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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors

 

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Besnik MUSTAFAJ, 2004

Besnik MUSTAFAJ, 2004

Webdesign J. Groß

Besnik MUSTAFAJ

 

The Heroes and I

The heroes were huge when I was little,
Larger than the figures of their statues.
As I grew
I looked at them
Less and less
From below
Until one day we were eye to eye.

What will happen now?
Will I, or will the heroes, learn
Which of us is superfluous?

[Unë dhe heronjtë, from the volume Legjenda e lindjes sime, Tirana: Ora 2005, p. 20. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Donika

We speak of George
         of his long days and nights at war,
Of the savage sieges, victories,
Of his clever courser, his strong sword,
But we often forget you.

We forget how he returned battle-weary
To find you waiting at the door.
Your body took on his anguish at the wounds of his fallen soldiers,
At seeing fields of grain torched,
         At glimpsing wells drained of their water,
So that he would have nothing.

He had to rest a while
To be ready for combat the next day.
His head, which never bowed to heavy cannons,
Yielded to your soft shoulder.

You watched as his lids grew heavy,
As his eyes closed
And, to make his dreams sweeter,
You entered them yourself.
If you were needed in those long sieges,
You are needed all the more in eternity.
How could we otherwise claim to know
                         the true George,
Without that part of him he left with you?

[Donika, from the volume Legjenda e lindjes sime, Tirana: Ora 2005, p. 63-64. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Night Walk in the Forest

The trees, the stones, the grass, the flowers are mute.
And I, belated wanderer, sing so as
Not to let them languish in the nocturnal silence.

I am alone in that silence,
But when I sing, night is no longer night,
And I am no longer alone,
I hear the footsteps of my beloved
And the birds beat their wings,
The trees rustle their branches,
Over my blue shirt
The crickets awaken the summer sun,
I see how my beloved closes her eyes
To cling to me there for a moment,
I become air, water, light and fire on her lips.

The forest, which can no longer keep still,
Falls back and stops somewhere behind me,
So as not to interrupt my song...

[Shëtitje natën në pyll, from the volume Legjenda e lindjes sime, Tirana: Ora 2005, p. 71. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Today

I woke up
Today
With
The
Taste
Of strawberries
On
My lips.

[Sot, from the volume Legjenda e lindjes sime, Tirana: Ora 2005, p. 87. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Prophetic Poem

If, instead of Christ and Mohammed,
The Bible and the Koran
Had written of the tragic fate
                 of Tristan and Isolde,
Exemplary lovers,
Mortals on this tiny planet,
They would have had a hard time denying
The concept of the divine.

[Poemë profetike, from the volume Legjenda e lindjes sime, Tirana: Ora 2005, p. 98. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

I've Set Off to Find You

There you are,
So close and yet unreachable,
Like the Moon.

I've set off like a crusader to find you.
Can't you see what a state I'm in?
By one hand Dante's hauling me towards Hell,
By the other, Don Quixote's pulling me towards...

And I don't know where you are.
Are you Beatrice or Dulcinea?

And yet...

[Jam nisure të të mbërrij, from the volume Legjenda e lindjes sime, Tirana: Ora 2005, p. 111. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Whence your Fear of the Wolf

My son, you were born in the city
And have never set foot
                     in the dark forest.
Where did you get that terrible fear
                                     of the wolf?

What is a wolf, I ask you,
What is it like, I inquire.

You only know it's rapacious
And when it's hungry,
The water bloodied by lambs
                 is churned up to its very source,
Stopping the flocks from quenching their peaceful thirst.

Yet I tell you, you've never seen a wolf,
                                     my little one.
How odd, in this big city.
Whence your fear of the wolf?

[Nga të vjen kjo frikë prej ujkut, from the volume Legjenda e lindjes sime, Tirana: Ora 2005, p. 112. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Such Men Do Not Die

They tortured them barbarously,
Rubbed salt in their wounded fingernails,
Ripped out their veins.

Someone then said:
Such men do not die for they have their feet on the ground.

And they hanged them.

Their feet stretched,
                     yearned downwards towards the ground,
When they could not reach it,
They chilled...

[Këta nuk vdesin, from the volume Legjenda e lindjes sime, Tirana: Ora 2005, p. 114. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Ancient Motif for an Unflinching Soul

Oh, you ravens who devour my flesh, oh, oh!
Under this serene sky,
                     under this azure heaven,
No mother or wife to sob at my head,
No friend to hold me in his arms,
                                         oh, oh!

You peck at my body,
But not in the depths of my soul,
It is there that I drown my sorrows.
My torments emerge as teardrops,
You swarm, pierce, and blind me.

With the light of my eyes, I heal my wounds,
And rise once again and go my way,
At the end of the road I have taken
Is a dream that waits for me.

And I cannot perish
                     until I meet it.

[Motiv i lashtë për shpirtin e paepur, from the volume Legjenda e lindjes sime, Tirana: Ora 2005, p. 120. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]