Robert Elsie | AL Art | AL History | AL Language | AL Literature | AL Photography | Contact |

 

Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Verse

 

   
BACK
  Webdesign J. Groß

Songs of the Battle of Kosovo

INTRODUCTION Version 3 | 1937 Version 6 | 1954
Version 1 | 1923 Version 4 | 1952 Version 7 | 1955
Version 2 | 1931 Version 5 | 1954 Version 8 | 1998

Songs of the Battle of Kosova of 1389
Version One, published in 1923 by Gliša Elezović





5




10




15




20




25




 

Once there was a Sultan Murat.
When he finished his ablutions
And he said his evening prayers,
He then went to bed for sleeping,
Fell asleep and started dreaming,
From his sleep a dream awoke him,
So the sultan stirred and got up
From his bed, and started thinking.
Once again he did ablutions,
Then returned to bed for sleeping,
And again he started dreaming,
From his sleep a dream awoke him,
So the sultan stirred and got up,
To his mother did he call out:
“Mother dear, what can you explain
To me two dreams I’ve been dreaming?”
“Tell the dreams, boy,” said the mother.
“In them did arrive two eagles,
And they perched on my right shoulder,
All the stars fell from the heavens,
Fell to earth and there did gather,
Sun and moon plunged in the ocean.”
“Good news, son,” replied the mother,
When the Lord brought back the morning,
Look how Sultan Murat acted:
“Go and call the dream exegete,
Go and call the Sheh-Islami,
Go and call the Grand Vizier,
Go and call the army general.”


30




35




40




45




50




55




60




65




70




75




80




85




90




95




100




105




110




115




120




125




130




135




140




145




150




155




160




165




170




175




180




185




190




195




200




205




210




215




220




225




230




235




240




245




250




255




260




265




270




275




280




285




290




295




300




305




310




315




320




325




330




335




340




345




350




355




360




365




370




375




380




385




390




395




400




405




410




415




420




425




430




435




440




445




450




455







460




465




470







475




480







485




490

 

