Parry Text 7 (autograph)

Received at Stolac, Tuesday, 22 August, 1933
written by Velija Šetka
Muslim, 30 years of age
— village of Crnići, Aladinići Commune, District of Stolac —

Marko Kraljević i Musa Keserdžija

All you folk who are gathered round,     1
listen to my maplewood gusle     2
—my gusle, which is meant for bowing,     3
as my throat is meant for singing     4
old songs of times long passed     5
about the deeds of men of yore...     6
Musa the Brigand served the emperor     7
in the bright city of Stambol     8
day in and day out for twelve long years,     9
till one time suddenly Musa rebelled;     10
he took himself off to a public house,     11
where he made himself drunk with wine,     12
and in his drunkenness Musa said softly:     13
“By dear worthy God—thanks be to Thee for all things!—     14
I have served the emperor for lo these twelve years     15
and not been paid either in money     16
or in kind—not even a new coat, or even one second-hand.     17
Unless the mother who bore me     18
is the same that fouled my mare,     19
I’ll betake myself to the lowlands by the sea     20
and turn my musket on the emperor,     21
intercept the ferries along the littoral     22
where treasures of ready money transit,     23
where the imperial revenues are transported,     24
and there I’ll interdict the imperial power,     25
build a fortress on the coast,     26
a wall and a yard around the fort,     27
and all about the yard I’ll place iron meat-hooks,     28
and on them any man of worth I’ll hang,     29
the emperor’s priests and pilgrims I shall hang!”     30
Up started Musa and left the inn,     31
and away he went a-strolling across the bright city     32
till he came to Novo the blacksmith,     33
to whom he uttered from his lily-white throat:     34
“Forge me a saber, smith Novak,     35
such as you’ve never forged before!”     36
Smith Novak set about forging,     37
while Musa went away to drink more wine.     38
Again Musa started till his foot     39
and walked to Novak at his smithy.     40
“Is my keen saber ready?”     41
Ready it was, all worked to perfection.     42
Musa grasped the saber and struck a blow with it:     43
where the stroke he wrought with it hit the anvil,     44
not even the stand beneath it remained whole.     45
He took out thirty ducats     46
and paid smith Novak for the well-made saber.     47
So Musa went away, saddled his chestnut horse,     48
and betook himself to the lowlands by the sea.     49
When he came to the coastal lowlands,     50
full soon Musa began his mutiny,     51
stopping the movement of ferry barges by sea     52
wherein revenue shipments were transported;     53
day by day, all week long     54
he stayed the remittances of imperial tax receipts.     55
He erected a fortress in the coastal lowland,     56
built a wall and a paved courtyard about the fort,     57
with iron meat-hooks about the yard.     58
Full soon complaints began to reach the emperor himself,     59
all in blame of Musa—accursèd be his soul!—     60
for the evil he did in the coastal lowland.     61
Many were the men whom the emperor sent     62
in hopes they might destroy the malefactor,     63
but all in vain—no benefit came of that:     64
whoever went away to the coast to put the rebel down     65
returned nevermore to Stambol,     66
whilst evermore complaints of Musa beleaguered
    the emperor.    
Then one day the emperor spoke out:     68
“No man else may slay this scourge,     69
but that I send the Hodja against him     70
with a complement of five thousand troops.”     71
Even as the emperor spoke the Hodja
    was there in attendance:    
“Padishah, do you wish me to assemble the troops?”     73
“Forthwith, Hodja—my dear son!”     74
The Hodja stood up and went amongst the army,     75
where he appointed commanding officers     76
and levied five hundred rank and file; [sic]     77
so Hodja Chuprilich made himself ready     78
and led the battle-seasoned troops away     79
—away went the Hodja to the coastal lowlands.     80
When he came to the lowlands by the sea,     81
he roamed from place to place asking everywhere
    for Musa.    
