The Miracle of Lazar's Head

When they cut off Lazar's head upon the Blackbirds' Field
Not a single Serb was there to see it
But it happened that a Turkish boy saw,
A slave, the son of one who had been made
Herself a slave, a Serbian mother
Thus the boy spoke having seen it all:
"Oh have pity, brothers; Oh have pity, Turks.
Here before us lies a sovereign's noble head!
In God's name it would be a sin
If it were pecked at by the eagles and the crows
Or trampled on by horses and by heroes."
He took the head of holy Lazar then
And covered it and put it in a sack
And carried it until he found a spring
And put the head into the waters there
For forty years the head lay in that spring
While the body lay upon the field at Kosovo
It was not pecked by eagles or by crows.
It was not trampled on by horses or by heroes.
For that, Dear Lord, all thanks be to Thee.
Then one day there came from lovely Skoplje
A group of youthful carters who conveyed
Bulgarians and Greeks to Vidin and to Nish
And stopped to spend the night at Kosovo.
They made a dinner on that level field,
And ate and then grew thirsty afterwards.
They lit the candle in their lantern then
And went to look for waters of a spring.
Then it was that one young carter said:
"See the brilliant moonlight in the water there."
The second carter answered him:
"My brother, I don't think it's moonlight,"
While the third was silent, saying nothing,
Turning in his silence to the east,
And all at once calling out to God,
The one true God, and holy sainted Nicholas:
"Help me God! Help me holy Nicholas!"
He plunged into the waters of the spring
And lifted out into the quiet air
The holy head of Lazar, Tsar of all the Serbs.
He placed it on the green grass by the spring
And turned to get some water in a jug
So the thirsty carters all could drink.
When next they looked upon the fertile earth
The head no longer rested on the grass
But rolled out all alone across the level field,
The holy head moving towards the body
To join it the way it was before.
When in the morning bright day dawned
The three young carters sent the tidings off-
A message to the holy Christian priests
Which summoned some three hundred of them there
And summoned bishops, twelve of them,
And summoned four old patriarchs
From Pech, Constantinople, and Jerusalem.
They all put on their holy vestments then,
Put on their heads the tall peaked caps of monks,
And took into their hands the ancient chronicles,
And read out prayers, and kept long vigils there
For three long days and three dark nights,
Neither sitting down nor seeking any rest,
Neither lying down nor ever sleeping,
But questioning the saint and asking him
To which great church or monastery he would go:
Whether Opovo or Krushedol,
Whether Jaska or Beshenovo,
Whether Rakovats or Shishatovats
Whether Djivsha or Kuvezhdin
Or whether he would rather go to Macedonia.
But the saint would go to none of these,
And wished to stay at lovely Ravanitsa,
The church he had himself endowed
Which rose below the mountain of Kuchaj-
His own church, the one he built himself,
Built with his own bread, with his own treasure,
And not with tears wept by wretched subjects,
In those years he walked upon this earth.

 

(from The Battle of Kosovo cycle of Serbian heroic ballads)