All four of them were awakened,
And they hastened to the sultan,
“What is it you want, oh Father?”
“I have had a dream while sleeping,
You must now explain it to me.”
“Tell your dream,” they urged the sultan,
And the sultan started telling:
“In it there were two white eagles,
And they perched on my right shoulder,
All the stars fell from the heavens,
Fell to earth and there did gather,
Sun and moon plunged in the ocean.”
What replied the dream exegete?
“Those two eagles that arrived and
Settled, perched on your right shoulder
Came to seize the holy banner,
Came to gather up the army,
Came to set out for Kosova,
Came to occupy Kosova,
Came to give their lives in battle.
Sun and moon plunged in the ocean
Came to give their lives in battle.
Sun and moon won’t warm without you.”
Look what Sultan Murat did then:
All the towns he telegraphed with:
“Bring unto me all the army,
Bring unto me all the pashas.”
They assembled all the army,
And amassed before the sultan.
Look what Sultan Murat did then:
Lo, he seized the holy banner,
And he then approached the army:
“Listen, lads, to what I tell you,
I’ve decided I am ready,
Want to march upon Kosova.”
Then he counted all his soldiers,
Seventy thousand men he numbered,
Look what Sultan Murat said then:
“Listen, lads, to what I’m saying,
Should a man here have regrets, or
Should your parents be dear to you,
Should your children be dear to you,
Go back home, you have permission,
I will pay you to return there.”
Many soldiers left the sultan,
Forty thousand did forsake him,
Thirty thousand did stay with him.
On his march the sultan set out,
When he came upon the ocean,
Ships and vessels drew near to him,
Look what Sultan Murat did then.
Putting his men in the vessels,
Did he feel so sorry for them,
Raised his hands to the Almighty:
“Allah, oh thou God of Justice,
Pull the ocean back and let me
O’er dry land lead forth the army,
And the Lord did hear his pleading,
From both sides pulled back the waters,
With his troops he crossed the ocean,
When he reached the other coastline,
Did he pause to rest his army,
Look what Sultan Murat said then:
“Listen, lads, to what I tell you,
Should a man here have regrets, or
Should your parents be dear to you,
Should your children be dear to you,
Go back home, you have permission,
I will pay you to return there.
You who’ve eaten foods forbidden,
You who’ve not prayed for five hours,
I don’t want to have you with me,
Go back home, you have permission,
For with you will fail the fighting,
Go back e’er the waters flood in.”
Many soldiers did return home,
Eighteen thousand homewards ventured.
With the sultan stayed twelve thousand.
Look what Sultan Murat did then.
Raised his hands to the Almighty.
Listen to his exhortation:
“Well, what do you say, my fighters?”
Hear the army, what it answered:
“Listen to us, Father Sultan,
We have no regrets to be here,
May the Lord ne’er separate us,
We’ve not eaten foods forbidden,
We’ve prayed in the last five hours,
We are ready to die with you.”
Look at how the sultan rose up,
Praising Allah with the army.
When they finished their ablutions,
They at once set off for battle,
Nowhere pausing for refreshment,
Till Salonika they entered.
Forward, forward, into battle,
On to Skopje did they travel,
Stopping nowhere on their journey,
Till they entered into Skopje.
There he paused to rest the army.
Close beside them was a river,
There a soldier glimpsed an apple,
And the soldier took the apple,
Only once he bit into it,
Then he stuffed it in his pocket.
“Let’s get going,” so they set off,
One another praising Allah,
Once again they left for battle,
And it was a mighty battle.
Dust and smoke arose around them,
Many soldiers fell in fighting,
When Kaçanik Gorge they entered,
Was the fight there even stronger,
And the sultan could not stop it,
Many fellows died in battle,
Sheh-Islami perished fighting,
Sheh-Islami and his nephew,
Died in fighting the Grand Vizier,
The Grand Vizier and his scion.
Wearied was the army fighting,
Dust and smoke arose around them,
Men could not see one another.
Look what Sultan Murat did then.
Raised his hands to the Almighty:
“Allah, oh thou God of Justice,
Pull back all the smoke around me,
Let me see where stands my army,
All at once the smoke was lifted,
Murat gathered up his army,
“Are you weary, my brave fighters,
Hard-pressed, have we many losses?”
“We’re not weary, Father Sultan,
Of our men have many fallen,
Sheh-Islami is among them,
Sheh-Islami and his nephew,
Died in fighting the Grand Vizier,
The Grand Vizier and his scion.”
Sorry felt the sultan for them,
Swore an oath to the Almighty:
“I will not get through this war till
Blood is flowing round our kneecaps.”
Look what Sultan Murat said then:
“Listen, lads, to what I’m saying,
If some of you fruit have eaten
of your  comrades’ toil, then stay here,
For the war’s not going well now.
Those who’ve not prayed for five hours,
Step aside because the fighting
Is not going well among us.”
To him did the army answer:
“No forbidden fruits we’ve eaten,
We’ve prayed in the last five hours.”
Then one soldier did step forward:
“I, oh sultan, saw an apple,
As we rested at the river,
And I plucked and took the apple,
Only once I bit into it,
Here it is, it’s in my pocket.”
Look what Sultan Murat said then:
“To the river, lads,” he cried out,
“Go back down beside the river,
Find for me that apple tree and
Tell what happened to its owner.
Beg forgiveness of the owner
If the man will not forgive you,
Give him money as he wishes.”
Down the hillside to the river
They returned and saw the apple
Tree upon the riverbank and
Found the owner of the orchard.
Look at what they told the owner:
“From this tree we stole an apple
And we now beg your forgiveness.”
“I will not forgive the apple.”
“Ask your price in compensation,
We will pay for it in money.”
“I will sell you nothing, but I
Want to be proclaimed Vizier.”
Look at what they told the sultan:
“He will not forgive the apple,
Nor will he accept your money,
He asks to be Grand Vizier.”
“Go,” the sultan ordered, “and bring
Back that fellow here to see me.”
Off they went and found the owner,
To the sultan did they bring him,
And the sultan made him Vizier,
On his chest he put some medals,
Look at what Murat said to them:
“Gird your weapons, lads,” he told them,
And the troops did gird their weapons.
Then they finished their ablutions,
Asked of one another pardon.
So again they rose to battle,
Nowhere did they Slavs encounter.
When they finally got to Golesh,
Nowhere was there drinking water,
And of thirst the troops were dying.
So they muttered to the sultan:
“We are all so very thirsty,
Nowhere is there drinking water.”
Look what Sultan Murat did then:
Raised his hands to the Almighty:
“Allah, oh thou God of Justice,
Give us but a drop of water!”
With his fist he beat a boulder,
God at once did give them water,
All the army drank their fill and
All the horses gulped the water,
Water flowed and was left over.
Then they finished their ablutions,
And completed all their prayers.
When the soldiers were well rested,
Did they rise again and muster,
Setting off at once for battle,
Nowhere did they Slavs encounter.
