These are mostly from the medieval sourcebook but would love to see the original Arabic of some of these.
Not always wealth, not always force
A splendid destiny commands;
The lordly vulture gnaws the corpse
That rots upon yon barren sands.
Nor want, nor weakness still conspires
To bind us to a sordid state;
The fly that with a touch expires
Sips honey from the royal plate.
---The Holy Imam Shafay
To a Lady Weeping
When I beheld thy blue eyes shine
Through the bright drop that pity drew,
I saw beneath those tears of thine
A blue-ey'd violet bathed in dew.
The violet ever scents the gale,
Its hues adorn the fairest wreath,
But sweetest through a dewy veil
Its colors glow, its odors breathe.
And thus thy charms in brightness rise---
When wit and pleasure round thee play,
When mirth sits smiling in thine eyes,
Who but admires their sprightly ray?
But when through pity's flood they gleam,
Who but must love their softened beam?
---Ibn Al Rumi
To A Lady Blushing
Leila, whene'er I gaze on thee
My altered cheek turns pale,
While upon thine, sweet maid, I see
A deep'ning blush prevail.
Leila, shall I the cause impart
Why such a change takes place?
The crimson stream deserts my heart,
To mantle on thy face.
---The Caliph Radhi Billah
On The Vicissitudes Of Life
Mortal joys, however pure,
Soon their turbid source betray;
Mortal bliss, however sure,
Soon must totter and decay.
Ye who now, with footsteps keen,
Range through hope's delusive field,
Tell us what the smiling scene
To your ardent grasp can yield?
Other youths have oft before
Deemed their joys would never fade,
Till themselves were seen no more
Swept into oblivion's shade.
Who, with health and pleasure gay,
E'er his fragile state could know,
Were not age and pain to say
Man is but the child of woe?
---The Caliph Radhi Billah
To A Dove
The dove to ease an aching breast,
In piteous murmurs vents her cares;
Like me she sorrows, for opprest,
Like me, a load of grief she bears.
Her plaints are heard in every wood,
While I would fain conceal my woes;
But vain's my wish, the briny flood,
The more I strive, the faster flows.
Sure, gentle bird, my drooping heart
Divides the pangs of love with thine,
And plaintive murm'rings are thy part,
And silent grief and tears are mine.
On A Thunderstorm
Bright smiled the morn, 'till o'er its head
The clouds in thicken'd foldings spread
A robe of sable hue;
Then, gathering round day's golden king,
They stretched their wide o'ershadowing wing,
And hid him from our view.
The rain his absent beams deplored,
And, soften'd into weeping, poured
Its tears in many a flood;
The lightning laughed with horrid glare;
The thunder growled, in rage; the air
In silent sorrow stood.
---Ibrahim Ben Khiret Abou Isaac
Caprices Of Fortune
Why should I blush that Fortune's frown
Dooms me life's humble paths to tread?
To live unheeded, and unknown?
To sink forgotten to the dead?
'Tis not the good, the wise, the brave,
That surest shine, or highest rise;
The feather sports upon the wave,
The pearl in ocean's cavern lies.
Each lesser star that studs the sphere
Sparkles with undiminish'd light;
Dark and eclipsed alone appear
The lord of day, the queen of night.
---Shems Almaali Cabus
On The Death Of A Son
Tyrant of man! Imperious Fate!
I bow before thy dread decree,
Nor hope in this uncertain state
To find a seat secure from thee.
Life is a dark, tumultuous stream,
With many a care and sorrow foul,
Yet thoughtless mortals vainly deem
That it can yield a limpid bowl.
Think not that stream will backward flow,
Or cease its destined course to keep;
As soon the blazing spark shall glow
Beneath the surface of the deep.
Believe not Fate at thy command
Will grant a meed she never gave;
As soon the airy tower shall stand,
That's built upon a passing wave.
Life is a sleep of threescore years,
Death bids us wake and hail the light,
And man, with all his hopes and fears,
Is but a phantom of the night.
---Ali Ben Mohammed Altahmany
by Nimah Nawwab
When the call of the hudhud,
Echoes through the palm fronds
Carrying in their mists,
Caravans of high spirited steads,
Crisscrossing the endless seas of sand,
Rushing through the oasis,
Free, yet under control.
Of women washing in the hot springs,
Sheltered in the evergreen palms,
Cooking, sewing, scampering after the herds,
Of days filled with toil.
Casting its mild light over campsites,
The moonlight’s silver shadow
Illuminating bearded faces,
Young boys thumping their feet
To the wild desert drum beat
‘Dana, ya dan dan’
Singing of the pearls in the far away gulf
‘Dana, ya dan dan’
The warm cardamom scented breeze
Carrying the fresh coffee aroma,
Warming, sizzling in the golden hooked pots
To the young giggling girls
Shyly peeking from behind the partitioned tent walls.
Flames flickering in the pit
Wood slowly consumed, sparks flying,
Dancing to the strain: ‘dana, ya dan dan.’
The cry of the hudhud
Sweeps through the quiet morning air,
To the dawn of a new century.
Blown away by the winds of change.
* Hudhud hoopoe
** Dana refers to a type of Gulf pearls, and the refrain
‘dana ya dan dan’ is a popular one used in Gulf songs.
