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THE BUILDING OF SKADAR1
ONCE there were three born brothers, a hold that had begun—
The three sons of Marnyáva. Vukáshin the king was one,
The second was Voývoda Úglyesha, and Goyko the third was he;
And Skadar on the Bóyana were they building busily.
With fifteen score of masons three long years labored they,
But they could not for the fortress the strong foundations lay,
Much less raise up the wall thereof, for what was set upright
By the masons in the morning, a vila2 wrecked at night.
The vila called from the mountain in the spring of the fourth year:
“Plague not thyself, Vukáshin, and squander not thy gear!
King, thou canst not for the fortress the strong foundation lay,
Much less raise up the wall thereof, until upon a day
Come news of Stoya and Stoyan,1 for like names have the twain;
Sister they are and brother. Into the wall amain
Shalt thou wall them. And the fortress shall be stablished in the land.”
Vukáshin heard. To Désimir he issued his command:
“Désimir, thou wast ever a faithful knave to me,
And from this hour onward mine own son shalt thou be.
Harness, my son, the horses to the wains in the yard below,
And take six packs of money, and over the white world go.
Do thou seek for Stoya and Stoyan, for like names have the twain;
Brother they are and sister. Buy them or seize them amain.
Thou shalt bring them unto Skadar on the Bóyana straightway,
That the twain in the foundation of the tower we may lay,
To see if the foundation at last will stay or stand,
And finally the fortress be stablished in the land.”
Désimir heard, and harnessed the steeds to the wains below;
And with six packs of money o’er the white world did he go.
He sought for Stoya and Stoyan, for like names had the twain;
For three full years he sought them, and aye he sought in vain.
To Skadar on the Bóyana at last he took the track;
To the king he gave the horses and the wains and money back.
“Here, king, are thy wains and horses, and thy money-bags again,
Since I found not Stoya and Stoyan—for like names have the twain.”
Vukáshin heard it, and summoned Rado the builder in,
And Rado bade three hundred men their labor to begin.
What the king built, wrecked the vila; no foundation could he lay,
Much less raise up the wall thereof. To the king then did she say:
“Plague not thyself, Vukáshin, and squander not thy gold;
Thou canst not rear a single pier, much less the wall of the hold.
A faithful wife hath each of you, ye kingly brothers born:
Whose wife with the masons’ dinner comes to Bóyana tomorn,
Into the tower’s foundation wall her then, that it may stand;
And finally the fortress shalt thou stablish in the land.”
When King Vukáshin heard it, he called his brethren there:
“Hear ye what from the mountain the vila doth declare!
In no way get we vantage by squandering the gold;
She will not let rear a single pier, much less the wall of the hold.
She saith that we have faithful wives, all we three brothers born:
Whose wife with the masons’ dinner comes to Bóyana tomorn,
Into the tower’s foundation we must build her, that it stand;
And finally the fortress shall we stablish in the land.
Before God shall we not pledge it, not to tell our wives at home,
And leave to chance whose wife tomorn to Bóyana shall come?”
While the three lords were pledging, upon them came the night,
And straightway they departed unto their houses white.
They spent the lordly evening, and went each man to bed;
And—a marvel!—Vukáshin brake the pledge, and told the wife he wed:
“Hearest thou, my dear love now, that troth to me hast sworn!
Go not thou to the Bóyana with the masons’ dinner tomorn.
Thou wilt perish; they will wall thee into the wall of the tower.”
Úglyesha brake it also, and told his wife in that hour:
“Be not deceived, my darling wife, that troth to me hast sworn!
Go not with the masons’ dinner unto Bóyana tomorn.
Girl, thou wilt die; they will wall thee into the wall of the tower.”
But Goyko did not break the pledge, nor tell his wife in that hour.
On the fair morrow early, when first the daybreak shone,
The children of Marnyáva to the Bóyana were gone.
Time came the dinner to carry, and the turn of the queen to bear;
She went to the wife of Úglyesha, and spake unto her there:
“Hear, and good health to thee, sister! My head beginneth to ache;
I cannot conquer it. Prithee the meal to the masons take.”
“Good health to thee, queen,” she answered, my sister that is so dear!
I cannot master this aching arm. Speak thou to our sister here.”
She went to the youngest sister, and unto her said she:
“O thou young wife of Goyko, do thou harken now to me!
It is this—good health to thee, sister!—my head beginneth to ache;
I cannot conquer the pain. Do thou the meal to the masons take.”
