Osmanbeg Delibegović i Pavičević Luka

- Prolog -

Amounting to 13,326 verses, this sung epic is slightly more than a thousand lines longer than the dictated story of Smailagić Meho, making it the lengthiest single text of oral poetry that has been recorded from any European tradition since Homer. Avdo Međedović's composition of the poem occupied approximately eleven hours of actual audio recording time on Milman Parry's phonographic field apparatus. The overall mean rate of Avdo's production of epic verses during the song was a little greater than twenty per minute, or one every three seconds. This is what is meant by the oral theorists' expression “rapid composition in performance.”

    In collecting this text from Avdo, Milman Parry deliberately applied to him the same process of interruption and distraction that he had employed in collecting The Wedding of Vlahinjić Alije, only on a somewhat larger scale (proportionate to the greater size of the story about Osman and Luke, which was more than twice the length in Avdo's telling of the tale about Ali Vlahinjić). In this instance, three other epics (the Ženidba Vlahinjić Alije, Gavran Harambaša i Serdar Mujo, and the Robovanje Tala u Ozimu), three further days of rest (27-29 July), and many hours of conversations before the microphone about still other epics and the events of Avdo's own life (Parry Texts 12436, 12443, and 12445) were introduced between the day (20 July, 1935) when Avdo left off singing Osmanbeg Delibegović i Pavičević Luka at verse 7,132 and his completion of that epic for the phonograph records on 1-3 August.

    Thus, the several texts that Parry collected from Međedović are not only evidence of the most fluent and most extensive oral traditional epic composition collected from any one man in Europe since Homer, but also of the exact relationship among different complex epics in the mind of a great oral poet at a given moment of intensive poetic activity in his tradition. For whereas Avdo's dictation of The Wedding of Smailagić Meho took place under virtually ideal circumstances without interruption or distraction over the eight days from 5-12 July, 1935, Parry deliberately made Avdo's dictation and singing of the present text and several others to interrupt and interfere with each other so as to test the distinctions among different epic stories and to learn all he could about the ‘chemistry’ of their possible derivations and their narrative dependencies one upon another.

    Other singers before Parry's experience with Međedović had routinely been flummoxed by such demanding tests of their concentration, but what Parry found in Avdo by this experimental induction of opportunity for ‘mixing’ stories was more narrative independence and formulary discreteness among the different epics than one would have thought possible. Like Avdo's extraordinary arithmetic capacity that had made him a successful petit bourgeois businessman in Bijelo Polje, his ability also to tell a complicated and richly detailed epic story in verse did not need any undisturbed mental concentration or written reinforcement to sustain it in the busy flux of other experience and activity. His epics evidently did not just happen to fall together in a certain way each time he told them from some altogether generalized common stock of themes and style that were divorced in his mind from any particular story. They were, on the contrary, distinct to the oral poet himself by virtue of his personal tradition, and hence consistently distinguishable to the scholarly observer outside the tradition, both in episode and in language. Parry's Oral Theory would have to embrace this fact too, and account for it.

    A story about Osmanbeg of the city of Osek and his relations with the foreigner Luka Pavišić or Pavičević (these are dialectal varieties of the same surname) was common in South Slavic Muslim tradition. It is especially well attested in extant collections from the northernmost districts of the tradition at the opposite geographical extreme from Međedović's town of Bijelo Polje.

    The extended catalogues of heroes and armies in this epic incorporate many different venues of local Bosnian and Hercegovinian ethnic identity, but Bijelo Polje and its district are not mentioned. The same is true also of the long dictated epic of The Wedding of Smailagić Meho, which is similarly notable for its catalogues. The story of Osman and Luka was thus a pan-South Slavic Muslim tradition on both internal and external evidence -- in both the substance of the story and in the geographical incidence of the tale as found by various collectors during more than a century of collecting activity in the epic-singing provinces of the Slavic-speaking Balkans -- but Avdo still shunned the identification of anything in the story with his own native district in Montenegro.

     The Burden

    The events told in the tale are attributed to the time of Suleiman the Magnificent (ruler of the Ottoman Empire 1520-1566). Osman Delibegović, the ageing governor of Osek, rises before dawn one morning after a restless night. Departing from his usual habit, he calls upon his wife rather than a stewart to brew his breakfast coffee. Then he goes with his stewart to sit upon the high city wall and ease his troubled soul with watching the day begin on the great, tranquil fields of young wheat that lie between the city wall and the distant confluence of the Sava and Drava rivers (vv. 1-108).

    Experienced and wise, powerful, affluent, at peace at home and abroad, beloved by all his peers at the height (in Avdo's view) of the world's greatest empire's golden age, and securely settled as governor of the best city in the happiest province of that empire, Osman Delibegović possesses and has achieved everything any man could even dream of hoping for -- yet he is unhappy. The root of his discontent is generational: he has no children. One may say, indeed, that he has no children in the worst possible way. Once upon a time (a decade ago) he had children, and was the happiest of men in them as in all else, for they had been borne to him by a single wife (the same lady whom he asked to serve him his coffee in the morning); they were borne to him, moreover, in the manner that is idealized by this epic tradition: daughters first, and then sons. The point of this ideal is essential to the story of Osman (whose name, because of his high rank, is usually amplified with the suffix -beg, or -bey in English). Daughters born first grow first to marriageable age; the disposition of their dowries may thus be settled before their brothers come of age and replace them in the patrimonial and virilocal home with their own brides; and when the sons marry, they may do so with the advantage of social alliances already secured for them in the persons of their brothers-in-law.

