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1389: Empire of Heaven

Prince Lazar. Copyright by Teslasociety
Prince Lazar

For centuries Serbs celebrated, or commemorated, their defeat at the hands of the Turks at the Battle of Kosovo, which took place on 28 June 1389, in great epic poems which were sung to the accompaniment of the gusla, a one stringed instrument. In one of the most famous, "The Downfall of the Serbian Empire", the Serbian leader, Prince Lazar, is forced to contemplate his choice: A kingdom on earth or a kingdom of truth and justice, ie., death and the empire of heaven.

Flying hawk, grey bird,
out of the holy place, out of Jerusalem,
holding a swallow, holding a bird,
that is Elijah, holy one;
holding no swallow, no bird,
but writing from the Mother of God
to the Emperor at Kosovo.
He drops that writing on his knee,
is speaking to the Emperor:
"Lazar, glorious Emperor,
which is the empire of your choice?
Is it the empire of heaven?
Is it the empire of the earth?
If it is the empire of the earth,
saddle horses and tighten girth-straps,
and, fighting men, buckle on swords,
attack the Turks,
and all the Turkish army shall die.
But if the empire of heaven
weave a church on Kosovo,
build its foundations not with marble stones,
build it with pure silk and with crimson cloth,
take the Sacrament, marshal the men,
they shall die,
and you shall die among them as they die."
And when the Emperor heard those words,
He considered and thought,
"King God, what shall I do, how shall I do it?
What is the empire of my choice?
Is it the empire of heaven?
Is it the empire of the earth?
And if I shall choose the empire,
and choose the empire of the earth,
the empire of earth is brief,
heaven is everlasting."
And the empire chose the empire of heaven
Above the empire of the earth.

[pp: 6-7]

Kosovo: War and Revenge. 2002, Second Edition. [Yale University Press]

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