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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Verse


  Webdesign J. Groß

Songs of the Frontier Warriors

INTRODUCTION  8. Mujo’s Courser 16. Mujo and Jevrenija
 1. Mujo’s Strength  9. Young Omeri 17. Halili Avenges Mujo
 2. Marriage of Mujo 10. Zuku Bajraktar 18. Omer, Son of Mujo
 3. Mujo’s Oras 11. Osmani and Radoica 19. Death of Omer
 4. Mujo Visits the Sultan 12. Ali Bajraktari 20. Ajkuna Mourns Omer
 5. Marriage of Halili 13. Arnaut Osmani 21. Death of Halili
 6. Gjergj Elez Alia 14. Zuku Captures Rusha 22. Mujo Wounded
 7. Mujo and Behuri 15. Mujo’s Wife Kidnapped 23. After Mujo’s Death

The Marriage of Halili

The Agas ask Mujo why his brother Halili is not married. Halili protests that he will have no one but Tanusha, the daughter of the king of the Christians, whom he met during a truce. When the snows melt, Halili sets off for the Realm of the Christians. On his journey, a mountain ora shows him some tents at a riverbank. Halili steals into one of the tents and encounters Tanusha. In order to escape with him, Tanusha dresses Halili up as a maiden. The king and his cortege then set out for New Kotor, taking Tanusha and the disguised Halili with them. In the meantime, the queen has had a nightmare of a black wolf among the sheep and insists on going to visit her daughter, now in a fortress by the seaside. Halili is discovered and captured and Tanusha is thrown out onto the streets. With the help of Jovan, however, she manages to send Mujo a message. Mujo and the Agas arrive in New Kotor and save young Halili from the stake.








































































































































May you be blessed, oh our God Almighty!
The sun it shone forth but wan warmth did it offer,
The wind it whistled through Jutbina’s plane trees,
Heavily weighed the deep snow on the beech trees,
Bending them down as if breaking their branches.
Only the tips could be seen of the spruces,
To the echo of snowslides resounded the valleys,
Snowslides which plummeted into the chasms.
Down to the river the maids drove the cattle,
But the river was frozen, with ice it was covered,
On to the springs did the maids drive the cattle,
But the springs they were frozen, in hoarfrost were covered.
To one another they turned and lamented:
“By the time God has melted the ice and has freed them,
Our cattle, I fear, will have perished and left us.
But look over there, there are travellers coming,
As gentlemen dressed in fine footwear and garments!
Are they perchance fighters now out on an exploit,
Returning back down from the snow-covered passes?”
Jera then turned and did speak to them, saying:
“They’ve surely not come as our wedding attendants,
For the nymphs have departed, plunged into the river.
Mujo has set out with all of his kreshniks,
Off to the mountains, for game he is looking.”
But what, in the name of the Lord, has now happened?
How swiftly the clouds have now hidden the sunshine!
How swiftly they’ve spread, like a shroud have extended!
Veiling and blocking the peaks all around them.
Just as the warriors got to the river,
A gale wind blew over the powdery snowdrifts,
The warriors in them lost sight of their fellows,
The heroes were frozen, their bodies were rigid,
But down at the river they saw Mujo’s kulla,
Mujo invited them in to have dinner,
Warmly Gjeto Basho Mujo received them:
He threw on the fire a huge armful of kindling,
Enough there to warm up the three hundred heroes.
Then did the warrior bring out the barrels,
Then did the warrior bring out the wine kegs,
Barrels he served them replete with strong raki,
Kegs, too, he opened, with wine they were brimming.
How soon did the men all recover their breathing,
How soon did it warm up the blood of the fighters.
At once they all started to talk and to chatter,
With joking and laughter the fighters made merry.
The warriors then turned to Mujo and asked him:
“We’ve come here to visit as guests in your household,
Do not be offended by what we now ask you,
We beg of you, Mujo, in God’s name to tell us,
Why’ve you not found a fine bride for Halili?
