The Wedding of Crnica Alaga and
Jela the Ban of Korlat’s Daughter

composed by Ćamil Kulenović

translated by Mary P. Coote

(See the Serbo-Croatian text)

The Turks were gathered in Udbina in the bey’s hall upon the lush meadow Rudina; men filled the chamber to the walls. At the head of the company sat the bey of the Lika, Mustajbeg. On his right was Huremaga Kozlić and on his left gazi Ćejvanaga, with Osmanaga beside him, and next to them all the elders were sitting in order. They had filled their long chibouks and lit their pipes of stone-pine; they smoked and sipped Turkish coffee.

    The young men of Ubdina were sitting apart at another table in the chamber. They had two cups going around and two men designated to pour; as one cup was emptied, another was filled. Tavernkeeper Ramo was serving up the drink, while Suljo Memičić poured, Rade Đurđević passed the cups, and Tale the Fool returned them when they were empty.

    All the lords were drinking merrily and talking of many things. Chiefly their talk ran on deeds of heroism, shooting and battling, good horses and sharp spears, raiders telling about their exploits and about Latin maidens, and recounting how one or another had carried off a maiden, converted her to Islam, and married her to a friend.

    All at the table were drinking merrily—all but one. When the common cup came round to him, he paid for the draught but drank nothing, giving his share to the friends at his side. From his place at the window the bey noticed that this young man was neither drinking nor smoking. He put down his cup and pipe and called out, “My sweet son, Crnica Alaga! Always before when we have been gathered like this, you have been cheerful and merry. What troubles have befallen you? Come now, tell us all—why do you not boast of yourself and your black horse?”

    When Alaga heard the bey, he raised his head and spoke: “Hear me, Mustajbeg, commander of the Lika! Great troubles have befallen me. Recently I received a letter (50) from the Latin city of Korlat, from the ban’s daughter Jelica. What did Jela say in the letter? ‘My soul Ale, admired and beloved! I have heard of you, and though I have never seen you, I have a picture of you. When I was staying in bright Karlovac with my friend Milica, I found Ružica had two pictures, one of you and the other of your brother-in-God Ibro Durutagić. She gave me your picture, while she kept Ibro’s for herself. When I returned to Korlat, I vowed upon my hand in prayer that I would not marry any Hungarian Latin as long as you are alive. I would rather plait my hair as maidens do till it is gray than marry another.

    But now, my dearest Crnica Alaga, suitors have been pouring in from every side asking for my hand—there have been suitors suing and wooers wooing. Now the ban of Corfu has come and asked my father for my hand, and father has given me to him without even consulting my wishes. Even now the ban has gone back over the blue sea to prepare for the wedding.

    Mark my words, I have got myself knives and I shall put an end to my life, for I swear I will not go to Corfu! What will you do to be my champion?’

    Now listen, Mustajbeg, I do not know the way to Korlat. I have been looking for a guide who would take me there either for love or money, but I cannot find one. Neither would I regret laying down my life or spending my money. That is why I am gloomy and ill-humored."

    Then the bey spoke again: “O gray falcons of the Lika! Falcons are hatched in the Lika, and surely heroes are to be found here too. Now for the love of the bey of Udbina, let a hero declare himself in this chamber!”

    When the warriors of the Lika heard his words (100), to a man they all kept silent. Let us watch bey Mustajbeg. The bey repeated his request two and three times, yet every man held his tongue and uttered not a word.

    Then an aga, Huremaga Kozlić by name, spoke up from his seat by the window: “Hear me, Mustajbeg, commander of the Lika! The young men lie, shame upon them! Many of them know the way to Korlat, but it is a difficult way. There is the accursèd Zaklopac Pass six hours’ journey long, where you cannot ride and have to lead your horse by its bridle. At the foot of the mountain there is a guardhouse on a platform kept by the outlaw captain Pauk and his thirty brigands. Pauk has hobbled in his stable under the guardhouse a sorrel horse that nothing on four legs can outrun unless it has falcon’s wings.

    From there to Korlat stretches a level plain three full hours’ journey across, and in the middle of the plain there is a wooden guardhouse kept by Captain Mijat and his thirty mercenaries, who guard the plain. So it is not easy to reach Korlat. Now, bey, send for our learnèd hodja Omer-efendi to come to the chamber so that I can ask him whether our religious law permits me to shave my beard, to take up drinking wine in my old age, and to be Crnica Alaga’s guide, for the love of our great God and for the sake of the lovely maiden Jelica, the ban of Korlat’s daughter.”

