Petar II Petrovic Njegos
The Mountain Wreath
Unabridged Internet Edition [First Serbian Edition: Wien, 1847]
Translated into English by Vasa D. Mihailovich, Professor of Slavic Languages, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (USA)

Jurija Gagarina 116-32
11000 Belgrade, Serbia, Yugoslavia

Hardcover - 210 pages; 20 cm
In Serbian language with parallel English translation

Based on Second Revised Paper Edition, published by SERBIAN EUROPE, Belgrade, 1997 

Courtesy of "SERB LAND OF MONTENEGRO", and its first digital edition , reproduced by "Project Rastko - Digital library of Serbian Culture", February 2000.



Facsimile of the original title page (1847)

Facsimile of the original
title page (1847)

In our desire to take part in the celebration of the 150th anniversary of our greatest poetic work, we have decided to publish it with a parallel English translation, the first of the kind in our country.*
The first edition of The Mountain Wreath in English was published in 1930, in the translation by the first English lector in the newly founded Department of English at the University of Belgrade, James W Wiles, who had learnt Serbian quite well. But, as any translation of a great poem into another language, Wiles could not quite adequately render into English all intricate lines and phrases of Njegos's linguistic and stylistic features. All students of this work, especially the translators of poetry, know that it is impossible to satisfy all the requirements of a perfect translation. It was observed a long time ago that translations are like women: if they are beautiful, they are not faithful, if faithful - they are not beautiful.
Apart from the desire to improve on the previous translation, it is necessary for every new generation to attempt a new translation of a great poem in order to refresh it with new features and qualities of the language into which it is translated.
The translation by Mr. Vasa D. Mihailovic, a naturalized American and an outstanding Slavic scholar at the University of North Carolina, (Chapel Hill, USA), appeared in the USA more than half a century after the first English translation, for both reasons just mentioned. This jubilee is an additional reason for this translation to appear in the poet's native country, as a new and revised edition. It was recommended to us by some English Slavicists as well as by some of our local Njegos scholars.
In Introduction to his translation, also republished here, Professor Mihailovic presents not only his interesting observations on Njegos and his works, particularly those on Njegos's contribution to world literature, but he also enlarges on his approach to rendering The Mountain Wreath into English different from the one chosen by James W Wiles and still more clearly justifies his call for a new translation of this epic. That is why we have decided to publish his introduction also, both in English and in Serbian.
Our English scholars and British Slavicists are, naturally, most competent to judge Mihailovics translation, but it will be done with due justice if his translation is compared with Serbian translations of Shakespeare. Shakespeare's works have been translated into Serbian since 1860 and we are still not satisfied with those achievements. To be sure, neither are other European nations that began that work long before us and whose languages are far more similar to English than the Serbian language is.
We are obliged to Professor Vasa D. Mihailovic' for his contribution to the appreciation of English speaking readers of the best South Slavic epic; and for enabling us to join the celebration of this anniversary with this new and unusual edition.
* The first such edition of The Mountain Wreath, in Vasa D. Mihailovics translation, appeared in the USA in 1986. Three years later its reprint edition appeared in Belgrade, and this is its first Serbian edition with a parallel English verse translation thoroughly revised by the translator so that it is almost a new version.


Petar II Petrovic

Petar Petrovic Njegos was a great poet, a prince by inheritance, and the Bishop of Montenegro in the first half of the nineteenth century. In fulfilling successfully these roles imposed on him by circumstances, he not only built for himself a pedestal among the immortals but also set his beloved Montenegro on the road toward full self-realization. Today he is revered as Montenegro's most illustrious son and the greatest poet in Serbian literature.
Born November 1, 1813, in the village of Njegusi in Montenegro, Njegos was a member of a leading family which had produced state leaders for several generations in that small mountainous country. He grew up among illiterate peasants and shepherds, whose main duty was to fight incessant battles with the invading Turks and to till their infertile land. He left home when he was eleven and entered the Cetinje monastery, at that time the only place of any culture and education in Montenegro. His schooling was meager and unconventional; first in the monastery, then as tutored by the self-educated and eccentric poet Sima Milutinovic Sarajlija. Milutinovic taught the young Njegos a few basic disciplines and instilled in him an appreciation for heroic folk poems, through which he called forth Njegos 's own poetic inspirations. Njegos was sent by his uncle, the state and spiritual leader of Montenegro, to a school near Herceg-Novi, on the Adriatic coast, just beyond the Montenegrin border. His brief stay there was highly beneficial to him because for the first time he was able to live in a more civilized environment. It was at this time that he began to write poems in imitation of folk poetry, which was then the only kind of literature of which the people of Montenegro were aware.
Though he had meager theological training, at the age of seventeen, in October 1830, Njegos inherited his uncle's title as the head of both the state and the church. He remained in that capacity until his death. During his rule Njegos spent most of his energy in leading Montenegro out of the Middle Ages, while nonetheless finding time to write. He had to bring order among the Montenegrin tribes, which resisted his attempts to eradicate common crime and often conducted bloody wars against one another. He tried to convince his countrymen that they ought to pay taxes so that the country could be modernized. He also fought to establish the borders of Montenegro and played diplomatic games with the great powers - Turkey, Austria, and Russia - in order to achieve formal recognition of Montenegro as a sovereign state, while at the same time organizing military campaigns against the Turks and their Montenegrin converts. He built schools and roads, very few of which had existed before him; organized a small governing body called the Senate; created the first organized police force in Montenegro to combat crime, collect taxes, and prevent tribal wars; imported a printing press and started publishing books; and sent gifted youths abroad to provide for an enlightened future leadership for the country. All the while he was dreaming of the liberation of all Slavs from the Turks, placing his greatest hope in Russia as the protector of the Slavs. In 1833 he went to Russia, where he was officially ordained Bishop of Montenegro. While on his journey to Russia, in Vienna, he twice met Vuk Karadzic, the great reformer of the Serbian written language and collector of Serbian folk literature. Njegos gave Vuk some of his writings to be published and, in turn, was encouraged by Vuk to write more. From Russia Njegos brought many books, which represented his first real encounter with world literature. His second trip to Russia, in 1837. contributed even further to the recognition of Montenegro as a sovereign state and to the security of its borders. He remained a loyal admirer of Russia all his life, even when Russia had to make peace with his arch-enemy, Turkey.
The next ten years were a period of lively literary activity in Njegos's life, during which he wrote his greatest works - The Ray of Microcosm and The Mountain Wreath, while continuing his struggle for a strong and secure Montenegro. The revolutions of 1848 in Europe strengthened his hopes that all Slavs, especially the South Slavs, would completely free themselves from foreign domination, and that his beloved Montenegro would finally be left in peace. When the revolutions failed, Njegos was bitterly disappointed. In addition, strenuous work under unsavory conditions and the constant fighting which surrounded him undermined his health. He fell ill of tuberculosis and after several trips to Italy and Austria in search of a cure, died on October 19, 1851, at his capital Cetinje, in his thirty-eighth year, too young to finish his two main missions - as a statesman and as a poet. He is buried at Lovcen, a mountain peak he had chosen himself. His mausoleum is now a shrine for his whole nation.
Njegos began to write poetry at a very early age, when he was only six-teen. His four books of poetry The Voice of Mountaineers (1833), The Cure for Turkish Fury (1834), The Song of Freedom (1835, published 1854), and The Serbian Mirror (1845) - attest to the fact that poetry was foremost on his mind and in his heart, even when he was preoccupied with other concerns. His early poems imitate the folk poetry with which he grew up and whose influence stayed with him his entire life. As he matured, imitation gave way to his own renditions of the overriding theme of Serbian folk epic poetry - the struggle against the Turkish occupation or the threat thereof, and the eventual liberation from it. The freeing of all Serbs from the Turkish yoke was Njegos lifelong dream, both as a statesman and as a poet. In poems like "A New Montenegrin Poem about the War between the Russians and the Turks"(1828) and A Montenegrin Captured by a Fairy (1834), Njegos glorifies the bravery of the Serbs in that struggle as epitomized by Karageorge, the leader of the First Serbian Uprising against the Turks in 1804. Yet, even though these poems are imbued with the heroic spirit of folk poetry and follow its formalistic features, they also reveal the authenticity and potential power of Njegos's own poetic talent, which would be manifested in his later works.
Njegoss first important work, and one of the greatest achievements in Serbian literature, is the epic poem The Ray of Microcosm, (1845, in English, 1952 and 1957). Written in the decasyllabic meter of Serbian folk poetry, it deviates from the spirit of folk poetry in that it deals with the poet's philosophical and religious views on man, his origin, his relationship with God, and his ultimate fate on earth. The six cantos of this epic present, through the eyes of a poet who is given the opportunity to visit the cosmos in its pre-existence, Njegoss own interpretation of the origin of the world and man's role in it. As in Christian tradition, Njegos sees the world as God's creation after the titanic struggle of Light and Darkness, but Njegoss man is created by God before the creation of the earth and is condemned to eternal suffering on earth after he has joined Satan in the rebellion against God. Thus, Njegos's religious outlook is basically in agreement with the Christian view although it differs in details. The poem is written in an exalted tone as befits the subject matter, and the depth of his views and thoughts resembles that of Dante's Divine Comedy and Miltons Paradise Lost, to which it is often compared. While it is true that Njegos was familiar with both of these works, his epic is the result of his own thinking and poetic power.
Njegos published his magnum opus, The Mountain Wreath, in 1847, the banner year in Serbian literature. In the same year Vuk Karadzic published his own translation of the New Testament into a language that every Serb could understand, and Branko Radicevic published his Poems, the first collection of Serbian lyric poetry in the language of the people. To be sure, The Mountain Wreath goes beyond the significance of the year. It is a modern epic written in verse as a play, thus combining three of the major modes of literary expression.
The Mountain Wreath represents a synthesis in another sense as well. It is based on historical facts, thus it can be called a historical play. It epitomizes the spirit of the Serbian people kept alive for centuries; indeed, there is no other literary work with which the Serbs identify more. it gave Njegos an opportunity to formulate his own philosophical views, views which also reflect and further inspire those of his nation. Finally, in this work the author reaches artistic heights seen neither before nor since in Serbian literature. These are the main reasons for the universal reverence for and high estimation of The Mountain Wreath the highest achievement in all of Serbian literature.
The play is based on a historical event in Montenegro that took place toward the end of the seventeenth century, known as "the exterminations of the Turkish converts." Although the historical facts about this event are somewhat uncertain, it is known that at approximately that time Montenegrins attempted to solve radically the problem of many of their brethren who, having succumbed to the lure of Turkish power, had agreed to being converted to Islam, mainly to improve their increasingly harsh lives. The fact that Njegos used this event only as a general framework, however, without bothering about the exact historical data, underscores his concern with an issue that had preoccupied him throughout his entire life: the struggle for freedom from foreign oppression. He subjects the entire plot and all characters to this central idea.
The themes presented in The Mountain Wreath lend the work dimensions that go far beyond its local limitations. The basic theme is the struggle for freedom, justice, and dignity. The characters are fighting to correct a local flaw in their society - the presence of turncoats whose allegiance is to a foreign power bent on conquest - but they are at the same time involved in a struggle between good and evil, which is found everywhere in nature. Thus, while depicting the local problem Njegos points at the ideals that should concern all mankind. He expresses a firm belief in man and in his basic goodness and integrity. He also shows that man must forever fight for his rights and for whatever he attains, for nothing comes by chance. Apart from these universal concerns, Njegos presents the centuries-old struggle of his people for the ideals just mentioned. Perhaps no people on earth has been forced by historical circumstances to pay for every speck of land and every piece of bread with blood and sweat as have the Montenegrins. In elevating their struggle to a universal level Njegos seems to find both justification and reward for their efforts. It should also be pointed out that much of the action and many characters in The Mountain Wreath point at similarities with Njegos and his own time. By connecting the past with the present he gave vent to his own frustrations which were caused by the often insurmountable difficulties he had to endure in his attempts to create a better life for his people. It is safe to assume that many of the thoughts and words of Bishop Danilo and Abbot Stephen reflect Njegos's own, and that the main plot of the play - the extermination of the converts - illuminates the one overriding ambition of his life -to free his people and enable them to live in peace and dignity.
The Mountain Wreath is not a drama in the usual sense of the word. Divided into four scenes of unequal length, it has many subscenes which tend to weaken the unity of action. There is little direct action, moreover, most of it is related by characters, sometimes at great length. It is more of a Lesedrama and it is not performed often: even when it is, it is done with revisions. It cannot be said, however, that the play is totally devoid of dramatic quality: at times it is highly dramatic, even in the speeches relating the action. There is also a healthy dose of humour which enlivens an otherwise sombre and often tragic atmosphere.
One of the most important merits of The Mountain Wreath is its high artistic quality. Employing a decasyllabic meter borrowed from folk poetry, the play is written in the pure language of folk poetry, a language that never ceases to astound the reader and listener. There are many powerful metaphors and striking images. When numerous profound thoughts are added, frequently expressed in the laconic manner of proverbs (indeed, many of them have become proverbs), the picture of The Mountain Wreath as a masterful work of art is complete.
Njegos wrote his second play - and his last major work - Stephen the Small, the Pretender (1847), soon after The Mountain Wreath. Yet, despite some similarities (both plays are based on history and are written in the decasyllabic meter, for example), the two plays could not be more different. Njegos collected the material for this play in the archives at home and in Venice, as well as in the rich folklore about the main character and his exploits. Stephen the Small was published in 1851, the last of his books which he would see in print.
The historical background of the play covers one of the most fascinating and bizarre events in Montenegrin history. A man appeared in Montenegro in 1767 claiming that he was the Russian Tsar Peter III, who had disappeared in Russia under mysterious circumstances and was believed to have been murdered. Most Montenegrins believed Stephen and installed him as their ruler. His rule lasted only until 1774, however, because some Montenegrin leaders doubted his story; a Russian envoy, Dolgorukov, arrived to claim his extradition; and the Turks demanded that he be handed over to them. The Turks even attacked Montenegro for that purpose, but were defeated. During the brief war Stephen behaved in a cowardly manner, thus losing respect among Montenegrins. But because he did some good during his short reign - he brought unity among the feuding tribes, effected reforms, and defeated the Turks - his shortcomings were forgiven, even after he finally admitted that he had come from Dalmatia as an adventurer. Stephen was murdered by a Greek in Turkish service, who cut his throat while shaving him.
Such an adventure tale could have served Njegos well had he been a more skillful playwright. But instead of concentrating on the plot, dramatic as it was, he used the dramatic form mainly to put forth his views on Montenegrin history, on the never-ending war against the Turks, and on the Montenegrin character in general. The play is much less exalted and much more down to earth than The Mountain Wreath. It is also much more of a traditional play than The Mountain Wreath. Even though it does not always adhere to the unities of time and place and the scenery sometimes changes in the midst of an act, it is clearly divided into five acts, with eleven scenes on an average in each act. Still, the fact of the matter is that Stephen the Small is also more of a Lesedrama than a play to be acted (it is indeed seldom performed). The actors spend most of their time talking rather than acting, and the author seems to be carried away by their incessant talk.
The lack of a truly dramatic quality in Stephen the Small reveals that Njegos was more preoccupied with his own views about this brief and strange episode in Montenegrin history than with its dramatic potential. It is also conceivable that, having experienced similar difficulties in dealing with his own people and with the Turks, he wanted to point out the basic differences between his approach through strength of mind, will, and character, and Stephen's through deceit and adventurism. At the same time Njegos could not ignore the fact that, despite his shortcomings Stephen did have some success in dealing with the Montenegrins and the Turks in the area in which Njegos had a lifelong ambition to succeed - in dealing with the Montenegrins and the Turks.
Stephen the Small is, therefore, less successful as a traditional play than it is in offering a fascinating picture of the conditions in Montenegro in the second half of the eighteenth century, of some, often humorous, traits of the Montenegrin character, and of Montenegro's relationship with Russia. Perhaps the greatest significance of this play lies in showing the organic development of the author, as Vido Latkovic sees it, from an idealist in The Ray of Microcosm, and romanticist in The Mountain Wreath to a realist in Stephen the Small, the Pretender.
The importance of Njegos's contribution to Serbian, as well as world, literature can be seen both from a local and a universal point of view. Locally, his appearance at the time when Serbian literature was making its first unsure steps after centuries of dormancy lent this reawakening a strong impetus. Coming in the midst of the struggle for the use of the people's language in literature, Njegos's use of the vernacular, which he patterned after folk poetry, assured the success of this all-important linguistic reform. His poetic power, depth of thought, and ability to express himself in artistic form, moreover, an ability not seen before or after in Serbian literature, enabled this literature to rejoin the rest of the world during the period of Romanticism. From the universal standpoint, Njegos's preoccupation with some of the most basic themes of human existence - man's origin and the meaning of his life, the constant struggle between good and evil, man's yearning for freedom - makes him a poet of universal significance and appeal. For these reasons he is considered to be the greatest Serbian and South Slavic writer. Although a lack of adequate translations has precluded him so far from reaching a wider audience, he is still well-known abroad, as attested by his frequent comparison with such great writers as Pushkin, Milton, Dante, Mickiewicz, and others.
Printing of The Mountain Wreath
Most of The Mountain Wreath was written in 1846 in Cetinje, the capital of Montenegro. In October 1846 Njegos took along the manuscript on his visit to Vienna, where it was published the following year by the printers in the Armenian Mechitarist monastery. The first edition was prepared by Njegos himself and he was supposed to have overseen the printing of the book. He either did not have time or was in no mood to pay attention to every detail, however, because he had come to Vienna on an important mission: to ask the Russian government to help his country stricken by drought and threatened by famine and the Turks. Since the Russians were hesitant in allowing him to come to Russia for fear of angering the Turks, with whom they were on good terms at that time, Njegos was in no mood to devote much time to the printing of his magnum opus. It is, therefore, possible that some minor changes were made by someone else during the printing. The comparison of the only preserved manuscript (verses 1-1528) with the first edition shows differences whose authorship is difficult to ascertain.
Since the first publication in 1847, there have been almost a hundred new editions, all of which adhere to the first. Njegos did not see another publication of The Mountain Wreath for he died four years later. It is difficult to imagine that he would have made significant changes, however, had he lived longer. To be sure, there are changes in subsequent editions, mainly to correct obvious misprints or grammatical inconsistencies, or to conform to new orthographic rules. Thus, even though there is no official standard version of The Mountain Wreath, the edition of 1847 suits that definition as far as the meaning of the text is concerned, minor changes notwithstanding. This fact speaks for the unerring creative power of Njegos, who was able to write his major work in one sitting, so to speak.
Textual interpretations
The Mountain Wreath has been translated into most modern languages, in some cases more than once (in German, Russian, Czech, and now English). The changes mentioned above and other references that are difficult to illuminate fully have led to constant interpretations of The Mountain Wreath by various scholars. The main interpreters are Milan Resetar, Vido Latkovic, Risto Dragicevic, and Nikola Banasevic. There are many other, less ambitious interpretations of individual passages or lines. It is safe to say that the definitive interpretation of The Mountain Wreath is far from being complete and that this greatest work in Serbian and South Slav literatures will keep inspiring research forever.
On translating The Mountain Wreath into English
The first translation of The Mountain Wreath into English, by James W Wiles, was published in 1930. Wiles was a great friend of the Serbs, well acquainted with their culture having spent many years among them. He first read The Mountain Wreath in 1913, translated it for many years, and finally consented to demands for its publication. It was until now the only English translation of this work.
Wiles's translation remains a gallant effort. Only those readers who are familiar with the drama, its aphoristic thoughts, at times oblique references, and the strange beauty of The Mountain Wreath in the original can comprehend the difficulties of translating it into another language.
Yet, his motives and gallant efforts notwithstanding, the end result of Wiles's labour was not an unmitigated success. His entire approach to the task reveals several inadequacies and fallacies, which prevented his translation from doing justice to Njegos's masterpiece. Some of these inadequacies were inherent in the circumstances under which he had to work and over which he had little or no control at all: the inevitable, at times profound differences between the Serbian and English languages; the inability of a non-native to grasp the fine literary and linguistic nuances of the original; and most certainly, some peculiarities of The Mountain Wreath which are often difficult to master even for a native (witness several interpretations by Yugoslav scholars, some of which are still unreconciled).
Over other problems Wiles had better control but failed to, or chose not to, exercise it. His decision to abandon the decasyllabic meter of Njegoss verse was, no doubt, dictated by the extreme difficulty of following it strictly in English. Yet, the translator often went too far in his freedom. His verses not only fail to reproduce the ten-syllable meter of The Mountain Wreath, but they often show great unevenness in the number of feet per line. Sometimes one verse of Njegos is split into two.
The greatest fallacy of Wiles's approach was his belief that The Mountain Wreath must have sounded extremely exalted and archaic even at the time of publication in 1847. As a consequence, the translator strove consciously to recreate the elevated tone of Njegoss epic by deliberately choosing expressions that are no longer in common use: ye, dot/i, thou, thee, tliy, hast, shouldst, wilt, and so on, not to speak of expressions which may be pardonable in a poetic style but are still quite outlandish: reconipense, maw, mischance, puissant, thereto, spake, ambuscade, methinks, and so on. Such an approach leads not only to a high degree of unusualness, unbefitting a work patterned after folk poetry whose beauty lies primarily in its noble simplicity, but also to a highly stilted language and even stammering speech. One of the best illustrations of this can be found in the verse
That thus thou dost delay to us to come.
To be sure, just as Shakespeare sounds somewhat archaic to the present-day English reader, The Mountain Wreath does at times sound somewhat antiquated to a modern ear. When it was written, however, it sounded quite natural to a contemporary reader. When such a work is translated into a modern language, for a modern reader, there is no reason why it should be translated in a language belonging to a different era. It is here that the greatest weakness of Wiles's translation lies. It is primarily this strange sounding language used by Wiles, coupled with other inadequacies, that encouraged me to undertake a new translation.
While working on the translation of The Mountain Wreath into English, I was faced with many of the same or similar problems and dilemmas which beset my predecessor. At the same time, there were problems which my predecessor was not aware of or, more likely, chose to ignore. It is in this area that my translation differs substantially from that of Wiles.
First of all, strenuous efforts were made to be as faithful to the original as possible, without making the translation sound like one. My overwhelming awe before Njegos stifled any temptation to change his work. Such temptation has ruined many a translation, revealing in actuality a frustrated writer in the translator himself. Changes that were made are of a minor nature, dictated only by the impossibility of expressing some word phrase, or idea of Njegos's exactly the same way in English.
The second important element of my approach deals with the question of how contemporary the translation of The Mountain Wreath should be. As mentioned, it makes no sense to render this work in a version of a foreign language that is at least one to two hundred years old. On the contrary, the language of the translation should be just as contemporary as it was to the first reader. There is no reason, therefore, to deny to a modern reader in English the beauty, clarity, and freshness of the original.
The question of form was probably the most difficult to solve. Apart from a few passages in prose, most of which are stage instructions, one brief passage in the nine-syllable meter (verses 1855-73), and the lament of Batric's sister, which is in the twelve-syllable meter (verses 1913-63), the entire work is in the decasyllabic meter (deseterac). Strenuous attempts were made to adhere strictly to the meter of the original. Blank verse, consisting of unrhymed iambic pentameter, would have offered a natural solution. Unfortunately, the meter of The Mountain Wreath is not iambic but, most often, trochaic, which is not indigenous to English verse. Both the iamb and the trochee, therefore, had to be abandoned. The decasyllabic meter, however, has still been preserved in all but a very few verses. At the same time, the caesura, which occurs in The Mountain Wreath regularly after the fourth syllable, has been kept in almost all verses. The only concessions were a few "untruet' caesuras and sporadic "filler" phrases such as "indeed", "pray tellt', "surely", and so on, in order to complete the decasyllabic line: in no case was the meaning of the original compromised.
In order to preserve the flavour of Njegos's masterpiece, instead of explaining or interpreting unusual metaphors, they were kept whenever possible. For example, the frequent use of the metaphor "gray falcon" for a young brave man is so beautiful that any attempt to find a similar metaphor in English would be a pale reflection of it. Similarly, the use of "doe" for a beautiful girl, as in verse 1843, is best left unchanged unless one wants to correct Njegos at his craft. Another metaphor, "the evil wind put out the holy lamp", is a good example of the author's way of expressing his religious preference in a poetic fashion; for this reason, it is best to preserve the metaphor in the form Njegos meant it.
In selecting words, I have often refrained from long or "intellectual" words; instead, simpler, one-to-two syllable words, the so-called Celtic words, were used, not only because they are more direct and more powerful poetically, but also because they correspond more closely to Njegos's folk-imitating speech. Thus, for example, the Serbian word "Podosmo" (verse 2607) is translated as "set out" rather than "departed" or "journeyed"; and "pocine" (verse 1873) is rendered as "rests" rather than "reposes" or "reclines."
Many more short sentences were used in translation than one finds in Njegos. It is quite common in a Serbian text to find two or more independent clauses in the same sentence, separated by a comma; such practice is not tolerated in English. For this reason punctuation frequently had to be changed. Fortunately, these and other changes in punctuation did not alter the meaning of the original at all.
At times an inversion of phrases or clauses within a verse or of verses themselves was necessary in order to produce a smoother reading in English. The inversion of entire verses was mostly of adjacent ones (for example, verses 487-88, 597-98, 827-28, 1153-54, 2150-51, and so on). At times it was necessary to invert verses separated by two and even more lines (verses 668-72, 927-29, 2212-14, 2601-03, and so on). On some occasions enjambment was used (verses 772-73, 971-72, 1476-77, 2294-95, and so on), although it seldom occurs in The Mountain Wreath. The tense sequence was kept uniform within passages. In Serbian the switching from one tense to another, usually from the past to the present, is done with abandon, often in the same paragraph; no such switching is possible in English. The best examples of this are found in verses 998-1005 and 1299-1304. Finally, there is little rhyming in The Mountain Wreath except in the Dedication poem and in a few other verses. Rhyming was completely abandoned in the translation simply because it would have necessitated many deviations from the original.
As for the many difficult passages, phrases, and references in The Mountain Wreath, I have relied for the most part on the interpretations of Professor Nikola Banasevic in his commentaries for its latest edition (Belgrade: Srpska knjizevna zadruga, 1973). He has, in turn, made a compendium of all previous commentaries. When an interpretation was still in doubt, I have tended to side with Professor Banasevic.
All these problems and their attempted solutions have undoubtedly resulted in a certain loss of poetic quality in this translation of The Mountain Wreath. This is inevitable in any translation that strives to be faithful to the author and his work, especially if that work is a poetic one. In addition to this general circumstance, there is something in the nature of Serbian sounds and the way in which syllables are formed that causes a loss of poetic quality in translation. Serbian sounds, especially those of vowels, are both shorter and clearer than in English. Syllables are usually made through regular interchange of vowels and consonants, producing a much greater musical effect than in English.
It is therefore not surprising that neither James W Wiles nor myself have completely succeeded in reproducing the artistic and musical quality of Njegos's work, as is evidenced by the translation of the above verses. What we have accomplished, I believe, are decent renderings of this beautiful but difficult work.
It is not my intention to pass judgment on the merits of the two translations - the reader should be the judge. Nor do I wish to denigrate Wiles's translation, which, as stated at the beginning, still deserves our respect and gratitude. I myself have used it for comparison and have borrowed a few lines that cannot be improved upon. There are, however, only a few identical lines.
A literary work of the magnitude of The Mountain Wreath deserves to be translated in, by, and for every generation. It is my hope that this is the translation for the second half of the twentieth century.
I would like to express my gratitude to the University of North Carolina Research Council and to Bonnie Carey for their generous assistance as well as to Professor Vujadin Milanovic from the University of Belgrade for his suggestions for better English rendering of quite a number of lines in this edition and for making this bilingual edition splendid as it is.

