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Robert Elsie

Albanian Literature | Classical


ASDRENI (Aleks Stavre Drenova)

ASDRENI (Aleks Stavre Drenova)

Webdesign J. Groß



To the Adriatic

I have beheld you, Adriatic, I have beheld you,
A nymph from the twinkling heavens
Sparkling with pearls, your breasts
Heaving gracefully like a sylph's.

I knelt before you as before a goddess,
An apparition of untold beauty.
The rapture I felt, I could not endure,
And departed, tears streaming down my cheeks.

Like molten gold you shimmer,
A fabled palace full of magic,
You sway like maidens in the meadow.

Of youthful grace is your rise and fall,
Sweet memories, a world of wonder
Like a vision of divinity itself.

[Adriatikut, written in December 1912, published in the volume Psallme murgu, Bucharest 1930, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, and first published in English by Robert Elsie in History of Albanian literature, New York 1995, vol. 1, p. 362-363]


Forgotten Memories

Where can I find you, oh companions of my youth,
That I might once more enjoy that beloved time,
Moments which filled us with such delight
When we played and frolicked in mirth sublime?

Not a drop of sorrow did we feel in our souls,
Our hearts were so fully transfixed by the spring,
Little did we know that our lives would be sad,
And lost youth would nevermore joy to us bring.

Like the autumn leaves which the wind doth chase
Like a fleeting moment of glee which escapes,
Or a summer night's dream that veils its trace,

You can sense, you can see how our elusive hopes
Brought surprising delights to us now and again,
Like the rays of the moon glowing on a parched plain!

[Kujtime të shkuara, from the volume Psallme Murgu, Bucharest 1930. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


The Oracle of Dodona

In the sombre woods of ancient Dodona
Was a Dorian temple by expert hand built,
No other in this world could compare to its beauty,
Surrounded by statues of silver and gilt.

Laden with gifts appeared kings from afar
To honour the priestess, her speech divining,
Like hermits they huddled in fasting and prayer
Awaiting their fate, outside they were pining.

But fate and the future have eyes unbound,
And lots when cast can quickly turn round,
A word is enough, if sent from the heavens...

How many thrones have been toppled and tossed,
And how many leaders' minds have been lost
For failing to heed that old woman's words.

[Fjala e Dodonës, from the volume Psallme Murgu, Bucharest 1930. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


The Flute

Oh flute, I worship you with faith and longing
For I was raised, the consort of your trill divine
         from the time I was a lad,
You poured dew into my soul,
At the height of my joy, my feelings merged
         in a tenderness rare.

With you I felt an unslaked sense
Of love for Albanian soil
         Which remains day after day in my dreams,
When your sounds, the treasures of the past,
Traverse my mind like a summer's breeze
         And with deep ecstasy.

When you speak to me and fill me,
Unending voices echo and swell
         In waves like a chorus of angels,
Companions of the peaks, streams and hills,
From your lips flit fairies
         As if from some majestic palace.

Like starlight and moonbeams in longing,
Sparkling on the surface of the lake,
         I quiver like a lover,
As your words, harbingers of a message
From the Earthly Beauty, with fair tones,
         offer us a breath of spring.

Like the season which begins to blossom,
Unfolding its wide wings within our bosom
         To give us strength and divine grace,
So do you lend the world a new face
         And create around us a joyous choir
When your notes traverse the scales.

With you does the shepherd climb to the mountain pastures
Moved by your magic melodies,
         Your every fire melts his heart,
With you do young lads take to the dance,
Thrilled by your sacred songs of love
         Welling anew within their breasts.

Like tender leaves quivering in the wind
Which in their rustling strike up a song
         In perfect harmony,
Whosoever hears your chant
Recalls forgotten memories
         Like a symphony from the heavens.

The farmer bent behind his plough
Or scything ripened sheaves of grain
         Knows not why he slaves,
Yet with you all his hardship dissolves
As his thirst abates when he scoops
And drinks the waters of mountain springs.

From ancient times our ancestors
Bore you in their belts, sabres brandished,
         Singing their fiery songs
And spreading courage in the thick of battle,
Always were they rewarded for their toil,
         As was the legendary Alexander.

With you did the goddess Minerva
While away the hours in delight,
         Up on flashing Olympia
And the nymphs around her like tiny stars
In the rhythmic pacing of the dance
         Teased jealous Bacchus.

Virgil, master and famed singer
Of ancient times, and Mozart -
         With you, they built their sacred altars,
With you do nations dream,
Nourished on lofty ideals
         From a healing source.

So many others have followed,
As new tokens of progress,
         Which no one on earth can oppose,
To you, poets will always weave hymns,
For with your strength and courage, magic flute,
         You soar above them all.

[Fyelli, from the volume Psallme Murgu, Bucharest 1930. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


Oath to the Flag
(The Albanian National Anthem)

Around our flag we are united,
With but one will and one desire,
A sacred oath are now proclaiming
For our salvation to aspire,
May only those avoid the struggle,
Those who are traitors to our laws,
Undaunted is a hero through and through,
He dies a martyr to the cause.

With weapons in our hands a-brandished,
We will defend our fatherland,
Our sacred rights we’ll not relinquish,
The foe has no place in our land,
For God has told the world, proclaiming:
The nations of the earth shall wane,
And yet will live, will thrive Albania.
For her our fight won’t be in vain.

Our flag, our nation’s sacred symbol,
We swear an oath to your fair name,
Defend our country, our Albania,
Protect her honour and her fame,
Our praise goes to those mighty heroes
Who in our nation’s past did fall,
Their memory will be cherished evermore,
In life and death will they live all.

[Asdreni, Betimi mi flamur, 1907, from the volume Ëndrra e lotë (Bucharest: Gutenberg, 1912). Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie. ]