All of the rest of his peers have now married.
On them the Lord has bestowed sons and daughters,
Out and about are their sons, making merry.
Is it the cost of the wedding you shy from?
Are you afraid of the work of a wedding?
We fear for the lad, for they’ll lead him astray,
He’s often been seen on his way to New Kotor
And sooner or later they’ll take him still living,
Your household will certainly still have descendants,
But, Mujo, our tribe, it will suffer dishonour.”
Retaining his calm then, the hero responded:
“Be of good cheer now, my fellow companions,
It’s a problem indeed that I have well considered,
The cost of a banquet is of no concern to me,
Nor do I fear all the work of a wedding.
Who, oh my good friends, would shrink from the burden?
Who would refuse his own brother a wedding?
He’s no petty thief after all, my companions,
He is, and you know him, full well a fine hero.
But should he perchance bring on us dishonour,
Then let the Lord snuff out his portion of sunlight.
And should he cause shame, distress to our tribesmen,
May storm clouds gather and strike him with lightning
And the earth where he lies, out of his grave then spew him.”
Swearing by God, the young man protested:
“All of you here are my brothers and sisters,
I’d rather perish than have to get married
For all of the women here in the krahina,
All of the girls to be found in Jutbina,
All of these women to me are like sisters.
May the earth cover me over unmarried
Unless I can wed the king’s daughter, Tanusha.
For I by myself caught a glimpse of Tanusha
During our truce with the Realm of the Christians,
No man has ever beheld such a vision,
The brows of her eyes are as straight as tree branches,
The line in her forehead’s a path up the mountain
Lit by the bright golden beams of the moonlight,
Both of her eyes are like ripening cherries,
Her eyelids resemble the wings of a swallow,
Her face, when she blushes, is like a red apple,
Her nose is as straight as a rifle by Tusha,
Her mouth which is small is a blossoming flower,
Her teeth are as white as the rocks in the river
Just after rainfall when sun begins shining,
The nape of her neck, oh, a dove’s does resemble,
Her figure is slender as that of a spruce tree,
The skin of her hand is as sleek as is boxwood,”
Carried away with himself, he continues.
With a hand on his mouth, Mujo puts him to silence.
All the more now is the young man indignant:
“Leave me alone, for I speak now or never.”
“We’ll have our word, Mujo, one after the other,”
Cried out Basho Jona, the grand aged hero,
“I don’t have a bride for not being able,
I don’t have a bride for not having money,
I don’t have a bride for not having found one,
It’s simply that I did not want to get married!”
“Listen, oh young man, to what I advise you,”
Responded the hero, the old Osman Aga,
“Tomorrow we’re holding a great celebration,
Tomorrow the thirty Agas will take counsel,
And thirty maidens for you they will gather,
You will select there the fairest among them,
And the thirty Agas will wish you good fortune.”
The young man protests, interrupts Osman Aga,
“May God strike you down, oh Agas of Jutbina!
Where between heaven and earth has it happened
That a man should e’er take for his bride his own sister?
For all of the girls to be found in Jutbina,
All of these women to me are like sisters.
I swear to you now as I stand here before you,
I swear to you now in the name of the great Lord,
To the Blessed One who makes the rain and clear skies,
To the one who holds sway over earth and the heavens,
That I’ll only marry the earth and a tombstone
If I cannot have from the Realm my Tanusha,
Mark you my words, oh Agas of Jutbina!
Wait may I until the night of my funeral,
But in the krahina I never shall marry!
A curse be upon you, oh high mountain pastures,
For making impassable all of the pathways
For me to cross into the Realm of the Christians,
A trick I would use, if I had but the power,
And cause the high seas to flood over the passes,
And with it would dissipate all of the snowdrifts,
So I could cross over and wed my beloved.”
His friends and companions all burst into laughter,
And called him the ‘steer of Kotor’ in their teasing,
A young boy who’d never shown proof of his valour.
