Chapter 4. The Theme

Formulas and groups of formulas, both large and small, serve only one purpose. They provide a means for telling a story in song and verse. The tale's the thing.
Anyone who reads through a collection of oral epic from any country is soon aware that the same basic incidents and descriptions are met with time and again. This is true in spite of the fact that editors seek diversity of story and actually avoid variants of any one story, relegating them at best to the notes, in spite of the fact also that collections usually contain songs from many singers from many parts of a country. The reader's impression of repetitions would be closer to the experience of the singer himself and to that of the singer's audience were he to read first the songs in the repertory of a single singer and then those from singers in the same small district. The arrangement of the texts in the published volumes of the Parry Collection is intended to afford just such an experience.
Following Parry, I have called the groups of ideas regularly used in telling a tale in the formulaic style of traditional song the "themes" of the poetry. [1] The first major theme in the "Song of Bagdad" (I, No. 1) is a council, one of the most common and most useful themes in all epic poetry. This one is surprisingly like the opening theme of the Chanson de Roland. The sultan has received a letter from his field commanders who have been besieging Bagdad for twenty years without avail. He summons his councilors together, asks them what to do, receives evil advice from one of them and good advice from another, and the theme is concluded with the writing of an imperial letter to Bosnia and dispatch of the messenger.
Incidents of this sort occur in song after song, and from much hearing the pattern of the theme becomes familiar to the youthful bard even before he begins to sing. He listens countless times to the gathering of an army or of a large number of wedding guests (the two are often synonymous). He hears how the chieftain writes letters to other chiefs; he comes to know the names of these leaders of the past and of the places where they dwelt; he knows what preparations are made to receive the assembling host, and how each contingent arrives, what its heroes are wearing and what horses they are riding and in what order they appear. All this and much more is {68|69} impressed upon him as he sits and is enthralled by his elders' singing of tales. He absorbs a sense of the structure of these themes from his earliest days, just as he absorbs the rhythms and patterns of the formulas, since the two go hand in hand. And we can to some extent reproduce this process of absorption by reading (or even by listening to) as many songs as possible from a given district or group of singers.
There is nothing in the poet's experience (or in ours if we listen to the same song from several singers and to the same singer telling the same song several times) to give him any idea that a theme can be expressed in only one set of words. Those singers whom he has heard have never reproduced a theme in exactly the same words, and he has no feeling that to do so is necessary or even normal practice. [2] The theme, even though it be verbal, is not any fixed set of words, but a grouping of ideas. Some singers, of course, do not change their wording much from one singing to another, especially if the song is one that they sing often. The beginning of Zogić's much loved song of the rescue of Alibey's children (I, No. 24) is comparatively stable, and remained so over a period of seventeen years (Chart IV).
Chart IV
Bojičić Alija Rescues the Children of Alibey
Sung by Đemail Zogić
  A (1934) sung
  В (1934) dictated   C (1951) sung [3]
  Hejl Ej! Vikni, druže, haj, pomogni, Bože!   Vikni, druže, a po-mozi,Bože!   Hej! Prva rijeć, Bože ni pomože!
  Amin Bože hoce, ako Bog da,   Sad velimo da malo pevamo,   Evo druga, hoce ako Bog da!
  Pomognuti pa razgovorlti,   Što je nekad u zemanu bilo,   A za ime Boga milosnoga,
  Od svake ne muke zakloniti,   Šta su nasi stari гаbotali.   A u zdravlje
5 Od zle muke i dušmanske ruke.     5 Od kada je svijet postanuo,
  Sad veljimo pjesmu da pjevamo.       Nije bolji cvijet
  Jedno jutro kad je zora bila, 5 Jedno ju tro tek je osamnulo,    
  Studena je rosa udarila,   Studena je rosa osaninula,   Studena je rosa udarila,
  Zeljena je basca beherala,   Zeljena je basca beherala,   Zelena je bašča beherala,
10 Ljeskovina mlada preljistala,   Leskovina mlada prelistala,   Ljeskovina mlada prelistala,
  E svakoja pilad prepevala.   A svakoja pilad zapevala. 10 O svakoja pilad prepevaše.
  Sve pevahu, jedan zakukaše. 10 Sve pevahu a jedna kukaše.   Sve pevahu, jedna zakukaše.
  To ne bese tica lastavica,   To ne bese tica lastavica,   To ne bese tica lastavica, {69|70}
  No to bese sinja kukavica,   No to bese sinja kukavica,   No to bcae sinja kukavica,
15 Kukavica, Alibegovica.   Kukavica, Alibegovica.   Kukavica, Alibegovica.
  Kroz kukanju vako govoraše:   Kroz kukanje Bosnu proklinjaše: 15 Kroz kukanju vako govoraše,
  "Hala njojzi do Bora jednoga, 15 "Ravna Bosna kugom pomorena,   Sve proklinje Bosnu cip cijelu:
Chart IV, Translation
  A (1934) sung   В (1934) dictated   C (1951) sung
  Shout, comrade, and help us, God!   Shout, comrade, and help us, God!   The first word, God help us!
  So it shall be, if God grants,   Now we say that we sing a little   Here is the second, it shall be, if God grants!
  To help and entertain,   What was once in time,   In the name of God the merciful,
  To protect us from all torment,   What our elders accomplished.   And the health
5 From evil torment and enemy hand.     5 Since the world began
  Now we say that we sing a song.       No better flower has
  One morning when it was dawn, 5 One morning when it had just dawned,    
  The chilly dew fell,   The chilly dew dawned,   The chilly dew fell,
  The green garden blossomed,   The green garden blossomed,   The green garden blossomed,
10 The young hazel-wood leaved in abundance,   The young hazel-wood leaved in abundance,   The young hazel-wood leaved in abundance,
  And all the little birds began to sing.   And all the little birds began to sing. 10 And all the little birds began to sing.
  They all sang, one lamented. 10 They all sang, but one lamented.   They all sang, one lamented.
  It was not a swallow,   It was not a swallow,   It was not a swallow,
  But it was a gray cuckoo-bird,   But it was a gray cuckoo-bird,   But it was a gray cuckoo-bird,
15 A cuckoo-bird, the wife of Alibey.   A cuckoo-bird, the wife of Alibey.   A cuckoo-bird, the wife of Alibey.
  In her lamenting she spoke thus:   In her lamenting she cursed Bosnia: 15 In her lamenting she spoke thus,
  "Woe to her by the one God, 15 "Level Bosnia, may you be devastated by plague,   Ever she cursed entire Bosnia: {70|71}

We can see the other extreme most graphically if we look at the beginning of a song as it was sung or dictated by a singer on six different occasions. One of the best known songs of the Marko Kraljević cycle, one that has been published many times and exists even in an eighteenth-century version, [4] is "Marko and Nina of Kostur." The Parry Collection has four full versions of it from Petar Vidić of Stolac in Hercegovina. One was written down by Dr. Kutuzov from dictation in August, 1933 (Parry 6); another text was written by Nikola Vujnović from dictation on December 7, 1934 (Parry 805); a third was recorded on the phonograph records on the same date (Parry 804); and a fourth was recorded on December 9, 1934 (Parry 846). In addition, the first twenty or so lines of the song were recorded twice (Parry 803a and b) as a trial run for the dubbing of Parry Text 804. The four versions vary in length: No. 6 has 154 lines; No. 804, 279 lines; No. 805, 234 lines; and No. 846, 344 lines. Chart V (pages 72–73) shows the variations in wording in the six versions of the beginning of the song (cf. Appendix II).
One can see a similar variety in the passages from the "Song of Bagdad" shown in Chart VI (page 76) from singings of it by Salih Ugljanin and by Suljo Fortić, the texts of which are published in Volume II.
Such examples are typical of what the young singer hears. The degree of "improvisation" varies from singer to singer and depends as well on the song itself.
The beginner works out laboriously the themes of his first song. I know, because I have tried the experiment myself. Even as one is learning to build lines, one thinks through the story scene by scene, or theme by theme. Let us say that the young man has decided to learn the "Song of Bagdad" first and that Salih Ugljanin is his main teacher. We can follow the apprentice for a while and see what he learns and how.
Above we have given a bare statement of the council theme with which the song opens. The theme ends with the suggestion by the wise councilor that the sultan send to Bosnia for Đerđelez Alija and the Bosnian armies, a suggestion which is accepted, and a messenger is sent with a letter to the hero. This is the framework on which the singer will build. Although he thinks of the theme as a unit, it can be broken down into smaller parts; the receipt of the letter, the summoning of the council, and so forth. Yet these are subsidiary to the larger theme. They will be useful perhaps in other contexts later on, but the singer learns them first for use in the specific council of the specific song, with the appropriate names of people and places and their characteristics. The names are attached in minor themes of calling the council, introducing speeches, in question and answer. All this the learner thinks through before he can be satisfied with his singing and before he can move on to the next larger theme. {71|72}
Chart V
  No. 6   No. 803a [*]
  No. 803b
  Pije vino Kraljeviću Marko   A urani Kraljeviću Marko   O urani Kraljeviću Marko
  A sa svojom ostarjelom majkom,   Na bijeloj načinjenoj kuli   Na bijeloj načinjenoj kuli
  I sa svojom vjerenicom ljubom,   U Prilipu gradu bijelome,   Prije zore i bijela dana,
  I sa svojom jedinicom sejom.   Podranijo, kahvu potrošijo,   Ah do njega ostarjela majka,
5 Kad se Marko nakitio vina, 5 A nastavi žeženu rakiju, 5 Ah do majke ljuba vjerenica,
  Tada Marko čašu utočio,   A kod njega ostarjela majka,   A do ljube kitna Anđelija,
  Pak nazdravlja ostarjeloj majci,   Ostarjela majka bijaše mu,   To je njemu vjerenica seka.
  I ljubovci i jedinoj seji.   A do majke ljuba Kraljevića,   A kad viknu Kraljeviću Marko:
  "Nadajte se suncu i mjesecu,   A do ljube kitna Anđelija,   "Čuješ li me, ostarjela majko!
