Marko sat down to sup with his mother,
dry bread and red wine,
but three letters arrived, all addressed to Marko.
One was from Stamboul City,
from that emperor whose name was Bayazid. 5
Another came to him from Buda town,
from Buda's king;
and the third from Sibinj City,
from John Voivode of Sibinj.
The letter that came to him from Stamboul City 10
was summons from the emperor to military service
on the harsh Arabian frontier.
The letter that came to him from Buda
was summons from the king to a wedding,
to be the king's best man 15
a-wedding him with his queen-to-be.
The letter from Sibinj City
was John of Sibinj's summons to a christening,
to christening his two infant sons.
Marko asked his agèd mother, 20
"Advise me, elder mother mine,
whither am I most bound to go?
To the Imperial Army,
or to the king's wedding,
to minister his wedding with the lady, his queen-to-be? 25
Or should I go to John of Sibinj
a-christening his two infant sons?"
Marko Kraljevich's mother said to him:
"Marko Kraljevich, son of mine,
one goes to weddings for the pleasure of them, 30
and to rites of christening in compliance with God's ordinance;
but military service is perforce.
Go serve in the Imperial Army, son,
for God is forgiving of us, son;
but the Turks would not comprehend our disobedience." 35
So Marko was persuaded by his mother
and went away to serve in the Imperial Army,
taking his man Goluban with him.
At his departure he instructed his mother:
"Hear me well, agèd mother mine. 40
Close the gates in the wall early
and open them late.
I am at enmity, mother,
with that accursèd man Mina of Kostur,
and I have misgivings, agèd mother mine, 45
that he may attempt to sack my mansion."
So Marko went away to the Imperial Army
with his serving-man Goluban.
On the third evening of their journey
Marko sat him down to dine 50
and Goluban stood by to pour him ruddy wine.
Marko Kraljevich had no sooner taken up the cup,
taken the cup in hand, than he fell into a trance
and let fall the cup upon the table
- the cup fell from his hand, but the wine spilled not. 55
Goluban his butler woke him:
"Milord Marko Kraljevich,
you've gone ere this to service in the Army,
but never yet dozed off this way
and let the cup fall from your hand!" 60
Marko started from his trance
and spoke to Goluban:
"Goluban, faithful servant mine,
I have dozed and seen a strange vision,
a strange vision in a curious instant: 65
a wraith of mist arose
out of Kostur City
and enveloped Prilep.
In that mist went Mina of Kostur.
He pillaged my bright mansion, 70
plundered it and set it afire,
trampled my agèd mother under horses' hooves
and took captive my loyal wife,
then emptied my stable of the mounts I keep therein
and carried off the riches from my treasury." 75
The servant Goluban said to him again,
"Fear not, Marko Kraljevich!
May the goodly warrior dream only a goodly dream!
Sleep lies; God alone is real."
When they came to the Imperial capital, 80
the emperor raised a mighty army
and sailed with it across the azure sea
to the harsh Arabian frontier,
where all along the coast he captured cities,
four and forty of them. 85
When he came to Kara Okan,
he beleaguered it for three whole years
- besieged, but could not capture it.
Marko made great slay of Arab warriors
and took their heads as trophies to the emperor, 90
for which the emperor paid him bounties.
His favour with the emperor was painful to the Turks,
who spoke thus to the honorable emperor:
"Our lord, Emperor Bayazid,
Marko is no warrior of true worth, 95
but only brings you heads which he has cut from corpses already dead
to buy your bounty."
Word reached Marko of their jealous calumny,
and he sought leave of the honorable emperor:
"Milord Emperor - who art to me like unto a father! - 100,
tomorrow is my patron saint's feast day,
lovely Saint George's Day.
Grant me leave, paternal Emperor,
to celebrate my saint's day
as custom and religion dictate; 105
let my comrade Halil Agha go with me too
where I will withdraw to drink my ruddy wine in peace."
The emperor could not do other than comply,
so he sent Marko Kraljevich away
to celebrate his saint's day 110
and furloughed his comrade Halil Agha too.
Marko withdrew into an upland greenery
some distance from the imperial host,
and pitched his bright pavilion there,
wherein he sat him down to drink the darkling wine 115
with his comrade Halil Agha.