But how well the high mountain pastures did hearken,
How swiftly the ocean did heed the boy’s curses,
And sent forth a windstorm up into the mountains,
Up to the high pastures it sent a sirocco,
Covering everything in sombre rain clouds,
Snowslides did plummet down into the chasms,
And once more, as always, the mountains resounded,
For three full days, and it lasted no longer,
The snow was now gone, melted into the river,
For three full weeks, and it lasted no longer,
And what did the river now do with the snowfall?
The snow from the mountains it drowned in the ocean.
May you be blessed, oh our God Almighty!
The nightingales warble now up in the mountains,
Children are playing in all of the valleys,
Quick, let us go to the high mountain pastures,
For the beech forests have burst into blossom,
Now the young man turned to Mujo, requesting:
“Mujo, my brother, do lend me your courser!”
But Mujo refused to accede to his brother,
So Halili mounted his own horse and, turning,
Set off by himself to recover Tanusha.
Mujo then harked to the words of their mother,
With what words of wisdom did she now address him:
“Oh dear son of mine, what have you accomplished
By refusing to give to your brother the courser?
Should the boy ever meet with misfortune or danger,
Should something occur in the Realm of the Christians,
For the rest of your life you will always regret it.”
Mujo looked back on the spur of the moment,
“Stop, oh Halili,” he cried to his brother,
Mujo approached and then gave him his courser,
And with it he proffered a piece of good counsel,
“I wish you, to start with, good journey, my brother,
When you cross into the Realm of the Christians,
Let the steed choose on its own the direction,
The courser will take you to Vukë Harambashi,
The Vukë Harambashi who is my blood brother,
Give him my thanks, tell him Mujo has sent you,
Tell him, ‘Oh brother, I need your assistance,
I need your assistance with money and weapons,
I need you to help me win over Tanusha.’”
The young man then mounted the back of the courser,
“May you be well,” and took leave of him Mujo,
Set off on the road of the Realm of the Christians,
Nobody saw him for more than an instant,
On through the mountains and valleys he journeyed,
Though desolate places and through the beech forests,
He journeyed by daytime, he journeyed by nighttime,
And nowhere did he come across other people,
The sun now proclaimed:”He is under my aegis,”
The moon now proclaimed:”He is under my aegis,”
The oras proclaimed:”He is under our aegis,”
Even a goat cried, oh Lord, in the mountains,
Yes, ‘twas a goat that spoke out in the mountains,
And what did the goat in the mountains then utter?
“As long as it’s daytime, the sun will protect him,
And during the nighttime the moon will protect him,
The arms in his belt will be watched by the zanas!”
But then something moved, caused Halili to tremble,
“What is that voice I can hear in the bushes?
Are goats in the mountains now able to speak out?”
“We are much more than mere goats in the mountains,
We’re a trio of wild goats, the cliffs we inhabit,
And on them together we live with the zanas.”
So how was it then that the young man responded?
“It’s good that I’ve come to the home of the zanas,
For confidence do I have in your assertion,
As to my two eyes, the sun will protect them,
As to my two legs, the moon will protect them,
And my weapons’ honour belongs to the zanas,
And, when I die, will the oras be with me.”
Onwards he climbed to the high mountain pastures
And there he espied such a broad flowing river,
From ocean to ocean it stretched, the long river,
Out on the river there lay a thick fog bank,
He led forth his courser to drink of the water,
But the animal quivered and moved three steps backwards,
For there at the foot of the cliff was a being.
An ora looked at him and asked him a question:
“Where are you going, lad, where are you off to?”
The young man then turned to the ora and answered:
“I’m on my way to the Realm of the Christians,
There to encounter one Vukë Harambashi.”
The mountain ora then burst into laughter,
The young man himself was perplexed and did wonder
What kind of being was standing before him.
The ora turned now and began to inform him,
“Listen to what I am saying, oh young man,
I know very well the direction you’ve come from,
I’ve been observing you in the Green Valleys
And cherishing you as I would my own eyesight,
Day and night was I there so to protect you,
Just like your shadow, I stood right behind you,
Vukë Harambashi you’ll never encounter
For the Realm of the Christians he’s long since departed,
But come over here, young man, in my direction,
Can you distinguish the broad flowing river?
The Danube’s the name that they give to the river,
On yonder bank have a look, fix your eyesight,
Cast your eyes over there into the shadows,
The white encampment, can you perceive it?
