Sacred-Texts Legends & Sagas Index Previous Next

p. 152


PRINCE MARKO and his mother had sat them down to dine;
On the dry bread they feasted, and they drank the yellow wine.
And unto the prince Marko came letters three that day:
One was from Bajazét the tsar, in white Stamboul that lay;
One from the town of Budim, from the king thereof had come;
And one from Yanko the voývoda, in Sibin that had his home.
The letter from Stamboul city, that was written of the tsar,
To the army summons Marko for the keen Moorish war.
In the letter out of Budim, the second of the three,
The king with the wooers bids him that the groomsman he may be,
That the king may lightly marry the queen of whom he is fain.
The letter from Sibin the city, it beareth a message plain,
That as godfather he shall christen the children of Yanko twain.
Marko speaks to his mother: 
“My mother, old art thou;
Council me, mother, shall I go to the tsar’s army now?

p. 153

Shall I go among the wooers, to marry the king amain?
Or unto Yanko of Sibin, to christen his children twain?”
 His mother speaketh to Marko: “My little son,” saith she,
“A man goes unto the wooers because of jollity;
As a godfather a man goes forth because of the law of God;
But a man goes to the army because of the fear of the rod.
Go, my son, to the army, for God will hold his hand;
But the Turks, an thou come not thither, they will not understand.”
 Marko obeyed his mother. To the host he marched away;
He took Golúban the servant; to his mother did he say:
 “Hear, mother! Of my fortress do thou early shut the gate,
And when ariseth the morning, do thou throw it open late;
Since with Mina accurst of Kostur at odds am I, and I fear,
Mother, that my white houses the rogue will plunder here.”
 Marko to the tsar’s army with Golúban the servant went.
On the third evening of the march, when they had pitched the tent,

p. 154

Marko supped, and Golúban served out the yellow wine.
Marko took up the goblet, and slumber fell on his eyne;
He dropped the cup on the table, but the wine spilled not on the board.
Golúban the servant waketh him; “Prince Marko,” he saith, “my lord,
Ere this hast thou gone to the army, but thou hast not slumbered so deep,
Nor dropped the cup from thy fingers.” 
But Marko started from sleep,
And said: 
“Golúban, my servant, thou art faithful, as I deem.
I closed mine eyes for a little, and I dreamed a wondrous dream.
Exceeding strange was the dream, and exceeding strange the hour.
A tuft of mist blew outward from Kostur the white tower:
The mist enveloped Prilip; in the white mist Mina came.
He will plunder my white houses and burn them with the flame;
Over my mother’s body will he trample with the steed;
My faithful bride upon that tide a captive will he lead;
My horses from the stables, he will drive them all away;

p. 155

The money in my treasury he will carry off that day.”
 To Marko said Golúban: “Fear not, Prince Marko. In sooth,
Good heroes ever dreamed good dreams. Dreams lie, but God is truth.”
 When they were come to Tsárigrad,1 the tsar sent forth his host,
Over the blue sea went they forth to the fierce Moorish coast;
And four and forty cities have they ta’en over sea.
They came under Kara Okan, and years they fought there three;
Okan they smote, and never could they storm it in the war.
Marko smote down the Moorish chiefs and bore their heads to the tsar.
The tsar gave bakshish to Marko, and wroth the Turks did it make;
And they came in anger to the tsar, and unto him they spake:
 “Tsar Bajazét, this Marko, no hero at all is he;
He cleaveth and bringeth for bakshish the heads of the slain to thee.”
 Marko heard it, and forthwith to the great tsar did he pray:
 “My father by adoption, to-morrow is the day
Of St. George, my own good patron, and let me, tsar, withdraw
To hold my patron’s festival by custom and by law;

