The Legacy of Filip Shiroka: A Pioneering Rilindja Poet

Nostalgic Verses from an Exiled Rilindja Poet

Filip Shiroka (1859-1935), a classical Rilindja poet, holds a unique place in Albanian literary history. Born and raised in Shkodra, Shiroka received his education from the Franciscans, among whom was the influential poet Leonardo De Martino (1830-1923). Shiroka’s earliest published poem, “All’Albania, all’armi, all’armi!” (To Albania, to arms, to arms!), appeared in the Osservatore Cattolico of Milan in 1878. Although this nationalist piece was initially seen as a weak effort, it marked the beginning of a notable literary journey.

Shiroka, like many intellectuals of his era, spent much of his life in exile following the defeat of the League of Prizren in 1880. He emigrated to the Middle East, settling in Egypt and Lebanon, where he worked as a railway engineer. During his time in exile, he wrote much of his nationalist, satirical, and meditative verse in Albanian, primarily between 1896 and 1903. His work was featured in prominent journals, including Faik Konitza’s Albania, Albanian periodicals in Egypt, and the Shkodra religious monthly Elçija i Zemers t’Jezu Krisctit (The Messenger of the Sacred Heart).

Writing under pseudonyms such as Geg Postrippa and Ulqinaku, Shiroka authored over sixty poems, three short stories, various articles, and several translations of religious texts for Catholic liturgy. His verse collection “Zâni i zêmrës” (The Voice of the Heart), published in Tirana in 1933 by Ndoc Nikaj, remains a testament to his literary contributions.

Shiroka’s poetry, inspired by early nineteenth-century French and Italian romantic poets like Alfred de Musset, Alfonse de Lamartine, and Tommaso Grossi, often explored themes of nostalgia for his homeland. Although his thematic and lexical range was not extraordinary and his literary quality varied, he is remembered as a deeply emotional lyricist with a pure linguistic style. His work continues to evoke the profound sense of longing and love for Albania that defined his life and poetry.

Discover more about the enduring influence of Filip Shiroka in the latest issue of Votra Magazine, where we delve deeper into the lives and works of significant Rilindja poets. Votra Magazine celebrates the rich literary heritage of Albania, bringing historical insights and cultural appreciation to our readers.

Be off, swallow

Farewell, for spring has come,
Be off, swallow, on your flight,
From Egypt to other lands,
Searching over hill and plain
Be off to Albania on your flight,
Off to Shkodra, my native town!

Convey my greetings
To the old house where I was born,
And greet the lands around it
Where I spent my early years;
Be off thither on your flight,
And greet my native town!

And when you come to Fush’ e Rmajit,
Swallow, stop there and take your rest;
In that land of sorrow are the graves
Of the mother and father who raised me;
Weep in your exquisite voice
And lament them with your song!

For ages I have not been to Albania
To attend those graves;
You, swallow, robed in black,
Weep there on my behalf,
With that exquisite voice of yours
Lament them with your song!

[Shko, dallndryshë, from the volume Zani i zemrës, Tirana 1933, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, first published in English in History of Albanian literature, New York 1995, vol. 1, p. 275-275]

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