And in its midst see the scarlet pavilion?
Set out now, and give free rein to your courser
And right to the princess the courser will take you.”
The ora was gone, vanished into the mountains,
The young man continued his ride to the flat land,
The golden rays of the sun were now setting.
The day was now spent, there was everywhere darkness.
May you be blessed, oh our God Almighty!
You who have granted us daylight to work in,
You who have granted us nighttime to rest in,
“But where is the moon, and why’s it not out yet?”
The nightingales up in the mountains did wonder.
“Listen, oh birds of the mountains, be patient,
You have but one duty, and that is to warble,
The moon for its part is tonight very busy,
For it has the duty, the task to protect him,”
Responded the goats on the cliffs in the mountains.
The young man arrived at the bank of the river
And tied up his steed in the midst of a thicket,
In the midst of a thicket, a grove of young beech trees,
He then went in search of the tents in the twilight,
And when he discovered the scarlet pavilion,
The young man stood back and did ponder a moment
And behind an oak tree he took up position,
The roots of the oak tree spread down to the river,
After some time he grew weary of waiting,
What were his thoughts then and what did he utter?
“Oh hour of midnight, you take your time coming!”
When God finally put forth the hour to midnight,
The young man advanced both with skill and with cunning,
He drew his sharp dagger from out of its holder,
Towards the pavilion he crawled now on all fours,
There he cut into a piece of the canvas
And through it his hand stretched to feel what was inside,
Here the young man made a most serious error,
For groping about, touched his hand on a forehead,
And the forehead he touched was of the king’s daughter.
Dazed, a vociferous cry she did utter,
And startled, sat up in her bed, now awakened.
Three hundred handmaids, on hearing her, gathered,
And asked of Tanusha whate’er was the matter,
A scream of such strength they had never heard from her.
Gently she turned to her handmaidens, saying:
“You may go back to your beds, my companions,
I had a dream of a vampire approaching
And woke from my sleep, I was trembling and shaking.”
The maidens sashayed on the spot to their chambers,
The girl went to bed to resume her sweet slumber
When beside her a ring did roll over the floorboards.
Tanusha rose swiftly and stood there bedazzled,
The face of the young man now seeing before her,
“This face, oh my God, where on earth have I seen it?
It reminds me alone of the face of Halili.”
The boy couldn’t hold back his tongue any longer,
“Oh God Almighty,” he said to Tanusha,
“Are you a person who will not betray me?”
“How could you say such a thing to me, young man?
But how did you trespass into my pavilion?
Even with three hundred souls in your body,
You will not survive, you’ll see no more daylight,
Come into the tent, boy,” insisted the maiden,
“For either this moment we’ll perish together,
Or otherwise will we both find our salvation.”
But the young man was not to be pressed and did tarry.
“Wait but a moment,” he said to the maiden,
And then from its sheath did he draw forth his scabbard
And, lying in wait at the path by the entrance,
He looked all around him and studied the courtyard,
But no sign of life, no one there could he make out,
Then did the young man return to the chamber,
The maid grasped his hand and she led forth Halili,
Without hesitation a room they did enter,
There the trousseau of the maiden was spread out,
There she selected the best of her costumes,
All of them shimmering, the gold-threaded garments,
She laid them out, showed them off to Halili,
“Be quick now, Halili, and put on the garments,
Because if they find you as such in the morning,
The king will command that the two of us perish.”
The boy was transformed and looked now like a maiden,
Then came forth the daylight which scattered the darkness
And faintly appeared now the first rays of sunshine.
What are the maids of the king, oh Lord, up to,
Why have they risen from slumber so early?
Wool they are piling as much as they’re able,
And, burdened, they carry it down to the river,
Spreading it there on the rocks and the boulders,
On the rocks and the boulders the maids do their washing,
Sometimes they’re scrubbing and sometimes they’re singing,
Tanusha appears at the bank of the river,
Hand in hand with her another girl follows,
They take up their place at the rocks by the river,
The other maids turn and of her do inquire:
“May we inquire of you, oh Earthly Beauty,
Who is the maiden whose hand you are holding,
Whose outward appearance is fairer that ours is?
