The Ballads of Marko Kraljević/Marko Kraljević and Mina of Kostura

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The Ballads of Marko Kraljević  (1922)  by Unknown, translated by D. H. Low
Marko Kraljević and Mina of Kostura


Marko sat at supper with his mother,
They supped on dry bread and red wine.
And there came three letters to Marko;
One letter was from Constantinople,
From the Sultan Bajazet.
The second letter was from Buda town,
And it came from the king thereof.
The third letter was from Sibinj[2],
From the Vojvoda Janko of Sibinj.
In the letter from Constantinople, 10
The Sultan called him to his standard
In the harsh country of the Arabs[3].
As for the letter from Buda town,
The king asked him therein to his wedding,
For to be his wedding kum,
For he would wed with a Lady Queen.
In the letter from Sibinj
Janko prayed him to be a kum,
That he might christen his two little sons.
And Marko asked his old mother of counsel: 20
"Counsel me, mother," quoth he,
"Whither were I best to go?
Shall I go to the Sultan's army,
Shall I go to the king's wedding
For to wed him with his Lady Queen,

Or shall I go to Janko of Sibinj
That I may christen his two little sons?"
Marko's mother answered him:
"O my son, Kraljević Marko,
A man goeth to a wedding for to be merry, 30
He becometh kum because his faith bids him.
But to the army he goeth of necessity.
Go, my son, to the Sultan's army,
God will forgive us, my son,
The Turk would never forgive."
Marko hearkened unto his mother,
And made him ready to go to the Sultan's host;
And took his servant Goluban with him.
And as he went about to depart he warned his mother:
"Hearken unto me, O mother!40
Shut the doors of the castle early,
And in the morning open them late,
For I am at feud, mother,
With the accurséd Mina of Kostura,
And I am sore adread
That he will plunder my white manor."
Marko departed to the Sultan's army
With his servant Goluban;
And when they were come to the third halting place,
Marko sate him down to sup,50
And Goluban served the red wine.
Kraljević Marko took the goblet,
He took it and fell in such a study
That he let fall the goblet on the table;
The goblet fell, but the wine spilled not.
Goluban his servant awaked him.
"Lord and master, Marko," quoth he,
"Oft hast thou been with the army,
But never hast thou drowsed in this wise,
Nor let fall the cup from thy hand."60
Then Marko came forth of his study.
And spake to his servant Goluban:

"Goluban, my faithful servant,
A moment agone I dreamed a marvellous dream,
A strange dream in a strange hour!
A saw where a cloud of mist arose[4]
From the white castle of Kostura,
And it rolled together around Prilep.
In that mist was Mina of Kostura,
He plundered my white manor,70
Everything he plundered and burnt with fire.
Mine old mother he trampled under horses' feet,
He took captive my faithful wife,
He took my horses from the stables,
And my gold from the treasure-chamber."
To him Goluban his servant made answer:
"Fear not, Kraljević Marko!
A good knight hath dreamed a good dream.
Dreams are but lies, God is truth."
And when they were come to Constantinople,80
The Sultan moved his mighty host
And they put forth across the dark sea,
To the dread country of the Arabs.
And they took cities by the sea,
Four and fifty cities.
But when they came to Kara-Okan[5],
There they tarried three years of days.
By Okan they tarried, nor might they take it.
And Marko cut down the Arab knights,
And brought their heads before the Sultan,90
And the Sultan gave gold therefor to Marko.
Now this was very grievous in the sight of the Turks,
And they spake to the illustrious Sultan, saying:
"Lord and master. Sultan Bajazet,
Marko is no such knight of prowess,
But he cutteth off the heads of the slain
And bringeth them before thee for recompense."

Marko Kraljević heard it,
And he prayed the illustrious Sultan:
"O Sultan, my lord and father, 100
Tomorrow is my Slava day,
The day of fair Saint George.
Give me leave, my father[6],
That I may hold my Slava
According to law and custom,
And give me my pobratim Alil-Aga,
That I may drink wine in peace."
The Sultan might not otherwise,
So he sent forth Kraljević Marko
That he should celebrate his Slava,110
And he gave him his pobratim Alil-Aga.
Marko went into the greenwood
Afar from the Sultan's army;
He pitched his white tent,
He sat down under it and drank dark wine
With his pobratim Alil-Aga.
And at dayspring of the morn,
Forthwith the Arab posts were ware
That Marko was not with the host,
And they cried aloud, saying:120
"Charge now, fierce Arabs,
For the terrible knight is departed
That rode on the great piebald steed!"
Then the fierce Arabs charged.
And warriors thirty thousand assailed the Sultan.
Right so the Sultan wrote a letter to Marko:
"Come quickly, Marko, my son,
Thirty thousand warriors assail me!"
And Marko made answer to the Sultan:
"With all speed, O my father, the Sultan!130
But not yet have I drunk my fill of wine,
Nor am not near risen from my Slava."
And when the dayspring of the second morn was come,

