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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Verse

 

   
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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 Two, recorded in 1931 by Margaret Hasluck





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Once there was a Sultan Murad
Who had finished his ablution.
Then he said his evening prayers,
On his right side did he lie down,
And while resting started dreaming,
Dreaming of two doves a-flying,
On his right arm perched a black dove,
Of the dream did he say nothing.
Then he finished his ablutions,
And he said his morning prayers,
Then the Lord did make it evening,
And he finished his ablutions,
And he said his evening prayers,
On his right side did he lie down,
And again he started dreaming,
Dreaming of two doves a-flying,
On his left arm perched a white dove,
And again he went on dreaming,
In the morning he arose and
Said his morning prayers as always,
Yet the dream he told to no one.
Then the Lord did make it evening,
And he finished his ablutions,
On his right side did he lie down,
And again he started dreaming,
Dreaming of two doves a-flying,
On his left arm perched a white dove,
On his right arm perched a black dove.
In the morn what did the sultan?


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Summoned, called the Grand Vizier,
Summoned, called the Sheh-Islami,
Summoned, called up all the imams,
Summoned, called the dream exegete.
To them he the dream narrated,
“If you can’t explain it to me,
I will have the heads chopped off you.”
“All the best, Sire,” they responded,
So the sultan did narrate it,
“This,” he said, “is what I dreamt of,
Towards me were two doves a-flying,
On my left arm perched a white dove,
On my right arm perched a black dove,
Through the air there flew black jackdaws.”
“All the best, Sire,” did they chorus,
“We will now the dream interpret,
Time’s come to invade Kosova,
And Kosova you will conquer,
But you’ll leave this life and perish.”
“May it be so,” he responded,
“I intend to go to battle.”
To his mother did he speak then:
“Mother, I am off to battle.”
“Why, dear son, for war’s depressing?
You’ve got Mecca and Medina,
You possess holy Damascus,
Which grows dates and rice and coffee.”
“Mother dear, what can I tell you?
When my mind dwells on Kosova,
I can’t get a wink of sleep and
Have no appetite for dinner.
Kosova grows wondrous wheat and
Seven dirhams weighs a kernel,
Think of all the mountain pastures,
With the flocks and shepherds roaming,
All those sheep bells clanking, ringing,
Milk and snow the shepherds relish,
Three score thirteen fountains flowing,
Think of all the peaks surrounding,
And the one called Çiçavica,
When I ponder on these things I
Almost lose my mind and reason.”
“All the best, son,” did she answer,
To all towns he sends forth criers,
Gathered full twelve thousand fighters,
“All ye who are faithful Muslims,
Gather ’round me for the battle,
If you’ve got your parents’ blessing.”
Thus he mustered all his army,
All the troops amassed before him,
Line by line he went and asked them,
“If you’ve not your parents’ blessing,
I will give you leave to go home.”
Not a man did him abandon.
When they came up to a river,
Could the army not traverse it,
All the soldiers gathered ’round him,
To the Lord a prayer he offered:
“Oh, Almighty, who are righteous,
If I am indeed the sultan,
Ford a path here through the water.”
And the Lord his prayer did answer.
Him a path cleft through the water.
Line by line the soldiers gathered,
Once again the sultan asked them:
“All those who regret their coming,
Skirt the path here through the water,
I will give them leave to go home.”
Not a single soldier gave up.
“We came with our parents’ blessing
We are ready now for battle.”
“Listen to me, all my soldiers,
If there’s anything you’ve need of,
You must come to me to get it,
I will give you all you’re lacking.
Only swear by the Almighty
That for gold you’ll not betray me,
That you’ll touch no fruits forbidden,
That you’ll touch not other men’s wives.”
All the army then responded,
Giving him their word of honour.
“All of us are men of honour,
And will touch nothing we shouldn’t,
And will nothing do forbidden,
Pious we leave on this journey.”
Then they set out for the battle,
Nowhere could their foes resist them,
They arrived in Salonika
Salonika did they conquer,
They continued on to Skopje,
Skopje also did they conquer.
When they got to Kaçanik
A soldier who’d been led astray
Did stretch his hand out, stole an apple,
Though he did not eat the apple,
And he put it in his kit-bag.
From that time went wrong the fighting,
Though for three days they did battle,
Kaçanik could not be taken.
