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Migjeni, the poet of poverty

  • 10/13/2020 11:00 PM
Migjeni, the poet of poverty
Albanian poet Millosh Gjergj Nikolla

Albanian poetry begins its course with Migjeni. Millosh Gjergj Nikolla, was born in Shkodra in 1911. As a boy, he attended a Serbian Orthodox elementary school in Shkodra and from 1923 to 1925 a secondary school in Tivar on the Montenegrin coast. In the autumn of 1925, when he was fourteen, he obtained a scholarship to attend a secondary school in Monastir (Bitola) in southern Macedonia. In Monastir he studied Old Church Slavonic, Russian, Greek, Latin and French.

Graduating from school in 1927, he entered the Orthodox Seminary of St. John the Theologian, also in Monastir, where, despite incipient health problems, he continued his training and studies until June 1932. He read as many books as he could get his hands on: Russian, Serbian and French literature in particular, which were more to his tastes than theology. His years in Monastir confronted him with the dichotomy of East and West, with the Slavic soul of Holy Mother Russia and of the southern Slavs, which he encountered in the works of Fyodor Dostoyevsky , Ivan Turgenev , Lev Tolstoy , Nikolay Gogol and Maksim Gorky , and with socially critical authors of the West from Jean-Jacques Rousseau , Friedrich Schiller , Stendhal and Emile Zola to Upton Sinclair , Jack London and Ben Traven .

On his return to Shkodra in 1932, after failing to win a scholarship to study in the wonderful West, he decided to take up a teaching career rather than join the priesthood for which he had been trained. On 23 April 1933, he was appointed teacher of Albanian at a school in the Serb village of Vraka, seven kilometers from Shkodra. It was during this period that he also began writing prose sketches and verses which reflect the life and anguish of an intellectual in what certainly was and has remained the most backward region of Europe.

In May 1934 his first short prose piece "Suffering Socrates" was published in the periodical "Illyria", under his new pen name Migjeni, an acronym of Millosh Gjergj Nikolla. Migjeni received a transfer to the village of Puka and on 18th of April 1936 began his activities as the headmaster of the run-down school there.

The clear mountain air did him some good, but the poverty and misery of the mountain tribes in and around Puka were even more overwhelming than that which he had experienced among the inhabitants of the coastal plain. After eighteen hard months in the mountains, the consumptive poet was obliged to put an end to his career as a teacher and as a writer, and to seek medical treatment in Turin in northern. He died on 26, August 1938. His demise at the age of twenty-six was a tragic loss for modern Albanian letters.

Migjeni is the author of about twenty-four short prose sketches which he published in periodicals for the most part between the spring of 1933 and the spring of 1938.

Migjeni made his mark on Albanian literature and culture, though he did so posthumously. He possessed all the prerequisites for being a great poet. He had an inquisitive mind, a depressive pessimistic nature and a repressed sexuality. Though his verse production was no more voluminous than his prose, his success in the field of poetry was no less than spectacular in Albania at the time. Migjeni's poems: Fragment, Final Songs, Song Of Youth, Blasphemy, Poem Of Poverty, Resignation, Song Of Noble Grief. The fact that Migjeni did perish so young makes it difficult to provide a critical assessment of his work.

The song of youth

Sing, youth, the loveliest song you know!
Sing the song that seethes within your breast,
Let your joy burst forth in passion...
Don't hold back your song! Let it soar.

Sing your song, youth. I beg you sing...
Let it seizes you, kiss you, inspire you to love
With youthful ardour... Let the foaming wave of feelings
Which your song arouses surge over us.

Sing your song, youth, and laugh like children!
Let the sound of your voice rise to the heavens
And echo back to us again, from the envious stars.

For we adore you, as we adore the sun.
Sing, youth! Sing your joyful song!
Laugh, youth, laugh! The world is yours.