Migjeni – Albania’s little big poet

The Songs Unsung

Migjeni (Millosh Gergj Nikolla) is considered to be Albania’s national poet of "misery”, partly of his own but mostly that of man, in general. This initially off-putting, yet beautifully accurate, title is the result of his heart-wrenching descriptions of his squalid surroundings. No Albanian poet had neither dared nor cared to tell this particular truth until then. At least not quite in the passionate, deeply-felt, repulsed manner of Migjeni who, because of his respect of love and humanity, became the spokesperson of the poor, the exploited, the spiritually deformed, the morally defaced, the already dead while living.

His sensitivity to poverty’s inhumane consequences, his own poverty, his intimate knowledge of organized religion’s false piety, man’s futile rebellion against society, life’s futile battle against death, all contributed to his early death. His poems testify that the ugliness of the world drove his soul to the depths of misery as much as his physical disease defeated his body. His failure to make the change he so dearly desired is less a testament to his overly sensitive soul and more to the humanly insurmountable societal barriers to man’s freedom, famously described by Migjeni as an apathetic, reluctant and, consequently, merciless mountain.

In his masterpiece entitled “Free Verse” or “Verse of Freedom” depending on one’s own translation of it, he sang of it all. In his “Songs of Renaissance”, Migjeni finds a rare spark, a hope in the creation of a new reality but soon realizes that moment was merely a vision. In “Songs of Misery,” he rebels against his reality in order to inspire a societal revolution, but to no avail. A poet cannot concretely change society, he realizes. He can only shed light in hopes of future understanding.Thus, in his lifetime, the poet must admit failure. In “Songs of the West” he sings of his quick fascination, optimism and ultimate swift disappointment with this “other” world. In “Songs of Youth” he sings nostalgically of a better world and of love, something that remains forever out of reach, something he can never actually grasp. His “Final Songs” are his call to death, the only thing that could end his physical and mental anguish, the only thing left for him to hope.

Migjeni died at the young age of 27 from tuberculosis. Though his fear of never having fully lived, of not being heard, of not saying as much as he had to say were powerful testaments to his desire to live, his early death is also perhaps something he longed for. For such an excessively sensitive yet rebellious soul, perhaps this was the only way it could have ended.

Below, I have translated one of Migjeni's poems that, while for me one of the most beautiful, is not sufficiently "famous" to have already been translated. This is all in the hopes that I can continue posting more from the greatness that is his poetry, which renders the ability to select almost impossible.

 

THE SONGS UNSUNG

Deep within my soul sleep the songs unsung,
That neither joy nor misery has woken,
That joyous day they wait while sleeping
To sing in rapture, fearless, in the open.

Still within my soul these songs remain…
and I, an extinguished volcano, sleeping,
But when his day comes, he’ll exclaim
In a thousand colors everlasting.

Oh, will the day come when the songs arise?
Or are centuries with us jesting?
No! No! Freedom has begun to thrive
I feel its rays from the sun burning,

You songs that sleep still, that remain,
That haven’t yet touched strangers’ hearts,
Like a child, I rejoice with you, alone,
I – your cradle; your tomb, perhaps.

Translated from Albanian by Jora Vaso

Kanget e pakendueme

For the very few poems by Migjeni which are translated in English, visit the Poem Hunter website here.