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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 Three, recorded in 1937 by Albert Lord





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When the sultan went to bed he
Fell asleep and dreamt that he had
Sent the army to Kosova,
War upon his foes declaring,
Chieftains of the sanjak perished,
Sheh Islami fell in battle,
With his son did die the Vizier,
Also lost were many soldiers.
From his sleep awoke the sultan
In the morning after dreaming,
Called the imam to be summoned,
Sent the vizier out to fetch him.
Of his dream the sultan told them,
At the sultan frowned the imam,
To his feet arose the vizier,
To the sultan they explained he’d
Have no gain without Kosova,
In the dream God had revealed where
Sultan Murat was to venture.
Sultan Murat called the people
To invite them to a meeting,
Three weeks did the sultan give the
Poor to get their footwear ready,
Those who had none, would receive some.
Those at home who had their rifles
Were to take their weapons with them,
Those who had none, would receive some.
Those with white beans in their households
Were to bring them on the journey,


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Those who had none, would receive some.
“In three weeks we meet in Bursa!”
All of Turkey was made ready,
In three weeks they met in Bursa.
Then the sultan waved the banner,
Showing he was on the warpath
And was marching on Kosova.
When the sultan reached the seaside,
What was it the sultan did there?
He announced this with his criers:
“Any who regret their coming,
Those who have no means or clothing,
Let them go back to their households,
For I do not want them with me.”
Very few men turned and left him.
At that time were no boats present,
To the ocean prayed the sultan
And the Lord did part the waters.
Through the ocean crossed the army.
When they reached the other side he
Called the army with his criers:
“Any who regret their coming,
Those who have no means or clothing,
Let them go back to their households,
For the seaway is still open.”
Not a single man forsook him.
At his prayer, the waters closed in
And he set off for Kosova.
When the sultan got to Skopje,
With his foes did he do battle,
Chieftains of the sanjak perished,
Sheh Islami fell in battle,
With his son did die the Vizier,
Also lost were many soldiers.
Pained and worried was the sultan,
Swore a mighty oath proclaiming
On his father’s wealth he’d struggle
With the foe, forever fighting.
Then he called on his commanders,
Sent them off in all directions
Battling, sparing not their brothers.
War began in all directions.
When an hour’s fighting finished,
Rifles, cannons all fell silent,
With their bayonets they slaughtered,
Three days and three nights continued,
Scimitars were e’er a-slashing.
When three days and nights were over
Had the sultan won a victory,
God defeated his opponents.
Blood did cover all the country,
God brought rain upon Kosova,
Gore and rain did mix and mingle,
Making all the springs and fountains
Gush with blood throughout Kosova.
Flooding scarlet all the country.
Sanguine was his father’s sabre.
On the spot the sultan ordered
That the troops invade Kosova.
When the army got to Golesh,
Parched and arid was Kosova,
Thirst did fall upon the army.
What did Sultan Murat do then?
With his boots he kicked a cherry
Tree and Allah gave them water,
To its fill did drink the army.
Then the sultan with a letter
Wrote to Millosh Kopiliqi:
“Send the keys to all your castles
And nine years of tribute pay me.
If not, by the Holy Prophet,
I will ne’er desist in fighting,
Leave you nowhere in this country.”
To Millosh he sent the letter,
Millosh got it and did read it,
Fright and anguish seized poor Millosh,
Forced to give up all his castles,
Forced to pay nine years of tribute.
Millosh now was in a panic,
No way could he stop that power.
Then the queen, his wife, did enter,
“Why the crying?” she did ask him.
“Twenty years we’ve been together,
You’ve received all sorts of letters,
Never have I seen you like this.”
Millosh to the queen responded:
“I have never got a letter
Such as this one from the sultan,
Who’s demanding all the castles,
Calling for nine years of tribute,
By the Holy Prophet swearing
If the keys should not be rendered
That he’ll e’er do battle with me.
I am angry and frustrated
That I have no men to halt him.”
Boldly did the queen give answer:
“Send the keys,” she bade her Millosh,
