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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Greece and Turkey in Europe: Vol. XIX.  1876–79.
 
Turkey in Europe, and the Principalities
Albania
Scanderbeg
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882)
 
THE BATTLE is fought and won
By King Ladislaus the Hun,
In fire of hell and death’s frost,
On the day of Pentecost.
And in rout before his path        5
From the field of battle red
Flee all that are not dead
Of the army of Amurath.
 
In the darkness of the night
Iskander, the pride and boast        10
Of that mighty Othman host,
With his routed Turks, takes flight
From the battle fought and lost
On the day of Pentecost;
Leaving behind him dead        15
The army of Amurath,
The vanguard as it led,
The rearguard as it fled,
Mown down in the bloody swath
Of the battle’s aftermath.        20
 
But he cared not for Hospodars,
Nor for Baron or Voivode,
As on through the night he rode
And gazed at the fateful stars,
That were shining overhead;        25
But smote his steed with his staff,
And smiled to himself, and said:
“This is the time to laugh.”
 
In the middle of the night,
In a halt of the hurrying flight,        30
There came a Scribe of the King
Wearing his signet-ring,
And said in a voice severe:
“This is the first dark blot
On thy name, George Castriot!        35
Alas! why art thou here,
And the army of Amurath slain,
And left on the battle-plain?”
 
And Iskander answered and said:
“They lie on the bloody sod        40
By the hoofs of horses trod;
But this was the decree
Of the watchers overhead;
For the war belongeth to God,
And in battle who are we,        45
Who are we, that shall withstand
The wind of his lifted hand?”
 
Then he bade them bind with chains
This man of books and brains;
And the Scribe said: “What misdeed        50
Have I done, that, without need,
Thou doest to me this thing?”
And Iskander answering
Said unto him: “Not one
Misdeed to me hast thou done;        55
But for fear that thou shouldst run
And hide thyself from me,
Have I done this unto thee.
 
“Now write me a writing, O Scribe,
And a blessing be on thy tribe!        60
A writing sealed with thy ring,
To King Amurath’s Pasha
In the city of Croia,
The city moated and walled,
That he surrender the same        65
In the name of my master, the King;
For what is writ in his name
Can never be recalled.”
 
And the Scribe bowed low in dread,
And unto Iskander said:        70
“Allah is great and just,
But we are as ashes and dust;
How shall I do this thing,
When I know that my guilty head
Will be forfeit to the King?”        75
 
Then swift as a shooting star
The curved and shining blade
Of Iskander’s scimitar
From its sheath, with jewels bright,
Shot, as he thundered: “Write!”        80
And the trembling Scribe obeyed,
And wrote in the fitful glare
Of the bivouac fire apart,
With the chill of the midnight air
On his forehead, white and bare,        85
And the chill of death in his heart.
 
Then again Iskander cried:
“Now follow whither I ride,
For here thou must not stay.
Thou shalt be as my dearest friend,        90
And honors without end
Shall surround thee on every side,
And attend thee night and day.”
But the sullen Scribe replied:
“Our pathways here divide;        95
Mine leadeth not thy way.”
 
And even as he spoke
Fell a sudden scimitar-stroke,
When no one else was near;
And the Scribe sank to the ground,        100
As a stone, pushed from the brink
Of a black pool, might sink
With a sob and disappear;
And no one saw the deed;
And in the stillness around        105
No sound was heard but the sound
Of the hoofs of Iskander’s steed,
As forward he sprang with a bound.
 
Then onward he rode and afar,
With scarce three hundred men,        110
Through river and forest and fen,
O’er the mountains of Argentar;
And his heart was merry within,
When he crossed the river Drin,
And saw in the gleam of the morn        115
The White Castle Ak-Hissar,
The city Croia called,
The city moated and walled,
The city where he was born,—
And above it the morning star.        120
 
Then his trumpeters in the van
On their silver bugles blew,
And in crowds about him ran
Albanian and Turkoman,
That the sound together drew.        125
And he feasted with his friends,
And when they were warm with wine,
He said: “O friends of mine,
Behold what fortune sends,
And what the Fates design!        130
King Amurath commands
That my father’s wide domain,
This city and all its lands,
Shall be given to me again.”
 
Then to the Castle White        135
He rode in regal state,
And entered in at the gate
In all his arms bedight,
And gave to the Pasha
Who ruled in Croia        140
The writing of the King,
Sealed with his signet-ring.
And the Pasha bowed his head,
And after a silence said:
“Allah is just and great!        145
I yield to the will divine,
The city and lands are thine;
Who shall contend with Fate?”
 
Anon from the castle walls
The crescent banner falls,        150
And the crowd beholds instead,
Like a portent in the sky,
Iskander’s banner fly,
The Black Eagle with double head;
And a shout ascends on high,        155
For men’s souls are tired of the Turks,
And their wicked ways and works,
That have made of Ak-Hissar
A city of the plague;
And the loud, exultant cry        160
That echoes wide and far
Is: “Long live Scanderbeg!”
 
It was thus Iskander came
Once more unto his own;
And the tidings, like the flame        165
Of a conflagration blown
By the winds of summer, ran,
Till the land was in a blaze,
And the cities far and near,
Sayeth Ben Joshua Ben Meir,        170
In his Book of the Words of the Days,
“Were taken as a man
Would take the tip of his ear.”
 
 
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