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English  Albanian Literature in Translation

Robert Elsie

Modern Authors 2

Din MEHMETI, 2004 (Photo: Robert Elsie).

Din MEHMETI, 2004 (Photo: Robert Elsie).

Webdesign J. Groß

Din MEHMETI

 

The Investigation

In an ugly investigation
Our names were unveiled, pierced
By seven rusty nails.

Our slaughtered names,
Skeletons slung in a savage museum.

An investigation - a skull,
And others to boot - a pile of bones.

And life goes its blithe way
As do blind shadows o'er a dead landscape,
Trembling existence.

One of us went mad in the smoke,
For he did not know himself one hundred years ago,
For death did not want him, neither then nor now,
No ceremonial keening...

An investigation - a skull,
And others to boot - a pile of bones,
Life trapped in the trenches of hell.

(1969)

[Procesi, from the volume Antologjia personale, Tirana 2004, p. 54. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Sing or Perish in Silence

Turn as green as I,
Said the grass to me one night.

Sing until the stars begin to dance
'round the sun
Like children 'round an earthly fire,
And then listen to the sighs,
Wordless, 'round the planet.

On high, the hills will remain arid,
And the roadside stones crushed in thought.
Sing until you burst,
Like salt in the flame, weep if you wish,
You will never escape the savage scythes
When the ages go mad in the storm...

The grass told me its dream:
The highest peaks consumed the fiery heavens
And the rays of light seek themselves on the hillsides...

Fair alone is the bird in flight
Who sears you with the flapping of its wings,

Sing or perish in silence...

(1978)

[Këndo ose vdis pa klithmë, from the volume Antologjia personale, Tirana 2004, p. 19. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Light Still Blazes

You are stronger than the five centuries
That have besieged your fortress

You are the crux uniting all resistance -
A place where the bells of war resound

A fire that melts fraternal hatred,
A sun offering its rays to our blood veins

A cradle from which arise
Love and adjuration's lullabies,
Scanderbeg

With you we have slipped even into the atom's heart,
With your sword - flashing across the heavens

With its fiery statement - root of our mother tongue,
On the long road behind the light that still blazes
Over the fortress,
Scanderbeg...

[Drita e mbetur ndezë, from the volume Poezi, Prishtina 1978. First published in English in An Elusive Eagle Soars: Anthology of Modern Albanian Poetry, London: Forest Books 1993, p. 64. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Olympia

The streets of Athens did a brisk business
With the tourists

Homer, where is Penelope?

Brothels enticed travellers
Into the folds of the underworld

The tainted beauties
Played with instincts
And with the shade of bad luck

Homer, where is Penelope?

And letters torn up at the door,
A mournful wail -
Lament of a life sold out...

Homer, where is Penelope?

(Athens 1976)

[Olimpi, from the volume Poezi, Prishtina 1978. First published in English in An Elusive Eagle Soars: Anthology of Modern Albanian Poetry, London: Forest Books 1993, p. 65. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

I Have One Request

I have one request
That will turn a stone into an apple,
An apple into a bird,
When the star learns its name,
It will vanish in a smoke puff.

A tearful request
That will turn the bird into a bullet,
The bullet into a flower,
Grave upon grave
Until a whole hillside sprouts.

It is the sigh of the soul
That burns in song
And is born in its own death.

Let us amass the bones, it says,
And form a tower of love
For the future will demand of us
A lighthouse to face the storm.

(1981)

[Kam një porosi, from the volume Antologjia personale, Tirana 2004, p. 121. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Sea on my Tongue

Above the flaming sea,
The thrashings of love,

The stars set over the gulf,
Our hearts flee to the skies.

The sailboats totter drunk on the swells,
Their nets dream of the depths.

And a goldfish will be snared,

And neither east nor west,
Nor pain nor joy,

The cliffs shriek,
The flame implores us,

From the storm, the eye saves
A seagull.

(1981)

[Deti në gjuhë, from the volume Antologjia personale, Tirana 2004, p. 122. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Self-Portrait

I am a sky gnawed
By the fog,
A wind tormenting the trees.

I shall not surrender to my fate.

Everything that has befallen,
The birds charred to ashes,
Is mirrored
In my soul.

I shall not surrender to my fate.