Vasa D. Mihailovich

Petar II Petrovic Njegos
The Mountain Wreath
Translated into English by Vasa D. Mihailovich

Translator's Commentary

Let this century of ours be the pride of all the centuries,
It shall be a fateful era striking awe for generations.
In this century eight children were born as if from the same womb;
from the cradle of Bellona[2] they made their appearance on earth:
Napoleon; Charles[3]; Blucher[4]; the Duke of Wellington[5], and Suvorov[6];
Karageorge, the scourge of tyrants; Schwarzenberg[7] and Kutuzov[8], too.
Ares[9], the horror of the earth, made them drunk with martial glory
and gave them the earth's arena in which to fight one another.
It is not hard for a lion to come forth from a spacious bush.
The nest of genius is built only among greater nations.
There, above all, he finds the stuff needed for his deeds of glory
and a proud garland of triumph to adorn the hero's bold head[10].
But the hero of Topola[11], the great, immortal Karageorge,
saw many hurdles in his way, yet he reached his grandiose goal.
He roused people, christened the land,[12] and broke the barbarous fetters,
summoned the Serbs back from the dead, and breathed life into their souls.
He is the Immortal's secret: he gave the Serbs the chests of steel
and awakened the lion's heart in those who had lost their courage.
The bands of the Eastern Pharaoh[13] turn to ice in fear before George[14].
Through George the Serbian hearts and arms were instilled with high bravery!
Stamboul, the bloodthirsty father of the plague, trembles before him,
even the Turks swear by his sabre - no other oath have they indeed.
Yes, a hero's life is always haunted by a tragic ending.
It was destiny that your head had to pay the price for its wreath![16]
Later generations judge deeds and give to all what they deserve.
Everybody's curse falls on people like Boris[17] and Vukasin[18].
The disgusting name of Piso[19] must not blemish the calendar.
Orestes'[20] justice comes like the bolt from heaven to Aegisthus[21].
Mean envy vomits forth darkness upon your illustrious grave,
but who can put out the powerful, celestial light of your soul?
Miserable, ugly darkness - can it dim the glow of such light?
Darkness hides from the light, and yet it only makes the light more bright[22].
The life-giving flame of your torch will shine for the Serb forever,
and it will grow more luminous and miraculous for ages.
Serbian women used to give birth to Dusan[23] and nurse Obilic[24],
and now Serbian women give birth to such heroes as Pozarski[25],
all wonderful and noble men! Serbdom breathes nobility now.
Away from the Serbs, you vile curse - the Serbs have now fulfilled their vow![26]

Vienna, New Year's Day. 1847 The Author


KNEZ RADE, brother of Bishop Danilo
FERAT ZACIR, Kavaz-basha

The persons not mentioned in poet's DRAMATIS PERSONAE list:

Vuk Markovic, a Cuca, a soldier, a second soldier,
a Montenegrin wedding guest, a Turkish wedding guest, the student, students 

It is the dead of night. Everyone is asleep.

BISHOP DANILO (talking to himself)
Lo the devil[28] with seven scarlet cloaks,
with two swords and with two crowns on his head,
the great-grandchild of the Turk, with Koran!
Behind him hordes of that accursed litter,
march to lay waste to the whole planet Earth,
just as locusts devastate the green fields.
If the French dike had not stood in the way,
the Arab sea would have flooded it all![29]
Osman[30] was crowned in an infernal dream
and given the half-moon like an apple.
Orkan![31] What an evil guest in Europe!
Now Byzantium is indeed nothing but
a dowry of youthful Theodora;[31]
the star of doom still hovers over it.
Upon Murat[32] Paleologos[32] calls
to bury both Greeks and Serbs together.
Brankovic[33] and Gerluka[34] want the same.
Thanks, Mohammad,[34] for hanging Gerluka!
Besides Asia, where their nest is hidden,
the devil's tribe gobled up the nations -
one every day, as an owl gulps a bird:
Murat Serbia, and Bajazet Bosnia,
Mohammed Greece and Murat Epirus,
the two Selims Cyprus and Africa.
Each took something, nothing was left over;
it is dreadful to hear what's happening.
World is too small for the devil's large maw
to eat his full, let alone overeat![35]
Janko defends the dead King Wladislaw;[36]
but why do so when he failed to save him?
In Skenderbeg[37] beats Obilic's heart,
but he perished as a forlorn exile.
What can I do? Who is there to help me?
There are few hands and all too little strength.
I'am a lone straw tossing in the whirlwind,
a sad orphan without friend or kinfolk.
My people sleep a deep and lifeless sleep;
no parent's hand to wipe away my tears.
Above my head the heaven is shut tight;
it does not hear my cries or my prayers.
The world has now become a hell for me,
people have turned into hellish spirits.
O my dark day! O my black destiny!
O my wretched Serbian nation snuffed out!
I have outlived many of your troubles,
yet I must fight against the worst of all![38]
Yes, when the head on a body is smashed,
the limbs die out in frightful agony.
Plague of mankind, may God's wrath be on you!
Is half a world you've already poisoned
with your mean deeds not large enough for you,
that you had to spew out all the venom
of your black soul on this hard rock as well?[39]
Is Serbia from the Danube River
to the blue sea too small an offering?
You rule the throne you've unjustly taken[40]
and are prideful of your bloody scepter;
you insult God from the holy altar,
a mosque rises where the broken Cross lies.[41]
Why do you want to poison its shadow,
which people took to the mountain shelters
for their lasting pride and consolation,
to remind them of their heroic past?
It is washed in blood so many times over,
a hundred times in yours, as oft in ours!
Behold the work of that wicked monarch,[42]
whom the devil teaches all kinds of things:
"Montenegro I cannot win or tame,
nor call it mine in any real sense;
this is how one should deal with its people."
And so began the devil's Messiah[43]
to offer them sweetmeats of his false faith.
May God strike you, loathsome degenerates,[44]
why do we need the Turk's faith among us?
What will you do with your ancestors' curse?[45]
With what will you appear before Milos[46]
and before all other Serbian heroes,
whose names will live as long as the sun shines?
When I think of today's council meeting,[47]
flames of horror flare up deep inside me.
A brother will slaughter his own brother,
and the arch-foe, so strong and so evil,
will destroy e'en the seed within mothers.
O wretched day, may God's curse be on you!
when you brought me to the light of this world.
A hundred times I've cursed that hour last year
when the Turks failed, or didn't want, to kill me;
my people's hopes I would not betray now.[48]

Vuk Micunovic lies near the Bishop. He is pretending to sleep but can hear everything very well

Don't, my Bishop, if you have faith in God!
What misfortune has come over you now
that you do wail like some sad cuckoo-bird
and drown yourself in our Serbian troubles?
Is today not a festive occasion
on which you have gathered Montenegrins
to cleanse our land of loathsome infidels?
Besides, this is our slava holiday[49]
on which our best and noblest lads gather
to test their strength and their abilities,
the strength of arms, and fleetness of their feet,
to vie also in the target-shooting,
to cleave the roast ram's shoulder in wager,
to hear also the liturgy in church,
dance the kolo[50] all around the churchyard,
and thrust their chests in knightly exercise.
To all brave men that is a holy incense,
making youthful hearts as strong as iron!
Banish, Bishop, such dark and gloomy thoughts!
Men bravely bear, wailing is for women.
A timid chief has no business ruling!
You are not left just to your resources.
Do you not see these five hundred brave lads?
What marvels of strength and fleet-footedness
have we not seen here among them today?
Did you see how they were target-shooting,
how skilfully they played the game of grad,[51]
and how nimbly they did grab the small caps?[52]
As wolf-cubs start to follow their mother,
so they begin playfully to sharpen
their dreaded teeth upon each other's throats.[53]
As soon as the falcon grows his first plumes,[53]
he cannot be peaceful any longer.
Instead, his nest he keeps rearranging,
Grabbing the straws one after another,
he flies shrieking toward the light blue sky,
In this there is a lesson to be learned.
Beside the youths present here around you,
there are six times as many back at home.
Their strength, Bishop, is surely your strength too.
Before the Turks will have conquered them all,
many a wife of the Turk will wear black.
Our struggle won't come to an end until
we or the Turks are exterminated.
What right to hope has anyone of us
except in God and in our own two hands.
The hope we had was buried forever
in one large tomb at the Kosovo Field.[54]
When things go well, 'tis easy to be good;
adversity shows who is the hero.

Crosses have been carried from Lovcen to the hill above the Crkvine.
Men are sitting on the hill, shooting and counting the echoes of each shot.

What a fine gun, worth a human head!
Every one of our guns echoes six times,
but dzeferdar[55] of Vuk Tomanovic
keeps echoing nine times of equal strength

Montenegrins, do you see this wonder?
Fifty full years I've spun of my life's yarn.
I've always spent my summers on Lovcen
and have clambered up to this high summit.
Hundreds of times I have gazed at the clouds
sailing in flocks from the sea down yonder
and covering this entire mountain range.
I've watched them float and rush now here, now there
with lightning bolts and with mighty rumble
and with the roar of terrible thunder.
Hundreds of times I have rested up here,
warming myself in the sun peacefully.
I've watched often the lightning beneath me,
listened to the thunder rending the sky,
as in the din of the frightening hail
the clouds below make everything barren
-but this wonder I have yet to witness!
Do you notice, upon your faith in God,
how much there is of the sea and the coast,
of proud Bosnia and Hercegovina,
Albania way down there by the sea,
how much there is of our Montenegro?
The clouds cover all these lands evenly!
The thunder's roar can be heard all around,
all beneath us the lightning keeps flashing,
but we alone are lying in the sun.
It has become rather hot up here now,
since the top of this mountain's always cool.

Did you see this miracle and omen
when two flashes made a cross in the sky?
One flash came from Kom[56] straight on to Lovcen;
the other flashed from Skadar[57] to Ostrog[58].
They formed a cross made out of living fire.
How lovely it is just to look at it!
Never before in this wide world of ours
has someone heard or seen such a cross.
God, help us Serbs in all our misfortune;
this, too, must be a good omen for us!

What do you aim at with your gun, Drasko?


I want to kill one of the cuckoo-birds,
but I don't want to waste a single cartridge.

Please don't do that, Drasko, upon your life!
It isn't proper to kill a cuckoo-bird.
Do you not know, may the devil take you,
that cuckoos are the daughters of Lazar?[59]

A great commotion arises above the Crkvine,
on the northern side above the lake.

What's this clamour? What is troubling you now?
So help me God, you are worse than children!

Straight at us flew a flock of partridges
and we captured each one of them alive.
The great uproar arose for that reason.

Let them all go, may God's grace be with you,
because trouble has driven them our way;
you wouldn't have caught one of them otherwise.
They've fled to you only to find shelter,
and surely not for you to slaughter them.

They let the partridges fly away and returned with crosses
to the place they had taken them from.

The leaders are standing by while the people are dancing the kolo.

God is angry with the Serbian people
because of their many mortal sins.
Our kings and tsars trampled upon the Law[60].
They began to fight each other fiercely
and to gouge out each other's very eyes.
They neglected the government and state
and chose folly to be their guiding light.
Their servants ceased to obey their masters
and washed themselves in the blood of their tsars.
Our own leaders, God's curse be on their souls,
carved the empire into little pieces
and sapped the strength of the Serbs wantonly.
Our own leaders, may all their trace vanish,
sowed the bitter seed of disharmony
and thus poisoned the entire Serbian tribe.
Our own leaders, miserable cowards,
thus became the traitors of our nation.
O that accursed supper of Kosovo![61]
It would have been better had you poisoned
all our chieftains and wiped out their traces,
and left Milos standing there on the field,
along with both of his true sworn brothers;[62]
then would the Serb have remained a true Serb!
Vuk Brankovic,[63] O you shameful scoundrel,
was that the way to serve your fatherland?
Was that the way to uphold honesty?
O you, Milos, who does not envy you?
You are the victim of your noble feelings,
you, a mighty military genius,
a terrific thunder that shatters crowns!
The greatness of your noble knightly soul
surpasses the immortal, valiant deeds
of great Sparta and of powerful Rome.
All their brilliant courageous endeavours
your knightly arm places in deep shadow.
Leonidas[64] and Scaevola,[65] can they
match Obilic on any battlefield?
His powerful arm with a single blow
toppled a throne and shook all Tartarus.[66]
The wonder of all valiant knights, Milos,
fell victim at the throne of the world's scourge.
So lies proudly the magnificent duke,
bathed in the spirts of his noble blood,
just as he walked proudly a while ago
among the hordes of the savage Asians,
his chest heaving with a fearsome thought,
devouring them all with his fiery eyes
just as he walked proudly a while ago
to a sacred grave of immortal life,
showing disdain for human worthlessness
and the intrigues of the mad assembly.[67]
God is angry with the Serbian people.
A dragon with seven heads[68] has appeared
and devoured the entire Serbian nation,
the slanderers as well as the slander.[69]
On the ruins of the heroic empire
Milos shone forth with his holy justice.
Made immortal and crowned was the glory o
f both the true sworn brothers of Milos
and the lovely wreath of Jugovics.[70]
The Serbian name has perished everywhere.
Mighty lions have become meek peasants.
Rash and greedy converted to Islam -
- may their Serb milk make them all sick with plague!
Those who escaped before the Turkish sword,
those who did not blaspheme at the True Faith,
those who refused to be thrown into chains,
took refuge here in these lofty mountains
to shed their blood together and to die,
heroically to keep the sacred
oath, their lovely name, and their holy freedom.
Our heads withstood the hard test in battles!
Our brave lads have shone like the radiant stars.
Those who were born in these lofty mountains
fell day by day in the past's bloody wars
and gave their life for honour, name, and freedom.
All of our tears were always wiped away
by the deft sounds of the lovely gusle.[71]
Sacrifices have not been made in vain
since our hard land has now truly become
of Turkish might the insatiable tomb.
What is the cause that for quite some time now
our native hills are shrouded in silence
and no longer echo with warlike cries?
Our idle arms are all covered with rust.
Our land has been left without its leaders.
The high mountains are reeking with heathens.
In the same fold are both wolves and sheep,
and Turk is one with Montenegrin now.
Hodja bellows on the plain Cetinje![72]
A stench has caught the lion in the trap,[73]
wiped out is now the Montenegrin name,
no one crosses himself with three fingers.

Do you hear the kolo dancers singing?
And all that has been set forth in their song
comes from the minds of the entire people.
And good reason have the Montenegrins
to bury us under a hail of stones.
We do not dare to begin any work
that would spur folks to some heroic deeds,
warm the sacred bones of our forefathers,
and make them dance in the grave joyfully.
Instead we keep cackling something like geese.
Strike the devil and leave of him no trace,
or relinquish this world and the next, too!

