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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

Arnaut Osmani and Hyso Radoica

The Slavic warrior Hyso Radoica is determined to have Arnaut Osmani’s wife for his bride. In the spring, he steals over the mountains to Jutbina and captures her at the fountain. Arnaut Osmani sends the king a message written in blood, demanding that he order Hyso to the war grounds for a duel. The two men fight savagely until they can no longer see anything through all the blood. During a pause, they begin talking and discover that they are brothers, separated in early years during a raid on their native town of Zahara. Hyso proposes that they ride to Zahara in search of their mother. The long-suffering mother, seeing her two grown-up sons before her, dies from the shock and is buried. The two men and the bride then return to Jutbina to celebrate their reunion.














































































Thirty captains were assembled,
At their feast did they start drinking,
Drinking red wine and white raki,
With red wine their cheeks were flushing,        
And their tongues did raki loosen,
Thirty captains were conversing,
Teasing Hyso Radoica:
“Damn you, Hyso Radoica,
Why don’t you get married, Hyso?
All your peers are wed already
And you haven’t found a bride yet,
Are you afraid of the expenses,
Afraid to hold a wedding banquet?”
Then spoke Hyso Radoica:
“I’m not afraid of the expenses,
But I don’t want just any maiden,
I’ll have no bride outside Jutbina,
I’ll have Arnaut Osmani’s maiden
Or I’ll stay unwed forever.”
Thirty captains then did speak up:
“Damn you, Hyso Radoica,
Grave the words that you have spoken,
They’ve placed a heavy burden on you.
Before you, we had all endeavoured
But could not marry in Jutbina.
Should you seize the bride and get her,
You’ll not keep her more than one day,
Twenty-four-years-old’s her husband,
He’s been victor in three battles,
And three fighters did he slaughter,
You are thirty-years-old, Hyso,
You’ve not fought a single battle.”
Then spoke Hyso Radoica:
“Listen to me, thirty captains,
Now it’s winter, spring is coming,
When the trees bud in the mountains,
Fields are full of grass and flowers,
I’ll leave my black horse on the meadows
Several days for it to graze there,
Then one day I’ll rise and catch it,
Put a saddle on the black horse
And a harness and then, mounting,
Will I ride off to Jutbina.
I give you, men, my word of honour:
I’ll have Arnaut Osmani’s maiden
Or leave my head back in Jutbina.”
Then they got up from the meeting.
Winter passed and spring was coming,
The trees were budding in the mountains,
Fields were full of grass and flowers,
What of Hyso Radoica?
He left his black horse on the meadows,
Several days for it to graze there,
Then one day he rose and caught it,
He put a saddle on the black horse
And a harness and then, mounting,
Rode up to the mountain pastures,
And the pastures left behind him,
Rode down to Jutbina’s flat land,
Across the broad plains did he journey,
Til he reached Jutbina’s fountain,
There encountered thirty maidens,
“Greetings to you, thirty maidens.”
“Greetings to you also, stranger.”
“Excuse me, may I ask you, maidens,
Where’s Arnaut Osmani’s kulla,
For the lad is my blood brother,
Long have I not been to see him.
Many kullas have been built here
I don’t know which one’s my brother’s.”
Then the thirty maidens told him:
“His kulla’s easy to distinguish,
It’s the one beside the river,
All around it there are gardens,
You will see how fair they blossom.”
“Excuse me, may I ask you, maidens,
Who’s Arnaut Osmani’s bride here,
For I’m not sure if I’d know her?”
The thirty maidens then responded:
“His bride is easy to distinguish,
She’s the fairest one among us,
Never has a word she spoken,
Nor lifted up her eyes to goggle.”
Then spoke Hyso Radoica:
“Who’s the bride of my blood brother?
Such a long way have I travelled,
I am parched from the long journey,
Give me water, bride, to drink of!”
The bride refused to give him water.
The thirty maidens cried out to her:
“Damn it, maiden, don’t you see
The lad before you is a stranger?
If we do not give him water,
We will shame all of Jutbina.”
The bride acceded to the maidens
Went and filled a jug with water,
And she held it out to give him.
What now Hyso Radoica?
With his fist her hand he grappled,
Seizing it, he raised her to him,
Set her on the black horse with him,
And with a belt he tied her to him.
The captive bride was caterwauling,
The thirty maidens loudly clamoured,
And all Jutbina was in an uproar.
When Osmani heard them screaming
He was then without his courser,
To his feet he jumped and, shouting,
Set off for the mountain pastures.