Three long days he sought him,     83
until early on the third day Musa appeared     84
in the canyon by Fort Kachanik;     85
sitting cross-legged in the saddle on his chestnut horse,     86
he was holding his heavy club in his hand     87
and throwing it high in the air.     88
When, sitting his own chesnut, the Hodja saw him,     89
he commanded his troops     90
to take cover behind the fir trees,     91
whilst for his part the Hodja stood
    in the middle of the road    
and called out from his lily-while throat:     93
“Where have you been, Musa?—may you be beheaded,     94
as now you soon shall be!”     95
Musa the Brigand said to him in reply:     96
“Devil take you, Hodja,     97
beware of commotion or quarreling!”     98
When the Hodja commanded his troops     99
to take aim at Musa     100
and fire their muskets,     101
they laid hold of their muskets,     102
took aim at Musa,     103
and fired.     104
As the loud matchlocks went off,     105
Musa reined in his mount,     106
and when the pistols had also fired at him     107
—behold Musa where he sat astride his chestnut!—     108
his hand went to his hip     109
where, ferocious, it took hold of his saber;     110
then he drove his broad-backed chestnut forward,     111
and charging now in one direction and now in another     112
he routed the troops and cut them down,     113
took Chuprilich himself captive,     114
bound him,     115
and sent him back to bright Stambol:     116
“Get thee gone, Hodja, to Stambol,     117
and tell thou there what hath happened here!”     118
So the Hodja took himself off to the bright city.     119
When he came into the presence of the sovereign     120
and the Emperor of Stambol beheld him, [up to here]     121
he struck his thigh and said:     122
“And you be no heathen, Hodja, what
    has happened to you?    
I had always supposed     124
that I had no better man in my service     125
than you and your hand-picked troops!”     126
When the Hodja began to tell him     127
what Musa had done to them     128
—sabred his five hundred soldiers,     129
every man of them an armored warrior fierce as fire—     130
and when the emperor had understood the Hodja’s
what the Hodja had told them there in audience,     132
he groaned from within the marrow of his being     133
and said with his lily-white throat:     134
“Alas, poor Marko Kraljevich!     135
Were Marko but alive today,     136
he would know how to meet him in combat!”     137
Hodja Chuprilich then said to him,     138
“Sultan Emperor, Descendent of the Prophet,     139
what might you bestow upon that man     140
who would bring Marko to you alive?”     141
“I would confer upon him the vizierate of Bosnia     142
for a continuous term of twelve years.”     143
Then the Hodja said, there were he stood in audience,     144
“Sultan Emperor, Descendent of the Prophet,     145
loose the bonds from off my arms     146
and give me the keys to the prison.”     147
Forthwith the emperor caused his hands to be freed     148
and gave him the prison keys.     149
Away went the Hodja to the prison gates     150
and opened the hatch to the oubliette;     151
down went the Hodja to the bottom of the prison     152
and called to Marko Kraljevich:     153
“Is Marko somewhere here in the prison,     154
or has Marko passed on to the other world?”     155
Presently Marko Kraljevich wailed,     156
“Marko’s still here in the prison!”     157
Hodja Chuprilich approached him     158
and called with his lily-white throat:     159
“Come along, Marko, to the emperor’s audience!”     160
Kraljevich Marko called in reply,     161
“O, Hodja Chuprilich, as God is your witness,     162
what does the emperor want with me now?     163
Does he mean now to have me hanged,     164
or does he mean to banish me?”     165
“Neither does the emperor intend to hang you     166
nor send you into exile;     167
he summons you to wait on him at court.”     168
So Marko Kraljevich arose,     169
and the Hodja lead him out of prison     170
still shackled and in irons,     171
and took him just so into audience
    before the emperor.    