    Gazi Ćejvanaga cried, “Be silent, aga; may God punish you! The hand that would shave the beard, that hand the law would cut off.” Huremaga Kozlić spoke again, “O bey, then send for the efendi to come to the chamber to write a letter to my sister’s son, Mujo Hrnjičić.”

    Let us watch the bey Mustajbeg. He dispatched his ensign Đulić (150) to fetch Omer­efendi. Then he called out, “My children, gray falcons! Before Omer-efendi comes, gather up the cups that are lying about the chamber, for the efendi frowns on our drinking.” Immediately the young men leapt to their feet, gathered up the cups, and hid them away. At that moment Omer-efendi arrived, flinging open the door and calling out a Turkish greeting in loud tones. All the Turks rose to answer the greeting and made a place for him by the window.

    The hodja sat down and made himself comfortable, while the servants prepared him a pipe and some coffee. Taking a cup, the hodja said, “Now, Mustajbeg and men of Udbina! What need do you have of me?” Mustajbeg answered, “Hodja, you must ask Huremaga Kozlić.” The hodza turned to the aga and asked him, “Listen, lord Kozlić Huremaga! Tell me what need you have of me.” Then the aga replied, “O hodja, write a letter to my sister’s son, Mujo Hrnjičić, at Kladuša on the Border!”

    The hodja took out his box of pens and ink and some fine unsullied paper and wrote as Huremaga Kozlić directed: "Son of my sister, Mujo of Kladusa, pay heed to what your uncle tells you, for my honor is at stake! Today I offered in public to shave my beard—but the law would not permit it—in order to guide Crnica Alaga to Korlat in quest of a lovely maiden. I ask you, my son, to obey your uncle, for the love of God, out of devotion to the Empire, and for the sake of the reputation of all us Turks, and especially the reputation (200) of your uncle Huremaga Kozlić. Many know the way to Korlat; they lie, Mujo, and deny it, because they are afraid to go there."

    Thereupon a young man spoke up: “Wait, lord Huremaga Kozlić! I kiss your hand. I do not know the way, I swear, but I will not let Crnica or Hrnjica go to Korlat without me. I give you my word of honor.” Dear God, who was that who called to the aga? It was none other than Vrhovac Alaga.

    Still another spoke up in the chamber; it was Osman Tanković, who said, “Hear me, lord Huremaga Kozlić! I too do not know the way to Korlat, I swear, but I would gladly learn it rather than let an old man shave his beard, since it has come to such a pass in the broad Lika."

    As Tanković spoke, the efendi finished writing the letter and gave it to Huremaga Kozlić, who handed it to Crnica Alaga. Alaga rose and left the chamber with his two brothers-in-God.

    Let us watch the three friends. Ale did not wish to go to his bright mansion, nor would Vrhovac go to Vrhovi, nor Tanković to his home. Each had a horse at the bey’s hall, and in its saddlebags a hussar’s outfit for disguise. They mounted and turned down level Krbava toward the Grove of Ogroš, riding close under Mt. Plišivica and obliquely past Mt. Korjenica. They passed Glugglug Fountain, traversed Petrov Village and made their way below Tržac and above Cerkezovac, passing along beside the cool waters of the Korana. From there they rode on to Glinica and Alatuša, directly to the mansion of Mujo of Kladuša.

    As they approached the mansion, they heard something wondrous strange. Two blue cuckoos were lamenting on Mujo’s house. (250) Those were not two blue cuckoos; they were Hrnjica’s old mother and little sister Ajka. When the companions came to the courtyard, the aga of Vrhovi went in first, followed by the others. There they came upon a great wonder. Halil was walking up and down, leading a white horse whose mane was all tangled and whose saddle was drenched with blood that ran trickling down onto the ground from its hoofs.

    Vrhovac Alaga called out, “What news, my brother-in-God? How did the white horse come to be so covered with gore?” Halil replied, “Brother Vrhovac Alaga, Mujo is lying up there in his chamber suffering from seven ugly wounds. He got them all from Captain Pauk’s sword while trying to defend his men at the guardhouse. Mujo’s entire company was killed. When the white horse noticed blood flowing from its master Mujo, it took the bit in its teeth and would not let Mujo turn it back. It fled through the pass at Zaklopac and brought Mujo back wounded to Kladuša. Now Mujo lies within, groaning so that the chamber echoes.”

    When Halil had spoke, the companions dismounted and went into the house, up to where Mujo was lying. When they entered the chamber, they found his old mother and his sister Ajka with him. Vrhovac Alaga spoke their greeting, which Mujo returned from his couch, welcoming the three companions. Vrhovac then asked Mujo, “How fare your wounds, brother? Can you recover from them?” Mujo of Kladuša answered, “I would easily get over these wounds, but I cannot get over the loss of my thirty men. My whole company was killed at that damned Zaklopac Pass.

