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Muhamet Kyçyku (Çami)

Muhamet Kyçyku (Çami) (9 July 1784 – 1844), born in Konispol, Ottoman Empire, is one of the most known Albanian bejtexhinjs and is considered as the first poet of the Albanian National Renaissance.


  • Biography 1
  • Ervehe 2
    • Plot 2.1
    • Morale of the tale 2.2
  • Other works 3
    • The cham version of Yusuf and Zulaikha 3.1
    • Bekriu 3.2
  • Further reading 4


Kyçyku studied theology for eleven years in Cairo, Egypt where a sizeable Albanian colony had settled at that time. On his return to his native village he served as a hodja and died in 1844. Kyçyku was a relatively prolific author who wrote in his native Çam dialect and, as it seems, was the first Albanian author to have written longer poetry. The work for which he is best remembered is a romantic tale in verse form known as Erveheja (Ervehe), originally entitled Ravda (Garden), written around 1820.


This poetic tale is in octosyllabic quatrains with an ABAB rhyme.


The poetic tale follows the adventures of the fair Ervehe who manages to defend her chastity and virtue through many a trial and tribulation. Ervehe’s husband goes abroad, leaving her to the care of his brother who, despite his promises, attempts to seduce her. Ervehe resists both his advances and his threats to kill her if she does not yield. The frustrated brother takes vengeance on Ervehe by falsely accusing her of adultery and she is sentenced under Koranic law to be stoned to death.

By a miracle Ervehe survives her lapidation and is picked out of the rubble, severely injured, by a passing nobleman who hears her lament and takes her home to his wife. Ervehe recovers from the ordeal only to have the nobleman too fall victim to her charms. She refuses his advances as well, telling him she is married, which suffices to put him off. Later, a servant in the house attempts to seduce Ervehe and is also repulsed. He takes vengeance on her by killing the nobleman’s son and accusing Ervehe of the crime. The matter is clarified but the nobleman, though convinced of her innocence, is obliged to dismiss Ervehe from his household, giving her 400 pieces of gold as her parting wages.

Poor Ervehe’s misfortunes do not end here. While wandering along a river bank, she encounters a thief who is about to be hanged for having stolen 400 pieces of gold from the king’s treasury. She takes pity on him and saves his life with the money she earned. The thief follows her and begs her to become his wife. When she refuses, he ungratefully sells her as a slave to the captain of a ship who also attempts to seduce her. A storm arises in the nick of time and drowns all on board except Ervehe who is washed up onto the shore of a strange city.

A pious man lends her his clothes and, in male dress, she presents herself to the king of the country who receives her cordially and has a house built for her. Here she takes care of the sick and the blind, and becomes the object of veneration for her good deeds. Indeed when the king dies, Ervehe is chosen as his successor.

One day, five strangers arrive at her court: her husband and his brother, the nobleman, the servant and the thief, the latter three now blind. Ervehe promises to heal them if they confess all their sins. The injustice perpetrated against Ervehe thus becomes known and she can now reveal herself to her husband as the woman of chastity and virtue she has always been.

Morale of the tale

The motif in this moralistic tale of ‘female virtue’ occurs widely in both oriental and Western literature. The most likely source for Kyçyku’s poetic version of the tale is the Persian Tûtî-nâme (The Parrot's Seventy Tales) by Ziyâ’uddîn Nakhshabî, inspired by a Sanskrit original, the Shukasaptati. The seventeen-page Albanian text consists of 856 lines of verse and is preserved in the National Library in Tirana. It is also one of the rare works of the Bejtexhinj to have been published in the 19th century, though in an altered version.

Rilindja publicist Jani Vreto (1822-1900) not only transliterated and published Erveheja in Bucharest in 1888, but adapted it to late 19th century tastes and saw fit to purge it of all its Turkish, Persian and Arabic vocabulary. The original version is more straightforward and preserves the unadorned narrative character of a poetic fable whereas Vreto’s edition endeavours to present the work more in epic form with appropriate epithets.

Other works

The cham version of Yusuf and Zulaikha

Erveheja was the only work from Kyçyku for many years. Most of the over 4,000 lines of his verse (ca. 200 pages) we possess have been discovered within the last forty years. Kyçyku’s other major work is Yusuf and Zulaikha ("Jusufi i Zelihaja"), a moralistic verse tale in 2,430 lines based on the biblical story recounted in Genesis 39 and the Sura 12 of the Koran, of the attempted seduction of the handsome Joseph by the wife of his Egyptian master Potiphar. This ‘most beautiful tale’, as the Koran calls it, served as a common motif in Arabic, Persian and Turkish literature.

The work had already been adapted, in particular, by the Persian epic poet Firdausi (ca. 935-1020) and later by the mystical writer Jami (1414-1492). The biblical Joseph is in some respects the male counterpart of Ervehe. He, too, suffers much at the hands of his family and enemies and yet steadfastly resists the advances of his master’s wife in order to remain chaste and virtuous. Kyçyku’s Jusufi i Zelihaja evinces a higher level of literary sophistication than Erveheja. Its language is more ornate and many of the descriptive passages transcend the constraints of a simple narrative. It also relies more on character analysis as a means of conveying dramatic suspense, in particular with respect to the passions of the enamoured Zeliha.


Muhamet Kyçyku is the author of several other poems of note, one of which is a 348-line work in octosyllabic quatrains usually entitled Bekriu, in which its Moslem author condemns the drinking of wine and raki.

Further reading

  • Elsie, Robert: Albanian Literature. A short history. London [ua] 2005. ISBN 1-84511-031-5 London [ua] 2005. ISBN 1-84511-031-5
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