p. 156

And Alil Aga, my brother sworn, likewise do thou release,
That he and I together may drink the wine in peace.”
 The tsar sent forth Prince Marko, for naught else could he do,
To hold his patron’s festival, and released his brother too.
And into the green forest forthwith Prince Marko sped,
Nor far from the tsar’s army his white pavilion spread;
To tipple on dark liquor he sat him on the grass,
And with him Alil Aga, his brother sworn that was.
And the Moorish watch discovered, when the fair daybreak shone,
How forth from the tsar’s army Marko the Prince was gone.
Then shouted all the Moorish watch: “O furious Moors, set on!
The hero on the great gray steed—the terrible is gone!”
The Moors set on, and of the host slew thirty thousand men;
And the tsar wrote a letter unto Prince Marko then:
 “My good son by adoption, come quickly here again,
For thirty thousand men of mine have been in battle slain!”

p. 157

 But Marko said: “How then may I come quickly, father mine?
For as yet I have not drunken my fill of the yellow wine,
And much less have I started my holiday to hold.”
 And lo, upon the morrow, when broke the morning cold,
Then shouted all the Moorish watch: “O furious Moors, set on!
The hero on the great gray steed—the terrible is gone!”
The Moors set on, and of the host slew sixty thousand men;
Once more the great Tsar Bajazét wrote to Prince Marko then:
 “My good son by adoption, come quickly here again,
For sixty thousand men of mine have been in battle slain!”
 But Marko said: “My father, a little must thou wait;
I have not yet regaled my friends as well befits their state.”
 On the third day shouted the Moorish watch: “O furious Moors, set on!
The hero on the great gray steed—the terrible is gone!”
The Moors set on, and slaughtered an hundred thousand men;
And the tsar wrote a letter unto Prince Marko then:

p. 158

 “Before God for my foster child thee, Marko, will I own;
Come very quickly, for the Moors my camp have overthrown!”
 Marko mounted on Dapple, he rode to the tsar’s array;
When day broke, the two armies they clashed in the mêlée.
When the Moorish watch saw Marko, they cried: “Ye Moors, begone!
The hero on the great gray steed—the terrible, comes on!”
Marko smote on the Moorish host; three ways their host he drave.
He slashed throughout one army with the edges of the glaive,
The second of the armies on Dapple he trampled o’er
And herded the third before the tsar. But Marko was wounded sore;
Seventy wounds at the Moors’ hands on Marko’s body there are.
On the tsar’s breast falleth Marko, and to him saith the tsar:
 “Marko, my good foster child, by thy wounds now art thou slain?
Can the doctors with their wrappings recover thee again?”
 Prince Marko then made answer: “No deadly wounds they are,
And I deem that I shall recover.” And thereupon the tsar

p. 159

Thrust hand into pouch and to him a thousand ducats gave,
That the Prince Marko might go forth his wounds to heal and lave;
And the tsar sends forth two faithful lads, lest Marko the Prince should die.
But Marko sought not a doctor; from inn to inn did he hie,
And ever sought Prince Marko where the best wine was to drain.
Scarce had he drunk his fill thereof, when his wounds were healed again.
 But a fine-written letter to the Prince Marko came,
That his houses all were plundered and ravaged with the flame,
And the body of his mother trampled over by the steed,
And his faithful wife a captive his enemy did lead.
Then Marko mourned and to the tsar, his foster father, said:
 “My foster father, my white house is ravaged in the raid;
My faithful bride upon this tide a captive do they lead;
Over my mother’s body have they trampled with the steed;
The money in my treasury is stolen from me this day:
Mina of Kostur, he it was who carried it away.”
The tsar spake comfort: 
p. 160
“Foster son, my Marko, do not fear.
If these thine houses have been burned, I will build thee better here;
Beside my houses and like to mine shall they be built for thee.
If thy gold is stolen, a farmer of my taxes shalt thou be,
And thou shalt gather treasure. If thy wife is led away,
I will give thee a better lady upon the wedding day.”
 Said Marko: 
“My foster father, glory to thee again!
When thou buildest the houses for me, orphans will curse me then,
Saying: ‘This rascal Marko, his houses were burned of late;
Now may these new-built for him be likewise desolate!’
If thou makest me farmer of taxes, till I bind poor, needy men,
I cannot gather the taxes, and orphans will curse me then,
Saying: ‘This rascal Marko, what gold he had of late
Was stolen; what he hath presently, may it too be desolate!’
To another how wilt thou wed me, while yet my wife doth live?—
Three hundred janissaries I prithee to me give;