    “Not long ago, friends, I was sitting by my house with my thirty men of Kladuša and my ensign Halil Orlović, having a drink. (300) When we had had a bit to drink, we were all feeling merry except my little brother Omer. Omer wouldn’t touch a cup; instead he kept hanging his head and wouldn’t speak to anyone. When I noticed him, brothers, I said to him, ‘Omer mine, my own brother, why aren’t you drinking? Why won’t you speak to anyone—why do you keep staring at the green grass? Tell your brother Mujo, what is your great sorrow?’

    “Childe Omer looked up and said to me, ‘Brother Mujo, head of all the Border! The Lika and the Border, Kotar and the coast all praise you as a real hero on the field of combat. But what’s the good of your being a real hero, dear brother, when you won’t get me pretty Jela, the ban of Korlat’s daughter, to be my wife? If you won’t arrange the marriage, then God grant that you lose me and bury me in the black earth!’

    “I said to Childe Omer, ‘Be quiet, Omer; keep your tongue from taking such oaths when there’s no need for them. If you had told me before, I would have gotten the ban of Korlat’s Jelica for you long ago.’ Then I shouted to my brother Bordermen, ‘On your feet, brothers! It’s time for an expedition to Korlat!’ We all jumped to our feet. I took out my hussar’s outfit and we all got ready. We mounted our horses and set out along the Border. When we had crossed all the Turkish lands, we turned into Zaklopac Pass. Luck was with us—Pauk and his guard were asleep.

    When we had put the guardhouse behind us, we rode out of the pass (350) and down to the plain past Captain Mijat’s guardhouse. Luck was with us there too—Mijat and his men were also asleep. We put that guardhouse behind us and went down to Korlat, right to the ban of Korlat’ s mansion.

    “We arrived at a good time, just before dawn and bright day. The Latin maiden Jela was up early and she’d come out to the well with her water jar. When we entered the courtyard, once again luck was with us—all the guards were sleeping. I rode up to Jela, leaned down from my horse, tool Jela by the arm, and pitched her onto the horse behind me. Then I fled through the gate followed by my thirty men.

    “We rode out of Korlat over the green plain past Captain Mijat’s guardhouse. We gave a wide berth to the guardhouse, friends, so that Mijat and his men would not see us. Once more luck was with us—no one spotted us because they were all too far gone with drinking. When we had got by that guardhouse and were just at the entrance of Zaklopac Pass, the cannon began to boom in Korlat.

    “As we rode up to the bright guardhouse, I saw that Pauk had drawn up his men and set his brigands in ambush, while he himself was sitting his horse, blocking the path with sword drawn. When I saw that, I handed the pretty maiden over to my ensign Halil Orlović and told him, ‘Take good care of Jela of Korlat. I will forge ahead, brothers, and clear the way for us.’ Halil took the girl, (400) and I charged forward on my white horse. Pauk shouted to me, ‘What vila bewitched you and showed you the way to Korlat to take the lady Jela? You won’t get away with her easily as long as Pauk is alive!’

    “Well, brothers, when I took Pauk’s meaning, I attacked the brigands with my men and we started fighting there in the pass. We charged a few times, and then I looked around and saw that my men had all been slain. Halil Orlović was dead, lying there like a huge wolf, and Childe Omer was lying next to him; the heads were missing from both bodies. Jela of Korlat was standing over them and weeping. When I looked for Pauk’s company, I saw that all his men were dead too. Only Pauk and I remained on our horses. So we charged at each other: when we were so close that our horses’ manes were becoming entwined, we drew our swords and started slashing manfully. Wherever I struck Pauk, sparks flew from him; but wherever he struck me, he always made a wound. Seven times he cut me, and gave me seven nasty wounds.

    “When my horse perceived from the blood that I was wounded, it took the bit in its teeth and ran up Zaklopac Pass. I tried to turn it back, but it wouldn’t let me. Pauk called after me, ‘O thou Turk, Mujo of Kladuša! Men praise thee, and they don’t speak ill of me either—turn around and face me!’ But I was exhausted from my wounds, brothers, so I gave the horse its reins, and the good white horse, as though it had wings, carried me away to my house in Kladuša.”

    As Mujo was finishing his tale, let us watch Crnica Alaga. (450) He thrust his hand into his pocket and drew out the letter from the uncle, which he handed to Mujo. Mujo took the letter, unfolded it, and read aloud what his uncle Huremaga wrote, while hearty Halil listened. “My sister’s son, Mujo of Kladuša! Do the service this letter asks, for the sake of your uncle Huremaga! Let the young men of Udbina see that without you or me, there is no one who dares to go to Korlat and attack the thousand-man wedding party of the ban of Corfu.”