10 Meni Marku nemojte nikada!" 10 To je njemu vjerenica seka. 10 Evo jesam rakiju potroši'.
  A pita ga ostarjela majka:   Onda Marko rakiju popijo,   Čuješ li me šta ću besjediti!
  "De ćeš, Marko, moj jedini sinko?"   Pa zapjeva tanko glasovito;   A tako mi svašta do svijeta,
  Progovara Kraljeviću Marko:   "Moja majko, mooj roditelju!   Dosta ti sam jada učinijo,
  "Odoh, majko, caru u vojništvo   Evo tebi sina Kraljevića.   I junaštva na crnoj zemljici.
15 Za zemana devet godin' dana." 15 Dosta ti je... 15 A čuješ li, ostarjela majko!
  Kad je Marko došo u vojništvo,       Juče mi je sitna knjiga stigla
  Tri se puta preklonijo Marko,       Od našega sultan cara moga,
  Dok je caru ruci pristupio;       Cara moga, sunce iza gore,
  Pa je caru ruku poljubio.       I ovako knjiga nakičena,
20 Car mu odmah sablju oduzeo,     20 U knjigi, majko, zapisano,
  Oduzeo sablju i Šarina,       Pa me care u vojništvo zove
  Da ga služi devet godin' dana,       Za zemana devet godin' dana,
  Kad izsluži devet godin' dana,       А i moga Šarca od mejdana,
  Da mu dade sablju i Šarina.       I u njojzi sablju posjeklicu. {72|73}
  No. 804
  No. 805   No. 846
  A urani Kraljeviću Marko   Uranijo Kraljeviću Marko   Aj urani Kraljeviću Marko
  Na bijeloj od kamena kuli,   U Prilipu na bijeloj kuli,   Na bijeloj od kamena kuli,
  Uranijo, rakiju nаstavi,   I do njega ostarjela majka,   A do njega ostarjela majka,
  A rakiju Marko potrošijo,   I do majke ljuba vjerenica,   A do majke ljuba vjerenica,
5 Ah do njega ostarjela majka, 5 I do ljube sestra Anđelija. 5 A do ljube vijernica mlada.
  A do majke ljuba vjerenica,   Nazdravi im bistricom rakijom:   Što ću vami dugo besjediti?
  A do ljube kitna Anđelija.   "Juče mi je sitna knjiga stigla   Kad se njimam dade poslušati,
  A kad Marko lakrdijuviknu:   Od sultana cara čestitoga.   Kad evo ti knjigonoše mlade.
  "Moja majko, đuturume stari!   Zove care mene u vojništvo,   Ona nosi knjigu šarovitu
10 Dosta ti sam jada učinijo, 10 Da ga služim devet godin' dana." 10 Gospodaru Kraljeviću Marku.
  A junaštva na zemlji uč'nijo.   To se čudo na daleko čulo,   Bože mijo, od kog' li je grada?
  Čuješ li me, milosnice majko!   I začuo Nina od Koštuna.   Niko neće ni riječi tuka.
  Došla mi je sitna knjiga juče,   Reče Marko ostarjeloj majci:   Kad je Marko knjigu prifatijo,
  A u knigi meni zapisano.   "Da će Nina do Prilipa doći,   A na knjizi pečat prelomijo,
15 Zove mene care u vojništvo, 15 I porobit' u Prilipu kulu, 15 I vidijo što mu sitno piše,
  Sultan care, iza gore sunce:   I odvesti Kraljevića ljubu,   Marko štije, ne besjedi ništa.
  'Da si došo k na Bjelicu, Marko,   I uz ljubu Kraljevića Anđu,   Zavika mu ostarjela majka:
  I dovedi plemića Šarina,   A majku mi nogam' pogaziti,   "O moj sine, Kraljeviću Marko!
  I donesi posjeklicu krivu,   Kad ti dođe Nina od Koštuna,   I prije su knjige salazile,
20 Od godine do petnejes dana.' 20 Piši meni knjigu šarovitu, 20 Ama nisu tako žalovite.
  A što ću tu, đuturume, kazat'?"   Pa je meni po sokolu spremi,   Kaži meni od kog' ti je grada."
  "Da li ću ti čekat' petnes dana?"   Soko će mi knjigu donijeti."   "Ovo mi je knjiga šarovita
  "Moja majko, mili roditelju!   Kad evo ti Nine od Koštuna,   Od našega čestitoga cara,
  Ako Nina na Koštunu čuje,   Su njegova brata sva tri pusta,   Sultan cara iza gore sunca, {73|74}
Chart V, Translation
  No. 6   No. 803a   No. 803b
  Marko Kraljević is drinking wine   Marko Kraljević arose early   Marko Kraljević arose early
  With his old mother,   In his white well-built tower   In his white well-built tower,
  And with his true love,   In Prilip the white city.   Before dawn and white day.
  And with his only sister.   He arose and drained his coffee,   Next to him his old mother,
5 When Marko had drunk his wine, 5 And began refined brandy; 5 Next to his mother his true love,
  Then Marko brimmed the glass   With him was his old mother,   And next his love, the well-adorned Anđelija.
  To the health of his old mother   His old mother it was,   This was his true sister
  And his love and his only sister.   And next the mother Kraljević's wife,   And when Kraljević Marko shouted:
  "Expect the sun and the moon,   And next his wife the well-adorned Anđelija,   "Listen to me, aged mother!
10 But me Marko never!" 10 This was his true sister. 10 Lo I have drained my brandy.
  And his old mother asked him:   Then Marko drank the brandy,   Listen to what I shall say!
  "Whither are you going. Marko, my only son?"   And began to sing, shrill and loud:   In the name of everything on earth,
  Marko Kraljević spoke:   "My mother, you who bore me!   I have caused enough sorrow,
  "I am going, mother, to the sultan's army   Here is your son Kraljević.   And I have performed enough heroic deeds on the black earth.
15 For a period of nine years." 15 Enough... 15 But listen, aged mother!
  When Marko arrived at the army,       Yesterday a brief letter arrived
  Marko bowed thrice,       From our sultan, my czar,
  Before he approached the sultan's hand;       My czar, sun from above the mountains,
  Then he kissed the sultan's hand.       And thus was the letter embellished,
20 The sultan immediately took away his sword,     20 In the letter, mother, was written,
  He took away his sword and horse Šarac,       And the sultan calls me to the army
  That he serve him for nine years,       For a period of nine years,
  When he had served nine years,       And also my battle-wise Šarac,
  That he return to him the sword and Šarac.       My saber and blade. {74|75}
  No. 804   No. 805   No. 846
  Marko Kraljević arose early   Kraljević Marko arose early   Kraljević Marko arose early
  In his white tower of stone.   In Prilip in his white tower,   In his white tower of stone,
  He arose, began his brandy,   And next him his old mother,   And next him his old mother,
  And Marko drained the brandy.   And next the mother his true love,   And next his mother his true love,
5 Next to him his old mother, 5 And next his love his sister Anđelija 5 And next his love his true young wife.*
  Next his mother his true love,   He toasted them in clear brandy:   Why should I lengthen my tale?
  And next his love, the well-adorned Anđelija.   "Yesterday a brief letter arrived   Then they listened,
  And when Marko shouted something:   From the sultan, illustrious czar.   And lo a young letter-bearer.
  "My mother, old shrew!   The sultan summons me to the army,   He was carrying a well-writ letter
10 I have caused enough sorrow, 10 To serve him for nine years." 10 For the master, Kraljević Marko.
  And I have performed enough heroic deeds on this earth.   This marvel was heard afar,   Dear God, from what city is it?
  Listen to me, merciful mother!   And Nina of Koštun heard of it.   None will speak a word.
  A brief letter arrived yesterday,   Marko said to his old mother:   When Marko had taken the letter,
  And in the letter there was written:   "If Nina comes to Prilip,   He broke the seal on the letter,
15 The sultan summons me to the army, 15 And captures the tower in Prilip, 15 And he saw what the brief letter said.
  Sultan, czar, sun from above the mountains:   And carries off Kraljević's love,   Marko read and said nothing.
  'Come to Bjelica, Marko,   And with her Kraljević's Anđa,   His old mother cried out to him:
  Bring the noble Šarac   And treads on my mother with his feet,   "O my son, Kraljević Marko!
  And bring your curved blade,   When Nina of Koštun comes,   Letters have come before,
20 For the space of fifteen days.' 20 Write me a well-writ letter, 20 But they were not so sad.
  What, shrew, shall I say to that?"   And send it to me by falcon.   Tell me from what city it is."
  "Shall I wait for you for fifteen days?"   The falcon will bring me the letter."   "This is a well-writ letter
  "My mother, dear one who bore me!   Then lo there came Nina of Koštun,   From our illustrious sultan,
  If Nina in Koštun hears,   With all three of his cursed brothers,   Sultan, czar, sun from above the mountains,
          *A mistake for sister. {75|76}
Chart VI
Excerpts from "The Song of Bagdad"
  Ugljanin (II, No. 1: 96–110)
(Sung, Nov. 22, 1934, Novi Pazar)
  Ugljanin (II, No. 2: 79–96)
(Sung, July 24, 1934, Novi Pazar)
  Fortić (II, No. 22: 61–76)
(Sung, Nov. 24, 1934, Novi Pazar)
  Pa sad viknu Suku čohadara,   Suka* zovnu Suku čohadara;   Pa saziva Ibra surudžiju:
  Čohadara, carskog tatarina:   Zovnu sultan svoga tatarina:   "O moj sine, Đulić Ibrahime!
  "Đe si, Suka, carev tatarine?   "Siđi, Suka, u tavlu sultansku!   Nosi ferman u Kajnidžu ravnu,
  Ti siljezi u tavlu carevu!   Bira' ate, a bira' paripe!   Pravo kuli Đerđelez Alije!"
