Musa the Brigand drank wine
in a bright tavern in Stambol.
When Musa had done himself proud with the wine
and the wine had affected his wits,
in his drunkenness Musa said: 5
"Here it is the ninth year
that I have served the emperor in Stambol,
and I have not been paid nor mount nor arms for my service,
nor yet even so much as a new coat, or even one second-hand.
By the oath I swear this day, 10
I'll get me gone to the lowlands by the sea;
there I'll build a bright castle
with iron hooks all about it,
and I'll supply it with a source of water,
and erect high gibbets 15
whereon I'll hang hodjas and hadjis;
I'll plunder merchants' goods
and blocks the roads along the coast."
What Musa said he would do when drunk
he proceeded to do when sober: 20
revolting against the emperor, he took himself off to the coastland
where he erected a shining castle
and encompassed the castle with water,
and raised high gibbets.
Then he commenced a reign of violence on the coast: 25
he seized the goods of merchants everywhere,
unladed their packs and cargoes,
and hanged hodjas and hadjis.
When Musa had rankled the whole population,
denunciation of him reached the emperor in Stambol, 30
saying that he had become intolerable to everyone.
The emperor sent his most select champions
to slay Musa the Brigand,
but whoever went away to find him
returned never again to Stambol. 35
But when the complaints against him at last rankled the emperor,
he sent his vizier Hussein to put him down
with a company of full three thousand soldiers.
When the vizier had arrived on the coast
and had reached the shining castle 40
-the bright castle of Musa the Brigand -
he wrote him a common letter-of-hand:
"Surrender yourself, Brigand Musa
- don't destroy yourself for no reason -
you shall be appointed vizier of proud Bosnia!" 45
When Musa had read the letter,
he wrote back to Vizier Hussein:
"May you be in good health, servant of Stambol!
Never shall I submit to you
so long as I live!" 50
Then he opened his castle gates
and charged into the troop of Turks.
He dispelled them every one
and took the vizier alive,
plucked out his white beard, 55
and sent it to the emperor by the vizier's own hand.
And when the vizier came to Stambol again
he said to Murat Suleiman:
"Turkish Emperor, lord of the world,
no mother has given birth to any such champion 60
as might be able to cut off Musa's head!"
Then Chuprilich Vizier spoke up:
"Milord - brilliant sovereign of ours! -
There is a great hero in your keep
- Marko Kraljevich, who languishes in your gaol - 65
he would be able to slay the brigand Musa for you."
The emperor of Stambol burst into tears:
"It has been much more than a year
since I cast Marko into prison;
by this time his very bones must have rotted away." 70
Then Chuprilich Vizier said,
"Emperor, give me the keys to the prison;
I shall go and seek Marko Kraljevich."
The emperor gave him the prison keys
and the Vizier went to the prison gates, 75
opened the gates of the prison,
and called for Marko Kraljevich.
With a great effort Marko answered him,
then Marko said to himself:
"Dear God, who can this be? 80
Why does he call for me today by name?"
Then he went out through the prison gate.
When Vizier Chuprilich saw him,
he shuddered as though a third-degree fever had seized him.
Son of a misfortunate mother, how terrible he looked! 85
He had become as dusky as the grey rock,
for the dank from the prison stones had destroyed him;
his hair hung down to the ground
and his fingernails were like ploughshares.
Chuprilich Vizier led him away 90
straight to a young barber
- one barber shaved him, a second washed his face,
a third cut his nails.
When the barber had put Marko in order,
he went straightway to the emperor's audience-chamber. 95
The emperor started till his aged feet
and made a place for him beside himself;
then he began to tell Marko his woes,
how Musa had imposed tribute on him:
"And so, my son Marko Kraljevich, 100
might you have sufficient confidence in yourself
to slay Musa the Brigand?
For your reward I'll give you whatever your heart desires."
But Marko Kraljevich said to him:
"Luminous Emperor, brilliant sovereign of ours, 105
here have I yearlong
lain in the dark prison;
I am in no condition for combat,
nor would I dare to confront Musa.
Put me in a groggy tavern 110
for a month at your expense,
and I shall tell you when I'm fit to fight."
The emperor sent him to a groggy tavern
and had him fed as copiously as could be.
When an entire month had passed, 115
the emperor of Stambol asked him
whether Marko was fit to fight.
Marko Kraljevich said to him,
"Bring me hard cornel-wood
cured in an attic for nine years." 120
They brought him dry cornel-wood,
and Marko squeezed it with his right hand
---the wood snapped in two and three pieces,
but no drop of water came out.
Then he said to the emperor of the Turks, 125
"Milord - brilliant sovereign of ours! -
my arm is still not strong enough for combat;
I'll stay here for another month."