When they got to Ferizaj, did
There occur a mighty battle,
To their knees in blood they waded,
Laden mules and donkeys stumbled,
Then the Lord their prayers did answer,
And the sultan won the battle.
When the army reached Prishtina,
There the sultan deigned to come forth,
While the tents were being raised, and
Took his field glass out to have a
Look at yonder Çiçavica,
There he noticed seven towers,
Seven balozes were in them.
At the towers gazed the sultan,
All the towers had their loopholes,
In a line were all the loopholes.
Then the sultan called his Vizier:
“Tell me, what are yonder towers
With the row of loopholes in them?”
To the sultan he did answer:
“Seven balozes are in them,
Fighting one another daily
From the loopholes built into them.”
To his feet arose the sultan,
Millosh Kopiliq informing:
“Send the keys of your nine castles,
All the keys surrender to me,
Or I will with you do battle.”
To Millosh he sent the message.
He received it and did read it.
Then his wife, inquiring, uttered:
“What’s that letter you are reading?”
Millosh told her of the letter:
“To Kosova’s come the sultan
Yearning with us to do battle,
I don’t know what I should do now.”
To Millosh the wife responded:
“Come on, Millosh, do not worry,
For the sultan cannot harm us.”
Millosh was infuriated,
In the jaw he punched his wife and
Eight teeth to the floor did tumble.
To his feet arose then Millosh,
Well his saddle mare he mounted,
Off to Peć then did he gallop,
There he told the king, proclaiming:
“To Prishtina’s come the sultan,
Saying he’ll with us do battle,
What to do now?” he inquired.
To him did the king then answer:
“I to him will not surrender,
Till I run him through, won’t give in,”
Thus the king did give his answer.
“Make you ready thirty maidens,
In fine garments and fine footwear,
Give them many golden ducats
To impress the Turkish army,
To deceive the horde of soldiers.
And to spy upon his forces.”
Thus the maidens were made ready
Thirty of the finest maidens,
Taking many ducats with them:
“Journey to the sultan’s army,
Try to trick the hordes of soldiers.
While the soldiers take your money,
Find out what their army’s good for.”
To their feet did rise the maidens,
Taking pans of ducats with them,
Leaving for the sultan’s army,
Taking three full days for travel.
No one cast his eyes upon them,
No one with his hands did touch them,
No one stole the money from them,
No one sold them food for money.
In three days they told the sultan:
“We have come, the king has sent us,
We are weary of our journey,
No one gave us food for eating,
No one took our money from us.”
Then the sultan bade his soldier:
“Give them food, lads,” he commanded,
“No one rob them of their money.”
Thus they gave food to the maidens,
No one stole their money from them,
So the maidens journeyed homewards,
Went back to report to Millosh.
Millosh turned to them and spoke out:
“How’s the Turk, maids?” he inquired.
To him did the maidens answers:
“Three days did we spend there with them,
No one laid a finger on us,
No one stole our money from us,
No one cast his eyes upon us,
Hordes of soldiers has the sultan,
You’re unequal to oppose him.”
Look how Millosh then responded:
“When we to the king do venture,
You must talk to him and tell him
I will lop all of their heads off,
You just tell the king about a
Mighty plague that struck the army,
Say they’re weary, almost perished, 
We were captured by the soldiers,
And the fellows took our money.”
Millosh set off with the maidens
To the king did they all venture.
There the king spoke to the maidens:
“How’s the Turk, maids?” he inquired.
To him did the maidens answer:
“A mighty plague befell the army,
They are weary, almost perished,     
We were captured by the soldiers,
And the fellows took our money,
They did not have many soldiers.”
What was it the king then ordered?
Many soldiers did he gather,
Made them ready for the battle.
What was it that Millosh uttered:
“Hold your horses, king,” he ordered,
“For I too am getting ready,
I am off to see the sultan,
If the sultan gives his hand, then
I will gladly pay allegiance,
If the sultan give his leg, then
I will slay him with my dagger.”
Millosh girded on his armour,
Had a pobratim go with him,
“Oh pobratim,” he requested,
“Will you deign to set out with me?”
Thus the two men did make ready,
Well their saddle mares they mounted,
And they set off for the sultan.
Soon the sentries captured Millosh,
“Where’re you going?” did they ask him,
“I am off to see the sultan,
For I have something to tell him.”
So they took him to the sultan,
Look at what the sultan did then:
First he summoned Sheh-Islami,
“How should I react,” he asked him.
“For Millosh has come to see me?
Should I shake his hand in greeting?
Should I do so or withhold it?”
They did counsel Sultan Murat:
“When Millosh arrives, don’t give your
Hand, but rather kick the fellow.
Place him at your feet to grovel.”
To them did the sultan answer:
“Bring in Millosh, let him enter.”
Millosh then approached the sultan,
While the sultan tried to kick him,
Millosh had in hand his dagger,
With the dagger did he stab him,
Thus the sultan fell and perished.
Millosh on the spot departed,
Well his saddle mare he mounted,
Set off swiftly on his journey,
Many soldiers did pursue him,
Many soldiers tried to slay him,
But they could not catch and kill him.
When they got to Babimovci,
There they met an old Slav woman,
And they spoke to that old woman,
“What is wrong, Turks?” she inquired.
They responded, saying to her
That Millosh had slain the sultan,
“We can’t catch and kill the fellow.”
To them spoke the Slavic woman:
“Never will you catch that Millosh
For he’s wearing metal armour,
And his mare is decked in armour,
Lay your sabres on the ground to
Slash the mare above the ankles,
Slash the mare and cut her legs off,
That way you will capture Millosh,
When you’ve got Millosh surrounded,
The armour key is in his whiskers.”
What is it the soldiers did then?
On the ground they laid their sabres
O’er the route Millosh was taking,
And they slashed the horse’s ankles,
Thus the mare did topple over,
And alive they captured Millosh.
First they sought to chop his head off,
What did Millosh utter to them?
“I have one request to make you,
Summon forth that old Slav woman,
For I’m longing to behold her,
I’ve a final wish to give her,
And I have to converse with her.”
Thus they brought the Slavic woman,
Look what Millosh muttered to her:
“Come up closer to me, grandma,
For I’ve got a job to give you,
I’ve got lots of wealth to give you.”
Thus the woman did approach him
“Come yet closer to me for I’ve
Something in your ear to whisper.”
With his teeth did Millosh grab her,
Flung her off to Babimovci.
Swiftly they beheaded Millosh
What then did Millosh Kopiliq?
Tucked his head under his armpit,
Off he went and, fleeing, vanished,
On to Salabanj he travelled.
There a woman and a maiden
Who were busy washing garments
Caught a glimpse of headless Millosh.
What is it the maiden stuttered?
“Mother, mother, look and see that
Man who’s passing us is headless!”
To her did Millosh give answer:
“Headless I, may you be eyeless!”
Thereupon did Millosh perish.