5 Bira', Suka, ate i paripe, 5 Hoćeš, sine, Bosni silaziti!" 5 Sad da vidiš Đulić Ibrahima!
  Koji će te Bosni prenosti!   Kad tatarin sabra lakrdiju,   Teke side u tople podrume,
  Da prifatiš careva fermana,   Pa silježe u tavlu sultansku,   Na dorina timar udarijo,
  Da ga Bosni nosiš halovitoj,   Pa izbira konje menzetile,   Na dorina ćebe privalijo,
  Na gaziju Đerđelez Aliju!"   Izvede hi pred gradsku kapiju.   Na dorina sedlo udarijo.
10 Ej! Kad Suka sabra lakrdiju, 10 U sultana stasaše fermana. 10 Priteže mu četiri kolana,
  Pa u carsku tavlu dolazijo.   Sam je sultan muhur udarijo,   A on uze pletenu kandžiju,
  Bira ate, a bira paripe,   Na gaziju Đerđelez Aliju;   Pa on sade caru na divanu,
  Pa menzilske konje izvodijo   Gradi njega komendar Alijom,   Pa mu care ferman opružijo.
  Pod takumom i pod saltanetom.   Traži š njime sto hiljada vojske,   Sad je Ibro ferman prifatijo,
15 Pa sniješe careva fermana. 15 Da mu s vojskom pođe u Bagdatu, 15 Pa poljubi turalji fermana,
      Da prifati bijela Bagdata,   Dva za cara, treći za fermana. [76]
      Pa sniješe careva fermana,    
      Tesljimiše carskom tatarinu.    
      *A slip of the tongue for sultan. {76|77}    
Chart VI, Translation
Excerpts from "The Song of Bagdad"
  Ugljanin (II, No. 1: 96–110)
(Sung, Nov. 22, 1934, Novi Pazar)
  Ugljanin (II, No. 2: 79–96)
(Sung, July 24, 1934, Novi Pazar)
  Fortić (II, No. 22: 61–76)
(Sung, Nov. 24, 1934, Novi Pazar)
  And now he summoned Suka the chamberlain,   Suka* summoned Suka the chamberlain,   Then he summoned Ibro the messenger:
  The chamberlain, the imperial messenger:   The sultan summoned his messenger:   “My son, Đulić Ibrahim!
  “Where are you, Suka, imperial messenger?   “Descend, Suka, to the imperial stable!   Carry the firman to level Kajnidža.
  Go to the imperial stable!   Choose stallions and choose steeds!   Straight to the tower of Đerđelez Alija!”
5 Choose stallions, Suka, and steeds, 5 You will, son, go to Bosnia!” 5 Now see Đulić Ibrahim!
  Which will carry you to Bosnia!   When the messenger understood these words,   When he descended to the warm cellars,
  Take the imperial firman,   He descended to the imperial stable,   The chestnut he rubbed down,
  And carry it to enchanted Bosnia,   And chose post horses.   On the chestnut he placed a blanket,
  To the hero Đerđelez Alija!”   He led them before the castle gate.   On the chestnut he put the saddle.
10 When Suka understood these words, 10 The firman was with the sultan. 10 He tightened the four girths
  Then he went to the imperial stable,   The sultan himself put his seal on it,   And took the braided whip,
  He chose stallions and he chose steeds,   For the hero Đerđelez Alija;   Then he went to the sultan’s council,
  And led forth the post horses   He made him commander Alija.   And the sultan handed him the firman.
  Caparisoned and panoplied,   He sought with him an army of a hundred thousand men,   Now Ibro took the firman,
15 Then they brought forth the imperial firman. 15 To go with the army to Bagdad, 15 And he kissed the firman with the imperial seal,
      To capture white Bagdad.   Twice for the sultan, a third time for the firman. [77]
      Then they brought forth the imperial firman,    
      They delivered it to the imperial messenger.    
      *A slip of the tongue for sultan. {77|78}    
The building of a theme in a singer's repertory of themes begins already at this period to consist of a core greatly influenced by the single singer, perhaps his father, who is his prime teacher. To this core are added elements first from other singers' performances of the theme in the same song and then from other singers' performances of the theme in other songs, and finally, as time goes on, elements that he may add himself, usually unconsciously or under the inspiration of the moment, although, again it should be stressed that there is no compulsion upon him from outside to do so. Thus a theme grows and reaches a normal development in the practice of a singer. Much of the growth probably occurs after the singer's repertory includes more than one song, when songs within his own repertory begin to influence one another. But the foundation is laid early, and growth starts before the first song is well learned. At the beginning it will be much like that of his prime mentor, but it may change in time. It is not surprising, therefore, that themes of the pupil may not eventually be at all close to those of the teacher. Transmission at this early stage must be differentiated from transmission of a song at a later period in the singer's development.
With years of experience the singer becomes an active listener to the songs of others. The really talented oral poet combines listening and learning in one process. The listening is then dynamic and can be said to constitute in itself the first rehearsal of the new song. Singers who can do this are, however, rare. Many may boast, but their boast is a heroic one and belongs to the hyperboles of epic poetry. That it is possible I am sure; for I have seen and heard this marvel accomplished.
When Parry was working with the most talented Yugoslav singer in our experience, Avdo Međedović in Bijelo Polje, he tried the following experiment. Avdo had been singing and dictating for several weeks; he had shown his worth and was aware that we valued him highly. Another singer came to us, Mumin Vlahovljak from Plevlje. He seemed to be a good singer, and he had in his repertory a song that Parry discovered was not known to Avdo; Avdo said he had never heard it before. Without telling Avdo that he would be asked to sing the song himself when Mumin had finished it, Parry set Mumin to singing, but he made sure that Avdo was in the room and listening. When the song came to an end, Avdo was asked his opinion of it and whether he could now sing it himself. He replied that it was a good song and that Mumin had sung it well, but that he thought that he might sing it better. The song was a long one of several thousand lines. Avdo began and as he sang, the song lengthened, the ornamentation and richness accumulated, and the human touches of character, touches that distinguished Avdo from other singers, imparted a depth of feeling that had been missing in Mumin's version.
The analysis of the first major theme in Mumin's and in Avdo's text (see Appendix I) illustrates how well Avdo followed his original and yet how superbly he was able to expand it and make it his own. [5]  {78|79}
The main points of Mumin's account of the assembly are there, but by elaboration, by the addition of similes and of telling characterization, Avdo has not only lengthened the theme from 176 lines to 558, but he has put on it the stamp of his own understanding of the heroic mind. Yet Mumin's performance was not Avdo's only model for this passage. Avdo had other models as well, already in his mind as he listened to Mumin. These models were the assembly theme that he sang in his own repertory. Avdo had worked these out during his many years of singing. If we compare several of these with the passage given above, we see what these models were like and how they helped Avdo in re-creating Mumin's song.
The first of these examples illustrates also what Avdo did to the assembly theme in a song that he had learned by listening to a printed song book. One of the longest songs that Avdo gave Parry was "The Wedding of Smailagić Meho"; his dictated version runs to over 12,000 lines. Avdo had learned this song a number of years earlier from an inexpensive little song book that the butcher who kept a shop next to his bad purchased in Sarajevo. Avdo was illiterate, but the other butcher, Hivzo, was a self-taught reader. Making the text out slowly and painfully, Hivzo had gradually read the song-book version to Avdo, [6] a version of less than 2200 lines. The song had first been collected by Friedrich S. Krauss in 1884 and first published in 1886 in Dubrovnik. [7] It was later reprinted with some dialect changes in Sarajevo in a cheaper edition.
If we compare Avdo's opening assembly with that of Krauss' singer, Ahmed Isakov Šemić, we see that Avdo has done the very same thing in learning "Smailagić Meho" from Hivzo's slow reading of the song book to him as when learning "Bećiragić Meho" from the singing of Mumin. Even when the text was read to him from a book—and I should like to emphasize this—Avdo made no attempt to memorize a fixed text. He did not consider the text in the book as anything more than the performance of another singer; there was nothing sacred in it. One may assume that by this time he had already worked out the theme of the assembly and had it well established in his mind as Hivzo slowly spelled out Šemić's song. A general principle is here involved that is of significance when we are dealing with a tradition being invaded by printed song books: namely, that if the printed text is read to an already accomplished oral poet, its effect is the same as if the poet were listening to another singer. The song books spoil the oral character of the tradition only when the singer believes that they are the way in which the song should be presented. The song books may spread a song to regions where the song has not hitherto been sung; in this respect they are like a migrant singer. But they can spoil a tradition only when the singers themselves have already been spoiled by a concept of a fixed text.
If we compare the assembly theme at the beginning of "Bećiragić Meho" with that which opens "Smailagić Meho," we find that Avdo already had {79|80} worked out a very similar theme before he heard Mumin. The description of the assembly is the same up to the point at which the hero is described. Avdo had merely to make the adjustment in names. This meant substituting Mustajbey at the head of the assembly for Hasan Pasha Tiro and omitting Hasanagha and Smailagha, who belonged purely to the Smailagić Meho story. Since both stories were set in the same region (in Avdo's mind at least, for in actuality Kajnidža and Udbina are hundreds of miles apart), Avdo could make use of some of the same heroes in the assembly.
When the point is reached for the description of the heroes, Avdo was aware that although they were alike in youth and sadness, they differed in their outward appearance. He therefore expends many lines in describing the armor and clothing of Smailagić Meho, but can find only Bećiragić Meho's two pistols worthy of much comment. Again we see even here the basic method of thinking in similarities and opposites. The contrast can also be exemplified in the attitudes of Hasan Pasha Tiro and of Mustajbey in their capacities as head of the assembly towards the dissimilar young men.