When that number of days had been counted
and the complaints had exasperated the emperor, 130
Marko asked again for cornel-wood.
They brought him dry cornel-wood
cured in an attic for nine years;
Marko squeezed it in his right hand
- the wood split into two and three pieces 135
and three drops of water spurted out.
Then Marko said this:
"It's true, Emperor of Stambol,
I'm now fit for combat."
Thereupon Marko leapt to his feet 140
and went straightway to Novak the blacksmith.
"Forge me a saber, Smith Novak,
such as you have never forged before!"
So when a week had passed
Marko went to pay for the saber. 145
Marko asked the blacksmith Novak,
"As God is your witness, Smith Novak,
have you ever made a better one,
and may I test the saber?"
Then Novak the blacksmith said to him: 150
"There is the saber, and there is the anvil;
strike, brother, and verify for yourself
whether it is a good saber for combat."
Marko therewith brandished the saber
and cut halfway through the anvil. 155
Then Marko said again,
"Nova, have you ever forged a better one?"
"Indeed, Marko, I have forged a better one
- a better one it was, and for a better man -
when Musa deserted to the coastlands. 160
When Musa struck with his saber
he cut clean through the iron,
and even damaged the stand on which the anvil stood.
He paid me a hundred ducats for it."
Marko was infuriated: 165
"Hold out your hand, Smith Novak,
so that I may pay you in gold for the saber."
In a moment of inattention an adder stung him
- Marko swung his saber with great force
and cut off his arm at the shoulder. 170
Then he took out a hundred ducats:
"Take this, Nova, and buy yourself some wine."
He went away then to the emperor's palace,
where the emperor received him cordially
and had his piebald horse made ready. 175
When the piebald recognized its master,
it began to whinny there before the imperial palace.
Now Marko swung himself onto the piebald
and rode it away uphill and down.
In each place to which he wandered he asked for Musa. 180
Early one morning
when he was a-riding his sturdy piebald 183
up through the canyon by Kachanik castle, 182
deep in thought as he went,
he happened to glance up, 185
and there he saw Musa the Brigand
sitting cross-legged in the saddle,
throwing a club high in the sky
and catching it again with his lily-white hands as it fell.
Closer and closer they came until finally the met. 190
Immediately Musa the Brigand said:
"Madcap Marko, get out of my way!"
Marko said to Musa the Brigand,
"Madcap Musa, get out of my way!"
Both were short-tempered: 195
Marko threw his heavy club,
but Marko Kraljevich caught it,
threw it aside into the green grass,
and attacked Musa,
meaning to cut off his head. 200
But Musa too was a fighter:
when both had broken their sabers,
they dismounted from their good horses
and grappled each other.
Thus they fought till high noon of a summer's day. 205
Foam formed on the mouth of each,
Marko's white and laced with blood.
But when Marko's strength was completely exhaused,
Musa the Brigand threw him
and sat on his manly chest. 210
Marko Kraljevich cried out then,
"Where are you, vila, sister of mine?
If ever you would help me, do it now or never!"
But the vila answered him from amongst the clouds:
"Have I not told you, Marko, 215
not to do combat on a Sunday!"
In a moment of distraction Musa the Brigand
looked away towards the clouds above
from which the vila had uttered;
Marko whipped out his knife from its place of concealment 220
and cut Musa the Brigand open
from his navel to his lily-white throat.
Musa's lifeless body sprawled atop Marko,
so that Marko could hardly extricate himself.
But when he caught sight of Musa's heart, 225
he saw three vipers a-lying on it:
one of them was terribly tired,
but another had only just awakened,
and the third was still sound asleep.
The viper newly-awakened said to him: 230
"Say a prayer of thanks to God, Marko Kraljevich!
Had I not been sound asleep,
I would have done you to death this day!"
Thereupon the mighty Kraljevich burst into tears:
"Woe is me, God wot, 235
for I have slain a better man than I am!"
Marko cut off Musa's head
and tossed it into his piebald's nosebag,
then he went straightway to shining Stambol.
When Marko came before the emperor, 240
he threw down Musa the Brigand's head,
and the emperor sprang to his agèd feet
so frightened that he almost fell over.
Marko Kraljevich said to him,
"Fear not, Emperor of Stambol! 245
How could you have faced him when he was alive,
when you dance about this way at the sight of his lifeless head?"
The emperor kissed Marko Kraljevich:
"Well done, scion of heroes!
You are a great warrior in this world." 250
Marko went away to Prilep town
with an enormous treasure from Stambol
which the emperor gave him
- he went away to see his shining castle
and his agèd mother dwelling within it. 255


  • main menu