Serbian epic poetry

Songs of Serbian epic poetry rarely, if ever, rhyme, but they are easy to remember as each line has exactly ten syllables and caesura after fourth syllable. An older form, called Bugarshtica, exists, which has fifteen to sixteen syllables. Songs could be recited, but traditionally they are sung along musical instrument called Gusle.

Their structure contains some repeating formulas ("years of days", "writes a tiny letter", "they have fought till summer day noon") and numbers; number three is used to such extremes that, for example, if something breaks, it always "breaks into three halves". Longer songs can have more then five hundred lines.

The corpus os Serbian epic poetry is divided into cycles:

  • Pre-Kosovo cycle - songs about events that predate the Battle of Kosovo
  • Kosovo cycle - songs about events that happened just before and after Battle of Kosovo (no song covers the battle itself)
  • Post-Kosovo cycle - songs about more recent events
    • (more)

Songs that sing about historical events depict them with varying degrees of accuracy.

Serbian epic poetry is being made even today in this same form. Of course, modern songs sing about modern events and people, such as Kosovo war or Radovan Karadzic. Some modern songs are published in books or recorded, and under copyright, but some are in public domain, and modified by subsequent authors just like old ones. There are new songs that mimic Serbian epic poetry, but are humorous and not epic in nature; these are also circulating around with no known author.

Excerpts

 Slavic antithesis:
 There two pines were growing together,
 and among them one thin-topped fir;
 neither there were just some two green pines
 nor among them one thin-topped fir,
 but those two were just some two born brothers
 one is Pavle, other is Radule
 and among them little sis' Jelena.

(Marko Kraljevic speaks: ) "I'm afraid that there will be a brawl. And if really there will be a brawl, Woe to one who is next to Marko!"

"Thou dear hand, oh thou my fair green apple, Where didst blossom? Where has fate now plucked thee? Woe is me! thou blossomed on my bosom, Thou wast plucked, alas, upon Kosovo!"

"Oh my bird, oh my dear grey falcon, How do you feel with your wing thorn out?" "I am feeling with my wing thorn out Like a brother one without the other."

(All translations except third by first author of this article. English speaking people, please tell me how good are they.)

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