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Old August 18th, 2014 #1
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Default Albanian

Albanian is a language of the extensive Indo-European family and is thus related to a certain degree to almost all other languages of Europe. The Indo-European character of the language was first recognized in 1854 by the German linguist Franz Bopp (1791-1867). At the same time, Albanian shows no particularly close historical affinity to any other language or language group within the Indo-European family, i.e. it forms a language group of its own.

In its structure, Albanian is a synthetic language similar to most other Indo-European languages. Nouns are marked for gender, number, case and also have definite and indefinite forms. The vast majority of nouns are masculine or feminine, though there are rare examples of neuter nouns, which now function increasingly as masculine in the singular and feminine in the plural. As to number, nouns appear in the singular and plural, as in most other European languages. There are approximately 100 plural formations, including suffixes, umlauts, final consonant changes, and combinations thereof.

The nominal system distinguishes five cases: nominative, genitive, dative, accusative and ablative. The genitive and dative endings are always the same. Attributive genitives are in addition linked to the nouns that they qualify by a complicated system of connective particles: i, e, tė and sė, often reflecting the ending of the preceding word, e.g., bulevardi i qytetit "the city boulevard," bukuria e bulevardit tė qytetit "the beauty of the city boulevard." The definite and indefinite forms of the noun are shown by the presence or absence of a postpositive definite article. The noun declension thus shows two sets of endings: definite and indefinite. Most adjectives follow the noun either directly or are preceded by a connective particle, e.g., djali nervoz "the irritable boy," djali i vogėl "the little boy."

The Albanian verb system has the following categories: three persons, two numbers, ten tenses, two voices and six moods. Unusual among the moods is the admirative, which is used to express astonishment on the part of the speaker, e.g., ra shi "it rained," rėnka shi "why, it's been raining!"

The Albanian language is divided into two basic dialect groups: Gheg in the north of the country and Tosk in the south. The Shkumbin River in central Albania, flowing past Elbasan into the Adriatic, forms the approximate boundary between the two dialect regions. Here, in a zone ten to twenty kilometers wide, intermediate dialects are also found.

The modern literary language (gjuha letrare), agreed upon at the Orthography Congress of 20 to 25 November 1972, is a combination of the two dialect groups, though based about eighty percent on Tosk. It is now a widely accepted standard both in Albania and elsewhere, though there have been increasing tendencies in recent years to revive literary Gheg.

Standard Albanian:

Old August 18th, 2014 #2
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The Gheg dialect group, characterized by the presence of nasal vowels, by the retention of the older n for Tosk r (e.g., venė "wine" for Tosk verė; Shqypnia "Albania" for Tosk Shqipėria) and by several distinct morphological features, can be further classified into a northwestern (Shkodra and surrounding region), a northeastern (northeastern Albania and Kosova), a central (between the Ishėm and Mat Rivers and eastwards into Macedonia, including Dibra and Tetova) and a southern (Durrės, Tirana) Gheg dialect.

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The Tosk dialect group is in general more homogenous, though it can be subdivided into a northern (from Fier to Vlora on the coast and all of inland southern Albania north of the Vjosa River), a Labėrian or Lab (south of the Vjosa to Saranda), and a Ēamėrian or Ēam (the southern tip of Albania and into Greece) dialect.

Old August 18th, 2014 #4
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Ethnic Albanians in Kosovo speak eastern varieties of the northern Gheg dialect. According to linguist and poet Martin Camaj, "despite the numerous variants, Kosovar constitutes an independent dialect branch of Albanian".
In 1968 Kosovars adopted the official Albanian literary language of Albania and in1974 began using the orthography used in Albania.

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Default Standard Albanian vs Kosovo Albanian

Standard Albanian

Kosovo Albanian

Old August 19th, 2014 #6
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Default Literature

The Ottoman Empire, which ruled Albania from the 15th to the early 20th century, prohibited publications in Albanian, an edict that became a serious obstacle to the development of literature in that language. Books in Albanian were rare until the late 19th century.

The oldest example of writing in Albanian is a book-length manuscript on theology, philosophy, and history by Teodor Shkodrani that dates from 1210; it was discovered in the late 1990s in the Vatican archives. Among other early examples of written Albanian are a baptismal formula (1462) and the book Meshari (1555; "The Liturgy," or "The Missal") by the Roman Catholic prelate Gjon Buzuku. The publication in 1635 of the first Albanian dictionary was a milestone in the history of Albanian literature. The author of the Dictionarium latino-epiroticum ("Latin-Albanian Dictionary") was Frang Bardhi, a Catholic bishop.

The earliest works of Albanian literature were written by Catholic clerics, whose ties with the Vatican enabled them to circumvent Turkish restrictions by publishing their works outside Albania, mostly in Rome. The earliest books, from the mid-16th to the mid-18th century, were mostly religious and didactic in character. A change occurred with the advent of Romanticism and the nationalist movements of the 18th and 19th centuries. The range of genres broadened to encompass folklore and linguistics, and books of a Romantic and patriotic nature also emerged.

The first writers to cultivate the new genres were Albanians who had migrated centuries earlier to Sicily and southern Italy. The Arbėresh writers, as they are commonly called, profited from the absence of state-imposed restrictions in Italy and published freely to preserve and celebrate their ethnic Albanian heritage. (The term Arbėresh denotes both their dialect and their ethnic origins; it is derived from the word Arbėria, the name by which Albania was known during the Middle Ages.) Foremost among Arbėresh writers was Jeronim (Girolamo) de Rada, regarded by some critics as the finest Romantic poet in the Albanian language. His major work, best known by its Albanian title Kėngėt e Milosaos (1836; "The Songs of Milosao"), is a Romantic ballad infused with patriotic sentiments. De Rada was also the founder of the first Albanian periodical, Fiįmuri Arbėrit ("The Albanian Flag"), which was published from 1883 to 1888. Other Arbėresh writers of note are Francesco Santori, a novelist, poet, and playwright; Dhimitėr Kamarda (Demetrio Camarda), a philologist and folklorist; Zef (Giuseppe) Serembe, a poet; Gavril (Gabriele) Dara (the younger), a poet and savant; and Zef Skiroi (Giuseppe Schirņ), a poet, publicist, and folklorist.

