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Svetozar Koljević
tlefield while we still watch his lonely “flag with crosses waving over Kosovo.”36 The cross links Boško with all his brothers and with Lazar’s whole army, including many of the warriors in other poems. For instance, Musić Stevan, even if late for the battle, comes to die in the field of Ko- sovo carrying his flag “with twelve crosses on it.”37 By a heroic act a free individual confirms the moral identity of his human community. This tragic confirmation brings serenity—the serenity of a final awareness of and a final commitment to the elementary values of human life. For tragedy is, after all, a more serene vision of human nature and its possibilities than is comedy. The latter spells out its philosophy of life and history on the assumption of hu- man weaknesses.
Renunciation of life in an act of devotion to its values is also at the heart of “The Prince’s Supper,” one of the best known Kosovo “pieces,” which Karadžić wrote down from his father. The poem owes its tragic serenity, as well as some of its narrative threads, to the biblical story of the Last Supper. The meal on the eve of the battle was part of military protocol,38 and Kuripešić’s version of the folk tra- ditions describes the humiliation of the old knight Miloš Obilić, or Kobilović, whom Prince Lazar left “standing by the table.”39 The biblical association gives the epic story a high mythic status; but within this framework the imagi- nation of the folk singer freely shapes its poetic world. Lazar—as Christ before him—knows that he will be be- trayed, and in this epic tale he suspects that the betrayer will be his most faithful knight, Miloš Obilić. The tragic irony of this situation comes out fully when Lazar, in his pathetic generosity and innocence, proposes a toast to Miloš and is ready to forgive him his “sin”:
Health to Miloš, the faithful traitor,
First faithful, then a traitor!
at Kosovo tomorrow you will desert me,
You will run to Murad, the emperor!
Health to you, drink this toast,
Drink this wine, and this cup is yours!40
Within the ironic framework of his delusion Lazar
shows his generosity: in a world in which everything is soon to be lost, he attempts to sustain at least some rem- nant of spiritual values. Therefore, he forgives in advance Miloš’s treason and presents him with the cup. Miloš thanks Lazar for his toast and the gift, if not for the un- deserved suspicion; but there is no bitterness in his answer, for Lazar is only an intermediary of his loyalty to a high- er idea. He gives his pledge that the battle will show-who is faithful [and] who is the traitor,” and he promises that he will “stab Murad, Tsar of Turkey.”41 This is also a com- mitment to “the heavenly kingdom.” it will not change the
36 Karadžić, ii, No 45, 1. 185.
37 “Musić Stefan,” Karadžić, ii, No 47, 1. 45.
38 See fn. 21.
39 Kuripešić, Putopis, p. 34.
40 Karadžić, ii, No 50 (iii), 11.31–36.
41 Karadžić, ii, No 50 (iii), 11.53.
outcome of the battle—“the feathers” will not “carry away” the flesh42—but the inner freedom of this heroic act tri- umphs over real history and becomes a tragic symbol of spiritual survival. as in many great tragedies, the free choice of death here is the ultimate and final confirma- tion of the values of life, a monument to the freedom of the human spirit.
in such and similar poems the Battle of Kosovo is a heroic challenge which offers possibilities of free, if trag- ic, choices. However, in many other poems in which this epic landscape is further reduced to family drama, human beings are seen as helpless objects of a cruel fate. in po- ems such as “Carica Milica and Duke Vladeta,” The Ko- sovo Maiden,” and “The Death of the Mother of the jugo- vići,” the heroines are imprisoned in the catastrophe which has already taken place. This is why they lack epic seren- ity. either they do not tell a story or the story comes post factum, reflected in a situation radiating human misery and suffering. instead of the crosses on the flags, we find ravens as the messengers of calamity and death.
in this respect “Carica Milica and Duke Vladeta,” which Karadžić recorded from a blind woman singer in Srem, is highly characteristic. The tale—in so far as there is any— revolves around a cluster of tokens, signs, and images. Duke Vladeta—historically Duke Vlatko Vuković, the com- mander of the Bosnian army in the Battle of Kosovo— ap- pears on a horse “dressed in white foam” and conveys his tragic message to Carica Milica in imagery which is an expression of the loneliness and pointlessness of her suf- fering. Thus the death of Prince Lazar is seen in the im- age of his riderless horse:
i did not see the honorable Prince,
But i saw the Prince’s dapple,
Driven all over Kosovo by the Turks.43
Similarly the jugovići are seen as facing their doom
with exhausted arms, blood-stained to the shoulders; and Miloš Obilić appears leaning on his broken battle-lance. This imagery mirrors the loneliness and destitution of Milica’s predicament. as there is no story, there is no ex- pectation; there is only a retrospect of the tragic emblems of misery and misfortune. Her tragedy offers no options and no possibilities of acting. The poignancy of her fate springs only from the dumb and implicit awareness, pres- ent in every human heart and eye, of the destroyed hu- man and natural order of things. if we did not assume such an order, her fate would not move us; but, of course, a tragic expression is constituted as an imaginative revolt against what it seems to suggest.
in these poems language is exposed to such an enor- mous pressure of tragic realities that descriptions grow into metaphors. as Duke Vladeta’s riderless horse de- scribes not only what has happened to Prince Lazar but also suggests Milica’s spiritual fate, so many details in “The
42 Karadžić, ii, No 50 (iV), 1. 43. 43 Karadžić, ii, No 49, 11. 18–20.

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