Another of Avdo's songs, "The Wedding of Vlahinjić Alija," [8] begins with a similar assembly theme. The aghas and beys are described in the same manner as in the two songs already mentioned, and the gathering is again marked by the presence of one member who is unhappy. In this case the unhappy person is that great hero of the Border, Mujo Hrnjičić. Mustajbey is at the head of the assembly. Yet it is not he who questions Mujo as to the cause of his sadness, but Tale of Orašac. In response to Tale's questions, Mujo embarks upon a fairly extended tale of the days when he was young and was seeking a wife. He praises a maiden named Zlata, but says he is now too old to try to win her. Tale mocks him, and then a young man at the foot of the assembly rises and says that he will undertake to win Zlata if Mujo will give him permission. Mujo agrees but the treacherous dizdar of Udbina objects, saying that Alija is too poor and of too lowly a family to win such a maiden. He himself will undertake to woo her. To avoid a hand-to-hand fight between the dizdar and Alija, Tale intervenes and suggests that they go home and prepare, all of them, to set out to the maiden's home. This is the end of the assembly theme.
These three themes are closely similar up to the point at which the cause for the sorrow of one hero in the assembly is explained. In one case a messenger interrupts the assembly and his letter starts the action of the story; in the other two, the questioning of the unhappy one eventually initiates action. The arrival of a messenger is a common enough theme in its own right, though a subordinate one. Avdo has used this before. One of the best examples in his repertory is near the beginning of the longest of his songs, "Osman Delibegović and Pavičević Luka." [9] The song does not begin with an assembly, but with the rising of Osmanbey, his taking of {80|81} morning coffee, and his proceeding with his servant to the ramparts of Osek to sit and smoke and look out over the plain. This peaceful scene of everyday life is interrupted. Osman sees a cloud on the horizon and from it emerges a rider; Osman wonders who it may be. The rider is described as he approaches the wall. He hails Osman and from the conversation one learns that the new arrival is Osman's nephew. Osman goes down to greet him, he is brought into the court, and then Osman assembles the nobles of Osek to celebrate the arrival of the youth. There follows an assembly theme, which differs from those we have already seen because there is no one unhappy in the group. Osman asks them all to spend the night and on the following day they continue their festivities. At this point the assembly is interrupted. Osman looks out over the plain and sees the usual cloud, from which emerges a rider. This rider turns out to be a messenger. The news that he brings initiates the action of the song, action in which the nephew who has been introduced to the listener plays a leading role. This assembly breaks up with the decision to gather an army, and the assembly theme gives way immediately to the theme of the summoning of a host.
It is to be noted that Avdo differed from Mumin in the description of the arrival of the messenger in the assembly. Mumin simply said that the door creaked and a messenger entered. Avdo described how Mustajbey looked out the window and saw a cloud of dust from which emerged a rider bearing a message on a branch. From a consideration of the arrival scenes in the tale of Osman, one can see that Avdo has used his own firmly entrenched method of describing arrivals.
The poor and despised hero at the foot of the assembly is no stranger to Avdo, as we have seen from the song of Vlahinjić Alija. There is a difference between Alija and Bećiragić Meho, however. Alija is dressed in glorious armor and decorations for bravery in single combat, whereas Meho was in the simplest of clothes, except for his two pistols. It is even possible that Avdo had Alija in mind when he began his description of Meho; for he started with the lines: "The youth was not wearing breastplate or arms, but only cotton trousers and a shirt." Both these heroes are mocked by one of the members of the assembly. Yet the mocking is different in each case since the persons uttering the reproaches are themselves distinctive.
One could multiply examples of assembly themes from other songs of Avdo, but it is now abundantly clear that in the retelling of the "new" song of Bećiragić Meho, Avdo had other models in addition to Mumin's song. He was not re-creating out of whole cloth. His many years of experience in building themes, a technique inherited from the generations of singers before him, made possible what seemed on the surface to be an incredible feat.
A major theme, then, can take several possible forms in a singer's repertory. When he hears such a theme in a new song, he tends to reproduce it according {81|82} to the material already in his possession. Minor themes also have a number of forms suitable to several different situations. Such a minor theme, indispensable to narrative, is that of writing a letter.
Within the limits of the 578 lines of his short version of "The Battle at Temišvar" (II, No. 27) Sulejman Makić makes frequent use of the theme of writing a letter or a decree. As the story runs, the populace complain to Avdi and Seidi Pasha about the damage that King Rákóczy has been inflicting in his raids across the border into Turkish land. The pashas promise to send an ultimatum to the king. Seidi Pasha, who is the elder, tells Avdi to write the letter:

[Note: Song 23 includes many sections not printed in the following summary.]
"Malji sine, Avdi paša mladi!
Deder knjigu šarovitu piši!
Kaži svinji kralji Rakociji:
'Digni ruke s moje sirotinje, ... '"
"My little son, young Avdi Pasha!
Hasten and write a well-writ letter!
Say to that swine, King Rákóczy:
'Keep your hands from my poor people, ...'"
(lines 67–70)
Then he dictates the contents of the letter (lines 70–75), and the singer continues:
Kade začu Avdi paša mladi,
Avdi paša do hastala priđe,
Eh ufati murećepa crna.
Knigu šara, kralja razgovara:
"O ti svinjo, kralje Rakocijo!
Miči ruke s moje sirotinje..."
When young Avdi Pasha heard,
Avdi Pasha went to the table,
And he took black ink,
He penned a letter and said to the king:
"You swine, King Rákóczy!
Take your hands from my poor people...
(lines 76–81)
The letter ends in line 87 and a new theme begins, namely the dispatching of the letter. The letter as written by Avdi Pasha is not exactly the same as it was dictated by Seidi Pasha, but it is close:
"Digni ruke s moje sirotinje,
Helj, tako mi hljeba carevoga,
Katal ću te," kaže, "učiniti.
Pokupicu moju carevinu,
Rakoću ću tebe prevrnuti,
A za tebe dobro biti neće!"
"Keep your hands from my poor people,
For, by my imperial bread sic,
I shall destroy you," he said.
"I shall gather my empire,
I shall raze your Rakoća,
And it will not be well for you!"
(lines 70–75)
"O ti svinjo, kralje Rakocijo!
Miči ruke s moje sirotinje,
Helj, tako mi hljeba bijeloga,
Za nekoga dobro biti neće!
Pokupiću moju carevinu,
A ću sići do tvoje stoljice.
Ja ću tvoju prevrnuť stoljicu,
Al ću moju izgubiti glavu!"
"You swine, King Rákóczy!
Take your hands from my poor people,
For, by my white bread,
It will not be well for someone!
I shall gather my empire,
And I shall attack your throne.
I shall overturn your throne,
Or I shall lose my own head!"
(lines 80–87)
For this theme the letter is first dictated in full and then written in full.
Over a hundred lines later the answer to the ultimatum is received. {82|83} Rákóczy has appealed to the emperor in Vienna, an army has been gathered, and it is now before the walls of Temišvar. The emperor writes to the pashas, and the singer says:
Eve ćesar knjigu opremijo:
Lo, the emperor sent a letter:
(line 214)
The letter itself, demanding surrender, follows in lines 215–220. The singer here says nothing about the process of writing the letter; it is not dictated to anyone, and hence its contents are not repeated. This is a simple form of the theme.
Following the demand for surrender further exchange of correspondence takes place. Avdi Pasha's wife advises him as to what reply he should make to the emperor. "Send another letter and ask the old emperor for a truce of three months in which you may evacuate Temišvar" (lines 227–230).
I Avdija knjigu našarao,
I ćesara starog zamoljijo:
And Avdi penned a letter,
And implored the old emperor:
(lines 231–232)
The letter itself covers lines 233–239. In this instance of the theme the letter is given in indirect form first, and when it is written, it is presented in full.
The answer to this letter comes immediately and it is in a simple form:
O natrag mu knjigu povratio:
He sent back a letter in reply:
(line 242)
The letter, granting a truce of half a year, is given in lines 243–245.
After the truce has been declared, Avdi's wife tells him to write a letter to the sultan asking for help. Again she gives the contents of the letter in indirect form. The letter itself is introduced by:
Pa kad začu Avdi paša mladi,
Načineo turalji fermana:
Then when young Avdi Pasha heard,
He prepared a firman with his seal:
(lines 258–259)
and it is given in full in lines 260–265.
This letter to the sultan has the desired effect, and Ćuprilić the Vizier arrives at Temišvar with troops. He asks the pashas if they have informed Rustembey in Sarajevo of what is happening, and when they reply in the negative another letter is written, the last in the song, this time to Rustembey imploring him to send troops. Its form is the simple one we have already seen.
I on piše knjigu šarovitu,
I spremi je šehru Sarajevu:
And he wrote a well-writ letter,
And sent it to the city of Sarajevo:
(lines 310–311)
The letter itself covers lines 312–322.
In the compass of 322 lines of a short version of a single song six letters {83|84} have been written. [10] Each letter has been given in full; in one case it was dictated and then written; in two instances the general contents of the letters were given in indirect form and then the letter was written; in three cases the singer merely states that someone wrote a letter, and he gives the letter in full.
In Makić's song of the taking of Bagdad by Sultan Ibrahim (I, No. 26) the first writing in the song occurs in the story-within-a-story. On his deathbed Sultan Sulejman tells his son Ibrahim of his vain attempts to take Bagdad. "My son, I declared war and I prepared a firman with my seal and summoned my empire. I sent a firman to Medina, to the Shah of the Kaaba, and I sent a firman to Abdullah, the Shah of Egypt," and so Sulejman continues for two more firmans (lines 82–97). The letters, or firmans, are not quoted in full as in previous cases. Their contents are left to be inferred from the situation.
This same theme occurs later in the song, not in the direct discourse of the story-within-a-story but as part of the singer's narrative. Sulejman dies and Ibrahim succeeds him. After liquidating his father's enemies, Ibrahim seeks out the elder Ćuprilić and they prepare once again to attack Bagdad. Ćuprilić summons the imperial Sheh Islam to write several letters. "He prepared a firman with his seal and sent it to the Shah of the Kaaba, and the imam penned the firman and sent it; and then they prepared another and sent it to Abdullah, the Shah of Egypt," and so forth (lines 340–351).