    But Osmanbey's three children, Fatima, Zlatija, and Omer, have vanished in the turmoil of a previous war, and have long since been given up for dead. Thus Osman is blessed in all things save in that he is, as the singer describes it, one for whom the province where he dwells is ‘foreclosed’ (v. 10,657). He is without posterity, hence the doors of the future are shut to him, and his hearth has no destiny but to be overgrown by alderwood and to become a deserted ruin where is heard none but the voice of the mourning dove (vv. 10654-57). It is this mockery which the future makes of his present bliss that fills Osman Delibegović with a restless melancholy.

    But the good earth of the wheat-fields in the prospect before him as he sits alone gazing quietly toward the rivers holds the promise of more than a single year's fruitfulness. The fertile vapours which the young crops give off into the air have not yet dispersed in the early morning sunlight, and out of their stately swirling motion there emerges in the distance the gallant figure of an approaching horseman. Međedović lingers over the description of him, a vigorous youth so fine in the promise of his manhood that Osman's heart leapt at the sight of him.

    In the ensuing conversation between them, Osman learns that this is Jusuf Silić, his own sororal nephew, whose very existence was until this morning unknown to him. Osman's brother-in-law (whose name is Mahmutpasha Tiro, another famous hero in the South Slavic oral epic tradition) was, as Jusuf tells Osman, a victim of another common narrative pattern in the tradition. Called away to war on his very wedding night, Mahmutpasha perished while campaigning in a faraway land, and so left his new bride, Osman's sister, to raise their only son by herself. To put the matter technically, Jusuf has grown to manhood entirely without agnation. When he came of age, this orphan grew suspicious of his own legitimacy, and so has come to Osek to see his sole living relative other than his mother, his maternal uncle Osmanbey Delibegović, and to learn from him the truth of his own origins (vv. 109-297).

    So Osman in his generational destitution gains the next best thing to a son, a young and able consanguineous kinsman whose need for a meaningful familial past complements the older man's equal need for a continuation of his personal legacy into the future. The two go home together to Osman's house, and Osman summons all the worthies of the district to come and help him celebrate his new-found posterity in the person of his nephew. No fewer than a hundred of the district's most prominent men attend the three-day festivity. It is, says Avdo, just as though a wedding were being celebrated (vv. 298-542).

    The second day of joy in Osman's hall has scarcely begun however (the third day following Jusuf Silić's advent), when Osman happens to glance from his window in the selfsame direction from which Jusuf came. It is again the same early hour of a new day, and the same mist spawns another gallant cavalier. But this one makes Osman's hair rise in fear, because this time the approaching rider is a foreigner, a Christian rather than a Muslim knight, and he is by far the most appalling apparition of warlike invincibility that Osman or any of the other experienced men gathered with him have ever seen, or even heard tell of. Osman supposses that some satanic inspiration has caused this terrible menace's fellows in some alien place to wager with him whether he is strong enough to penetrate the stronghold of Osek and single-handedly behead its governor. He is sure just from looking at the man that if that is his mission, no power on earth can prevent his accomplishing it. It would be just like the envious wretches in their jealousy of his and Osek's bliss to plot some such depredation (vv. 543-730).

    Physical resistence being useless, Osman adopts instead a tactic of social control. He sends forth his houseguard politely to receive the stranger with instructions to tell him that local custom dictates he should lay down his arms before going into audience with the governor. But with equally good manners, the alien subsequently declines to abide by that custom, and mounts the stairs toward the audience-chamber fully accoutred. The carpet is ripped to shreds beneath his step on the first two stairs, and the third stair, for all that it is excellently made, cracks with a loud report under his mighty tread. So he comes irresistibly into Osman Delibegović's presence, who has nothing left to interpose between himself and the expectation of sudden death but the calm of a befitting dignity (vv. 731-871).

    The strange, surpassing alien is however not only deferential; he is in fact a suppliant. He is Luka Pavičević (Luke Paulson), scion of a prominent family in Kajsar, a remote city and kingdom of fabulous power and wealth thrice removed from the Ottoman Empire. Luke has two matters of business with Osman. First, he has come to Osek seeking a vast army wherewith to invade and utterly destroy his own country of Kajsar. Secondly, he has news of Osmanbey's three missing children, and hopes to advance his peculiar ambition in the first matter through service to Osman in the second (vv. 872-924).

    With all the desperate intensity of adolescence, Luke tells Osman that he has loved the lovely daughter of General Lauš Vuković (Lawrence Wolfson), who is by universal acclaim the most beautiful mortal woman in the world. Years before her own maturity, this gel had engaged herself to marry Luke, but asked him to wait until she was of a proper age to wed. With the assurance of so brilliant a match before him in his native city of Kajsar, Luke liquidated his own considerable patrimony and apportioned it all to his numerous younger brothers, settling the appropriate fractions of his family wealth on each of them in turn as they married, and keeping nothing for himself. But when thereafter the time came to consummate her engagement, the general's daughter turned upon Luke, disowned her promise to him, and sent him away in public disgrace with his fortune ruined and his long devotion to her frustrated (vv. 925-975).

    In doing this the wench misjudged Luke however, for he was not the man to meet such a misappropriation of his rights to the world's most beautiful woman inactively. Enraged by her unfeeling caprice, his fury like his physical prowess knew no restraint, and he solemnly swore to the girl that if she would not be his willingly, he would shortly have her by force; in order to accomplish this, he would exterminate her entire family, all the kingdom of Kajsar, and if need be, half the remaining manhood of the world besides. But the girl remained unmoved. Her name is Jela, the exact Serbo-Croatian equivalent, and a direct derivative of the Greek Ἑλένη (Helen).

