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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 Seven, published in 1955





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Once the sultan had a dream that
He had conquered all Kosova,
In the morning he did rise and
Summoned all his dream exegetes.
Of the dream he then did tell them.
What replied the dream exegetes?
“It is time to give your life now.”
So the sultan called his heralds,
Loudly did the heralds utter:
“Volunteers, come, join the army,
For the sultan wants Kosova!”
Two, three men came from each household,
Seventy thousand altogether,
Like a he-goat, sultan led them,
From the rear drove Sheh Islami,
When the soldiers reached the seaside
They did hold their pace, desisting,
Waiting for the herald’s orders,
Halting there for him to lead them.
Hear now what the sultan told them:
“Listen to me, all my children,
We must stop and say a prayer here
For the ocean’s blocked our pathway.”
So they stopped and said a prayer,
And the mighty ocean parted,
O’er the sand they crossed the waters.
When they reached the other coastline,
They did hold their pace, desisting,
There the sultan did address them:


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“Take your winding-sheets for it’s
Unsure if we will get back living.
For the ocean’s path’s still open.”
Then they set off for Kosova,
Seizing lands as they surged forward,
Took and liberated Skopje.
When they got to Kaçanik they
Fought a great and heavy battle,
God caused smoke and dust to rise there,
Killed were many of his soldiers!
Then the sultan called a herald,
Loudly did the herald utter:
“Listen to me, all my children,
War is not proceeding well, have
Any of you sins committed?
Perchance pilfered any object?”
All the soldiers answered saying:
“We have taken nothing, father!”
Then a Slavic soldier spoke up:
“When in Skopje in a garden
I was thirsty from exhaustion,
I did pluck and take an apple.”
So the sultan called the gardener:
“Please forgive me for the apple!”
What was it the gardener answered?
“I’ll forgive you for the apple
Only if you make me vizier.”
Vizier he was appointed,
And the fighting then proceeded,
From the curse he did recover.
Angered sorely was the sultan,
Swore an oath there in his fury:
“Young men, old men, all the fighters,
All I’ll capture with my sabre,
I will wound them to their kneecaps,
Make them carry heavy boulders,
Shouldering the donkeys’ wood loads!”
Then the battle started over,
All the lands they liberated,
Till they finally reached Kosova.
Covered white with tents the country,
From Mramor to Gostil Javori,
Korrotica, Peshtretica,
Everywhere their tents were glowing.
Look at what the sultan did now,
He turned ’round and wrote a letter,
Sent it to the king in Serbia:
“Send the keys of seven towers,
With them send nine years of tribute,
Send them or with me do battle.”
Well received the king the letter,
Well he took it and did read it,
What misfortune for his nation,
Tears streamed down upon the missive,
And the queen saw his affliction,
“King, are you in quite a pickle?”
So the king began to tell her
And the queen responded to him:
“Everything he wants we’ll give him,
First,” she said, “comes the Almighty,
Next to him is Sultan Murat!”
Now the king was in a fury,
Swore: “I’ll never cede my country,
Never let the land be conquered!”
Seven Kings he summoned to him,
Told them all about the matter.
One then spoke up and suggested:
“Let us set off now for Peja,
Always Peja has been crafty.”
Then to Peja’s king they hastened.
“How can we resolve this matter?”
What replied the king of Peja?
“Make you ready thirty maidens,
Give them each a pan of ducats,
If the Turks touch maids or money,
We’ll have no choice but to battle.
If however they don’t touch them,
All that they want we will give them.”
Festively they clothed the maidens,
And they set off on their journey,
Went to loiter ’round the soldiers,
Three full days and nights they spent there,
What said Dylber Engjelia?
“Ali, brother!” she cried to him,
“Give us bread for we are starving,
We have ducats here to pay you.”
“I can’t give you any bread without
Permission from the sultan,
I’ve no need for all your ducats,
For this day of ours is Friday,
Like the seed the farmers scatter
Does the sultan pay our wages,
We all go and gather, waiting
In the tent to get our money.”
Father Sultan gave permission,
Gave them leave to feed the maidens.
Back to Serbia went the maidens,
With field glasses did the Seven
Kings observe the maidens coming.
“Tell us how the Turks responded!”
So the maidens did inform them:
“For three days and nights we loitered,
Not a single glance they gave us,
As with hounds they cast bread at us.”
Now the kings were in a panic,
Saying: “We’ve no force to fight them!”
Filled their glasses up with raki,
“Whom should they now drink a toast to?
Let us drink to Jugoviqi,
And to Millosh Obiliqi!”
Millosh downed his glass, replying:
“Let us go now to the sultan,
If his right foot he accords us,
We will all turn Turk before him.
If his left foot he should proffer
In his guts I’ll thrust my dagger.”
The sultan called his dream exegetes:
“Which foot should I offer to them?”
What replied those fortune tellers?
“It is time to give your life now.”
If your right foot you accord them,
To the Slavs you’ll give advantage,
If your left foot you accord them,
To the Turks you’ll give advantage.”
All the kings went to the sultan,
Went to show him their submission,
When the turn then came for Millosh,
He did thrust and plunged the dagger,
Slew the sultan, there he perished!
All the army ambushed Millosh,
But they could not catch or slay him,
He was in a coat of armour!
Off did fly the sultan’s body,
Where his guts and blood were splattered
Rose, they say, a mausoleum.
When they got to Babimofc, a
Slavic woman mourned the sultan:
“Woe to all the sultan’s soldiers,
Striking at the horse’s armour,
Not a drop of blood will fall there.”
And the soldiers understood her,
So they stopped and captured Millosh,
But could not remove the armour.
Now the mourning woman spoke:
“The keys are in his left-side whiskers.”
From those hairs they snatched the keys and
Stripped him of his coat of armour.
What did Millosh then say to them?
“Let me speak to that old woman,
For I have some goods to give her,
And a final wish to bid her.”
Up to see him crept the old crone,
Lent her ear that so he could whisper,
Thinking of the goods he’d give her.
What did Millosh do, however?
By the nose he took and seized her,
Flung her to the ground and killed her.
With their swords lunged forth the soldiers,
Struck Millosh and lopped his head off.
Millosh bent down, grabbed his head and
Ran off in a rush, escaping.
When he got to Gryka e Llapit,
There, two maidens saw him standing:
“Look, a headless man!” they hollered.
“Headless I, may you be eyeless!”
To the ground did fall their eyeballs!
There, a Slavic woman uttered:
“If you want to revive Millosh,
Build a church here in the evening,
Have it by the morn completed!”
So the workers started building,
Readied the foundations for it.
In their midst appeared a serpent,
Blocked the work and would not let them
Finish with the church construction,
Causing thus the death of Millosh!
Bajraktars and sandjak beys both
Prayed that God the earth might open,
Bury in it those two maidens,
So the soldiers would not slay them!
And the earth was cleft asunder,
In it were the two maids buried,
Now two mausoleums stand there!

 

[Recorded in Rahovec in 1955. From Këngë popullore historike, vol. 1, No. 4, Prishtina: Instituti Albanologik 2007, p. 66-72. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

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