    Let us watch hearty Halil. Halil cried out, “Brother Crnica Alaga, no other Turk has your kind of luck! Now listen to what Halil tells you. When Mujo went down to Korlat with Childe Omer and Orlović Halil and the thirty men of Kladuša, I was left behind to guard the house. But instead I prepared my horse—the lively black that was formerly Captain Pero’s—and I put on my hussar’s outfit, and crossed the border toward Mount Vučijak. I rode to General Grandula’s bright mansion on the stony coast to see the pretty little Milica and flirt with her there at her window.

    Her brother Cvijo had just come home from stony cold Vienna where he was studying and serving the emperor. When he finished his studies, the emperor was very pleased with Cvijo and gave him a medal, with command over thirty-three sirdars’ districts, so that he could make a tour of the border guards and guardhouses. Milica took the medal from him and gave it to me at her window.” As Halil spoke, he drew the medal from his pocket. “Here is Sirdar Cvijo’s medal. I’ll take the white horse, though it’s covered with blood. I too know how to deceive the men of Kranj.”

    When Halil finished, Mujo spoke up: “Halil mine, you silly inexperienced child! When you go down to Korlat to the ban of Korlat’s court yard, you will see stakes all around, and heads on the stakes—you’ll see Halil Orlović’s moustaches blowing in the breeze, and next to him little Omer’s head with the pigtail waving in the wind. You have a soft heart, brother; you might betray yourself by shedding a tear and thereby lose your life senselessly.” Vrhovac Alaga broke in, “Let us take Halil and the white horse with us, and wherever it comes to blows, I shall keep Halil behind my back while I charge ahead, brother.” When Mujo heard the aga’s promise, he let them take his brother and his horse.

    Now watch the loyal companions. All four dressed themselves as captains of the Hungarian hussars. Mujo saw them off with a blessing: “Go, brothers, may good fortune go with you! I see you will not leave me to suffer in peace; once more I shall have to go to Zaklopac Pass.”

    The companions went down to the yard, mounted their ready horses, and rode out from Kladuša. They entered onto Mt. Petrinja, and when night fell they had just reached Zaklopac Pass. All night they travelled through the pass, and when bright dawn first gleamed, they came to Pauk’s guardhouse.

    As they rode past the bodies of the martyred heroes, they offered prayers for the repose of their brothers’ souls. Then, when they had crossed the green plain as far as the guardhouse kept by Captain Mijat and his thirty men, Mijat came out to meet them, shouting as a bear howls, “O savage Turks—may a snake short-tailed and plumed bite you four days before St. George’s Day (550) with a bite that is certain death!—have you come down to avenge your friends? You won’t succeed in that as long as I’m here with my men to stop you!

    Let us see hearty Halil. He said to Vrhovac Alaga, “Brother, did you not promise Mujo in his chamber that you would keep me behind your back and that you would answer for me?” Vrhovac hung his head and stared at his horse’s mane. Then Halil spoke out: “O Mijat, loyal servant! These are no Turks on the plain of Korlat, but fighting men of Kotar!” As he spoke, he pulled his cloak open over his chest and flashed the medal, the golden medal from the Emperor in Vienna bearing the name of Sirdar Cvijo, the son of General Grandula of Kotar, giving him permission to tour the guard posts along the coast in the districts of thirty-three sirdars.

    “It is true, Captain Mijat, that this is Hrnjetina Mujo’s white horse. I found it in the market­place in Karlovac where two young hussars were leading it. I asked the two soldiers where they had gotten the blood-stained horse, and they said, ‘We caught it like this, riderless, at the crossing on the cool Kupa River.’ The two hussars had brought the horse to be auctioned off in the marketplace. I outbid everyone there and gave three hundred Hungarian gold pieces for it. Now I ride it about our coastland. These three servants of mine go with me. I’m on my way to Korlat to see the wedding guests from Corfu and the wedding of Jela the Latin maiden, and I’ve brought the Turkish horse to try it in the races.”

    As hearty Halil spoke, he put his hand in his pocket and brought out four ducats which he gave to Captain Mijat. (600) Mijat accepted them with thanks: “Thank you kindly, good sir! No one has ever been so generous to me.” Halil pressed on past him with his three companions.

    Thus they came down to Korlat, to the inn kept there by the tavern maid Pava, where they dismounted. See Osman Tanković! Osman was off his horse quickly and held the white horse for Halil to dismount; then he walked the two horses back and forth. Vrhovac and Crnica also dismounted, and Ale took the aga’s crane-gray horse and walked it with his own black.

