Make your own free website on Tripod.com
  he battle across the Field of Kosovo was still roaring when the Turkish officers brought the Serbian Tsar beneath the Sultan's tent. The Sultan Murat lay there in his death rattle with his eyes shut. After they informed him that Lazar had been captured and brought there, the Sultan slowly opened his eyes, and the glance of one dying man met the gaze of another. Without wrath, without malice and without joy the Sultan whispered: "The will of Allah!" And again he closed his eyes.
    The disappointed officers who had failed to gladden their dying lord with such a valuable slave, led Lazar out in front of the tent, so that the Turkish army would see him and take courage. Before the tent lay the dead bodies of three Serbian generals: Obilic, Kosancic and Toplica —like three felled pine trees! They put Lazar by their heads and held him up straight; for Lazar was grievously wounded. Blood still flowed out of his open wounds. He stood bareheaded, with his head lowered. His face was like white cloth, bereft of blood and life, but smeared with blood and dust. His tangled hair was intertwined with his long beard and fell in locks over his pale forehead and gaunt face. Already counting both the Tsar and the Sultan as part of its apportioned plunder, death was leaving them to die slowly, while it flew away to seize many other sacrifices across the wide field.
    Turks continued to pass by and to stare with curiosity at the enemy Tsar and his slain generals. Some passed by in silence, others jeered and hurled curses; still others made humorous jests and invoked laughter among their companions.
    Lazar was standing upright, not by himself, but supported by the Sultan's bodyguards. His body was till bound to life as if by the thin thread of a cobweb, and he would have dropped to the ground, had he been left to stand on his own. Yet the soul of the martyr was still alive, vigorous and more mobile than ever. In the inner workshop of his soul Lazar's thoughts were scanning all the ramifications of what was happening on that bloody field and throughout his entire country. His thoughts even ascended to the highest heavens, as they searched there for explanations for all that had befallen him and his Christian army.
    "What is the reason for all this, Lord?" asked Lazar within himself "If I am sinful, as indeed I am, let me also die. But for what purpose has such a deadly harvest of my soldiers, my people, taken place?"
    And speedily Lazar sent his thoughts like couriers throughout all the darkness of the universe, to capture anywhere even a single ray of light. But nowhere, nowhere did they find even a thread of a ray. His thoughts returned empty from where they had set out. Then he dispatched them to scan his entire life, to search for a cause for this defeat and misfortune. Immersing himself in thoughts of all the secret corners of his past, he found some minor transgressions, but he had confessed them before his spiritual father, had repented and had made amends tenfold. From his childhood he had loved Christ and been devout. His home had been like a temple of holiness, compassion and purity. His children had been reared in faith and nobility. He had served his people by his own example in every virtue. He had erected several beautiful churches for God. He had been a father to the poor, a peacemaker to quarreling and unruly feudal lords, a just judge of criminals, a brave defender of those in the right when they were prosecuted.
    After rummaging through and examining his entire life with the speed of a dying man and the acumen of a judge, Lazar strained his thoughts and cried out within himself: "O my Creator, who knowest even our unknown sins, to Thee I cry out from this vale of tears! Forgive me for all that I have failed to do according to Thy holy will. Slay me, my Lord, and blot my name out of the book of life — only save my people!"
    Yet again the dying man sent forth his swift thoughts, to examine the recent events that had taken place in Krugevac, before the departure for Kosovo. He weighed every word that he had uttered with the finest criteria; he reflected upon every conversation and evaluated it; he reviewed his every deed and judged them strictly. But nowhere was there anything in all this that could resemble a sufficient cause for the debacle of his army and the fall of his country.
    Then at once — at once Lazar opened his mouth in horror and painfully groaned. And everything within him began to storm, like the sea encountering an unexpected tempest. And the Tsar asked within himself: "In this, did I not make a mistake in this?"
    The Turkish soldiers held him more firmly to keep him from falling, since they thought that he was groaming on account of his physical wounds.
    What terror had surfaced in Lazar's mind, so as to cause him to groan in pain and horror? He had remembered how he had been expected to choose one of two kingdoms: the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of the world. Had he chosen the earthly kingdom, he would, according to the prophecy, have remained alive, with his army, with a victory and with an unscathed country. But he had chosen the heavenly kingdom, and behold, again according to the prophecy, the destruction of himself, of his army, and of his country had come to pass.
    "Alas," thought the Tsar, "did I not make a mistake in this? Two destinies were placed before me, and I chose in the name of the people. If I personally had the right to choose death instead of life for myself — who gave me authority to make such a choice for the entire nation?
    "Here, here lay the snare. In every way I was mistaken in this choice. The mysterious power that had tested me, was obviously not from the light of God, but from the darkness of demons. And this power deluded me. I preferred the kingdom of heaven, and thereby obliged both myself and my people before that mysterious power; and behold, on the basis of this obligation it has now destroyed both me and my army.
    "I have given a fallacious testament to my people. In this is found the key to this hell that is seething around me over Kosovo! Thus I have committed a sin; I, and I alone, have made this mistake.
    "Oh tell me, all-seeing Lord, before whose eyes every fabric of life and death is woven, was I wrong? Tell me, O Thou, who art arrayed in the majesty of silence! If I did make the wrong choice, then I am to blame for the death of these honorable generals lying dead before me; I am to blame for the fall of the country; I am answerable to Nemanja for his crown; I am answerable to Sava for his church; I have been the cause of so much death, of so many wounds, of so much blood, of so much widowhood throughout villages and towns, of so much tyrannical wrath, which now looms over my enslaved people. Yet they are not my people, O Lord, but Thine."
    Once more Lazar groaned like a wounded stag. So the Sultan's bodyguards angrily scolded him and clenched in more tightly still.
    "Slay me, O Lord of life and death," prayed the Tsar within himself. "Slay me a hundred times; bring me back to life a hundred times, and then slay me again! If I have made the wrong choice and have bequeathed to my people a false testament, I deserve to be eternally dying in torments just as I am now dying for the first time. Tell me, Maker of tongues and words. Oh tell me before this dust, into which Thou hast poured a living soul, plunges into the dust. Tell me so that I may know. I do not ask Thee to forgive me; no, in no way. Just tell me so that I may know. Did I, in my choice, sin before Thee and before Thy holy heaven?"