Literary activity gathered momentum in the wake of the formation of the Albanian League of Prizren, the first Albanian nationalist organization. The league, founded in 1878, spurred Albanians to intensify their efforts to win independence from the Ottoman Empire, an event that would occur in 1912. Albanians in exile—in Constantinople (Istanbul); Bucharest, Rom.; Sofia, Bulg.; Cairo; and Boston—formed patriotic and literary societies to promote the propagation of literature and culture as instruments for gaining independence. The national motif became the hallmark of the literature of this period, known as Rilindja ("Renaissance"), and writers of the time came to be known collectively as Rilindas.

The spirit of the Albanian Renaissance found expression, above all, in the work of the poet Naim Frashėri. His moving tribute to pastoral life in Bagėti e bujqėsia (1886; "Cattle and Crops"; Eng. trans. Frashėri’s Song of Albania) and his epic poem Istori e Skėnderbeut (1898; "The History of Skanderbeg")—eulogizing Skanderbeg, Albania’s medieval national hero—stirred the Albanian nation. Today many regard him as the national poet of Albania.

Albanian literature took a historic step forward in 1908 when Albanian linguists, scholars, and writers convened the Congress of Monastir (in what is now Bitola, Maced.), which adopted the modern Albanian alphabet based on Latin letters. The congress was presided over by Mid’hat Frashėri, who subsequently wrote Hi dhe shpuzė (1915; "Ashes and Embers"), a book of short stories and reflections of a didactic nature.

At the turn of the 20th century, a note of realism, combined with cynicism, appeared in Albanian literature as writers sought to identify and combat the ills of Albanian society, such as poverty, illiteracy, blood feuds, and bureaucracy. The major authors of the time were Gjergj Fishta, Faik Konitza (Konica), and Fan S. Noli. Fishta—a native of Shkodėr, the literary centre of northern Albania—was a powerful satirist but is best known for his long ballad Lahuta e Malcķs (1937; The Highland Lute), which celebrates the valour and virtues of Albanian highlanders. Konitza, a foremost polemicist, is the pioneer figure in Albanian literary criticism. As the publisher of the review Albania (1897–1909), he exerted great influence on aspiring writers and the development of Albanian culture. Noli is esteemed as a poet, critic, and historian and is known in particular for his translations of William Shakespeare, Henrik Ibsen, Miguel de Cervantes, Edgar Allan Poe, and others. Among the lesser figures in this period are Asdren (acronym of Aleks Stavre Drenova), a poet; Ēajupi (in full Andon Zako Ēajupi), a poet and playwright; Ernest Koliqi, a short-story writer, poet, and novelist; Ndre Mjeda, a poet and linguist; and Migjeni (acronym of Milosh Gjergj Nikolla), a poet and novelist.

A lone figure in the landscape of 20th-century Albanian literature is the poet Lasgush Poradeci (pseudonym of Llazar Gusho, of which Lasgush is a contraction). Breaking with tradition and conventions, he introduced a new genre with his lyrical poetry, which is tinged with mystical overtones. Writers in post-World War II Albania laboured under state-imposed guidelines summed up by the term Socialist Realism. Nevertheless, the most gifted writers by and large overcame these restrictions and produced works of intrinsic literary value. Among the most successful were Dritėro Agolli, Fatos Arapi, Naum Prifti, and Ismail Kadare. The first two are known primarily as poets, while Prifti’s reputation rests mainly on his books of short stories, the most popular of which is Ēezma e floririt (1960; The Golden Fountain). The outstanding figure in modern Albanian literature is Kadare, whose groundbreaking novel Gjenerali i ushtrisė sė vdekur (1963; The General of the Dead Army) catapulted him to worldwide fame.

Albanian literature has traditionally been written in the two main Albanian dialects: Gheg in the north and Tosk in the south. In 1972, however, a Congress of Orthography held in Tiranė, Alb., formulated rules for a unified literary language based on the two dialects. Since then, most authors have employed the new literary idiom.
Old August 19th, 2014 #7
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Andon Zako Ēajupi (1866-1930)

"Mėmėdheu", from the volume "Baba-Tomorri"


Motherland's the country
Where I first raised my head,
Where I loved my parents,
Where every stone knows me,
Where I made my home,
Where I first knew God,
Where my ancestors lived,
And left their graves behind them,
Where I grew on bits of bread,
Where I learned to speak my language,
Where I have my friends and family,
Where I've laughed and where I've cried,
Where I dwell with mirth and hope,
Where I one day long to perish.
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Naim Frashėri (1846-1900).

excerpt from "O Malet' e Shqipėrisė", from the volume "Bagėti e bujqėsija"

Oh mountains of Albania

Oh mountains of Albania and you, oh trees so lofty,
Broad plains with all your flowers, day and night I contemplate you,
You highlands so exquisite, and you streams and rivers sparkling,
Oh peaks and promontories, and you slopes, cliffs, verdant forests,
Of the herds and flocks I'll sing out which you hold and which you nourish.
Oh you blessed, sacred places, you inspire and delight me!
You, Albania, give me honour, and you name me as Albanian,
And my heart you have replenished both with ardour and desire.
Albania! Oh my mother! Though in exile I am longing,
My heart has ne'er forgotten all the love you've given to me.
When a lambkin from its flock strays and does hear its mother's bleating,
Once or twice it will give answer and will flee in her direction,
Were others, twenty-thirty fold, to block its path and scare it,
Despite its fright it would return, pass through them like an arrow,
Thus my wretched heart in exile, here in foreign land awaiting,
Hastens back unto that country, swift advancing and in longing.
Where cold spring water bubbles and cool breezes blow in summer,
Where the foliage grows so fairly, where the flowers have such fragrance,
Where the shepherd plays his reed pipe to the grazing of the cattle,
Where the goats, their bells resounding, rest, yes 'tis the land I long for.
Old August 19th, 2014 #9
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Naim Frashėri (1846-1900).