    Hearty Halil and Alaga of Vrhovi entered the inn, and there they came upon a great wonder. They found two friars swathed in monks’ habits and carrying books of gibberish; with them were two deacons from lower Venice. The two instantly recognized the friars: one was really Tale the Fool and the other Rade Đurđević, and those two deacons from lower Venice were really two brothers from the Lika, the two sons of Jusufaga Strunja, the old wolf from the falls beneath Mt. Korjenica. The two companions sat down to drink with them.

    When the ban of Korlat and his retinue heard that Mujo of Kladuša’s white horse had come to Korlat and was at Pava’s inn, he and all his lords came down to the inn to find out who the owner of the horse was that had brought it there. As the ban entered the inn yard, he beheld a great wonder—the sight of Osman walking the white horse, having hitched his own chestnut nearby. The ban spied another (650) hussar too, walking a black and a spirited crane-gray horse.

    The first of the dukes to enter the yard with the ban was Captain Pauk. The ban had brought him along to identify Mujo’s white horse. Pauk said to the ban, “Good sir, ban of Korlat, this is the white and no other.” The ban turned to the young man by the horse, “O syce walking the white horse, whose is that horse now?” The syce answered, “Good sir, ban of Korlat, go ask my master. I am the servant of sirdar Cvijo from Kotar. My master is yonder, having a drink in the inn.”

    At these words the ban left Osman and the horse and turned toward the inn door. As he entered, he cried at the top of his voice, “Who is the owner of the Turk’s white horse?" Hearty Halil raised his head and addressed the ban, “O father of the bride, ruler of this city! I am Sirdar Cvijo, General Grandula’s son from Kotar. We know you, good sir, by reputation, although we have not previously seen you.” Hearing these words, the ban extended his right hand to him and greeted him. Then they sat down at the table and the ban called to Pava, “Bring us some drink—let us have plenty of rosy wine seven years old, and brandy thrice distilled!”

    When Pava had served them, the ban asked, “O Cvijo, good sir, where did you get the Turk’s horse?” Halil replied, “Father of the bride—admiration of us all!—I bought the horse at auction for three hundred pieces of Hungarian gold, in Karlovac on the cool Kupa. (700) Two young hussars had brought the horse, saying that they caught it riderless by the crossing on the river Kupa.” Captain Pauk declared, “That is Mujo of Kladuša’s white horse. Mujo was wounded, and when he became weak he must have remained on the mountain. The horse must have left Mujo and headed for Kladuša, but turned aside for water. So the hussars caught it and took it to Karlovac, where this gentleman bought it, and now it is his.”

    So they sat drinking until darkness fell. When it grew dark in the inn, the ban departed with Pauk and his other retinue, while Cvijo and his companions remained there for the night.

    The Hungarian maiden Jela learned that Crnica Alaga and three companions had arrived, for her sister-in-God Pava had told her of it. When night fell, Jela came down to the bright inn. As she entered, she called quietly to Alaga, “My dear soul Ale, my admired and beloved! My Crnica, my sun from behind the mountain! I am happy as the sun in the sky, now that I have seen you tonight. You are more beautiful to me here than your picture showed you.” She extended her arms toward Ale and saluted him first, before she turned to the rest of his company.

    Then Jela spoke further, “O bridesman, hearty Halil, let your brother-in-God, my treasure, go with me to my chamber. I swear to you that I will play you no tricks—I would rather die.” When the Latin maiden made this request, now see hearty Halil. (750) His heart was softened, for Halil understood what a maiden’s love is, and he gave Crnica leave to go. Jela led him away to her chamber in the stone mansion and closed the door behind them. There she set forth drink, and they spent the whole night drinking, laughing, billing like two turtle doves, caressing each other like two peacocks. So they passed the night and greeted the early dawn.

    When the sun was up, Jela left the chamber, leaving Crnica within, and went straight to the inn, to her bridesman hearty Halil. She greeted Halil, “My bridesman, my golden ring! Did you pass the night unpleasantly?” Halil replied, “Not at all, I assure you. But what of my friend Ale?” Lovely Jela told him, “Ale is yonder in my chamber. He is very comfortable, do not worry about him.”

    Then Halil said, “Go back then, Jela, to my friend, and take good care of him. And if fighting should start, only remember not to leave behind the heads of my brother-in-God Halil Orlović and my little brother Omer. Take both heads down from the castle wall, because it was more for them that I came to Korlat than for you, Jela. I have sworn an oath to God that I shall take home the heads of my brother and my brother-in-God, or leave my own here with theirs.” When Jela heard his words, she said, “Have no care for that!” Then Jela went back to her chamber in the stone mansion and sat by her Crnica.

