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Robert Elsie

Albanian Literature | Early Authors

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Ottoman poet Figani and his cup-bearer, ca. 1532.

Ottoman poet Figani and his cup-bearer, ca. 1532.

Ottoman poet Figani and his cup-bearer, ca. 1532.

 

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Yahya bey DUKAGJINI

 

The Albanians are my stock

The Albanians are my stock,
And all my kin live by the sword.
With ease, like falcons, these brave folk
Forge their homes within the cliffs.
This is the gift of those of Albanian stock,
They are gems cached among the crags.

[Arnavud asli olub-dur aslim. Translated from the Ottoman Turkish by Robert Elsie]

 

Come, let us quaff

Come, let us tour the town and quaff wine from the bowl,
Oh pious ascetic, do the wise ever flee the tavern?

I am distraught when I see those weary eyes,
The heavy clouds of my sighs pour tears of hail.

If that fair youth of my heart had not ris'n one night, a full moon,
What would it matter that I, a sombre day, had ne'er been born?

Learn from the moth how to burn, oh soul, heed the moth,
When you glimpse that fiery face, hurl yourself with ardour into its flames.

Oh ailing soul, let me perish from ever-waiting,
Yearning for that flirting lad, my calamity, to emerge from his house.

Whenever I am at the side of that straight, slender stature,
My breast becomes a shell of nacre to clasp that unique jewel.

The heart proclaimed it: "Yahya stole a kiss from his lover."
Let the good news be known, sweet news from my foolish soul!

[Gel ayak seyrini kil nûs it meyi peymâneden, from the volume Yahyâ bey: Dîvan (Istanbul 1977), p. 471. Translated from the Ottoman Turkish by Robert Elsie]

 

Poetry holds the veil

Poetry, like Joseph, draws a written veil across its face,
Poetry speaks from behind the shawl of its own intrigue.

My beloved would know my plight if he read my verse,
He would sense my pain if he heard my cries.

Poetry, like the brow of my beloved, it is a sea of beauty,
Fitting for those of vision to reflect upon.

Poetry, like Mount Sinai of Moses, has witnessed the divine,
Struck by his figure, it shattered into shards.

Poetry uncovers the cravings of an aggrieved people,
For the foolish lover, my book of verse is a vow of maddened love.

Poetry is revealed in the realm of truth,
Each line invokes a voice of an unseen world.

Ardent like the roses, Yahya, I am too immersed
When I recite verses about his well-formed physique.

[Yüzine tutmus nikâb-i hatti Yûsuf-vâr si'r, from the volume Yahyâ bey: Dîvan (Istanbul 1977), p. 349-350. Translated from the Ottoman Turkish by Robert Elsie]