In none of the above examples has Makić employed the full form of the writing of a series of letters summoning an army or inviting guests to a wedding. He has done it briefly and indirectly in his song of Bagdad, but without disclosing the contents of the letters themselves. Makić is not much given to expansion and elaboration. His narrative is generally simple, and his songs are correspondingly short. We can illustrate the longer versions of this letter-writing theme from two other singers, one from the same district as Makić, that is, Novi Pazar, and the other from Gacko in Hercegovina.
In Salih Ugljanin's song of the wedding of Bey Ljubović, the theme of summoning wedding guests by letter is more extended than in Makić's songs.
Beg sad priđe đamu do penđera,
Pa dofati knjige i hartije,
Kaljem drvo što se knjiga gradi,
A mastila što se knjiga piše,
Pa načinje knjigu šarovitu,
Sprema knjigu ljićkom Mustajbegu: itd.
Now the bey went to the window,
And he took letter paper,
A quill with which letters are made,
And ink with which letters are written,
And he prepared a well-writ letter,
He directed the letter to Mustajbey of the Lika: etc.
(Parry 651, lines 744–749)
The invitation is quoted in full in lines 750–762; then the singer continues:
Pa sad drugu knjigu načinijo.
Opremi je Šali sa Mostara,
Sudi Šala s trides i dva grada.
Te sad Šalu u svatove zove: itd.
And now he prepared another letter.
He sent it to Šala of Mostar.
Šala governed thirty and two cities.
And now he invited Šala to join the wedding guests: etc.
(lines 766–769) {84|85}
The invitation is given again in full in lines 770–777. The process is repeated five more times, and each time the letter of invitation is given in full, but with variation. Here are the other introductory lines:
Pa sad drugu knjigu naredijo.
On je gradi kladuškome Muju:
Now he set in order another letter.
He prepared it for Mujo of Kladuša
(lines 780–781)
Pa je opet drugu načinijo.
Opremi je Bojković Aljiji:
Then again he prepared another.
He directed it to Bojković Alija:
(lines 789–790)
Sad je drugu knjigu načinijo.
Opremi je kovaćkome Ramu:
Now he prepared another letter.
He directed it to Ramo of Kovač:
(lines 796–797)
Pa je drugu knjigu načinijo.
Opremi je Tanković Osmanu:
Then he prepared another letter.
He directed it to Tanković Osman:
(lines 801–802)
Opet drugu knjigu načinijo.
Opremi je Talii Ljićaninu:
Again he prepared another letter.
He directed it to Tale of the Lika:
(lines 806–807)
The length of each of the letters is different; in order they are 13, 8, 5, 3, 2, 2, and 8 lines long. It can be seen that the length diminishes as the writing continues and as the singer wishes to avoid monotonous repetition. The increase in the number of lines in the last letter is explained by the fact that Tale of the Lika, to whom it is addressed, is a special person who "rates" a longer letter. Generally speaking, the first letter in such a series is fairly long, since it explains the situation to the addressee for the first time, and the last letter is longer than the others because it is usually to some outstanding individual.
We can detect the germ of even further expansion of this letter-writing theme contained in the second letter of the series just given, that addressed to Šala of Mostar. The singer stops for a line to comment that Šala governed thirty and two cities. By the addition of more information about the people invited or about the people to whom the letters are addressed, the number of men they have at their command, and details of this sort, this theme can be elaborated even further.
For a final example of the letter-writing theme with its series of letters we turn to the song of the wedding of Smailagić Meho in the version dictated by Hajdar Habul of Gacko in Hercegovina (Parry 905). Meho's father, Smailagha, sits down to write invitations. It is expected that the wedding will involve a bloody battle and it is necessary to gather an army. The process of preparation for the writing is fuller than we have seen before. {85|86}
Pa na mlađe viku učinijo:
"Dones'te mi divit i hartiju!
Valja sade knjige rasturiti,
Pokupiti kićene svatove."
Od kako je svijet postanuo,
Vazdi mlađi sluša starijega.
Donesoše divit i hartiju.
Vid' staroga! Poče knjige pisat'.
Prvu šalje begu Mustajbegu
Na široku Liku i Ribnika,
I ovako begu besjedaše:
Then he summoned the youths:
"Bring me writing table and paper!
I must now send out letters,
To gather the well-dight wedding guests."
Ever since the world began,
Youth has ever obeyed its elder.
They brought writing table and paper.
See the old man! He began to write letters.
He sent the first to Mustajbey
To the broad Lika and Ribnik,
And thus he spoke to the bey:
(lines 933–943)
The letter follows in the next seventeen lines, and the singer continues:
Pa je drugu odma prifatijo,
Pa je piše Hasan paši Tiru:
Then immediately he took another,
And wrote it to Hasan Pasha Tiro:
(lines 962–963)
After eleven lines of letter, the singer moves on to the next:
Tu puštijo, drugu prifatijo,
Pa je šalje Kuni Hasanagi:
He left that one, and took up another,
And sent it to Kuna Hasanagha:
(lines 975–976)
This letter has only two lines. The old man writes six more letters, bringing the total to nine. He introduces these last six with the same brief form used in the last two examples, but again the letters vary in length. In order they are 17, 11, 2, 7, 6, 7, 7, 7, and 25 lines long. The last letter is to the famous Mujo of Kladuša who is to be the leader of the wedding guests and commander in chief of the army.
Usually the singer invites the same heroes in each song in which this theme is used. He does not learn a special set of names for each song. When he finds it necessary to gather an army or wedding guests, he has the theme ready in his mind. For example, we have seen that Ljubović in Ugljanin's version of the song of his wedding invited the following in order: Mustajbey of the Lika, Šala of Mostar, Mujo of Kladuša, Bojković Alija, Ramo of Kovač, Tanković Osman, and Tale of the Lika. In his version of the taking of Bagdad the same singer has Đerđelez Alija summon the following in the order given: Šala of Mostar, Mustajbey of the Lika, Mujo of Kladuša, Bojković Alija, Tanković Osman, Tale of the Lika, and Ramo of Kovač. The order is different, but the personnel is the same. The theme is always at hand when the singer needs it; it relieves his mind of much remembering, and leaves him free to think of the plan of the song itself or of the moment of the song in which he is involved.
The quality of an oral epic tradition depends in no small measure on the singer's skill in fashioning descriptions of heroes, horses, arms, and castles. In them the forward march of the story is halted while the listener sits and marvels at the scenes presented. Yet they are as recurrent as any {86|87} other theme in the tradition. Compare the two following descriptions of the arming of the hero before he sets forth to do mighty deeds. The first is from Salih Ugljanin's song of the rescue of Mustajbey by Hasan of Ribnik (I, No. 18, p. 180); the hero being prepared is Osek Osmanbey, who is about to set out on his first raid. He is donning a disguise.
Now the old woman went to the chest and took from it a bundle of clothing. First there were linen breeches and a shirt—not made on a loom, nor spun, but woven of gold from Stambol. Then she gave him a breastplate and vest. The breastplate was made throughout of golden chain mail. On his shoulders she placed two golden caftans and on them two gray falcons. All this billowed on the young man's shoulders. Then she gave him a cloak, with twelve buttons, each one containing a liter of gold. And she gave him breeches of fine cloth, even of green Venetian velvet. They were of Bulgarian make. All the seams were covered with gold braid. Along the calves of his legs were concealed fasteners, and on them were woven serpents, their heads embroidered on the knees. At every step he took the snakes yawned, and they might well have frightened a hero! Then she gave him his belt and weapons, in the belt two mother-of-pearl pistols, neither forged nor hammered, but cast in Venice. The butts were decorated with golden ducats, and their barrels were of deadly steel. The sights were of precious stones. Two small pistols they were, which shoot well. Then he girded on golden powder boxes, and above them a curved saber. The whole hilt was of yellow ducats, and the scabbard of deadly steel. On the hilt was a precious stone. He put on his head a four-cornered hat with twelve crosses. On one of them was the name of Niko the standard-bearer, from Ćpanur hard by the Turkish border. Then he drew on his boots and leggings and took the saddlebags of Moroccan leather.
The second passage is from the "Song of Smailagić Meho" by Avdo Međedović (Parry 6840). Meho himself is being prepared for the journey to Buda.
From the basket she [Meho's mother] took a bundle of silk embroidered with gold. It was not tied with knots but had been pierced by golden pins. She untied the golden bundle, and garments of gold poured forth. May God be praised! — It was as if the sun were shining! First of all his mother put upon him linen of finest cloth. Every third thread in it was of gold. Then she gave to him a silken vest, all embroidered with pure gold. Down the front of the vest were buttons fashioned of gold pieces, which reached to his silk belt. There were twelve of them, and each contained half a liter of gold. As for me button at his throat, it shone even as the moon, and in it was a full liter of gold. The vest had a gold-embroidered collar whose two wings were fastened by the button. At the right side of the collar, above the button, was the likeness of Sulejman the Magnificent and on the other side, that of the imperial pontiff of Islam. Then she gave him his cylindrical breastplate. It was not of silver but of pure gold and weighed full four stone. On his back she fastened it with a buckle. Then she put upon him his silken breeches, of Damascus make, all embroidered with gold, with serpents depicted upon his thighs, their golden heads meeting beneath his belt and beneath the thong by which his sword was hung. Then she girded on him two Tripolitan sashes and a braided belt of arms, which was not like other belts of arms, but braided of golden threads and embroidered with white pearls. Therein were his two small Venetian pistols, forged of pure gold; the sights were diamonds and the ornaments were of pearl. They shone even as the moon. Both pistols fire without flint and take a full liter of powder, breaking fierce armor and burning the hearts of heroes. Between them was {87|88} a scimitar, an angry blade which severs heroes' hearts. Its whole scabbard was decorated with pearls, and its hilt was forged of gold. Upon his shoulders was a silken cloak, its corners heavy with gold. Gilded branches were embroidered round about and upon his shoulders were snakes whose heads met beneath his throat. Down the front hung four cords, braided of 'fined gold, all four reaching to his belt of arms and mingling with his sword-thong, which held his fierce Persian blade.
