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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Verse


  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 Four, published in 1952 by Anton Çetta







Once there was a Sultan Murat,
Off to bed he went for sleeping,
In the night the sultan dreamt that
On his shoulder perched two eagles,
Settled down on his right shoulder.
In the morning rose the sultan,
Well performed he his ablutions,
And he said his morning prayers.
Called to him his dream exegetes,
To the sultan came those fellows.
“Father Sultan, why’ve you called us?”
“Hope, my sons, it’s a good omen,
Last night I did have a dream and
Hope it portends well, by Allah,
On my shoulder perched two eagles.”
Hear now what the exegetes said
To explain it to the sultan:
“Father, you must seize Kosova.”
Hear what Sultan Murat did then.
All his Tatars he did summon,
All the Tatars came before him.
“Greetings, Father of all Turkdom,
Why the summons, where’s our error?”
“God protect you, oh my children.”
To them he did give some letters,
“Take one, lads, to Sheh Islami,
Take one to the Grand Vizier,
Take one to the Saracen, too!”
Thus they took to them the letters,


















































To their feet arose the nobles,
Well they read the sultan’s letters,
Gathered, mustered all the army.
Endless rows of soldiers lined up
Like the grass and like the forests.
Then the sultan did ablutions,
Taking out the Holy Banner,
He came to inspect his soldiers,
Led the multitude in worship,
All the soldiers lay prostrated.
“All to arms!” the sultan ordered.
Like a dove the sultan led them,
Off they hastened to the seaside,
To the brim was full the ocean,
Then the sultan turned to Allah:
“One and only, hear me Allah,
Open up the sea before me,
Let me pass through with my soldiers.”
Lo, and the request was granted,
Swiftly did recede the ocean,
O’er dry land the army journeyed.
To his men the sultan shouted:
“Listen to me, oh my soldiers,
Should a man regret his coming,
Go back now, the sea’s still open.”
Answering, the army cried out:
“None of us regret our coming.”
To Salonica advancing,
They surrounded and besieged it,
Heavy was the battle ’round it,
Not a force could stop the sultan,
Seven days and nights they battled,
And the sultan took the city,
Added it to his dominions.
Then the sultan set on Skopje,
They surrounded and besieged it,
Heavy was the battle ’round it,
Not a force could stop the sultan,
Seven days and nights they battled,
And the sultan took the city,
Added it to his dominions.
Then he did attack Kaçanik,
They surrounded and besieged it,
Heavy was the battle ’round it,
But the sultan was defeated,
All in disarray the army.
Then the sultan heard a rumour,
Swiftly did he halt the battle,
So the sultan called his buglers,
To the sultan went the buglers,
“Sound your horns, recall the army!”
And the buglers played their trumpets,
Thus recalling all the army,
All the soldiers thus were summoned.
Angrily the sultan scolded:
“You’re defeated and withdrawing,
Many soldiers have been slaughtered,
Sheh Islami and his son died,
With his nephew the Vizier,
Who among you’s sin committed?
Let him step aside and tell me.”
All the army to him chorused:
“Of no sin do we have knowledge.”
Then one soldier rose and spoke up:
“I did stray and sin in Skopje,
Stole an apple from a garden,
Have it with me, didn’t eat it.”
Swiftly did they seize and grab him,
Then the sultan called his horsemen,
To the sultan went the horsemen,
“Set off now and ride to Skopje,
Take this apple to the gardener,
Send the man my warmest greetings,
Ask him to forgive the apple,
Beg the fellow for forgiveness.”
To the gardener did the horsemen
Ride off and arrived in Skopje,
“Warmest greetings from the sultan,
Please forgive him for this apple.”
To his feet arose the gardener,
“Let the sultan make me vizier!”
To the sultan went the horsemen,
Journeyed and reported to him:
“He’ll only forgive the apple
If you make him your vizier.”
Well the sultan sent his answer,
Made the fellow his vizier.
Then he laid siege to Kaçanik,
For three days and nights they battled,
In a fury was the sultan,
And he firmly swore by Allah:
“Either they change their religion,
Or I’ll put them to the sabre!”
Great was the ensuing battle,
Many died, the earth was quaking,
Blood and rain did flow united,
Loads of wood the mules transported,
Wheat was brought in, seven okas.
Kaçanik was seized and taken,
Added to the sultan’s holdings.
Ferizoviq they assaulted,
They surrounded and besieged it,
Heavy was the battle ’round it,
For two days and nights they skirmished,
Not a force could stop the sultan,
Ferizoviq then was conquered,
Added to the sultan’s holdings.
Then the sultan to Kosova
Went, with white tents did he fill it,