"Fjalėt' e qiririt", from the volume "Vjersha pėr mėsonjėtoret tė para"

The Words of the Candle

Here among you have I risen,
And aflame am I now blazing,
Just a bit of light to give you,
That I change your night to daytime,
I'll combust and I will wither,
Be consumed and be extinguished,
Just to give you brightness, vision,
That you notice one another,
For you will I fade and tarnish,
Of me there will be no remnant,
I will burn, in tears lamenting,
My desire I cannot suffer.
Of the fire I am not fearful,
I will never be extinguished
If I burn of my desire,
Try to shine as best I'm able.
When you see that I have vanished,
Do not think that I have perished,
I'm alive, among the living,
In the rays of truth I'm standing,
In your souls do I take refuge,
Do not think I'm stranger to you,
Patience was bestowed upon me,
Thus I glow with steadfast courage,
Doing good is all I long for,
That you not remain in darkness.
Forward now and gather 'round me
Talk, smile, eat, drink and make merry,
Love within my soul is harboured,
Yes, for mankind am I burning,
Let me melt and let me smoulder,
To grow cold I do not wish for.
Let my wretched corpse be consumed
For our true God the Almighty,
May my lungs scorch, charred to ashes,
For mankind I'll melt and vanish,
With me all man's joys I'll carry,
Bear them to the Lord Almighty.
Humanity is what I long for,
Goodness, gentleness and wisdom,
If you'll with me be companions?
If you'll love me as I love you,
If you all love one another,
Work not for the Prince of Darkness.
Venture towards me, fleeting heart, do
Come, approach this fire a little!
Though the flame may singe your wings, it's
Sure to sanctify your spirit.
With the torch that here consumes me
I the eyes of men have opened,
Been of them a true companion.
I do know them, they do know me,
I've observed them all in passing,
Mothers, kith and kin, and fathers,
All of them are my concern still,
All who lived here on this planet,
Even now I see them 'mongst you,
For I recognize their spirits.
I, like you, have changed, transfigured,
Changed and altered my companions,
Many times have I turned into
Earth and wind and fire and water.
I'm a spark come from the heavens,
From the sun I'm glowing embers,
Through the skies I fly, a-soaring,
And live deep within the ocean,
Often in the soil I sleep or
Take my rest in fruits and honey,
I'm a suckling lamb or kid goat,
Flower, grass or leaves a-sprouting,
So much do I have to tell you,
Yet I fear my speech will fail me.
What's the point to put to paper
Words this flickering tongue's inspired?
Old August 19th, 2014 #10
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Sejfulla Malėshova (1900-1971).

"Si e dua Shqipėrinė", from the volume "Vjersha"

How I Love Albania

I've no farm estates or manors,
I've no shops or lofty buildings,
Yet I love my land, Albania -
For a barn in Trebeshina,
For its boulders and its brushwood,
For a hut above Selishta,
For two fields ploughed in Zallishta,
For a cow and for a donkey,
For an ox, a little lambkin,
This is how I love my country
Like a shepherd, like a peasant.

Yes, I love my land, Albania,
For the clover in its meadows,
For a quick and agile maiden,
For its spring of water gurgling
From the cliffs and flowing swiftly
Through the leafy oak tree forests,
Tumbling down to form a river,
Yes, I love my land, Albania,
For the fenugreek in blossom,
For the birds that fly above it,
For the nightingales a-singing,
In the shade and in the brambles,
Trilling songs of love and longing,
This is how I love my country,
Like a poet in devotion.

Yes, I love my land, Albania,
Right from Korēa to Vranina,
Where the farmer sets off early
With his hoe and plough a-toiling,
Sows and reaps by sun and moonlight,
Yet, he has no food to live on,
Where the farrier and saddler
Day and night stoop o'er their duties
Just to get a few stale breadcrumbs,
Where the porter at the dockyards,
Laden down with iron and barrels,
Bears his load, barefoot and ragged,
Always serving other people.
Yes, I love my land, Albania,
Right from Skopje to Janina,
Where its people in misfortune
Suffer, live their lives in serfdom,
Yet they have a fighting spirit -
This is how I love my country,
Like a revolutionary.
Old August 19th, 2014 #11
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Fan Noli (1882-1965).

"Anės lumenjve", from the volume "Albumi"

On river banks

Taken flight and off in exile,
In restraints and held in bondage,
I despair with tears unending
On the banks of Vjosa, Buna.

Where is it that we have left her,
Our poor homeland, wretched nation?
She lies unwashed at the seaside,
She stands unseen in the sunlight,
She sits starving at the table,
She is ignorant midst learning,
Naked, ailing does she languish,
Lame in body and in spirit...

How those rogues have all abused her,
How the beys and mercenaries
And the foreigners oppressed her,
How the usurers have squeezed her,
How they raged at her, destroyed her,
She from all sides has been ravaged,
Heel of force always upon her,
On the banks of Spree and Elbe.

Screaming do I burn in rage,
Bereft of weapons, mutilated,
Neither dead nor living do I
Wait here for some sign or glimmer,
Days and years I tarry, linger,
Weak and out of breath and withered,
Old before my time and broken,
Far from hearth and far from workplace,
On the banks of Rhine and Danube.

Yes, I'm beaten and bewildered,
In a swoon and in convulsions,
On I dream in tears unceasing
On the banks of Spree and Elbe.