Then his mother took an ivory comb and combed his sheaf-like queue and bound it with pearl. She put on his fur cap with its twelve plumes, which none could wear, neither vizier nor imperial field marshal, nor minister, nor any other pasha except the alajbey under the sultan's firman. She put upon him his boots and leggings. On his head waved the plumes, and the golden feathers fell over his forehead. The imperial plumes were made after two fashions; half of them were stationary and half mobile. Whenever he rode or marched, the stationary plumes twanged, even as an angry serpent, and the moving plumes revolved. The hero needed no watch; for the plumes revolved thrice or four times an hour.
Although singers speak of such passages as "ornaments" and, indeed, boast of their ability to "ornament" a hero or a horse, or even a song, there is a strongly ritualistic flavor to these descriptions. They do not seem to be used indiscriminately. The poet has a choice of using a short form of these themes (or of omitting them entirely) or of elaborating them. The arming of a hero may be accomplished in a single line: "Then Osman prepared himself within his chamber" (Međedović, "Smailagić Meho," line 1859). On the other hand, it may be ornamented as we have just seen in the arming of Meho above from the same song.
The longer version seems to be reserved for the main protagonist when he is preparing himself to go forth on a special mission, in this case to receive his credentials as alajbey, succeeding his father and uncle in that office, and also, incidentally, to woo a maiden. It may well be that the presence of the elaboration at this point and in connection with this particular hero is a survival from rites of initiation or dedication.
The singer almost pointedly omits the detailed description of the arming of the companion and squire, Osman. Were he decorating the song merely for decoration's sake or merely to lengthen it, he would surely have included Osman's arming as well. Later in the song, when the wedding guests have assembled and are ready to leave on their journey to fetch the maiden, Međedović says only; "Lord Mehmed prepared himself in the very gold array in which he had assumed the commission of alajbey and in which he had wooed Fatima" (lines 9339ff.). The investiture belongs to Meho. But Osman is an important character in the song, and the description of his accoutrements is not neglected. We see him, however, already dressed and armed. Just as Meho was told by his elders what clothes and arms he was to don, so Osman is instructed by Meho's father, Smail: "Array yourself in those garments that you wear only twice in the year, on both Bajrams, even the Day of Pilgrims and the Bajram of Ramazan, and that you wore when we went before the sultan" (lines 1811ff.). And later some {88|89} fifty lines are devoted to a description of Osman, which begins: (lines 2050ff.)
Then they quieted the horse, and from the house, from the соffее room came Osman, the standard-bearer, dressed in silk and gold. On his head was a golden cap with seven plumes, three steadfast and four mobile. The steadfast plumes hissed like angry snakes, while the mobile ones turned on their pivot four times an hour. When the hero was journeying afar or fighting in the wars, he needed no timepiece; for the plumes turned and told him what hour it was of day or night. The golden feathers fell over his forehead and some backwards over his neck. They trailed over the young man's shoulders like a dragon's scales. Osman's cloak was woven and had upon it bands of gold. Golden branches were embroidered on all sides, and serpents were woven on his shoulders, their heads meeting beneath his throat. Had you not seen them before, you would have sworn the snakes were living. The breastplate upon young Osman's chest was gilded. His breeches were of scarlet Venetian cloth, with golden stripes upon his thighs and golden branches embroidered between the stripes. The embroidery was of gold and the fabric of scarlet; the two colors met and mingled…
This is not an investiture; for Osman has already been "invested." He is Meho's standard-bearer, squire, and protector. In ritual terms he is the sponsor of the neophyte, and his regalia are worthy of attention. But the theme of donning them does not belong to him. The theme of description is shorter than that given to Meho himself and thus indicates the degree of importance of each person in the story. The length, or even the presence, of "ornamental" themes cannot be said, therefore, to depend solely on the whim of the singer. In some cases, at least, there seems to be a deeper significance, perhaps deriving from ritual.
A parallel to the dressing and arming of Meho can be found in the medieval Greek epic of Digenis Akritas. The young Basil has proved his strength and bravery by killing wild beasts. His father and uncle then take him to a spring to wash:
And afterwards the boy changed his clothing;
Thin singlets he put on to cool himself,
The upper one was red with golden hems,
And all the hems of it were fused with pearls,
The neck was filled with southernwood and musk,
And distinct pearls it had instead of buttons,
The buttonholes were twisted with pure gold;
He wore fine leggings with griffins embellished,
His spurs were plaited round with precious stones,
And on the gold work there were carbuncles. [11]
In the Russian prose version of Digenis this scene of investiture comes before the fight with the serpent that emerges from the spring in which Digenis has bathed, and there are overtones of ritual dedication.
The more obvious parallels in the Iliad are the arming first of Patroclus and then of Achilles himself. These scenes should not be taken by themselves, but should be compared with other arming scenes in the Iliad. The {89|90} first example is in Book III, lines 330–338, describing the arming of Alexandros for single combat: [12]
First he placed along his legs the fair greaves linked with
silver fastenings to hold the greaves at the ankles.
Afterwards he girt on about his chest the corselet
of Lykaon his brother since this fitted him also.
5 Across his shoulders he slung the sword with the nails of silver,
a bronze sword, and above it the great shield, huge and heavy.
Over his powerful head he set the well-fashioned helmet
with the horse-hair crest, and the plumes nodded terribly above it.
He took up a strong-shafted spear that fitted his hand's grip.
The short form of the arming theme follows in the very next line:
In the same way warlike Menelaos put on his armour.
The arming of Alexandros, proceeding as the challenger, seemed worthy of lengthier treatment to Homer, whatever the reason may be, than that of Menelaos. The arming of Patroclus in XVI, 131–144, follows that of Alexandros word for word for the first eight lines, except that the line "starry and elaborate of swift-footed Aiakides" takes the place of line 4 above. To this core of eight lines is added:
He took up two powerful spears that fitted his hand's grip [a variant of line 9 above]
only he did not take the spear of blameless Aiakides,
huge, heavy, thick, which no one else of all the Achaians
could handle, but Achilleus alone knew how to wield it;
the Pelian ash spear which Cheiron had brought to his father
from high on Pelion to be death for fighters...
Patroclus' arming seems by this much to be more important than that of Alexandros, and chiefly for what he did not take, the distinctive mark of Achilles himself, the ashen spear.
The arming of Achilles (XIX, 369–391) begins with the very same lines as that of Alexandros and Patroclus through line 6 above, but eliminating the line (4) about the borrowed corselet; and it ends with the last four lines, which we have quoted from Patroclus' arming, about the ashen spear. Between these two and beginning with the reference to the great shield, which has previously been described, come these lines that mark the arming of Achilles as of vaster significance than that of Patroclus:
... and from it [the shield] the light glimmered far, as from the moon.
And as when from across water a light shines to mariners
from a blazing fire, when the fire is burning high in the mountains
in a desolate steading, as the mariners are carried unwilling
by storm winds over the fish-swarming sea, far away from their loved ones;
so the light from the fair elaborate shield of Achilleus
shot into the high air. And lifting the helm he set it
massive upon his head, and the helmet crested with horse-hair {90|91}
shone like a star, the golden fringes were shaken about it
which Hephaistos had driven close along the horn of the helmet.
And brilliant Achilleus tried himself in his armour, to see
if it fitted close, and how his glorious limbs ran within it,
and the armour became as wings and upheld the shepherd of the people.
Next he pulled out from its standing place the spear of his father...
Impressive as this scene of arming surely is, it is still not the most ornate as such in the Iliad. That distinction belongs, curiously enough, to the passage describing the arming of Agamemnon in Book XI (lines 17–44). It begins with the same three lines that are used in all the other passages, but with the mention of the corselet it diverges:
[the corselet] that Kinyras had given him once, to be a guest present.
For the great fame and rumour of war had carried to Kypros
how the Achaians were to sail against Troy in their vessels.
Therefore he gave the king as a gift of grace this corselet.
Now there were ten circles of deep cobalt upon it,
and twelve of gold and twenty of tin. And toward the opening
at the throat there were rearing up three serpents of cobalt
on either side, like rainbows, which the son of Kronos
has marked upon the clouds, to be a portent to mortals.
Across his shoulders he slung the sword, and the nails upon it
were golden and glittered, and closing about it the scabbard
was silver, and gold was upon the swordstraps that held it.
And he took up the man-enclosing elaborate stark shield,
a thing of splendour. There were ten circles of bronze upon it,
and set about it were twenty knobs of tin, pale-shining,
and in the very centre another knob of dark cobalt.
And circled in the midst of all was the blank-eyed face of the Gorgon
with her stare of horror, and Fear was inscribed upon it, and Terror.
The strap of the shield had silver upon it, and there also on it
was coiled a cobalt snake, and there were three heads upon him
twisted to look backward and grown from a single neck, all three.
Upon his head he set the helmet, two-horned, four-sheeted,
with the horse-hair crest, and the plumes nodded terribly above it.
Then he caught up two strong spears edged with sharp bronze
and the brazen heads, flashed far from him deep into heaven.
And Hera and Athene caused a crash of thunder about him,
doing honour to the lord of deep-golden Mykenai.
The varying degrees of elaboration of the theme of arming used by Homer are similar to those of the Yugoslav singers, extending from the single line to longer passages. As with the South Slavic poets, the very presence of the theme has a meaning beyond that of description for description's own sake. If the ritual in the Yugoslav poems and in the Digenis Akritas seems to be one of initiation, that in the Iliad is probably one of dedication to the task of saving the hero's people, even of sacrifice. Each of these men is about to set out upon a mission of deep significance, and the "ornamental" theme is a signal and mark, both "ritualistic" and artistic, of the role of the hero. {91|92}
In building a large theme the poet has a plan of it in his mind beyond the bare necessities of narrative. There are elements of order and balance within themes. The description of an assembly, for example, follows a pattern proceeding from the head of the assembly and his immediate retinue through a descending hierarchy of nobles to the cupbearer, who is the youngest in the assembly and hence waits upon his elders, but ending with the main hero of the story. This progression aids the singer by giving him a definite method of presentation. A similar plan can be seen in the gathering of an army. Here the order is often an ascending one. And almost invariably the last hero to be invited and the last to arrive is Tale of Orašac, a man of great individuality. Sometimes the singer merely adds one name after another as they occur to him until he has exhausted his store and then he caps the list with Tale.