    She being immovably willful, Luke made up his mind to leave Kajsar and to travel to Osek with an offer to lead Osmanbeg and a Turkish army through the uncharted intermediate states to a seige and sack of Kajsar. On his way out of Kajsar City he chanced however to witness a peculiarly repellent social aberration which so shocked his fine sensibility that he stopped on his way to remonstrate with it. Passing under the windows of General Lawrence Wolfson's palazzo, he saw two captive Turkish girls entertaining a youth in a most indelicate posture. One girl held the young man's head in her lap, caressing his locks, while the other groped about with her arm inside his clothes. Shouting his reproach to them for this carelessly indelicate display, Luke learned that the girls were Fata and Zlata, Osmanbey's missing daughters, and the youth his lost son, Childe Omer. The two girls were only innocently grooming him, doing conventional sisterly services to a younger brother as well as their straitened circumstances permitted (1,034-1,148).

    Fata has adopted Luke as their fictive brother, and sent a letter by him to her father written in her blood on a swatch of her chemise. This vivid credential of consanguinity has the desired effect in Osek. Because his own children have adopted the withdrawn hero Luke as their fictive sibling, Osman is morally compelled to be Luke's fictive father, and Osman graciously accepts that price for the chance of recouping his own blood-descendents' rightful place in the social order of the Ottoman Empire (1,149-1,306).

    An enormous army is needed to penetrate the defenses of the several states that lie between Osek and the distant kingdom of Kajsar. Kajsar itself is virtually undefended, but at first Luke and Osman alike are uncertain whether Osman will be able to raise a military force great enough to prevail over the predictable resistance of the intermediate countries.

    Osmanbey deliberates awhile, but soon puts aside his doubts and gathers a vast force of 220,000 men for the campaign against Kajsar (2,161-6,345). The bulk of the epic is taken up like Homer's Iliad with the marshalling, combat, looting, leading, and cataloging of the fighting men. Everywhere Luke Paulson single-handedly breaks through the press of the enemy until Kajsar itself is sacked and burnt, all its manhood slain (6,346-9,139), the three captive children restored to their father Osman, (8,555-8,647), and Jela, now also an orphan, taken in thrall to Osek (8,652-10,285).

    There she is renamed Mejra Delibegović, and Osmanbey provides for her orderly marriage to Luke exactly as though she were his own daughter. Like Helen of Troy, she is at the end of the epic curiously compliant with the forcible transfer of her wifely functions to the jurisdiction of her rightful husband, and she unscathedly forfeits her Paris (whose part is played in this tale by Halil Hrnjica, the comparably handsome, prurient, and morally suspect younger brother of a warrior who is greater than himself) to become the affectionate and obedient mistress of her lord's domain in Banja Luka (12,218-13,170). That is the place which Avdo Mededović associated with this tale, as Homer associated Sparta with Helen and Menelaos. Luke himself becomes a Muslim, giving up his Christian identity to become the namesake of Jusuf Silić's dead father, Mahmutpasha (the Second), governor of Banja Luka, which thus in Avdo's folk etymology bears witness to its apostolic ruler's original name, Luka.

    The Sultan in Istanbul receives a report of the military campaign against Kajsar after its completion; he takes no part however either as an instigator or in the preparations for the campaign. He contributes actively to the events of the story only in the religious conversion and establishment of Luke as a Turkish subject after the war. For these purposes Luke goes to Istanbul to be presented at court (10,286-12,217).

    Like the Homeric Iliad, the present epic is a tale of combined warfare by numerous otherwise autonomous princes and their men-at-arms under the hegemony of a single primus inter pares. It is a war to sack and destroy an opulent foreign city, occasioned by the most beautiful of mortal women's defection from her sworn marital obligations. The best of warriors in the conflict is a hero who is withdrawn from his own kind, a peerless fighter whose like the world has never seen before nor will again; who is not entirely mortal, but constantly suspected in the formulary language of the epic of some praeterhuman alloy in his constitution. An excess of egocentric, jealous willfulness embitters his relations with male friends and foes alike until finally he learns to love his comrades-in-arms more than he loves a girl.

    The principles of male affiliation expressed in the characters of the epic are unusually diverse, and their complementarity makes so unparalleled a conquest as that of Kajsar possible.

    From the moment, early in the story, when Osmanbey recognizes Luke as agnate to himself, Luke displaces Osman as patron of the merely cognative kinsman Jusuf Silić, Osman's sororal nephew. Throughout the difficult campaign against Kajsar and the hard return from it, Jusuf is Luke's constant, trusted companion and collocutor. In each engagement with the enemy, Jusuf protects Luke's left flank, and whenever between battles they are described as riding or seated together, Jusuf is always on Luke's left side. He is, in a word, Luke's sinister Patroklos.

    Jusuf occupies the pivotal position in the restoration of Osman Delibegović's posterity. He it is who comes first to Osman at the moment of Osman's greatest social impotence; yet he is, as it were, only half a kinsman. He is Osman's sister's son, and to that extent consanguineous with Osman; but it is a consanguinity merely by virtue of marriage, and Jusuf is also the son of Mahmutpasha Tiro, who is a brother-in-law, and hence by definition unconsanguineous. Because it derives nothing from the authority of descent by the male line, Jusuf's kinship with Osman has no element of agnation in it, and so is not only a source of little benefit to Jusuf, it is in the end a positive disadvantage to him.