And a voice roars from the river,
Booming, from my sleep awakes me,
That the people are now ready,
That the tyrant totters, trembles,
That a storm is rising, raging,
Vjosa swelling, Buna flooding,
Drin and Seman scarlet flowing,
Beys and nobles squirm and quiver,
For beyond the grave life shines and
Trumpets on all sides do echo:
"Rise up, set out now against them,
All you peasants and you workers,
Men from Shkodra down to Vlora,
Crush them now and overcome them!"

This salvation, yes, this war cry,
Has restored my youth and courage,
Strength and hope resuscitating,
On the banks of Spree and Elbe.
That a spring will follow winter,
That we one day will return
Regaining hearths, reclaiming workplace
On the banks of Vjosa, Buna.

Taken flight and off in exile,
In restraints and held in bondage,
I proclaim this fervent hope here
On the banks of Spree and Elbe.
Old August 19th, 2014 #12
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Pashko Vasa (1825-1892).

Oh Albania, Poor Albania

Oh Albania, poor Albania,
Who has shoved your head in ashes?
Once you were a fine, great lady,
All the world's men called you mother.
Once you had such wealth and goodness,
With fair maidens, strapping young lads,
Herds and land, rich fields and produce,
Flashing guns, Italian weapons,
Heroic fellows and pure women,
You reigned as their best companion.

At rifle's blast, at flash of lightning
The Albanian mastered battle,
Thus he fought and thus he perished,
Leaving ne'er misdeeds behind him.
Whene'er an Albanian swore an oath did
All the Balkans tremble at him,
When he charged in savage battle,
Always he returned a victor.

How fare you today, Albania?
Like an oak tree groundward falling!
Trampled now, the world walks o'er you,
No one has a kind word for you.
Like snow-capped peaks, like fields a-blooming
You were clothed, you're now in tatters,
You've no name or reputation,
In your plight you have destroyed them.

Albanians, you are killing kinfolk,
You're split in a hundred factions,
Some believe in God or Allah,
Say 'I'm Turk,' or 'I am Latin,'
Say 'I'm Greek,' or 'I am Slavic,'
But you're brothers, hapless people!
You've been duped by priests and hodjas
To divide you, keep you wretched,
When the stranger shares your hearth side,
Puts to shame your wife and sister,
You still serve him, gaining little,
You forget your forebears' pledges
You are serfs to foreign landlords,
Who have not your blood or language!
Weep, lament, oh swords and rifles,
The Albanian bird's been snared, imprisoned!
Weep with us, oh dauntless heroes,
For Albania's toppled, face-smeared,
Neither bread nor meat remaining,
Fire in hearth, nor light, nor pine torch,
Drained of blood and of friends' honour,
She's defiled and now has fallen!

Gather 'round now, maids and women,
You with fair eyes know of weeping,
Come and mourn our poor Albania,
She has lost her honour, virtue,
She's a widow with no husband,
She's a mother with no offspring!

Who has the heart to let her perish,
Once a heroine, now so weakened!
Well-loved mother, dare we leave her
To fall under foreign boot heels?

No one wishes such shame on her,
Each of us dreads such misfortune!
Before Albania's thus forsaken
Let our men die, bearing rifles.

Wake, Albanian, from your slumber,
Let us, brothers, swear in common
And not look to church or mosque,
The Albanian's faith is Albanianism!

From Bar down to far Preveza
Shall the sun spread forth its warm rays,
Our forefathers left us this land,
Let none touch it, for we'll all die!
Let us fall as did our forebears
And not shame ourselves before God!
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Migjeni (1911-1938).

"Poema e mjerimit", from the volume "Vargjet e lira"

Poem of poverty

Poverty, brothers, is a mouthful that's hard to swallow,
A bite that sticks in your throat and leaves you in sorrow,
When you watch the pale faces and rheumy eyes
Observing you like ghosts and holding out thin hands;
Behind you they lie, stretched out
Their whole lives through, until the moment of death.
Above them in the air, as if in disdain,
Crosses and stony minarets pierce the sky,
Prophets and saints in many colours radiate splendour.
And poverty feels betrayed.

Poverty carries its own vile imprint,
It is hideous, repulsive, disgusting.
The brow that bears it, the eyes that express it,
The lips that try in vain to hide it
Are the offspring of ignorance, the victims of disdain,
The filthy scraps flung from the table
At which for centuries
Some pitiless, insatiable dog has fed.
Poverty has no good fortune, only rags,
The tattered banners of a hope
Shattered by broken promises.

Poverty wallows in debauchery.
In dark corners, together with dogs, rats, cats,
On mouldy, stinking, filthy mattresses,
Naked breasts exposed, sallow dirty bodies,
With feelings overwhelmed by bestial desire,
They bite, devour, suck, kiss the sullied lips,
And in unbridled lust the thirst is quenched,
The craving stilled, and self-consciousness lost.
Here is the source of the imbeciles, the servants and the beggars
Who will tomorrow be born to fill the streets.

Poverty shines in the eyes of the newborn,
Flickers like the pale flame of a candle
Under a ceiling blackened with smoke and spider webs,
Where human shadows tremble on damp stained walls,
Where the ailing infant wails like a banshee
To suck the dry breasts of its wretched mother
Who, pregnant again, curses god and the devil,
Curses the heavy burden of her unborn child.
Her baby does not laugh, it only wastes away,
Unwanted by its mother, who curses it, too.
How sorrowful is the cradle of the poor
Where a child is rocked with tears and sighs.

Poverty's child is raised in the shadows
Of great mansions, too high for imploring voices to reach
To disturb the peace and quiet of the lords
Sleeping in blissful beds beside their ladies.

Poverty matures a child before its time,
Teaches it to dodge the threatening fist,
The hand which clutches its throat in dreams,
When the delirium of starvation begins
And when death casts its shadow on childish faces,
Instead of a smile a hideous grimace.
While the fate of a fruit is to ripen and fall,
The child is interred not maturing at all.

Poverty labours and toils by day and night,
Chest and forehead drenched in sweat,
Up to the knees in mud and slime,
And still the empty guts writhe in hunger.
Starvation wages! For such a daily ordeal,
A mere three or four leks and an 'On your way.'