The living eye of the singer's imagination moves in the theme of dressing a hero or in that of caparisoning a horse in the natural order of the action being described. In the first case he begins with shirt and trousers and ends with headdress and weapons, the latter being described also in the order in which they are put on. In the case of the horse, the singer begins with the blanket under the saddle and ends with the bit in the horse's mouth. He is ready to be led forth. The descriptions are vivid because they follow the action.
In all these instances one sees also that the singer always has the end of the theme in his mind. He knows where he is going. As in the adding of one line to another, so in the adding of one element in a theme to another, the singer can stop and fondly dwell upon any single item without losing a sense of the whole. The style allows comfortably for digression or for enrichment. Once embarked upon a theme, the singer can proceed at his own pace. Wherever possible he moves in balances: from boots to cap, from a sword on the left side to powder box on the right. Moreover, he usually signals the end of a theme by a significant or culminating point. The description of an assembly moves inexorably to focus on the chief hero of the song; the description of a journey moves toward its destination; headdress and armor are the most glorious accoutrements of a warrior; the larger assembly theme proceeds onward to the decision which will itself lead to further action. The singer's mind is orderly.
This orderliness can be further illustrated in the question and answer technique so commonly used either in an assembly or when two heroes meet after many years. In "Smailagić Meho," Meho is asked by his uncle a series of questions to which the answers are all negative. Meho replies with a series of negative answers and finally states the real reason why he is sad. In Ugljanin's song of Đulić Ibrahim, Đulić questions the newly-arrived prisoner concerning affairs back home, beginning with general questions about the Border, proceeding to questions about his own house and household, and ending with the inquiry about his wife. The answers of the {92|93} prisoner follow the same pattern. Here again the end of the theme is clear and the structure within is balanced.
It might be expected, since the singer works out both in performance and in his solitary practice his own form of a theme, that the themes of one singer could be distinguished from the themes of another. The flexibility of formula structure allows us to determine individuality of style on that level. We can, I believe, do the same on the level of the theme. In spite of the variety that we have seen in Avdo's different handlings of the assembly, one could make no mistake about his individual style in them.
It is not merely the fullness of treatment of the assembly theme that distinguishes Avdo's version from Šemić's. This is an important difference, of course. Avdo elaborates more than Šemić does. But Avdo can sing the same theme with less elaboration, just as all singers can, although it is Avdo's habit to be fuller. In the telling of the writing of the petition, indeed, Šemić is not sparing of details. If we compare these two versions or this subsidiary theme, we note that Šemić has Hasanagha leave the assembly and go to the market place for a hodža, who then writes the petition at the dictation of Hasanagha. In Avdo's song, four scribes are already present, who fashion the petition themselves. Moreover, Šemić uses a different method of having the signing done. The petition is handed from one member of the assembly to another. Each reads it and each puts his seal upon it. This text was read to Avdo, yet he made no attempt to imitate it. The theme of signing regularly used by Avdo, a form that does not tell of handing the petition from one hero to another or of the heroes' reading it, came to the fore and took the place of the one that the singer from whom he learned the song had employed. A singer ordinarily has one basic form for such a minor theme; it is flexible and within limits adaptable to special circumstances. But when such circumstances are absent, the singer makes no attempt to alter its general pattern.
In the two versions of the assembly in Vlahovljak's and Avdo's songs of Bećiragić Meho we can also note a difference in technique between the two, especially as regards the arrival of the messenger. Vlahovljak tells how the door creaked and a messenger entered. Avdo, on the other hand, it will be remembered, described how the heroes looked out the window, saw a cloud of dust in the distance, from which emerged a rider. Standard-bearers were sent to meet the messenger, who was brought in by them to the assembly. This is Avdo's normal way of describing the arrival of messengers. He uses it, for example, in his song of Osmanbey Delibegović and Pavičević Luka (Parry 12389 and 12441).
Differences in working out the same subsidiary theme mark compositions as belonging to different singers just as surely as the more spectacular qualitative distinctions of length and fullness. [13] This method is obviously of importance to the Homerist, plagued as he is with the question as to whether the Iliad and Odyssey are by the same author. {93|94}
One might legitimately ask whether the differences noted could possibly appear in the work of a single singer over a period of years. Would he change his technique as he grew older and more experienced? There is always a possibility that he might do this, of course. We shall see an example in the next chapter of the change in a song in the hands of a single singer over a period of some years, [14] but it is noteworthy that this was between the ages of twenty-nine and forty-six, when the singer was still growing in his art. From the time that maturity is reached and the singer has established the general outlines of a theme, evidence seems to indicate that he changes it little if at all. (One might add that young singers do not produce Iliads and Odysseys!) Avdo's version of the assembly theme in the song of Bećiragić Meho, which he recited for the records in 1951, sixteen years after he first sang it (and he swears that he had not sung it at all in the interval), still contains the distinctive feature that I have already marked; namely, the arrival of the messenger is narrated in the same way as in 1935.
Although the themes lead naturally from one to another to form a song which exists as a whole in the singer's mind with Aristotelian beginning, middle, and end, the units within this whole, the themes, have a semi-independent life of their own. The theme in oral poetry exists at one and the same time in and for itself and for the whole song. This can be said both for the theme in general and also for any individual singer's forms of it. His task is to adapt and adjust it to the particular song that he is re-creating. It does not have a single "pure" form either for the individual singer or for the tradition as a whole. Its form is ever changing in the singer's mind, because the theme is in reality protean; in the singer's mind it has many shapes, all the forms in which he has ever sung it, although his latest rendering of it will naturally be freshest in his mind. It is not a static entity, but a living, changing, adaptable artistic creation. [15] Yet it exists for the sake of the song. And the shapes that it has taken in the past have been suitable for the song of the moment. In a traditional poem, therefore, there is a pull in two directions: one is toward the song being sung and the other is toward the previous uses of the same theme. The result is that characteristic of oral poetry which literary scholars have found hardest to understand and to accept, namely, an occasional inconsistency, the famous nod of a Homer. [16]
One of the most glaring inconsistencies of this sort within my experience of Yugoslav oral song occurs in Đemail Zogić's song of the rescue of Alibey's children by Bojičić Alija (I, No, 24). The young hero has neither a horse nor armor with which to undertake his mission, and his mother borrows them from his uncle, Rustembey. Later in the poem there is a recognition scene in which Alija is recognized because he is wearing the armor of Mandušić Vuk, whom he overcame in single combat. Zogić has not made {94|95} the necessary adjustment in the theme of recognition so that it would agree with the theme of the poor hero who borrows his armor. This theme of recognition we know was not in the version which Zogić learned from Makić. Zogić has used another form of the theme of recognition, and it was not right for the particular song. Yet seventeen years later when Zogić sang the same song it contained the same inconsistency. We know the cause of it. It is more difficult to understand its persistence.
It would be a mistake for us to attempt to palliate the continuance of this inconsistency. We must score this against Zogić as a singer of tales. The best of singers would not have allowed such an inconsistency ever to come into being, let alone become fixed over many years. Yet the case is instructive. It shows us that the ordinary singer is not always critical, is not looking for that consistency which has become almost a fetish with literary scholars. Bowra, in his book Tradition and Design in the Iliad, [17] has attributed some of the narrative inconsistencies to the fact that the poet was concentrating on one episode at a time. This is close to the truth but does not give the whole picture. It is not merely that the singer is concentrating on each episode as he sings it. Each episode has rather its own consistency.
I believe that it is accurate to say that the poet thinks of his song in terms of its broader themes. This is what Makić means by saying that the singer must "think how it goes, and then little by little it comes to him." He has to set in his mind what the basic themes of a song are and the order in which they occur. But that is not all. If it were, the process of making his song would be fairly mechanical. He would say to himself, "I begin with a 'council,' then go on with a 'journey,' another 'council,' the 'writing and sending of letters,' and so forth." In his bag of tricks would be a "council," a "journey," and other themes with suitable labels; he would pick out the appropriate one, change the names in it, and fit it into place. This is as false a concept as the notion that the singer has a common stock or index of formulas from which he draws. There is a common stock of formulas, as we saw, and there is a common stock of themes which we can conveniently label. But our neatly categorizing minds work differently from the singer's. To him the formulas and themes are always used in association one with another; they are always part of a song. To the singer, moreover, the song has a specific though flexible content.
Usually the singer is carried from one major theme to another by the demands for further action that are brought out in the developing of a theme. Thus the decision of the assembly in "Smailagić Meho" to send Meho to Budapest to obtain his credentials from the vizier leads inevitably to the theme of the journey, which in itself contains preparation and travel. This particular journey theme is distinctive in that Meho meets and rescues a maiden and discovers the treachery of the vizier. The action in this theme leads naturally to the next large theme of betrothal to the maiden and the return home to gather wedding guests. And so the poet moves forward. We {95|96} might divide the "Song of Smailagić Meho" into five major themes: one, the assembly; two, the journey to Budapest and return; three, the gathering of an army; four, journey, battle, and return; five, the wedding.
In the "Song of Bagdad" there is no difficulty in proceeding from the council to the second theme, that of sending, carrying, delivering, and receiving a letter. The logic of the narrative draws the singer forward. The first two themes form a group: arrival of a letter, council; sending of a letter, arrival of a letter. This general pattern is repeated in the third and fourth themes of the song. The arrival of the sultan's message leads to the conversation between Alija and his mother in which the hero asks for advice. From this emerges the fourth theme of Alija's letter to Fatima, his betrothed. This is written and delivered, and her answer is written and returned to Alija, after which Alija returns his answer to the sultan. At this point a main section of the song is completed. The structure could be schematized as follows: a (council), b1 (letter), c (conversation), d1 (letter), d2 (answer), b2 (answer). Theme b is interrupted by themes с and d, which are counterparts of a and b. By the time the singer has learned this part of the song he has laid the groundwork for future themes of council and conversation, which are not unrelated, and for communication by letter writing or imperial decree.