    Next after Jusuf there comes to Osman in an enhanced (but also ominous) duplication of Jusuf's advent the purely fictive kinsman Luke Paulson, who in turn contributes to the tale the return of Osman's weakest male posterity, his actual son Omer. Omer's kinship with Osman is a mixture of cognation (like Jusuf's) and agnation (like Luke's), since it derives partly from the fact of Osman's marriage and also in that connection from the authority of his father, who by the marriage with Omer's mother and by recognition of Omer's birth as legitimate has willed that Omer be his son. But Luke's kinship with Osman, for all that it is purely a fiction, is nevertheless the purest kind of male kinship, being purely agnation, an affiliation between the older and the younger man that derives its force solely from the authority of the elder male, with no adulteration by marriage or female ancestry whatever -- that is, it has no admixture of cognation at all.

    In the conclusion of the story, Omer inherits from his father at Osek, and Luke assumes the name of Jusuf's deceased father, Mahmutpasha Tiro, but at Banja Luka, not in Jusuf's native town. Jusuf, however, whose situation in kinship with Osman is intermediary between strict consanguinity and strictly marital or fictive affinity, marries no one, gets no property, and is in fact completely ignored in the great, imperially sanctioned settlement of private fortunes at the end of the epic.

    Other versions of the oral traditional epic of Luke and Osman captured at various times in the twentieth century from the Serbo-Croatian Muslim tradition tell how Luke himself is slain in the last battle of the war with Kajsar; in that case Jusuf Silić benefits in lieu of Luke. No form of the tale known to me settles the future of all three men -- Jusuf, Luke, and Omer -- happily.

    Iliadic echoes and the Achillean type are common to many epic stories in the South Slavic tradition. Obviously there was among South Slavic singers no one exclusively right way of narrating such tales, but rather a variety of alternative destinies for the Achillean type of hero and for the others who share in his story. The tale of Osman Delibegović and Pavičević Luka is just one of the alternatives. Its intimate kinship with the Iliadic narrative and the Troy Saga is nevertheless perfectly evident. It is a modern manifestation of that ancient tradition in a putatively medieval setting. In Luka Pavičević we have the implacably angry withdrawal of the world's best fighter (a man of incalculable strength in his arm who is invulnerable in ordinary combat) from his own people while they are slain and driven back towards the burning of their wooden ramparts in a series of bitterly-fought battles. Even by South Slavic epic standards the carnage is terrific; more than half of the 220,000-man invading Turkish army is slain, and the losses are greater still in the annihilation of the defending, Christian side.

    The campaign is to sack a rich, multi-national city, and that is accomplished, with the city utterly destroyed and burnt. The occasion of the war is the keeping of the most beautiful woman in the world from her rightful husband; but this cause is yoked with the forcible taking of two other girls from their father. Like Helen of Troy, who shared her story with the two girls Briseis and Chryseis, Jela Vuković also shares her story with the two alliteratively named girls Fata and Zlata. The etymon of Zlata in Serbo-Croatian is 'gold,' as is the etymon of Chryseis in Greek, while Fata (hypocoristic for Fatima, the name of the prophet Muhammed's daughter) carries the sense of the girl's hieratic and prophetic paternity in Serbo-Croatian just as Chryseis (and possibly also Briseis) does in the Greek. Luka, the fearless and unconquerable champion of the tale, fights in the end not, however, for the women, but for everlasting fame, da se pomen osta dok je sveta, which alone in Avdo's opinion can justify so much violent death. Fire plays about him as about Achilles and, uniquely among Avdo Mededović's numerous heroes, Luke habitually bears the epithets zmajognjeni (firedragon) and slavni [junak] (famous [hero]), the latter a Serbo-Croatian equivalent (and Indo-European etymological cognate) of the Homeric Greek epithet κλειτός.

     Other Versions

    The Cyrillic manuscript collection of Petar Mirković, No. 21/4 in the Ethnographic Archives of the Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences in Belgrade, contains a long text of the story under the title “Luka Pavešić i Silan Osmanbeg.” The singer is unknown. It begins:

Beg Osmanbeg rano podranijo
prvlje zore a bijelog dana,
iz odaje do ahara svoga.
A kad beže do ahara dođe,
na golemo čudo nagazijo:
u aharu nikog ne bijaše,
osim samo kavedžiju nađe.
Vatru stače, a kavu pretiče.
Beg upade, pa mu salam viknu.
Junak primi, a na noge klisi,
Osmanbegu misto načinio
u vr' stola pod džamli pendžerom.
Vunali mu ćurak ogrnuo,
a crnu mu kavu natočijo.
Kafu pije, a tutun poteže,
a pogleda na ledenu džamu
kad će mu se zora pomoliti.
Beg pogleda, suzama pogleda:
još pred zorom krvava danica.
Vakat bio, pomoli s' danica.
Za danicom zora udarila.
To bego sidi, crnu kafu srče,
dok mu vakat od sabaha bilo.
Na noge skoči, avdest uzimao,
pa je saba' na vakat naklanjao.
Iznove beže pod pendžerom sijo,
iznove beže crnu kavu srče.
Dok Osmanbeg kavu posrkao,
na nog' skoči, konda ne -- ,
vunali ćurak na rame podiže,
a na noge nazu kajserlije,
ta okrenu niz tri mosta kuli.
Kroz avliju oda na kapiju.
Beg ispade gradu u čaršiju,
pa okrenu gradu na kapiju.
Kad Osmanbeg na kapiju dođe,
side beže kod bedema zida.
Ledžan se'ri, plećim podbočijo,
pa pogleda niz ogarevinu.
Tu je bilo osamn'es' odžaka,
Tri stotine i trijes' konaka
sem ostali' siromaški' kuća.
Bog ubijo Kajser generala
od Prozora više sinjeg mora!
On je dig'o četu silovitu,
š njome trknuo do Osika bila,
porobijo, vatrom popalijo.
Tu su bili begovi konaci.
Konake je begu porobijo
-- porobijo, vatrom zapalijo --
dvi begove ćeri ufatijo:
staru Zlatku, a mladu je Hatku.
Beg pogleda, suzama proliva,
a žarko se pomolilo sunce.
Osmanbeg se suncem prigovara:
„Sunce moje, jesi l' uranilo,
obi ćeri moje obasjalo?
Kuku, ćeri, žalostan vam babo!‟
U toj misli niz polje pogleda:
uz polje se konjik pomolijo
na đogatu baš kō na labudu.
Đogi peča nad očima siva
kao mjesec od petnajest dana.
Đubek mu se na prsima valja
kō tepeluk u namli divojke.
Sav se svitli plemeniti đogo
od kopanluka do postrimanluka.
O konju se svitle kuburluci,
u njima se sjaju merdžankinje.
Sav se momak na đogatu svitli
od čizama baš do čelenaka.
Sjaje mu se kalpak oko glave.
Uz njega se alamanka boca.
Beg poznaje onog konjanika
-- poznaje ga, poznati ne more.
Sve pobliže kad se prikučijo,
on poznade onog konjanika:
svog sestrića Silić Nasufbega
sa Požege, baš iz srid Unđura.
Silić dođe, pa mu salam viknu,
s konja frci, poleti mu [k] ruci.
Ne da ruke, van ga pregrlijo:
„Jesi l' meni zdravo i veselo?‟
„Jesam, dajo, ja ti ruku ljubim
-- zdravo jesam, a veselo nisam.‟