Goyko’s young wife gave answer: “I would do it gladly, O queen;
But all unbathed is my little child, and the linen not washed clean.”
Answered the queen: “With the dinner to the masons do thou go.
Let our sister bathe thy baby; I will whiten the linen like snow.”
Then the young wife of Goyko thereto would say no more;
Forthwith unto the masons their midday meal she bore.
By Bóyana Goyko saw her, and sad was his heart that day,
Sad for his wife and the little lad that in the cradle lay,
That should be without his mother ere his first month was told;
And down upon the hero’s face the bitter tears they rolled.
The slender girl looked on him; gently she walked along,
Until she was come to Goyko, and she spake as soft as a song:
“What aileth thee, Goyko, that on thy cheeks the bitter tears have rolled?”
And to-day it fell into Bóyana, and woe is me this day!
| He answered: |
|“Evil it is, my love! I had an apple of gold,|
It is a trouble of the soul; this grief I cannot slay.”
She understood not, the slender girl; unto her lord she spake:
“Pray for thine health; an apple far better shalt thou make!”
Then was he grievously sorry, and turned his head aside;
He could not any longer bear to look upon his bride.
But the two sons of Marnyáva took her hands white and small,
And led her to the stronghold, to wall her in the wall.
They made to Rado the builder the matter manifest;
She laughs at his three hundred men, for she deems it is a jest.
They brought her and they placed her, to wall her in the wall;
And the three hundred masons they came there one and all.
With stone and wood they walled her to the knees east and west,
And the slender girl laughs lightly, deeming haply they jest.
They built unto her girdle with the heavy wood and stone.
She saw what was come on her; with a very bitter groan,
And writhing like a serpent, she prayed her brethren there:
“An you trust in God, wall me not up, so tender and so fair.”
So prayed she. They looked not on her; no way her prayer did aid.
But she overcame disgrace and shame, and to her lord she said:
“Let me not now, my dearest lord, be walled up in the hold,
But send unto my mother, that hath a treasure of gold,
And purchase thou a slave girl with her money in that hour,
And wall the slave girl into the foundations of the tower.”
So spake the slender girl in vain; the prayer could not aid.
When she found no help, to Rado, the master builder, she prayed:
“For my bosom, builder Rado, leave a space at my behest,
That Yovo when he cometh may be suckled at my breast.”
Rado, the master builder, was well pleased with her prayer,
And for her milk-white bosom he left a window there,
With the white bosom outward. He did her whole behest,
That Yovo might be suckled when he came unto her breast.
And again she called on Rado, the builder, in this wise:
“I prithee, brother Rado, leave a window for mine eyes,
That I may look to the white house, and easily may see
When they bring Yovo hither, or bear him back from me.”
Rado, the master builder, was well pleased with her prayer;
That she might look to the milk-white house, he left a window there,
And see the child when they brought him or bore him back again.
At last they walled her in the wall and stablished the hold amain.
They brought the babe in the cradle, she suckled him from the stone;
For seven days she suckled him; thereafter her voice was gone.
A year she gave the young child suck, and sweet did the white milk flow.
As it was then in Skadar, so sweet it runneth now.
Yea, even to-day the white milk flows, for a miracle most high,
And a healing draught for women whereof the breasts are dry!1
2 “A sort of nymph. The vilas live in great wooded mountains and in craggy places around lakes and rivers. A vila is always young and beautiful, dressed in a thin white garment, and with long hair flowing over her back and breast. The vilas will harm no one so long as no one injures them, as for instance by intruding on their dances or feasts; but when any one injures them, then they will punish him in various ways, as by shooting him in the hand or foot, or in both hands or both feet, or in the heart, in which case he at once dies.” Karájich, Servian Dictionary.
1 Stoyan is a common Servian name (cf. p. 202), of which Stoya (for Stóyana) is the feminine diminutive. But stoyan is also an adjective meaning stable, enduring; and stoya a noun meaning a standing, a position; both are from the same root as stóyati, to stand.
1 “They say that even now from the windows where her
breasts were exposed flows a certain moisture, which collects below the wall as lime; and women who have no milk, or whose breasts pain them, take this and drink it in water. Among our people it is said even now that no great building can be constructed unless some person be walled into it; and therefore all who are able retire from such places, since it is said that even a person’s shadow may be walled in, and he afterwards dies.” (Note by Karájich.)