Her eyes do resemble the eyes of a zana,
Her brow is like that of the man in the moon,
Her figure is that of a pine in the mountains,
None of us under the sun do look like her.”
“How can you say that, oh three hundred maidens,
There is nothing on earth which is lacking an equal.
This maiden, it turns out, is poor and unlucky,
Promised she’s been to the Pasha of Dumlika
But it’s her trousseau, her dowry, that’s missing,
Her father is dead and lies under his gravestone,
Her mother, who wanders the streets, is a pauper,
For this she has come to my father’s royal palace
To see if there’s anything he could accord her,
Now go back to your washing,” responded Tanusha,
“Wash all of your woollens in silence, no gossip.”
None of the maidens asked any more questions,
But washed all the wool at the rocks by the river,
Some of them scrubbed, while the others lamented.
May you be blessed, oh our God Almighty!
What is the queen getting up to in Kotor?
For she has suffered a terrible nightmare.
She dreamt of a great herd of livestock before her,
A herd full of sheep, oh, three hundred in number,
And right in their midst, there loitered a black wolf,
And a big black ram the wolf did resemble,
The queen now she stood up, in fear she was shaking,
And forthwith off to the king did she hasten,
“Rise, oh my king, do stand up or God damn you,
For God has graced you with only one daughter,
Children no more can there be in your family,
And in this last year you’ve not even seen her,
Quickly now, ready the best of your coursers,
For I have suffered a terrible nightmare.”
“So let it be,” did the king reply to her.
“I saw a wolf on his way from Jutbina,
Who’s spirited off all the three hundred maidens.”
Without delay the king took action,
And his war horse he made ready,
Donning his fine coat of armour,
He set off for the Danube river,
There he counted all the maidens,
And discovered one too many,
The one left over was the fairest.
“Oh Tanusha,” asked the father,
“Who’s the maid whose hand you’re holding
Who on earth is without equal?”
“Poor, unlucky is this maiden,
Dear her father, mother homeless,
The Pasha of Dumlika wants her,
But with no dowry, he’ll not take her,
She has come for your assistance,
For anything you could accord her.”
With ease was the king outwitted.
“Now we’ll set off for New Kotor,
You will take the maiden with you.”
The king gave orders with his trumpets
Three hundred maidens to make ready,
The grooms soon got them on the horses,
And the cortege left for Kotor,
In the last row rode Tanusha
Hand in hand still with Halili
She on bay horse, he on courser,
Closely guarded by the army
They’d no chance for an evasion.
In three days and nights of travel
Did the cortege reach New Kotor.
All maids were put up in manors,
Tanusha chose the finest kulla,
On the cliffs above the ocean,
Twelve floors high arose her kulla,
In the world no other like it,
Wide it was, three hundred paces,
Its outer walls were made of stonework,
The sides were covered in smooth tilings,
The cliffs themselves were made of marble.
For refreshment, flowing water,
For diversion, there were gardens
And for sailing, there were sailboats,
Sailboats there to cross the ocean.
Whosoever saw the fortress
Would believe he was in heaven.
There she settled with Halili,
Days and nights three they remained there
Without eating, without drinking.
“How can we get to Jutbina?”
Wondered to herself the maiden,
“O’er the waves we’ll send our courser,
We ourselves will row a rowboat,
We ourselves will sail a sailboat,
The sail I’ll trim, you try the rowing,
And should a fresh breeze we be granted,
Our boat will cross to the krahina
And on the bank will bide our courser,
But I’m afraid to tell my mother!”
O’er the waves they sent the courser,
The Slavic queen of Kotor saw it,
And wondered what the steed was doing.
To the king did she now hasten,
“Damn you,” to the king she cursed. “Our
Daughter’s been three days in Kotor
And neither of us e’en has seen her.”
“If you want, pay her a visit,
I’ve no time, it doesn’t suit me.”
Without delay, the queen made ready,
And departed on her journey
To the coast to see the kulla,
There she found locked up the kulla,
The Slavic queen now feigning kindness,
Cried out, “Mummy’s here, Tanusha,
Open up so I can see you,
Or I’ll simply die of longing.”
Behind the door the maiden quivered,
“What am I to do, Halili?”