    Nasufbeg explains that though he is well, he is unhappy to see his uncle in such low spirits. Osman explains to him the reason for his disconsolation: The great burnt-out ruin before their eyes was once his prosperous settlement, but was destroyed by a military incursion of the mighty Christian general Kajser, who at that time also took captive Osmanbeg's two daughters, Zlata and Hatka. The raid happened while Osman was in Instanbul

da donesem carevu sadaku.
Tamo sam se, sine, zabavio
. . .
Ko mi ćera potražiti nema,
jer sam jadan ljuto ostario.
. . .
Ovdi nema Omerbega sina.
Otiš'o je caru vojevati.
Naside, sine, pod Alameniju,
eno k' tuče alamanska kralja.
Moj se Meho pjanac dogodijo,
eno s' Meho po mehana smuca
-- vino pije, ni mukajet nije.

    Silić says that he has himself sought Osman's daughters far and wide, and even gone with ransoming parties to secure the release of prisoners abroad in the hope of locating them, but has learned nothing of their whereabouts.

    The two go together to Osmanbeg's house, where Osman's lady receives Silić Nasufbeg cordially, and explains that Zlata and Hatka are not there to doff his boots and walk his horse; Zlata to give him coffee, Hatka to hand him his pipe. She says she would go herself to find and rescue them if only she knew where to seek. He tells her to stop crying, for he has come to tell her husband Osmanbeg where he has learned that the girls are. He thus induces her to go quietly back into the house. Osmanbeg complains to Nasuf:

„Moj Nasufe, moje dite drago,
jer mi slaga u odžaku ljubi?‟
„Muči, dajo, ako Boga znadeš!
Ti si s' muška glava prigodijo,
pa ti j' mučno suzu utrnuti,
jä kako li na odžaku ljubi!‟

    A well-dressed ‘Vlaščić’ next enters the courtyard on horseback and rides to the well, where he dismounts and meaningly eyes the house. Osmanbeg says of him to himself:

„Kako sam post'o pa na noge ust'o,
'nakog Vlaha ja ni čuo nisam,
jä kamoli očima vidijo!‟

    Osman sends servants to summon the stranger into audience before him, and the Vlah responds with special gestures of civility (removing his boots and weapons at the door of the audience chamber, although the servants tell him it is not customary nor necessary that he do so).

    After a decorous exchange of courtesies, Osman asks whether the Vlah has come to spy out the land of Osik, steal horses, or take Osman's own head; or perchance to wait upon him for a time as one of his retinue? Or does he bring some news or intelligence from abroad?

    The Vlah denies having any family („u mene roda ni plemena nema‟), says he comes „od Prozora vige sinjeg mora,‟ and

„Kad bi, beže, u Prozoru pili,
ondi b' mene nazdravljali Kranjci:
‚Zdrav' junače, Pavešiću Luka!‛‟

    Thus Osman learns the stranger's name. He says he has come to enter Osman's service. Whom, Osman asks, has he served heretofore? General Kajser. Kajser's chatelain, Pavo Zlatović, has however caused a rupture of cordiality between Pavešić Luka and Kajser. Once Kajser went campaigning with an army of seven battalions, and while he was away Pavo's wife summoned Pavešić Luka to her boudoir for conversation. An anecdote of the Potipher's-wife type ensues.

„Kad se Pavo moli na vrata,
kad me ljubom u odaji nađe,
diže mu se kruna nad očima,
skočiše mu na gubici brci.‟

    Pavo struck Pavešić Luka „pleskom iza vrata,‟ which can civilly be done only to women; Luke cannot forgive Pavo the insult, and declares that he will return it with his sabre. Luke goes on to ask rhetorically, does Osman have two daughters, and does he know where they are? Luke says they are in Prozor, in Kajser's castle. They have taken Luke as their fictive brother, and sent a letter by him to Osman. Up to the present, the girls have been well, but merchants from Malta are soon coming to Prozor to buy slaves, and the girls must presently expect to be transported into slavery overseas if they are not rescued. Zlata (the elder daughter, who wrote the letter) tells Osman to raise a troop (četa) and raid Prozor in good time. He should include in his armed troop Knez Kojašin of the Danubian raya (helots) and Kojašin's son Miladin. She says that Pavo is presently away from Prozor campaigning with an army qf seven battalions, and commends Luke to Osmanbeg's kindest reception.