You are quite right, Voivode Milija!
May God remove all the trace of our race
if we should live in cowardice and disgrace!
Why the devil in Christian land of ours?
Why do we feed a snake in our bosom?
In great God's name, what kind of brothers they
who dishonour the Montenegrin face
and spit on the holy Cross openly?

Why is it that they have not arrived yet,
our border folks, the good Ozrinics?[74]
For without them there can be no business.
All together, we can work much better.

They have gone to a meeting with some Turks
to talk about the prisoners' exchange.
I sent to them an envoy with message
to hasten here as soon as they return,
to hurry up so that we waste no time,
for this business stands no further delay.

The Ozrinics arrive.

Why, for God's sake, are you so late, brothers?
Waiting for you we almost perished here.
Food in our bags has almost disappeared,
tobacco in our pouches has gone.
I sprained my neck looking across the field,
waiting for you to make your appearance.

We did hurry to come here earlier,
but we could not make it any faster:
Our Pecirep and the old Baleta
gathered about twenty to thirty lads
and to Duga[75] went with the company,
to wait for the caravan from Niksic.[76]
On the highway they ambushed the Turks there,
fourteen of them they cut down in battle
and seventy horses captured from them,
along with two or three of their women.
Then a dispatch came to us from Niksic,
offering us ten new sworn brotherhoods,[77]
asking us to meet them at Poljane[78]
to return their prisoners for ransom.
Se we went to the meeting with the Turks,
and that is why we are a little late.

What did Hamza[79] and the Niksics say?
Was it that they desire so fervently
to graze their stock in peace at Rudine?[80]

You know, Bajko, that it was indeed so.
No one has fled from good things in life yet.
Why should the Turks not desire the good thing,
that of grazing their flocks of sheep in peace?

Did you argue with each other also
about prisoners or other affairs?

It's true, Rogan, there was much quarreling.
Do you not know the Turks of Niksic town?
We just about flew at each other's throats.
Generations would tell one another
the tale of our bloody get-together.

And why was it that you had to quarrel?
Who was the first to upset the meeting?

At the outset it was as in a joke.
Vuk Mandusic and Vuk Micunovic
began to talk with Hamza the Captain
for and against each other's religion.
Suddenly the talk turned thick and heavy,
and they exchanged several bitter words.
Then Hamza said to Vuk Micunovic:
'I am better than you. - Do you hear, Vlach?[81]
And my faith is much better than your faith!
I ride a horse and carry a sharp sword.
I am captain of an imperial town,[82]
which we have ruled for full three hundred years.
My grandfather had won it by his sword,
when empire was divided by the sword,
and the town was left to his heirs to rule."
This fired up our Vuk Micunovic
and he came up closer to the Captain:
"You call me 'Vlach', you swinish renegade?
How can a traitor be better than a knight?
What is this talk of 'sword' and 'Kosovo'?
Weren't we both on the Field of Kosovo?
I fought then and I am still fighting now,
you were traitor then and you are one now.
You've dishonoured yourself before the world,
blasphemed the faith of your own ancestors.
You have enslaved yourself to foreigners!
As for your boast about your town and rule -
haven't I with marble stones[83] embellished
all Turkish towns in our vicinity,
so that they are no more fit for people
but are prisons for unhappy captives?
I am a scourge of God always ready
to bring to mind the evil you have wrought."

Micunovic' talks as well as he acts!
Serbian woman has never born his like,
since Kosovo or even before it!

I have not yet mentioned the real reason
for our coming to blows at the meeting. -
We reconciled Vuk with Captain Hamza.
As you well know, the youths of Ozrinics
always make jokes wherever they may go.
The mad devil had brought to the meeting
an old hodja by the name Bruncevic,
who had with him some kind of short carbine
of an arm's length, perhaps a bit shorter.
He had the gun slung over his shoulder,
strutting proudly up and down the field,
together with the rest of his people.
One of our youths then from us slipped away,
passed the hodja sideways as if by chance,
and stuck a horn over an elbow long
in the barrel of his upright carbine.
Oh, my dear Lord! three hundred of our lads
fell to the ground splitting their sides laughing!
But the hodja wondered as he strutted
what might have come over all these people,
until he saw the horn in his carbine.
Our mood became quite dark and threatening.
Soon we clashed and fire shot forth from our guns.
Fifteen stretchers were made ready quickly -
six for our men, nine for men of theirs.

It's time for us to gather together.
It's time to come to some firm decisions.
The word has spread about our intentions.
When our heathen brethren hear about it,
they won't waste time and drag on as we do.

Each one has come who should be here with us,
except for the five Martinovics.
Very likely they've met with some trouble;
yet without them, we can do so little.

Come on, people, let's tend to our business,
or else let each return to his own home,
lest our children should be laughing at us;
and let each one cope with the Turks alone.
I myself know what to do should they come.
But here we're like the mice in the fable[84]
who wanted to hang a bell on the cat.

The Martinovics arrive

You're here, at last! We've waited long enough!
We are, brothers, getting all together
like drunk wedding guests, as the story goes.[85]
But you should be especially ashamed
since you had the shortest road to travel.

Do not blame us, Vuk and other brothers!
We would have come to the meeting sooner,
but ill fortune came to us on our way;
for that reason we are a bit tardy.

Has wine perhaps caused the guests to quarrel?
After all, this is your patron saint's day.[86]

No, there was no quarrel among the guests;
the Turks captured one of our own women.

Say, what woman? Sure, you must be joking?
Please go ahead and tell us what happened.
And don't worry, everyone will listen.
Everyone likes to listen to such tales.

I will tell you 'bout that devil's business.
We were dancing the kolo with our guests
and passing round the jug of ruby wine,
when suddenly, above the Piste stream,[87]
a shot rang out, a man began to shout,
"Who is a knight and a brave fighter, hear!
Montenegrins have been led off for slaves!"
At that message we all laughed heartily:
Captives in the heart of Montenegro?
He's drunk and thinks he's singing, we reckoned.
Two shots rang out one after the other:
Bang - bang - again echoed without a pause,
and the same man kept shouting as before.
That cannot be without serious trouble!
We grabbed our guns and started off to run.
When we got there, there was a sight to see:
Mujo Alic, the Turkish chief of guards,
had run away with Ruza, Kasan's wife,
and fled with her and his youngest brother.
More than a year, perhaps, it has been now
since those two had put their heads together,
but who would dare even to imagine
a Serbian woman marrying a Turk?

A woman's mood is a funny business!
A woman cares not about a man's faith.
A hundred times she would change religion
to accomplish what her heart desires.

But I have not told you the whole story.
Eternal woe may be unto that soul
who caused Ruza such a great misfortune,
who gave Ruza in marriage to Kasan,
and locked up a fairy in a prison,
for Kasan is such a lowly coward.
Listen to me, my dear Montenegrins!
Had she run off with any Serbian man,
may all my trace be wiped out forever
if I had then so much as turned my head,
no matter how painful it were to me.
But when I heard she had gone with a Turk,
we could wait and put it off no longer:
we decided to go and pursue them.
At Simunja[88] we found the wedding guests.
We killed both Alic brothers right there,
with them, alas, the unlucky bride, too.
Because of that we've besmirched our honour
and lost our grace with the Almighty God.

Oh, my dear Lord, what a strange assembly!
Would our children act and behave like this?
We dare not do what we are yet doing,
and not announce what everybody knows.[89]
We are loading these thoughts upon ourselves
as if to think were all we have to do,
as if we didn't know what is to be done.
Whenever I have spent much time thinking,
my work has lagged always too far behind.
Those who delay never find the right way.

Bishop Danilo, seeing that evepyone has gathered,
comes out among them, too.

Don't hold us back any longer, Bishop.
but rather send these people on their way.
All wait to hear what you have to say now,
but you have lost yourself in gloomy thoughts.
You neither speak nor send us on our way.
Your face mirrors the colour of the earth.
Alone you pace up and down on the field.
You do not eat, nor can you fall asleep.
Oppressive thoughts are crowding in your mind -
your dreams always circle around the Turk -
but I do fear too much contemplation.

Now, listen, Vuk and my other brothers!
Do not wonder at what you see in me,
that dark thoughts are tearing my soul apart
and that my chest is heaving with horror.
Who stands on a hill, even a small one,
sees more than he who stands below the hill.
Some things I see more clearly than you do. -
That is either for the good or the bad.
I fear them not, this brood of the devil,
may they be as many as forest leaves,
but I do fear the evil at our home.
Some wild kinsmen of ours have turned Turkish.
If we should strike at our domestic Turks,
their Serbian kin would never desert them.
Our land would be divided into tribes,
and tribes would start a bitter, bloody feud.
Satan would come to the demon's wedding,
and thus snuff out the Serb slava's candle.
One bears evil for fear of greater one!
The drowning man clutches even at foam
and by instinct reaches over his head.

KNEZ RADE (brother of the Bishop)
Why soot your hands if you don't want to forge?
Why this meeting if you're afraid to speak?
Once you escaped the Turkish impalement;
you should've rotted on their gallows instead![90]
You mourn something, but you do not know what.
Some Turks you fight, others you treat like friends
in vain hopes of placating your own Turks.
But just the same, do not deceive yourself!
Should they ever catch you again, brother,
they'd cut off your head that very instant,
or they would tie your hands behind your back
and torture you then to their hearts' delight.
Birds of the same feather flock together!
Turks are always brothers to each other.
Strike while you're still able to swing your arm,
and feel sorry for nothing in the world.
Everything has gone the devil's way.
Of Mohammed our entire country reeks.

You're right, Knez, but you have gone too far.
You could have said all that but more gently,
without rubbing the salt in Bishop's wounds
and poisoning him with bitter sadness.

All are silent, hardly breathing.

No one has yet drunk a cup of honey
without mixing it with a cup of gall.
A cup of gall needs a cup of honey;
they are swallowed the easiest when mixed.
Beg Ivan-beg,[91] a scion of heroes,
against the Turks he fought like a lion
all over these bloodied hills and mountains.
Half of his lands the Turks did take from him,
but not before soaking it with our blood
and not before killing his one brother,
the fierce dragon, bold Voivode Uros,[92]
in a fight on the broad Cemovo field.
Ivan mourned his only brother Uros.
He mourned more him, the Voivode Uros,
than he would mourn the loss of his two sons.
Indeed, he mourned Voivode Uros more
than all the land he had lost to the Turks.
Indeed, he mourned Voivode Uros more
than he would mourn the loss of his own eyes.
Yes, he would give both his eyes for Uros!
Many a time the cloudless sky would laugh
at a hero with a roaring laughter.
Ivan raised and drank the toast of revenge,
a holy drink consecrated by God.
Down his shoulders he let his white hair fall.
His long white beard was curled down to his waist.
In his old hands he held his sword and spear,
and his hands and weapons became bloody.
Counting Turkish corpses with his footsteps,
the old man bounced like a nimble youngster.
O my dear Lord, it sure must be a dream
that the old man was jumping up so high?
His old fortune has been resurrected:
in Karuce,[93] upon Crmnica's end,
of a whole band of fifteen thousand Turks
not one of them was allowed to escape.
Their marble tombs, which can still be seen there,
hail the glory of Knez Crnojevic.
God grant mercy to the soul of Uros!
Great offerings were made in his honour.[94]

Without effort no great song can be sung;
without effort no saber can be forged!
Bravery is the lord of all evil,
as well as the drink most sweet to the soul;
generations make themselves drunk with it.
Blessed is he whose name lives forever.
A good reason had he to be alive!
A lasting torch in the lasting darkness
neither burns out nor loses its bright light.

BISHOP DANILO (among them, as if alone)
There where a seed has first begun to sprout,
There it should find its rest and bear its fruit.
Is it instinct or spiritual guidance?
It is here that all human knowledge fails.
Just as a wolf has the right to his sheep,
so has every tyrant to a weakling.
To place foot upon tyrany's neck,
to lead tyrants to knowledge of the right,
this is the most sacred of man's duties!
If you lay a kiss on a bloody sword
and sail across the turbid waves of night,
the memory of you deserves to live.
Europe's cleric from his holy altar
scoffs and spits at the altar of Asia.[95]
The heavy club of Asia ravages
the holy shrines in Crucifix' shadow.
The blood of the just smokes at the altars,
broken relics here are turning to dust.
The earth groans, but the heavens are silent!
Awesome symbols, the Crescent and the Cross;[96]
their kingdoms are the realms of graveyards.
Following them down the bloody river,
sailing in the small boat of great sorrows,
we must honour the one or the other.
But blasphemy against the old relics
that have nourished us like milk since childhood
enkindles fires of hell within my chest.
A smooth sapling has no need for a knot.
So why, then, does the Crescent mar the Cross?
Why this gray screen on the sun's white pupil?
O my True Faith, my poor, helpless orphan!
Ill-fated tribe! O how long will you sleep?
To be alone is not being at all,
loneliness brings only more suffering.
The devil's might has surrounded us all.
If in the world somewhere we had brothers,
their sympathy would be the same as help.
Darkness now rules supreme over my head,
and the moon seems to be my only sun.[97]
But woe, where do I think I am going?
Ripen, young wheat and corn, into the grain!
Your harvest has arrived before its time.
I see precious offerings piled up high
at the altar of our Church and nation.
Wailing echoes I hear in the mountains.
We must uphold our honour and our name!
Let the struggle go on without respite.
Let it be what men thought could never be.
Let Hell devour, let Satan cut us down!
Flowers will sprout and grow in our graveyards
for some distant future generation.

God be with us, He and all His angels!
But here you are sailing hard - O Bishop,
into confused and very troubled winds,
like the witch who stalks in the month of March
or the wizard in the gloomy Autumn.

The Bishop starts, as if from a dream.

Let those who bear the honour-studded arms
and those who hear the heart beat in their chest
strike for the Cross and for heroic name!
We should baptize with water or with blood
those blasphemers of Christ's glorious name.
Let's drive the plague out of our sheephouses!
Let songs ring forth, songs of all these horrors.
On blood-stained stones let the true altar rise.

All leaders jump to their feet, aud there is a great commotion:
It is so, and no other way!

No ... no ... sit down. Let us talk it over!
If we agree, my brothers, I would like
to invite the leaders of the converts
to a meeting of all of our brothers,
we'll guarantee their lives until they leave.
Perhaps they will return then to our faith
and extinguish the flame of our blood-feud.

All right, Bishop. Let us try that, also.
So help me God! It will be in vain, though.
He who has been nurtured by the devil
will abide him faithful and forever.
They'll come to us even without our pledge
and start giving themselves airs before us.
Judging by the conceit of those chieftains,
they see themselves as the Sultan's true sons!

Three or four men are sent to invite the Turkish chieftains to a meeting.

A bitter curse fell on the renegades.[98]
A mother cursed her own unworthy son,
and so Mara, the princess and the wife
of Ivan-beg, cursed her son Stanisa.
He bit her breast while nourishing himself
and spilled the drink of Eden on her chest.
The parent's curse caught up with the children.
All his honour lost her son Stanisa
by blaspheming at the true Christian faith
and at the brave, proud tribe of Crnoje,[99]
He clad himself in the enemy's faith
and grew thirsty for blood of his brothers.
A din arose above the Ljesko field![100]
Two brothers fought over their faith fiercely,
together with thousands of warriors!
The mother's curse thus fell upon her son,
and massacred was his entire army.
Stanko ran off headlong to Bajazet,[101]
to eat with him Hungarian noses.[102]
o lofty nest of heroic freedom,[103]
God's eye has kept guard over you often.
What suffering you have had to endure!
What victories are still in store for you!

About seven or eight Turkish chieftains come and sit down with the Montenegnns. They are silent and keep looking at their feet.

For heaven's sake, why have you turned to stone?
Why don't you start to talk to each other?
You let yourselves be lulled to sleep instead.

Those are right words, for sure, Knez Ozrinic!
If no one will, I will begin to speak.
Gathered here now are one hundred chieftains,
both Turkish and Montenegrin chieftains.
I know full well why we've been assembled:
to make a peace between our blood brothers.
Listen to me, you chieftains of the land,
let's try to find a way among ourselves
to reconcile two warring families
of Ceklici[104] and of Velestovo,[105]
then Bajice and the clan of Alic.
Let us all try to bring a peace to them,
let's offer them at least our pledge for peace.
I'll be the first to go with the kumas[106]
and compensate for life that's been taken.
Let us make peace, cut the dinar in two,[107]
and hang our guns all bloodied on the wall!

You, Effendi, clearly failed to divine
the reason for our getting together,
and you started therefore from the wrong end.
Yet you are wise and a writer, they say.
You attended the school in Istanbul
and paid visit to some sort of Mecca,
yet more wisdom you're surely in need of.
This school of ours is harder to master.

Again everyone is silent, looking down at the ground.

Dear Lord, You who rule the whole universe,
You who reside on Your heavenly throne
and ignite with Your all-powerful glance
each bright body in the whole universe;
You who have set in motion the fine dust
under Your throne, shiny and translucent,
and proclamed it to be Your many worlds;
You who gave life to every speck of dust
and sowed in it the seed of intellect;
You who maintain the Book of Creation,
in which are writ the fates and destinies
of the whole world and intelligent stuff;
You who have so graciously decided
to give power to the agile bodies
of the tiny ant and the proud lion, -
send cheering light over Montenegro,
remove from it the lightning and thunder,
the turbulent and hail-carrying clouds!
It may not be the turncoats' fault as much.
The infidel enticed them with falsehood
and entangled them in the devil's nets.
But what is man? In truth, a weak creature!

The Turks look at each other fiirtively

Honey is sweet even to cold, aged lips,
let alone to youthful, passionate ones!
The bait was sweet but attached to a hook:
"Drink sweet sherbet from the Prophet's cup
or expect his axe blow between your ears!"
The fear in life often stains one's honour.[108]
Our weaknesses bind us down to the earth;
though slight the bond, it may yet firmly bind.
The light that shines in the eye of the fox[109]
terrifies birds, the weakest of creatures,
yet the fox looks at the eagle in fear.
News of the death of a brother or son
strengthens threefold our affection for them;
sweeter to find the lost than ne'er to lose.
After a storm the sky becomes clearer,
after sorrow the soul is more serene,
and after tears the song is more joyous.
Oh, that these eyes of mine could only see
Montenegro regain what it has lost!
It would then seem to me indeed as if
Tsar Lazar's crown is shining on me now
and that Milos had returned to the Serbs.
My soul would be truly contented then
like a peaceful morning in the springtime,
when the sea winds and even the dark clouds
slumber upon the bosom of the sea.

The Turks look at one another gloomily

In the name of my fair faith, I wonder
what reproach there you are making, Bishop!
Have you e'er seen a cup to hold two drinks,
or seen a cap to fit two heads at once?
A small brook runs into a larger stream,
on emptying, it loses its own name;
at the seashore both lose identity.
Are you trying to catch bees in your cap
and with it start a beehive in the woods?
From such beehive no one will eat honey!
You are pushing a stone up hill in vain!
An old tree breaks before it is straightened!
Animals are very much like people.
Each living sort has its own character.
I don't ask 'bout the hen and the eagle,
but does, pray tell, a lion fear a goose?

I marvel at this strange business also.
The priest questions the sinner 'bout his sins,
whether Satan has a firm hold on him,
but I have yet to witness the devil
go to the priest to make a confession!

When my wife asks where I have been today,
I will tell her that I've been sowing salt.[110]
And woe to her if she does not believe!

Now I remember that well-known story[111]
of the devil who was pulled from the pit:
half of his face was black, the other white.

A fly just flew straight into my nostril.[112]
Some misfortune will surely come my way.

The way my palms are itching this moment,
if someone should begin to quarrel now,
we would surely get a handsome reward.[113]

What a heavy rifle! Need any help?
By God, Stanko, how can you carry it?

It is only a bother to me now;
I haven't had to use it for some time.

Oh, how I shook with laughter last evening!
Into our house there came by from somewhere
two wonderful young men of Bjelica.[114]
They began to joke, as only they can.
They told me that some of their own people
had built a mill upon a certain place
without a pond or even a small brook;
when they finished, they thought about water![115]

My brother's wife must have lost her senses.
You could not keep her quiet without ropes!
I took her to 'prophets" who read from books.
One said, "She has stepped on some dog's scratchings."[116]
Another said, "She is bewitched for sure."
I took her to all the monasteries,
where they read to her over holy oil.
In the cloisters I beseeched the devil
to stay away from our Andjelija.
I entreated the devil, all in vain!
At last I took my whip of triple throng,[117]
and scourged her shirt right into her own flesh.
The devil fled somewhere without a trace,
Andjelija, in turn, regained her health.

Turkish brothers - may I be forgiven! -
we have no cause to beat around the bush.
Our land is small and it's pressed on all sides.
Not one of us can live here peacefully,
what with powers that are jawing for it;
for both of us there is simply no room!
Accept the faith of your own forefathers!
Guard the honour of our dear fatherland!
The wolf needs not the cunning of the fox![118]
Nor has the hawk the need for eyeglasses.
Start tearing down your minarets and mosques.
Lay the Serbian Christmas-log on the fire,[119]
paint the Easter eggs various colours,
observe with care the lent and Christmas fasts.
As for the rest, do what your heart desires!
If you don't want to listen to Batric,
I do swear by the faith of Obilic,
and by these arms in which I put my trust,
that both our faiths will be swimming in blood.
Better will be the one that does not sink.
Bairam[120] cannot be observed with Christmas!
Is that not so, Montenegrin brothers?

