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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors

 

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Bilal XHAFERRI

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Bilal XHAFERRI

 

Cham Ballad

In the distance fades a rainbow
Over the tips of the pyres,
A tearful word of farewell
In the pouring rain.
In the distance fades Chameria, our homeland in flames
And all of the roads take us northwards.
Over ancient Epirotic lands moans a Mediterranean wind,
Over the precious fields of our ancestors,
Lightning now feeds on the abandoned pastures,
Olive groves, unharvested, groan like the waves beating against the coast,
And on all sides, Cham land,
Enveloped in clouds,
Gasps and drowns in blood and tears,
Forsaken
And forlorn.
The bullets slicing through the darkness show us the way,
Flames that have devoured the soil, light up our path,
Behind us the storm lashes at the creaking doors of one-time homes.
And the road stretches northwards, northwards forever.
A folk now in exile, we wander in the downpour,
Farewell Chameria!

[Balada Çame, from the volume Eja trishtim (Prishtina: Rilindja 1995), p. 99. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

 

Cham Nights

The wolf pack holds its pace
In the snowflake-salted night,
Holds its pace near the herders’ silent camps,
A savage pack from the Cham forests.
No howl, no bleat is heard,
No fires to be seen where the shepherds once dozed,
Only the endless sea waves lashing at the banks,
Only the moon, a lone sheep escaped from a pen,
Erring o’er solitary meadows in the clouds.
The wolf pack holds its pace,
Hearkens famished in the snow-dappled night.

Where are you, shepherds in your sheepskin cloaks?
Where are your flocks bleating in the meadows?
Where are your lambs and the clanking bells?
Where the sheepdogs growling like lions?
Grey ones, white ones, wolf dogs – our ancient foes?
Where are they, let us show them our pitchforks,
How we struggle to survive.

Ravaged Chameria is hushed in the darkness,
Ceaseless waves whip the submissive cliffs,
Resounding far and wide in the Ionian night,
To the howl of those starving wolves.

[Natë çame, 1977, from the volume Eja trishtim (Prishtina: Rilindja 1995), p. 100. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

 

Janina in the Fall

Watery vale – the lake of Janina
Slouches in the morning mist,
Curved like tumuli, gull wings skit o’er the islet,
The wind bedecks the lanes and alleys with broad leaves,
Exotic mosques, neglected daughters of the Orient,
Pose sadly before Western tourists.
Come from beyond barb-wired border, the sons of Pyrrhos
Pace the port, heads bowed, under the lofty planes.

Autumn as bare as mini-skirted maidens
Rubs against the bearded, mossy walls,
There, where Frosina once fled from Ali Pasha
And plunged into the lake’s frigid waters.
Janina, too, timeworn and abandoned,
Sinks slowly into the lake
In its former, now forgotten glory,
To the muffled beat of war drums.
It subsides, as will new Joannina with its neon lights,
Under streams of cars careening down the asphalt streets,
Under its fresh hotels, the Xenia, Paladion,
To the ringing of bells and the chanting of psalms.

Watery vale - the lake of Janina,
Sways softly in the morning haze.
Come from beyond barb-wired border, the sons of Pyrrhos
Pace, heads bowed, in the plane-treed alleys,
Pensive their thoughts, seething their sorrow.

[Janinë, vjeshtë, 1978, from the volume Eja trishtim (Prishtina: Rilindja 1995), p. 101. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

 

Bust of a Slain Cham Boy

I will appear before you on a misty night,
A looming silhouette of affliction and scorn.
The wind and the stars will tell you nothing of me,
Nor will the bronze glow of my silhouette.
Only my wounds will bear witness,
Only my death will declaim.

[Busti i një djaloshi çam të vrarë. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

 

Albania, 1976

Small country,
Small time,
Small rations.

Great darkness,
Great fear,
Great misfortune.

Swooping down the roads of the nation,
An owl in the moonlight,
A Gazi-69 jeep
Screeches and howls.

[Shqipëri, 1976, from the volume Eja trishtim (Prishtina: Rilindja 1995), p. 102. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

 

For My Sister Antiqua

Autumn is once more upon us,
With its rain,
With its leaves,
Your life has passed you by, sister,
With your sighs and your sorrows.
If I could only
Cleave the mountain ridges,
Shove back the horizons
And come to you!
In this world plunged into night,
If I could only
Flare like a ray of light,
Glow like a flaming candle,
To show the path to you, my sister…
Yes, autumn is once more upon us,
With its rain,
With its leaves.

[Motrës sime Antikës, from the volume Eja trishtim (Prishtina: Rilindja 1995), p. 109. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

 

Longing for your Voices

I dial for radio stations every night,
But you, Chameria, you are silent.
Have tears parched your throat?
Oh, what longing for your voices,
For the winter nights, soft as snow,
For the sheep pens in the meadows, scented with milk.

It is night, and the coast is asleep,
It is night, and slumber has closed my eyelids.
A gentle hand sprinkles into my dreams
Ever so sweetly,
A vision of your countryside, so rare.

[Malli më mori për zërat e tu. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]

 

Come Along Now, Sorrow

Come along now, sorrow,
Keep pace with the words that fall from the branches,
Keep pace with the rain that drips from the leaves…
Come along now, sorrow.
Keep pace with the sounds that quiver at sundown,
Keep pace with the hearts that beat in pain…
Come along now, sorrow,
Oh, tender womb that is always with me,
Oh, refuge of my tranquillity,
Oh, my dreams,
Oh, harbour of my hope,
Come with me now, sorrow,
Sorrow,
Come.

[Eja, trishtim, from the volume Eja trishtim (Prishtina: Rilindja 1995), p. 108. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie.]