    When Osman has finished reading the letter, he embraces Luke and seats him in his own place, calling him “adopted son.” He asks what ransom will buy back his daughters from Kajser. Luka replies to him:

Da ti je hazna cara stambolskoga,
ne bi ti ji' za haznu dao.

    Luke tells Osman that the only practical solution is military. Let Osman raise an army, Luka will lead it, and there is booty in the offing to reward it. There is, for example, Kajser's own seven-storeyed castle, and that of Riđan Kapetan, each of which holds three magazines of treasure. Luke will lead the Turkish troops to these castles and put their treasures into the invaders' hands.

    In Prozor there is also Castle Vujković, which holds two magazines of treasure, but also Jela, Vujkovie's sister, whom Luke would like to capture and give as a reward to whichever Muslim comrade-in-arms willfollow him most closely in the fighting.

    In Castle Gavranić there are two more magazines of treasure, as well as a valuable religious relique:

U njeg' ima preklad na Gjurđija;
onaj, babo, svemu blagu glava.

Luke wants to loot the castle, and give the kitli Madžarica in it to the comrade who will follow him closest in the fighting. So too the Castle Konjević with its two magazines of treasure and prikladna Milica; and finally Castle Laun, the richest castle of all, with its dilber Madžarice inside. From thence, one hour's journey away, is a market-town with 3,300 shops, where only nubile girls are shopkeepers; this too Luke will loot, and give its girls to his comrades-in-arms. The church Felendara is full of rich liturgical objects, money, precious reliques, and golden statues of St. Catherine and St. Mary; all these are ripe for pillage.

Pa otolen ima sahat ravan,
poočime, do kula Ćubara;
ima kula Ćubrilić Mihajla.

    The Ćubrilić brothers have just divided a rich inheritance among themselves; and they also have two sisters of marriageable age, Ruža and Anđelija. These too Luke wants to capture and give to his Muslim comrades. An hour's distance away are also seventy-four mansions; their fate shall be the same. Finally, one more hour's journey away is the blockhouse of Pauk the Hajduk, which stands on thirty columns. The marriageable girl there is Kate, whom Luke will keep for himself when he has captured her.

    Silić now speaks, observing that Paša Ćemerlija has only recently come from Istanbul with an army of 20,000 „da ponavlja careve gradove,‟ especially the city of Požega. Osman should, if he can, draft them for the invasion of Prozor. But Osmanbeg replies that he is himself able without Ćemerlija's troops to raise an army of such sufficiency that it will be remembered od ovoga do kijametnoga dana.

    Osman accordingly begins to write a letter (by his own hand). It is addressed to the Vizier of Budim, asking him for a letter of patent to raise an army. The Vizier grants the patent, and declares that he will send also a corps of troops from Budim under the command of Sorguč Omerbeg.

    Osmanbeg writes letters of levy when he has the Vizier's patent in hand. The first is to Hasan Paša Tiro in Kaniža: „Diži čete, nemoj omaliti.‟

    The next letter is to the old Imperial Paša of Pečuja [sic]. The place appointed in it for the gathering of the army is the „glavica na Arapovica.‟ The subsequent letters are to old Mehmed Paša of Ostroga; then to Fazlipaša of Varad; to Halilpaša of Pešta; to Sorguč Omerbeg of Budim; to Mustajbeg; then to Paša Ćemerlija: „ti podiži svoju muhafezu.‟ Then to Temišvar, to Muminbeg Hajderbegović; to Knez Kojašin „na Dunavlje,‟ and to his son, Miladin.

    Osman himself musters the men of Osjek; Luke now asks Osmanbeg to procure a change of clothes for him from Osmanbegovica. He does so. Next morning she herself comes alone to Luka to serve him coffee, and stops to talk with him in his chamber before Osmanbeg joins them. When Osman enters, the two men dress and prepare to go to war. Luka says to Osman:

"Poočime, silan Osmanbeže,
daj mi zovni ostarilu majku,
nek' iziđe da se halalimo.
Halal nikog umorijo nije,
ni nas dvoje umoriti neće."

    They come thereafter to the open plain where the Osičani Turks are gathered. Luke thinks the troops too few, and says he would rather die abroad then return to Osek in the shame of defeat. The whole company proceeds to Arapovica, where Osmanbeg causes a tent to be pitched beside the well for himself and Luke. Next morning Osmanbeg leaves Luke in the tent and goes alone to sit on the common. There he awaits the arrival of the several constituents of his army from the other districts of Bosnia. Watching them assemble, Luke again thinks to himself that they are not numerous enough.

    When all have arrived, Osman introduces Luke into the council of the several Bosnian leaders. Some believe Luke's bona fides, others do not. Osman thereupon shows them the letter which Luke has brought to him from Zlata; all are then able to accept Luke's sincerity.