It is so, and no other way![121]

What do you say? Have you all lost your wits?
You drive a thorn into a healthy foot!
Why d'you burden the one true religion
with eggs and fasts and all those Christmas-logs?
Torches are lit in the darkness of night,
but who needs them when the sun is shining?
In Allah's name, what clever discourses!
They always talk of Cross and Infidel
and dream about something that cannot be.
Allah be praised! Two hundred years have passed
since we embraced first the only true faith
and became servants of our Allah.
We're not cunning, by the Holy Kaaba!
How can a weak linden cross[122] be pitted
against the edge of our sharp, supple steel?
When the true saint[123] strikes with his mighty mace,
the earth begins to quiver from his blow
like a hollow pumpkin on the water.
Petty people, how can you be so blind?
You do not know the joys of paradise.
You fight against both God and the people.
You live without hope and die without it.
You serve the Cross, want to be like Milos!
"The Cross" - indeed an empty, lifeless word.
Milos throws you into a strange stupor
or leads you to excessive drunkenness.
Bowing one day to Mecca is better
than four years spent making Christian crosses.
O Hurias,[124] with those azure-blue eyes!
It is your fate to be mine forever.
Where is the shade, and who can put it up
between me and your beautiful blue eyes?
Those eyes from which swift arrows keep darting;
those eyes which can easily melt a stone,
not to speak of a weak human being,
born to melt before those lovely eyes;
those eyes that are like crystal clear water,
through which in two divine, radiant drops
Allah's power can be seen more clearly
than from a mount on a bright spring morning,
as one gazes at the clear sea surface!
o Istanbul, earthly delight and joy,
a honey's cup, a mountain of sugar,
the sweetest spa of human existence,
where the women bathe in honied sherbet! -
O Istanbul, palace of the Prophet,
the source of his power and his holy shrine -
it is Allah's pleasure to rule the earth
only from the palace of the Prophet.
What can ever separate me from you?
Hundreds of times in the days of my youth
I've hurried forth fresh from my bed, at dawn,
toward your stream, crystal clear and lovely,
in which your fair image is reflected
more beautiful than the sun, dawn and moon.
In the sky and in the waters I saw
your stone towers and pointed minarets,
from which thousands of worshipful voices
rose piously toward the azure skies
in the wondrous silence of the daybreak,
proclaiming to skies the almighty name
and to the earth the awesome Prophet's fame.
What other faith can compare with this one?
What altar stands closer to high heaven?

O Effendi, I thank you very much! (raises his hat)
You have preached us a marvelous sermon.
We have got what we have been asking for!

Let the Cross and the Mace strike each other,
but woe to him whose forehead gets broken!
A whole egg wins over the one that's cracked.[125]
You'll hear what I can do if I want to.

So help me God, I don't want to listen
to the hodja in Ceklici again
cooing on the top of that hollow tree,[126]
perched like an owl on a rotten beech-tree!
Whom does he call from that high position
every morning at the break of the dawn?
Whomever he calls, he has summoned him -
why should I hide, for me he's not lighter
than if he were perched on top of my head.

Suddenly my left ear begins to ring.
That means, I hope, some happy news for me.

Come on, Bajko, blow once into my eye,
a lot of dust has gotten into it.

Let someone strike fire so that we may smoke!
That's the essence of the faith of Islam.
Effendi won't feel offended by it.

Now the ravens are croaking and fighting,
soon there will be cheap meat in abundance.

Don't step over my good rifle, Bajko![127]
Go back over it retracing your steps!

VUK MICUNOVIC (whispers in Sirdar Janko's ear)
He holds the tail of the Hadji-Hadja[128]
and will never loosen his grip on it
till a bitch or, perhaps, a millstone dies.[129]

SKENDER-AGA (sees Vuk whispering and is displeased)
What is all this, Montenegrin brothers?
Who has fanned this ugly flame of discord?
From where did come this unfortunate thought
of conversing about changing our faith?
Aren't we brothers despite differences?
Didn't we fight the same battles together?
We share the good and the bad like brothers.
Doesn't both Turkish and Serbian maidens' hair
cover in grief the graves of slain heroes?

O accursed land, may you perish in doom!
Your name is most horrible and dreaded.
No sooner does a young hero appear
than you take him away in early youth.
Or if there is a brave man of honour,
you snatch him, too, long before his time comes.
Or if there is a garland of flowers
to decorate the heads of lovely brides,
you harvest it at the peak of flowering.
My land, you have turned to blood for me now!
In very truth you are now nothing more
than piles of bones and graveyard monuments,
on which our youth, resolved and without fear,
holds a solemn festival of horror.
O Kosovo, the site of Judgment Day,
may Sodom burst into flames on your field!

Shame on you for such ugly talk, Sirdar.
What of our lads with their young ardent chests,
in which the heart overcomes and rejects
quick blood inflamed with fiery haughtiness?
Say, what are they? The noblest sacrifice
in heady flight from the fields of battle
to a joyful kingdom of poetry,[130]
just as along joyous rays of the sun
translucent drops of dew move to the sky.
There is hardly greater shame than old age!
Legs become weak, and the eyes betray us;
the brain grows dim in the old pumpkin-head;
the frowned forehead resembles a child's face;
ugly pockmarks make the face look deformed,
and bleary eyes recede into the head.
Death laughs ghastly from under the forehead,
as a turtlee peers from beneath its shell.
Why d'you speak of Kosovo and Milos?
It is there that we lost our happiness.
But bravery and our Montenegrin name
have risen from Kosovo's tomb again
above the cloud into the knights' kingdom,
where Obilic holds sway over shadows.

With Mohammed came nonsense to your head!
May your souls be accursed forever, Turks,
for deluging the land in its own blood!
One manger is too small for two horses.

No, no, Sirdar, you're missing your target!
The Turk cannot let his faith be blasphemed
as long as his head is on his shoulders.
Though this country is a bit too narrow,
two faiths can live together side by side,
just as two soups can be cooked in one pot.
Let us live on together like brothers,
and we will need no other love indeed!

We would like to, Turks, but it cannot be!
This love of ours is a strange kind of love.
Our eyes do clash in a terrible way.
They do not look at each other friendly,
but vengefully and even savagely.
The eyes do say what the heart commands them.

Look, my brothers, at this lovely turban![131]
For goodness sake, where d'you buy it, Aga?

Vuk Mandusic, I didn't buy it at all,
the Vizier gave it to me as present
when last summer I visited Travnik.

For your love's sake, do get me one like it.
I will trade you an ox out of the yoke.

I will give it to you for present, Vuk,
if you agree to become my son's kum.[132]
I'd like to have such brave man for a kum.

There can be no kumstvo[133] without baptism, even if it is done four times over.

The hair-cutting is the same as baptism.

A kum I'll be, but a stand-by never!

A great commotion and altercation begins among the Turks and Montenegrins.
The wiser men separate them so that they won't cut each others' throats.
All of them quiet down. No one utters a word.

Three sirdars brave and two voivodes bold,
with three hundred falcon-heroes[134] of theirs -
falcon Bajo[135] with his thirty dragons -
they all will live as long as time endures.
They lay in wait for Sendjer the Vizier[136]
on the top of Mount Vrtijeljka[137]
and fought till noon on a hot summer day.
No Serb wanted to betray another,
so that people would not blame him later
and point at his descendants as they do
at the traitor house of Brankovics.[138]
So they all fell, one beside the other,
while still singing and striking at the Turks.
Only three Serbs came forth from there alive,
from under the piles of dead Turks' bodies -
the Turks had run horses o'er the wounded.
Beautiful death, glory to their mothers!
Unto these brave men God will amply grant
fame to their souls and incense on their graves.
Three thousand youths, one brave as the other,
struck suddenly at Sendjer the Vizier
before daybreak on the Field of Krstac.[139]
God gives power to those who always strive!
They broke the might of Sendjer the Vizier!
Lucky the man who happened to be there!
The Kosovo wounds pain him no longer,
he blames the Turks for nothing any more.
Serbian heroes of Mount Vrtijeljka!
A shining light will always be seen there
burning atop your consecrated tombs!

Ten kavasses come from Podgorica,[140] sent by the new vizier;
who is making a tour of the empire. They give Bishop Danilo a letter
The Bishop reads it thoughfully

Tell us, Bishop, what does the Vizier write?
We would not want anything to be hid,
even if all Turks had grown mighty wings!

BISHOP DANILO (reads the letter word for word)
"Selim Vizier,[141] slave of the Prophet's slave,
servant of the brother of the world's sun,
envoy of him who rules all of the earth.
Now be it known, leaders with your Bishop,
that the tsar of all tsars has ordered me
to make a tour of his land long and wide,
to see if all is in perfect order,
to see that wolves do not over-eat meat,
to see that sheep do not wander astray
and lose their fleece in a bush by the road,
to shorten that which is overly long,
to pour out that which has been overfilled,
to check the teeth of all the young people,
to see that a rose doesn't get lost in thorns
and that a pearl doesn't perish in the mire,
and to tighten the reins of the raya,[142]
since the raya is like other livestock.
And so I've heard about your mountains, too.
The family of the holy Prophet
knows the correct value of bravery.
People lie when they say of the lion
that he's afraid of a mouse - not at all!
Come to me now under my spacious tent,
you, Bishop, and you, the leading sirdars.
Show up only under the tsar's emblem
in order to receive gifts from my hand,
then you can live as you have lived before.
Strong teeth can crack even the hardest nut.
A good sabre can cut a club's handle,
not to speak of a head of ripe cabbage.
How can the reed be trained never to bend
before the force of a strong hurricane?
Who can prevent the onrushing torrents
from rushing on toward the wide blue sea?
He who comes out from the splendid shadow
of the Prophet's temlying banner
will be burned by the sun as by lightning.
A feeble fist can never forge tough steel!
In a pumpkin mouse - what's but a captive?
Why champ the bit - it only breaks the teeth!
Without thunder heaven has no value.
In a poor man eyes are like dishwater.
The common folk are like stupid cattle -
servile only when their ribs are cracking.
Woe to the land over which armies pass!"

A merchant lies to you with a coy smile,
a woman lies while she is shedding tears,
but no one lies as deftly as a Turk.

Let's not detain the envoys much longer;
let us, instead, send them away quickly,
that their pasha won't remain long in doubt.
Let him know soon, then do whate'er he may.

Please answer him, Bishop, as best you know,
and save his face just as he has saved yours!

BISHOP DANILO (writes the answer)
"An answer to Selim-Pasa's letter
from the Bishop and the other leaders.
Hard walnut is a peculiar fruit.
You'll not break it, but it will break your teeth.
The price of wine is not what once it was,
nor is the world what you think it should be.
To give Europe as present to Prophet -
it is a sin even to think of it!
A large pear sticks easily in the throat.
Human blood is dangerous nouirshment.
It has started gushing out of your nose.
You have stuffed your belly with many sins!
The saddle-girth snapped on the Prophet's mare.[143]
Charles, Leopold's courageous voivode,[144]
John Sobieski, too, the Duke of Savoy,[144]
all together they broke the demon's horns.
The book of fate does not reveal the same
for two brothers[145] carrying the same name.
Burak[146] stumbled just before Vienna.
The wagon was overturned down the hill.
To the cruel men an empire is no good
except to spread their shame before the world.
A savage mind and a poisoned temper
has a wild boar, not a human being.
He whose law is written by his cudgel
leaves behind stench of inhumanity.
I have divined what you wanted to say.
Many footprints are leading to the cave.[147]
Do not prepare for guests from the mountain!
I am sure they have no other thoughts now
than to sharpen their teeth for their neighbours
and to guard their flocks against predators.
The entrance to a beehive is narrow.
An axe has been made ready for the bear.[148]
You have other lands and sheep besides ours.
Go oppress them and fleece their skin instead!
Where'er you come, groans rise on every side;
bad is oppressed by worse, good by evil.
I used to climb down your rope in the past,[149]
but the rope snapped almost in two pieces;
we have become much better friends since then.
You have driven wisdom into my head."

Finishes the letter and reads it before all Montenegrins and Turks.

Here's you letter. Now on your way quickly!
Take it to him. Let him amuse himself!

The Vizier's envoys leave sadly

Take this cartridge, servant of the Sultan,
and give it as present to the vizier!
Tell him also, a cartridge is the price
of every one of Montenegrin heads.

A cartridge as present for the vizier?
You insolent and unbelieving haiduk![150]
One does not talk in such way to viziers;
for where viziers come, there fever follows.
Unbidden tears spring quickly to the eyes,
and the land starts to echo with laments!

If you were not a guest here in our house,
I would know how to answer properly.
But just the same, I will tell you something.
Are we not both haiduks, each in his right?
Of shackled slaves, he remains a haiduk,
a better one, surely, since he grabbed more.
I'm a haiduk who pursues the haiduks,
my haidukship is more famous by far.
I don't burn down either lands or people,
but many of those evil torturers
have fallen on their noses before me.[151]
And many a wailing Turkish woman
has unwound black balls of wool after me.[152]

The Vizier's kavasses depart.
Two cocks are fighting before the assembled men.

Take a good look at those devilish cocks!
Why do they fight each other so fiercely,
and why are they gouging each other's eyes?
Thirty or so hens always follow them.
Those two gamecocks could live like two sultans
if they only were fortunate enough.
I do not care, in truth, about the fight,
yet I would like the smaller one to win.
And you, Aga, by the Prophet's long beard?

And I would like the bigger one to win.
Otherwise, why has God made him bigger?
He is bigger, let him be stronger, too!

A moonlight night. Evervone is sitting around the fire
while the kolo sings at the big threshing-floor.

O Novi Grad,[153] you sit by the sea-shore
and count the waves as they roll in and out,
like an old man who, sitting by the rock,
counts and recounts bids of his rosary.
You must have dreamed a most beautiful dream!
The Venetians besieged you from the sea,
Montenegrins from the mountains around.
Beneath your walls they greeted each other,
sprinkling them with blood and holy water.
You have not reeked of infidels since then.
Topal-pasa,[154] with twenty thousand men,
sped to the aid of besieged Novi Grad.
Montenegrins, all young, met him headlong
on Kameno, an even, narrow field.
The Turkish fez suffered a sound defeat.
All of the Turks sank into a mass grave.
You can still see their charnel-house today.

[They lie down.]

VUK MICUNOVIC (reclines, together with Sirdar Janko)
What do you want, Sirdar, with that belt there?

I want to place it over all my clothes.

But why place it over all your clothes?

A mean nightmare keeps on oppressing me.
When I'm asleep, it won't let me breathe, Vuk.

What mean nightmare are you talking about?
There're no nightmares nor are any witches,
but since you are as round as a barrel,
your fat chokes you when you are lying down.
Never yet have nightmares troubled my sleep.

I have had just about enough of it.
I always have some horse-radish with me
and a thorn-sprig in the hem of my coat.
I know nothing better for nightmares though
than to place a belt over all my clothes.

(Knez Janko reclines with Knez Rogan.)

What a bad stench from these Turkish turncoats!
Have you noticed any of that, Rogan?

How could I not, Knez, since it is so bad!
When I sit near them in the assembly,
I always hold my nose with both my hands.
If I did not, I would surely throw up.
For that reason I've moved away from them,
else I wouldn't live to see another day.
You see how far away from them we are,
and yet that same heavy, stifling
odour keeps wafting in from all those infidels.

It is late at night. Everyone is asleep. Someone is talking in his sleep.
Knez Janko and Kner Rogan get up to see who it is and find Vuk Mandusic talking as if awake.

Vuk Mandusic, what's bothering you now,
that you're talking with someone all night long?

Don't wake him from his dream, please, Rogan,
because he talks in sleep as if awake.
We can ask him a few private questions
so that at least we can have a good laugh.

Tell us now, Vuk, what were you just saying
about our good brother, Ban Milonjic?
Has there been a quarrel between you two?

No, no, brother, there's nothing between us,
I was talking about his daughter-in-law.

And what is that? Tell me in confidence!

She is prettier than any white vila! [155]
She is hardly full eighteen years of age,
yet she's captured my whole heart completely!

How is it that she has captured your heart?

Are you joking? There is a good reason,
There is no one like her in the whole world!
Had I not been, mind you, a godfahter
nine times over for our Ban Milonjic,
I would have seized his young daughter-in-law
and run with her to the end of the world.

Don't be silly, may your mother mourn you!
She has truly taken your wits away.

Is the devil or is witchcraft at work,
or something worse than either of those two?
When I see her smiling, that young beauty,
the world begins to whirl fast around me.
I could stand that, even though with sorrow,
but one evening the devil compelled me
to spend a night in Milonjic's hut.
Just before dawn, the moon was still shining,
the fire burning on the freshly mown field,
from somewhere came that most beautiful girl
and sat down by the fire to catch the glow.
She heard that all in the huts were asleep.
Then she unwound her lovely wreath of hair,
and the tresses fell down below her waist.
She began to comb her hair on her breasts
and to lament in a high-pitched, clear voice,
like nightingale on a tall oak-tree branch.
The young woman mourned her husband's brother,
Andrija, the son of Ban Milonjic, who met his death about a year ago,
slain by the Turks in the bloody Duga.[156]
But the Ban would not let her cut her hair,[157]
He pitied more his daughter-in-law's wreath
than the head of his own son Andrija.
The young woman's lament tore at my heart.
Her burning eyes were brighter than the flame.
Her forehead was prettier than the moon -
and I, too, was weeping like an infant.
Andrija is lucky that he was slain.
What lovely eyes are weeping over him!
What lovely lips are mourning over him!

KNEZ ROGAN (whispers to Knez Janko)
Don't ask him about such things,
for God's sake, or else he'll bleat something out!

It is dawn. They wake up and rise.

Let me tell you what I have dreamed about.
A large crowd of people got together
to bear crosses in a church procession.
The scorching sun made our eyes a-burning,
and the ground was hard where we were going.
Till on such field as this one here we came
to rest a while under an apple-tree.
Down by the tree a small brook was running.
In the tree shade we sat close together
and there we picked several ripe apples.
They were all sweet, just as sweet as sugar.
Under the tree the priest read the Gospel.
At that moment five Martinovics
got up quickly, one after another,
and three or four of their friends followed them.
Everyone watched them as they walked away.
They put ladders up against the church wall,
then they all climbed onto the church altar
and upon it placed a large golden cross.
The cross shone like the sun on the mountain.
To their feet rose all the people around,
bowing deeply before the holy cross.
At that instant, I awoke in cold sweat.

Luck was with you! You've had a splendid dream!
I, too, have had a peculiar dream.
I was guarding myself from some fierce dogs,
and I cut down five or six with a sword.
Had 1 gone off somewhere with my fighters,
I would have come to blows with Turks for sure.

I dreamed last night of a wedding party,
married Bogdan to a nice Turkish girl.
We baptized her in our faith in the church.
We baptized her and then we married them.

Angry and sad, the Turks leave, one after another.

I dreamed about our old Ozra last night.
We were in all two hundred Oznnics,
and we drove on just as many horses,
to purchase wine for Saint Michael's day.
So we returned with our wine from Kotor,[158]
people singing and firing off their guns.
When we reached the top of Potocine,[159]
three hundred lads we saw sitting about,
each one wearing a green dolman jacket
and every one with shoulder plates and arms.
Who might they be? We started to wonder.
Could they be guests? But it's early for them!
At that moment we noticed old Ozra
and some select Ozrinic's with him.
(Not one of them is alive any more.)
They reproached us with a torrent of words,
for not building a chapel in Cevo[160]
for Saint Michael, to help us everywhere.
We just about started fighting for real.
I still tremble for fear of old Ozra!

All long night through I dream all sorts of things,
but when I'm up, I soon forget it all.

Knez Bajko and Vuk Mandusic are sad.
Neither wants to say anything.

My Knez Bajko, you are a little sad.
Whate'er will be cannot be avoided.
Tell us your dream, even if unpleasant.

So I will, Knez. It's all the same to me!
I had last night a most terrible dream:
all my weapons were broken to pieces.
Some misfortune awaits me for certain,
perhaps a loss in my own family,
for whenever I have dreamed such a dream,
for burial I had to get ready.

Why, Mandusic, are you so downhearted?
Why don't you tell what you dreamed of last night?

I've had no dream, nor can I tell a tale.
I spent the night by sleeping like a log.

Since you all stopped, I will tell you something.
I dreamed I saw our Drasko Popovic!
And it's as if I have won a wager -
I'd say it's he coming down the field now.

Just think, how mean a creature man can be!
Till this moment no one even mentioned
the ablest from among our voivodes.
Where has he been, our Drasko Popovic?

