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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Oral Verse

 

   
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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 Death of Omer

Despite his wife’s protests, Mujo takes his son, young Omer, to the mountains with him to learn the art of war. He sends the boy over to the Kingdom of the Christians to attack a church. Omer holes up in the building, shoots the priest and is then besieged by shkja warriors, who shoot him nine times. Mujo and Halili, hearing his groan from afar, come to his rescue. They carry the lad up to the high mountain pastures. There the boy dies, asking his father not to tell his mother of his death because she would suffer. They dig a grave and bury Omer there. On his return home, Mujo is obliged to reveal to his wife that this, her eighth son, has also been killed and lies buried in the mountains.





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To his wife spoke Mujo, saying:
“Rise and make three dishes for us,
One for me made of well water,
One with syrup for Halili,
And one with breast milk for our Omer.”            
The wife then turned to Mujo, saying:
“By the God who made you, Mujo,
Don’t let Omer leave the house yet,
For seven good Omers did I once have,
Seven Omers whom I mourn for
And I know not where their graves are,
Dead you left them in the mountains.”
To his wife turned Mujo, saying:
“Mourn not sons who died in battle,
Mourn no living who go raiding,
Death’s none sweeter than in warfare,
To fall in battle yet unvanquished.
Get the three meals ready for us,
For I’m off now to the mountains,
Perhaps is it my fate to die, but
Dare I leave Omer untutored?
If the lad still wants to suckle,
I will give him sweetened syrup,
If the lad still wants to slumber,
In my cartridge belt I’ll wrap him.”
The wife then got the three meals ready,
The heroes jumped onto their coursers,
Leaving smoke and dust behind them
As they galloped to the mountains,
Three days long they roamed the pastures,
Nowhere could they find a çeta,
Mujo finally spoke up, saying:
“Climb the Rugged Peak, Halili,
Try to seek a Slavic çeta,
Quickly as you can come back here.”
To his feet now swiftly rising,
Halili jumped onto his courser,
For the mountain crests he set off,
Climbed the Rugged Peak among them.
“And you, my son, young Aga Omer,
Have you fear to raid the Kingdom?
On the flat land’s a white kulla,
This kulla is a Slavic chapel,
And if the door there should be open,
Do not venture to approach it,
But if the door there should be bolted,
Break it open, make your way in,
But don’t you be deceived, be careful,
For they’ll entice you out and kill you.
When the light comes up next morning,
Countless shkjas will go to chapel,
For this next day is a Sunday.
Open fire in church upon them,
I’ll lie waiting at three crossroads,
And let none of them pass by there.”
Like a falcon swiftly rising,
Omer jumped onto his courser,
Leaving smoke and dust behind him
As he set off for the chapel.
There he reined in his white courser,
Placed his hand upon his forehead,
For he was without his field glass.
There the chapel door was fastened,
Bravely did he walk up to it,
With a kick he burst it open,
Then at last did Omer enter,
Bolting down the door behind him,
And spent the night within the chapel.
When the dawn broke in the morning,
He saw the priest approach the chapel,
And at the priest he aimed his rifle,
Shot him, and the priest did perish.
Alarm was raised throughout the Kingdom,
The shkjas did all surround the chapel,
Bravely did the shkjas do battle,
None, however, could gain entrance,
None of them could see inside it,
Where nine bullets had hit Omer,
The poor boy’s soul had almost left him.
A Slavic woman got to thinking,
Of Mujo’s face she made a drawing,
And at the window did she hold it,
“Come out, if you’re living, Omer,
For today we’ve slaughtered Mujo.”
Omer turned to her, responding:
“Go away, you unwashed woman,
Concerned I’m not at all for Mujo.”
Then she drew Halili’s portrait,
Around his neck a rope was hanging.
“Omer, come out now, God damn you,
For we’ve slain and hanged Halili.”
Safe was Mujo, sound Halili,