p. 161

Forge for them crooked pruning hooks and of slender hoes no lack;
And to white Kostur will I go, if perchance I may win her back.”
 Three hundred janissaries were his at the tsar’s command;
The tsar forged crooked pruning hooks and slender hoes to their hand.
To the three hundred Marko his counsel gave aright:
 “Go, my three hundred brethren; go now to Kostur the white.
When ye are come to Kostur, the Greeks will be merry thus:
‘Here are laborers; cheap enow will they tend our vines for us!’
But do ye naught, my brethren. Abide in Kostur the town;
Drink the clear wine and brandy, till thither I come down.”
 The three hundred janissaries they went to Kostur the white,
But Marko to Mount Athos, unto the holy height;
And there he took communion and moreover did confess
For the blood he had shed, then clad him in a black cáloyer’s1 dress;
He let his beard to the girdle grow, and a monk’s hat put on his head.

p. 162

Then he leaped to the back of Dapple, to Kostur the white he sped.
When he came to Mina of Kostur, there Mina sat to dine,
And Marko’s wife served Mina the cups of yellow wine:
 “In God’s name, thou black cáloyer,” did Mina to him say,
“Tell me, prithee, where gottest thou the little dapple gray?”
 Prince Marko said: 
“Friend Mina, by the true God do I swear,
In the fierce Moorish country, with the tsar’s host was I there.
There was a fool, Prince Marko, that dying there I saw,
And I buried him according to our custom and our law.
A gift for his soul’s salvation they gave this steed to me.”
 When Mina of Kostur heard it, he leaped up joyfully,
And said: 
“Nine years have I waited until these tidings came!
For Marko’s house have I plundered and ravaged with the flame;
His faithful wife have I made a slave, but I would not break her vow,
Black priest, till Marko perished, and thou shalt marry me now!”

p. 163

 Up Marko took the holy book, and thereupon did wed
Mina unto the woman he had ta’en to his own bed.
Then sat they down to speak fair words and drink the yellow wine.
 Said Mina: 
“Hearest thou, Yélitsa, O heart and soul of mine?
Till now wast thou Marko’s lady; henceforth thou art Mina’s wife!
Go now to the treasure house below, I prithee, soul of my life,
And bring three cups of ducats to give the cáloyer black.”
 Yélitsa brought from the treasure three cups of ducats back;
She took not Mina’s money, but Marko’s. A rusty glaive
She brought up with the money, and to the priest she gave:
“Here is for thee, black cáloyer, a gift for Marko’s sake.”
Marko took up the saber, and looked at it, and spake:
 “Mina, the lord of Kostur, is it seemly in thine eyes,
To dance here at thy wedding after the monkish wise?”
 Quoth Mina of Kostur to him: “Black cáloyer, to thee
Surely it is permitted. Wherefore should it not be?”

p. 164

 Marko leaped on his nimble feet twice and thrice him about;
The tower’s foundations trembled as he drew the saber out.
He drew the rusty saber, he swung it left and right;
The head from Mina’s shoulders at one stroke did he smite.
From his white throat he shouted: “Lord Mina’s days are done;
Ho, all my janissaries! my laborers, come on!”
Three hundred janissaries through Mina’s mansions came;
They plundered his white palace and ravaged it with flame.
Marko brought home his faithful wife and Mina’s horde along,
And went unto white Prilip with chanting and with song.



p. 155

1 The tsar’s city, Constantinople.

p. 161

1 Monk of the Greek church; see Byron, Child Harold, ii, 49.