When the Turks pillaged Kotar
they captured Stoyan Yankovich,
they captured Iliya Smiljanich,
and sacked their castles.
They took both men away to Stambol 5
and presented them as prizes to the honorable emperor.
Iliya's young wife remained behind
- his new bride of only fifteen days -
and Stoyan's young wife remained behind
- his new bride of seven months. 10
When the emperor had had a good look at the two men,
he put them in gaol.
There they were prisoners for three years,
then the emperor released them,
took them out of prison, 15
only to impose an even heavier punishment on them
- he made them slaves in his palace,
and so they remained for nine more years.
At the end of that time,
Iliya Smiljanich spoke out: 20
"O Stoyan, brother of mine,
tomorrow is Friday, the Turkish holy day;
the emperor will take the empress for a stroll.
Let us steal the keys to the cellars
and take two black horses; 25
let us flee to our own countries
and kiss the unkissed faces;
let us look once again on our shining homes,
and the long fields adjoining
where our white wheat grows, 30
and the vineyards next them;
let us go and see our agèd mothers,
and learn whether they have forgotten us!"
But Stoyan too spoke a word:
"Assuredly, Iliya Smiljanich, 35
tomorrow we shall do just that."
That day passed and it grew dark,
and murky night took hold of them.
But when the morrow came
- when Friday dawned, the Turkish holy day - 40
the emperor made an excursion
with his pashas and viziers in attendance on him,
whilst the empress went with her women to the woods;
only the serving men and women stayed behind,
all the emperor of Stambol's slaves. 45
But lo Iliya Smiljanich
when Stoyan Yankovich said:
"The time has come, dear brother of mine!
Away he went to the courtyard gates.
There he broke the courtyard locks 50
- castings of solid steel though they all were -
he broke all nine of them,
and even the tenth, which was made in Dubrovnik.
When he thus found himself at liberty,
he took hold of Stoyan Yankovich 55
- took him by the hand -
and just how did Stoyan Yankovich look?
Captivity had made inroads on him:
his complexion had darkened, poor devil!
When he thus found himself at liberty, 60
Stoyan went amongst the imperial servants
and spoke a word to them:
"Servants of the emperor and slaves of the empress,
give us the keys to the stable
and hand over the keys to the treasury! 65
Today we shall secure your freedom;
all of you flee withersoever you desire.
For our part, we shall flee to our own lands."
The slaves were so eager they could scarcely wait,
and gave them the keys to the stable. 70
As soon has Iliya got the keys
he opened the stable door
and set about choosing amongst the war horses.
He selected two black mounts
- one would have said, would indeed have sworn to it, 75
that they had been foaled by one and the same mare -
and led them forth into to level courtyard.
There he put gilded saddles on them,
tossed the reins onto the saddle horns,
and slapped them on their chops 80
to make them walk themselves about the courtyard.
Then he went with Stoyan to the treasury.
They threw saddlebags full of gold onto the saddles,
and found some weapons for themselves. 85
Oh, but just look at Stoyan
when he got hold of a keen saber!
The country they would cross was flatland all the way to Kosovo,
and he wanted to saber all the serving men and women,
but Iliya Smiljanich would not let him do it. 90
Both mounted their good steeds
and raced away to their own level countries.
In a little while - it was not long -
the emperor returned from his outing.
When he entered the imperial palace 95
and saw, poor fellow, what had happened,
he ordered a posse to pursue the heathens.
But Stoyan and Iliya were lucky
- by then they had crossed the Plain of Istanbul
and gotten into the high mountains, 100
which they were able to cross safely -
the Turks pursued them in vain;
they could not overtake them.
So they made good their escape to their own level countries.
When they had reached their rocky lands, 105
Iliya went on to his own shining castle.
