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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Verse

 

   
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The Legend of Rozafat Castle

The legend of Rozafat Castle in Shkodra is among the best known tales of Albanian oral literature. This version, in poetic form, was recorded in Shkodra itself. For further details, see “The Legend of Rozafat Castle” under Legends.

 

"My sister Tone" by Kolë Idromeno, 1883

 

Fog hung heavy o’er the Buna,
Three days and three nights it hovered,
When three days and nights were over
Did a fresh wind waft in, rising,
Blowing, all the fog to scatter,
Sent it up to Mount Valdanuz
Where at work there were three brothers,
Yes, three brothers who were Christians,
All day long the men did labour,
In the night collapsed their buildings!
Once a holy man passed by them,
“Greetings to you, oh three brothers.”
“Greetings back, oh saint, we proffer,
But what’s there to greet, we ask you?
All day long we toil and labour,
In the night collapse our buildings.
Holy man, can you assist us,
Do you know of a solution?”
“Yes, but it’s a sin to tell you.”
“Let the sin be ours, just tell us.”
“Are the three of you all married?
Does each of you have a bride here?”
“Yes, the three of us are married,
Each one of us has a bride here.
Tell us what we must accomplish
So that we can build this castle!”
“Carry on now with your building,
Do not stop to rest on Sunday,
Make a pact among you, keep it,
Do not speak at home about it,
Do not tell your brides about it!
When the sun comes up tomorrow
Seize the bride who brings your lunch and
In the castle wall inter her.
Then you’ll see a sudden difference,
To the sky will rise the castle.”
Woe! The oldest brother went home,
Broke the pact, his word of honour,
Spoke at home about the morrow,
Told his bride of their intention.
Thus did, too, the second brother,
Did not heed the word of counsel
That the holy man had given,
Broke the pact, his word of honour,
Spoke at home about the morrow,
Told his bride of their intention.
But the youngest brother did not
(He the youngest and the best one),
Break the pact, his word of honour,
Speak at home about the morrow,
Tell his bride of their intention.
In the morning they rose early,
All the walls collapsed around them,
Swiftly were their hearts a-pounding!
Then the mother called the brides in:
“Bride, oh eldest bride among you!
Lunch is needed by the workmen,
Food and drink do they require.”
“I cannot go to them, mother,
For I’m feeling ill this morning.”
“Bride, oh second bride among you!
Lunch is needed by the workmen,
Food and drink do they require,
And a jug of wine they ask for.”
“I cannot go to them, mother,
I must take care of my children.”
“Bride, oh youngest bride among you!”
“At your orders, lady mother.”
“Lunch is needed by the workmen,
Food and drink do they require,
And a jug of wine they ask for.”
“I will take it to them, mother,
For the youngest son’s my husband.”
“Off you go then, bride, get moving,
For my son is waiting for you,
We do not want him to be lacking.”
She took food and she took water,
Bore a jug of wine, too, with her.
Brought the lunch down to Kazema,
Reached the new walls of the castle.
All at once did cease the hammers,
All at once their hearts stopped beating,
Pale and bloodless were their faces.
One man saw his wife and cried out:
“What misfortune now befalls you,
In the wall we must inter you!”
“If this is your will, good brothers,
I’ll request one favour of you
If in this wall you inter me,
Leave for my right eye a window,
Leave for my right hand a window,
Leave for my right leg a window,
Leave for my right breast a window,
For my son is still a baby.
When he starts to whine I’ll soothe him,
With my one eye I will cheer him,
With my one hand I will stroke him,
With my one leg I will rock him,
With my one breast I will feed him.
May my knees like stone be solid,
May the castle soar above me,
May my son be ruler of it,
And be king and great in battle!

 

[I ra mjegulla Bunës, recorded in Shkodra. From: Balada shqiptare, ed. Vladimir Zoto (Tirana: Dasara 2006), p. 7-9. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

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