Poverty sometimes paints its face,
Swollen lips scarlet, hollow cheeks rouged,
And body a chattel in a filthy trade.
For service in bed for which it is paid
With a few lousy francs,
Stained sheets, stained face and stained conscience.

Poverty leaves a heritage as well,
Not cash in the bank or property you can sell,
But distorted bones and pains in the chest,
Perhaps leaves the memory of a bygone day
When the roof of the house, weakened by decay,
By age and the weather collapsed and fell,
And above all the din rose a terrible cry
Cursing and imploring, as from the depths of hell,
The voice of a man crushed by a beam.
Under the heel, says the priest, of a god irate
Ends thus the life of a dissolute ingrate.
And so the memory of such misfortunes
Fills the cup of bitterness passed to generations.

Poverty in drink seeks consolation,
In filthy taverns, with dirty, littered tables,
The thirsting soul pours glass after glass
Down the throat to forget its many worries,
The dulling glass, the glass satanic,
Caressing with a venomous bite.
And when, like grain under the scythe, the man falls
To the floor, he giggles and sobs, a tragicomic clown,
And all his sorrow in drink he drowns
When one by one, a hundred glasses downs.

Poverty sets desires ablaze like stars in the night
And turns them to ashes, like trees struck by lightning.

Poverty knows no joy, but only pain,
Pain reducing you to such despair
That you seize the rope and hang yourself,
Or become a poor victim of 'paragraphs.'

Poverty wants no pity, only justice!
Pity? Bastard daughter of cunning fathers,
Who like the Pharisees, beating the drum
Ostentatiously for their own sly ends,
Drop a penny in the beggar's hands.

Poverty is an indelible stain
On the brow of humanity through the ages.
And never can this stain be effaced
By doctrines decaying in temples.
Old August 19th, 2014 #14
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Bilal Xhaferri (1935-1986).

"Balada Ēame", from the volume "Eja trishtim"

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,
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!
Old August 20th, 2014 #15
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The legend of Gjergj Elez Alia is one of the most popular in Albanian folklore. This is a prose rendition, taken from Mitrush Kuteli (1907-1967), of the original recording in the form of epic verse.

