This Commentary is meant as a reading and listening companion to Halil Bajgorić’s performance of the Ženidba Bećirbega Mustajbegova (hereafter HB’s ŽBM). Toward that end, it concentrates on sound, morphology, and traditional structure as well as lexicon, syntax, context, and translation. The primary source for the song it glosses is the digital audio tape (DAT) of Parry no. 6699, records 4594-4612, sung in Stolac on June 12, 1935 and initially transcribed by Nikola Vujnović (NV) (see further Kay 1995: 231). The DAT was produced from the archival aluminum records by David Elmer at the Milman Parry Collection, Harvard University. The secondary source, which comes into play on those rare occasions when the DAT is inaudible, is a magnetic, analog tape of the performance, also generated from the aluminum records. Readers are encouraged to become an aural audience by listening to the sound-file of the performance.
Every syllable of the ŽBM’s 1030 verse lines has been audited and transcribed from these two tiered sources and compared against NV’s original transcription. A table of the discrepancies between the performance and the transcription, which range from simple differences of dialect through lapsus linguae (a slip of the tongue) and lapsus calami (a slip of the pen: a simple writing error) to larger and more complex kinds of variation, is available in the section on Nikola Vujnović’s Resinging (NVR) elsewhere in this eEdition. Of particular interest are the moments when NV, himself a guslar with sufficient literacy skills to serve as Parry’s and Lord’s amanuensis as well as interviewer, effectively remakes HB’s song in his own traditional idiolect. I have labeled such intrusions lapsus auris because they result from HB’s song being passed through the filter of NV’s “singer’s ear”; the phenomenon can be compared to Anglo-Saxon scribes’ recomposing of traditional poetry even as they copied the vellum manuscripts (see O’Brien O’Keeffe 1990). The Commentary makes frequent reference to the informative contrast between what HB actually sang and what NV heard and wrote (that is, “resang”).
For the most part I have aimed at a literal and consistent translation into English, so that the reader can readily track the recurrency of traditional phraseology and narrative patterning. In those rare lines that demand a freer or augmented rendering for the sake of clarity, I have provided the literal sense in the note to the given line. As a convention, I have regularly translated the South Slavic historical present tense as a simple past tense in English; while a degree of vividness is lost in this conversion, there is a corresponding gain in straightforwardness and narrative transparency. Let me also stipulate here that, although I have consulted all available lexical resources, some translations must remain provisional. Because the South Slavic oral epic register is a complex weave of multiple dialects, anachronisms, and borrowings that as a whole often diverges radically from the more streamlined, “standard” language of literary and other printed sources, even the most copious and wide-ranging lexicons and dictionaries fall considerably short of complete coverage. When one adds the idiomatic meanings encoded in the epic register, which go far beyond denotation to the implications of traditional referentiality (see Foley 1991, 1995a, 2002: 109-24), the task of making acceptable sense of HB’s way of speaking presents an ongoing challenge.
Specific features noted in the Commentary include expressive strategies, rhythm and meter, HB’s epic idiolect, consonants inserted as hiatus bridges (“performatives”), other adjustments to phraseology, similes and other figures of speech, and explanations of cultural patterns, religious imagery, and tangible items from material culture. Lexicographical problems are addressed as they arise, with special attention to performance-related deflections of both South Slavic epic vocabulary and the many Turkicisms that characterize the singing register employed by HB and other guslari from his tradition. Occasional parallels in usage and expressive strategy are cited from another of HB’s performances, Parry no. 6703: Halil izbavlja Bojičić Aliju (Halil Rescues Bojičić Alija), recorded by dictation to NV in Stolac, on June 13, 1935 (see further Kay 1995: 232), hereafter abbreviated as 6703.
Separate sections on Music and Performatives are also available elsewhere in this eEdition, as is a selective digest of traditional elements and their implications (the Apparatus Fabulosus, hereafter AF) that recur either within this performance or in the South Slavic Moslem epic tradition at large or both.
Resources and reference codes:
B = SerboCroatian-English Dictionary, Morton Benson, with the collaboration of Biljana Šljivić-Šimšić, 3rd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994)
Š = Turcizmi u srpskohrvatskom jeziku, Abdulah Škaljić, četvrto izdanje (Sarajevo: Svjetlost, 1979)
V = Srpski rječnik (istumačen njemačkijem i latinskijem riječima), Vuk Stef. Karadžić (Beč, 1852; rpt. Beograd: Nolit, 1975)
MS = Rečnik srpskohrvatskoga književnog jezika, 6 vols. (Novi Sad: Matica Srpska; Zagreb: Matica Hrvatska, 1967-76)
SAN = Rečnik srpskohrvatskog književnog i narodnog jezika, 12 vols.- (Beograd: Institut za Srpskohrvatski Jezik, Srpska Akademija Nauka i Umetnosti, 1959-)
P = Pravopis srpskohrvatskoga književnog jezika (sa pravopisnim rečnikom) (Novi Sad: Matica Srpska and Zagreb: Matica Hrvatska, 1960).
[Unless otherwise attributed, all translations from South Slavic, Latin, German, and French lexical sources are mine.]
- Pronunciation Key
- Portrait of the Singer
- Synopsis of the Story
- Performance by Halil Bajgorić
- Performance-based Commentary
- Nikola Vujnović’s Resinging
- Apparatus Fabulosus
- The Role of Music
- Performatives and Poetics
- Text Translation (pdf, 216 KB)
- Play Audio (mp3, 70.4MB)