Again the Arab watchers cried:
"Charge, fierce Arabs!
For departed is the terrible knight
That rideth on the great piebald steed."
Forthwithal the Arabs hurled forward,
And sixty thousand warriors assailed the Sultan.
Again the Sultan wrote a letter to Marko:140
"Come quickly, my son Marko!
Sixty thousand warriors assail me!"
But Marko made answer to the Sultan:
"Wait yet a little, my father, the Sultan,
Not yet have I enough feasted
With my fellowship of kums and friends."
And at the dayspring of the third morn,
Again the Arab watchers cried:
"Charge, fierce Arabs!
Departed is the terrible knight 150
That rideth on the great piebald steed."
Forthwithal the Arabs hurled forward,
And an hundred thousand warriors assailed the Sultan.
Right so the Sultan sent to Marko a letter:
"See that thou come quickly, son Marko!
See that thou come quickly, Marko, my son-in-God.
The Arabs have overthrown my tent."
Then Marko mounted him on Sharatz,
And went and joined him to the Sultan's host.
In the morning when the white day dawned,160
The Arab watchers espied him,
And they cried from out their white throats:
"Give back now, fierce Arabs!
Behold he cometh, the terrible knight
On the great piebald steed!"
Then Marko smote down among the Arabs,
And brake their host in three parts.
The first he hewed in pieces with the sword,
The second he trampled under foot of Sharatz,
And the third part he drave before the Sultan.170

But Marko was full sore wounded;
Seventy wounds had he gotten,
From the Arabs he had gotten seventy wounds.
And he fell down across the Sultan's knees,
And the Lord Sultan asked him:
"My son, Kraljević Marko,
Are thy wounds to the death?
Thinkest thou to be made whole of thy wounds?
Shall I let bring salves and leeches?"
Kraljević Marko made answer:180
"My Lord, my father the Sultan!
My wounds are not unto the death,
Meseemeth I should well amend me."
The Sultan put his hand in his pocket,
And gave him a thousand ducats,
And he went forth to let search his grievous wounds.
And he sent two faithful servants after Marko
Who should see that he died not.
But Marko went not to no leeches,
But he went from inn to inn 190
Seeking where should be the better wine.
Scarce had Marko drunken somewhat,
When his sore wounds healed and were abated.
Therewithal came a letter to him,
How that his manor was plundered,
Yea, plundered and burnt up with fire.
How that his old mother was trampled under of horses;
How that his faithful wife was taken captive.
Then did Marko make great dole and sorrow,
On his knees before his father the Sultan:200
"Lord and master," said he, "my father the Sultan,
My white manor is plundered,
My faithful wife is made captive,
Mine old mother is trampled on of horses,
The gold is taken from my treasure-chamber,
Mina of Kostura hath taken it."
The Lord Sultan soothed him, saying:

"Fear not, my son Marko!
And if thy manor be burnt
I shall build thee yet fairer dwelling,210
Hard by mine own, and like even unto mine.
If thy gold be taken,
I shall make thee collector of poll-tax,
Thence shalt thou glean more gold than ever tofore.
And if thy wife be in sooth led captive,
I shall wed thee to a better one."
But Marko Kraljević answered:
"Thanks be to thee, my father the Sultan!
But, and if thou build me a manor,
The poor will curse me, saying:220
'See the whoreson Kraljević Marko!
His old manor is burnt with fire.
May his new one avail him naught!'—
And if thou make me collector of poll-tax,
I may not gather the taxes,
If I bind not the poor and needy.
And the poor will curse me—
'See the whoreson Kraljević Marko,
The gold he had was ravished away.
May this gold also do him naught of profit.'— 230
And wherefore shouldst thou wed me to another wife,
Since that mine own is yet on live?
But give me three hundred janissaries,
Let forge for them the crooked knives of the vineyard,
And furnish them with light mattocks,
And I shall go to white Kostura
If haply I may win back my wife."
The Sultan gave him three hundred janissaries,
He let forge the knives of the vineyard,
And gave them light mattocks withal.240
Then Marko gave counsel unto the janissaries:
"My brothers, ye three hundred janissaries,
Ye must get you to white Kostura;
And when ye come to the castle of Kostura

