Serbian Epic Poetry

Musitch Stefan

Musitch Stefan drinks wine in his castle,
Drinks wine there in Maydan, rich with silver,
And the servant Váyistina serves him.

When of cool wine he has drunk sufficient
Thus speaks Musitch Stefan to his servant:
“Hearken, oh my dear friend Váyistina,
Thou shalt sup, and empty now a wine-flask,
Then go out and walk before the castle,
Look above thee at the clear blue heavens.
If the moon is high above the sunset
And Danitsa* in the east has risen,
Then the hour has come for us to journey
To the fair and pleasant field, Kossovo,
To our noble prince’s place of meeting.
For my dear friend, as thou surely knowest,
When we took our oath the prince besought us,
He besought us, by our oath exhorting:—
‘Whoso is a Serb, from Serbian mother,
Who has Serbian blood and Serbian lineage,
And comes not to battle, to Kossovo,
May there never to his heart be granted
Children, neither yet a maid nor man-child.
Underneath his hands shall nothing prosper,
Neither vine-yards nor the silver wheat fields,
And from him shall misery be oozing
Till his name and race die out and perish.’ ”

Stefan lies upon his soft down pillows;
Sups his faithful servant Váyistina
Sups and drinks cool wine beside his master;
After supper walks before the castle,
Looks above him at the clear blue heavens.
Lo, the moon shines high above the sunset,
Lo, Danitsa in the East has risen,
And the hour has come when they must journey
To the fair and pleasant field, Kossovo,
To the noble prince’s place of meeting.

Váyistina goes into the stables,
Brings therefrom two noble battle-horses,
Saddles them, and decks them with rich trappings,
One for him, and one for his good master.
Then he leads them to the castle courtyard,
Carries forth the silken battle-standard
On which shine and glow twelve golden crosses,
And the ikon of Saint John th’ Apostle,
John the patron saint of Musitch Stefan;
In the courtyard then he leaves the standard
And he mounts the stairway of the tower.

Fate here brings him Musitch Stefan’s lov’d one,
She embraces him and tells him weeping:
“Oh my friend and brother, Váyistina,
By Almighty God and John th’ Apostle,
Thou wert until now my faithful servant;
If from now thou art in God my brother
Never wake my well-lov’d lord and master;
For I, most unhappy one, whilst dreaming,
Saw a flight of pigeons high above me,
And near-by beheld I two grey falcons
Soaring far above our lordly castle,
And they flew away unto Kossovo
Till they reached the camp of Sultan Murad—
There they fell, and rose no more for ever....
That, oh brother, is an evil omen
And I fear you both will surely perish.”

But the servant Váyistina answered:
“Oh dear sister, thou belov’d of Stefan,
Never, sister, will I be unfaithful
To thy lord, my honourable master.
For thou hast not been at our oath-taking
When the noble prince has there besought us,
Has besought us, by our oath exhorting:—
‘Whoso is a Serb, from Serbian mother,
Who has Serbian blood and Serbian lineage,
And comes not to battle, to Kossovo,
Underneath his hands shall nothing prosper,
Neither vine-yards nor the silver wheat fields;—
Barren shall his fields remain for ever!
To his heart no children shall be granted,
And from him shall misery be oozing
Till his name and race die out and perish.’
Therefore never will I be unfaithful
To thy lord and mine, oh noble lady.”

To the upper rooms mounts Váyistina
And awakens there his sleeping master:
“Waken now and rise, belovéd master,
For the hour has come when we must journey.”
To his feet then springs the hero Stefan,
Washes his white face with cooling water,
Dons a lordly dress, and girds around him
His good sword, with jewels thick encrustéd.
In his hands he takes a brimming goblet,
And he drinks to God’s great fame and glory,
To the Cross’s honour and his journey.
In the castle court behind the stables
Thus drank Musitch Stefan, the voyvoda,
As befits a knight of noble valour.

Then they went before the lordly castle
And they mounted their two noble horses,
Lifted up the cross-emblazon’d standards,
And while drums and pipes were sounding loudly
In the name of God began their journey.

When the dawn has risen white upon them
On the wide and level plain, Kossovo,
They encounter there a slender maiden,
In her hands two shining golden goblets,
Both of gold, but both of them are empty;
’Neath her arm a white silk cap she carries,
On the cap is fixed a bunch of feathers
Held together by a silver buckle,
And with gold and pearls thick interwoven.
To the maiden thus speaks Musitch Stefan:
“May God ever help thee, little sister,
Where hast thou been on the field of battle?
Whither wilt thou take the white silk kalpak?
Give to me the silken kalpak, sister,
That I see which warrior has worn it.
Give it to me and I swear upon it
By my journey’s luck I will not harm thee.”

And replied the maiden of Kossovo:
“Health and luck be thine, oh great voyvoda!
I have not been on the field of battle,
But my mother woke me very early—
We rise early and we fetch our water;
When I reached the river of Sitnitsa
Lo, it was in flood, its waters turbid,
And it bore upon it steeds and heroes,
Turkish caps and many white silk kalpaks,
Splendid silken Serbian caps it carried.
Near the end was floating this white kalpak.
In Sitnitsa’s waters then I waded
And I caught and held this white silk kalpak,
For at home I have a younger brother
And I take it to him for his birthday,
I am young, and these white feathers please me.”

Then she gives the cap to the voyvoda;
Musitch Stefan takes it, and beholding,
Knows who was the hero that has worn it....
Down his white face are the tears fast falling,
On his knee he strikes his hand in anguish
Till the gold link of his sleeve is broken
And all torn his silken hose of scarlet:—
“Woe is me! Now help me God Almighty,
For my prince’s curse is come upon me!”
He returns the kalpak to the maiden
And he puts his hand into his pocket,
And he gives to her three yellow ducats:
“Take these yellow ducats, little maiden,
Now I go to battle, to Kossovo,
I will fight there in the name of Jesus.
If God will that I should come back safely,
With a better gift I’ll then present thee.
But, dear sister, if I there should perish,
By this gift now keep me in remembrance.”

Then they drive their spurs into the horses,
Wade across the waters of Sitnitsa,
Spurring, reach the prince’s place of meeting.
And when Musitch Stefan has arrived there
Lo, he smites and slays three Turkish pashas;
As he with the fourth began to struggle
Then the hero Musitch Stefan perished,
And with him his servant Váyistina,
And with him twelve thousand mighty warriors. [1]

And there has our noble monarch perished;
There the Serbians lost their ancient empire,
And the Tsar Lazar his earthly kingdom.

* Danitsa: the Morning Star.