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Robert Elsie

Albanian Literature | Early Authors


Page from the divan of Nezim Frakulla, ca. 1731.

Page from the divan of Nezim Frakulla, ca. 1731.

Page from the divan of Nezim Frakulla, ca. 1731.


Webdesign J. Groß



I'm Your Slave, You are My Love

I'm your slave, you are my love,
I turn to you, my beloved,
Save me now or let me perish,
Take and choose the best solution,
I lament and am in torment,
Heavy on me lies this planet,
I to perish would prefer
And save myself from love's affliction
Yet in spite of all our anguish,
Will our lovers not address us,
We are slaves in desolation,
Let them fetch us and despatch us.

[Më ke rop e të kam xhan, authorship uncertain, ca. 1735. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


Oh Your Gaze, that Slicing Sabre

Oh your gaze, that slicing sabre,
And your eyes, those of a hero,
This, my life's become a prison,

Your two locks are like two dragons,
All the others cower, fear you,
Like the autumn leaves they quiver,
Cringe before you, dauntless hero.

Meeting you made life eternal,
Separation's got me jealous,
Night and day I seek salvation,
Begging one more time to see you.

In your harshness I take pleasure,
In your glance, I find salvation,
Yearning for you's my affliction,
None else on earth do I long for.

Oh my love, Nezim's religion,
Perfect beauty, Nezim's logic,
You are Nezim's balm and healing,
Life without you is but heartache.

[Ej gamzen shemshir i burran, authorship uncertain, ca. 1735. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


Friends of Mine, They are Fine Fellows

Friends of mine, they are fine fellows,
Good men who keep their word and promise,
When they saw that I was jailed
Each strove to come there and replace me.

A true friend in this world is one
Who gives you love and will support you,
When he sees you locked in prison
He will share the heavy burden.

A friend is one I know on earth
Who when he sees that you're in trouble,
If he cannot save you from it,
He will drown, too, in the ocean.

Not like this are other fellows
Who your stewed prunes seize and gobble,
Turn, Nezim, now, look away
And do not long for their affection.

God in heaven, God of mercy!
Better there's no interjection,
Tribulation in this world will
Rob you of your peace and quiet.

Let me be as fate will have it,
I'll not groan in lamentation,
My one hope on earth is that I'll
Not on others be dependent.

[Disa miq, disa jaranë, ca. 1735. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


Nezim Has Made It Merry

Who bade the divan speak Albanian?
Nezim has made it known.
Who bade clarity speak in Albanian?
Nezim has made it human.

This language was in ruins,
Veiled in grief and shame.
Full well this book now proves it,
Nezim has made it merry.

A man upon this planet
Will never love possess
If he does not perceive this,
Nezim has made it marvel.

For a man in tears and anguish
From the pain of love, oh friend,
By God now, with this verse
Nezim has made it sultan.

The grace of God is present
In the ecstasy of beauty,
And the troubling task of love songs,
Nezim has made it easy.

But do not say, companion,
That the lover speaks this tongue,
Look, the pathway once untrodden,
Nezim has made it open.

If a man is wise and cultured,
And takes and reads my poem,
This divan of pearls and jewels,
Nezim's made it his friend.

[Divan kush pat folturë shqip? ca. 1735. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


In the Dust Left by your Footsteps

Listen to me, my beloved,
No peace do I find without you,
Life with you is like a rose bud,
When you're absent, life a sinful.

Thus it is and thus will e'er be,
No joy knows my heart without you,
And my body, may it wither
In the dust left by your footsteps.

You're my soul and you're my spirit,
I am but a wretched body,
You're my remedy and vigour,
I've lost pride and reputation.

I'm so in love, you hold my heart,
I'm nightingale, you're bow'r of roses,
You are spring, I'm flower garden,
You're the perfume I respire.

You are Leila, I am Mexhnun,
You're the doctor, I'm the patient,
I am gold, and you're alchemy,
I'm confusion, you are order.

I am Ferhad, you are Shirin,
You're a falcon, I'm a rock dove,
I am Muslim, you are Islam,
I'm the faithful, you are imam.

You're my king, and I'm the beggar,
You're my moon, and I am night time,
You're the dawn, and I await you,
You're the twilight, I am evening...

I'm your slave and you're the master,
You're the guardsman, I'm your sabre,
I'm the ball, and you're the striker,
I'm the bird whose heart you've captured...

Of my life you are the river,
On this planet I am Hizir,
You're fulfilment of my longing,
I'm the slave who begs for mercy...

You're my whim and my desire,
You're my mystery and secret,
I am Hafiz of Shiraz, and
I'm the Sa'adi of our lifetime.

You're the treasure of compassion,
I am both Said and Shevket,
You're the rainfall of my mercy,
I'm a shell of nacre shining.

[Degù ej mal u maksud, ca. 1735. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


Some Young Fellows Have Now Turned Up

Some young fellows have now turned up,
Shouting: 'Why don't we be poets?'
Weep ye trees and weep ye boulders!
For the gems that they are penning.

True verse is God's inspiration,
It's no clotted cream for swilling,
Worry not, scent of the lily,
For by force is nought accomplished.

Pay attention, listen to me,
Let me tell you, if you're clever,
That these flowers are not easy,
They're not flags out in the pastures.

You can't understand a writer,
You don't know what he is saying,
Yet you sit there, trying to tell me
What it's like to be a poet.

God! their verse, where has it come from?
I must say, it is quite silly,
Oh Nezim, praise be upon you
For the jewelled words you've spoken.

[Duallë ca nev zuhurë, ca. 1735. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


We Have Set Off into Exile

We have set off into exile,
May the Lord on us have mercy,
And protect us on our journey,
Farewell to Berat of roses!

Istanbul, accept our greetings,
Can you find a space here for us?
Just enough and not too little,
For myself and these fine fellows.

Of our old friends we've one favour,
That they on our souls take pity,
Now and then they say a prayer,
May it be a blessing to them.

Friends of old, do not forget us,
For we're off to foreign countries,
Send salute and greetings to us
Every three, four months, we beg you.

May your wishes be accomplished
By the Lord in his compassion,
And, Nezim, oh wretched fellow,
May He also hear you praying.

I've one favour now to ask you,
Hail for me those fields and mountains,
To them convey my best wishes,
Greetings from me in my sorrow.

Tell them that Nezim is weeping,
With an open heart he begs you,
Set aside a venue for him,
Or he'll languish in perdition.

[Jemi nisurë në gurbet, ca. 1735. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]