Drasko had gone on business to Venice.
When Sendjer[161] launched an attack on Kotor,
he shelled the town with ancient beechwood guns,
Scepan the priest happened to be there then.
He fired just once with a gun from Kotor
and hit Sendjer's ancient gun directly.
He knocked a shell right clean into its throat,
broke it into some three hundred pieces.
Then the Doge' awarded him for that
a yearly pay of a hundred sequins.
The priest has been suffering from old age,
so Drasko went all the way to Venice
for his father's pension from the Doge.

Keep those five-six rams turning on the spit,
so that we may have our meal and go home.

Voivode Drasko arrives, hugs and kisses everyone,
and sits down among them.

Tell us something about Venice, Drasko!
What kind of folks did you meet over there?

What kind of folks, you are asking, Rogan?
Just like any other - they had no horns.

My dear fellow, we know they had no horns,
but were they rich and were they good looking?

There were, brother, many handsome people,
but ugly folk outnumbered them ten times,
much too ugly for you to look at them.
There were many, many rich people, too.
Their riches seem to have gone to their heads.
They carried on like some silly babies.
I saw poor folks on every street corner,
toiling until their eyes were popping out
to earn a crust of meager, dried-out bread.
I used to watch them as in groups of two
on their shoulders they would hoist a woman
a huge body, lifeless and bone-lazy,
(She must've weighted close to three hundred pounds!)
and would carry her hither and thither,
through busy streets at noon, in broad daylight.
They're not afraid to lose face and honour,
thinking only of food and survival.

Are their houses any good, dear Drasko?

O yes, they are, the finest in the world!
But it is not without pain for people:
they are stifled by terrible closeness
and by mighty stench and stuffy air, too.
In their faces people had no colour.

And how did they welcome you there, Drasko?

Who would think of welcoming me there, Vuk?
I did not know a single living soul.
How could I hope for someone to greet me?
Besides, all that crazy hurly-burly
made me stay in the house most of the time.
The steady noise always surrounded me
when I went to look over the city,
as it's here the last week before the Lent
when our youths go to make their masquerade.
Had it not been for a very good friend,
the very son of Zane Grbicic,
I wouldn't have seen my home again ever,
but I would have, rather, left my bones there.
He welcomed me in brotherly fashion
and he took me everywhere in Venice.

And are they brave, those people, Voivode?

No, Mandusic', on your faith in the Lord!
Of their bravery nothing good could be said!
With promises they have lured to their land,
with promises lured and then imprisoned
those poor falcons, wretched brothers of ours,
the Dalmatians and the valiant Croats.
So they loaded their large ships with those lads
and dispatched them into the wide, wide world
to bring treasures from all over the world,
thus oppressing other lands and cities.

And are their courts just and honourable?

Oh sure, brother, may God save you from them!
Little better than the Turkish justice!
There was this one monstrous building I saw,
in which they built and put together ships.
There were thousands and more of wretches there,
enchained and weighed down by heavy iron.
They were building vessels for the Doge.
Because of cries and dreadful misery
one felt no wish to enter that building.
Some of these slaves were nailed fast by fetters
on larger ships - high-towering galleys,
which they rowed on and around all the seas,
while constantly the summer sun scorched them
and bad weather and drenching rains drowned them.
From the shackles they could not free themselves,
but like a dog tied fast to a sheepfold,
they pined away their days and nights down there.
But worst of all were their many dungeons
underneath the palace of the Doge;
the deepest pit that you can imagine
is no worse than those horrible prisons.
In those dungeons e'en a horse would perish.
Man would not tie even his own dog there,
not to speak of his wretched fellow man;
and yet, they keep enchaining people there
and choking them to death in dark chambers.
I still do shake, may God's curse be on them,
when I think of that terrible monster.
No one dares show pity for another,
let alone come to his aid whatever.
When I saw how those decent men suffered,
my heart began to ache, and I spoke out:
"What're you, scum, doing to these people?
Why don't you just kill them off like a man?
Why do you keep them under such torture?"
Then Grbicic whispered to me softly:
"Please do not say words of that kind and tone.
To speak the truth is not permitted here.
You are lucky - they did not understand."
Listen, brothers, what I say to you now:
Those same prisons made one thing clear to me,
that those men had sinned much against God's will,
and that surely their kingdom will perish
and pass into the hands of better men.

Since you do make such daring predictions,
tell me, fear they anyone in this world?

There is no man who is without some fear,
even if of his own shadow only.
They are afraid of nothing else indeed
but of spies and of secret policmen.
All men tremble before them in Venice.
When on the street two people start talking,
the third cocks his ear to listen to them,
then with all speed runs to the officials,
telling them what the others talked about
and adding to their tale some of his own.
Those who spoke are right away arrested
and sent to be tortured in the galley.
From such bad deeds they are all perishing
and losing faith among each other, too.
From end to end, as large as Venice is,
one could not find a single person there
who did not hold his fellow citizen
to be a spy and a secret agent.
The other day Grbicic swore to me
that one time secret agents and spies
had denounced one of the Doges himself
in the senate and before the people,
because of which he paid with his own head
right on the steps of his very palace.
Why would others not be afraid of them
when they denounce e'en the Doge' himself?

And did you see any games in Venice,
say like the games we play here among us?

Yes, I did, but their games are different.
They would all get together in one house
after supper, when evening had fallen.
The house was filled with all kinds of people,
and in it were lit thousands of candles.
There were big holes all around the long walls,
and those holes were all filled up with people,
and so were the other parts of the house.
You could see them in the walls, all around,
peeping from the holes like mice from their nests.
Then a curtain rose, all of a sudden,
and the third part of the house opened up.
O my dear Lord, what a sight to behold!
Out of somewhere crawled all sorts of people:
you won't see such even in a wild dream,
all in many colours, just like wild cats.
Then a shouting and loud yelling began
and everyone started to clap his hands;
I nearly fell dead from so much laughter!
After a while they all went out somewhere,
but after them others took their places.
Such ugliness, such gross deformities
no one has seen anywhere in the world!
Their noses were almost a full foot long,
their eyes bulging as if they were vampires,
their mouths gaping like those of hungry wolves.
They stood there on some kind of wooden legs,
strutting around on those legs like on keys.
They kept wearing some strange rags and tatters.
If you met them in broad daylight, by chance,
surely your hair would stand on end from fright.
Until someone, may God bless and help him,
began to shout from out of those wall-holes,
"Run away, folks, the building is on fire!"
My Lord, you have never seen such uproar!
Din, clatter, and deafening racket arose.
Screaming was heard; hats were strewn all over;
many people were left stomped underfoot.
They squeezed and choked so that they could not breathe,
as when wild beasts chase herds into stampede.
On the morrow we went to the same play,
but there was no one in the whole building;
the empty house was locked up and bolted.
I will tell you another funny tale
(and I am sure you will not believe me):
Some strange people I have seen in Venice
bounce up and down and dance upon a rope.

That cannot be the truth, my dear Drasko,
they must have cast a spell over your eyes.

I do not know, but I surely saw them.
I myself think it must have been magic.

Indeed, what else could it be but magic!
Once I heard it from an old grandfather
that some people came one day to Boka[162]
from Italy, or from some other place.
They came to our market outside the walls
and cried out to everybody present:
"Have a good look at that cock over there!"
When the people looked at the cockerel,
it held a long beam in one of its claws.
Next moment it was nothing but a straw!
The same people cried again: "Listen, folks!
Each one of you will hold a bunch of grapes.
You will then bring a knife close to the grapes,
but be careful, lest you want to suffer,
don't cut off a single one of the grapes!"
Then everyone grabbed a bunch of those grapes,
and quickly brought a sharp knife up to it.
Such miracle they've never seen before:
each one of them was holding his own nose
and was bringing a knife closer to it.
Then a third cried from the top of the wall:
"Listen, good folks, take care that you don't drown!"
Then a river rushed to the market-place.
And everyone, be it man or woman,
lifted his pants or her dress as to wade,
but lo! there was not a trace of water.
Yet all lifted their dress on the market
and were stepping as if through the water!
After they saw that they had been deceived,
people rose and would have killed the Latins
if those had not run away to Kotor.
Such trickery is very much the same
as your dancing on a rope, Voivode!

 And do they play the gusle and sing well?

What gusle, pray, are you talking about!
No one mentioned that word there even once.

I wouldn't give you e'en a Turkish farthing
for a pageant without a gusle.
In a house where the gusle is not heard,
both the house and the people there are dead.

We have asked you just about everything,
but did you see the Doge, Voivode?

Yes, I saw him, just as I see you now.

And was he good looking, Drasko, pray tell?

Common looking, a man of middle size.
Had he not held such a high position,
he would not have to fear the evil eye.

And what was it they called him, Voivode?

Valiero[163] ... and the rest I forgot.

Did he ask you about this land of ours?

He did, brother, I don't know how it came.
With Grbicic' I appeared before him
and bowed to him as I was told to do.
The Doge' smiled right in my direction
and then asked me some about our country.
I would say he liked the Montenegrins,
for he recalled one by one all battles
in which our men did help the Venetians.
Then he began to talk like a ninny.
So he asked me about our two neighbours,
the Bosnians and the Albanians:
"When they capture one of the Montenegrins,
dead or alive, do they eat the captured,
or what else do they do with him?" - asked he.
"What do you mean, in the name of great God?
How could one man eat another human?"
He spoke again, "Well, I have also heard
that some people over there eat snakes, too."
"What? Who eats snakes, honourable Doge?
It's sickening to see them on the road -
one's hair does stand on end at such a sight."

I take it then that he received you well.

Not only well, but very well indeed.
He promised me even what I didn't ask.
And when at last I was leaving, I thought:
Blessed am I both today and forever.
Good fortune smiles at all Montenegrins.
At least I'll take enough powder with me
to have something with which to fight the Turks.
Later, alas! his promises vanished
as if nothing had been said about it.
And now I would not believe him at all
even if he told me that milk is white.

What kind of food they gave you, Voivode?
Were their dishes any good for eating?

There was hardly any food except bread.
They offered me all sorts of sweetmeat.
You have to lick three hours to finish meal.
Of those present, two-thirds of the people,
though still quite young, had no teeth already
on account of their licking sweets all day.
My crave for meat I could still only now.

May God be praised. They're strange people, indeed!
Have you noticed down here in Kotor Bay
this Sovra,[164] the Venetian governor,
and the other Venetian gentlemen?
They like chicken or eggs better by far
than the ram meat or any ball of cheese.
What an untold quantity of chickens
they gobble up within a single year!
They are dying from all this lordly life,
with big bellies hanging and no moustache,
with their head tops dusted with some ashes,
wearing earrings on their ears like women.
When they attain the age of thirty years,
they get to look very much like old hags;
one feels ashamed even to look at them.
When they begin to climb the smallest stairs,
their faces turn as pale as a white sheet,
and something starts to throb beneath their throats.
So one might think they were not far from death.

The roast is served and everyone sits down to eat.
Sirdar Janko asks whose ram it is, looking at its shoulder-blade.
They tell him it is Martin Bajica's.

What a fine blade, foretelling great future!
God's grace be with you forever, old man.
Something wondrous will yet happen to you.

Which side is ours, do you suppose, Janko,
that of the cross or that of the pillar?[165]

We have always held the side of the cross.

I have gnawed flesh off a thousand shoulder-blades,
but have never seen such calamity.
Whose shoulder-blade do I see before me?
His family and his home will perish.
A cock will crow in his yard no longer.
In its middle the blade is all hollow
as if hollowed by a very sharp pick,
and on the blade one can see twenty graves,
and not one is outside the family.

Everyone looks at the shoulder-blade wondering what kind it is.
They ask whose ram it is and are told that it is Skender-aga Medovic's.

KNEZ JANKO (looks at one of the blades and tells what he sees)
The blade owner has twenty heads of cattle,
a threshing floor nicely around his house,
rather sturdy beams supporting his house,
and several strong, beautiful horses.
He is hiding a bundle of money,
though I would say that it is not that much,
and all people in his house know of it.

VUKOTA MRVALJEVIC (reads the shoulder-blade)
I see somewhere a handsome, large booty,
but mixed with blood, may God's curse be on it!
Kosovo is lying all around it.[166]

Why do you talk magic like old witches,
or like some old women reading their beans?
How could dead bones really tell us at all
what will happen to whom in the future?

What the devil are you so wise about?
You've been telling more fortunes from those bones
than any ten of us have ever done.
You do not let anyone pick the bones,
but you snatch them from people's lips quickly.
You have snatched them from me a hundred times
to see in them some trouble facing me.
Half of your life you have spent so doing.

Come on now, our dear Vuk from Ljesev Stup,[167]
take your gusle and sing something for us.
We see good luck. Let us make it better.

O Cevo plain, you're a nest of heroes,
and a bloody battlefield of humans!
You remember all too many armies,
and have bereaved all too many mothers!
Human bones have covered you all over,
with human blood you have become drunken.
Since Vidovdan,[168] the day of St. Vitus,
you have fed the ravens and howling wolves
with the flesh of heroes and horses.
It was awful once e'en to look at you:
a cloud of black smoke had enveloped you;
trampling on you were a hundred thousand Turks;
mighty guns were roaring all around you;
thousands of lads were yelling furiously;
flocks of ravens were croaking in the air.
Just as the sun breaks through after darkness,
the stormy sky cleared up toward evening.
We counted Turks strewn dead all over you,
and lying there were so many of them
we couldn't agree on their exact number.

(He lays down the gusle)

Don't stop now your playing and singing, Vuk.
There is no joy without your play and song.

I don't play well, Voivode. It is better to stop.

Rifle shots ring out on the field.
About a hundred and fifty people vie in singing.

What's the matter with them? Are they all mad?

Those are the guests of Mustafics' wedding.
The flag-bearer Suljo is marrying
the young niece of the Kadi from Obod.[169]

It seems to me, not all the guests are Turks.
Among them are the Montenegrins too.

Yes, there are some Montenegrins also[170] -
a little less than a half of the guests.

What do they want, those table-licking dogs,
the plate-lickers and the Brankovic's?
Why do they need the company of Turks?

And what kind of devil's marriage is that
when they have no wedding rituals at all,
but live just like animals together?

No wedding at all is their old custom.
Instead, they make some kind of a contract,
as if they were renting a half a cow.
They do not count women as family,
but they treat them like purchased slaves instead.
And they tell you, "Woman is to a man
like some sweet fruit or a piece of roast lamb.
While she is that, you may keep her at home;
when she is not, throw her out on the street!"

Praise the good Lord, what filthy breed of dogs,
so drunken with evil and injustice!
There is no law or justice where they reach.
For them the law is what their heart desires;
what it does not, it's not in the Koran.

The wedding guests are singing in the field.

O Gergelez, the wing of a falcon,[171]
on a fleet steed you rode to paradise,
of your free will and without compulsion,
so as to greet the great Prophet sooner.
The sweet Hurias, though, sure have captured you,
so you are late in coming to us here.
Come out to us. Do not waste a minute.
Come here riding on your winged stallion.
Do not forget your sabre and your lance,
nor leave behind your hell-inspiring whip,
for the Vlachs[172] here have raised their heads again.
Into the stall drive them back like cattle.
Your wolves have got indeed very hungry.
Let brightly flash your damascene sabre
that whelping dogs bark not at the Prophet!

Where are you now, out tipsy champ, Marko?[173]
Although you were once a Turkish vassal,
you'll always be our great pride and glory.
Get on your famed Dapple-gray horse, Marko,
and do not take any of your weapons
except for one - your heavy six-spiked club.
Strike Alija[174] right between his shoulders.
Let him have his Prophet and Hurias!

O Ilderim,[175] cudgel of the Prophet,
wasn't there enough of the Christian people
throughout the lands in the east and the west
for you to ride on your winged horse about,
to quench the thirst of your damascene sword,
and to become your faith's most feared fighter?
But no, you dared to pursue Fatima,
the sole daughter of the holy Prophet.
You sinned against both Allah and Prophet.
And he who sins against them, pays dearly!
But all your sins may be forgiven you
since you've broken the horns of Bosnia
and slaughtered all who did not turn Turkish.
You spared only the common, poor people,
to do our will and wail before the Cross.

Our Obilic, you fiery dragon,
the eyes of those who look at you go blind.
All brave men will always honour your name!
You did not fail our crown like a coward
when you set your foot on the Sultan's throat
and stepped into the Sultan's torn belly.
Now I see you riding your stallion, Zdral,[176]
and dispersing the Turks around the tent.
What will happen? Who will do the right thing?
Serb and Turk can never get together.
The salty sea will sooner change to sweet.

Hey, Alija, bastard son of a whore!
The young women of Kotari[177] have fled.
It is a shame for such a grey falcon
to chase a flock of partridge for so long
without catching anything for himself.
Strike, Tale,[178] strike with your hard dogwood-club!
Under its blows, ribs will crack like walnuts!
Even if half of you were to perish,
don't let Kosa remain with the giaours![179]
Such luscious fruit is not for the giaours.

Run, Komnen,[180] you persistent warrior,
since you captured such a beautiful doe![181]
You have rested your tired wings long enough,
and Kotari is not too far away.
To your Hajka your faith has become dear.
She can hardly wait to become Christian.
Roll your thunder, you Starina Novak,[182]
as is your wont, from above Klisura,[183]
because with dirt are filled the Sultan's ears.
Wake up the fleas within his leather coat.
Don't let, Bajo,[184] anyone flee alive.
Let no wedding guests wake up the mountain
without asking either you or Limo.[185]

Mustai-Kadi appears and asks the lads not to sing such songs while passing by the Montenegrin assembly,
so that the leaders won't be offended, but to sing wedding songs. He himself begins to sing.

Weep not, mother, for pretty Fatima.
She is married, but she is not buried.
A rose has not fallen off its bough
but has been moved into its garden.
Suljo will take care of Fatima
as the apple of his own dear eye.
Fatima has a wondrous figure,
and her eyes are like two shining stars.
Her face is like a rosy morning.
Under her hair wreath shines the Morning Star.
Her mouth is shaped as if cut by coin.
Her lips burn the colour of a rose.
Between them flash now and then white sparks
of a snowy bracelet of small pearls.
Her throat is like pure-white ivory,
her white arms like the wings of a swan.
The Morning Star sails above flowers,
and silver oars are paddling the Star.
Blest the pillow upon which she rests!

A falcon hates the fields covered with dust.
A falcon wants not a frog from a marsh.
A falcon loves to dwell on a high cliff.
A falcon seeks to find a partridge bird.
A partridge is a slender, timid bird,
but her body is like live, darting fire.

Waste not your time, the leading wedding guest,
Today hours seem to us like years indeed.
The time will seem all too long to Suljo.
The good Allah has presented the earth
with a few days of blissful paradise.
It is a sin to lessen God's present.

Oh how shameful! A most wretched medley!
Did you hear them, the kind of songs they sang?
It is no use for foes to fraternize.
The same old names will always be brought up:
Milos, Marko - Mujo, and Alija![187]
The storm gathers, then suddenly bursts forth;
running over is the cup already.

But why do they go with the enemy?
For, if you were to cook them in one pot,
their two soups would never mix together.

Shameless, brazen, and stinking-dirty whores!
Those plate-lickers, bringing us dishonour!
They know of no dignity of heroes,
else they wouldn't drag themselves after the Turks.
They're more hateful to me than are the Turks,
though I don't care for either of the two.
In vain do they challenge and spite the Turks,
for they do lick their plates like whelping dogs.

They would sing on the way they're singing now,
but the sly fox would not let them go on.
Do you notice that Kadi over there?
There is no one like him in four empires.
His mouth is full of words sweet as honey.
Like a serpent he treads around the Cross,
yet he is full of evil and cunning.
Christian souls have foe no more bloodthirsty -
may he be shot by Montenegrin gun!

The wedding guests depart. Soon a group of mourning
women appears and the sister of Batric' walks in front of them, mourning.

Where have you flown away from me,
O my falcon,
away from your most noble flock,
my dear brother?
Didn't you know the faithless Turks?
may God curse them!
Didn't you know they'd deceive you,
O lovely head?
My world is gone, forever lost,
my brother, my sun!
My deep wounds can never be healed,
my bitter wound!
My very eyes are plucked from me,
light of my eyes!
To whom did you leave your brothers,
brothers' glory?
And your grizzled father Pero,
woe to you, Pero!
Young sisters three bereft of you,
each a cuckoo?
Seven brothers' wives, with heads shorn[189],
O empty lives!
Why didn't you guard your handsome head,
human vila?
Why did you make the foe happy,
brotherly pride?
They cut you down on word of honour,
sneaky heathens!
How well they decked the Travnik[190] town,
God make them pay!
They decked it with your lovely head,
woe to us all!
Round whom will now soldiers gather,
O our leader?
Who will defend this border wing,
brotherly wing?
Who will cut down the Turkish heads,
O sharp sabre?
If you had died in bitter fight,
O warrior,
where young Serbian lads are vying,
O young lad,
to take their toll of arms and men
our wounds would heal.
But you trusted the faithless foe,
O faithful head!
If possible were it for me,
grieving sister,
to forget you in some way soon,
cuckoo I,
but your head was so wonderful,
O young brother!
Had you been right next to the tsar,
O clever head,
you would have been the tsar's vizier,
for your sister.
Had you been right next to the king,
O young hero,
you would have been his general,
O rose of mine!
If only I were able to talk,
you heart of mine,
with your speechless, dead head again,
woe unto me,
again to look in your dark eyes,
O eyes of mine,
to kiss your cold motionless head,
instead of live,
to comb again your locks of hair,
woe be to me,
and wind up your hero's turban,
wretched sister!
But you are now in the foes' hands,
may they reap death!
They will despoil your lovely head,
You will find there many brothers,
woe be to us,
all brothers there chosen falcons,
woe to brothers,
placed on the walls around Travnik,
may God curse it!
You may not know the brothers' heads,
O empty world,
because they have ravaged them all,
What will happen to your young wife,
woe be to her!
And to your two hapless children,
poor orphans now?
And to your poor grand-dad Bajko,
O my Batric,
the grandfather who brought you up?
Woe be to him!
May your sharp wounds be forgiven,
O my Batric,
but not this dire calamity.
Woe to us all!
Our whole land has turned to Islam.
God's curse on it!
May the leaders turn into stones,
and their homes die!

