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Robert Elsie

Albanian Literature | Classical





O malet’ e Shqipërisë

Rec. Prokop Mima

O malet’ e Shqipërisë e ju o lisat’ e gjatë!
Fushat e gjëra me lule, q’u kam ndër mënt dit’ e natë!
Ju bregore bukuroshe e ju lumenjt’ e kulluar!
Çuka, kodra, brinja, gërxhe dhe pylle të gjelbëruar!
Do të këndonj bagëtinë që mbani ju e ushqeni,
O vendëthit e bekuar, ju mëndjen ma dëfreni.

Ti Shqipëri, më ep nderë, më ep emrin shqipëtar,
Zëmrën ti ma gatove plot me dëshirë dhe me zjarr.
Shqipëri, o mëma ime, ndonëse jam i mërguar,
Dashurinë tënde kurrë zemëra s’e ka harruar.

Kur dëgjon zëthin e s’ëmës qysh e le qengji kopenë,
Blegërin dy a tri herë edhe ikën e merr dhenë,
Edhe në i prefshin udhën njëzet a tridhjetë vetë,
E ta trëmbin, ajy s’kthehet, po shkon në mes si shigjetë,
Ashtu dhe zëmëra ime më le këtu tek jam mua,
Vjen me vrap e me dëshirë aty nër viset e tua.

Tek buron ujët e ftohtë edhe fryn veriu në verë,
Tek mbin lulja me gas shumë dhe me bukuri e m’erë,
Ku i fryn bariu xhurasë, tek kullosin bagëtija,
Ku mërzen cjapi me zile, atje i kam ment e mija.


Webdesign J. Groß



Audio of this poem in Albanian

Oh mountains of Albania

Oh mountains of Albania and you, oh trees so lofty,
Broad plains with all your flowers, day and night I contemplate you,
You highlands so exquisite, and you streams and rivers sparkling,
Oh peaks and promontories, and you slopes, cliffs, verdant forests,
Of the herds and flocks I'll sing out which you hold and which you nourish.
Oh you blessed, sacred places, you inspire and delight me!
          You, Albania, give me honour, and you name me as Albanian,
And my heart you have replenished both with ardour and desire.
          Albania! Oh my mother! Though in exile I am longing,
My heart has ne'er forgotten all the love you've given to me.
          When a lambkin from its flock strays and does hear its mother's bleating,
Once or twice it will give answer and will flee in her direction,
Were others, twenty-thirty fold, to block its path and scare it,
Despite its fright it would return, pass through them like an arrow,
Thus my wretched heart in exile, here in foreign land awaiting,
Hastens back unto that country, swift advancing and in longing.
          Where cold spring water bubbles and cool breezes blow in summer,
Where the foliage grows so fairly, where the flowers have such fragrance,
Where the shepherd plays his reed pipe to the grazing of the cattle,
Where the goats, their bells resounding, rest, yes 'tis the land I long for.


[excerpt from O Malet' e Shqipërisë, from the volume Bagëti e bujqësija, Bucharest 1886. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


The Words of the Candle

Here among you have I risen,
And aflame am I now blazing,
Just a bit of light to give you,
That I change your night to daytime,
I'll combust and I will wither,
Be consumed and be extinguished,
Just to give you brightness, vision,
That you notice one another,
For you will I fade and tarnish,
Of me there will be no remnant,
I will burn, in tears lamenting,
My desire I cannot suffer.
Of the fire I am not fearful,
I will never be extinguished
If I burn of my desire,
Try to shine as best I'm able.
When you see that I have vanished,
Do not think that I have perished,
I'm alive, among the living,
In the rays of truth I'm standing,
In your souls do I take refuge,
Do not think I'm stranger to you,
Patience was bestowed upon me,
Thus I glow with steadfast courage,
Doing good is all I long for,
That you not remain in darkness.
Forward now and gather 'round me
Talk, smile, eat, drink and make merry,
Love within my soul is harboured,
Yes, for mankind am I burning,
Let me melt and let me smoulder,
To grow cold I do not wish for.
Let my wretched corpse be consumed
For our true God the Almighty,
May my lungs scorch, charred to ashes,
For mankind I'll melt and vanish,
With me all man's joys I'll carry,
Bear them to the Lord Almighty.
Humanity is what I long for,
Goodness, gentleness and wisdom,
If you'll with me be companions?
If you'll love me as I love you,
If you all love one another,
Work not for the Prince of Darkness.
Venture towards me, fleeting heart, do
Come, approach this fire a little!
Though the flame may singe your wings, it's
Sure to sanctify your spirit.
With the torch that here consumes me
I the eyes of men have opened,
Been of them a true companion.
I do know them, they do know me,
I've observed them all in passing,
Mothers, kith and kin, and fathers,
All of them are my concern still,
All who lived here on this planet,
Even now I see them 'mongst you,
For I recognize their spirits.
I, like you, have changed, transfigured,
Changed and altered my companions,
Many times have I turned into
Earth and wind and fire and water.
I'm a spark come from the heavens,
From the sun I'm glowing embers,
Through the skies I fly, a-soaring,
And live deep within the ocean,
Often in the soil I sleep or
Take my rest in fruits and honey,
I'm a suckling lamb or kid goat,
Flower, grass or leaves a-sprouting,
So much do I have to tell you,
Yet I fear my speech will fail me.
What's the point to put to paper
Words this flickering tongue's inspired?