    As they were settling down to enjoy their cool drink, the cannon of Korlat thundered, announcing the arrival of the wedding party of the ban from Corfu. (800) A herald went about bright Korlat crying, “Whoever has a horse and a wedding garment, let him mount and go forth to meet the wedding guests!”

    Let us watch the ban of Korlat. The ban and all the young men of Korlat arose and went forth. Now let us watch the three companions in Pava’s inn. The brethren mounted their horses and went forth together with the ban to meet the wedding party. Two hours’ journey out from Korlat upon the green plain they met the wedding guests in their festive array. Where they met, they halted, and all dismounted to rest their horses on the open plain. There the guests all sat down to take refreshment.

    The ban of Corfu addressed his father-in-law, “O ban, my dearest father! I have brought with me Janko Pletikosa, so that we may have a contest in stone-putting. You seek a hurler from among your men of Korlat."

    Hearing this, the ban called to Sir Cvijo, “O Cvijo, good sir, come and find a hurler for me!” Cvijo replied, “There is my man Vuristić, ban, the one with the shaggy crane-gray horse. From the moment he fell from his mother’s womb no one has outthrown him—so how would Janko Pletikosa be able to today?”

    At this the ban immediately summoned Vuristić. A hurling stone was found and the contest began. A crowd gathered around the contestants as they made two or three throws. Then Vrhovac Alaga took up the stone and hurled it from his right shoulder. He over-passed Janko’s mark by just a little—by as much ground as would serve the tallest Vlah for a grave. So Alaga carried off the prize.

    The ban of Corfu was displeased, and he called again to the ban of Korlat, “Do you have a young man, O ban (850), who does the broad jump, as the deer leaps? I have brought with me from Corfu one named Ile Suhognjata. Now you find one of yours to compete with my Ile Suhognjata in the broad jump.”

    The ban of Korlat again asked Cvijo, “O Cvijo, good sir, on whom can one rely?” Halil answered, “Sir ban, there is my servant, over there with the white horse, walking the two horses up and down. His name is Jandrija Svilajac. Since he fell from his mother’s womb, no one has ever outjumped him.”

    The ban summoned Svilajac Jandrija. Let us watch Osman Tanković. When it came his turn to leap like a deer, he took a running start and outjumped Ile Suhognjata by a distance Ile could not have covered in two leaps. So Tanković took the prize.

    Again the ban of Corfu was displeased, and he called to his father-in-law, “O ban, do you have a sprinter? I have brought with me Rade Crookèdarse, to foot race with your men of Korlat.” When Halil heard this, he jumped to his feet and said to the ban, “Sir ban of Korlat, I’ll try my luck with Rade in the foot race.”

    Now Rade Crookèdarse began to take off his clothes, stripping down to his trousers and thin shirt. But see hearty Halil—Halil only laid aside his arms and took off his silver weapons belt, and set off to run the race still wearing his boots and leggings. The ban of Korlat said to him, “O Cvijo, good sir, why do you not take off your clothes?” Halil replied (900), “Sir ban, a gray falcon does not find its wings heavy; no more do I find my clothes heavy. If Cvijo’s legs are strong enough, the clothes will make no difference.”

    Now they proceeded over the green field to a point almost farther than the eye could see, where they stopped and took their stands. At the signal they set off running. Rade moved down the green field like a flash. When hearty Halil saw how he ran, he took off his boots, and, leaving his leggings on and grasping the boots in his two hands, he too started running over the green field. Like a dusky wolf he leapt over the ground and in a twinkling caught up to Rade and passed him. When he came up to the mark, he remained standing to pull on his boots, buckle on his weapons belt, and replace his pistols, while Rade staggered up to the mark and collapsed senseless.

    Again the ban of Corfu was displeased, and he called to the ban of Korlat, “Father-in-law, ban of Korlat, you have taken all the prizes! Now do you have a race horse, so that we can have one more contest? I have brought a dark Arabian mare that belongs to Father Fairytale from Fairyland. What a horse she is! Fleet footed and wearing no girth, with a scraggly mane and a gaunt head, but she’s fast—may three wolves devour her!”

    When Cvijo heard this, he jumped to his feet and shouted to his hussars, “Quick, bring me the Turk’s white horse! At home in Kotar I have heard all our people praising Mujo of Kladuša’s white horse and saying that there is no faster horse in the whole of the Lika, the Border, and even in both our Kotars. They say that it even beats the bey’s dove-gray, and that nothing on four legs can outrun it.”