The Greeks will rejoice, saying:
’God be praised, here be day-labourers a many,
And for small wages will they labour in the vineyard.'—
But ye will not so, dear brethren,
But ye will tarry by the castle of Kostura,
Wine ye will drink and clear rakia,250
Till that I also be come to Kostura."
The three hundred janissaries went forth,
They went forth to white Kostura,
And Marko gat him to the far-famed Holy Mountain[7],
He took the Sacrament and confessed him,
For he had done many a deed of blood.
He did on a monk's raiment.
And let grow his black beard to his girdle,
And on his head he set the priestly kamilavka.
Then he sprang on the back of Sharatz 260
And straightway went to white Kostura.
When he came to Mina of Kostura,
Lo, Mina sat drinking wine,
And Marko's wife served him.
"Ha, black monk!" quoth he,
"Whence hast thou yonder piebald steed?"
Kraljević Marko made answer:
"Faith of me, Lord Mina!
I was aforetime with the Sultan's host
In the dread country of the Arabs, 270
And there was one of little wit[8]
Whose name was Kraljević Marko,
And there in good sooth he perished,
And I buried him,
According to law and custom,
And for his soul's weal he gave me the horse."
When Mina of Kostura heard it,
He leapt lightly to his feet for gladness,
And he said to Kraljević Marko:

"Good tidings, i'faith, black monk!280
Behold, I wait nine years of days
That I might hear such tidings.
I have plundered Marko's manor.
Yea, plundered it and burnt it with fire;
I have made captive his faithful wife,
But not yet have I wedded her,
But have waited ever for the death of Marko,
And now shalt thou wed me to her."
Kraljević Marko took the book,
The book he took and wedded Mina,290
And to whom but to his own wife!
Then he sate him down and drank wine,
Wine he drank and made good cheer,
And Mina of Kostura spake and said:
"Hearken, Jela, my heart and my soul!
Till now hast thou been called Marko's,
From now thou art Lord Mina's lady.
Go down, my soul, to the treasure-chamber
And of ducats bring three goblets full.
That I may reward the black monk."300
Jela went down to the treasure-chamber,
And of golden ducats she brought three goblets full.
But she fetched them not from Mina's treasure
But she fetched them forth of Marko's treasure.
And she brought his rusty sabre,
And gave it to the black monk, saying:
"Take this also, black monk,
For the soul's weal of Kraljević Marko."
Kraljević Marko took the sabre,
He took the sabre and examined it,310
And he spake to Mina of Kostura:
"Wilt thou grant in this thy gladness
That the monk may tread a merry measure?"
Mina of Kostura made answer:
"I will well, thou black monk,
I will well, and wherefore should I not grant it?"

Marko leapt lightly to his feet,
He turned him about two times and three times,
And all the castle shook to its foundations.
Then he pulled out his rusty sabre,320
From right to left he swung it.
And hewed off Mina's head!
Then he cried with a loud voice:
"Charge now, my labourers!
Mina of Kostura is no more!"
The three hundred janissaries hurled forward
Against the stronghold of Mina of Kostura.
They plundered his white manor,
They plundered it, yea, and burnt it with fire!
Marko took his faithful wife,330
He took Mina's treasure also,
And went his ways to white Prilep,
Singing and ever singing.

  1. The name of a town in Macedonia (Vuk, Dict.).
  2. Sibinj or Hermannstadt (Lat. Cibinium). Janko of Sibinj is the same as Hunyadi Janos.
  3. Арапин is a word of somewhat vague meaning. Vuk says it is equivalent to "Maurus" and "Aethiops." Dozon says it includes Arabs, Moors and negroes. He add: "Il y a sans doute dans ces campagnes lointaines de Marko une réminiscence historique, car on assure que Bajazet, dans la bataille où il fut défait par Timour, en 1402, avait parmi ses troupes vingt mille auxiliaires serbes." Poésies pop. serbes, p. 122.
  4. Cf. Momčilo's dream in "The Marriage of King Vukašin."
  5. Kara-Okan has not been identified.
  6. поочим.
  7. Mount Athos.
  8. једна будалина = a fool.