[Fjalët' e qiririt, from the volume Vjersha për mësonjëtoret të para, Bucharest 1886. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


The Flute

Listen to the flute a-speaking,
Tell the tale of wretched exile,
Weeping for this world of sorrow
Using words of truth to spin it.

Since the day they seized and took me
From my friends and my companions,
Men and women have been weeping
At the echo of my sobbing.

I have rent my breast from beating,
Gaping holes have made within it,
How I've wept and have lamented,
Thousand sighs my heart has rendered.

I'm a friend and blithe companion
Both of this world's happy people
And of all folk sad, embittered,
With them do I make alliance.

Whate'er be the situation,
I can weep and mourn in longing,
At any time and any place will
My heart sigh and be a-moaning.

All the world does listen to me,
Sees though only my appearance,
Of my wishes they know nothing,
Nor the fire that burns within me.

People come and gather 'round me
When I weep and tell of longing,
Yet they do not know my secret,
Thus I find no consolation.

Those abandoned, hearts forsaken,
Of the flute become companions,
Some, its mellow scales a-hearing,
Lose their minds, their wits completely.

Human falsehood and illusion!
The flute's voice is not mere wind, it
Has the fire of love within it
When that lowly reed is fingered.

When it plays, the heavens brighten,
When it plays, do hearts take courage,
When it plays, the summer blossoms,
When it plays, the soul's ecstatic.

To the rose it lends its fragrance,
And to beauty adds an aura,
Gives the nightingale its music,
Charm bestows upon the cosmos.

Of that fire to the heavens
Rising, flickering and flaming,
Does it make the sun and stars which
God within his hands is holding.

From that fire, true God Almighty
All the firmament he fashioned,
Sent the spark of life, creating
Humankind after his likeness.

Fire, oh blessed fire a-blazing,
I with you have been united,
Thus am purified and blended.
Never leave me, my beloved!

[Fyelli, from the volume Luletë e verësë, Bucharest 1890. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]



I have great hope
In God
That he will not abandon
Albania thus,
          But that she will shine forth
          And break into blossom.

May the day dawn
That will bestow upon us
A great light,
Giving birth to:

And unity
And compassion
Are our salvation.
          Happy is he who will be present
          When this day comes.

When Albania
Will be radiant
And misfortune
Will be banished
          From her sight.

For Albania,
Joyous days
Are at hand.
The darkness is receding.
          Happy is he who will live
          To see her reign!

For the Albanian
And his language
Are at one
With Albania.
          Happy is he who will
          Behold her soon!

And progress,
And humanity
          Will arise,
          Never to stray.

[Shpreh, from the volume Luletë e verësë, Bucharest 1890, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, and first published in English in History of Albanian literature, New York 1995, vol. 1, p. 234-235]



We believe in the true God
Who is the universe itself,
Without him there is no place,
He is the beginning and the end.
Wherever we look,
We see his face,
He is everything in this life,
He is the true God!
The blossoming flowers
Betray his beauty,
He is the rose,
He is himself the nightingale,
And when the true God
Wanted to reveal himself to the world,
He then created man.

[excerpt from Qerbelaja, Bucharest 1898. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, and first published in English in History of Albanian literature, New York 1995, vol. 1, p. 238]


The Bird and the Boy

A young boy caught a beautiful bird.
It shook with fear, chirped many a word:
"You don't feel pity that I’m so small,
For just like you, I've not grown tall?

I'm my mother’s only heir,
I left her sick in our nest so bare.
The ground is covered deep with snow,
There’s no more brown or green below.

Poor me, I suffer day and night
And find no branch that isn't white.
The weather's changed to a nightmare,
We’re dying – famine’s hard to bear.

Inside my heart you've put a stone,
But what of my mother who's ill, alone?
I’ve searched and foraged for two days,
Fetched her neither seed nor maize.

Ah! ‘Twas bad luck that I have wrought,
And now within your snare I'm caught!
My mom longs for me, as yours must pine.
If I don’t flee, she will decline.

Poor us, why do you plague us so?
Why don't you stop this, let me go?
I have a soul, and I want to roam,
To cry, to play, to sing... fly home.

I who lack a human brain,
Who have I wronged? Who've I caused pain?
Leave me in peace, don’t torture me,
Because God sees us, all and thee.

And he likes the good, rejects the wrong,
Loves tenderness, condemns cruel throng,
Wants righteousness and wisdom's deed,
Casts out the villain and the greed.

From God I was born unfettered, wild;
Why do you keep me captive, child?"
The boy heard well the sweet bird’s plea,
And weeping, kissed it, set it free.

[Zogu dhe djali. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie and Janice-Mathie-Heck]