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Old Serbian Tales

Marko and the Turks, c. 1450

[Tappan Introduction]

Marko Kralevich is the half-mythical hero of the Serbians, and they delight in the old ballads composed about his victories over Turks and Magyars. After he was slain in battle, his people still believed that some time he would appear and would rescue them from oppression.

VIZIER AMURATH is gone a-hunting;
Hunting in the leafy mountain-forest:
With him hunt twelve warriors, Turkish heroes:
With the heroes hunts the noble Marko:
White days three they hunted in the mountain;
Nothing found they in the mountain-forest.
But, behold! while in the forest hunting,
They a lake, a green-faced lake, discover,
Where a flock of gold-wing'd ducks are swimming.

There the proud vizier lets loose his falcon,
Bids him pounce upon a gold-wing'd swimmer;
But the falcon turned his glances upwards,
And he mounted to the clouds of heaven.
To the proud vizier said princely Marko:
"Vizier Amurath! is it allow'd me
To let loose my own, my favorite falcon?
He a gold-wing'd duck shall doubtless bring thee.'
And the Moslem swiftly answer'd Marko:

"'Tis allow'd thee, Marko! I allow thee."
Then the princely Marko loosed his falcon;
To the clouds of heaven aloft he mounted;
Then he sprang upon the gold-wing'd swimmer---
Seized him---rose---and down they fell together.
When the bird of Amurath sees the struggle,
He becomes indignant with vexation:
'Twas of old his custom to play falsely---
For himself alone to grip his booty:
So he pounces down on Marko's falcon,
To deprive him of his well-earn'd trophy.
But the bird was valiant as his master;
Marko's falcon has the mind of Marko;
And his gold-wing'd prey he will not yield him.
Sharply turns he round on Amurath's falcon,
And he tears away his proudest feathers.
Soon as the vizier observes the contest,
He is fill'd with sorrow and with anger;
Rushes on the falcon of Prince Marko,
Flings him fiercely 'gainst a verdant fir tree,
And he breaks the falcon's dexter pinion.
Marko's golden falcon groans in suffering,
As the serpent hisses from the cavern.
Marko flies to help his favorite falcon,
Binds with tenderness the wounded pinion,
And with stifled rage the bird addresses:
"Woe for thee, and woe for me, my falcon!
I have left my Serbians,---I have hunted
With the Turks,---and all these wrongs have suffer'd."
Then the hunters in their course pass'd by him---
Pass'd him by, and left him sad and lonely.

There his falcon's wounds to heal he tarried---
Tarried long amidst the mountain-forests.
When the wounds were heal'd, he sprung on Sharaz,
Spurr'd his steed, and gallop'd o'er the mountain;
Sped as swiftly as the mountain Vila.
Soon he leaves the mountain far behind him:
Reaching then the gloomy mountain borders;
On the plain beneath him, with his heroes---
Turkish heroes twelve, the princely Marko
The vizier descries, who looks around him,
Sees the princely Marko in the distance,
And thus calls upon his twelve companions:
"You, my children! you, twelve Turkish heroes!
See you yonder mountain mist approaching,
From the darksome mountain traveling hither?
In that mountain-mist is princely Marko;
Lo! how fiercely urges he his courser!
God defend us now from every evil!"

Soon the princely Marko reached the Moslems,
From the sheath he drew his trusty saber,
Drove that arm'd vizier, and all his warriors---
Drove them from him---o'er the desert scatters,
As the vulture drives a flock of sparrows.
Marko soon o'ertakes the flying warriors,
From his neck their chieftain's head he sever'd;
And the dozen youths his trusty saber
Into four-and-twenty halves divided.

Then he stood awhile in doubtful musing;
Should he go to Jedren [Adrianople] to the sultan---
Should he rather seek his home at Prilip?
After all his musings he determined:---
"Better is it that I seek the sultan;
And let Marko tell the deeds of Marko---
Not the foes of Marko---not the Moslems!"

So the hero Marko sped to Jedren.
To the sultan in divan he enter'd;
And his fiery eyes look'd fiercely round him,
As the hungry wolves around the forest;
Look'd as fiercely as if charged with lightnings.
And the sultan ask'd the hero Marko,
"Tell me what hath vexed thee, princely Marko?
Say in what the sultan hath annoy'd thee?
Tell me what misfortune hath disturb'd thee?"
Then the princely Marko tells the sultan
What with Amurath Vizier had happened;
And the sultan feigned a merry laughter:
And with agitated brow responded,
"Blessings be upon thee, princely Marko!
Hadst thou not behaved thee thus, my Marko,
Son of mine I would no longer call thee.
Any Turk may get a vizier's title,
But there is no hero like my Marko."

From his silken vestments then the sultan
From his purse drew out a thousand ducats,
Threw the golden ducats to the hero:
"Take these ducats from thy master, Marko,
Drink to my prosperity, thou hero!"

Marko took the purse of gold in silence,
Walk'd away in silence from the palace;
'Twas no love of Marko---no intention
That the hero's lips should pledge the sultan:
'Twas that he should quit the monarch's presence,
For his fearful wrath had been awaken'd.


From: Eva March Tappan, ed., The World's Story: A History of the World in Story, Song and Art, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1914), Vol. VI: Russia, Austria-Hungary, The Balkan States, and Turkey, pp. 415-419.

Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton.

This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

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© Paul Halsall, November 1998

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