“Open up the door for God’s sake,”
But to do it she was frightened,
Thinking hard, she found a pretext,
“Listen to me, dearest mother,
I can’t come out, I cannot open,
I’m indisposed, my body’s weakened,”
“Listen to me,” said the mother,
“Dearest, I myself when little,
Often suffered from such illness,
I give you now my word of honour,
I can heal you of your illness,
Open up, don’t keep me waiting,
I will be a mother to you.”
Thus deceived, her heart still pounding,
Down the staircase to the doorway
Came, with ropes she still was holding
And the sails she should have hidden,
Let her mother through the doorway.
But the mother was no mother,
She was a dragua-slaying monster.
The Slavic queen espied Halili,
And hissed, recoiling like a serpent:
“Daughter mine no more, I curse you!
What, you’ve filled the house with brigands?”
Slamming then the door behind her,
Off back to the king she hastened,
“Oh, Captain King, we are defeated,
The brigands now’ve come from Jutbina,
Have taken over all your kullas,
Your honour’s blemished, maids are ravished.”
“Silence, woman, what is all this?”
Cried the Slavic king of Kotor,
And his face was flushed in fury,
Swiftly did the king make ready
And by force took all the coastline,
Invading on the cliff the fortress,
No way could the boy resist him,
By the arm the king did seize them,
“How you’ve shamed your dad, Tanusha,
Shacked up here with all Jutbina.”
In a jail he plunged Halili,
Threw into the streets Tanusha,
“The streets shall be your home, my daughter,
That’s the road that you have chosen,
In other homes may you find comfort,
Your own with thorns is blocked forever.”
The maid sat weeping by the roadside,
With tears and cries of lamentation,
All took pity when they saw her.
Family members watched her wailing,
But none dared approach to aid her,
For the king had set up watchmen.
When she reached the end of Kotor,
Jovan stopped and kindly asked her:
“Why the weeping, my Tanusha,
We have never heard such crying,
Stop a while and come on in now,
For something must have happened to you.”
“Never can I go back, Jovan,
Halili has been taken prisoner,
Into the streets my father’s thrown me,
Saying to return home never!”
“Who has done this to you, maiden?
“Would that I’d ne’er been born, Jovan!
My mother brought forth the accusal,
With one last wish do I now leave you,
To Mujo’s doorway bear this message,
He must save Halili, tell him,
For otherwise he’ll rot in prison.”
To her Jovan answered wisely:
“I know not the way to Mujo’s,
But there’s a girl from the krahina
Whose kulla’s at the end of Kotor,
A new one built and this year finished.”
Jovan took her to the tower,
And at the doorway met the woman
Who from the fountain was returning.
“What’s the matter, my Tanusha?”
“Let no one suffer what I’ve suffered!
Into the streets my father’s thrown me,
No more may I knock and enter
Home, and they have jailed Halili,
I fear that he’ll not survive it
If Mujo does not come and free him.”
The woman was of noble bearing
And forthwith she consoled Tanusha:
“In three days, if Mujo’s living,
He’ll unite you to get married.”
She hired a messenger so trusty
And sent him overnight to Mujo,
The lad arrived there in the morning,
And all events explained to Mujo,
Then the hero burst out laughing:
“Oh, steer of Kotor, did I not warn you,
The men of Kotor are going to get you.
Were there not Jutbina’s honour,
I’d not move a finger for you.”
From the parapet let out the hero
A battle cry for all Jutbina,
“For the shame that we have suffered,
I summon you to arms, my fighters.”
At once the heroes did assemble,
“We greet you, Mujo,” cried the Agas.
“How to tell you of it, Agas,
I’ve been shamed, Sokol Halili
Has been captured in New Kotor,
I’d not move a finger for him
Were there not Jutbina’s honour,
Arm yourselves as best as you can, men,
A worse day’s ne’er stood before us.”
Three hundred Agas then took to their weapons,
When they departed, the beech trees resounded,
When they departed, the rivers boiled over,
When they departed, their coursers then took flight,
And like a shot in New Kotor they landed.
When they arrived in the reeds on the coastline,
Mujo positioned his men by the water,
“Let me not hear, men, a single sound from you,”
How well the men hid there, silently waiting.
