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Robert Elsie

Albanian Literature | Classical

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Audio of this poem in Albanian

On river banks

Taken flight and off in exile,
In restraints and held in bondage,
I despair with tears unending
On the banks of Vjosa, Buna.

Where is it that we have left her,
Our poor homeland, wretched nation?
She lies unwashed at the seaside,
She stands unseen in the sunlight,
She sits starving at the table,
She is ignorant midst learning,
Naked, ailing does she languish,
Lame in body and in spirit...

How those rogues have all abused her,
How the beys and mercenaries
And the foreigners oppressed her,
How the usurers have squeezed her,
How they raged at her, destroyed her,
She from all sides has been ravaged,
Heel of force always upon her,
On the banks of Spree and Elbe.

Screaming do I burn in rage,
Bereft of weapons, mutilated,
Neither dead nor living do I
Wait here for some sign or glimmer,
Days and years I tarry, linger,
Weak and out of breath and withered,
Old before my time and broken,
Far from hearth and far from workplace,
On the banks of Rhine and Danube.

Yes, I'm beaten and bewildered,
In a swoon and in convulsions,
On I dream in tears unceasing
On the banks of Spree and Elbe.

And a voice roars from the river,
Booming, from my sleep awakes me,
That the people are now ready,
That the tyrant totters, trembles,
That a storm is rising, raging,
Vjosa swelling, Buna flooding,
Drin and Seman scarlet flowing,
Beys and nobles squirm and quiver,
For beyond the grave life shines and
Trumpets on all sides do echo:
"Rise up, set out now against them,
All you peasants and you workers,
Men from Shkodra down to Vlora,
Crush them now and overcome them!"

This salvation, yes, this war cry,
Has restored my youth and courage,
Strength and hope resuscitating,
On the banks of Spree and Elbe.
That a spring will follow winter,
That we one day will return
Regaining hearths, reclaiming workplace
On the banks of Vjosa, Buna.

Taken flight and off in exile,
In restraints and held in bondage,
I proclaim this fervent hope here
On the banks of Spree and Elbe.

[Anës lumenjve, from the volume Albumi, Boston 1948, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, and first published in English in part in History of Albanian literature, New York 1995, vol. 1, p. 380-381]

 

Audio of this poem in AlbanianDead in exile

(Elegy written in Berlin on the death of writer and political figure Luigj Gurakuqi, 1879-1925, who had been assassinated in Bari on 2 March 1925 by an agent of Ahmet Zogu.)

Oh mother, mourn our brother,
Cut down by three bullets.
They mocked him, they murdered him,
They called him traitor.

For he loved you when they hated you,
For he wept when they derided you,
For he clothed you when they denuded you,
Oh mother, he died a martyr.

Oh mother, weep bitter tears,
Thugs have slain your son
Who with Ismail Qemali
Raised the valiant standard.

Oh mother, weep for him in Vlora,
Where he bore you freedom,
A soul as pure as snow,
For whom you have no grave.

Oh mother, he did his utmost
With eloquence and heart of iron,
Alive in exile, dead in exile,
This towering liberator.

[Syrgjyn-Vdekur, from the volume Albumi, Boston 1948, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, and first published in English in History of Albanian literature, New York 1995, vol. 1, p. 379-380]

 

Run, oh soldier of marathon

Run, oh run, yes, speed and tell them
That the foreign hordes are beaten,
That we held out, won the battle,
With our victory saved the city,
Run, oh run,
Sprint, oh soldier of Marathon!

Yes, you seized a branch of laurel,
Set off, flying down to Athens,
Over dales and through the valleys,
Hardly did your legs a-flying
Touch the ground while falling, rising,
Falcon hero, soldier of Marathon.

You are wounded, but don't feel the
Blood and sweat behind you dripping,
You're determined to be first,
To be the herald of the triumph,
Scarlet soldier of Marathon!

Your throat is dry, but you're not thirsty,
Legs are numb, but you keep plodding,
For the people there await you,
At their hearts great fear is gnawing,
Gall and terror are within them,
Speed on, soldier of Marathon!
Never did the sun so scorch you,
Never weighed the sky so heavy,
Never were so fair and tempting
Shade of oak trees, cool spring water,
Keep on going,
Forwards, soldier of Marathon!

Swirling dust and heat are stifling,
Thorns and rocks are lacerating,
In your breast burn fire and ardour,
Sweat and steam both blind your vision,
Glowing embers,
Like a torch, soldier of Marathon!

From your breast, like bellows heaving,
Smoke and sparks of a volcano
Belching forth and wide resounding,
Like a maul your heart is pounding
'gainst your ribs, be
Steadfast, soldier of Marathon!

Mothers, sisters and young women
Swarm and raise their arms to stop you,
Do not listen, they're but naiads,
Witches doing magic, dryads,
Keep your distance,
Fly on, soldier of Marathon!

Now before you the Acropolis,
Both the city and people
Have now spotted, recognized you,
Giving you new strength and courage,
Keep on going,
Rush on, soldier of Marathon!

You arrive, proudly proclaim the
Cruel joy of that great message:
Crying: "We won!" having spoken,
Fall to earth in last convulsions,
Dead and perished!
Perished, soldier of Marathon!

Run forever blithe announcing
To the glory of the ages
That a lad has felled a giant,
Those oppressed have slain a tyrant,
All alone and all in union,
Union, soldier of Marathon!

[Rent, or Marathonomak, from the volume Albumi, Boston 1948, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]