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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 Six, recorded in 1954







Once there was a Sultan Murat,
Well performed he his ablutions,
And he said his evening prayers,
Then to bed did go the sultan,
Fell asleep and started dreaming,
As he slept, he had a nightmare
That disturbed the sultan greatly:
“Lo, the moon fell in the water,
All the stars to earth did plummet,
And the sun, by God, stopped moving!
Go and summon my advisors,
Gather ’round me all the learned,
Go and call forth the vizier,
Summon too the Sheh Islami,
Tell your sultan what the dream meant.”
’mongst them was a young advisor,
Who divined the sultan’s nightmare.
“‘And the moon fell in the water,’
This portends great fighting, sultan.
‘All the stars to earth did plummet,’
Many fighters will fall victim,
And the sun up in the heavens,
You yourself, sultan, will perish,
For you’re going to take Kosova,
You’ll need full twelve-thousand soldiers!”
It was on a Friday that the
Sultan to the mosque proceeded,
There he summoned all his heralds,
And he gathered all his soldiers,
















Full twelve thousand men he mustered.
Out before them came the sultan:
“Listen to me, oh my children!
If you’ve any qualms at dying,
If you here regret your coming,
To your homes you may return now!”
“Father, we’ve no qualms at dying,
For we wish to die as martyrs!”
Then the sultan did approach them,
Gave each man a shroud to carry,
Said a final prayer for each one.
So the army set off marching,
Moving ’til it reached the seaside.
Father Sultan said a sura
And, behold, the sea did open,
All the soldiers crossed it safely!
To his men then spoke the sultan:
“Listen to me, oh my children!
If you’ve any qualms at dying,
Go back now, the sea’s still open,
No returning once it closes!”
“We have no regrets, oh father,
For we wish to die as martyrs,
For we want to take Kosova!”
Then the army started forward,
Off to war the sultan sent it.
First of all it moved on Peja,
Twelve full days and nights besieged it,
Firing full with guns and cannons,
’til it snared and captured Peja.
Thence it marched upon Kosova,
Twelve full days and nights besieged it,
Firing full with guns and rifles,
Yet Kosova was not conquered!
Much afflicted was the sultan,
Came out to address the soldiers:
“Listen to me, oh my children,
Have you eaten things forbidden,
Have you any sin committed,
For our war is not succeeding?”
“We have eaten naught forbidden,
Father, we’ve no sin committed.”
At a distance crouched one soldier,
Who no doubt was up to something!
So the sultan then approached him:
“Listen to me well, my youngster,
Is there something you repent, lad?
Have you eaten things forbidden?”
“I have no repentance, father,
I have eaten naught forbidden,
In my bag, however, I’ve an
Apple, I’m the one who plucked it.”
“Tell me, lad, where did you get it?
You must now return the apple
And must pay the price to buy it.”
To the Slav the soldier took it,
“How much money for this apple?”
“Give me nine mules heavy laden
All with gold and I’ll forgive you!”
So nine mules of gold he sent him,
And the deed was thus forgiven.
Once again resumed the fighting,
Twelve full days and nights they battled,
Firing full with guns and cannons,
’til they finally took Kosova.
And the sultan died a martyr!


[Recorded in Karaçeva near Kamenica in 1954. From Këngë popullore historike, vol. 1, No. 5, Prishtina: Instituti Albanologik 2007, p. 73-75. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]