Blessed we are, thanks to the Almighty,
That so many men have collected together
And here in New Kotor seen fit to assemble.
The king with a battle cry called to his people.
The whole population of Kotor did gather
In front of the church for the day was a Sunday,
In the midst of the square a young man was now standing,
His hands were in irons, his feet were in fetters,
Indeed, ‘twas none other than wretched Halili,
All of the people of Kotor did mock him,
The Captain King then did come forth and inquired:
“Can you see death in your eyes, oh Halili?
Have you e’er encountered a worse situation?”
In the words of a true man, the young lad addressed him:
“Hark, Captain King, to what I will tell you,
A man’s never lost until he has perished,
But far worse than death is betrayal of friendship,
Far worse than death would be breaking a promise,
Worse is no food for your guests when they visit.
Whenever, oh King, in dire straits I have fallen,
The Lord has bestowed on me strength to be free.”
“If you have last words, it’s time now to speak them,
For your life at this stake will be snuffed out forever.”
“May the Lord curse and revile you, King Captain,
Only God knows who this stake is designed for,
Give me, I beg you, five minutes of freedom,
Bequeathed from our fathers, we have a tradition,
To perish in bed we must not while we’re sleeping
But rather while brandishing swords, loudly singing.”
The king acceded to him nobly:
“Take your time to sing, Halili.”
From the shackles did they free him,
Gave Halili his lahuta.
No one understood him, singing
In the tongue of his forefathers.
“My final hour’s now upon me,
The sun has set, the peaks in darkness,
Where, oh sun, is your protection?
Where, oh zana, did you leave it?
What of promises you made me?
Send me now, oh sun, an answer
By the light upon your forehead,
One last wish do I now give you,
One last time I ask you, help me,
Return to cliffs and mountain pastures,
Return to all the shady meadows,
Set aflame the beechwood forests,
Wake from sleep the mountain oras,
To the great zana speed my greetings,
Tell her Halili has perished.”
A bird flew down from the high mountains
And on a beech tree branch it landed,
“Oh, bird of the mountains, tell me,
Do you still have wings to fly with?
By the branch you take your rest on,
Send word to Gjeto Basho Mujo.
Should he at this time be sleeping,
May alive he never waken,
Should he hunt there in the mountains,
May he never find his way home,
Should he be near, should he hear me,
Tell him it’s my worst dilemma.”
Mujo had now reached the flat land,
And a strident shriek he uttered,
The kullas crashed to their foundations,
The ocean overflowed the dry land,
The mountains roared as in a tempest,
No one could hide from the heroes,
Such the horror of their onslaught,
With their teeth they ripped into them,
With their teeth did chomp the coursers,
Corpses flowed out to the ocean,
Warriors waded through the bloodshed,
Naught wearied Gjeto Basho Mujo.
Ever closer came the hero,
“Touch not the king, he’s mine, oh Mujo,”
Cried aloud Sokol Halili,       
“Free my limbs from these iron shackles,
For I’ve sworn by God Almighty
At this stake the king shall perish.”
Mujo freed him of his shackles,
The boy assaulted with a fury,
He alive the king did capture,
And caused him at the stake to perish.
The warriors were fuelled by frenzy
And very soon the town was burning,
Torched till it was turned to ashes.
Such was Mujo in his anger,
Enraged, the hero showed no pity,
Neither for the burning towers,
Nor for all the blackened bodies,
Nor for all the dying children.
Three times did the sun go under,
Three times did the moon rise shining,
Before the flames could be extinguished.
When the hero’s time to leave came,
He turned, looked back upon New Kotor,
“Listen now, oh ravaged landscape,
Which from land and sea one reaches,
By land and sea they’ll come and ask you,
Why the Realm has been so ruined,
‘A mother,’ say, ‘betrayed her daughter’?
Mujo well did save his brother,
Halili wed the orphan maiden.

shqip / Albanian


[Sung by Mëhill Prêka of Curraj i Epërm (District of Tropoja). Published in: Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 23-41; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 71-86. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie and Janice Mathie-Heck, and first published in English in Songs of the Frontier Warriors (Këngë Kreshnikësh): Albanian Epic Verse in a Bilingual English-Albanian Edition (Wauconda, Illinois: Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, 2004).]