I have seen my legend
Dripping blood
And have found my tomb in the sun,
My flaming abyss.

I shall not surrender to my fate.

I am everything which has crumbled,
Only to rise
In forest clearings
Named after bolts of lightning.

Mourning erodes me with its laughter,
Screaming with its song.

I shall not surrender to my fate.

(1984)

[Autoportret, from the volume Antologjia personale, Tirana 2004, p. 13. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Dialogue with the Lake

The lake has grown dark,
The lake has gone mad,

May my bark hold.

On this side are your cliffs
Of bones,
On the other side immortal dreams,

May my bark hold.

Search for the way out
In your heart,

The cape of hope is far,

The blood-red flowers
Will yet arrive,

May my bark hold.

[Dialog me liqenin, from the volume As në tokë as në qiell, Prishtina 1988, p. 71. First published in English in An Elusive Eagle Soars: Anthology of Modern Albanian Poetry, London: Forest Books 1993, p. 66. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The First Attempt

Love flows
From the eyes of light,

Happiness is deceit,

Tears are to no avail
In front of grace,

With the flight of the bird
Begins the song of rise and fall,

May he who has never sung
Perish at the stake,

The future of the world lies with the one
Who knows how to laugh at the right time.

[Përpjekja e parë, from the volume Lumturia është mashtrim, Peja 1999, p. 73. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Second Attempt

With the impure blood of words
Are polluted fields of light,

The heaving dust permeates history,

The salvation of the world is its resurrection
When a new pain dies where it was born,

Nowhere can we go
But into ourselves and then
Become bolts of lightning.

Bridges we have made of our bones,
Banks of our skulls.

[Përpjekja e dytë, from the volume Lumturia është mashtrim, Peja 1999, p. 74. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Night of the Poets

When silence envelops all things,
When everyone is asleep,
Do poets awaken
To seethe in their verse,

To squeeze from it
The bitter blood of thought,

Their spirits - a battlefield,

In the fever of words
They perish slowly without a cry.

[Nata e poetëve, from the volume Klithmë është emri im, Tirana 2002, p. 81. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

A Legend

A legend,
A word which never withers,
Is a light pursued by darkness
In the accursed canyons
Which proclaims judgment on its own wisdom.

A legend - it is my people
Seared like a stone burst into flame
And yet green like the buds of first blossoms,
Fled like the ray which slipped into the abyss,
Come like the last soldier with victory on his flag,
Bound in a root enshrouded by earth
Where fear grows mouldy in the marrow of crags,
Dreaming of snowdrifts.

A legend,
A smoky fortress,
Amidst the storms of time,
The meadows of hope,
Advancing through my verse.

[Një legjendë, from the volume Klithmë është emri im, Tirana 2002, p. 141. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Swollen Roads

Swollen roads of a ceremonial square,
They don't even bid each other farewell.

In the rays of the sun
Can be heard
The clang of old swords.

And lament deceives joy,
And death deceives life.

The ghosts of MacBeth,
The wrathful wood,

An unyielding tumult
Is about to set forth.

I have nowhere to go beyond my blood,
I have nowhere to go beyond my tongue.

We will bond to the diameter of the earth,
As a mad dog is chained to its hut...

[Rrugët e fryra, from the volume Klithmë është emri im, Tirana 2002, p. 209. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

My Sailboat

Speed o'er the waves, sailboat of mine,
Conquer the sea and vanquish fear.

Sail to the foaming banks
Where wounds are healed.

The sea is as deep as blood's victories.

Pluck the blue from the sky,
Put trowels to these wrinkles,
And, on seagulls' wings,
Make the dawn a nest.

Sailboat of mine, sorrow of my journey,
Orphaned children we are, you and I.

Should we perish somewhere far away,
Only the winds will mourn us.

Speed o'er the waves, heart of fire,
For my life and yours are elusive and blithe...

[Varka ime, from the volume Antologjia personale, Tirana 2004, p. 114. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

The Past

Gory revenge wrought in the dark,
Without a song or a cry.

The lust for blood
Turned you to wretched stone
Long before my birth.

May every pierced slab know that name,
Buried in every mother's bosom,
Your calamity,
Black beast...

(1981)

[E kaluar, from the volume Antologjia personale, Tirana 2004, p. 119. Translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie]

 

Modern Authors 2

 

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