When Marko stood before him in audience,     173
the emperor of Stambol said to him:     174
“Hear me, Marko Kraljevich!     175
The brigand Musa has mutinied against me,     176
—he has run away to the coastal lowlands     177
and turned his musket upon me.     178
Many a man have I sent, Marko     179
—and all of them, Marko, good men, too—     180
in the hope that one of them might slay him;     181
but not one who went away to the lowlands by the sea     182
has ever again been seen in Stambol city.     183
Now hear me, prisoner Marko!     184
Might you have sufficient confidence in yourself     185
to meet him on the field of combat?”     186
Then Marko Kraljevich spoke:     187
“Here now what I have to say!     188
A mere twelve days are no laughing matter,     189
not to speak of the twelve years that have passed     190
since I fell into prison.     191
The dank of the prison stones has destroyed me,     192
and the water that stands there up to a man’s knees     193
with swamp grass growing in it     194
where venomous serpents breed,     195
serpents that bite and scorpions that sting.     196
Sultan emperor of Stambol city,     197
remove these weeds from me and give me new clothes,     198
then give me lodging in an inn     199
for a whole week without interruption,     200
so that Marko may recruit himself a bit.”     201
The emperor sent for three young barbers:     202
one bathed Marko, another shaved him,     203
and a third gave him a manicure.     204
When they had done their ministrations to young Marko,     205
the emperor caused him to be taken to an inn     206
where red wind was set before him     207
and white-wheat hardtack,     208
and thick cuts of mutton.     209
One day followed another until the week was out,     210
then the emperor strolled to the inn     211
and asked Marko Kraljevich,     212
“Is it time for combat, Marko?”     213
From where he sat in the inn Marko replied,     214
“Sultan emperor of Stambol city,     215
bring me a piece of dry cornel wood     216
that has lain curing nine years in an attic!” [up to here]     217
The emperor procured the dry cornel wood     218
and presented it to Marko Kraljevich,     219
who squeezed it with his right hand;     220
—the wood snapped in two and three pieces,     221
but yielded no water.     222
Then Marko Kraljevich said,     223
“Sultan emperor of Stambol city,     224
pray keep me here in this inn for yet another week,     225
and set both food and drink before me.”     226
So he continued his keep for another week.     227
One day succeeded another until a week was done,     228
when, coming to the inn again, the emperor     229
again brought dry cornel wood     230
and called to Marko Kraljevich:     231
“Now is it time for combat, Marko?”     232
Marko Kraljevich spoke up:     233
“Emperor, give me the cured cornel wood!”     234
So he presented him the dry cornel wood.     235
He squeezed it in his right hand,     236
and the wood snapped in two and three pieces,     237
and out spurted three drops of water.     238
Marko Kraljevich then declared,     239
“Emperor, it seems that now I may be fit for fighting.     240
But I have no sharp saber for the fray.”     241
The emperor strewed yellow ducats before him and said,     242
“Go have a saber forged to order!”     243
Marko went forth across the bright city     244
till he came to Nova the blacksmith.     245
“Forge me a saber, blacksmith Novak,     246
of such fine quality as you have never made before!”     247
Novak the blacksmith set to work at his forge     248
while Marko went strolling round Stambol.     249
When Marko came again to the smith,     250
the saber was waiting newly forged.     251
Marko said to the smith Novak,     252
“Is this a well made saber?”     253
Novak the blacksmith said to him,     254
“Here is the saber, and there is the anvil;     255
test it for yourself, Marko Kraljevich!”     256
Brandishing the saber,     257
Marko struck the anvil with it,     258
cutting the anvil halfway through;     259
Kraljevich Marko liked it well.     260
Then said Marko Kraljevich,     261
“God help thee, smith Novak,     262
Have you ever forged a better one for any other man?”     263
Then smith Novak said,     264
“God help thee, Marko Kraljevich,     265
I did once forge a better sword     266
—a better sword, and for a better man.     267
When Musa went away to start his insurrection,     268
I forged a saber for him.     269
When he struck the anvil with it,     270
not even the stand beneath the anvil remained unharmed.”     271
Marko was distressed to hear that     272
and called to the smith, “Come take your fee
    for the forging!”    