When on the morrow morning came,
the Arabs' sentries understood immediately
that Marko was not among their foe,
and so the Arabs' pickets called to all their countrymen: 120
"Attack, fierce `Aarab!
That ferocious warrior
on the great piebald fights not!"
So the fierce Arabian host attacked en masse
and slew thirty thousand of the emperor's troops. 125
Thereupon the emperor wrote to Marko:
"Come quickly, Marko my son,
I've lost thirty thousand troops!"
But Marko answered the emperor,
"How would you have me rejoin your army now, fatherly Emperor? 130
I've only begun my celebratory drinking
and not yet commenced the principal rites at all!"
When the second morning came,
again the Arabs' sentries called to their cohorts:
"Attack, fierce `Aarab! 135
That ferocious warrior
on the great piebald fights not!"
So the fierce Arabian host attacked en masse
and slew sixty thousand of the emperor's troops.
Again the emperor wrote to Marko: 140
"Come quickly, Marko my son,
I've lost sixty thousand troops!"
But Marko replied to him:
"Wait yet a little while, father Emperor!
I've not yet done honour fully to my friends and fellows in the rites." 145
When the third morning shone forth,
again the Arabs' pickets called:
"Attack, fierce `Aarab!
That goodly warrior
on the great piebald fights not!" 150
So the Arabs struck en masse
and slew an hundred thousand of the Imperial Army.
Then the emperor wrote thus to Marko:
"Come quickly, Marko my sweet son!
Quickly, I implore thee in the name of God, my son! 155
Come quickly, son!
The Arabs have flattened mine own tent!"
Then it was that Marko mounted his piebald
and rejoined the Imperial Army.
When in the morning bright day dawned 160
and the two opposing armies clashed,
the Arabs' sentries noted Marko
and called with all their white throats' force:
"Retreat, fierce `Aarab!
For lo the ferocious warrior 165
mounted on his great Piebald!"
Then Marko burst in amongst the Arabs
and sent their army reeling in three parts:
one part he cut down with his sword;
a second portion Piebald trampled under hoof; 170
a third part Marko drove captive to the emperor.
Oh, but this cost Marko horrid wounds:
seventy wounds in all he took,
seventy wounds inflicted on him by the Arabs.
He fell upon the emperor's lap, 175
and milord emperor asked him:
"My dear son Marko Kingson,
are these mortal wounds,
or canst thou, sweet son, be healed of them?
Should I fetch thee balm and leeches?" 180
Marko Kraljevich answered him:
"Milord, fatherly Emperor,
my wounds are not mortal;
methinks I may recover."
The emperor reached into his pockets 185
and drew forth for Marko a thousand ducats
to pay for cure of Marko's wounds,
and sent a pair of footmen too
to watch lest Marko die.
But Marko would seek no leech 190
and went instead from inn to inn
seeking for to find the best of wine.
So Marko got his fill of wine
and by and by his gaping wounds grew shut.
But then there came to him a letter writ in miniscule 195
telling him his house was sacked,
sacked and burnt with fire,
his agèd mother trampled under horses' hooves,
and his own true wife enslaved.
Then Marko complained 200
in supplication at the emperor's knee:
"Milord Emperor - who art as father to me! -
my bright mansion has been pillaged,
my faithful wife enslaved,
and my agèd mother trampled under horses' hooves; 205
the riches seized from out my treasury
- taken all away by Mina of Kostur."
The emperor gan comfort him:
"Fear not, Marko my son!
If thy mansions have been burnt, 210
I'll cause yet finer mansions to be built for thee
here next my own, such as are my very own.
If thy treasure has been plundered,
I'll make thee tax-collector
and thou mayest gather greater treasure than thou hadst before; 215
and if thy wife be taken from thee,
I'll marry thee again with one yet better."
But Marko Kraljevich replied:
"My thanks to thee, fatherly Emperor!
But when thou wouldst begin to build new mansions for me, 220
the poor will curse me:
`See now this whoreson Marko Kraljevich!
His other mansions have burnt down;
may these new ones too be never occupied!'