All of the chieftains are crying. when they hear the name of Batric; they all come up crying to the mourning women. As they meet, they learn what has happened. The sister of Batric' embraces her grandfather; Knez Bajko. She grabs his knife and kills herself Bajko swoons and falls next to his dead grand-daughter.

May Lord be praised, what terrible sorrow
has befallen us suddenly today!

Everyone cries silently.

O my dear Lord, forever and ever,
what an awful way to lose a leader!

Eighty long years have I lived already
watching many times the Montenegrins,
as I did watch the Latins, and the Turks,
but such a fine youth I have not seen yet!

Never before in these lofty mountains
was bred a youth so splendid and decent.
Brave lad was he and he seemed to wear wings.
I have watched him leaping with his comrades:
his standing jump was all fourteen feet long,
and by running, he cleared twenty-four feet;
he jumped over three horses in one leap.

What is the use hiding what really is?
Never has a Montenegrin woman
given birth to such gray falcon before!
It was always hard to be quite certain
whether he was more handsome than valiant,
whether he was more good-natured than wise.
Six times we were in trouble together
when our eyes were burning by the gun-powder
and the slain heads were being tossed around -
such steely eyes I have yet to witness
in a young man as I saw in that one.
And he was not twenty years of age yet!
Why hide the truth from you, Montenegrins:
he's cut sharply right into my own heart,
thrown the whole land into deepest mourning!

His real life had just begun to unfold,
but in bravery he did surpass clearly
almost every Montenegrin alive:
seventeen or perhaps even eighteen
Turkish foes' heads he had slain already.

God strike him dead, dead though he's already![191]
How could he have such a faith in the Turks
as to believe in their word of honour?

He was a lad more trusting than others.
Only thus could that dog called Corovic
fool him vilely on his word of honour
as a brother, may his name be accursed!

Is his home left without a male head now?

No, no, Sirdar, but what use is it, pray?
Two little boys has he left behind him;
one cannot pass a cup to the other,
yet there they are, lovely as two apples.
But who can wait for the two to grow up?

And has he left many brothers, say?

Seven brothers, and all seven alike.

What do you think, Vuk, will they avenge him?

Yes, they will, Knez, I'm sure, but what's the use?

What do you mean, "What's the use," my good man?
If they succeed in avenging him well,
it is as if they've resurrected him!

But this maiden, ill-fated and luckless,
who killed herself before our eyes today
has touched my heart with much deeper sorrow
than the death of unfortunate Batric.

Better not talk about our sorrow, Knez!
Such a sorrow has not indeed been seen
or come to pass in many places yet.
The maiden's heart broke apart in her breast.
The world for her was turned all upside down
in her grief for her gray falcon brother.
She could never overcome her sorrow,
and so she put an end to her own life.

Grief has forced her to kill herself, brothers!
A sorrow like hers - it would have crushed a stone,
then how much more her mourning sister-heart.
And handsome he was, may he rest in peace,
when he dressed to go upon a visit
and donned those large, wonderful silver plates,
a crimson shawl entwined about his head,
a braid of hair falling down his shoulders,
and two pistols thrust into his waist-belt,
a shiny sword hanging from his waist-belt,
and in his hand a shiny dzeferdar -
handsome of face, tall and straight as a lance!
When I, too, think how good looking he was,
my heart lights up in overpowering flames!

The chieftains sit conversing around a large threshing-floor as three of four hundred Ozrinics, Cucas, and Bjelicas appear.[192] They all sit down before the chieftains, crrying their long rifles slung over their shoulders.

Welcome, people! What has happened to you?
You look as though you are going to war.
You must have had some serious trouble.
Has anyone been fighting, for God's sake?

Not yet, Sirdar, there has been no slaughter,
although, in truth, one can see it coming.

Priest of Cuce, give them now the letter
that you've written in the name of us all,
and let them have a good talk about it;
or otherwise our noise will deafen them.

Father Mico gives the letter to Bishop Danilo.
The Bishop looks at it without saying a word.

What's the matter? What does it say, Bishop?

No one can read this letter, God help us.

(He gives it to Knez Janko so that he may return it to the priest.)

KNEZ JANKO (looks at it)
What a beauty of a letter, damn it!
How prettily it was set on paper,
as if it was scribbled by chicken claws.

Everyone laughs. Knez Janko gives the letter to the priest and talks to him.

Father Mico, take this pretty letter
and read to us, that we know what it says!

Father Mico takes the letter, looks at it for a long time and begins to read.

FATHER MICO dam... am...

How cleverly this brave knight is reading!
Oh what great fun he brought to us today!
For goodness' sake, where did you learn to read?
Did they send you to the school in Venice?
If you mangle your own writing like that,
what would you do with somebody else's?

It seems you are making fun of me, Vuk!
As the teaching, so follows the reading!
If I had had a bit better teacher,
I would be now a much better reader.
But no matter, my living comes from it.
Who knows better, has the field to himself!

I wouldn't give you any food offerings,
if you asked me - not a single wheat grain.

I don't get more than a handful of grain,
a one-sheep fleece, and a small chunk of cheese.
Even that much is given grudgingly.
Do you not know what good givers we are?

Don't be angry, in the name of the Lord!
And how do you read them your Liturgy
if such letter gives you so much trouble?

In the Lord's name, I don't read it either.
Nor do I have any need for the book.
Nor do I e'er open it in the church.
I've learned it all by heart quite thoroughly:
the Liturgy, the baptism, and wedding,
and some other, less needed services.
So whenever I need any of it,
I sing it out just as I sing a song.

What a strange priest, may no ill befall him!
In the whole world there's no other like him.

Everyone is laughing and making noise.

Come on, someone, tell us why you have come,
so that we can go home before nightfall.

We shall tell you. We've got a lot to tell!
It's easier to bear the Turkish sword -
since Kosovo our reaper and killer -
than this evil, if it proves to be true.
It's been about six or seven years now
a prophetess has been coming often
to visit us. She is from Bar,[193] she says.
She gives away herbs and does some healing
and makes up some devilish amulets
to keep people safe from gunshot peril.
Everyone thinks, may the Lord forgive me,
that she is led by the Holy Spirit!
The true devil has brought her among us.
Two or three weeks she has been with us now.
She has begun, what she had never done,
'mong our women to reveal the witches.
Twenty of them she has picked out so far,
she has accused even herself as such.
More than fifty human heads already
have been eaten by these evil women,
heads of children who have died recently
and of young men who'd been killed by rifle.
All our people are deeply disturbed now.
No one knows yet what to do, where to turn.
They have begun to hate one another.
We had trouble and great difficulties
keeping them all from killing each other.
We brought them here but with greatest effort,
in hopes that you can prevent the slaughter.

Strange cattle these! May God punish them all!
For such nonsense they nigh kill each other!
And where is she, the ill-boding old hag
who has planted the bloody knife 'mong you?

We have brought her with us for one purpose -
to bear witness about this before you.
She promised us that she would tell it all.
And when she tells, God cut her to pieces,
it is as though you saw it with your eyes.

The prophetess-witch appears.

Say, old woman, are you really a witch?

Yes, I am, Knez. There's no hiding it.

How do you turn yourselves into witches?

For that purpose we have a special herb,
and we cook it, that same herb, in a pot.
Then we take turns smearing ourselves with it.
After that act, we all become witches.

And after that, what do you do, pray tell?

We gather on the copper threshing-floor,
but except us no one knows where it is.
In March we ride on wooden weaving-beams,
secret councils we hold there to decide
what evil tricks we should play upon whom.
We turn into all sorts of animals,
and we row with silver oars through waters
in our own boat, which is made of egg shells.
We cannot harm those people we despise,
but we blot out every trace of all those
who are endeared or related to us.

There you see! Yet, she says she knows nothing!
All that she says is nothing but the truth.
She wouldn't have brought such shame upon herself
if she hadn't made a vow to do such work.
Now she's sorry, thinking of her own soul,
because she sees what ruin her deeds have wrought.

Listen, woman, we believe everything,
even about the copper threshing-floor;
and one could ride a weaving beam, perhaps.
But about the boat and the silver oars -
that certainly no one will believe you.
Far too fragile is such boat, after all.

It is all true, my dear, upon my soul!
Why should I add new lies to the old ones
when I've one foot in the grave already?
But repentance I have made at long last.
I would rather choose death under the stones
with all others of the same ilk like me,
than do evil as we have done till now.
May it thus be easier for my soul?

(The old woman cries.)

A strange devil, do you see now, brothers?
in God's great name, are there really witches?

Yes, there are, Knez, some kind of horned witches
who can shoot down an eagle from a cloud.

VUK MICUNOVIC (to the Bishop)
You, dear Bishop, have studied profound books.
Did you read, too, something about witches?

What witches are you talking about, Vuk!
There's no such thing in any of the books.
All of you here can swear on my own life
that those are old wives' tales and their "wisdom.'
This old woman is spreading shameless lies.
That's what it is, it can be nothing else!

Tell us, woman, why you have lied to us,
or, on our soul, you will be stoned right here.
What you have done to us all is no joke.
You've brought discord to our three troubled tribes[194]
and unsheathed the bloody sword 'mong them.

(The frightened old woman trembles)

I will now make a confession to you,
then do with me whatever you desire.

My old woman, there's no confessor here,
unless we send Father Mico to you.
But, trouble is, he has no books with him.
Out with the truth, or you'll go under stones.
Don't fool yourself. There is no other way.

THE OLD WOMAN (speaks in a trembling voice)

When I set out to travel here from Bar,
a kavass came quite unexpectedly.
He came for me, as told by the Pasha,
and he took me to the Skadar's Vizier.
What was afoot the Vizier had well heard -
that you'd taken counsel among yourselves
to strike a blow at the domestic Turks -
and he sent me to you to confuse you
so you would be busy with your troubles.
He taught me, too, what I should do and how,
and then he said, damn his soul forever,
"No one will be suspicious of you there
because of your frequent visits 'mong them."
He threatened me as I was departing:
"If you don't confuse the Montenegrins,
you, old woman, I swear on my firm faith
I will lock up in one of the houses
ten grandchildren that you still have at home
and your three sons, all three of them married.
I will lock up and then burn them alive!"
It was this threat that did force me, brothers,
to sow discord 'mong you Montenegrins.

The entire gathering rises and picks up stones to kill he,;
but the chieftains do not permit it. Only with difficulty' do they save her
Everybody goes home. Only a few chieftains remain at Cetinje to confirm their agreement.
It is dark. The leaders are sitting around the fire. A blood-red moon rises,
and there is a sizable earthtremor: At the same time, the blind old
Abbot Stefan comes to them, rosary in hand.

Father Abbot, can you explain to us
why these mountains trembled so suddenly?

Who, my dear son, can know the will of God,
who can fathom all His great miracles?

Can you tell me why the moon is so red,
as if someone had plucked it out of fire?

I do not know 'bout that either, my son.
There are garments of all sorts in heaven,
and God gives us whatever He pleases.
Everything has been just the same to me
ever since I parted with my eyesight.
Blessed are those among you who can see.
You are closer to God and His wonders.

Silence. The Abbot counts his beads.

Do you always count like that, my Abbot?

I do, my son; I never cease to count.

You should have had enough of that counting.
Do you ever get tired of it, father?
And from that ..................[194]
I'd rather have a handful of walnuts,
to count them once, as is our old custom,
than a hundred of these here rosaries
to keep turning in my fingers for naught.

You make a joke out of everything, Knez.
Come now, father, in God's name, please tell us
a tale or two, as only you know how,
before we all lie down and fall asleep.
Who has never heard you tell a story
will never know all that slumbers in you.

I will, brothers. That is why I have come!
I have lit up many bright icon lamps
on the altar of the Orthodox faith,
and now, though blind, I have come among you
to rekindle, inasmuch as I can,
the holy fire upon your altar, too,
on the altar of your church and honour.

Speak, Father, we shall all listen as long as you wish,
even if it is until midnight.

I have now reached eighty years of my life.
But ever since the loss of my eyesight,
I have lived more in the spirit's kingdom,
though my body still has hold of the soul,
keeps and hides it within its boundaries,
as underground cavern protects a flame.
I have traveled through much of the wide world.
Of God worship, the most sacred places
which the earth has raised up toward heaven,
I have beheld, one after another,
and I've inhaled the altars' holy smoke.
I have climbed up the holy Mount Olive,
from which the most horrible prediction
of its ill fate Jerusalem once heard.
I have also visited all three caves:
where the sun of Christianity rose,
where the heavens cast light on the manger,
and where the kings came with their offerings
to bow before the one heavenly child.
I have seen, too, Gethsemane's Garden,
defamed by sin, passion, and betrayal.
The evil wind[196] put out the holy lamp!
We see ugly thorns that have multiplied
and are scattered across the fertile fields,
and Omar's temple[197] has reared into the sky
on Solomon's sacred foundations;
St. Sophia[198] is but a stable now.
Unusual are the traits of earthly things.
They are full of crazy transformations.
All of nature keeps nourishing itself
on the purest milk of the clear sunlight.
But the milk, too, changes into hot flame;
today it sears what yesterday it fed.
Not all rivers on this earth do possess
the kind of bed they should have for their flow.
Do we not see these terrifying things
devastating the earth mercilessly?
Our time on earth and human destiny,
two faces of highest absurdity,
the most profound science without order,
the children or the fathers of man's dreams -
do we only imagine this order,
whose deep secret we cannot unravel?
Is it true that things are as they appear,
or do our eyes only deceive us so?
The world demands some kind of firm action,
duty gives birth to new obligations,
and defense is closely tied up with life!
Nature provides everything with weapons
against a force that is oft unbridled,
against trouble and dissatisfaction.
Sharp spikes are there to protect the corn stalks,
and thorns defend a rose from being plucked.
Myriads of teeth has nature sharpened
and has pointed innumerable horns.
Various tree-barks, wings, and speed of feet,
and the array of seeming disorder,
always follow some definite order.
Over all this huge conglomeration
again a wise, mighty force reigns supreme.
It won't allow for evil to triumph.
It snuffs the spark, strikes the snake in the head.
Man does defend his wife and his children.
People defend their church and their nation.
Honour is a nation's sacred relic.
Generations must bear their own burden.
New needs give birth to new powers in man.
Every action strengthens human spirit.
Heavy pressure brings thunder to action.
The blow calls forth a spark out of the stone,
without the blow the spark stays imprisoned.
Suffering is the virtue of the Cross.
Tempered in trials and suffering, the soul
feeds the body with electric fire,
through hope the soul is bonded with Heaven,
as the sun's ray binds droplet with the sun.
What is man? (And it's his fate to be man!)
A small creature deceived oft by the earth,
yet he sees that the earth is not for him.
Is not the real more puzzling than the dream?
If man attains an honest name on earth,
his being born then wasn't at all in vain.
But without his honest name - what is he?
Generation which was made to be sung,
muses will vie for many centuries
to weave for you garlands worthy of you.
Your example will teach gusle singers
how one should speak of immortality!
A fierce struggle lies ahead for you all:
Part of your tribe has renounced its own roots
and is therefore serving the dark Mammon!
The curse of shame has now fallen on it.
What is Bosnia and half of Albania?
They're your brothers of the same parentage.
United all, there's enough work for all!
Your destiny it is to bear the Cross
of the fierce fight against brothers and foes!
The wreath's heavy, but the fruit is so sweet!
Without death there is no resurrection.
Under a shroud of glory I see you
and our nation's honour resurrected.[199]
I also see the altar turned eastward[200]
and a fragrant incense burning on it.
Die in glory, if die indeed you must!
Wounded honour inspires courageous hearts;
those hearts cannot tolerate such illness.[201]
The altar by pagans desecrated
will once again receive the grace of God.

Everyone fall asleep, and the Abbot sits by the fire,
counting his beads and praying all night among the sleepers.
It is daybreak They rise and gird their arms to start for home.
They marvel as they look at the old Abbot, who is sitting by the fire
counting his beads and talking to himself As they rise, everyone approaches

him and kisses his hand out of respect for his beautiful, wise words.

You are not blind, Abbot, that is for sure,
when you're so wise and full of thoughtfulness.
Fools are the blind, though they have eyes to see,
those fools who see, but alas! all for naught.
They need their eyes for bare necessities,
just like other lower living creatures.

And do you think, Sirdar of Njegusi,[202]
that the Abbot would be as wise with eyes?
A lovely song slumbers within the blind.
Eyesight often hampers both mind and speech.
You can see it when you tell a story:
in your story things may appear to be
quite different in someone else's view,
and the story loses force and savour.
The mind's confused, and tangled is the tongue.
Oft you don't know what you wanted to say.
But a blind man is not hindered by eyes;
he keeps, rather, steady on the same road,
like a drunk man holding onto the fence.

Let's tell our dreams as we go to the church.
I had a dream I've never had before
(a good omen it must be for my arms):
Last night in dream I saw Obilic' fly
over the plain Field of Cetinje there,
on a white steed as if on a vila.
Oh my dear God, how resplendent he was!

Afterwards, thirty to forty comrades tell about their dreams.
Each one tells the same dream - that he has seen Obilic like Batric.
All of them go to church joyfully to swear an oath
to fight the local Turks together: They enter the church.
Vuk Micunovic unwinds the shawl from his head and extends it
so that they can take hold of it and form
a kolo.

O, Nikola, my Knez of Dupilo,[203]
I see you too have placed your hand in oath!
You aren't that strong in Crmnica, you know,
and Crmnica lies at the Turks' doorstep.
Do not take home a spurious oath with you,
for it is hard to struggle against God!

Hear me, Bishop and all Montenegrins,
I know quite well how it is at my home.
Three hundred men I have in Dupilo.
Let all of them betray me if they wish,
I swear to you by my firm faith in God,
that we must fight the Turks with a vengeance,
though it may mean the end of our whole clan!
When I shed blood for my own faith freely,
I do not fear a curse or anything.
As soon as a gun fires at Cetinje,
you'll hear thunder resounding all around.
Blessed is the one whose heart is true and sound
and who has not become too old and weak -
business enough, in truth, shall he behold!

We will not betray you, but we must confirm it
with an oath; it will be sounder business.

Administer the oath, Sirdar Vukota! You know it best,
and we shall all cry out: Amen!

Keep this in mind firmly, Montenegrins!
He who begins this fight will be the best!
But who betrays those brave ones that begin,
may all he has turn to stone and ashes!
May the Great Lord with His awesome power
change all the seeds in his fields to pebbles
and the children in his wife's womb to stone!
May his offspring all turn into lepers,
and may people point their finger at them!
May all traces of him be blotted out,
as had happened to those dappled horses![204]
May no rifle hang in his entire house.
May he not have a son to die in war![205]
For a male head may his house vainly yearn!
He who betrays, brothers, all these heroes
who will begin to fight our enemies,
may the shame of Brankovic fall on him,
and for the dogs be his holy Lenten!
May his grave reach all the way to deep hell!
He who betrays, brothers, all these heroes,
neither wine nor bread may he take to church,[206]
but may he take the faith of dogs instead.
May blood be poured over his Christmas log.[207]
May he fete his patron-saint's day in blood
and eat that day his own children roasted!
May he follow the course of a mad wind,
and may his face become that of madman!
He who betrays, brothers, all these heroes,
let rust cover and eat away his house.
Mourning women let forever tell lies
when lamenting his worthless descendants!


They leave the church and from there everybody goes home.


Bishop Danilo and Abbot Stefan sit by the fire,
and the happy monastic students dance about the house
and place Christmas logs on the fire.

Have you, children, placed the logs on the fire?
Did you put them crosswise, to our custom?

We have placed them as we should, grandfather.
Handfuls of wheat over them we have strewn,
and we have poured ruby wine over them.

Now give me, too, a glass of good red wine,
and let it be a liter and a half,
that this old man may drink to Christmas logs.

They give him a glass of wine.
He gives a Christmas toast and drinks the wine.

ABBOT STEFAN (wiping his moustache)
God's blessings on this joyous holiday!
Bring the gusle over here, my children.
My heart truly longs to hear it playing,
and to sing, too; I haven't forages.
Do not take it as sin, O Mighty Lord!
It is only an old man's old habit.