Stoyan did not wish to go to his castle,
but went instead to his vineyard
- a vineyard that he had planted with his own hand -
and when he came into his vineyard, 110
he found his elderly mother there;
she was cutting grass and tying up the vines,
and cursing the bygone days and years,
and remembering her son Stoyan:
"O Stoyan, my one and only son, 115
your mother has by now forgotten you,
but will never forget her daughter-in-law Helen.
When Stoyan Yankovich had understood
what his mother was saying,
he spoke to her in this wise: 120
["What is the matter, agèd mother of mine?]
"Old woman of the stony marches,
is it because there are no younger persons to help you
that you thus work the vineyard alone?"
His agèd mother answered him:
"Believe me, unknown warrior, 125
I have no one of my own kin
but Stoyan, my one and only son.
But even him I have forgotten,
because it is now ten years
since the Turks took him captive, 130
and I have heard nothing of him since then.
Stoyan left a young wife;
she waited for his return nine years,
but today she is to be remarried.
I could not bear to witness such woes, 135
and so I fled the shining castle."
But when Stoyan had understood his mother,
he did not wish to disclose himself to her
but went instead to his own bright castle.
There before the courtyard he dismounted, 140
the wedding-party being in the castle all the while.
He went straightway into the castle,
where he greeted the wedding-guests.
They answered him in kind:
"Good health to you, unknown warrior! 145
Sit down, do! and drink with us!"
Stoyan accepted the invitation gladly.
He tossed off two bootsful of wine,
then he asked the leader of the wedding-party:
"Would it be permissible, master of ceremonies 150
- would it be permissible for me to sing a bit
for the amusement of the wedding-party?"
The master said,
"You may sing, unknown warrior
- you may sing as much as ever you please!" 155
So Stoyan Yankovich sang out:
"A swallow-bird wove a nest,
wove it for nine years
and for seven months of a tenth,
then she began to take it apart again. 160
But a grey-green falcon came a-flying
from the capital of the honorable emperor
and would not permit her to tear it apart.
No one perceived the meaning of the song
but only Stoyan's wife. 165
Freeing herself from the best man,
she ran away into the bright castle
to find Stoyan's sister.
Stoyan's lady said to her:
"Sister-in-law and sister of Stoyan, 170
your brother Stoyan has come!"
When Stoyan's sister had understood,
she ran as fast as she could down through the castle.
Thrice she surveyed the wedding guests
till she recognized her brother Stoyan, 175
into whose lap she hurled herself.
Embracing, they two kissed each others' faces,
and asked each after the other's health and well-being.
But when the wedding guests had seen it,
the master of ceremonies spoke out: 180
"Friend Stoyan Yankovich,
much wealth have we spent
in sueing for your wife's hand in marriage;
counsel us what now we should do."
Stoyan answered him this word: 185
"Only wait a bit, master,
whilst I feast mine eyes on my wife and sister.
We'll come to an agreement easily anon."
When Stoyan had kissed his wife
- his wife and his only sister - 190
he said to the master of ceremonies,
"I'll give you my one and only sister
- and as for the bride-price that you have paid,
let her enjoy it!"
With that the wedding-guests were contented every one, 195
and accepted Stoyan's sister.
Handsomely did Stoyan see them off,
and then re-entered his bright castle.
As the sun went down,
Stoyan's mother approached; 200
the old woman was weeping and shedding tears,
remembering her son Stoyan
and Helen, her daughter-in-law:
"O Stoyan, my only son,
your mother has forgotten you, 205
but never will she forget her daughter-in-law Helen."
When Stoyan's lady saw her,
she ran down the castle stairs
and took the mother in her embrace,
and said thus to the agèd dame: 210
"Don't cry, dear mother of mine
- don't cry and let your big tears fall, -
for lo! here is your own son Stoyan!"
Stoyan Yankovich just then came down to her.
When his agèd mother saw him, 215
she fell to earth and gave up her soul to God
- her poor old heart had burst.
Stoyan took her up in his arms
and carried her into the shining castle;
on the morrow her held obsequies for her and buried her 220
as befits a son to do for his mother.
And as for us, may we be well and merry!