    As Cvijo spoke, the soldiers brought the horse. (950) Cvijo went up to it and secured the buckles on the girths. The horse recognized its master and kept nibbling Halil’s arms. It knew that the time had come for riding, so it kneeled and invited its master to mount. As Halil settled himself on the spirited horse, he laughed aloud heartily and thought to himself, “O white horse, wing of my shoulder, as I look at you today, brother, I remember that whenever you have acted like this, we have always taken the prize in a race. So too now, God willing, I hope you will outrun the priest’s mare.”

    Now the good white horse and the mare set off over the green plain. Four soldiers, two from Corfu and two from Korlat, rode along beside them to assure that neither would foul the other. The race horses were taken two hours’ distance over the plain and halted at a starting marker. Let us watch hearty Halil—he positioned his horse behind the mare. The soldiers from Corfu objected: “Sir Captain Cvijo, bring your white horse abreast of the mare, lest you say afterwards that the race was not fairly run.” Halil answered, “I’ll let the mare go ahead. If the white’s legs are as strong as they ought to be, there won’t be anything unfair about the race."

    When Halil had spoken, the starting gun sounded and the horses took off. Let us watch the mare from Fairyland. She stretched her legs out over the greensward like an eagle soaring under the clouds—her forelegs whirled past her ears and the shoes on her hind hooves flew up to her croup. From where he sat the white, Halil swore that he could not even see her legs.

    When they had reached the midpoint of the race course, let us watch hearty Halil. He pulled a crop from his boot and struck the spirited white horse on both flanks; he spoke to it lovingly like a brother (1000) while flogging it like a foeman. Wherever he struck it, the skin burst and dark blood ran out and trickled down onto the horse’s hooves. O, if only you could see the mettlesome white! It rushed along so fast it made the grass undulate around it as it leapt past the mare; it lined out over the greensward like an eagle soaring beneath the clouds. If anyone were to get a glimpse of it from the side, he would swear that the horse had no legs under it at all.

    Soon it was clear that the white was pulling ahead and the mare lagging behind. Thus the white passed the finish marker, and four pistols fired at once, two from Vrhovac Alaga and two from Osman Tanković. The ban of Korlat ordered a squad of his mercenaries to fire their weapons in celebration too, for the ban was very pleased that he had taken the prize in every contest with his son-in-law from Corfu.

    But the priest from Fairyland spoke up, “I say the race was unfair to my Arab mare! Whatever race she has run in the past has always been hers; she has always taken first place.” A priest from the coast among the company from Korlat shouted to the priest from Fairyland, “I’ll make it fair for you!” From beneath his long habit Tale drew forth his naked sword and slashed the priest from Fairyland so well that the body split in two along the blade.

    Dear God, thanks be to Thee for all things! The wedding party broke up in fighting as the men of Kranj and the other Christians quarreled with each other. The guests in their wedding array attacked and the furious men of Korlat resisted them. Rifle fire rang out, sharp sword blades flashed, swords flashed and blood spilled forth, battle spears crunched, heads rolled and arms dropped off.

    Let us watch hearty Halil! As soon as the battle began, he rode his horse clear of it (1050) and sped to stony Korlat to rouse Crnica Alaga. But Crnica had already left Korlat when he heard the sound of fighting on the plain. He had taken away with him Jela of Korlat and the two blond heads, one Childe Omer’s and the other Halil Orlović’s. Halfway across the plain they met Halil. Halil took the heads, kissed them, and placed them in the white's saddlebag.

    Let us watch the ban of Corfu, for fate had put him within reach of the Turk Osman Tanković. The ban was fleeing ahead on his white-footed horse, while Osman urged his chestnut after him. The ban was doomed: Vrhovac Alaga met him just as Osman caught up to him. The two companions drew their sabers and struck the ban with them simultaneously—their two weapons met on one body and bereaved the ban of Corfu’s mother of a son.

    Meanwhile the guardhouse of Captain Mijat went up in flames, for the Turks had taken it and scattered Mijat and his men at sword point. The voice of Aliaga Kozlić was heard calling to Tataraga, Tataraga calling to Merdanaga, and Merdanaga to Šabanaga, as Šabanaga Kozlić shouted, “O cousin, hearty Halil! Courage, have no fear of the Vlahs! You should not fear even the king of Germany, much less the ban of Korlat and his wild men, as long as you hear the fourteen Kozlići, your cousins, on the way. There’s Huremaga Kozlić too, your uncle and my father; and Mujo of Kladuša, your brother and my cousin, is with them. Omer­efendi is there as well. They are burying the fallen martyrs in the pass and saying the funeral services for them. All the men of the Lika and the Border are with them. (1100) The Turks have taken Zaklopac Pass and there’s not a wolf bitch will bear a cub, nor a Latin wench will bear a hero, that will care to enter Zaklopac now that it is filled with Turks!"

