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dered to their master and accused of treason,”14 and that he proved his courage and loyalty by killing the Ottoman sultan Murad. This is the germ of the epic drama of loyalty to the sovereign despite slanders and suspicions, a drama which assumes the characteristic medieval concept that the sovereign embodies something much greater and more significant than his own person. Constantine also claims that the Ottomans won the battle “because God allowed it,” and in his story Prince Lazar dies crowned with “a mar- tyr’s laurel” while his knights eagerly plead “to be killed before him so that they should not witness his death.”15 This chivalric and Christian commitment to the “heavenly kingdom” contains the first suggestions of some elements which will later be found in the greatest moral landscape of Serbian heroic songs.
at the end of the fifteenth century after several later versions of the same story, Konstantin Mihailović of Os- trovica suggests that discord and treachery are to blame for the defeat at Kosovo. in the heroic songs these motifs eventually grew into the image of medieval feudal fac- tions as a major epic explanation for the defeat in the Bat- tle of Kosovo. Of course, Konstantin of Ostrovica was writ- ing with the expertise of a Serbian soldier who became a Turkish janissary before he fled back to Christendom; and he was, above all, anxious to instruct the Poles and other Christians that they could resist the Ottoman invasion only if they attained a strong alliance. “Wherever there is no concord, no good can come about in any way,” he says and then proceeds to describe the course of the Battle of Kosovo: “The noblemen who were well-disposed toward Lazar fought bravely and loyally by his side, but others— looking through their fingers— watched the battle, and because of this disloyalty and discord (and the envy of bad and dishonest men), the battle was lost.”16 This intro- duces a major dramatic element into the legend: the de- feat in the Battle of Kosovo is a deserved punishment for discord; but the punishment falls on the head of the in- nocent Prince Lazar, and he becomes a Christ figure, a heroic martyr expiating other men’s sins.
Deeply rooted in folk and biblical traditions, Konstan- tin of Ostrovica describes in the same legendary spirit Lazar’s courage in facing death. Lazar refuses to answer Bajazid’s questions, and he ignores Duke Krajmir’s warn- ing to refrain from defying his enemy because “the head is not like the stump of a willow tree to sprout a second time.”17 it is worth noting that several centuries later Filip Višnjić, the great blind bard, makes use of the same im- age when Captain Čurćija points out in “The Battle of Čo- kešina” that he is not sufficiently foolhardy to fight against
14 Konstantin Filozof, “Život despota Stefana Lazarevića,” in G. Camblak, Konstantin Filozof, Pajsije Patrijarh, Stare srpske biografije XVI–XVII veka. iii, trans. by L. Mirković (Belgrade, 1936), p. 59.
15 Konstantin Filozof, p. 60.
16 Konstantin Mihailović iz Ostrovice, Janičarove uspomene, ed-
ited by Djordje Živanović (Belgrade, 1986), p. 98.
17 Mihailović, Janičarove uspomene, p. 99.
The Battle of Kosovo
the overwhelming Turkish forces; for he is well aware that he is not a willow tree: “When they cut me down i sprout no more.”18 Of course, this image echoes the biblical ex- ample: “For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease, but man dieth and wasteth away: yes, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?”19 But whereas in the biblical context the image is a metaphysical assess- ment of human destiny, in Višnjić’s poetic utterance we cannot be quite sure whether it suggests that cowardice is the only possible form of common sense or, perhaps considering the overall context of the First Serbian Up- rising, that common sense itself is the greatest folly at such a decisive historical moment.
Similarly Karadžić’s singers did not repeat, but they used various motifs of the version of the Kosovo legend, which a Slovene traveller Benedikt Kuripešić recorded in his description of a journey through the Slavonic regions of the Balkans in 1530. Kuripešić notes that the heroic deeds of Miloš Obilić (or Kobilović, as he calls him20) were sung in all areas from old Serbia to western Bosnia and Croatia. in this version Miloš again appears as Lazar’s bravest knight who remains loyal to his master in spite of the fact that he has been slandered and insulted even by Lazar himself. Kuripešić’s story also contains a descrip- tion of Lazar’s banquet with his knights on the eve of the battle, which was in fact a historical custom described in Byzantine military protocols.21 it also reappeared as an important motif in the great poem, “The Prince’s Sup- per,” which Karadžić wrote down about three hundred years later. Kuripešić tells his story in the feudal social setting of his times, but Karadžić’s poem echoes the bib- lical story of the Last Supper and suspected betrayal, and his heroes speak in the much rougher voice of the later leaders of the Serbian peasantry.
From these and similar elements—which can be fol- lowed in many versions of the legend and have been de- scribed in great detail in recent scholarship22—singers of many different times and social settings inherited the ba- sic themes and motifs of their poems about the Battle of Kosovo. Of course, in poetry, the way a subject is treated, a narrative is told, or an image is used, changes the sub- stance of the story. The first recorded “Song of the Battle of Kosovo” was written down by a learned and conscien- tious poet in the middle of the eighteenth century in the vicinity of Dubrovnik. in spite of deceptive parallels, it is very different in spirit and body from the corresponding
18 “The Battle of Čokešina,” Karadžić, iV, No 26, 11. 100, 104.
19 job 14:7.
20 See Benedikt Kuripešić, Putopis kroz Bosnu, Srbiju, Bugarsku i
Rumeliju 1530 (Sarajevo, 1950), pp. 33–34.
21 See Svetozar Radojčić, “Kosovka djevojka,” Uzori i dela starih
srpskih umetnika (Belgrade, 1975), p. 240. See also j. L. Vieillefond, “Les pratiques religieuses dans l’armee byzantine d’apres les traits militaires,” Revue des etudes anciennes, XXXVii (1935): 322–30.
22 See above, fn. 13.

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