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ers under the touch of a girl’s hand, this image implies the natural order which has been broken. Finally, the myth of Kosovo illuminates the artistic triumphs of the poems about outlaws—poems abounding in revenge, killing, and plunder. in the best of them, however, the hero appears either as a captured helpless old man—a martyr of his loyalty to his friends (“Old Vujadin”)—or as someone on the threshold of death (“The Death of ivo of Senj”). When he is in action, he is seen as a lonely, desperate fighter. He is a “homeless hero with blood-stained hands” who has “no father” and “no mother”; and he is one who has “never known a faithful love,” and who “feeds by sword in the bor- der country as hawk on wing hanging among clouds.”60 His final option, however, is also a moral dream defying all realities; it is vividly outlined when Rosnić Stevan, af- ter the successful ambush and liquidation of the Ottoman tax collectors, comes to divide the booty:
He divided the treasure beautifully
Not by counting or by calculation,
But Captain Limo’s helmet for measure;
How justly he divided the treasure,
evenly among living and dead:
The living took their treasure on their backs,
The treasure of the dead remained in heaps.61
after the clash, summed up in the image of “blood-
smeared” spruces,62 Tešan Podrugović, an outlaw himself and the greatest of Karadžić’s singers, presents an emblem- atic moral gesture which reflects the outlaws’ thirst for a heavenly kind of justice. This gesture brings “the heavenly kingdom” to earth; it is a triumph of moral imagination over experience even if it must have been inspired by the historical custom which demanded that booty be shared with the families of those killed in action.63 Similarly, the central image in the poems about the First Serbian Up- rising—in which the rebels “tie a red flame into the sky”64— suggests not only the scope of the battle but also a moral yearning.
The poems about the Battle of Kosovo illuminate and inspire the whole epic landscape in Karadžić’s collections. Their highest moral concepts are of medieval, chivalric and Christian origin; but they have been translated into the issues, situations, and dilemmas of later history. The whole story of the fall and the rise of the Serbian empire has been read largely as a patriarchal moral drama of fam- ily relations and attitudes. The interplay of the medieval written culture and the oral traditions is both a continu- ation and a new chapter in a long “literary” story, which continued in the changed circumstances of expressive pos- sibilities in the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. But the songs of the Battle of Kosovo provide the central
60 Karadžić, iii, No 69, 11. 37–39, 43–44.
61 Karadžić, iii, No 42, 11. 386–92.
62 Karadžić, iii, No 42, 1. 361.
63 See Dušan j. Popović, O hajducima, II, (Belgrade, 1931), p. 34.
64 Karadžić, iV, No 33, 1. 546.
chapter in this story for many different reasons. First of all, many monuments to the material and spiritual gran- deur of the Serbian medieval state—above all the monas- teries and churches—are still situated in Kosovo. Second- ly, this reality must have grown in the dreams of the mi- grating Serbian population, which in heroic songs culti- vated memories of home and an ancient tradition in their heroic songs. However, the devastating consequences of the battle changed their awareness of history. Karadžić is probably right in claiming that “the Serbs had ancient he- roic songs before Kosovo,” but these songs could not reach us because “this change struck the people’s mind so vig- orously that they forgot everything that happened before and began thenceforth to sing and spin their tales anew.”65 These tales embody all the horrors of Balkan history, but they also push beyond it to a moral awareness of its trag- edy. as Petar Petrović Njegoš, the greatest poetic genius of his language, observed, their imaginative flights will remain “an eternal torch in the eternal darkness.”66
Thomas Emmert/Wayne W.S. Vucinich (eds.), Kosovo: Legacy of Medieval Battle, Minnesota Mediterranean an East European Monographs, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN., 1991, pp. 123–139.
65 “Predgovor,” Karadžić, i, 539.
66 Peter Petrović Njegoš, Gorski vijenac, 1. 610.
The Battle of Kosovo
 Benedikt Kuripešić,
austrian travel writer on Miloš Obilić (1530)
...Some old Serbian knight named Miloš Kobilović (Mi- losch Khaubilovitz) split him with a knife at that spot, in his tent, where [sultan Murad] attacked the Despot with his army, who at that time was Prince or margrave of Ser- bia. History records how that occurred... Oh, Kobilović [Miloš Obilić], did not everyone think that you would get revenge on your displeased lord and your jealous ones with their misfortune and that you would surrender them into the arms of the enemy? But you got revenge in a Chris- tian way and turned evil to good. You gave your life for your slanderers and saved your homeland from the ene- my’s hand. in that you remind us of the two Romans, name- ly: of Gaius Mucius Scaevola, who burnt his own hand, that in a similar situation he wouldn't carry out his inten- tion, and of Marcus Curtius who, in order to save his coun- try, jumped into a chasm and died. Since that time not one Turkish emperor [Ottoman sultan] allowed anyone to kiss his feet, but his hand. The emperor gave his hand to kiss to the one he would receive, while two pashas would hold his arm beneath his muscle so that no one would be able to do that which was done by Kobilović. all of this, oh Kobilović, is in memory of your chivalry.

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