* * *

All the priests for him did gather,
In their scriptures was it written:
If a church you can construct there
By the morning e’er the cocks crow,
Millosh will be resurrected.
Thus they started with the building,
Had the whole thing almost finished,
On the walls one tile was missing
When the cocks crowed in the morning.
At that place Millosh was buried,
The Almighty gave them water,
Water which had healing powers.

* * *

What did Sultan Murat’s mother
When she heard about the sultan
Who by Millosh had been slaughtered?
Greatly did the mother mourn him:
“Oh Kosova,” did she cry out,
“Damn Kosova,” did she cry out,
“That has left me without children,
Even though you harvest plenty,
May none there be blessed with fortune,
May there be no bloodless marriage!”
Having said this, did she perish.

* * *

What did say the mother’s daughter?
“Mother, where can we now go to?”
“We must flee the Turks,” she answered.
“When will we be back here, mother?”
“When the Turks, like us, are beaten.”
Çiçavica’s cut off from them,
As it is for us departing,
Then we’ll take back our Kosova.”

 

[Recited by Hamzë Xhemë Bojkoviqi, also known as Ut Bojko, a rebel from Dërvara near Vushtrria, and first published by Gliša Elezović as “Jedna arnautska varianta o Boju na Kosovu,” in: Arhiv za arbanašku starinu, jezik i etnologiju, Belgrade, 1 (1923), p. 54-67. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

TOP