(The students give him the gusle)

There is no day unless it can be seen,
nor is there real feast-day without Christmas!
I have observed Christmas in Bethlehem,
I have kept it on Mount Athos[208] also,
and feted it in Holy Kiev, too;
but quite apart this celebration stands
for merriment and its simplicity.
The fire's burning brighter than ever,
the straw is spread in front of the fire.
Christmas logs are laid on the fire crossways.
The rifles crack, and roasts on spits do turn.
The gusle plays, and the dancers sing.
Grandfathers dance with their young grandchildren.
In the kolo join three generations,
it seems they're almost of the same age.
Everything is filled with bright mirth and joy,
but what I like best of all, so help me,
one has to drink a toast to everything!

Abbot Stefan, you are truly lucky,
God granted you such a joyful nature.

Young son of mine, and my goodly Bishop,
each thing tonight is joyous of itself.
Since with a drop I've moistened my old soul,
it now dances on the top of the wine
as the pale flame flickers over brandy.
Sometimes this wakes life within my old bones,
reminding me of their much younger years.

There is no more lovely thing in the world
than a man's face flushed with happiness,
above all when it's as happy as yours,
with silver beard falling down to your waist,
and silver locks also down to the waist.
Your face is free of wrinkle, filled with joy.
That's the blessing of the Lord Almighty.

I have passed through both sieve and colander.
I have looked this troublesome world over.
I have drunk to dregs its cup of poison
and come to know the bitterness of life.
With all that is, with all that still can be,
I am, indeed, quite familiar now.
I am ready for whatever might come.
All the evils that are under the sun
are man's burden to carry here on earth.
You are still young and inexpert, Bishop!
The first few drops from the cup of poison
are the hardest and most bitter to drink.
Of, if only you knew what awaits you!
This world is a tyrant to the tyrant,
let alone to a truly noble soul!
It is work of infernal discord:
in it the soul is at war with the flesh;
in it the sea is at war with the shores;
in it the cold is at war with the heat;
in it the winds are at war with the winds;
in it creature is at war with creature;
in it nation is at war with nation;
in it a man is at war with others;
in it the days are at war with the nights;
in it spirits are at war with heaven.
The body groans under the spirit's weight,
and the soul sways unsure in the body.
The sea, too, groans under the heaven's weight,
and heaven sways and trembles in the sea.
One wave by force overtakes another,
and then both break upon the rocky shores.
No one's happy, and no one is content,
no one is calm, and no one is at peace.
Man laughs with scorn at all his fellow men:
a monkey sees himself in a mirror!

This is good fire, but better still the wine!
You've warmed yourself a little bit, granddad,
and you're sifting the world through a sieve now.

Where have you been, in God's name, all day long,
that you returned home so late, my Bishop?
You have not been hunting all this long while.
And you always used to be here on time.
And, pray tell me, where are your bodyguards,
the two Novaks and your flag-man, Pima?
You shouldn't let them wander away too far.
You should keep close until after Christmas
two or three sons of old faithful Martin,
because, my son, I constantly worry
that the sly Turks may attempt to kill you.
If twenty or thirty should strike tonight,
the way your house is all by itself there,
they could do then what their heart desires.

Fear not for me, by God's good will, granddad!
Not about that are the Turks thinking now.
Evil thoughts are causing them worry, too.
Even if a hundred of them should come,
I have about ten students with me here.
We would entrench ourselves inside the house.
We would fight on, and you would sing for us.

Save me, O God, from singing such a song!
Harder for me it would be than crying.
Crying is a song also, but with tears!

They go to sleep.
Before dawn they rise and go to church.
When the church service is over they come out.

In front of the church, a student relates something to Abbot Stefan.

Listen, grandpa, I've something to tell you.
When the first bells rang out just before dawn,
I rose from sleep to go to church to pray,
but then I heard a devilish rumbling.
I ran quickly to the end of the field.
Although weather was nice and fair,
I thought I heard water falling in the Ponor.[209]
So I sat there by the field for a while,
but the sound wasn't what I thought it would be.
Loud ringing came from the hill at field's end,
which seemed ready to explode to the skies.
Rifles roared; the skies were rent in two,
while warriors young and brave were shouting.
I ran headlong across the entire field.
When I arrived at the Djinovo Hill,[210]
there was nothing going on there at all,
but somewhere a fierce battle was raging,
and the hill was resounding with echoes.

Quiet, you fool, isn't it Christmas today?
Have not the cocks crowed three times already?[211]
Rifles are fired most often at this time,
and that hill is like a hollow pumpkin
that catches well the sounds from everywhere -
it seems to serve for no other purpose
than to give back whatever sound it hears,
like that strange bird[212] men bring from overseas.

It is not so, grandpa, by Christmas Day!
It's a slaughter, and a bloody one, too.
I have heard it joyfully for an hour.
Black smoke settled all over Bajice,
as thick as the densest cloud in autumn.

Get out of here! Your are talking nonsense!
Smoke at Yuletide? What's so strange about it?
How can indeed an entire people make
a sacrifice without great clouds of smoke!

Rifle-shots are heard below Bishop Danilo mounts a horse.
He goes out to the field as five to six hundred people walk down the field toward him.
He spurs his horse on and quickly comes to them. They gather around him.
Seeing the five Martinovics, Vuk Borilovic; and three of his servants covered with blood,
Bishop Danilo begins to question them.

Now tell me all that had taken place there.
What kind of men are you - wolves or foxes?

We bring you all real good tidings, our Lord.
We bow to God and to the Holy Child.
But first of all, we wish Merry Christmas
to you and to all of Montenegro!
The five of us Martinovic brothers,
and the three of your most faithful servants,
and the falcon gray, Vuk Borilovic,
had a skirmish with the Turks last evening.
All who heard it came to our assistance.
Soldiers were as plentiful as water.
But why should I go on with my story?
As wide and long that Cetinje Plain is,
not one witness was able to escape
to tell his tale about what happened there.
We put under our sharp sabres all those
who did not want to be baptized by us.
But all those who bowed to the Holy Child
and crossed themselves with the sign of Christian cross,
we accepted and hailed as our brothers.
We set on fire all the Turkish houses,
that there might be not a single trace left
of our faithless domestic enemy.
From Cetinje we set out for Ceklic.[213]
But the Turks of Ceklic all ran away,
so we cut down only a few of them,
but we also set their houses ablaze.
Out of their mosque and of a small building
we made a pile of accursed rubble there,
as a warning of shame to all people.

You have brought me great gladness, my falcons,
great joy for me. Heroic liberty!
This bright morning you've been resurrected
from every tomb of our dear forefathers!

The Bishop dismounts and hugs and kisses the heroes
who started the struggle with the Turks. They go down the field,
singing and firing their guns merrily. when they come to the church,
they see standing in front Abbot Stefan and another monk,
who holds the Cup of Holy Communion in his hands.

I cannot see, but I can hear quite well.
Come, brothers, take the holy Communion
without fasting and without confession.
I will take it all upon my soul.

Those who have not eaten yet come to him and take the holy communion.
After communion they put roasts on spits and begin to dance the
Bishop Danilo enters the house with the five Martinovics
and Vuk Borilovic His three servants follow
The spits are turning the youths play various games,
and the
kolo dancers sing.

A dark, thick cloud had covered the sun.
Darkness settled upon the mountain high.
The votive lamp cried before the altar,
one by one broke the strings of the gusle.
The fair vilas took to hiding in caves,
fearing greatly both the sun and the moon.
Chests had turned cold of many valiant men,
and liberty had disappeared in them,
as the sun's rays die out on the mountain
when the sun sets in the sea's horizon.
o our dear Lord, what a bright holiday!
O how the souls of our dear forefathers
are hovering over Cetinje now!
They are dancing together in white flocks,
like the flocks of beautiful snow-white swans
as they sail high in the cloudless sky
above the lake and its shining mirror.
The five falcons, the five Martinovics,
who all nourished at one maternal breast,
lulled to sleep in the same wooden cradle,
the two Novaks with Pima, the flag-man,
and the valiant knight, Vuk Borilovic -
you who first struck at the infidel Turks -
who'll be able to wreathe garlands for you?
A monument to your bravery is
Montenegro and its proud liberty!

Abbot Stefan goes among the people. Two lads behind him carry a large plate
and on it about fifty-five pounds of cooked wheat mixed with pomegranate
seeds and topped with wine and honey. The people wonder, gathering around him
to see what he will do. The youths place the cooked wheat in the middle
of the big threshing-floor, and the Abbot begins to speak

Listen, people, you all take off your caps!
I want to hold memorial service
to the souls of our nation's great heroes.
This day will be the most priceless to them.
Since Kosovo there's never been such day.

Everybody takes off his cap and laughs with joy.

ABBOT STEFAN (recites by heart)
Lord, have mercy on your faithful servants,
on the rulers, who are naught but your slaves:
on young Dusan,[214] the invincible one;
on Obilic; Djuro Kastriota;[215]
on Zrinovic;[216] both Ivan and Milan;[217]
on Strahinic;[218] Relja Krilatica;[219]
on Crnovic, both Ivo and Uros;[220]
on Cmiljanic;[221] Voivode Momcilo;[222]
on Jankovic;[223] on the nine Jugovics;
and on Novak[224] for his alacrity;
and on other valiant heroes of ours!
May their good souls reign supreme in heaven
just as their names still rule upon the earth!

They eat the cooked wheat, eat dinner, and go home.


People come out of church and sit by the fire.
The Abbot is somewhat thoughtful.

You seem to be sunk in deep thought, granddad.
Or are you just beginning to doze off?

I'm not dozing, but I'm thinking a bit.
I'm wondering about the New Year's Day,
and who needs it exactly on this day?
Why not at the beginning of the spring
when from the south the sun returns once more,
and when the days begin to grow longer,
when all the earth dads itself in green garb,
when everything is renewed once again
with a new life and a new appearance.

It's all the same, either then or today.
Time will always follow its own schedule;
but ancestors have ordained it this way.

Whoever did it, has not done it right.

A young boy comes up to them, kisses the Bishop's hand,
then Abbot Stefan's.

What is it, lad? Where have you come from now?
Have you come here to tell us something good?

From Rijeka I am a messenger.
Sirdar Janko sent me over to you
to tell you all that has happened to us.

Tell us, my son, as quickly as you can.

When we heard of the fight at Cetinje
and of the Turks suffering a defeat,
Sirdar Janko sent immediately
two young men to the Turks at Rijeka:
"He who doesn't wish to spit at the Koran,
must run away without e'er turning back!"
The Turks enticed the two youths to their side
and promptly hanged both of them in Obod.[#]
Then the Sirdar summoned the whole district.
Everyone rushed to the town Rijeka,
but all in vain - the Turks had run away
by boats to the white city of Skadar.
Only Bogdan arrived there just in time
to execute the Rijeka Kadi.
The Sirdar meant to come with his chieftains
to tell you all that had happened to us,
but time was not, and so they stayed behind.
They are razing the town of Obodnik[225]
with its Turkish towers and single mosque,
so our market will not reek of heathens.

The messenger bows, kisses the hand of the Bishop again,
places the letter in his lap, and departs.

Bishop Danilo calls a student to read the letter
so that Abbot Stefan can hear it too. The student takes up the letter.

"Knez Nikola and all from Dupilo
send their greetings to our esteemed Bishop!
We are writing about what happened here.
When we heard what took place at Cetinje,
a bloody fight was begun with our Turks.
The grim slaughter lasted one day and night.
All Crmnica was teeming then with Turks,
tithe-collectors, agas, and plunderers.
Since few people came to our assitance,
many of ours met a horrible death;
a half of us perished in the struggle.
There was no more room in the church graveyard.
We had to place six bodies in each grave!
But we did kill all Turks in Crmnica
and Besac fort[226] we levelled to the ground.
There is no trace of e'en one single Turk
if you did search our entire district now,
save for headless corpses or a ruin.

Bishop Danilo weeps, but Abbot Stefan laughs.

You, my Abbot, did not grasp the letter,
or else you too would surely weep for them.
They had to place six of them in one grave!

Yes, I grasped it, but I still cannot weep.
If I only knew how to weep for joy,
my weep would be sweeter than e'er before.
It's so with me, when my soul is singing,
my tears dry up from joy and happiness.

Someone knocks hard on the kitchen door as if to break it.
They think that the newcomer is mad.

Help us, O Lord, and you too, the New Year's!
Since joy comes in to us from every side,
let that madman enter our home as well
to fill our house with glee, mirth, and laughter!

The students open the door Vuk Mandusic enters.
His face is sullen and his black moustache is drooping
on his broken breastplates. Covered with blood,

he carries his broken dzeferdar in his hands and sits down by the fire.
He does not say greetings to anyone.
Everyone is astonished to see him in such a state.

What is it, Vuk? You do look terrible!
I see you've come from a blood-covered field.
You must have walked through living fire somewhere.
Only God knows whether, except for you,
anyone else has escaped there alive.
Breastplates don't break without some dire trouble
nor easily break dzeferdars like yours,
that are made with such pliant threads of steel.

VUK MANDUSIC (talks sullenly)
On St. Stephen's,[227] a cousin came to me
from Stitare[228] - last summer she was wed-
and she told me, "There are tithe-collectors
in Stitare to collect from us tithes!"
So I gathered about fifty brave lads
and an ambush set up near Stitare
to wipe out there those insatiable Turks.
Rifles echoed all o'er Ljesan district.[229]
The Turks are now tithe-collecting, I thought,
and they're driving fear into the raya.
I heard the fight in Proganovice,[230]
so I rushed there with all my company.
Once we got there, I saw woe and trouble:
some two hundred of those tithe-collectors,
converted Turks - fiery Albanians,
were attacking Radun's bloody tower.[231]
Radun happened to be in the tower,
and with him was his good wife Ljubica,
a young woman but like a gray falcon,
she was loading rifles for her master.
Radun, shooting from the tower windows,
killed off seven of the Turks on the walls.
But in the end he had to face his doom:
the Turks had brought armfuls of straw and hay
and heaped them up around his white tower,
then they set hay on fire from every side.
The flames shot up high into the clear sky
and they engulfed the entire white tower.
He kept firing his rifles without pause,
and kept singing in a high-pitched, loud voice.
He sang about Bajo[232] and Novak,[233] too,
he sang about Drasko and Vukota[234]
and the two Vuks from Trnjine village,[235]
Vuk Markovic and Vuk Tomanovic.
Calling upon the living and the dead,
he saw his grim, horrid fate before him!
Our heaving chests were bursting with anguish.
We all rushed to the tower of Radun's,
where we came to bloody blows with the Turks.
We soon rescued Radun from the tower,
but the tower itself burned to the ground.
Other people also came to our aid,
and we chased off the Turks from the tower;
by Kokoti[236] above Ljeskopolje
we cut to death eighty-three Turks in all.
In the battle at Radun's white tower,
the bullets broke the breastplates on my breast.
And at the end of the bloody battle,
the last bullet the Turkish rifle fired -
I was holding dzeferdar to my eye -
broke it in two - a plague on the marksman! - (cries)
straight through the sling, as if it were a reed.
My dzeferdar, old but good, I mourn more
than my own arm if it had been cut off.
I mourn it as I would my only son.
I mourn it as I would my own brother,
because it was a gun above all guns.
It brought good luck, and it was so deadly.
Never had to clean it or tend to it.
It was always like a shiny mirror.
When it was fired, you could recognize it
e'en among a thousand other guns.
And so, Bishop, I have come to you now:
there are all kinds of smiths across the sea -
could some of them make my gun right again?

O scowling Vuk, lift your moustache for me
and let me see the breastplates on your chest,
that I may count holes from rifle bullets,
see how many of them broke up your plates!
You cannot raise a body from the grave,
nor can remake a shiny dzeferdar.
May your head stay healthy on your shoulders!
You will acquire another good rifle,
for in the hands of brave Vuk Mandusic
every rifle will be right and deadly.

The Bishop gets up and gives Mandusic one of his good dzeferdars from his room.

