Robert Elsie | AL Art | AL History | AL Language | AL Literature | AL Photography | Contact |





Robert Elsie

Albanian Literature | Early Authors





Webdesign J. Groß



The Life of the Virgin Mary

Oh sweet life, oh dear Saint Mary,
Come, inspire our newest verses,
As they should be wrought to please you,
Come and join with us and sing them.

We don't know how best to praise you,
Honour you as you're deserving,
For you're blessed and you love us,
This we state, this is sufficient.

What mortal could ever number
All your graces and your grandeur?
None but God can know your merits,
Others' tongues simply can't sing them.

In the teachings of the Scriptures
You, exalted, weren't included,
Sin, that serpent, has devoured,
Consumed us, poor and wretched people.

Created only for your Lord,
You trampled, left for dead, the Devil,
You alone, by your birth, sinless,
Crushed and smashed his head asunder.

Your mother, Saint Ann, and Saint Joachim
Had no sons, but midst their sad tears,
Sighs and fasting, tribulations,
Bore you by the grace of Our Lord.

With vows, masses and much prayer,
With devotion and affliction,
Good Saint Ann, advanced in age,
Conceived you and did give birth to you.

At your birth, both earth and heaven
Celebrated everywhere, and
Joy you gave them when you came out,
Like the sun, immaculate, shone.

In a temple you retreated
Three years for Our Lord's contentment,
You a rose blossom did give him,
To him lent your virgin flower.

For in you, the Lord exulted,
Fell in love, and you he wished well,
Blessed you, sanctified, transformed you,
Body, Church, and soul united.

An angel brought to you a message,
Brought to you a benediction:
"Oh blessed woman, what's your answer?
Our Lord did choose you for his mother."

You replied: "I am a virgin,
How can virgins become mothers,
Thus your message does not bless me,
As a virgin, you have cursed me."

The angel spoke: "No, for the Lord
Will enter you and do no damage,
Your virginity he'll render
Purer than it was beforehand.

Like a looking-glass in sunlight,
Rays can't burn, they'll but it brighten,
Be not worried, don't be fearful,
The Holy Ghost will come and fill you."

"If the flower will truly save me,"
Said the Lady, "I'll be content
With whate'er he says and wishes,
I'm ready now to do his bidding."

With her "yes," the sky did open,
And into her breast Christ entered,
He became a sweet-faced toddler,
Like a doll or a May flower.

The Holy Ghost, so speaks the gospel,
Set her heart afire, like red coals,
And with blood, supplied as needed,
Was Christ's body thus created.

And so the Babe was born, the heart's lord,
And the heart's son, say the Scriptures,
Thus in our hearts he takes refuge,
Where he can find rest and respite.


[Excerpt from Gjella e Sh. Merís Virgjër, Rome 1762, from the volume Giulio Varibobba: La Vita di Maria, a cura di Italo Costante Fortino, Cosenza: Brenner 1984, p. 68-71. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


Song of the Awakening

Awake, son, sleep no longer!
Awake, for you have slept too much,
Come on, wake up, my darling.
Arise, for you've been dozing.
A group of shepherds is coming
In a procession to visit you,
Listen to them dance and sing,
Causing the earth and sea to ring.
Drones and flutes,
Reeds and pipes,
Playing in fair harmony,
Oh, what verse for your refreshment!
Hearken, son, and enjoy it,
Bless them with these hands of yours,
Look at all the presents they have for you,
All the herds that they have brought you,
Touch with your palm this little lambkin,
How white it is, like cotton!
And how soft this pale cheese!
See, the shepherds fetched it for you.
The kid with these goats
Was carried by that 'black-mouthed' fellow,
And the sheep covered in wool
Was led by that 'woolly-legged' chap.
How sweet is this honeycomb,
Nikolla was here and offered it.
Milëkoci sent some giuncata,
Get up, son, and we'll have it together,
It's a kind of cheese that shepherds eat.
A bird that looks like a lark
And a wild dove
And more fresh cheese from Ngjisku.
Up with you, my son, awaken and taste it,
And bless the shepherds.
Now a group of worshippers has arrived,
Singing folk ballads,
Look, son, and enjoy them,
Wake up, for you have had your nap.
Judith is coming with a rooster
And has struck up a song.
Ephigenia has brought a cap,
A cabbage pie and a kid goat.
Malita has lugged a capon,
And her sister has got a peacock.
Five lengths of ribbon
Have been given by the widow Rutiçela.
Her daughter's brought some chestnuts,
Chaffinches and some blackbirds.
Rachel's sporting a belt
To tie around your waist.
Look what Deborah has for you,
A bread roll and a cake made with grape juice.
A length of embroidery
Was borne by Susana this morning.
Sunamita has come with difficulty,
But brings you a fine mantilla.
With great joy Magdalena
Bears for you a scarlet wrap.
Eve has come, but without vigour,
And has for you a fair piece of cloth.
Elizabeth has brought a cross,
Her sister a wallet.
Lia has some diapers
And Serafina some eggs.
Noemea, the one who shouts,
Has proffered a scarf and a sash,
And Sorana, as far as she was able,
Has packed for you a lace shirt.
Three other peasants
Have donated you grapes and a piece of cake.
A girl who just says "koka"
Gave you raisins and some peaches.
And Dilusha, who is married,
Has brought a tiara for me.
Rebeluça, that poor maiden,
Offers you her heart in her hands,
And Belina, who was pious,
Filched some fruit from Acri.
Martha says that the day after tomorrow,
Her mother will give you some cheese.
Look at everything and bless the gifts and their givers,
Awake, son, sleep no longer!


[Excerpt from Kenka e të zgjuarit, 1762, from the volume Giulio Varibobba: La Vita di Maria, a cura di Italo Costante Fortino, Cosenza: Brenner 1984, p. 106-110. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]