Gjergj Elez Alia had always been the greatest of heroes. For years he had been the strongest in the land of our forefathers and had always defended its honour. With cudgel and sword in hand he fought enemies who came from land and sea to ravage and enslave our country. Gjergj Elez Alia brought all enemies to their knees.
In the course of his many battles, however, he had received nine wounds and now lay nine years in his tower wasting away. Everyone had forgotten him and abandoned him to his fate, except his sister. She sat day and night at his bedside, cleansed his wounds for nine years with spring water, rinsed them with her tears and dried his blood with her hair. She bound his wounds with their mother's shawl. Their father's old clothes provided shade. His weapons hung at the foot of the bed. Whenever he looked at them, he felt his heart beating fervently and was filled with a ray of hope.
When his sister bound his wounds, he endured the pain like a man. There was but one pain Gjergj could not endure, that of seeing his beloved sister with him in the high tower, shut in as if buried alive, looking after him and caring for his wounds. This pain caused Gjergj to rage. His sister had never had any pleasure in life. Her friends had enjoyed the fruits of their youth, had fallen in love, married and had children. She lived alone in the tower with her sick brother Gjergj.
As the ninth year passed, the word spread that a swarthy Baloz had risen from of the sea, a mighty and cunning giant, worse than anything that had ever befallen the land before. This evil Baloz had demanded a heavy tribute from the country: every family was to give it one young maiden and a roast of mutton. Day after day, it continued its murderous course. Week after week it devastated whole regions. It had slain so many warriors that no one had the courage to oppose it, for its cudgel was huge, its sword razor sharp and its lance able to transfix all bodies in its path. The whole country suffered from the evil deeds of the Baloz.
Gjergj Elez Alia knew nothing of these evil deeds. He wasted away in bed like an unburied corpse. No friends came to tell him their woes or to ask his help since they all knew well that he could not even get up and walk to the door.
When the turn came for Gjergj's house to pay tribute to the Baloz, the sister began to weep, curse and lament, "Why, oh why has death forgotten us, brother? Our parents are already resting in peace under the linden tree, the brother is at death's door in his own house and the sister is now to fall prey to the Baloz. Why doesn't the tower simply collapse and bury us. Death would be sweeter than a life without honour."
At that moment, Gjergj awoke and looked around, unaware of what was happening. He could feel moisture on his face and thought that the tower was decaying and letting the rain in. With a heavy heart he looked up at his sister and saw the traces of tears on her pallid cheeks. In his rage he cursed the tower. "May you turn black, oh tower! May you rot from top to bottom and be inhabited by snakes! How can you let raindrops fall on my bed?" His sister wiped the tears from her eyes and said, "No, brother, it is not raining nor is the roof leaking. Your wounds and the solitude have weakened you so much that you don't know what you're saying. I have just been weeping, brother!" Gjergj stroked her arm with his emaciated hand, stroked her face, looked into her tender eyes and spoke, this time more lucidly, "Why are you weeping, sister? I have been wasting away for nine years now, and in all these nine years your brother Gjergj has found no peace, he has trembled like the leaves of the beechtree in the sunlight. Have you not had food and drink over these nine years? Has your brother not left you clothes? Has he offended you or bored you so that you now want to leave him and marry?"
The sister took his hand, placed it on her forehead and replied, "Oh, brother! It is your suffering that has confused you and made you talk this way. I would rather be buried alive than think of marriage. I have enough to eat and drink, and enough clothes. Nor have you ever offended me. You have been a brother and a father to me. But now, Gjergj, the time has come for me to tell you of the calamity which has befallen us. You have not risen and gone out the door once in all these nine years and your sister has never complained. But why should I now have to suffer the disgrace of being offered to the Baloz?"
When Gjergj heard this, he suddenly forgot his wounds and sprang to his feet as if he had never been ill. A hero, slim and slender as he had always been, he stood there and said to her, "Sister, take the warhorse into town at once and bring it to the smith who is my blood brother. Bring him greetings from Gjergj and tell him to fit the steed with shoes of iron and nails of bronze, for I am going to challenge the Baloz. If my blood brother will not shoe the steed, take it to the other smith who is my friend." The maiden mounted the steed and rode as swiftly as she could into town to see the blood brother. When she greeted the smith and asked him on behalf of her brother to shoe the steed, he began making excuses. In the nine years Gjergj had been shut up in the tower, the smith had forgotten they were blood brothers. He proposed slyly, "If you were to be kind to me, young maiden, and do me a favour, I'd save your brother Gjergj and shoe his steed so well that he could fly with it like the wind."
The maiden was shocked and turned away from him. "How can you say a thing like that, oh smith? May your tongue wither! I thought I had knocked on the door of a blood brother, but find instead that I have knocked on the door of some wandering minstrel. I've done enough favours to my parents whose bodies now rot under the earth and to my brother Gjergj who has been wasting away for nine years now."
Breaking off her indignant reply to the devious smith, she mounted her steed and rode to the other smith, greeting him on behalf of her brother and conveying his request. The second smith lost no time and shoed the steed as if it were his own. Then he replied, "Greet Gjergj for me. May he be victorious in his battle with the Baloz!"
The maiden set off, expressing her gratitude to the smith, and returned home that evening where Gjergj was waiting for her under the linden tree. He was already dressed and bearing his weapons. Gjergj had heroically overcome the pain in his body to defend the reputation of his house and homeland and to seek vengeance. Gjergj Elez Alia then sent his greetings to the Baloz, telling it, "I have no maiden for you, Baloz! The sheep of my land have not been fed for you. I have but one sister but cannot offer her to you, because otherwise I would have no one to tend my wounds. I therefore challenge you to combat on the battlefield."
When the next day dawned, Gjergj and the Baloz arrived at the battlefield and began exchanging insults. The Baloz was dressed in a heavy coat of armour with a steel helmet on its head and armed with a huge cudgel and a long sword. Even its steed was covered in armour and the earth itself trembled as they advanced. When the Baloz caught a glimpse of the emaciated Gjergj on his steed, it began to laugh and called out, "Have you come back from the grave, Gjergj? Why have you called me to the battlefield in vain? Do you not know that I am the Sea Baloz? I have toppled many a hero from their steeds and sent them to the underworld. I can topple you with my little finger." Gjergj replied, "You have spoken well, Baloz! I have indeed been at death's door for these nine years. But you have brought me back to life. You have demanded my sister before doing battle with me. You have demanded sheep before asking the shepherds. Now I have come to teach you the ancient customs of our people. For we never give up anything without a fight. We will never give our sisters to the Baloz without doing battle with it first. Get ready, Baloz, your final hour has come!" Thus spoke Gjergj Elez Alia!
Then they spurred their steeds and galloped onto the battlefield. The cunning Baloz seized the first opportunity and hurled its cudgel. Gjergj's steed dropped down on its front legs and ducked, and the heavy cudgel flew over Gjergj's head twenty four yards down into the valley. When it hit the ground, a cloud of dust rose twenty four yards in the air. Now it was Gjergj's turn. He hurled his cudgel so expertly that it struck the Baloz right on the head. The Baloz collapsed and fell over dead. As it hit the ground, the earth gave a shudder, and its steed took flight. Gjergj swiftly drew his sword and chopped the monster's head off. He hung the head from his saddle, dragged the rest of the body by the feet through the bushes and thickets and threw it into a well where the blood of the swarthy Baloz blackened the whole river.
Then the victorious hero returned home, gathered his friends around him and said: "Lend me your ears, my friends! I am leaving you my tower and giving you all my money, my animals and my possessions! Take good care of the sister of Gjergj Elez Alia!" The hero then embraced his sorrowful sister who was waiting for him.
And at that very moment, the two hearts ceased beating and the brother and sister passed away. No one had ever seen a simpler and sweeter death. Their friends grieved for them and buried them in a grave wide enough for both brother and sister in their embrace. Around the grave they constructed a thick wall so that no one might forget how much the brother loved his sister and how much the sister had loved him.
Old August 20th, 2014 #16
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The legend of Rozafat Castle, now the ruins of a no doubt originally Illyrian fortification soaring above the town of Shkodra in northern Albania, involves one of the grimmest motifs of Balkan legendry, that of immurement. The story of a woman being walled in during the construction of a bridge or castle in order to stabilise the foundations is widespread in oral literature in Albania, the Balkans and elsewhere. Variants in Albania are also told of the castle of Turra south of Kavaja, of the castle of Petro Petroshi in Lleshan south of Elbasan, and of the fortress of Elbasan itself. The earliest version outside Albania may be that of the Bridge of Adana in southern Turkey, which was constructed in 527-565 A.D. The best known variant in the Balkans itself is that of the Bridge of Arta in northern Greece, which was constructed in 1602-1606. Other variants are known to the Romanians in the legend of the Monastery of Argesh, the Bulgarians in the legend of the Bridge of Struma, also called Kadin Most, the Bosnians in the legends of Teshanj Castle and the Bridge of Mostar, and the Serbs, who indeed have a Serbian variant for the legend of Rozafat Castle, "Grad gradili na Skadar," recorded by Vuk Karadzic (1787-1864). Also related are the Hungarian ballad of the castle of Deva and the German legend of the castle of Henneberg. The Albanian version of the legend of Rozafat Castle was first recorded by Thimi Mitko (1820-1890) in his folklore collection 'Albanike melissa / Belietta sskiypetare' (The Albanian Bee) in 1878. The immurement legend is based no doubt upon a Balkan reality. Even at the beginning of the twentieth century, animals such as sheep, goats and chickens were still being sacrificed on such occasions in Albania and their remains were immured in the foundations of bridges and other buildings. The practice is still widely encountered today. Here is a prose summary of the Rozafat legend.

