Albanian poetry in translation

The Story of Skanderbeg

from Canto I of 'Histori e Skenderbeut', by Naim Frashëri, 1898

translated by Robert Wilton


Sing his wisdom, angel, sing

All his deeds of virtue bright

That brave Skanderbeg might bring

The land of eagles light.

Like them, let your spirit fly,

Let mountain honey warm your tongue;

No man more brave, no lord more high

Than Skanderbeg was ever sung.

Angel, why this sweet oration?

What deeds make a warrior great?

While he boldly builds the nation,

Bravely he protects the state.

From the blazing spark of dawn

Fire the kindling of my story;

Illuminate how we were born 

With his ever-burning glory.

Beautiful angel, open the sky

And with wisdom's shining sun

Fly before me angel, fly

That I may see what he has done.

When in his all-holding hand

The true great God raised rock from sea

He formed this ancient mountain land

And the men to make her free.

Albania was born to praise

Without fear and without shame,

Like her men of ancient days,

Brave and wise and born to fame.

The king was product of the clan,

Strong and good and clever;

Albanian - which means a man -

With a name to live for ever.

When dawn first burned the early skies

It thawed the peaks where eagles flew,

The Mother-country of the wise,

The home, the hearth-stone of the true.

Alexander - great, but cursed

Unmatched to set the world aflame,

To never master glory's thirst,

Nor the loneliness of fame -

War-wild Pyrrhus, and their peers -

Who scorched their names on history's page,

Men whose lives outlived their years,

Men whose deeds outdid their age -

Were born amid the eagle's peaks.

At heart they were Albanian-born:

Not Bulgarians or Greeks,

But from the land of the rising dawn.

Pyrrhus stood the storms of Rome

Which scoured the lands that once were free;

Alexander charged the foam

Of the boundless Asian sea.

Like the mountain stallion's foals,

Like the beaks the eagle hatched,

These men were Albanian souls -

They lived unbeaten, died unmatched.

They pushed the map to unknown lands

They drove, they fought, they won, they spread.

Europe's cities, Asia's sands,

Heard their voices, felt their tread.

The mindless marching Roman menace

Could not break the mountain shields;

The slave-rowed greedy fleets of Venice

Could not buy Albania's fields.

The eagle's claws have felt no chains,

No tyrant cloud overcast its sky;

Fear never chilled its burning veins,

Nor caused a tremor in its stony eye.

It rose with glory in its beak -

Blazing like the dragon's breath

That tamed the highest snow-chilled peak -

Feared dishonour more than death.

Her enemies failed;

Albania soared;

The shadows paled

In the light of the Lord.

It shone most hard on

Where Kruja towered,

And in that rocky garden

King Gjon Kastrioti flowered.

Friendship, honour and truth

Were the richest of fruits;

From an honest man's word grew the

Strongest of roots.

Thus then was Albania blessed;

Thus she soared on fortune's graces;

Thus goodness ruled the eagle's nest.

But towards this calm oasis

Charged a wild, blood-thirsty beast;

Looming shadows it unfurled,

A dawn of darkness in the east,

Imposing night across the world.

A nation damned, a cursed race,

Its every word was snake's deceit,

Madness glistened in its face,

Its heart pumped evil beat by beat.

Where its cloven feet had paced

Blood and tears would surely flow;

Fertile fields would grieve and waste;

Where it trod no grass would grow.

One face burned with blood and hate,

One with the betrayer's smile;

The feral faces of man's fate -

The jackal's teeth, the fox's guile.

Good's decisive test was here: a

Hunt for evil to its lair;

But evil shifts, distorts - a mirror -

And good itself is in the snare.

Enlightenment grew dim and died;

Darkness uncreated day.

Wisdom paled and failed beside

Blood and death and black decay.

The world was in the devil's pit -

The longest night of humankind.

Left to rot, unfree, unlit,

Civilisation lost its mind.

Summer, and the land was fat,

The sun alive in streams and flowers.

King John Kastrioti sat

Alone in thought through sultry hours...