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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors



Gazmend KRASNIQI, 2004

Gazmend KRASNIQI, 2004

Webdesign J. Groß




                  All day we construct
                   And all night it collapses


A slight mist over the Buene scatters all tranquillity of sight:
Striving for the legend. Farewell, final silence!
Our destinies crossed and once more departed,
All simply for a Rozafa we never saw.

Stone upon stone, the remaining witness
Hushes, sprawled over its own fate,
Mute, impassive, no way to understand
How our power has at last been sucked away.

Wherever you go, you will find no creature alive,
Only a name, cast out of the ballad,
Spinning slowly, the old question in mind:
Was Rozafa dreaming of us, or are we?

Is she perchance erring afar upon magic paths,
Discerned only by God, the divine mind,
So that all human joys and pains
Seem so banal, they would make you blush.

Is she perchance planting the gentle banner of insistence
Between tribulations and sleep, where the cricket suffers,
Among ghosts who love as men and women
In the sluggish creep of stones towards tongues?

Is she perchance that drunken bird from the sun
Which hovers idly above us in the air's silence,
A small spot where fate places its finger,
A small spot where memory is forever frozen?

[Rozafa, from the volume Skodrinon, Shkodra: Camaj-Pipa, 2002, p. 10, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]



Skodrinon! Skodrinon! A longing, to the chanting
Of nymphs and satyrs, bends from azure-blue towers
The fences of days, as the noble bison of fate
Bray as they may, drunk with gesture,

Full of divine hues when they loved us,
Let them wrest from these roofs the hidden traps,
Perhaps they are idling in our work, pensive and silent,
Treading on the prelude of our sober repose,

A garden that quivers under the frozen foliage
Of a plant unseen, yet filled with fragrance,
Fearful the roe looking on wordless,
As the echo of their prayers flits over our faces,

Proof that we are the tiny children who once played
In the nooks and crannies where beginning and end take their rest
With the enraptured bison of our Dardanian sea-love,
Proof of our love of this good earth,

And somewhere are tolling
The buried bells which may have been ours,
And golden-cuffed impatience tarries
In search of its own ancient temples of spirit and stone.

[Skodrinon, from the volume Skodrinon, Shkodra: Camaj-Pipa, 2002, p. 54, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


Beyond history

         A blood-word in the brain
Like a faint quiver of light, like rivers divine,
          An empty soul - a circle
That cedes only the centre,
          A totem pole carved
In wood for a silent lahuta,

         Which is an era, felled
By the wind. Does it have meaning?
          Is another divinity observing
The deeds of heroes and saints
          Transformed into kitsch? Is a fresh
Punishment being prepared? With words

         Faded like clothes,
In gardens of myths, here, witness to
          The passion of the sun,
An icon of light pours
          The deceit of time into a cosmic
Sea, searches for golden altars,

         To weep for crowns and rings
Thrown into an orchestra of hungry
          Gestures - a dreamy echo
Of exhumed amphoras
          Where again a torrent of sunlight
Sketches the tearful wonder

         Of life, an abused relic
In the tragic trade of goodness.
          The names Adam and Eve reveal
How it began. On the infinite walls of daytime
          the isle of Utopia
Endeavours to veil itself from view,

         The beauty of blood beating
The brow of time, the cruel rose
          With which it tells lies.

[Matanë historisë, manuscript, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]



The body - symbol of a thought which veils,
The thought itself - symbol of something else which veils,

And yet, he does not know if he is on the road to freedom or fleeing from it.

He still has no faith or pious words, heaven or hell,
His only riches - thoughts, feelings,

While the scales of causes remain unseen, and things imbibe their energy.

He values thought because he does what he thinks: he feels like a worm,
But is convinced that he is on the path to sanctity,

Indeed, he even sees sanctity in the worm.

Time is for him but a way of thinking
When he endeavours to rise to the words "I am right,"

When he sees that God needs nothing at all.

[A-dâm, manuscript, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]



Ever since temptations and devils erupted within me
And my childish spirit sat in the lap of God,
How reasonable the incomprehensible,
Inseparable from the sky, I was
          Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday,
          Summer, autumn, winter,
My soul sought a grain of sand
To read the infinite

          And I saw words which were dispersing
Like perfume, and I saw the silence being ploughed,
          And beats of the heart,
          And songs of the nightingale,
          And sortileges of rain,
And much I plunged into the zeal of race,
And much I wallowed in the stains of horror,
And all about this chant the Muses,
         All mankind has a lover,
          In the air collected
In a song, the day is not as long as it should be,
How can you know to whom you belong if you are only
          A spirit,
How can you know where that wandering radiance leads?

          He who questions
If you understand your own radiance,
If you understand it is a symbol of supremacy and strength,
Beat by beat in the heart of health,
That peace requires potency to endure it,
He who questions if you can trust the soul
To the very end
, entered me
          And became the One I am,
He entered me like a sharpened blade of feelings (what a void in my heart),
For I must observe this world and possess it,
          He entered as the notes of a song would enter, and said,
Worry not about thoughts, simply go your way.
          - Nature does not like
To be perused: she wants us as playmates,
Thus, nothing remains but death,
          The only reality
(There is room for satisfaction) that does not shrink from us.

[Eva, manuscript, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]


The poet's palimpsest

No one knows the place he left void, no one knows who called him,

Mankind is startled for a time by the violent acts of its own infancy,

A high emotional degree is diagnosed and recorded,

When the Muse places a lyre in his hand, the river stops its flow,
Wild animals wax tame, trees bow and stones move
Beyond history, beyond invention
Or, as he says to himself, "How grandiose it all is, even though it's unreal,"

Except for inciting emotions, passions, why else
Would they expel the poor fellow from the country,
So homeless, so transfixed
In the kingdom of ideas,
For, whoever tells you his dreams, must be
Awake to do so,

The words "He often says beautiful things, but he doesn't know what he's doing,"
Are like a rainfall of guardian angels,

When it finds the right proportion, brightness, harmony,
This sweet poison is called a radiance of divine being,

However, as long as his feet are firmly on the ground
And the angels give way to him,
As long as he studies the houses, apartment buildings, cities,
As long as he studies arts and sciences,
He thinks that, earthly though man may be, he is still
His own God, he is God on earth,
The apogee of living creatures,

The poet plays, thinks, dreams -
And God will have to listen to his jokes,
As he makes things better than nature does,
As he makes things newer than nature can,

And yet, the tangible world is real. And yet,
An ocean is an ocean, the Alps are Alps,
And yet, a storm is a storm,
And yet, the sun is born, plunges and sets,

Just as real is their appeal to rename him,

Thus, he feels five thousand years old,

He sees who he was, that he is only an old ghost,
Like a bird longing to be the same, singing
All alone on the loftiest branch,

He sees that he can remove the golden disk from the sun
To discover what is shining there: real glory,

Which he is himself,

He sees that you have to be Yourself to give to each his own,

You have to be the Only One,

Even though it is he who sits in the field smelling the flowers blooming at dawn,

Even though it is he who, for this, must weep alone.

[Palimpsest poeti, manuscript, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]