    Only Paša Ćemerlija remains unhappy. He gazes at Osman and weeps, and Osman knows why without being told a reason. He absolves the paša of the responsibility which so visibly weighs upon his conscience. A firman has come to the him from the sultan declaring peace with the Christians, and effectively forbidding him to cross the frontier with the imperial regulars. Osman accordingly tells the paša to withdraw his men, while the rest of the army is counted. It numbers 77,000 Bosnians, with an auxilliary contingent of 12,000 raya. Osman asks Paša Ćemerlija for nothing but the loan of his haznadar (treasurer) Mujo, which is granted. The paša in turn asks of Osman only that Mujo be told whenever the Turkish army means to mount an attack: „to nam nikad sakriveno nije.‟

    So the army of irregulars crosses the frontier; the raya are in the vanguard, followed by Osman and Luke side-by-side. Once across the border and into the mountains, Luke goes forward to scout the way. As the moon rises, the army emerges atop Krnja Jela. Here, in Jelovac Klanac, a Muslim garrison must be posted, lest the „Kranjac od Kološa grada‟ seize it and cut off the army's retreat. Kojašin and the raya volunteer. Osman promises that if they keep the pass „davat' nećete harač ni poreza.‟

    Osman passes on with the rest of the army to Jastrebovo Polje;thence he proceeds to Lipovi Klanac by way of Golubova Gora. Luke tells Osman that the army must halt here while someone goes to spy upon Prozor. Volunteers are called for, but no one responds until Luke himself volunteers. He then calls for a single companion: Ćemerlija's haznadar and Pačardžija Mujo both volunteer. Osman is not to set the army in motion until at least one of the three returns to him with some intelligence of the state of affairs in Prozor.

    As they approach Prozor, the two companions ask Luke why the plain before them is brightly luminous. Has glittering gold rained from the sky upon it, has the sun erupted from the earth in that place, or has the moon fallen upon it from the sky? Luke explains that it is the light from the castle of General Kajser, where fires within illuminate every window like the flocks of stars in heaven.

    When they reach the castle, Luke discovers two white horses saddled and ready in the courtyard; he leaves Pačardžija Mujo to tend their own three horses in the courtyard, and goes with the paša's treasurer into the castle. There they find Zlata and Hatka, each seated on a young man's lap with her arms cast about his neck. Luke springs into the room with sabre drawn, shouting his outrage at so lascivious a scene; but the girls tell him that the young men are their brother, Mehmedbeg, and cousin, Hajderbegović, whom they may innocently so embrace. Luke asks Zlata where the General has gone; she knows only that his men have spoken of his being in Kološvar, where he and the ruler of that place have assembled an army of 55,000 for an attack on Osik.

    She recommends that the Turks all return to Osik and try to defeat General Kajser there; he will have heard of Osman's return from Istanbul, and be eager to attack Osik again. Zlata says she has been three years in Prozor, and can endure another three. Luke rejects this idea, and tells Mehmedbeg and Zlata to lock up the castle from the inside, letting no one enter until Luke himself returns to it. Mehmedbeg should especially keep Ana safe, because she is to be his bride.

    As the three Muslim spies return toward Osmanbeg and the Turkish army, they reflect that Kajser's only line of approach to Osik lies through the same Lipovi Klanac where Kojašin and the raya are garrisoned. While talking of this, they arrive in Osmanbeg's camp, and Osman asks the paša's haznadar what they have found in Prozor. He tells Osman to put that question to Luke, not to him. Luke tells Osman all that they have learned, and asks whether Osman will now elect to attack Prozor as originally planned, or withdraw immediately toward Osik to defend it against General Kajser. Osman leaves the choice to Luke, who divides the army into two companies of 40, 000 each; the first will go with Osman to hold Lipovi Klanac, while Luke takes the second 40,000 to sack Prozor.

    Luke goes with Osman to see him and his half of the army safely settled in Lipovi Klanac, and then instructs him not on any account to leave it lest the enemy occupy it and so cut off their eventual avenue of withdrawal. Osman must also not believe the allegations which will be made in Luke's absence that he, Luke, will betray Osman and the Turks in the coming battle.

    Luke now delivers a hortatory address to his own men, and they gallop away towards Prozor. They are, in the order of their riding:

Pavešić Luke
Demir Fenjerdžija
Pačardžija Mujo
Mali Raspikuća
Pašin Haznadar (Mujo)
Vidimlić Alaga

    Pavo Zlatarić hears the thundering hooves of the approaching Muslims and asks the company around him:

„Braćo moja, što bi ono bilo?
Ali grmi, al' se zemlja trese,
al' pucaju božiji kudreti,
al' se more od obale ljulja,
al' se čuju planinske vitrovi,
al' udara od Boga godina?
Eto najpri od Boga godine.
De vi, grad'te čerge i kolibe,
jer moremo jadni pokisnuti!‟
Ču se grlo Pavešića Luke:
„O kopile Zlatariću Pavle,
niti grmi, nit' se zemlja trese;
ne pucaju boiiii kudreti,
nit' udara od Boga godina.
Ne udara od obale more;
eto na te Pavegića Luke
s mer'ametom Boga gospodara,
sa kuvetom cara čestitoga!‟
Pavešiću mira namirila
na onoga Zlatarića Pavla:
glavu mu osiče, u zobnicu baci.

    With Vidinlić Alaga constantly by Luke's side, the Turks storm the castles of General Kajser, Riđan Kapitan, Vučković, and the prezendile kule; and as they reach the čaršija of Prozor, Paša Ćemerlija's cannon boom; he has come to the aid of the Turks despite the sultan's general declaration of peace.

Poraviše, vatrom popališe.
. . .
A sitan se ogreš prolomijo
navrh Jele kod begove raje.
Neka Luka Madžarice viče:
„De vi, ster'te dibu i kadifu,
da se rahli konjma ne kaljaju.
Eto vam Luke, jednog pohodnika,
i nosimo jednu kitu cvića!‟
„Vrazi ti, Luka, i s takim pohodom!
Ne bi rada mi takog pohoda.‟
Robe, pale, osicaju glave,
a iznose dibu i kadifu.

