders.
Closer comes the Tsaritsa Militsa,
Catches at the war-horse by its bridle,
Puts her arm around her brother’s shoulder
And begins to whisper to him softly:
“Boshko Jugovitch, oh thou my brother,
Now to me the Tsar Lazar doth give thee,
And thou shalt not ride with him to battle,
Shalt not ride with him unto Kossovo;
And he bids me tell thee with his blessing
Thous shalt give to whom thou wilt the standard
And remain with me here in Kroushévatz,
That I have a brother left to swear by.”
Boshko Jugovitch then makes her answer:
“Go Militsa, to thy fair white tower,
For I may not stay with thee, my sister,
Nor let from my hand the battle-standard
That the Tsar gave to me at Kroushévatz;
For I will not that my comrades mock me:
See the coward! See the coward Boshko!
He who rode not with Lazar to battle,
Dared not ride with him unto Kossovo,
There to shed his blood for Christ his honour,
For the Holy Cross to fight and perish.”
And he spurred his charger through the gateway.

Came the Jug Bogdan her father, riding,
And with him rode seven Jugovitchi,
But not one of them did look upon her....
And when they had passed out through the gateway
Far behind there came her brother Voïn
Leading with him Tsar Lazar’s great chargers
Covered with their shining golden trappings.
She holds Voïn’s grey horse by its bridle,
Puts her arm around her brother’s shoulder,
Holds him thus, and whispers to him softly:
“Voïn Jugovitch, oh thou my brother,
Now to me the Tsar Lazar doth give thee,
And he bids me tell thee with his blessing
Thou shalt give to whom thou wilt his chargers,
And remain with me here in Kroushévatz
That I have a brother left to swear by.”
Voïn Jugovitch then makes her answer:
“Go Militsa, to thy fair white tower,
I a hero, may not leave my comrades,
Nor give up the Tsar’s steeds to another,
Even knowing that I die in battle.
I go now, oh sister, to Kossovo,
There to shed my blood for Christ his honour,
For the faith to die there with my brothers.”
And he spurred his charger through the gateway.

Seeing this, the Tsaritsa Militsa
Falls down lifeless on the cold hard roadway;
And behold, the Tsar himself comes riding.
When he sees the Tsaritsa Militsa
Down the Tsar’s face are the fast tears falling,
He looks to his right hand and his left hand,
Calls to him then Goluban, his servant:
“Goluban, oh thou my faithful servant,
Now dismount thee from they swan-white charger,
By her fair white hands lift up my lady,
Carry her unto the slender tower;
From thine oath to me hath God now loosed thee,
Thou shalt not ride with me to Kossovo,
But shalt stay behind here, in the castle.”
When the servant Goluban has heard this,
Down his white face are the fast tears falling,
He obeys, and stays his swan-white charger,
By her fair white hands lifts up his lady,
Brings her then unto the slender tower;
But his heart cannot endure the order
That he rides not with his lord to battle,
And he goes back to his swan-white charger,
Mounts him, and rides swiftly to Kossovo.

On the morrow when the dawn has broken,
Flying, come two ravens, two black ravens [2],
Flying from the wide plain of Kossovo;
They alight upon the slender tower,
On the tower of Lazar the Glorious;
Croaks the first, begins to speak the second:
“Is this Tsar Lazar’s white slender tower,
In this tower is there none that liveth?”
In the tower nobody has heard them,
Saving only Tsaritsa Militsa;
She comes down from her white slender tower,
And she asks the ravens, two black ravens,
“Whence do you come flying here this morning?
Tell me, have you seen two mighty armies?
Do these mighty armies fight together?
Which of these two armies doth now conquer?”
Answer her the ravens, two black ravens:
“God be with you, Tsaritsa Militsa,
We come from the wide plain of Kossovo,
On the plain we saw two mighty armies,
Yesterday the armies fought together,
And both monarchs perished in the fighting.
Of the Turkish hordes a few are living,
And a few are living of the Serbians,
Living, but sore wounded all, and bleeding.”

As the two black ravens thus were speaking,
Lo, came riding Milutin the servant,
In his left hand, see, he bears his right hand,
He has countless wounds upon his body,
And his horse is bathed in blood beneath him.
Questions him the Tsaritsa Militsa:
“Milutin, what evil thing hath happened?
Hast thou left thy lord upon Kossovo?”
Milutin the servant makes her answer:
“Help me to dismount, I beg thee, lady,
Bathe me also with the cooling water,
And with red wine let my lips be moisten’d,
For my wounds have nearly overcome me.”
Then the Tsaritsa Militsa helps him,
Bathes his cruel wounds with cooling water,
And his lips with good red wine she moistens.
When the servant’s heart revives within him
Questions him the Tsaritsa Militsa:
“Milutin, how went it on Kossovo?
Where Lazar, the Prince of Serbia, perished,
Where the Jug Bogdan, my father, perished,
And where perished his nine sons, my brothers;
Where the brave Voyvoda Milosh perished,
Where Vuk Brankovitch with them has perished,
And where perished mighty Ban Strahinya.”

Milutin the servant tells his story:
“All remain, oh lady, on Kossovo,
Where has fallen Tsar Lazar the Glorious.
There are broken many battle-lances,
Serbian lance and Turkish, both are broken,
But more Serbian lances broke than Turkish
While defending Tsar Lazar, oh lady,
Glorious Tsar Lazar, the lord of Serbia.
And the Jug Bogdan has fallen also,
And with him eight Jugovitchi, lady;
There where no man would desert his brothers
Whilst a single one could move his weapon,
Boshko Jugovitch still fought, oh lady;
Raged the battle round him on Kossovo
And he threw the Turks into disorder
As the falcon strikes the homing pigeons.
And there perished mighty Ban Strahinya,
There too, perished Milosh, oh dear lady,
By Sitnitsa, by the chilly water,
There where very many Turks have fallen.
Milosh slew the Turkish Sultan, Murad,
And he also slew of Turks twelve thousand [1].
May God bless the woman who has borne him!
He left glory to the name of Serbia
While there lives a people and Kossovo.
And what of th’ accurséd Vuk, you ask me!
Curséd he, and curséd she who bore him,
Cursed his race unto all generations!
He betrayed the Tsar upon Kossovo,
Led away with him twelve thousand warriors,
Mighty men-at-arms, oh my dear mistress.”