From Mashrik to Magrip were his
Tents erected in the landscape.
This was to be his dominion.
Then they all laid down and rested.
To the king he wrote a letter,
Sent the letter off to Millosh:
“Send the keys of seven towers,
With them, seven years of tribute,
Or if you prefer, do battle.”
Millosh did receive the letter,
Well he took it and did read it,
Tears all down his cheeks were streaming.
Millosh’s wife Llatinka asked him:
“What’s the matter, why the weeping?”
“Llatinka, doom will fall upon us,
To Kosova’s come the sultan,
With his tents he’s paved the country!”
To his feet arose then Millosh,
Made his saddle mare all ready,
Millosh leapt into the saddle,
Off to Peja did he hasten,
Where the six kings all had gathered,
To the kings he said, proclaiming:
“To Kosova’s come the sultan,
With his tents he’s paved the country.”
In Sarajevo was the greatest
King, to him they sent a letter:
“To Kosova’s come the sultan
With his tents he’s paved the country.”
But the king of Bosnia would not
Help them and gave them no answer.
He ’gainst Peja’s king was pitted.
Off to Çiçavica went the
Six kings, peered into their field glass,
Saw the tents throughout the country,
Now they were convinced by Millosh.
Hear what Millosh uttered to them:
“What do you intend to do, kings?
I’ll submit to his religion.”
What then said the king of Peja?
“Empty words you’ve spoken, Millosh!”
Millosh now was sorely angered,
For that king was always plotting.
“Make you ready thirty maidens,
Dress them up as for a feast day,
Give them thirty pans of ducats,
Send them to the sultan’s army,
Let them linger with the troops and
Let us hope the goods are stolen.
Let us hope the girls are ravaged,
Then I will make war upon them.”
So the maids went to the army,
But the watch guards stopped their entry,
To the sultan did they send a
Message and informed him, saying:
“Thirty maidens have arrived here,
Should we, sultan, let them enter?”
To the guards replied the sultan:
“Let the maidens enter freely!”
Through the camp the maidens wandered,
No one laid his eyes upon them,
No one snatched their ducats from them,
Till they almost died of hunger,
They approached baker Illia,
Hear now what they told Illia:
“We are stuck in quite a pickle,
Won’t you deign to take our money?
We are dying here of hunger.”
Hark to what Illia told them:
“This is not the day, oh sisters,”
Then he sent word to the sultan,
“Should I give bread to the maidens?”
To Illia said the sultan:
“Give for free whate’er they long for!”
Food galore the maidens gobbled,
To the kings returned the maidens.
Told the kings of what had happened:
“All our duties we accomplished!”
To his feet then leapt up Millosh,
Fetched himself a suit of armour,
Decked in armour, too, his courser,
Well did Millosh mount the courser,
With his troops rode to the sultan,
But the watch guards stopped their entry,
Sent a message to the sultan:
“Should we, sultan, let them enter?”
To the guards replied the sultan:
“Let that Millosh in to see me.”
What did Murat ask his courtiers:
“Should I give my right hand to him?
Or my left foot should I offer?”
“Father, give your left foot to him
As for infidels is custom.”
Millosh they did now bid enter,
Millosh thus approached the sultan,
And was given Murat’s left foot.
With one hand he touched the foot and
With the other drew his dagger,
On the ground spilled guts and liver,
In a day expired the sultan,
Perished, and his spirit left him.
To an end did come the battle,
Not one man could stop brave Millosh,
Shot their rifles, could not hit him,
Brandished sabres, could not slay him.
Then spoke an old Slavic woman:
“Curse upon you, sultan’s soldiers,
Don’t you see how you can catch him?
Lay down all your arms and sabres!”
Sabres sliced the horse’s ankles,
To the ground did fall the courser,
Living did they capture Millosh,
Tried to shoot him, nothing hit him,
Tried their sabres, couldn’t slash him.
Hear now what the woman told them:
“Seven woodpiles must you kindle,
In the pit of fire cast Millosh.”
Hear now to how Millosh begged them:
“Please have mercy, sultan’s soldiers,
Bring to me that Slavic woman,
For I’ve packed much money with me
And I want to give it to her!”
To him did they drag the woman,
With his teeth did Millosh bite her,
Then they took their swords to Millosh,
Lopped his head off, which went flying,
To Magrip did Millosh wander,
Where a girl and mother saw him:
Look, a headless man there, mother!”
“Headless I, may you be eyeless!”
Thereupon collapsed poor Millosh.


[Recited by Rrustem A. Kabashi from Polac in Drenica. Published in: Vojislav Dančetović, Anton Çetta & Kadri Halimi (ed.): Kangë popullore shqiptare të Kosovës-Metohis. Bleni i dytë. Prishtina: Mustafa Bakija, 1952, p. 15-21. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]