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Robert Elsie

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Rec. Pjeter Gjoka

O shqipe, o zogjt’ e maleve, kallzoni:
A shndrit rreze lirie n’ato maja;
mbi bjesh’t’ thepisuna e n’ograja,
ku del gurra e gjëmon përmallshëm kroni?
A keni ndie ndikund, kah fluturoni
ndër shkrepa, me ushtue kangën e saj?
A keni ndie nji kangë të patravajë?
O shqipe, o zogjt’ e maleve, kallzoni!

"Lirim, lirim!" -- bërtet gjithkah malsia.
A ka lirim ky dhé që na shkel kamba,
a veç t’mjerin e mblon anemban’ robnia?
Flutro shqipe, flutro kah çelet lama,
sielliu maleve përreth që ka Shqipnia,
e vështroje ku i del lirimit ama.


Webdesign J. Groß



To the Albanian eagle

High amongst the clouds, above the cliffs
Sparkling in perennial snow,
Like lightning, like an arrow,
Soars on sibilant wings
'Midst the peaks and jagged rocks
The eagle in the first rays of dawn.

The azure sky above its head,
Companion of the stars, glows
Like jewels, like the shimmering
Gold of a bridal gown,
Or the radiant night in which
A god bestows wisdom and grace.

Your kingdom is silent,
Eagle, arbiter of freedom,
And in the empty wastes
The harmony of stars
And the rising moon give you comfort,
And the pensive Muse is heard.

But above the forlorn flatland
Where your children in lamentation lie,
Thunder resounds,
Lightning flashes,
And you above those peaks
Hear no echo of their lament.

Oh, descend to us, royal
Eagle, once more, as you did
When in battle, majestic
Castrioti the Great shone forth
And the whole world trembled
At the brandishing of his sword.

[Shqypes arbnore, 1931, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie and first published in History of Albanian literature, New York 1995, vol. 1, p. 356-357]


Audio of this poem in Albanian



Tell me, eagles, birds of the highlands,
Do the rays of freedom shine upon those peaks,
In the rugged mountain pastures and clearings
Where springs of fresh water murmur in longing?

Have you heard the echo of its anthem
On your flights o'er the cliffs,
Have you heard its comforting song?
Tell me, eagles, birds of the highlands.

Freedom, freedom, the mountains cry,
But can we find it on the earth we ply,
Or will slavery veil our every step?

Fly, eagle, fly to horizons far away,
The mountains surrounding Albania, survey,
Tell us where freedom takes its source.


Freedom is yours! We have iron bars,
Yet we languish in the mists and sombre night,
No one knows our name, stripped of our country,
We are slaves of the strangers on our own soil.

Like chattel sold to the butcher, we're driven,
Crazed, by his cane where we don't wish to go,
Sighs and lamentation on the lips of our people,
Suffering and grief is the name of our land.

The storm of highland heroes in vain
Infiltrates the sleeping plain
Like a bolt of lightning from the clouds.

Crushed by cruel oppression and travail,
Shake in their tombs to no avail
The forgotten bones of Dukagjini and Scanderbeg the Hero.


But no, the Albanian race has not been stamped out,
Wearied by the beatings of a harsh enemy,
Bowed by the darkness of servitude,
It broods and waits for its sudden awakening.

And behold, the flashing strokes of freedom
Extend through the mountains, in stealth advance
From hut to hut, yes, the shadow of Scanderbeg,
A new spirit expands throughout the land.

The mothers of Hoti tend cradles, childbed,
Where fledgling young heroes are nurtured and fed
On the milk of revolt.

And high in the mountains, splendour regal,
Claws outstretched, the Albanian eagle,
Spreads its formidable wings.


[Lirija, published in the periodical Leka, Shkodra, 10, 1937. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]



O'er fields and o'er mountains
Blows the bitter polar blast,
Oh north wind, halt your fury,
And you, frost, don't freeze me over,
Don't congeal these last drops of blood,
Cringe and cower, poor old man.

With scythe in hand, winter has come,
Has culled the leaves and cropped the grass.
Snow whirls o'er the balcony.
The piteous elder, feeble and frigid,
In failing voice repeats:
Cringe and cower, poor old man.

[Dimni, from the volume Juvenilia, Vienna 1917. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]




On the porch are withered flowers
Not a soul, a deathly silence,
No one is at home but Lokja
Longing for her dead companion.

Alone to bed, alone she rises,
Ashes on her head, lamenting,
No one there to cast some shavings
On the fireplace coals to light them.

Bitterly does she regret she
Never had a son, for now his
Young bride would be dwelling with her,
Setting out to fetch the firewood.

She would keep the fire going,
She would keep the food from spoiling.
With the other ladies Lokja’d
Venture forth in finest garments.

She’d have spent her years like springtimes,
She’d have gently rocked the children,
Called their names with fondest pleasure,
Watched the babies in their cradles.

Now has sorrow overcome her
As she thinks of wretched Trina,
As she curses Death who seized her,
Clutched her and will ne’er return her.


Chrysanthemums but in the graveyards
Bloom as autumn wanes and falters,
And the north wind’s begun moaning,
Howling, cutting down the forests.

With the winter do the woodlands
Drop their foliage worn in autumn,
Gusts of blust’ring wind now offer
To the poor their leaves as pallets.

Snow falls as the north gale’s keening,
Spreading ice across the country,
From the heavens rage the tempests,
Blotting out the oaks and spruces.

With some shavings in the fireplace
Sits the widow all night mourning,
To the flames her hands she stretches
Like a woman who is praying.

Pale, a light appears before her,
Sad reflection of her lifetime,
Thus revealed is the Grim Reaper,
Coming forward, calling to her.

In the house a ghost has entered,
Like a breeze that filters through it,
In the dusk an apparition
Drifts near Lokja at the hearthside.

His swift arms descend upon her,
Choking her, embracing tightly,
Parched lips on her brow now kiss her,
Darkness reigns, she is no longer.

[Lokja, from the cycle Andrra e Jetës, taken from the volume Juvenilia, Vienna 1917, reprinted in: Ndre Mjeda, Vepra letrare, 1, (Tirana: Naim Frashëri, 1988), p. 91-94. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie and Janice Mathie-Heck.]


Classical Authors


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