Not a moment had they rested,
Both men many shkjas had slaughtered.
They’d dared to deceive young Omer
So he’d exit, then they’d kill him.
When he saw Halili’s portrait
Did his sight grow dim and troubled
For he thought that they had slain him.
Omer groaned, the earth did shudder,
The echo of it reached Halili,
The hero hastened down the mountain,
And there met Mujo at the crossroads,
“By God, what’s that groaning, Mujo?
I heard a moaning sound from Omer.”
Halili swore by God, proclaiming:
“Omer must be in deep trouble!”
Rising swiftly to their feet,
The heroes jumped onto their coursers,
And took the road off to the Kingdom,
Till they finally reached the chapel.
At such speed had Mujo hastened
That the leaves fell off the beech trees.
The shkjas were filled with dread and panic,
Taking flight as best they knew how.
The heroes now did set upon them,
God saw fit to help the brothers,
And with God’s aid they gained victory,
Many did they rout and slaughter,
Chased the rest far from the chapel,
Then did they return, approaching,
Mujo in a loud voice cried out:
“Are you well, Omer, young Aga?
Rise and open up the doorway.”
Omer swore by God in answer:
“I’ll ne’er open up the doorway
Unless for Mujo or Halili.”
Mujo then replied, explaining:
“Rise, Omer, and open up now,
Here are Mujo and Halili!”
What did young Omer then answer?
“Nine gunshots are in my body,
I can’t open up the doorway.
If you’re Mujo and Halili,
Come and kick the doorway open,
Break and burst it into pieces.
If you’re not Mujo or Halili,
I’ll not let you enter living.”
Mujo kicked the doorway open,
And it fractured in his fury,
Then the heroes deigned to enter,
Made a wish for his recovery,
Mujo on his steed then sat him,
With straps and belts did he secure him,
And they headed for the mountains.
When the heroes reached the pastures,
Omer for the first time spoke out:
“By the Lord who made you, Mujo,
Let us find a place to take rest,
For my spirit wants to leave me,
I must say my final words now:
Send a greeting to my mother,
Let her know Omer salutes her,
Tell her Omer’s with his uncles.
Do not tell her that I’ve perished,
For she loved me and would mourn me,
For she loved me and would suffer,
And in her pain would seek my tombstone.”
Omer’s spirit then departed.
They dug his grave up in the mountains,
Hewed a boulder from the cliffside,
Three thousand men could not have moved it,
And set it up as Omer’s tombstone.
What did Mujo this time utter?
“Woe to you, oh mountain pastures,
Brave sons did I have, eight Omers,
And eight of them have I left to you.
May they call you arid pastures,
May no trees or grass grow on you,
May none ever drink your water.
One wish, oh peaks, have I for you,
Let no snowy landslide fall here,
Let none of them approach the tombstone,
For young Omer’d greatly suffer.
One wish, oh birds, have I for you,
Don’t come here to chirp and chatter,
For young Omer’d greatly suffer,
One wish, oh shepherds, have I for you,
Do not bring your herds to graze here,
Should Omer hear the sheep bells clanking,
Hear the flutes played by the shepherds,
Would the lad be full of longing.
One wish, wolf packs, have I for you,
When your journey takes you hither,
185      Do not howl or make commotion,
For here my son, Omer, is lying,
He’d be homesick, full of longing.”
The heroes jumped onto their coursers,
Set off on their journey homewards,
Mujo’s wife began to ask him:
“What has happened to my Omer?
Has he, too, perished in the mountains?”
Mujo took his wife and told her:
“We’ve taken Omer to his uncles.”
Again the woman swore, protesting:
“Omer’s never gone without me,
You’ve left him dead up in the mountains.”
“Listen, woman,” said Halili,
“Dead we left him in the mountains,
And there we made for him a tombstone.
Be in peace now with your family.”

shqip / Albanian

 

[Sung by Lulash Zefi of Curraj i Epërm (District of Tropoja). Published in: Visaret e Kombit, vol. II. ed. Bernardin Palaj and Donat Kurti (Tirana 1937), p. 218-223; and Folklor shqiptar II, Epika legjendare (Cikli i kreshnikëve), Vellimi i parë. ed. Qemal Haxhihasani (Tirana 1966), p. 242-246. 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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