    Next they attack Felendar Cathedral, and then Luke with a select force of thirty attacks the blockhouse of Pauk Hajduk. There he takes Pauk's gel Manda for himself. His troop cut down the thirty pillars of the blockhouse, knock it down, and burn it. Luke's three closest Muslim companions are killed in this episode.

    Luke returns to Prozor with the bodies of his dead companions, and finds Prozor in flames. Osman is there, and Luke strikes his knee, splitting his trousers to think Osman has abandoned Lipovi Klanac. Osman says he could not do otherwise, for he has come to see if the allegations are true, that Luke is betraying his half of the army to the Christians.

    They all pause to rest, and while they are halted Knez Kojašin comes to them bloody and tattered to report the annihilation of his garrison at the klanac. Upon reporting this disaster, he drops dead, and the Turks bury him with Luke's three companions who were killed earlier in the attack on Pauk Hajduk's blockhouse.

    They proceed with their booty and captives to Lipovi Klanac, which they indeed find occupied by their foes. lt is nightfall, and Osmanbeg bemoans his failure to hold the Klanac as Luke had directed him to do. Luke now wants to attack by night, and tells Osman to form a defensive circle of the older fighters around the army's booty and other possessions, so that the younger Turks may assault the Klanac. Osman will have none of night fighting however, and commands instead a night of waiting. Luke suggests that when the battle comes, Osman will regret his inattention to Luke's advice in this matter, as earlier he came to regret his leaving the Klanac to be captured by the enemy.

    They rest, and Manda Paukova waits upon them. During the night the twelve Vukovići call taunts to Luke, as do also the seven Gavranići and the nine Konjevići. Osman inquires each time who the challengers are, and Luke tells him. When dawn breaks, Osman sees that overnight the enemy have dug trenches and thrown up redoubts of earthwork sve po putu i okolo puta, and he regrets ignoring Luke's advice to attack by night.

    The manuscript of this epic is written in a roughly even column of cursive with no regular (but a good deal of irregular) variation in the left-hand justification, until page 40, where an isolated run of distichically written verses now appears, to wit:

Pa da sinoć jesam udario!"
      „Poočime, tako je suđeno.
Van meći naokolo ihtijare,
      da mi roblje među nji' bacamo.‟
A okolo metnu ihtijara:
      nije manje van dvan'est hiljada.
Svako roblje medu nji' ubaca.
      Najstrag Luka donosijo Mandu,
pa je pruži poočimu svome:
      „Poočime Silan Osmanbeže,
ako m' danas suđen danak dođe,
      pa poginem u ovoj planini,
nemoj Mande drugom pokloniti.
      Uzmi Mandu, pa s' oženi š njome;
      pa bi m' mrtvu hator napunijo.‟

    Osman pronounces a benediction, and the Turks attack. At that moment Paša Ćemerlija's cannon resound in the pass. On top of Mount Golubova Luke's shout rings out; eight times he rushes upon the enemy's camp, and in the eighth assault finds General Kajser himself, whom he pursues down the mountain.

    Overtaking him, Luke beheads Kajser, puts Kajser's crown in his breast (u nidra), then dismounts and walks his horse. The twelve Vukovići find and attack him there, but he kills them all. So also the seven Gavranići. The nine Konjevići he similarly defeats, but before they fall two of their gunshots wound his horse, and two wound him. When finally the Konjevići all lie dead, Luke's horse falls, and then Luke too atop the horse.

    Silić Nasufbeg ftom Požega happens on the dying Luke. Luke commissions Nasufbeg to carry to Osmanbeg an ‘apple’ (Kajser's severed head) which Luke says he found growing in Prozor and plucked with his own hand:

„Nek' halali Pavešića svoga.
Dalje Luka vojevati neće.‟
To on reče, teslim dade dušu.
Onda veli Silić Nasufbeže:
„Baka bahta Silić Nasufbega!
Mrtav Luka ne mož' govoriti.
A kazaću daji Osmanbegu
da je ova ruka ustrgla jabuku.
Dajo će me dobro darovati:
pokriti me crvenim binjišom,
dat' mi zlata stotinu dukata.‟

    Nasufbeg accordingly goes to Osman and swears to him that he is Kajser's slayer. Osman rewards him as expected. Nasufbeg then announces also that Luke is dead. Osman instantly demands to be taken to the body.

    All do honour to dead Pavešić Luka: Osmanbeg, Mehmedbeg, Osman's two daughters, and most of all, Manda Paukova. While they are dressing the corpse, they find the crown of Kajser General on Luke's person. Nasufbeg is made to confess his misrepresentation, and all want to behead him on the spot. Osman saves him by personally spitting all over him.

    Luke is buried with great ceremony, and his grave decorated with the same rewards that should have been his had he lived. No less than 12,000 gotovi cekini are dropped on his grave by all the Turks, a few from each mourner's hand, and a head- and foot-stone are erected, with Kajser's head at the head and Kajser's crown at the foot of the tomb.

    The entire army retires to Osik, where Osmanbeg divides the spoils equitably. Osmanbeg marries Manda, Mehmed marries Ana, and all live happily thereafter.


    A second text of the same epic follows immediately in the Mirković manuscript collection. Its title is Silan Osmanbeže i šćeri mu, but it differs in no significant narrative detail from the foregoing text, and is almost certainly the work of the same singer. Why Mirković collected two nearly identical dictations of the same epic under two different titles is unclear.

    (More English summaries of other versions.)


The Poem

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