On a hill among the pastures
Did he sit and take position,
Then his field glass did he fetch, and
Looking through it did he study
All the highway to the Kingdom,
But nowhere got a glimpse of Hyso.
The lad was in a state of anguish,
For he couldn’t capture Hyso.
Racing through the mountain pastures,
Almost out of breath and panting,
From his mouth the blood was streaming,
All the oak trees smeared in scarlet,
One large oak leaf did he pluck off
And with blood did he inscribe it,
To his knees the lad descended,
Sent a prayer to the Almighty:
“Raise a wind, Lord, and a cyclone,
Raise and send this oak leaf flying
To float down to the king’s chamber,
May the king then find and read it,
Sending Hyso to the war grounds.”
God raised a wind and raised a cyclone
Sent the oak leaf off a-flying,
It floated into the king’s chamber.
The king was sitting on his sofa,
Saw the oak leaf’s sanguine writing,
Quite astounded, did he catch it,
Took the bloody leaf and read it,
“Arnaut conveys his greetings,
For you’re ruler of the Kingdom,
Send me Hyso Radoica,
For my bride today he’s stolen.
I’ll be waiting on the war grounds.”
The king called out and summoned Hyso,
To great Hyso did he cry out:
“Damn you, Hyso Radoica,
I told you not to steal his maiden,
Not one day will you retain her,
He is waiting on the war grounds,
Since his bride you’ve taken from him.”
What of Hyso Radoica?
Swiftly did he write a letter,
Gave it to a Slavic runner,
Sent it to Arnaut Osmani,
When the shkja got to the mountains
Did he find Arnaut Osmani,
Who shouted to the runner, saying:
“What’s your business in the mountains?”
“I seek Arnaut Osmani,
As I have a letter for him.”
“Come, for I’m the one you’re seeking.”
He took the letter from the runner,
Got the message and did read it,
Greetings were there in the letter:
“You are Arnaut Osmani
Waiting for me on the war grounds,
I’m not ready for the duel,
You will have to wait till Sunday,
Sunday I’ll come to the war grounds
And bring the bride up to the pastures.
The one who, fighting, slays the other
With the bride will be rewarded.
For her safety do not worry.”
Hyso sent his word of honour
That he’d treat her like a sister.
Arnaut was very happy,
Pondered to himself, deciding:
“I’m as happy as I would be
If my bride were right beside me.”
Stuck his hand into his pocket,
A tip he gave the Slavic runner,
And turning, went back to Jutbina.
Friends and comrades came to see him,
To console him for the lost bride,
But not a word he said about it.
Came the long-awaited Sunday,
In a pensive mood he wakened,
Put his clothes and shoes and arms on,
His steed tied to posts, he saddled,
Climbed the stairs up to his kulla,
Wandered through the many chambers,
Taking leave of his dear kulla,
He closed the door behind him, saying:
“Fare thee well, oh home, my kulla,”
Then onto his steed he clambered,
Rode up to the mountain pastures,
And when he reached the highest of them,
He found no one on the meadows,
There he finally stopped, dismounting,
Took a look round with his field glass,
Seeing Hyso Radoica,
Who was riding on his courser,
And a little way behind him
The bride a saddled mare was riding.
To himself said Arnaut Osmani:
“A man of honour, this shkja hero,
Since he came up to the war grounds.
Had he been a thug or gypsy,
He’d lie with the bride to spite me,
He’s indeed a man of honour.”
Shortly, very soon thereafter
Came forth Hyso Radoica.
“Greetings, Arnaut Osmani,”
“Greetings, Hyso Radoica,
Dismount, Hyso Radoica,
You are tired from your journey.”
Then spoke Hyso Radoica:
“I haven’t come to sit here with you,
Rise, let’s be off to the war grounds,
Today you’ll see a man before you,
You’ll know Hyso Radoica.”
Then cried Arnaut Osmani:
“I wanted you to rest a little,
For when we meet upon the war grounds
You will see this lad before you,
You’ll know Arnaut Osmani.”
He rose and jumped onto his courser,
They started fighting with their cudgels,
But their cudgels snapped asunder,
Then the two men drew their sabres,
Fought and lunged at one another,
Both were hurt, in blood were covered,
But their sabres soon were broken,
Then they jumped down off their horses,
Seized the throats of one another,
The heroes wrestled in the meadow,
Digging with their boots upon it,
Till the meadow was all ploughed up,
Blood bespattered the two heroes,
And their eyes with blood were streaming,
But more the eyes of Radoica,
Both his eyes with blood were streaming
So that he had lost his vision,
Thus spoke Hyso Radoica:
“Hear me, Arnaut Osmani,
Both my eyes with blood are streaming,
So that I have lost my vision,
Let us talk to one another,
Let the bride bring us some water,
So that we can wash our faces,
Wipe the blood around our eyes off,