In a moment of inattention an adder stung him     274
—the smith extended him arm to receive payment,     275
whereupon Marko Kraljevich swung his saber     276
and cut off the man’s arm at the shoulder.     277
Then he tossed him thirty ducats, saying:     278
“There now, smith Novak,     279
you need not forge hereafter nor better nor worse.”     280
Marko went away to the warm stable,     281
and there he began to ready his horse.     282
When he had curried it     283
he furled the horse blanket, spread a tatar saddlecloth,     284
and put on an Ottoman saddle;     285
then he put a German bit in its mouth     286
and tightened the four girth-straps     287
together with a fifth web-belt of silk     288
that kept the straps from chaffing     289
—even if all four straps were to fail,     290
the belt of silken webbing would remain in place,     291
and so would the easy rider.     292
Next Marko caught up his heavy club     293
and his huge spear,     294
and his finned mace,     295
and lashed them all together behind the saddle.     296
When Marko had completed his preparations     297
he asked leave to depart,     298
and the emperor of Stambol gave him leave,     299
and saw Marko Kraljevich on his way     300
whilst cannon on the city wall fired a salute.     301
So Marko went away to duel with Musa.     302
Having passed this way and that
    amongst the peaks of the mountains,    
Marko came down to the coast.     304
He roamed about for an entire week,     305
but when Palm Sunday came,     306
Musa the Brigand rode forth early in the morning     307
along the canyon by Fort Kachanik;     308
sitting cross-legged in the saddle on his chestnut horse,     309
he was holding his well-wrought sword in his hand,     310
throwing it high into the air,     311
and again catching it with his hand as it fell.     312
Marko leapt off his piebald mount     313
and, standing in the middle of the road blocking the way,     314
he said with his lily-white throat:     315
“Madcap Musa, get out of my way     316
—either get out of my way, or else do me obeisance,     317
or else dismount and let us drink together!”     318
Musa then spoke up,     319
“Teen attend you, Marko Kraljevich!     320
I am not some child who must get myself out of your way,     321
nor am I a wife who owes you obeisance;     322
rather am I a fighting man accustomed
    to the field of combat.”    
Marko said to him again:     324
“Either get out of my way, or else do me obeisance,     325
or else dismount and let us drink together!”     326
Then Musa quietly said to him:     327
“God wot, Marko Kraljevich!     328
If it be true that a queen gave birth to you     329
on a soft cushion in a storeyed house     330
—swaddled you in cloth of pure silk     331
and weaned you with sugar and honey—     332
my fierce Albanian mother bore me     333
on cold rock in the high mountains     334
—swaddled me in a scrap of dirty rag     335
bound up with a strand of vine,     336
and fed me sorghum—     337
and ofttimes she did adjure me     338
never to step aside for any man;     339
so shall I not give way to you, Marko,     340
but only give you fight.”     341
Down they gat them off their mounts,     342
set in place the targes and the boundary-markers,     343
mounted on their horses once again,     344
took their positions at the marks,     345
and fettled their mighty spears.     346
So they began to tilt at one another;     347
Marko tilted first at Musa,     348
aiming his battle-spear at him,     349
which Musa parried with his club.     350
Thus they fought     351
till each had broken the other’s spear     352
and both had discarded them on the green grass;     353
then they wielded their well-wrought sabers     354
until those too were shattered in the fray.     355
Time and again each set his war-horse at the other,     356
attacking each other by turns     357
—but neither did the other any injury that way.     358
Getting down from off their horses then,     359
they came to grips     360
and wrestled uneventfully till noon, this way and that;     361
but by the middle of the afternoon     362
foam had formed about the mouths of both     363
—the foam that fell from Musa was only white,     364
but that from Marko Kraljevich was white
    and laced with blood.    
Then Marko Kraljevich cried out,     366
“Where are you, vila?—may you never be anywhere!—     367
Did you not tell me, sister,     368
that should I ever find myself in trouble     369
you would be my helpmeet?”     370
Thereupon the vila called to him from among the clouds:     371
“Teen attend you, Marko Kraljevich!     372
I can do nothing to assist you;     373
I am but a single fictive sister to you,     374
whereas Musa has nine such     375
—and they are ready to tear my hair out if I intervene.     376
But listen, brother Marko     377
—since I myself cannot help you—     378
do you not see?—may you never see them!—     379
you are wearing boots and leggings,     380
while Musa wears peasant shoes.     381
Trip him—stand on his laces—     382
and bowl him over in the grass,     383
then, leaning down to the earth yourself,     384
draw forth your hidden viper     385
and disembowel Musa the Brigand.”     386
Musa the Brigand was distracted     387
and looked up towards the clouds     388
from whence the vila had spoken to Marko     389
—and that is when Marko tricked him     390
and trod upon his shoe laces,     391
and bowled him over in the grass.     392
Musa fell upon the green grass;     393
Marko Kraljevich pinned him down,     394
whipped out his concealed viper,     395
and disemboweled Musa there where he lay
    upon the ground;    
then he laid hold of his steel fighting-knife     397
and cut the head from off his shoulders.     398
Even in death Musa continued to leap about;     399
but when at last Musa fell to earth,     400
Marko went to him     401
and cut open Musa’s carcass where it lay
    upon the ground.    