Fog lay over the Buna for three days and three nights, blanketing the river completely. When three days and three nights had passed, a strong wind began to blow, dissipating the mists and making Mount Valdanuz visible once again. Up on the mountain there were three brothers at work building a castle. The foundations they built during the daytime always collapsed at night, so that they could never finish the castle. One day, an old man came by and greeted the three brothers, saying, "I wish you success in your work!" "We wish you success, too, old man, though we ourselves are not doing very well. Day after day, we work and build and, at night, the foundations collapse. Do you know what we can do to make the walls stay put?" "Yes, I do," replied the old man, "but it would be a shame if I told you." "Let the shame be ours, because we are the ones who want to build the castle." The old man reflected for a while and then asked, "Are you married? Do you all have wives?" "Yes, we are married," they replied, "Each of us has a wife. But tell us what to do to build the castle." "If you really want to finish the castle, you must swear never to tell your wives what I am going to tell you now. The wife who brings you your food tomorrow must be buried alive in the wall of the castle. Only then will the foundations stay put and last forever." Thus spoke the old man and departed. But alas, the eldest brother broke his promise and revealed to his wife at home everything that had happened and told her not to approach the place where the castle was being built. The second brother broke his promise, too, and told his wife everything. Only the youngest brother kept his word and said nothing to his wife at home.
The next morning, the brothers rose early and went off to work. Their axes resounded, rocks were crushed, the walls rose and their hearts beat faster and faster... At home the mother of the three brothers knew nothing of their plot. She said to the wife of the eldest brother, "The men need bread and water and their flask of wine, daughter in law." She replied, "I'm sorry, dear mother, but I really cannot go today. I am ill." The mother then asked the second wife, who answered, "My word, dear mother, I cannot go either, for I must visit my parents today." The mother then turned to the youngest wife, saying, "My dear daughter in law, the men need bread and water and their flask of wine." She got up and said, "I would willingly go, mother, but I have my young son here and am afraid he will need weaning and will cry." "You go ahead," said the other two daughters in law, "we shall look after the boy. He won't cry."
So the youngest and best wife stood up, fetched the bread and water and the flask of wine, kissed her son good bye on both cheeks and set off. She climbed up Mount Valdanuz and approached the place where the three workers were busy. "I wish you success in your work, gentlemen!" But what was wrong? The axes stopped resounding, their hearts beat faster and faster, and their faces turned pale. When the youngest brother saw his wife coming, he hurled his axe into the valley and cursed the rocks and walls. "What is the matter, my lord," his wife asked, "why are you cursing the rocks and walls?" Her older brothers in law smiled grimly and the oldest one declared, "You were born under an unlucky star, sister in law, for we have sworn to bury you alive in the wall of the castle."
"Then may it be so, brothers in law," replied the young woman. "I have but one request to make. When you wall me in, leave a hole for my right eye, for my right hand, for my right foot and for my right breast. I have a small son. When he starts to cry, I will cheer him up with my right eye, I will comfort him with my right hand, I will rock him with my right foot and I will wean him with my right breast. Let my breast turn to stone and may the castle flourish. May my son become a great hero, the ruler of the world!"
They then seized the poor young woman and walled her into the foundations of the castle. This time the walls did not collapse, but stayed put to rise higher and higher. Even today, at the foot of the castle, the stones are still damp and mildewed from the tears of the mother weeping for her son.
Old August 20th, 2014 #17
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The popular legend of little Constantine who rises from the grave to bring his sister Dhoqina back to their dying mother, in fulfilment of his pledge, is one of the best-known of Albanian folklore, involving the so-called Lenore motif. In Albania, the sister is known either as Dhoqina or Doruntina, and in the Italo-Albanian version of the legend, she appears as Garantina or Fjoruntina. Her dead brother, Constantine, is also known in northern Albania under the name Halil Garria, and by the Muslims of central Albania on occasion as Ali or Hysen i vogėl. The Lenore motif, named after the poem ‘Lenore’ (1773) by German poet Gottfried August Bürger (1747-1794), is recorded in Byzantine and Modern Greek literature, and in Serbian (‘Jelica and her brothers’), Bulgarian and Lithuanian folklore, to mention but a few. The ballad is known wherever Albanian is spoken, not only in Albania itself and southern Italy, but also in Kosova, Montenegro and Macedonia. It was adapted by writer Ismail Kadare (b. 1936) in his successful novel ‘Kush e solli Doruntinėn?’ (Who brought Doruntine back? 1979), translated into English as ‘Doruntine’ (New York 1988).