Didst thou make me thy tax-collector, 225
I were not able to gather any tax
save by reducing those of little means or none to peonage,
wherefor the poor would heap their imprecations on me:
`Behold this whoreson Marko Kraljevich!
What treasure formerly he had, someone has carried off 230
- may this new treasure buy him nothing good!'
And how couldst thou wed me with another wife
when she who is my wife is still alive?
Grant me instead three hundred Janissaries.
Have curvèd scythes wrought for them at the forge, 235
and equip them too with light pitchforks.
Then I'll go myself to shining Kostur town
and put to the test whether haply I might bring home my wife again."
The Emperor granted him a detachment of three hundred Janissaries,
caused curvèd scythes to be wrought for them at the forge, 240
and equipped them with light pitchforks too.
Marko thus advised the Janissaries:
"Comrades of mine, my three hundred Janissaries,
get you hence to bright Kostur,
for when you come to shining Kostur City 245
the Greeks will take delight in your arrival:
`Here's a troop of migrant day-labourers come to us.
Tillage in our vineyards will be cheap this year.'
But you, engage yourselves for no employment;
only camp beside Kostur City's wall 250
and there drink wine and brandy
till I come to you at Kostur."
So the Janissaries went three hundred strong
to bright Kostur
while Marko went separately to famous Mount Athos, 255
there to take communion and to be confessèd of his sins,
for he had spilt much blood.
Then he donned the habit of a monk
and let his black beard grow to his waist,
and set the cylindrical miter on his head. 260
Finally he mounted Piebald
and rode straightway to shining Kostur.
When he came to Mina of Kostur
he found him seated, quaffing ruddy wine,
and Marko's wife served to pour it for him. 265
Mina of Kostur asked:
"As God is your witness, black-clad monk,
how came you by that piebald horse?"
Marko Kraljevich answered him:
"As God is my witness, milord Mina, 270
I was in the Imperial Army
on the harsh Arabian frontier,
where also was a certain fool
hight Marko Kraljevich,
who perished there. 275
I attended to his obsequy
in keeping with holy ordinance and custom;
they gave me his horse for my fee."
When Mina of Kostur heard this,
he leapt to his feet for joy 280
and said to Marko Kraljevich:
"Well done, thou black-clad monk!
It's been full nine years' time
that I have hoped for such good news.
I sacked Marko's house 285
and burned it down with fire,
and made his wife my slave;
only I've not yet wedded her,
waiting as I have to hear of Marko's death.
But now I'm free to make her my own wife." 290
Marko Kraljevich took his holy book in hand,
took the book and wed Mina
- with whom? With his own wife!
And then they all sat down to drink the ruddy wine,
to drink the ruddy wine and be merry all. 295
But then Mina of Kostur said:
"Listen, Helen, heart and soul of mine!
Hitherto you have been `Mrs. Marko,'
but henceforth `Mina's lady.'
Go now, sweetheart, into my nether treasuries, 300
and bring up to me three cupfuls of ducats
for me to give this monk."
Away went Helen to the nether treasuries
and brought the cups of ducats forth.
She brought none of Mina's treasure, 305
but all instead from Marko's store of wealth;
she brought forth also Marko's corroded sword
and gave it to the black-clad monk.
"Take this too, thou black-clad monk,
in remembrance of Mark Kraljevich!" 310
Marko took the sabre,
took the sabre and inspected it,
then said to Mina of Kostur:
"Milord Mina of Kostur,
wilt thou give me leave here on the occasion of thy festivity 315
to dance a little in the mincing monkish way?"
Mina of Kostur replied to him:
"Thou'rt welcome, black-clad monk,
welcome to dance - and why shouldst thou not?"
Marko leapt to his agile feet 320
and twice and thrice he made a turn about the floor,
and all the mansion quaked in rhythm with his steps.
Then forth he drew the rusted sword
and brandished it from right to left,
and cut off Mina's head, 325
then called with all his bright throat's strength:
"Attack, migrant field workers of mine!
Mina of Kostur is no more!"
And so the three hundred Janissaries rushed into
Mina of Kostur's mansions 330
and plundered them,
sacked them all and set them ablaze.
Marko took his own true wife,
and gathering up all Mina's treasure,
went back to shining Prilep City 335
singing roundelays.


  • main menu