In it he discovered a great marvel,     403
for inside Musa were three rib-cages     404
—three racks of ribs layered one within another,     405
and three hearts abeating, one in each:     406
one of his hearts had grown fatigued,     407
another was beating excitedly,     408
and on the third a viper lay asleep.     409
From where it lay on his heart the viper spoke:     410
“Say a prayer of thanks to God, Marko Kraljevich,     411
that I did not awake, for if I had,     412
I would have worked you three hundred woes!”     413
Then Marko said with his throat,     414
“Woe is me, God wot,     415
for I have slain a better man than I am!”     416
Marko took the severed head     417
and tossed it into his piebald’s nosebag,     418
then he fled away to level Kosovo,     419
and in Kosovo Marko came to a well of water     420
where he found a pretty girl.     421
The lass was drawing cool water     422
—drawing water and brushing away her tears.     423
Marko said softly to the lass:     424
“Pretty maid, by worthy God,     425
what is your big misfortune?     426
Why are you spoiling your pretty face with weeping     427
—what is your so great unhappiness?”     428
Softly the maiden said to Marko:     429
“And why should I trouble you with my woes     430
when there is nothing you can do about them?”     431
But Marko Kraljevich adjured her:     432
“Pretty maiden, tell me what it is!”     433
So the may began to tell him:     434
“Listen then to what I have to say!     435
A three-headed Arab has come amongst us,     436
bringing with him an army of twelve thousand,     437
and he has imposed a tax on all this province     438
—thirty ducats from any man who wants to marry,     439
and thirty-and-four from any bride.     440
Young as I am, I feign would marry,     441
but I’ve no means to pay the marriage-tax.”     442
Marko Kraljevich then said to her,     443
“Only give my horse to drink,     444
and I shall pay thy wedding-tax.”     445
So the maiden drew the water for his horse to drink,     446
then Marko mounted on the horse     447
and rode it away the length of the green meadow     448
to where the three-headed Arab’s tent was pitched.     449
As he rode he made his horse to prance,     450
and from within his tent the Three-head noticed it     451
and said to his servants:     452
“See you yonder fellow coming hither?     453
Methinks the man has afianced a maid     454
and comes to pay the wedding-tax.     455
Give him leave to approach my tent when he arrives!”     456
When they had given him leave to approach
    the white pavilion,    
Marko rode up to the Arab’s tent     458
and called to him, “Good morning!”     459
The Arab responded to Marko’s greeting politely,     460
then gan softly say to him:     461
“Have you afianced a maid, good fellow,     462
and come to pay the wedding-tax?”     463
“Three-headed Arab—hear me well!—     464
indeed I’ve come to pay the wedding-tax.”     465
Then said the three-headed Arab to him,     466
“I’ll take no wedding-tax from you;     467
with you I mean to fight.”     468
Marko Kraljevich said to him,     469
“How do you want to do it?”     470
The three-headed Arab said to him,     471
“We’ll fight with clubs!”     472
Marko dismounted from his piebald     473
and stood before the tent,     474
while the Arab took a position a little way from Marko.     475
Then he said to Marko Kraljevich,     476
“Will you strike first, or take my blow?”     477
“You strike first, and I’ll take yours.     478
You’ve issued the challenge, so do your worst!”     479
The Arab took up his heavy club     480
and with it struck Marko Kraljevich     481
—whereupon Marko shouted,     482
“Now you bear my blow as I’ve borne yours!”     483
The three-headed Arab braced himself,     484
and Marko hit him with his club.     485
So light was the blow that Marko dealt him,     486
the Arab was dead by the time he hit the ground.     487
Then Marko mounted his piebald horse     488
and, taking his keen saber in hand,     489
rushed upon the twelve thousand.     490
Having scattered them in all directions on Kosovo Field,     491
he turned once more towards Kosovo     492
and shouted at the top of his voice as he went:     493
“Whoever has a lad to be married     494
or a lass to be given in marriage,     495
let them wed—the wedding-tax is abolished!     496
Marko has paid it once and for all.”     497
And every living soul in Kosovo,     498
both great and small, cried out:     499
“God grant long life to Marko Kraljevich!”     500

  • main menu