Back to Notes on the Role of Serbia



taken from Rebecca West: Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, vol ii, 1942 ed, pp.293­4


"Poletio Soko titsa siva,
Od svetinye, od Yerusalima,
I on nosi titsu lastavitsu. . . .

I will translate it for you," said Constantine. "In your language I cannot make it as beautiful as it is, but you will see that at any rate it is not like any other poem, it is peculiar to us. . . .

There flies a grey bird, a falcon,
From Jerusalem the holy,
And in his beak he bears a swallow.
That is no falcon, no grey bird,
But it is the Saint Elijah.
He carries no swallow,
But a book from the Mother of God.
He comes to the Tsar at Kossovo,
He lays the book on the Tsar's knees.
This book without like told the Tsar:

"Tsar Lazar, of honourable stock,
Of what kind will you have your kingdom?
Do you want a heavenly kingdom ?
Do you want an earthly kingdom ?
If you want an earthly kingdom,
Saddle your horses, tighten your horses' girths,
Gird on your swords,
Then put an end to the Turkish attacks,
And drive out every Turkish soldier.
But if you want a heavenly kingdom
Build you a church on Kossovo;
Build it not with a floor of marble
But lay down silk and scarlet on the ground,
Give the Eucharist and battle orders to your soldiers,
For all your soldiers shall be destroyed,
And you, prince, you shall be destroyed with them."

When the Tsar read the words,
The Tsar pondered, and he pondered thus:

"Dear God, where are these things, and how are they!
What kingdom shall I choose ?
Shall I choose a heavenly kingdom ?
Shall I choose an earthly kingdom ?
If I choose an earthly kingdom,
An earthly kingdom lasts only a little time,
But a heavenly kingdom will last for eternity and its centuries."

The Tsar chose a heavenly kingdom,
And not an earthly kingdom,
He built a church on Kossovo.
He built it not with floor of marble
But laid down silk and scarlet on the ground.
There he summoned the Serbian Patriarch
And twelve great bishops.
Then he gave his soldiers the Eucharist and their battle orders.
In the same hour as the Prince gave orders to his soldiers
The Turks attacked Kossovo.


Then the Turks overwhelmed Lazar,
And the Tsar Lazar was destroyed,
And his army was destroyed with him,
Of seven and seventy thousand soldiers.

All was holy, all was honourable
And the goodness of God was fulfilled."