    At this moment Halil rode up to his cousins with Crnica Alaga and Jela of Korlat. From there they all turned to enter Zaklopac Pass, where they found Huremaga Kozlić with his nephew Mujo Hrnjica and Omer-efendi sitting by Pauk’s guardhouse. Dismounting, Halil flew to his uncle’s hand and kissed it, and then to Omer-efendi. When he came to his brother’s hand, Mujo would not let him kiss it, but instead Mujo embraced him and kissed his heroic brow.

    Let us see Crnica Alaga. He kissed the hands of the elders, and so too did Jela of Korlat. Then they all sat down by the guardhouse, where Jela waited on them. As they were talking, two companions appeared riding up the pass, Vrhovac Alaga in the lead and Osman Tanković following after; both were bloody as mountain wolves. The two rode up to the group, greeted them, and dismounted. The aga of Vrhovi drew a head from his horse’s feed bag and presented it to Huremaga Kozlić. “Father Huremaga Kozlić, here is an apple as a gift to you from me—the ban of Corfu’s head.” Let us watch Huremaga Kozlić. He put his hand to his turban and drew from it a plume which he presented to the aga of Vrhovi, saying, “Dear son, Vrhovac Alaga, here is a plume for you from me! Now I know that you are truly a man.”

    When they had sat down again to rest (1150), four horses galloped up, one after the other. Huremaga Kozlić asked, “Sweet son, Vrhovac Alaga, right wing of the Upper Lika, who is that coming from Korlat?” “I can tell you, aga Huremaga Kozlić. That is Tale of Orašac, and with him are Rade Đurđević and the two sons of Jusufaga Strunja, the old wolf from the waterfall at the foot of Mt. Korjenica.”

    Meanwhile Tale arrived at the guardhouse and dismounted, still wearing his priest’s habit. He took the feedbag from his horse and drew out of it two heads which he presented to Mujo of Kladuša. “Here, Mujo, you will recognize both these heads. One is the priest from Fairyland, and the other is Captain Pauk, who recently wounded you and caused us all so much grief. I have repaid him for that by taking his head; here I’ve brought it to you—feast your eyes on it, brother.” See Mujo—he took Pauk’s head and said, “Well done, brother-in-God! Now I know that you are truly a man.”

    As Mujo was speaking to his brother, Huremaga Kozlić shouted to the company, “My sons, it is time to depart!” Let us watch the Turks in the pass. When they heard the aga, they all arose and mounted their horses. Taking Jela of Korlat with them, they rode out of Zaklopac. What had been an army now became a wedding party. When they left the pass, they turned toward Turkish lands. At the crossroads where one road leads off to the Border, Mujo addressed his company, “Hear me, brother Borderers! (1200) Let everyone go to his own home, while for my part, I shall go to Udbina with my brother and with my uncle Huremaga Kozlić to attend the wedding of my brother-in-God.”

    Then he called to one of his brothers-in-God, Mujo Razbudnik of Mutnik, “O brother and namesake Mujo, go to my bright mansion and tell my old mother and my little sister Ajka that we have avenged our men and buried the fallen martyrs, and have returned in safety. Let her not be anxious about me. Tell her that we have gone with our uncle to the Lika for Crnica Alaga’s wedding.” When Mujo had finished speaking, they parted.

    Let us watch the festive wedding guests. When they had come safely into the Lika to the Crničić peak, they dismounted at the stone mansion and began to make merry from day to day for fifteen full days. Let us see the bey Mustajbeg! When he heard the news that Ale had brought the maiden back from Korlat, lord Mustajbeg and his lady and his seven standard-bearers and his thirty guardsmen all arose and went down to the Crničić peak. They summoned a hodja and a cadi. The hodja received Jela into the Turkish faith, and the cadi performed the wedding ceremony. So they married Crnica Alaga. Mustajbeg was his best man and Mustajbegovica the bridesmaid, and the bey provided the wedding feast at his own expense.

    When the feasting and merrymaking were over the Turks went their separate ways, each to his own home. Only Crnica Alaga remained, tending his hearth and making love to Jela. With her he sired a fine family, two boys, and the third a girl, so that he would not want for a son-in-law in his lifetime.

    I have heard that it was so. From me you have this song in your honor, from God may you have health and happiness! Whoever knows better, the field is wide open to him.


Return to Index of Texts from the Bosanska Krajina

Return to Index of S.-C. Epic Texts

Return to MPC Documents