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Robert Elsie
Albanian Literature

Albanian Authors

 

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Preç ZOGAJ, 2004 (Photo: Robert Elsie).

Preç ZOGAJ, 2004
(Photo: Robert Elsie).

Webdesign J. Groß

Preç ZOGAJ

 

I Took Sorrow by the Hand

I took sorrow by the hand and
Went to drown it in the river
But the current was too shallow.

Slinging it over my shoulder,
Tried to cast it off a cliff top,
But the meadow was before me.

Then I bound it in a cradle,
For two days and nights I lulled it,
Yet it would not rest or slumber.

Through the streets I stroll and wander
Now my face is streaked with sorrow,
I to everyone say sorry.

[E mora për dore trishtimin, from the volume Qielli i gjithkujt, Tirana: Naim Frashëri, 1991, p. 20. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The End of Childhood

The moon, pale reeds... in vain,
A childhood on the shores of an island... in vain,
The white-bellied seal has departed... in vain,
No swarms of birds... in vain,
No fish galore... in vain,
No more fair maidens waking
To frolic in the flowering meadows.

The moon, reeds as pale as candles,
Candles, candles
On the corpses of legends.

[Mbarimi i fëmijërisë, from the volume Qielli i gjithkujt, Tirana: Naim Frashëri, 1991, p. 36. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Vision

Down there... in the sorrows of the setting sun,
Down there... they are weeping and no one says why.

Raindrops fall on the windows of the houses,
Fragile symbols and fleeting sadness.
Down there they're lamenting, with no one to bury,
Nobody's dead and yet all are in mourning,
And no one explains it!
No one says why!
No one says why!

With roots wrapped around my legs
I wander in the wind,
No home will take me in.

(July 1990)

[Shikim, from the volume Qielli i gjithkujt, Tirana: Naim Frashëri, 1991, p. 82. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

In Shëngjin

Me, the wind and the raging sea
Wrapped in a thin cloak of regret.
Do you remember?
Do you recall when you were single?
When you had no plans?
Before you were born?
Before the war,
Before all things,
When you were Arberian, Illyrian,
Do you remember?
You journeyed to the Nymphaeum on a swift sailboat,
Delighted by the white-foaming maids
Of the sea, and to the sunny strand you said:
Oh, how it all makes me weep.

Time can't forget your joke
Two thousand years later!
With your ancient tears
You weep the unburied lament
Of the wind and the sea.

Do you remember when the white tunics
Of peace and prosperity were no more?
Silken garments in blooming gardens,
The sparkle of honest and friendly eyes?
There are banks and things gnawed by time, turned into dreams.
In recording the past, you record but a fancy,
You abandon yourself to confront yourself
Amidst the rumblings of the sea and regret,
Alone with your Albanian tongue.

With your ancient tears
You weep the unburied lament
Of the wind and the sea.

[Në Shëngjin, from the volume Qielli i gjithkujt, Tirana: Naim Frashëri, 1991, p. 99. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

A Mother's Letter

My son, every time I say your name,
My lips chap,
A bag of shaking bones.

Covered in sores,
Dizzy, deranged,
At times I fall down in the courtyard.
Oh, better to die,
But I fear for your suffering
And struggle to my feet again.

The leaves of the poplar tree are settling in the yard,
Your father takes his nap with his socks on,
Imagine: he spends the whole night with his eyes shut,
Hardly breathing, but should I turn on a light,
He jerks and stares at me in surprise.

The wind moans and weeps as it did
When Liza married in the depths of winter.
Do you remember? Poor maid,
She walked out to the horse without saying a word.

Arid is the land,
The fountains have gone dry,
Only in winter
When they fill up again
Will I have the heart to approach them.

Oh, how I miss you,
Am filled with such yearning!
Do not forget when you return
To carry flowers with you
To place them at my head!

Tell them, I am Hili,
Bring along your cigarettes
For I smoke one a year.
But buy me no shoes.

Down there, they walk barefoot.

[Letër nëne, from the volume Qielli i gjithkujt, Tirana: Naim Frashëri, 1991, p. 129-131. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]