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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors

 

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Frederik RRESHPJA

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Frederik RRESHPJA

 

The Eagle

The supreme bird stares as the airplane flies
Regards that hard aluminum being with disdain
Taking note as it moans in its metallic pain

Relax, ancient plane of rhapsodies!
It is human separation which cries to the skies
Chased by a cavalry of rain.

[Shqiponja, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 10. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Sea

The moon slides through the fog
Like the skiff of my agony.
My dreams of azure isles drift
Through pain, through the moon!

I carved my sorrow on the seashore,
Waves tumbled in and turned it to tears,
Like the salty myths 'round my statue,
Yet no death comes to wash me away.

Downfall, a thug, knife in hand, glides
Through pain, through the moon.
My whole life has been like knife-slashed water,
Yet no death comes to wash me away.

[Det, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 70. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Tiny Bird

Now you will soar to the heavens.
But your flight still hovers in my grasp.
Pray, do not forget these hands!
You will nevermore find rest
                         in such a human nest.

Be off now, the skies await you!
Many things have slipped from my fingers,
Many loves have fallen through one by one…

And this, too, my final joy has fluttered.
Its shadow became moonlight and sank beneath the sea.

[Zog i vogël, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 18. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Garden

The broken lions of childhood
Lap water from an ancient well;
Saadi warms his hands atop a rosewood fire,
With his turban of dew.

Often from myths leap satyrs
Who open the gates of shadows.
Jasmine observes the paths of night
And light flows from her fingers.

In love with his own beauty,
Narcissus raises his shoulders from the buds.
On my brow I sense the chisels of spring
Carving me eyes of grass.

[Kopshti, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 68. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Moon Rain

Like Harlequin off on a stroll
In childhood's forgotten garden,
The lamenting moon in the clouds
Treads lightly on rainstorm branches.

The lonely lake clutches night's bank,
Writhes restless in the wild wind's embrace
And the siren of deep azure waves
Weeps o'er weary legends' tired face.

The star-shattered pavement like ruins,
And aspens like black-hooded priests,
Near his refuge somewhere in the trees
Lurks sorrow: that ancient assassin.

Oh, if only the sharp sword of sorrow
Could cleave me clear to the ground,
Hidden 'neath star-shattered ruins,
Hidden 'neath moon-spattered rain…

[Shi hëne, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 72. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Shiroka in the Winter

No more birds. Their flights have been cancelled.
Naught remains but rain's primitive canvas.

At the waters' feet lies the bank, pensive,
As it dreams of the summer just past.
In the sands of oblivion I gather
Your portrait's fragmented ceramics.

How short was this summer, oh Lord!
Just a handful of sand and of sun.
The calendar had but one Saturday,
And all of that day but one kiss.

[Shiroka në dimër, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 13. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Stay with Me Tonight

On the river the moon's fingers trace
A bridge for the dreams of the stars,
The grey cloud, like a forgotten longing,
Leans its head in the forest's green hands.

You arrived on the rays from the moon's palm
And the bare doorway broke into blossom.

I beg you, stay with me tonight
'til the branches of dead trees are blooming.

[Rri sonte tek unë, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 35. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Torso

Emerge from the kingdom of stone!
I've been knocking on marble so long,
For one thousand, two thousand years.

We kissed in the ancient Iliads
When Homers were strumming their lyres.

Oh rainy moon,
Won't you play one Iliad for me
When that final prize, Troy will be taken?

My heart, you've been buried by stone,
For one thousand, two thousand years.

[Tors, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 45. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The False Prophets

And we were terribly persecuted,
And we were Biblical with an immaculate reputation.

Poor you, who had faith in Everyman crucified.

And only we can transport you to paradise.
If you believe us, we will take the proper steps.
Damn fools.
Amen.

[Profetët e rremë, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 94. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

When Crescents Perish

The tiny jinn of tales
Casts stars o'er the shadows' realm.
At the leafy window I glimpse
The moon wiped out by the rain.

When crescents fail, when stars go out,
I am, as once, a pitiful child,
And I may wail in my solitude
At the light in the hands of the moon.

And I may weep for the birds,
Knocking at the ruins of their homes,
To explain to them that I, too,
In this world am bereft of a nest.

[Kur vdesin hënëzat, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 28. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Pain

Longing creeps through the roots and turns to flower.
Oh cherry tree, which my mother once sowed,
I am your brother!
The two of us she rocked in her arms:
Grow up, grow up, little son!
Grow up, grow up, cherry tree!

Oh, mother, from one school class to another:
- Son, the gods are angry.
How nice it was when you were both small
And prayed to the Virgin Mary.

The wind rocks the sorrow of the flowers
And maybe, too, mother's arms cradled the breeze.
Grow up, grow up, cherry tree!
For I shall bloom no more…

[Dhembje, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 63. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Gypsies are Coming

The Gypsies are coming with drums and the moon,
Oh, how they can weep and wail.
Swiftly now do they raise their tents
Around my watery soul.

I was young and I was handsome,
And an ardent lover, too.
Many things have I now forgotten
About both magic and moon…

The Gypsies are wailing with their drums,
From the pain of deserts afar.
I sit wide awake on the riverbank,
Damned by love and by the moon's lore.

The choir of roses pours out its tears
For the drums and the moon, in sorrow.
Oh, how young and handsome I used to be
Once, in a March long ago.

[Vijnë ciganët, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 27. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Let Me Come with You

Through the fields weave the gypsies and drums
Like corpses flung over their shoulders
When the spirits and shades of the wastelands
Can no longer be roused or awakened.

From the nest of cold rain flew the song
Of the clouds, heavy-laden with mourning:

"Let me come with you!
This is my last twilight.
I'm coming to die, don't you know?

I must repose and must sprinkle
My blood o'er the roses
Beneath a Jerusalem moon."

[Lermë të vij me ty, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 40. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Fate

I intend to lament my own fate
Let no one else do it but me,
I'm pursued by the God of Privation
With marble shards' meaningless wars.

But I am an old seasoned pagan
I must have misfortune to thrive,
Every man has a word where he must lay his head,
Therefore, mine I will lay in my pain.

What would I prefer, naught but war,
Pursued by my senseless fate?
Little have I truly gained from this world,
As for losses, my own have been great.

Let no one else groan when I'm gone,
For I will bemoan my own fate,
The God of Privation's sharp splinters of marble,
They'll be what remains of my fame!

[Fat, from the volume Lirika të zgjedhura, Tirana: Albin 1994, p. 95. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Poppies

Are they wounds among the wheat?
Or some unfathomable pain of the planet,
Arising from time to time in the fields of grain?

For the day will come
When flowers, too, gape like wounds in the wind.

[Lulkuqet, from the volume Në vetmi, Tirana: Arbëria 2004, p. 97. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]