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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors

 

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Mic Sokoli Talks to Death

Away with you
I have no feelings for you,
I won't recognize you as my king.
To the gardener who will be born,
I will cast
Sunflower seeds
At the midday of desire
And in the evening of pity.
Away with you,
My head,
My shield,
The embrasure
From which
Lightning
Sparks and snuffs out the stars
For our darkest night,
For our longest night,
Let the dogs devour my skull.
Away with you,
The unborn gardener of my people awaits me.

[Mic Sokoli i flet vdekjes, from the volume Plagë uji, Prishtina, Rilindja 1990, p. 32. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Eternal River

That river
On its meandering course
Quenches thirst,
Drenches flowers,
Fills grain bins
And deepens the furrows in the cliff sides
In which the dew dreams.

In that river,
Life and Death
Stroll hand in hand
Like twins off to some starry school
To learn
Why milk seethes in a mother's bosom,
How the sea awakens in the lap of the moon,
And where in the tides
We search for our lost faces.

Today we are,
Yesterday we were,
Tomorrow we will be
In that eternal river.

[Lumi i perjetshëm, from the volume Plagë uji, Prishtina, Rilindja 1990, p. 41. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Jealousy of the Water

When the torrents embrace the river,
They die where their bodies unite,
Death transforms into an island,
The waters give way to its might.

When river and torrents embrace,
From an eye does a phoenix ascend,
And it flies and it soars through the heavens,
'Mongst the ions of time without end,

Of death bearing message, and birth.

[Xhelozia e ujit, from the volume Plagë uji, Prishtina, Rilindja 1990, p. 47. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Revenge of the Water

Frightened by the storm,
The bird fell prey to the eye,
After the struggle between water and fire

I fled to the mountains.

On the riverbank
The doe lies splayed,
Over it passes the lightning stroke.
In a sallow dot
Spread the wings of death
As the sheep bleat,
The wind grinds its teeth,
I stretch out my hands
Toward the fire.
Two eyes
Seek help from the torrent,
Down it flows into the river,
Alive, but assailed,
I am here at your hut, my son,
To tell you that the doe is dead.

[Hakmarrja e ujit, from the volume Plagë uji, Prishtina, Rilindja 1990, p. 48. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

At the Riverside

At times how short is
The distance
To the riverbank

When the guitar calls,
The river surges,
The voices of the fish falter.

You wondrously
Wake the breeze
Slumbering in its lover's hair
And give it free rein.

[Buzë lumit, from the volume Plagë uji, Prishtina, Rilindja 1990, p. 49. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Geyser

With every line of verse
I burn,
The Vestal Virgins
Keep vigil,
Terrified
At the thought
That the water will extinguish me,
Those poor,
Living wretches
Will be buried
One day
When the birds on the branches
Chirp and sing for me.

From the tears
Of the Vestal Virgins interred
Will the geyser erupt,
From my ashes
Will the phoenix take wing.

[Geizeri, from the volume Plagë uji, Prishtina, Rilindja 1990, p. 57. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Cloud

When water dreams
An unseen source in the heavens
Pays honour
To chameleon colours,
Creates
Eyebrows
Of time,
Wanders
From beauty to ugliness,
And penetrates
Our prayers
And our curses.

Later.
This dream of water
Will grieve
And augment
The smiles of the farmers
And their washtubs that hate urine.

[Reja, from the volume Plagë uji, Prishtina, Rilindja 1990, p. 58. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Phoenix Arrived from Lands Unknown

Fly
Phoenix,
My eyes await you

Come,
Fiery star,
Bring green loincloths
For the barren reaches of the soul
I grant you my eyes as a nesting ground.

Descend,
Phoenix,
Enter my sight.

And my joy
Flowed,
And my sorrow
Ran dry.

My Vestal Virgins
Turned into mothers
Fly
Phoenix,
My eyes await you

Come,
Fiery star,
Bring green loincloths
For the barren reaches of the soul
I grant you my eyes as a nesting ground.

Descend,
Phoenix,
Enter my sight.

And my joy
Flowed,
And my sorrow
Ran dry.

My Vestal Virgins
Turned into mothers
Fly
Phoenix,
My eyes await you

Come,
Fiery star,
Bring green loincloths
For the barren reaches of the soul
I grant you my eyes as a nesting ground.

Descend,
Phoenix,
Enter my sight.

And my joy
Flowed,
And my sorrow
Ran dry.

My Vestal Virgins
Turned into mothers.

[Feniksi arriti nga vise të panjohura, from the volume Plagë uji, Prishtina, Rilindja 1990, p. 87. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The White Swan Takes Refuge in a Smile

The black swan from the river of Hades
Pursues the white swan

Let us close its eyes and pray
             it will not succeed.

Floods will occur
We have no Noah's Ark
What will become of us?
We would like to be birds,
We would wish to be fish.

The white swan
Saves itself and us
By departing in flight.

The black one still pursues it.

In our thoughts we build ships,
We are no birds,
We are no fish.

The black swan does not tire,
The white one flees, the spaces increase
It takes refuge in Mona Lisa's wan smile.

[Mjellma e bardhë strehohet në buzëqeshje, from the volume Plagë uji, Prishtina, Rilindja 1990, p. 93. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Seagulls

Muffled tones
Cast weights into the water,

Between earth and sky
Surges the sea,

Those white ships
On beloved heights.

[Pulëbardhat, from the volume Plagë uji, Prishtina, Rilindja 1990, p. 136. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Migrant Bird

Under your wing
The nest of the morning star
Dreams of spring,
Weaves
The sky's blue string,
Tangles a tale of the sun.

[Zogu shtegtar, from the volume Plagë uji, Prishtina, Rilindja 1990, p. 141. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Ecce Homo

            for Rexho Mulliqi

Ecce homo,
I see his face,
The birds of the Apocalypse
Flee from his hands
To Hades,
Save us from the waters,
From your coyness and eddies,
Save us from the waters
In all keys, major and minor.

The tide has washed clean the heads
Of Mars disarmed, yes Ares, and Jupiter,
Made of them the oysters' slaves.

[Ecce homo, from the volume Plagë uji, Prishtina, Rilindja 1990, p. 166. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]