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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Verse

 

   
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  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

Young Omeri

A baloz challenges an old man to a duel. He has no sons, so his daughter offers to fight on his behalf. Dressed as a boy on her way to the war grounds, she visits the home of Ali, to whom she is betrothed. Ali is agitated at the beauty of the boy and asks his mother for advice. The mother suspects that the visitor, calling himself young Omeri, is indeed a girl and has her son test him with musical instruments and games. But the girl does not betray her true gender, even when they spend the night together. The love-struck Ali proposes to make young Omeri his blood brother. The girl refuses, saying she must fight a baloz first, but will then return. The girl slays the baloz and returns to her father. Time then comes for her to marry and she is escorted to her husband’s home. Ali is distraught that his blood brother has not returned. The bride appears at the door and explains to him that she is young Omeri, and everyone rejoices.





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Blessed we are, thanks to the Almighty!
For nothing we were until God did create us.
Once there was a man so old that
No more sons were in his household,
He was challenged by a baloz
And received from it a letter,
The old man read out the epistle,
From his eyes streamed tears of sorrow,
“A week from now I must go duelling,”
His daughter turned to him, inquiring:
“For God’s sake, father, what’s the matter,
What’s in the letter you’ve been reading,
That makes your eyes stream tears of sorrow?”
“Nothing, maid, may God protect you,
We have fallen into danger,
Since my birth the worst I’ve been in,
For I’ve been challenged by a baloz,
But I’m too old and too forsaken,
I can no longer go out duelling.”
His daughter turned to him, responding:
“Don’t you worry now, oh father,
May the dawn bring luck tomorrow,
You put on your shoes and garments
And see the Agas of Jutbina,
The Agas will not let you suffer.”
Did the dawn bring luck the next day?
The old man put on shoes and garments
And set off early for Jutbina,
There, assembling thirty Agas,
He explained the situation:
“I’ve been challenged by a baloz,
And must fight with him a duel.
What am I to do, oh Agas,
For I’m too old, too forsaken?”
Not a word the Agas uttered,
Not a glance did he get from them,
Even when he offered money,
They refused and would not touch it.
The old man, to his feet arising,
Left them and mounted his courser.
When he got back home and went in,
His daughter asked him what had happened:
“How was it, did you find the Agas?”
“No one listened to me, daughter,
No one deigned to take my money,
None would help me with the duel.”
“Come now, father, don’t you worry,
I’ll be your son and face the baloz,
I’ll not let you go, oh father.”
“No, my girl, may God protect you,
In two weeks you’re getting married,
How could you now go out duelling,
How could you take up the challenge?
If you’re beheaded by the baloz
Twice would be the shame I’d suffer,
At my age I’d be dishonoured,
So I’ll go, gird on my armour,
It’s no loss if I should perish.”
But the daughter wouldn’t listen,
Quickly to her feet arising,
Did she dress and don her armour,
Setting off then for the barber,
Like a boy she had her hair cut,
Now a boy her face resembled.
The old man could not stop his daughter,
And so he started to instruct her:
“On the road that you’ll be taking,
Is the home of your new husband.
When you finally reach that village,
You will find there many houses,
And you’ll see the whitest of them.
Three floors high within that manor
Is your future husband living,
So keep away, you must not enter!”
The maiden then did mount her courser,
And like the wind in flight she set off.
When she reached the other village,
With her field glass did she spy it,
With her hand upon her forehead,
For ‘twas dusk, the sun was setting.
With an oath to the Almighty,
Swore the maid and was determined
That she’d see her husband’s manor.
There dismounting, she approached it,
On the door she knocked and shouted.
Hearing, Ali came to greet her:
“Who are you, lad, at the doorway?”
“May I have your leave to enter?”
“Come right in, you are most welcome.”
They led the courser to the stable,
And then they went into the manor,
Her host made for her sweetened coffee,
Gave it to her and she took it.
There he sat and watched her drinking,
Noticed how she sipped her coffee.
Now profoundly agitated,
He arose to see his mother.
When he found her, Ali uttered:
“Listen, in God’s name, oh mother,
We’ve a guest who’s now arrived here
With skin so white to my amazement,
I noticed how he sipped his coffee,
I’ve never seen a fellow like him.”
To him replied the worried mother:
“Maybe he’s in fact a woman,
Give him a flute and let him play it,
And also hand him a lahuta,
Roll the rug out, play the ring game.”
When they finished food and drinking,
He asked the lad:”Where do you come from?”
She replied:”I’m young Omeri.”
They gave the lad a flute to play on,
And beautifully performed she on it,
How quickly did her fingers scale it,
Skilfully she breathed and blew it.
Then they gave her a lahuta,
And beautifully did she now stroke it,
Striking up a tune and singing.
They rolled a rug out, played the ring game,
But Ali was all three times beaten.
