Three poems dedicated to Montenegro
Alfred Lord Tennyson
THEY rose to where their sovereign eagle sails,
They kept their faith, their freedom, on the height,
Chaste, frugal, savage, arm'd by day and night
Against the Turk; whose inroad nowhere scales
Their headlong passes, but his footstep fails,
And red with blood the Crescent reels from fight
Before their dauntless hundreds, in prone flight
By thousands down the crags and thro' the vales.
O smallest among peoples! rough rock-throne
Of Freedom! warriors beating back the swarm
Of Turkish Islam for five hundred years,
Great Tsernogora! never since thine own
Black ridges drew the cloud and brake the storm
Has breathed a race of mightier mountaineers.
[Alfred Lord Tennyson, Balads, and other poems, 1880]
Nicholas of Montenegro (1912)
HE speaks as straight as his rifles shot,
As straight as a thrusting blade,
Waiting the deed that shall trouble the truce
His savage guns have made.
"You have dared the wrath of a dozen states,"
Was the challenge that he heard;
"We can die but once!" said the grim old King
As he gripped his mountain sword.
"For I paid in blood for the town I took,
The blood of my brave men slain,--
And if you covet the town I took
You must buy it with blood again!"
Stern old King of the stark, black hills,
Where the lean, fierce eagles breed,
Your speech rings true as your good sword rings--
And you are a king indeed!
[Don Marquis, Dreams and Dust, 1915]
The Curse of Crna Gora (1986)
History on his head
He wore a black mountain kapa
Black border, red blood center, white war braid
Black for Kosovo Polje, swarming with Turks
Red for Kosovo Polje, bleeding his fathers' blood
White for the wars and the strength of his cause
A millenium halved in war
A mountaineer in love with hate
A warrior from Crna Gora
Italians had swarmed over the border
Had stolen the capitol of Cetinje
Now he guides his men for the black mountain
"A friend can cross the karst in 6 hours,
a foe - maybe never," his ancient boast
Yet Turks, Italians and he face the same curse.
No longer black, the mountain is bone-grey,
Limestone, melting in the rain,
Sagging into the face of a skull.
[© 1986 Jeffrey Henning. All rights reserved. Used by permission.]