So we can again do battle.”
So they talked to one another,
And the bride brought them some water,
So that they could wash their faces,
And wipe the blood around their eyes off.
There they sat with one another,
And while sitting started drinking,
As they drank they started talking.
Thus spoke Hyso Radoica:
“By God, Arnaut Osmani,
Let me ask you, you must tell me
What your tribe is, where you come from?
When you set off for the war grounds
Who was left back in your household?
Did you leave a friend or brother?”
Then spoke Arnaut Osmani:
“Of my tribe will I now tell you,
I myself am from Zahara,
I was of a widowed mother,
My mother was a wealthy woman,
She herself owned half the city
Till Mujo came and sacked Zahara,
And while Mujo led the fighting
Did he burn down all the city.
Mujo found me in the churchyard
And, taken by my infant beauty,
Set me on his saddle with him
And brought me back home to Jutbina,
There he raised me and did feed me
Till I grew up, reached adulthood,
Mujo bought me fields and meadows,
And did build for me a kulla,
And this bride did he find for me,
All Jutbina honoured, loved me,
Invited me to all their weddings,
And put me at the place of honour.
But when I set off for the war grounds
I left nobody in my household,
Not a soul I left behind me,
Leaving neither friend nor brother.
I took leave of my dear kulla,
Then I closed the door behind me,
And then departed for the war grounds.”
Once more spoke Arnaut Osmani:
“And you, Hyso, may I now ask you,
What your tribe is, where you come from?
When you set off for the war grounds
Who was left back in your household?
Did you leave a friend or brother?”
Hyso’s eyes were filled with teardrops,
“Of my tribe will I now tell you,
For I am also from Zahara,
I was of a widowed mother,
My mother was a wealthy woman,
She herself owned half the city
Till Mujo came and sacked Zahara,
And while Mujo led the fighting
Did he burn down all the city,
Held my little brother hostage.
My mother, to the king indebted,
Said she could not pay the loan back,
As a pawn the king then took me,
There he raised me and did feed me
Till I grew up, reached adulthood.
The king did grant me fields and meadows,
And for me he built a kulla.
When once before the king we gathered
Did the thirty captains tease me:
Why don’t you get married, Hyso?
I swore to the thirty captains
I’d have no bride outside Jutbina,
I’d have Arnaut Osmani’s maiden
Or leave my head back in Jutbina,
For I knew of your reputation,
Heard of you and of your bride, too,
Now the will of God has chosen
That we as brothers be united.”
From their eyes the tears were streaming,
And the two embraced each other.
Then the bride came forth to serve them,
Taking Hyso as her in-law.
Then spoke Hyso Radoica:
“Shall we go back to Zahara?
Go and try to find our mother,
And if she’s living, take her with us,
If she’s dead, her grave we’ll visit.”
Then spoke Arnaut Osmani:
“The city has been reconstructed,
I was little when I left it
And there’s nothing I remember.”
Again spoke Hyso Radoica:
“I was nine years old and though
The city has been reconstructed,
The church road do I well remember,
So let us go and seek our mother.”
To their feet arose the heroes
And did hop onto their horses,
Set on a saddled mare the bride and
All three took off for Zahara.
Through the whole town did they gallop,
Till the church road they encountered.
At the roadside in a corner
Did they find a poor old woman,
So the two jumped off their horses:
“Greetings to you, poor old woman,”
“Greetings, lads,” she gave as answer.
“I beg your pardon, poor old woman,
May I ask of you a question?
Were you beforehand ever wealthy?”
Loudly sighed the poor old woman:
“I was once extremely wealthy,
I myself owned half the city,
God bestowed two sons upon me,
Till Mujo came and sacked Zahara,
And while Mujo led the fighting
Did he burn down all the city.
Took my little infant hostage.
To the king I was indebted
But I couldn’t pay the loan back,
As a pawn he stole my first son.”
“Here we are, your sons, oh mother.”
Such emotion seized the woman
That a flood of tears did choke her,
From the longing and the worry
Was the woman breathless, panting,
And on the spot did she fall lifeless.
The lads then took, buried their mother,
Paid their last respects and, turning,
Rose and jumped onto their horses,
The three departed for Jutbina.
To their feast came all the people,
For the brothers were united!

shqip / Albanian


[Sung by Palë Buli of Selca (District of Malësia e Madhe). Published in: Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 97-107; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 133-141. 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).]