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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

Having been sentenced with his companions to years in prison, Arnaut Osmani devises a plan. He pretends to have died in his cell. His companions scream and wail in lamentation. Awakened by the noise, the king sends his daughter down to the dungeon. She sees the dead Arnaut, who had been her lover, and begs her father to bury him. The king is suspicious and first subjects the body to all sorts of tests and tortures. Arnaut resists unmoved, but manages to let the daughter know he is alive. At her insistence, the king finally removes his shackles. Arnaut jumps up, seizes a sword and slays the king and his entourage. Then he frees his companions and they all set off for Jutbina, taking the king’s daughter and thirty other maidens with them.








































May you be blessed, oh God Almighty!
What news of Arnaut Osmani?
The hero gathered twelve companions
And set off for the mountain pastures,
The shkjas did capture his twelve Agas,
Round their feet did they put shackles,
Left them for nine years in prison.
What did the king then turn and ask them?
“Which of you burnt down my palace?”
Then spoke up Sokol Halili:
“I was not part of that çeta.”
Then spoke the young lad, Osman Aga:
“By the God, king, who did make you,
Do not let the others suffer.
I myself burnt down your palace,
I myself tore down your kulla,
And did I chop down your forests.”
Hear how the Captain King did answer:
“Alright then, you burnt my palace,
But what of the herds and my possessions?”
“I took them all, king, to Jutbina.”
“Alright, you pilfered my possessions,
But what of father, what of mother?”
“I took the two down to Jutbina
And handed them to the town crier,
I couldn’t get a penny for them,
And as I knew no other answer,
Painting them with tar and feathers,
I put a torch to them and burnt them.
You know that wartime has its customs.”
How was it the king reacted?
“Let me, Agas, pay you an honour,
For I shall throw you into prison,
No more will you see the sunlight.”
Round their feet did they put shackles,
Only six years did they give them.
When twelve days and nights had passed by,
Osmani spoke to his companions:
“May God slay you, my companions,
Time is passing, our strength is waning,
We are old, our minds are failing,
We are old and filled with horror,
Which clever lad of you can tell me
How to escape from this dark prison?”
The men replied well to Osmani:
“Time’s not passing, our strength’s not waning,
We’re not old, our minds are with us,
We’re not old, nor filled with horror,
But none here has a trick to offer,
The king will undertake great action,
They’ll nab us by our necks and hang us.”
By God swore Arnaut Osmani:
“Were I stuck in seven ovens
Blazing, I’d not bat an eyelid,
You know what I’ll do, companions?
I will lie tonight pretending,
That death itself has come to get me,
They’ll bury me alive, God willing.
When the midnight hour approaches
You must scream and you must clamour,
When the morning light approaches,
You must howl and you must holler,
Wail in pain and lamentation,
That the king in his palace hears you.”
Arnaut Osmani lay down,
On his chest his arms were folded,
All his comrades did assemble,
In one line were his companions,
All were screaming, all were keening,
Shrieked in pain and lamentation:
“Woe now to us for our brother.”
When the third lament was over,
Did the king wake in his chamber,
Did the king wake up and ask them:
“What’s the matter, forlorn prisoners,
Can it be that you are homesick,
Are you longing for your loved ones,
Do you miss your father, mother,
Do you miss your brother, sister,
Are you missing blithe Saint George day?
Is your uncut beard the bother,
Or the knee-deep mud you stand in,
Or your shirt, that you’ve no clean one,
Or is it daylight that you’re missing?”
What did the captive Agas answer?
“None of these, king, are we missing,
But one of us is dead, departed,
Who will dig a grave for him now?
For in the prison cell he’s rotting.”
But the king did not believe them,
Instead he called upon his daughter,
The keys he gave her for the prison
And told the maiden in a whisper:
“Go down to that sombre dungeon,
Go and see now what has happened.”
The maiden took the keys and went down,
Twice she turned them in the doorlock,
When she set foot in the dungeon,
There she saw Arnaut Osmani,
He’s the boy who’d been her lover.
To the king went back the maiden,
Turning to him did she utter:
“None of the Agas are revolting,
But Arnaut Osmani’s perished,
Dead’s the young lad, Osman Aga,
May I dig a grave for him now?
If you give me him to bury,
I promise to obey you, father.”
But the king did not believe her,
To the jail sent a hundred soldiers,
The ten best entered the dungeon,
Saw dead Arnaut Osmani,
Took him so the king could see him,
But the king was very clever,
And began to test the body.
Nine serpents in the sun he gathered,
Around the hero’s neck he laid them.
Badly bitten by the serpents,
Though alive, he did not show it.
Two great bonfires did he kindle
And Osmani set between them,
His skin on back and front did rupture,
Though alive, he did not show it.
But the king did not believe him,
Twenty nails, all sharp, he gathered,
Drove them into toes and fingers,
Until all the blood had left him,
Though alive, he did not show it.
But still the king did not believe him,
And, exceedingly suspicious.
One more test did he insist on,
Thirty fair maids he selected,
Gave them comely shoes and garments,
Around the dead man’s head he placed them,
Around the body they moved, dancing,
Around the body they made merry,
Around the body they sang fairly.
At his head stood the king’s daughter,
Well Osmani did observe her,
With one eye at her was peering,
A smile so slight did cross his lips now,
With one side of his whiskers moving,
This she noticed, the king’s daughter,
His face then with the shroud she covered,
But the maidens turned, remarking:
“By the Lord who did create us,
The lad has smiled, this Osman Aga.”
“Damn you, maidens,” said the daughter,
“For this lad is dead already,
Of his sins has he been pardoned,
His soul’s in rapture, left the body.”
What did she say to her father:
“By the God who did create you,
With sin will you now be burdened
If you keep torturing this body
With many trials and tribulations,
He has perished, is long dead now,
Can’t you see the corpse is stinking?
For three days he’s lain unburied!
Have you no fear of a body?
Take the bonds from off his feet now,
From his hands remove the shackles!”
But still the king did not believe her.
He called a baloz with a sabre
And with it watching, freed Osmani,
He took the bonds from off his feet now,
From his hands removed the shackles,
Above his head was poised the sabre,
How well did Osmani watch it.
To his feet he sprang and, jumping
Through the air, he seized the sabre,
Slew the baloz like a madman,
No one ventured to resist him,
Thought the dead had been awakened,
All of them were filled with horror,
And every one of them was slaughtered.
Of the king he gouged an eye out,
Of the king he cut an arm off,
Razing to the ground his palace,
The hero freed the dozen Agas,
Gathered all the thirty maidens,
And took them all back to Jutbina,
Making wives for thirty lads there,
And for himself he kept the daughter.
There was feasting, there was music,
Nine days and nights did last the wedding!
Although myself I was not present,
So I heard it, so they told me,
Very ancient stories these are,
May the grace of God be with us!

shqip / Albanian


[Recorded in Shala (District of Shkodra). Published in: Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 130-135; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 161-165. 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).]