1. The Father of Serbia is Karageorge (1752-1817), the leader of the First Serbian Uprising (1804-13) against the Turks.
2. Bellona, the Roman goddess of war.
3. Charles Habsburg (1771-1848), Archduke of Austria, was the first to defeat Napoleon, at Aspern near Vienna, May 21-22, 1809.
4. Blucher, Gebhard (Leberecht von, 1742-1819), a Prussian general, joined the English at Waterloo in June 1815.
5. The Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) commanded the English army Waterloo.
6. B. Suvorov (1729-1800), a Russian general, drove the French out northern Italy in 1799.
7. Schwarzenberg, Karl (1771-1820), an Austrian general, commanded Allied armies against Napoleon in 1813 and
8. 1814.
9. Kutuzov, M. I. Golenishchev (1745-1813), a Russian general, excelled the wars against Turkey and Napoleon.
10. Ares, the Greek god of war.
11. The nest of genius..............the hero's bold head - Njegos offers here an explanation why so few geniuses are to be found among small nations.
12. Topola, a small town in central Serbia where Karageorge was probably born where he had his fort, and where he was buried.
13. By temporarily liberating the land from the Turks and by bringing back Christianity, Karageorge "christened the land" again.
14. The Eastern Pharaoh here is the Sultan, who at that time ruled over Egypt in the absolutist manner of the pharaohs.
15. George is short for Karageorge.
16. The dotted lines in the dedication indicate lines which were omitted from the first edition, presumably for political reasons.
17. Karageorge was murdered in 1817, most likely by the order of his rival successor Milos Obrenovic (1780-1860), the leader of the Second Serbian Uprising (1815). Karageorge's head was sent to the Sultan in Istanbul.
18. Boris Godunov (1551-1605), a brother-in-law of the Russian Tsar Fedor I (1584-98), whom he succeeded on the throne after he had been apparently involved in the murder of Fedor's nine-year old half-brother, Dmitrii.
19. Vukasin (?-1371), a Serbian king who ruled along with the last Serbian Uros, and who, according to the legend, was involved in Uros's deal 1371. Vukasin died in the battle at the Maritza River, however, two month before Uros death.
20. Piso, Gnaeus Calpurnius, the trusted officer of the Roman Emp. Tiberius, was accused of poisoning Germanicus, the Emperor's nephew heir. Piso committed suicide, or was murdered, and the Senate removed name from the list of Roman consuls (fasti consulares). Njegos mistool list of consuls for a calendar (fasti).
21. Aegisthus killed Agamemnon, the commander of the Greeks in the war against the Trojans, with the help of Agamemnon's wife, Clytemnestra.
22. Orestes, Agamemnon's son, killed both Aegisthus and Clytemnestra.
23. References to the attempts of the followers of Milos Obrenovic' to blacken the character and the accomplishments of Karageorge.
24. Dusan Tsar (1308-55), also called "The Mighty", the greatest Serbian ruler in the Middle Ages.
25. Obilic Milos, a minor nobleman at the Serbian court at the time of the Battle of Kosovo between the Serbs and the Turks on June 28, 1389, became the greatest hero in Serbian epic poetry after he had penetrated the Turkish Sultan Murat's tent, under the pretext of wanting to surrender, and killed him with a knife. The Serbian defeat at Kosovo marks the beginning of more than five centuries of Turkish domination of Serbia.
26. Pozharskii Dmitrii (1578-1642), a Russian nobleman, who led his people against the Poles and liberated Muscovy from Polish occupation.
27. The Serbs have now fulfilled their vow - By defeating the Turks, Karageroge avenged the defeat at Kosovo, which had been the ardent desire of all Serbs since 1389.
28. Mount Lovcen, the highest peak (5,500 feet) in Montenegro, west of Cetinje, the capital of the independent state of Montenegro until 1915. From this peak all of Montenegro and parts of other Serbian lands can be seen; for that reason, Njegos chose it for his burial place.
29. The devil here is the Sultan, the descendant of earlier sultans and caliphs, ruling with all his power and pomp (scarlet cloaks) over East and West (two swords and two crowns).
30. Charles Martel defeated the Saracens at Poitiers in 832, thus halting their advance toward Paris.
31. Osman 1(1288-1326) founded an independent Turkish state in Asia Minor. According to a Turkish legend, Osman dreamed that a moon rose from the chest of the Sheik Elebady and descended into his own, and that the shadow of a tree which grew from there covered the whole world. The moon is the symbol of the Turkish Empire, but it also metaphorically refers to Elebady's daughter given to Osman in marriage like an apple.
32. Orkan (Orhan, 1326-59) Osman's son, consolidated Turkish conquests on the European soil by capturing Gallipoli, after which he received in marriage Theodora, the Byzantine princess. On the basis of this marriage the Turks laid claim to Constantinople; hence, Byzantium is seen here as Theodora's dowry.
33. Paleologos, John V, in order to regain the Byzantine throne for himself, helped Orkan's son, Murat I, to further conquests in Southeastern Europe, thus enabling the Turks to conquer Greece and Serbia in the following decades.
34. Brankovic, Vuk (?-1398), a Serbian provincial ruler, is branded in Serbian folk poetry as having betrayed his lord, Prince Lazar, at Kosovo - a legend not supported by historical facts.
35. Gerluka (Gertuk), a Greek admiral, also betrayed his lord, Constantine XI, to the Turks; later he was put to death by Mohamed II
36. Besides Asia where their nest is eat his full, let alone overeat - These ten lines enumerate the Turkish conquest by various rulers and the difficult conditions in which the conquered found themselves from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries.
37. Janko, the legendary Hungarian hero Hunyadi Janos (1387-1456), bravely fought the Turks after the death of King Wladislaw III in 1444, but after the battle of Mohacs in 1526 the Turks conquered Hungary as well.
38. Skenderbeg, a hero like Milos Obilic, defended Albania alone, but after his death in 1468 Albania too was subdued.
39. I must fight against the worst of all - After lamenting the dismal fate and isolation of his people, the Bishop complains about the struggle he must carry on with the Turkish converts from among his own people.
40. Plague of mankind here is the Turkish conqueror, who has grabbed "this hard rock as well" - Montenegro.
41. The throne of the Byzantine Empire. ("You rule the throne you've unjustly taken")
42. Broken Cross - The greatest Christian church in Byzantium, St. Sophia cathedral in Constantinople, was converted to a mosque.
43. wicked monarch - the Sultan.
44. The devil's Messiah is the Sultan.
45. Loathsome degenerates, the converts.
46. ancestors' curse - On the eve of the Battle of Kosovo, Prince Lazar lay a curse on those who would not join the battle.
47. Milos Obilic ("With what will you appear before Milos")
48. The meeting of chieftains to decide what to do with Moslem converts.
49. A hundred times I've cursed that hour last people's hopes I would not betray now - Bishop Danilo was captured through deceit by the Turks but was released after a ransom had been paid. The Bishop wishes here that he had been cilled then.
50. Slava is a typically Serbian holiday, celebrated by a church, an institution, or a family on the day of the chosen saint. The slava of this church is the Whitsuntide.
51. Kolo, a traditional Serbian round dance. In Montenegro, the dancers can also sing epic poems while dancing. (it should be observed that Njegos, uses the singing of the kolo dancers to comment, not unlike the chorus in the ancient Greek play, on the meaning of the happenings of the moment.
52. Grad, game, in which the players try to avoid being hit by a ball.
53. In the game of "grabbing the cap", the players snatch their opponent's cap and run to a designated spot without being caught.
54. The reference to wolf-cubs and falcons is an allusion to brave young ads. In Serbian epic poetry, "falcon" is a formulaic term used for a brave young man.
55. The Battle of Kosovo against the Turks took place on June 28, 1389 at the Kosovo Field near Pristina. The Serbs lost not only the battle but gradually their entire empire as well.
56. Dzeferdar, a flint gun of finest Damascus steel.
57. Kom (Komovi), a mountain in eastern Montenegro.
58. Skadar, a city, now in Albania, near the Lake of Skadar.
59. Ostrog, a mountain southeast of Niksic, with a famous monastery.
60. Lazar (1329-89), the Serbian prince who fought and lost the Battle of Kosovo. According to the legend, after the battle at Kosovo Lazar's daughters turned into cuckoos to bewail the death of their father and the fall of he Serbian Empire.
61. Our kings and tsars trampled upon the law- According to the Old Testament, people are punished for the sins of their leaders. Serbian medieval rulers were notorious for their fights against each other, even within the same families. By having the kolo singers bring up this point, the poet makes a not-so-veiled allusion to the indecisiveness of the present leaders in their deliberation of the problem of the converts.
62. that accursed supper of Kosovo-An epic poem has it that during the supper on the eve of the Kosovo battle Prince Lazar, incited by Vuk Brankovic, accused Milos Obilic of disloyalty and betrayal. Milos vowed to defend his honour in the battle the next day.
63. Milos Obilic had two "sworn brothers" (not by blood but by choice), Milan Toplica and Ivan Kosancic, who died with him at Kosovo.
64. For Vuk Brankovic', see above.
65. Leonidas, a Spartan, died while commanding the Greeks at Thermopilae against the Persians.
66. Scaevola, Caius Mucius ("Left-Handed"), a Roman, penetrated (like Milos' Obilic') the camp of the Etrurian king in order to kill him but failed. To punish himself for his failure he thrust his right hand into the fire until it burned. Impressed, the king spared his life and nicknamed him "the Left-Handed".
67. Tartarus, the underworld in Greek mythology, is identified here with the Turkish Empire.
68. And the intrigues of the mad assembly-A repeated reference to discord and accusations on the eve of the Battle of Kosovo.
69. A dragon with seven heads - a traditional image of Turkish power.
70. The slanderers as well as the slander-By legend, Vuk Brankovic, who had slandered Milos Obilic during the supper and then betrayed Prince Lazar during the battle, was himself poisoned by the Turks in 1398.
71. The lovely wreath of Jugovics, Jug-Bogdan and his nine sons, obscure historical figures but folklore heroes of the Kosovo battle, in which they all died.
72. Gusle - a simple, one-string instrument used by the singers of epic poems for accompaniment. A revered instrument among the Serbs.
73. Hodja bellows in Ceklici, a tribe west of Cetinje, most of which is Moslem.
74. Lion in the trap, Lion is often used in The Mountain Wreath as a symbol of bravery. By having him caught in a trap, the poet alludes to the loss of courage and will-power among his people.
75. Ozrinici, - a clan living to the north and east of Niksic, in central Montenegro.
76. Duga, a mountain between Niksic and Gacko.
77. Niksic - Montenegro's second-largest city, in the west central part of the country, then a famous Turkish stronghold.
78. Poljane, a meadow plain north of the village of Ozrinic.
79. Hamza, a Turkish word for a town head.
80. Rudine, a mountainous region southwest of Niksic.
81. Vlach, a scornful name for Orthodox Serbs.
82. The tsar's town - Niksic.
83. Marble stones, tombstones for slain Turks.
84. Mice in the fable- In a Serbian fable, the mice decided to hang a bell on the cat's neck so that they could hear his coming, but no one dared to do it.
85. ...drunk wedding guest, as the story goes - An illusion to the Serbian story about wedding guests whose duty was to bring the bride to the bridegroom's home but drank so much that they forgot about it.
86. slava - patron saint's day, see above.
87. The Piste, a small stream near Cetinje.
88. Simunja, a small mountain between the clans of Ceklici and Bjelice The Bjelice live northwest of Cetinje.
89. We dare not do what we are yet doing, and not announce what everybody knows - What they all have in mind is to get rid of the converts, yet no one dares ~ discuss it.
90. Once you escaped the Turkish impalement; you should've rotted on their gallows instead - Bishop Danilo was captured through deceit by the Turks but was released after a ransom had been paid. The Bishop wishes here that he had been cilled then.
91. Ivan-beg (1465-90), the son of the founder of the Crnojevic dynasty, Stefan Crnojevic, often fought the Turks, alone or with the Venetians. Historically, Ivan-beg's brother was not Uros but George, who was killed around 1450 at the Cemovo Field near Podgorica.
92. Karuce, a village in the district of Crmnica, west of the Lake of Skadar.
93. Great offerings were made in his honour - The reference is to the fifteen thousand Turks slain to avenge Uros's death.
94. Europe's cleric from his holy altar scoffs and spits at the altar of Asia - The poet criticises here the European Christians for not going beyond "scoffing and spitting" at the Turks, who are ravaging Christianity where they rule.
95. Awesome symbols, the Crescent and the Cross - Both religions built their power through the death of many of their believers, therefore the fight between them will go on, and one must choose one or the other.
96. ...and the moon seems to be my only sun - The reference is to the overpowering presence of Islam, i.e., the moon.
97. For Ivan-beg, see above, Mara was not the wife but the mother of Ivan-beg. His youngest son, Stanisa, accepted Islam after his father's death and ruled Montenegro from 1514 to 1528 under the name of Skender-beg.
98. The tribe of Crnoje refers here to all of Montenegro, not just the Crnojevic dynasty.
99. The battle on Ljesko Field on the Lake of Skadar between two brothers, Skender-beg and Djura, was depicted in an epic poem, but historical facts about it are scarce.
100. Stanko ran off headlong to Bajazet... - After his defeat, Stanko (Skender-beg formerly Stanisa) was supposed to have joined Sultan Bayazit II (1481-1512) in the war against the Hungarians, a fact not confirmed by history.
101. ... to eat with him Hungarian noses - It was the Turkish custom at that time to cut off the noses of their prisoners.
102. Nest of heroic freedom - Montenegro.
103. For Ceklic, see above.
104. Velestovo, a Christian village north of Cetinje.
105. I'll be the first to go with the kumas - In order to reconcile the blood-feuding families, the relatives of the murderer go with unbaptized children in cradles to the family of the murdered to ask forgiveness. If it is accepted, the family of the murdered becomes godfather (kum and kuma) of the children in the cradles.
106. cut the dinar in two - A custom by which the dinar (a silver coin) is cut in two to complete and legalize the reconciliation. Each side retains one half of the coin.
107. The fear in life often stains one's honour - Many Christians were converted to Islam for fear of torture or death.
108. The light that shines in the eye of the fox terrifies birds, the weakest of creatures, yet the fox looks at the eagle in fear - In this allegory, the Turks (the fox) frighten weaklings (small birds) but are afraid of real heroes (an eagle), i.e., the Montenegrins.
109. An allusion to the futility of the entire business, just as "sowing salt" is a popular expression of futiuty.
110. Now I remember that well-known story - The intransigence of the Turks reminds Knez Bajko of the story in which a husband threw his stubborn wife into a pit; after a while he tried to pull her up with a rope, but he pulled the devil instead, who had also fallen into the pit. The side of his head that was facing the woman had turned gray from aggravation.
111. A fly just flew straight into my nostril - According to a popular belief, a fly that flies into one's nostril forebodes trouble. Obrad thinks of the money he would have to spend on ammunition to fight the Turks as misfortune. At that time everybody bought his own ammunition.
112. A handsome reward - By another popular belief, itching palms foretell financial gain. "A handsome reward" here means the defeat of the Turks.
113. For Bjelice, see above
114. They told me that some of their own people..........when they finished, they thought about water - Another allusion to the futility and ill-conception of negotiations with the Turks.
115. Dog's scratchings - By popular belief, stepping on dog's scratchings affects one's mind.
116. At least I took my whip of triple trong.... Another allusion to the stubbornness and madness of the Turks; only by brute force can they be brought to their senses.
117. The wolf and the hawk symbolize the Montenegrins, while the fox the Turks.
118. Christmas-log on the fire - A Serbian custom of laying an oak log on the fire on Christmas Eve.
119. Bairam, the greatest Islamic holiday.
120. It is so, and no other way! - This line is in prose; it makes a decasyllabic verse, however, when combined with dramatis persona: Svi iz glasa, tako vec nikako!
121. A linden cross, a pejorative expressing the weakness of the Crhistians, especially when pitted against the "sharp, supple steel", i.e., the Turkish might.
122. The true saint, Mohammed.
123. Hurias, beautiful girls who serve the Moslem faithful in paradise.
124. A whole egg wins over the one that's cracked - An allusion to the Easter custom of striking one egg against another. The holder of the whole egg wins the broken one.
125. Hollow tree, a depreciatory term for minaret.
126. Don't step over my good rifle - As superstition goes, if a person steps over a rifle it loses its accuracy: to restore it, the person must step back over it.
127. Hadji-Hadja, a derogatory name for the highest-ranked Moslem pilgrim, perhaps for the Prophet Mohammed himself.
128. A millstone dies - A dog used to licking the flour from a millstone won't stop until it dies or the millstone is broken. An allusion to the converts' inability to change.
129. Poetry (Poesy), the kingdom of Godly creation.
130. Kum, a godfather.
131. There can be no kumstvo without baptism - One who does a child's first hair-cutting is a hair-cutting kum, but he is never the same as the baptismal kum - godfather.
132. For falcon, see above.
133. Bajo Pivljanin, a famous Serbian haiduk chief, who died in the battle at Vrtijeljka.
134. Sendjer the Vizier, the Pasha of Skadar.
135. Vrtijeljka, hill southeast of Cetinje, where Sendjer defeated the Montenegrins in 1685.
136. For Brankovic, see above.
137. Field of Krstac - above the Bay of Kotor.
138. Podgorica, the largest city in Montenegro, now the Capital of the Republic of Montenegro in the union with Serbia.
139. Selim Vizier, the servant of Mohammed's servant, i.e., the Sultan. Historically, an undetermined figure.
140. Raya, the Turkish word for Christian masses.
141. The Prophet's mare, Burak, Mohammed's horse.
142. Leopold's courageous voivode - Charles of Lorraine, the commander of Emperor Leopold's army, and John Sobieski, the king of Poland, defeated the Turks before Vienna in 1683, signalling the beginning of the decline of the Turkish might in Europe.
143. two brothers - The brothers Mohamed II, the conquerer of Constatinople in 1453, and Mohammed IV whose army was defeated at Vienna.
144. For Burak, see above
145. Many footprints are leading to the cave - An allusion to the fable of the fox who declines to visit a sick lion in the cave because he saw no trace of other visiting animals out of the cave.
146. A beehive is a metonym for Montenegro, and the bear for the Turks.
147. I used to climb down your rope in the past - The Bishop is reminding Selim-Pasa of the time when he was invited to visit the Turks and was almost killed. See above.
148. Haiduk, a Serbian outlaw whose preoccupation was to fight the Turks and protect the Serbian populace.
149. ...have fallen on their noses before me - When someone is hit from the front, he falls on his face (nose).
150. And many a wailing Turkish woman has unwound black balls of wool after me - According to a custom, a Turkish woman unwinds a ball of black wool after an enemy, in a superstitious wish that he suffer bad (black) fate.
151. Novi Grad, a fortress (now Herceg-novi town) at the entrance of the Bay of Kotor.
152. Topal-Pasa, the Vizier of Bosnia, who was defeated by the Montenegrins at Kameno, near Novi Grad. Soon thereafter the Venetians took Novi Grad.
153. Vila, a fairy in Serbian folklore.
154. Duga, see above.
155. But the Ban would not let her cut her hair - One of the mourning customs for a Montenegrin woman is to cut her hair when a relative is killed.
156. Kotor, a town in the picturesque Bay of Kotor.
157. Potocine, a ravine in the Ozrinic region.
158. Cevo, a village north of Cetinje.
159. Sendjer, the Pasha of Skadar. See above
160. Boka, the Bay of Kotor.
161. Valiero, Sylvestro Valiyero, Doge' of Venice, 1694-1700.
162. Sovra, from the title Sopraproveditore, the highest Venetian official in Kotor.
163. the Cross or that of the pillar - The reading of the sheep shoulder-bone is an old custom to tell both the past and the future. The upper part of the shoulder-blade, called the Cross, stands for Christians; the lower part, called the Pillar (i.e., minaret) stands for the Turks.
164. Kosovo is lying all around it - When referring to a great calamity, the Serbs often invoke the name of Kosovo, since it reminds them of the downfall of the Serbian Empire that started with the Battle of Kosovo in 1389.
165. Ljesev Stup, a village in Bjelice, not far from Cevo.
166. Vidovdan (St. Vitus Day), the day of the Battle of Kosovo on June 28, 1389.
167. Obod, a hill with a small town Obodnik, above another town, Rijeka Crnojevica, northwest of Skadar.
168. Yes, there are some Montenegrins also - It was uncommon for the Montenegrins and the converts to exchange wed-ding guests and sometimes even to fight on the same side in battles.
169. Gergelez Alija, a Turkish legendary hero in popular songs. According to a legend, Gergelez jumped, together with his horse, into the Danube in celebration of the Turkish conquest of Budapest, thus securing for himself a place in the Prophet's paradise.
170. For Vlach, see above.
171. Where are you now, out tipsy champ, Marko - Marko Kraljevic, the greatest Serbian legendary hero; historically, a minor Turkish vassal ruling around Prilep (?-1395), who died on the Turkish side in a battle against Christians.
172. Strike Alija... - Alija Gergelez.
173. Ilderim ("Lightning") was the name given to Sultan Bayazit 1(1389-1403) because of his speed and strength.
174. Zdral, the name of Milos Obilic's horse.
175. Kotari, a district in Dalmatia around the city of Zadar.
176. Tale (also Budalina Tale), a Turkish hero often mentioned in Serbian and Moslem folklore.
177. Giaours, a Turkish word for non-Moslems, i.e., infidels
178. Komnen, a brother of Ivo Senjanin; according to the Serbian epic poem he captured a Turkish girl in one of the battles and brought her to Senj, a small Dalmatian town north of Split.
179. Doe, a formulaic metaphor in Serbian folk poetry for a beautiful girl.
180. Starina Novak, a Serbian haiduk in Serbian epic poems, famous for his bravery and strong voice.
181. Klisura, a mountain pass of uncertain geographic location.
182. Bajo Pivljanin; see above.
183. Limo, Bajo's sworn-brother.
184. Mustai-Kadi's song (after he appears) is in the nine-syllabic meter, with caesura after the fourth syllable. This stanza of six verses, sung in an answer to Mustai-Kadi's exaltation of Turkish love, is the only rhymed part of The Mountain Wreath in addition to the "Dedication".
185. Milos, Marko - Mujo, and Alija - Milos Obilic and Marko Kraljevic as Serbian heroes; Mujo and Alija Gergelez as Turkish.
186. The lamentation of the Sister of Batric of her brother, slain deceitfully by the Turks, is in the twelve-syllabic meter, the first line having eight syllables and the second, a refrain, four; the caesura remains after the fourth syllable. Such lamentations, an ancient custom among the Serbs, are sung by women, either relatives or not; they are for the most part improvised and are uncommonly and unabashedly emotional befitting the occasion.
187. with heads shorn- Heads are shorn as a token of mourning.
188. Travnik, a town in central Bosnia.
189. God strike him dead, dead though he's already - This curse, despite sounding illogical, is expressed more as a belated reprimand and out of helpless frustration.
190. Ozrinics, Cue, and Bjelice are three clans living to the north and north west of Cetinje.
191. Bar, a port on the Montenegrin part of the Adriatic coast, close to its southern end
192. And from that------------This line is left unfinished by the poet, for unknown reasons.
193. The evil wind is Islam
194. Omar's temple - a famous mosque on the hill Moriah, built after Mohammed II, successor of Omar I (634~44) and the Arabs conquered Jerusalem in 637.
195. St. Sophia is but a stable now - Upon conquering Constantinople Mohammed II entered the church of St. Sophia on horseback.
196. Parts of Abbot Stefan's speech are rather difficult to fathom, but the lines (2280-97 in text) are especially so, as attested by different and unreconciled interpretations by experts.
197. In Orthodox churches the altar faces the East. Abbot Stefan sees the revival of Orthodox churches many of which were destroyed by the Turks.
198. those hearts cannot tolerate such illness - The illness referred to here is the conversion of Montenegrins to Islam.
199. Njegusi, a village near Cetinje, birthplace of the author.
200. Dupilo, a village in the district of Crmnica, near the Lake of Skadar.
201. Dappled horses of which Marko Kraljevic's Sarac was one, are almost extinct in Montenegro
202. May he not have a son to die in war - To die bravely in a battle is one of the greatest honours for a Montenegrin.
203. Wine and bread are taken to church for ritual needs and consecration.
204. For the Christmas log see above.
205. Mount Athos a small peninsula in Greece, harbouring various Orthodox monasteries among them the Serbian monastery Hilandar, built in the twelfth century by the first Nemanic (medieval Serbian dynasty) ruler, Stefan Nemanja, and his son, Saint Sava.
206. Ponor, an abyss near the Cetinje monastery.
207. Djinovo Hill on the southwestern side of the Cetinje Plain.
208. Have not the cocks crowed three times already? - The cocks crow for the third time before dawn and that is the time when the Montenegrins fire their guns most noisily on Christmas morning.
209. that strange bird - the parrot
210. Ceklic, above
211. Dusan, seethe "Dedication"
212. Djuro Kastriota (Skenderbeg), see above.
213. Zrinovic (Nikola Zrinjski) a Croatian ban, ban, died in 1556 while defending Siget from the Turks
214. For Ivan and Milan, see above.
215. Strahinic Ban (or Banovic Strahinja) a legendary figure in epic poetry, the son-in-law of Jug-Bogdan
216. Relja Krilatica, a hero in epic poetry, a sworn-brother of Marko Kraljevic.
217. For Ivo and Uros Crnovic (Crnojevic), see above.
218. Cmiljanic Ilija (Smiljanic) from Kotari, a hero in epic poetry, was killed in 1654
219. Voivode Momcilo, in folk poetry the brother of Jevrosima, Marko Kraljevic's mother.
220. Jankovic Stojan, a hero of the wars against the Turks and in the epic poems, was killed during the attack on Duvno town in 1687.
221. Novak Starina, see above
222. For Obod and Obodnik, see above
223. Besac fort, near Virpazar, in the district of Crmnica, now in ruins.
224. St. Stephen's Day, January 9.
225. Stitare, a village northeast of Cetinje.
226. Ljesan, a former district between Cetinje and Podgorica.
227. Progonovice, a village east of Stitare.
228. Radun, a Ljesan voivode at the end of the seventeenth century.
229. Bajo (Pivljanin), see above.
230. Novak (Starina Novak) see above.
231. Voivode Drasko, Vukota Mrvaljevic, Vuk Markovic, and Vuk Tomanovic are characters appearing in The Mountain Wreath.
232. Trnjine, a village, in the Cuce district.
233. Kokoti, two villages above Ljeskopolje (Ljesko Field), on the road between Cetinje and Podgorica