Prepared and translated by Miranda Shehu-Xhilaga
Albanian lyricist Frederic Rreshpja was born in Shkodra in 1940. He graduated from the University of Tirana (Department of Pedagogy) with a diploma in teaching. Rreshpja made his debut in 1967 with a poetry collection titled Albanian Rhapsody, followed by Three Tales for Children, The Brave of Bardhe Village and Eranda. Soon after this last publication, he was arrested and sent to prison. Upon his release, Rreshpja continued to write, but in 1975, a special order from the Ministry of Education and Culture forbade the circulation of his books and Rreshpja was once again sentenced to four years’ imprisonment as “an individual who poses the social danger of undermining, weakening and overthrowing the power of the People’s Government”. Frederik Rreshpja was repeatedly denounced in such terms.
In 1991, after the fall of the communist regime, he was appointed Chief Editor of Ora Journal in Shkodra. In 1992, he founded Europa Publishing House and a cultural and literary magazine of the same name.
Rreshpja is rated as one of the greatest Albanian lyricists. Some of his other books are The Distant Sound of the Hovel (1972), In This City (1973), Time to Die Again (1994) and Lyrics (1996). In 2004, he released the volume In Solitude.
Rreshpja’s poetry has been included in several volumes, such as The Lexicon of Albanian Writers, 1501–2001 by Hasan Hasani; Robert Elsie’s The History of Albanian Literature; Anthology of Albanian Poetry, translated and published in French by Alexander Zoto; and Anthology of Albanian Poetry – The Golden Half Century by Ali Aliu.
After a stroke in 2000, the poet endured bad health and extreme poverty. He died in Shkodra on the 17th of February, 2006.
I came out of the Guernica of the night
The black horse of grief
In the alleyway waiting.
The black horse of grief threw me
And like in an old ballad, I fell;
Carved into old engravings,
My face behind the night’s armour.
Doomed by a blighted spring,
By the entire world abandoned,
The black horse of sorrow the only faithful soul
Weeping for the old master still.
Asleep are the tree tops
Asleep the lightning in the clouds’ depth
The field, a shoulder to the wind.
Everyone has an ache to rest their head on.
Everyone has a longing drawn like a vignette
On the slumber of the world.
But you come and wake me up
Torrentially, every night.
Ah, I did not know that memory’s fingers
Could be transformed just like that, into a knife…
O evening air enshroud me: the withering hour has come.
When my eyes closed will be, dry will be sea
And boats of tears will founder on the empty shore.
I fold, and the rains I lock up.
Though I will re-flower in some chosen hour
I have been the world’s sorrow…
O evening air enshroud me, the withering hour has come.
Ave, My Mother!
Stay in the rain. That’s the only thing I ask.
Who is he? The raindrops pattered on my forehead:
That’s what I heard in the sound of the rain
In summer, at the foot of the age-old oak
Where the door is ajar for the birds.
Ah, when I was young and handsome I believed
The torrents of the world all fell for me,
But now so many years have passed
This raining makes no sense at all.
My mother washed away in a stony rain,
The classical demise of the fallen gods.
Ave, my mother!
I only ever believed in you:
Another God I’ve never had. Amen!