“Give the tribute to the sultan,
Of the whole world he’s the father,
Hand him all the keys he asks for,
All the tribute he’s requesting.”
What said Avrame Begolli?
“Don’t be in a rush to do this,
Hold back with the keys and tribute,
Let us play a trick upon him.
I’ll select some thirty maidens,
Giving each a pan of ducats.
Send the maidens to Kosova,
To the Turkish hordes unknowing.
If the Turks should tease the maidens,
If the Turks should seize their money,
Then the sultan’s just pretending
And we’ll know he can’t defeat us.
If they do not tease the maidens,
If they do not seize their money,
Then the sultan is not fooling,
We must give up all our castles,
Pay him full nine years of tribute,
We’ve no choice but to surrender.”
He selected thirty maidens,
Giving each a pan of ducats.
To Kosova went the maidens,
Loitered ’mongst the Turkish army,
For three days and nights they lingered,
Not a Turkish soldier touched them,
No one took their money from them.
They were almost dead of hunger,
To Vuçitërn fled the maidens,
Went to visit Gjok the Baker:
“Have you got some bread to give us,
For we’re almost dead of hunger?
We can pay you back with ducats.”
What did Gjok the Baker tell them?
“All the bread you want I’ll give you
But I will not take your money.
Since the sultan’s in Kosova,
Bread a-plenty has God granted,
God’s bestowed on us much money,
Never do we thirst for water,
For the Lord has furnished water,
All the food we want he’s given.”
Gjok took not a single penny.
To Millosh returned the maidens,
Told to Millosh what had happened,
“For three days and nights we stayed there,
Loitered ’mongst the sultan’s army,
Not a single Turk addressed us,
Not a Turk did take our money.”
What did Millosh Kopiliqi?
All the people did he summon,
For three days and nights did fête them,
But determined no solution
For the sultan would destroy them.
With his folk Millosh decided:
“I will go to Sultan Murat,
If his hand he offers to me,
I’ll convert and be a Muslim,
We will all turn Turk and join him.
If his hand he should deny me,
I will slay him with my dagger.”
Millosh dressed up in his armour,
Dressed in armour, too, his stallion,
Millosh then did mount his stallion,
Set off, racing to Kosova
To give answer to the sultan.
Forth rode Millosh Kopiliqi,
All the while the sultan brooded:
“Seeing Millosh Kopiliqi,
Should I give my foot or rather
Should I give my hand to Millosh?”
To the sultan spoke a trickster:
“Why not give your foot to Millosh?”
Thus did he convince the sultan.
With this said did Millosh turn up,
At the tent slid off his stallion,
Through the flap strode to the sultan,
Unmoved stood Murat before him,
Stretched his foot to give to Millosh.
What bad luck did suffer Millosh,
Standing there, he drew his dagger,
Thrust it in the sultan’s stomach,
On the spot the sultan perished.
Millosh Kopiliqi ran out,
Jumped forthwith onto his stallion.
Now Millosh began to battle,
All the soldiers did surround him,
Drew their guns but couldn’t shoot him,
Drew their swords but couldn’t slay him,
As he tried to flee the soldiers.
Did an ancient Slavic woman
Shout unto the sultan’s army:
“This way you’ll not capture Millosh,
Throw your sickles at the stallion,
Let the hooves be slashed to pieces,
For you must remove the armour.”
Swiftly did they find their sickles,
Threw their sickles at the stallion,
Slashed the four hooves of the courser,
To the ground did fall the stallion,
Thus the soldiers captured Millosh,
Then they got the armour off, but
When they sought then to behead him,
Millosh spoke up and did utter:
“I’ve a final wish to give you,
Bring to me that Slavic woman,
For I’ve something I must tell her.”
Swiftly did they bring the woman.
What did Millosh whisper to her?
“Come, old woman of Kosova!”
Near his ear the woman ventured,
In the nose did Millosh gnash her,
Half a furlong did he fling her.
There the ancient woman perished.
Then they chopped the head off Millosh,
Sent the news to Sultan Mehmet
Of the death of Sultan Murat.
Sultan Mehmet rose and set off,
Marching forthwith to Kosova,
Taking all his army with him.
What did Sultan Mehmet do then?
Built a bridge to that old woman,
Ancient Woman’s Bridge they named it.

 

[Recited by Ali Meta from Isniq near Peja. Recorded in Tropoja/Krasniqi on 22 September 1937 by Albert Lord. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

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