Again profoundly agitated,
Ali rose to see his mother,
When he found her, did he utter:
“I was in the game thrice beaten,
And he plays well the lahuta
None at fluting could be better,
I shall make him my blood brother!”
Mindful did the mother listen
To her son and then instructed:
“Retire together to the bedroom,
If she’s female, you will know it,
For she’ll find no sleep beside you.”
Together they went to the bedroom,
The bedding was laid out before them,
All night slept soundly the maiden,
With the boy beside her watching,
Not once did she even wake up.
When dawn drew near, the sun arising,
The boy went to his mother, saying:
“By God I swear to you, oh mother,
He went to bed and slept profoundly.”
The mother turned to him, responding:
“Go down to the master’s store now
And a brass flute purchase from him,
And also buy a gilded distaff.
Place the two things at the doorway,
If she’s female, you will know it,
She’ll cast her eyes upon the distaff.”
Without delay the boy departed,
And to the master’s store he hastened,
Purchasing both flute and distaff,
Flute and distaff did he pay for,
And turning, to his home departed
To place them at Omeri’s doorway.
The maid put on her shoes and garments,
And went out swiftly to the doorway,
First she kicked the distaff over,
And with her white hands took the flute up,
No one could catch up that maiden.
Then they drank their sweetened coffee,
Exchanging words of conversation.
Listen to what Ali uttered:
“Omeri, come, be my blood brother!”
“By God I swear,” replied Omeri,
“I do not wish to make you suffer,
For I must leave to fight the baloz,
And only God knows how I’ll manage,
And what if I should be defeated,
And with my head chopped off be vanquished,
You’d be left to grieve in sorrow.
But if with luck I do survive it,
I will turn up at your doorway.”
Ali then did bid her farewell,
Shaking hands, the maid departed,
Swiftly did she mount her courser,
And giving it the spurs, she set off.
Very soon she reached the war grounds,
And dismounting, took her rest there,
To God she prayed for his assistance.
The sea baloz appeared before her,
And shouted forth: “Damn you, Omeri,
Why did Mujo let you come here?
You’re far too young for me to slaughter!”
“No one’s frightened by your bragging,
Whose turn shall it be, oh baloz?”
They sat poised upon their coursers,
“You flee first, boy,” said the baloz,
And set off in pursuit behind her.
With what speed the coursers galloped!
How fiercely did they hurl their cudgels!
And yet the maid remained uninjured,
Then they battled with their sabres,
And in the clashing of the metal
The monster’s sabre broke to splinters.
The maid then struck him with her sabre,
And lifeless to the ground did launch him,
From her steed she sprang and slew him
But the head could she not tackle,
For the skull was so enormous.
Then she shouted to her courser:
“You get back here now, God damn you,
Or I’ll sell you as a workhorse,
And loads of coal will you be lugging!”
Carting coal dismayed the courser
Which to its knees fell in a hollow,
And as it rested on its knees there,
The maiden rolled the head up to it,
Casting it onto the courser.
Heading towards the road she set off,
Returning to her home she journeyed.
She stopped en route to see her husband,
And there with song and drink made merry.
They set the table, ate their dinner,
Then played games with one another.
When the sun came up the next day,
Did the maid prepare to leave him.
Ali spoke to stop her leaving:
“Where are you going now, Omeri?
Today we will become blood brothers!”
“I swear,” replied to him Omeri,
“That I’ve brought no money with me,
But, giving you my word, I promise
In a week’s time you’ll be married,
And in a week’s time I will meet you,
Then will we become blood brothers!”
Ali trusting her, acceded,
And she made her homeward journey.
The old man at the door did greet her,
It was her father who, delighted,
Summoned all Jutbina to him,
One whole day did they spend feasting,
Then came the time for her to marry.
Ali sent one hundred escorts,
The flautists with their flutes made music,
The horsemen fine upon their coursers,
All day long were heard the singers,
With rifle shots and drums a-beating,
Until they got to Ali’s manor,
A thousand escorts altogether,
For all of them there was a banquet.
Ali looked out all around him,
Nowhere seeing his blood brother,
Nowhere in the crowd did find him.
“Stop the drums and songs,” he shouted,
“I see that my brother’s perished,
A week has passed since he was guest here,
And gave his word of honour, saying:
If alive, I will be with you,
Among the first guests you will find me.”
The singing stopped, they all stood rigid,
And no one whispered to his neighbours.
The bride then spoke to her new mother:
“Summon Ali to the doorway!”
Ali went out to the threshold,
Then the young bride spoke to Ali,
Then the young bride promised, swearing:
“Slay me if you wish, oh Ali,
It was I, your guest of honour.”
“Come then, join the celebration!”
Ali went back to the guest room,
“Let us drink, friends, and make merry,
For my brother’s finally with me!”
Or so they say, for I was not there.

shqip / Albanian

 

[Sung by Mirash Ndou of Shosh (District of Shkodra). Published in: Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 81-88; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 119-125. 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).]

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