The next larger complex of themes in the song that the singer must learn to express extends from the writing of letters summoning the chieftains to the arrival of the Bosnian army before Stambol. He begins with an expanded letter-writing theme, which is actually a catalogue. He has already used the simpler forms of letter writing several times and has a foundation for the more elaborate one, which is formed by repetition. This is followed by the sending of messengers for provisions of various kinds; then the arrival of the provisions and completion of preparations for receiving the host are related. The arrival of the contingents is another catalogue, richly adorned with description. The order of arrival is the same as that of invitation. The structure of the group of themes is a1 (invitation catalogue), b1 (ordering provisions), b2 (arrival of provisions), a2 (arrival catalogue). Such a catalogue, or series of catalogues, can and will be used by our singer, once he has formed it, in many songs.
The second half of the larger complex contains the theme of the arming and preparations of the main hero, the departure of the army, and its arrival. The departure is told in terms of order of march, and hence constitutes one more brief catalogue of forces. The arrival is told in terms of messengers bringing news to the sultan and of the rewards given them as bearers of good tidings. In the arrival catalogue the singer learns to describe horses and heroes as they are seen emerging onto a plain. He also learns to caparison a horse and to dress a hero.
These complexes are held together internally both by the logic of the narrative and by the consequent force of habitual association. Logic and {96|97} habit are strong forces, particularly when fortified by a balancing of elements in recognizable patterns such as those which we have just outlined. Habitual association of themes, however, need not be merely linear, that is to say, theme b always follows theme a, and theme с always follows theme b. Sometimes the presence of theme a in a song calls forth the presence of theme b somewhere in the song, but not necessarily in an а-b relationship, not necessarily following one another immediately. Where the association is linear, it is close to the logic of the narrative, and the themes are generally of a kind that are included in a larger complex. I hesitate to call them "minor" or "nonessential" or "subsidiary," because sometimes essential ideas may be expressed in them. Where the association is not linear, it seems to me that we are dealing with a force or "tension" that might be termed "submerged." The habit is hidden, but felt. It arises from the depths of the tradition through the workings of the traditional processes to inevitable expression. And to be numb to an awareness of this kind of association is to miss the meaning not only of the oral method of composition and transmission, but even of epic itself. Without such an awareness the overtones from the past, which give tradition the richness of diapason of full organ, cannot be sensed by the reader of oral epic. The singer's natural audience appreciates it because they are as much part of the tradition as the singer himself.
What I mean may be illustrated by considering any single member of the complex of themes associated with, let us say, the return of the hero from captivity in enemy country, although the song itself may not necessarily be one of captivity and return. It is a curious fact in the Yugoslav tradition, that when a hero has been absent for a long period, or even when a long war is an element in the story, whether the hero has been in that war or not, a deceptive story, or its vestige, and a recognition, or its vestige are almost invariably to be found in the same song. Some force keeps these elements together. I call it a "tension of essences."
The Odyssean story of return after long absence entails disguise, deceptive story, and recognition. The Yugoslav return songs have the same grouping of elements. This grouping is, of course, to be expected because it is the basic narrative of the tale. There are, however, songs that are not fundamentally return songs but that contain some if not all of these elements. Thus, the "Song of Bagdad" by Ugljanin (I, No. 1) begins with the theme of a long and unsuccessful war. One of its chief characters, the hero's betrothed, Fatima, disguises herself as a standard-bearer and joins the hero's army. She tells him a false tale as to who she really is, namely, the outlaw Budimlija Mujo; and at the end of the song there is a scene of recognition in the marriage chamber. This group of themes (long war, disguise, deceptive story, recognition) tends to maintain an identity of its own even when it is not ostensibly the main theme of the story, which in this case is the capture of Bagdad by Đerđelez Alija.
Zogić's favorite song of the rescue of Alibey's children (I, No. 24) who {97|98} have been long in captivity also has the theme of long absence. The hero disguises himself, and is recognized by a tavern maid in the enemy city. The second version of the Bagdad song (I, No. 26), the central episode of which is a single combat, also contains disguise, deceptive story, and recognition. The song of Mitrović Stojan (Parry 6796, 6777) tells how the hero has been many years with a band of raiders in the mountains, has a longing to see his wife, disguises himself in order not to be captured by the Turks, tells a deceptive story, but eventually is recognized and captured.
In our investigation of composition by theme this hidden tension of essences must be taken into consideration. We are apparently dealing here with a strong force that keeps certain themes together. It is deeply imbedded in the tradition; the singer probably imbibes it intuitively at a very early stage in his career. It pervades his material and the tradition. He avoids violating the group of themes by omitting any of its members. In the following chapter we shall see that he will even go so far as to substitute something similar if he finds that for one reason or another he cannot use one of the elements in its usual form. {98|}


[ back ] 1. See my "Composition by Theme in Homer and South Slavic Epos," TAPhA, 82:71–80 (1951). The most interesting work on themes, other than indexing, with which I am acquainted has been done not in the field of epic but in the related fields of folktale and myth. In folktale see V. Propp, "Morphology of the Folktale," Part III of International Journal of American Linguistics, vol. 24, No. 4, October, 1958 (Bloomington, Indiana, 1958). In myth the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss, "The Structural Study of Myth," Journal of American Folklore, 68:428–444 is very significant. Professor Propp has also published an excellent handbook of Russian epic: Russkij geroičeskij epos (Leningrad, 1955).
[ back ] 2. The following quotations from R. M. Volkov, "K probleme varianta v izučenii bylin," Russkij fol'klor, 2:98–128 (1957) are pertinent: "A study of the variants of the given introduction in the hands of both narrators likewise shows convincingly that the verbal formula of the feast is stable, but not unchangeable: the narrator preserves it in essence, but does not strive to remember it in detail, freely varying its verbal form in agreement with his own thought" (p. 104); and "The analysis of the introduction, 'the feast,' in A. M. Krjukova's telling does not allow one to agree with the statement of Hilferding that the 'loci communes' are unchangeable, that every narrator 'chooses for himself from a mass of ready typical pictures a more or less sizeable stock, depending upon his memory, and, having fixed them, he constantly uses this stock in all his byliny.' It is impossible to agree with this assertion that the narrator knows the typical places (loci communes) by heart and sings them completely the same, no matter how many times he has repeated the bylina" (p. 105). Translations mine.
[ back ] 3. This text is defective because the recording at this point is not clear.
[ back ] 4. V. Bogišić, Narodne pjesme iz starijih, najviše primorskih zapisa (Belgrade, 1878), p. 20.
[ back ] * This is the only one of these texts beginning with a "pripjev." It covers six lines, and has been omitted here since it has no bearing on the comparison of the texts.
[ back ] 5. The song is "Bećiragić Meho." Mumin's song is Parry 12468; Avdo's is Parry 12470, and Lord 202.
[ back ] 6. Hivzo himself describes the process in Parry 12474. Avdo's song is Parry 6840. Both will be published in Volume IV, with translations in Volume III. See also Lord 35, Avdo's version of this song in 1950.
[ back ] 7. Friedrich S. Krauss, Smailagić Meho (Dubrovnik, 1886). A German translation of Šemić's song can be found in C. Gröber, Mehmeds Brautfahrt. Ein Volksepik der süslavischen Muhammedaner (Vienna, 1890).
[ back ] 8. Parry 6841 and 12375.
[ back ] 9. The song covers two text numbers in the Parry Collection: 12389 and 12441. See also Lord 33, Avdo's version of this song in 1950.
[ back ] 10. Other similar examples can be found in Makić's song, Parry 683 (Parry and Lord II, No. 28) lines 104, 841–842, 854–855, 876–877, 914–915, 926–928.
[ back ] 11. Digenes Akrites, edited with an introduction, translation, and commentary by John Mavrogordato (Oxford, 1956), lines 1199–1208.
[ back ] 12. Passages from the Iliad are quoted in the translation by Richmond Lattimore (Chicago, 1951).
[ back ] 13. In the Novi Pazar material on the letter writing theme set out above we have already noted individual differences among the singers in their handling of that theme. I am delighted to find corroboration of this principle in P. D. Ukhov's article "Tipičeskie mesta (loci communes) kak sredstvo pasportizacii bylin," Russkij fol'klor 2:129–154 (1957): "Inasmuch as the typical formulas of one narrator differ from the typical formulas of all other narrators, and inasmuch as the typical formulas are peculiar to him and are employed in all byliny narrated by him, this regularity can be used as a key for determining authorship ('narratorship') of those texts of byliny the author (narrator) of which is not known; if the typical formulas of one product agree with the typical formulas of another, then their attribution to a single author (narrator) is indisputable" (p. 137). See also his article "Iz nabljudenij nad stilem sbornika Kirši Danilova," Russkij fol'klor, 1:97–115 (1956), where this method has been applied. Translation mine.
[ back ] 14. See below, pp. 117–118.
[ back ] 15. In this respect I conceive of the theme and of the song in about the same way that Jung and Kerenyi conceive of the archetype of the myth. See C. G. Jung and C. Kerenyi, Introduction to a Science of Mythology: The Myth of the Divine Child and the Mysteries of Eleusis (London, 1951), pp. 104ff. The patterns of which I speak later in this chapter and in the next are only working schemes, not absolutes. Lévi-Strauss says at one point concerning myth in "The Structural Study of Myth," Journal of American Folklore, 68:432 (1955): "To put it in even more linguistic terms, it is as though a phoneme were always made up of all its variants."
[ back ] 16. It is, of course, true that written literature is filled with inconsistencies and it is also true that we often see in oral texts inconsistencies which are only apparent, because we apply realistic criteria to traditional material. Even in the case which follows it might be argued in that way. Yet the traditional artist is not illogical and there is a limit of ingenuous ignorance that we can assign to him.
[ back ] 17. 112–113.