Long ago there was a mother
Who had nine sons and a daughter.
All the lads were dashing heroes
And the maid was called Dhoqina,
Just a young girl, still unmarried,
Agile was she like a goshawk.
From afar did come a missive
Asking for her hand in marriage,
But the brothers would not let her,
Only would the youngest of them,
Only Constantine accepted,
Days went by and months receded,
Then she went abroad to marry
Seven days she journeyed thither.
All the brothers then departed,
Travelled far to serve as soldiers
Fighting in a war with Russia,
All nine brothers fell in battle.
Left was but the widowed mother:
“Constantine, my son, where are you?
While alive, you made a promise,
This was what you said on parting:
‘Be I dead or be I living
I’ll return to you Dhoqina!’
Constantine, my son, where are you?
What now of your word of honour?”
Thus complained the widowed mother,
Longing for her distant daughter.
From the grave arose Constantine,
Tombstone turned into a stallion,
Graveyard soil became a saddle,
On his black horse did he clamber,
One by one he crossed the mountains
Swiftly, slowly did he journey,
Passing seven alpine ranges,
Seized his sister from her dancing:
“Oh Dhoqina, poor Dhoqina,
Do you not long for your family?
Tears are flowing down your mother’s
Face who cries to see her daughter.”
“Good or bad news are you bringing?”
“Come along now with me, sister,
As you are, dressed in those garments.”
O’er the horse’s rump he pulled her
As the birds chirped in the mountains:
“Tsili viu, tsili viu,
Have you seen them, have you seen them,
Dead man riding with the living?”
Then Dhoqina asked her brother:
“Constantine, oh dearest brother,
What has happened, what’s the matter?
What’s that heavy smell that’s coming
Off your arms and mighty shoulders?”
“Smoke and powder from my rifle
For I’ve been at war, in battle.”
“Constantine, oh dearest brother,
What is in your hair that’s glaring,
Flaring that it almost blinds me?”
“Do not worry, my good sister,
Just the dust whirled from the highway.”
“Constantine, oh dearest brother,
What’s the matter with our house here,
Why has it been painted over,
Has perchance misfortune struck it?”
“Do not worry, fair Dhoqina,
It’s just mother who’s grown older.
She no longer liked the colours,
Thus she had the house repainted
Black as symbol of her aging,
Nothing more and nothing less,” he
Told her at their destination.
“Off the horse now, fair Dhoqina,
Go into the house, my sister,
I’ll be with you in a twinkling.”
Constantine flew off that instant
And returned unto his graveyard.
To the doorway strode Dhoqina,
“Open, mother, it’s Dhoqina!”
“Who is claiming she’s Dhoqina?
May a bolt of lightning strike you!
Who has led you to my doorway?
All my sons are gone and perished.”
“Open up the door, dear mother,
For I’ve come back with my brother,
Come with Constantine on horseback.”
“Constantine is gone and perished,
Fell upon the field of battle,
Withered, turned to dust his body.”
Then she opened up the door and
Saw her daughter on the threshold,
Both the women died that second.
Old August 20th, 2014 #18
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The nostalgic song “Oh, my beautiful Morea,” included in the last eight lines of this folk ballad, is perhaps the best known Arbėresh (Italo-Albanian) folksong of all. The ballad reflects a central element in the collective memory of the Albanian minority of southern Italy – that of their early flight from the Morea (i.e. the Peloponnese in Greece), which had been conquered by the Ottoman Turks, to the safety of Sicily and Calabria. Other Albanians fled from Albania, too, when it was conquered by the Turks in the fifteenth century.

Once there was a savage ruler
Who imprisoned a fine fellow,
No one dared address that ruler
Till a noble-hearted maiden
Summoned courage, spoke unto him:
“Lord, though you are known as savage,
You and I, let’s make a wager,
Let us see who is more able,
Who can drink more wine-filled glasses.
If you lose, release your prisoner,
If you win, my bed you’ll conquer
All with silken snakes embroidered.”
He was willing, made the wager.
To her servants said the maiden:
“When you serve the Turk his wineglass,
Make sure that the cup is brimming.
When you serve to me my wineglass,
Do not fill the cup completely,
Add a bit of water to it.”
Then, while they were having dinner,
Flushed with wine they were and laughing,
Did she lift her wineglass, sipping
Wine with icy water in it.
Mad with rapture did the ruler
Seize his glass and swill the wine down,
Till he slumped into his armchair,
Overcome, and fell asleep there.
Well the noble maiden freed the
Prisoner, armed him; they departed,
Taking flight then to the seaside,
There they climbed aboard a sailboat,
Tossing, gliding ’cross the ocean.
When they reached the other coastline
She looked back towards the ocean
In nostalgia contemplating:
“Oh, my beautiful Morea,
Left and saw you nevermore,
Left behind my lady mother,
Left behind my loving brother,
Left behind my lordly father,
All under your soil they’re resting.
Oh, my beautiful Morea,
Left and saw you nevermore.”
Old August 20th, 2014 #19
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Baba Tomor or Father Tomor is the personification of Mount Tomor, a mountain range which includes the highest peak in central Albania at an altitude of 2416 m. Mount Tomor is considered the home of the gods in central Albanian popular belief. The peasants of the region swear by Father Tomor, Alb. "pėr Baba Tomor," an oath considered stronger than any sworn on the Bible or the Koran. Mount Tomor is sacred both to the Christians, who used to climb it on August 15, Assumption Day, in honour of the Virgin Mary and to the Bektashi, who honour Abbas Ali during an annual pilgrimage on August 20-25. The legendary figure of Baba Tomor is envisaged as an old man with a long white beard flowing down to his belt. Around him hover four long-beaked female eagles, which perch on his snowy slopes. According to Maximilian Lambertz (1882-1963), he is the remnant of some ancient Illyrian god. Here is the essence of the legend:
Old August 20th, 2014 #20
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Baba Tomor has taken the Earthly Beauty to be his bride. She spends her days with her sister, the Sea Beauty, but when evening comes, the wind, faithful servant of Baba Tomor, carries her back up the mountainside to him. Mount Tomor overlooks the town of Berat, which the old man jealously guards as his favourite city. Across the valley is Mount Shpirag with furrow-like torrents of water running down its slopes. While Baba Tomor was dallying in bed with the Earthly Beauty one day, Shpirag took advantage of the moment and advanced to take over Berat. The four guardian eagles duly awakened Baba Tomor from his dreams. When told of Shpirag's surreptitious plans, Baba Tomor arose from his bed. His first concern was for the safety of the Earthly Beauty and so he ordered the East Wind to carry her back to the home of her sister. Mounting his mule, Tomor then set off to do battle with Shpirag. With his scythe, Tomor lashed into Shpirag, inflicting upon him many a wound which can be seen today as the furrows running down the mountainside. A trace of the hoof of Baba Tomor's mule can, it is said, be seen near the village of Sinja. Shpirag, for his part, pounded Tomor with his cudgel and left many a wound on the lofty mountain, but was overcome. The two giants ultimately slew one another and the maiden drowned in her tears, which became the Osum river.


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