So the sultan turned and called them,
Gathered ’round him all his army,
Hear what Sultan Murad uttered:
“Listen to me, oh my children,
All your sins do I forgive you,
Now I beg you, tell me truly,
Who has done a thing forbidden?
All your sins will I forgive you.”
One man did a step take forward,
Grabbed the apple from his kit-bag,
Gave the apple to the sultan,
“As we wandered through a garden,
I reached out and took this apple
From the man Jovan the Gardener.”
See how Sultan Murad acted:
Sultan Murad took the apple
Gave it to the Grand Vizier,
“Go and see Jovan the Gardener.”
With a guard they went together,
Gave the apple to its owner,
“Please forgive us for this apple.”
“I cannot forgive the deed for
For all the gold you wish to give me,
All the ducats you may offer,
I cannot forgive the apple,
Stick the apple where you found it
Or make me your Grand Vizier.”
To the sultan went the answer,
“You must make him your Vizier
Then he will forgive the apple.”
So the sultan made him Vizier,
And they ventured off to battle.
No one this time could resist them,
Kaçanik they took and conquered.
At Kosova’s plain they gathered,
See how Sultan Murad acted:
Raised a tent for every soldier,
Tents Kosova’s plain did cover.
How did all the kings react now?
Word they sent to one another,
“With the Turks we can’t do battle.”
They in Peja did assemble,
All to Peja then did hasten.
Always Peja has been crafty.
“Royal monarchs, listen to me,
With the Turk we can’t do battle,
For he has too many forces,
We will play a trick upon him.”
We’ll get ready thirty maidens,
We will dress them up in ducats,
In addition, give them money,
Send them to the Turkish army.
If our maidens they dishonour,
And they try to take their money,
We will then do battle with them.”
They got ready thirty maidens,
Dressed them up in golden ducats,
In addition, gave them money.
To the border did they send them,
To the Turkish camp the maids went,
Through the field camp did they wander
No one cast his eyes upon them.
Through the camp two days they wandered,
Till they’d almost died of hunger.
Word was sent to tell the sultan,
Tell the sultan of the maidens.
“Give them food, don’t take their money!”
Food they gave them, took no money.
So the maidens journeyed homewards,
Went their way back home to Peja,
When they got there, did they utter:
“No one cast an eye upon us.”
Then the kings spoke up, announcing:
We’ve decided to surrender,
With the Turks we can’t do battle.”
Millosh Kopiliqi spoke up:
“When we go to face the sultan,
I will be the first to enter,
If he offers me his right hand,
I will take it in submission,
If it is his foot he offers,
I will slay him with my dagger.”
With this did the leaders set off.
When they reached Kosova’s plain, they
Send a message to the sultan:
“We, the kings, will now surrender.”
“Let them enter,” bade the sultan,
And the way was led by Millosh.
As he entered the red tent, the
Sultan his left foot did offer,
With one hand did Millosh take it,
With the other thrust his dagger,
And the sultan fell and perished.
With their guns they shot at Millosh,
With their swords they tried to smite him,
But they could accomplish nothing,
He was clad in body armour.
Then spoke up an ancient woman:
“Lay your swords down,” did she cry out,
“For their blades will wound the hooves and
Then his steeds will fall and tumble,
He will fall and you will catch him.”
On the ground they spread their sabres
And the horse did fall and tumble,
After Millosh did they hasten,
Brandishing their swords to slay him.
“No, your swords will never wound him,”
Cried to them the ancient woman,
“In his bears the armour key hides,
With it you undo the armour,
Then his head you’ll get to chop off,”
Swiftly they removed his armour,
Got the head for chopping ready,
“Turks, I beg you, grant me respite,
On your souls may God have mercy,
For I have one son, my scion,
Want to give him all my money,
Bring that ancient woman to me,
I will tell her of the money.”
The old crone went up to see him,
By the nose he grabbed and seized her,
Flung her off away three hours.
On that spot they built a bridge, the
‘Ancient Woman’s Bridge’ they called it.
Bosnia turned Turk and with it
Everyone received a message,
Bidding them to talk in Bosnian.

 

[Recited by Mehmet Haliti from Suhogërlla near Peja. Recorded by Margaret Hasluck in 1931 and published as “An Albanian ballad on the assassination in 1389 of Sultan Murad I on Kosovo Plain” in: Gaster Anniversary Volume, in honour of Haham Dr. M. Gaster’s 80th Birthday, edited by Bruno Schindler in collaboration with A. Marmorstein (London: Taylor’s Foreign Press, 1936), p. 210-233.Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

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