Girolamo De Rada,
known in Albanian as Jeronim De Rada, is not only the best known
writer of Italian-Albanian literature but also the foremost figure
of the Albanian nationalist movement in nineteenth-century Italy.
Born the son of a
parish priest of Greek rite in Macchia Albanese (Alb. Maqi) in
the mountains of Cosenza, De Rada attended the college of Saint
Adrian in San Demetrio Corone. Already imbued with a passion for
his Albanian lineage, he began collecting folklore material at
an early age.
In October of
1834, in accordance with his fathers wishes, he registered at
the Faculty of Law of the University of Naples, but the main focus
of his interests remained folklore and literature. It was in Naples
in 1836 that De Rada published the first edition of his best known
Albanian-language poem, the 'Songs of Milosao, under the
Italian title Poesie albanesi del secolo XV. Canti di Milosao,
figlio del despota di Scutari
(Albanian poetry from the 15th century. Songs of Milosao,
son of the despot of Shkodra). He was soon forced to abandon his
studies due to a cholera epidemic in Naples and returned home
His second work,
Canti storici albanesi di Serafina Thopia, moglie del principe
Nicola Ducagino, Naples 1839 (Albanian historical songs of Serafina
Thopia, wife of prince Nicholas Dukagjini), was seized by the
Bourbon authorities because of De Radas alleged affiliation with
conspiratorial groups during the Italian Risorgimento. The work
was republished under the title Canti di Serafina Thopia, principessa
di Zadrina nel secolo XV, Naples 1843 (Songs of Serafina Thopia,
princess of Zadrina in the 15th century) and in later years in
a third version as Specchio di umano transito, vita di Serafina
Thopia, Principessa di Ducagino, Naples 1897 (Mirror of human
transience, life of Serafina Thopia, princess of Dukagjin). His
Italian-language historical tragedy I Numidi, Naples 1846 (The
Numidians), elaborated half a century later as Sofonisba, dramma
storico, Naples 1892 (Sofonisba, historical drama), enjoyed only
modest public response.
In the revolutionary
year 1848, De Rada founded the newspaper LAlbanese dItalia (The
Albanian in Italy) which included articles in Albanian. This bilingual
political, moral and literary journal with a final circulation
of 3,200 copies was the first Albanian-language periodical anywhere.
Before Albania had
become a political entity, it was already a poetic reality in
the works of Girolamo De Rada. His vision of an independent Albania
grew in the second half of the nineteenth century from a simple
desire to a realistic political objective to which he was passionately
committed. De Rada was the harbinger and first audible voice of
the Romantic movement in Albanian literature, a movement which,
inspired by his unfailing energy on behalf of national awakening
among Albanians in Italy and in the Balkans, was to evolve into
the romantic nationalism characteristic of the Rilindja period
in Albania. His journalistic, literary and political activities
were instrumental not only in fostering an awareness for the Arbėresh
minority in Italy but also in laying the foundations for an Albanian
The most popular
of his literary works is the above-mentioned Canti di Milosao
(Songs of Milosao), known in Albanian as Kėngėt e Milosaos,
a long romantic ballad portraying the love of Milosao, a fictitious
young nobleman in fifteenth-century Shkodra
(Scutari), who has returned home from Thessalonica. Here, at the
village fountain, he encounters and falls in love with Rina, the
daughter of the shepherd Kollogre. The difference in social standing
between the lovers long impedes their union until an earthquake
destroys both the city and all semblance of class distinction.
After their marriage abroad, a child is born. But the period of
marital bliss does not last long. Milosaos son and wife soon
die, and he himself, wounded in
battle, perishes on a riverbank within sight of Shkodra.
unė pėr qytet,
Reth i bujarve mė mėrzit, dh'andajė
Me shi e djellė fushės njė re ndjek.
Sa bota vlen pėr mua vasha e bardhė,
Prej gjakut tė kulluar e fatbardhė,
Qė hiri i pastėr aqė e hijeshoi,
Kur dy limonj nga malli mė dhuroi.
e qiellit fluturoi,
E lart m'u ngrit e gjumin ma largoi.
Si e pafajme u ēvesha she u shtrova,
E zgjuhem, e kėnaqur qė u zgjova.
E freskėt era, e mua fatgėzuar
Mė duket ky pallat kaq ballėgjerė,
Ku fle njė yll dhe tash qjellit vetmuar.
Fryu era e maleve
dhe rrėzoi hijen e lisit:
gjakun te lumi Obotit.
Ushtėtarėt, ju mė hapni
shpėrvjerrėsen sa tė shoh
Shkodrėn edhe time motėr
tek dritsoreja kundruall.
Atje mė sdo zgjohem unė
luleve qė i pėrkund era
si suvatė tė pasosje.
Do tė mblidhen shokėt mbrėmjes
nė qytet, nė vatrat tona.
Unė si njėndėrrzė i lė!
Tė Milosaut ska mė