Kosovo Cycle (Part 3)

These are two fargments from the epic poetry of Kosovo translated by Helen Rootman in 1920. As you read plaese remember those who suffer and those that died as a result of the Albanian Pogrom 5 years ago and the NATO bombings 10 years ago.

The Banquet on the Eve of the Battle

(a fragment)
Prince Lazar his patron saint doth honour
On the fair and pleasant field Kosovo,
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 Kosovo
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, Kosovo,
Who to thee is faithful, and who faithless.
And I call Almighty God to witness
I will go to-morrow to Kosovo,
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 Kosovo.”

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?
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.
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
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.”


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