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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Verse



At the Plane Tree of Mashkullore

Nationalist figure and guerrilla fighter, Çerçiz Topulli (1880-1915) was born in Gjirokastra. On 25 February 1908, his band killed the commander of the Turkish gendarmerie on a street in Gjirokastra. Five of Topulli’s guerrillas, himself included, then fled to the village of Mashkullore, where on 5 March they were surrounded by 150 Ottoman troops. Although they were vastly outnumbered, Topulli and his fighters managed to keep the Turks at bay from dawn until dusk and then fled into the mountains, an event which was later celebrated in folk ballads such as the following song.


Çerçiz Topulli (left) with a companion, 1908


February fled and March then entered.
Gjirokastra’s Turkish gendarmes
Lost their captain. Curse his surname!
With his life he paid, dishonoured.
From Janina came a soldier
To the plane of Mashkullore,
From that tree at Mashkullore,
Çerçiz spoke out in defiance:
“Draw back, sergeant, all your forces,
Let my fighters go their way now,
For these heroes will do battle,
As has been their wont and custom,
Red you’ll be, in crimson spattered.”
“Çerçiz, Hajredin was slaughtered.”
“Makes no difference that they killed him,
Listen carefully, heed me, Kapllan,
We’ll not cease retaliation
On your officers and soldiers,
Place their heads beneath our cleavers
As we thus avenged our Mother.”


[Te rrapi në Mashkullore, southern Albanian folk song. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]