In his poem "In the deserts of exile," Palestinian writer Jabra Ibrahim Jabra feels nostalgia for a lost Palestine, this "green land of ours." Compared to the fertile valley he knew, the land is presently waste:
O land of ours where our childhood passed
Like dreams in the shade of the orange-grove,
Among the almond-trees in the valleys--
Remember us now wandering
Among the thorns of the desert,
Wandering in rocky mountains;
Remember us now
In the tumult of cities beyond deserts and seas;
With our eyes full of dust
That never clears in our ceaseless wandering. (Jabra 1974, 227)
For Jabra, the war has "Unfolded the desert before us" (Jabra 1974, 227), and the desert is a place of exile, where "Only the dust hisses in our face" (Jabra 1974, 229). In the Arab culture, wandering within a village or city plays a positive role. It offers the opportunity for interconnectedness among people. Wandering in a desert, however, is aimless as it offers no chance for such a connection.
BY ABU MOHAMMED.
THE boatmen shout, "’Tis time to part,
No longer we can stay; "
’Twas then Maimuna taught my heart
How much a glance could say.
With trembling steps to me she came;
"Farewell," she would have cried,
But ere her lips the word could frame,
In half-formed sounds it died.
Then bending down, with looks of love,
Her arms she round me flung,
And as the gale hangs on the grove,
Upon my breast she hung.
My willing arms embraced the maid,
My heart with raptures beat;
While she but wept the more and said,
"Would we had never met!"
TO THE KHALIF
ON HIS UNDERTAKING A PILGRIMAGE TO MECCA.
From PRINCE IBRAHIM BEN ADHEM.
RELIGION'S gems can ne’er adorn
The flimsy robe by Pleasure worn:
Its feeble texture soon would tear,
And give those jewels to the air.
Thrice happy they who seek th’ abode
Of peace and pleasure, in their God!
Who spurn the world, its joys despise,
And grasp at bliss beyond the skies.
Qassem Haddad - Bahrain
Words From a Young Night
We are not an island,
except to whoever sees us from the sea.
Wine in half the cup,
the other half was not empty;
it was lost in ecstasy
is to breathe unused air.
They delighted in sleeping
because of the treasures it lay
between their eyes.
I write about love
the way a child draws his impressions of
An impossible dream
is kinder than a rampant delusion.
The curtain on the window
is an orderly more powerful
than his sultan.
A vessel between water and fire,
an enticement for flames.
He counted his friends to me
on the fingers of his hand.
Then I realized
that his hand had no fingers.
To rule = terror to force acceptance.
To dissent = terror to force resistance.
Both seek to grant prosperity to the people
under one power.
I am not free to accept.
I am free only to oppose.
I see the wind playing with the banner
of this place,
while people go without air.
A space crowded with answers.
Everyone is singed with answers.
Answers in every comer,
and in everything
there are questions.
He wants to apologize,
not because he was an enemy
but because he revealed himself as one.
Pigs are useful too.
They sing about the garbage bins.
She is like a state.
She puts on her make-up
and talks to her mirror,
and never listens to people.
All this night
is not enough for my dreams.
we do nothing but confirm the futility
that has been impossible to detect.
I let my memory graze on its own…
To forget the wound and remember the knife.
is said to be the opposite of the past,
and we are in an endless present.
I have many secrets.
I stud them in my poems
and I toss them in the air of language.
Someone has to expose them.
This person I do not know
and who does not know me,
why is he so late in arriving
to the loneliness of the sidewalk.
The children grind their teeth,
and grind with their hearts.
you are not alone.
There are countless other hermits.
I look at them;
they are ready to change their stances
by simply shuffling their shoes.
They meet to dialogue
and they exchange points of view
the way they exchange masks.
is a flagrant accommodation of folly.
You will not convince him with words
if he is not convinced by reality.
Before you sleep
place a rose on your chest.
What is the difference..
between someone blind
and someone who does not want to see.
The clicking of my chains fills the place,
who claim freedom.
My lip trembles now before a word...
My lip is defeated.
Be prepared... the past is coming.
Translated by Khaled Mattawa
Tawfiq Zayyad - Iraq
Here We Will Stay
In Lidda, in Ramla, in the Galilee,
we shall remain
like a wall upon your chest,
and in your throat
like a shrad of glass,
a cactus thron,
and in your eyes
We shall remain
a wall upon your chest,
clean dishes in your restaurants,
serve drinks in your bars,
sweep the floors of your kitchens
to snatch a bite for our children
from your blue fangs.
Here we shall stay,
sing our songs,
take to the angry streets,
fill prisons with dignity.
In Lidda, in Ramla, in the galilee,
we shall remain,
guard the shade of the fig
and olive trees,
ferment rebellion in our children
as yeast in the dough.
All I Have
I never carried a rifle
On my shoulder
Or pulled a trigger.
All I have
Is a flute's melody
A brush to paint my dreams,
A bottle of ink.
All I have
Is unshakeable faith
And an infinite love
For my people in pain.
When they ran over her,
the mulberry tree said:
"Do what you wish,
my right to bear fruit
will never die."
But they know that my country
has known a thousand conquerors
and they know
that the thousand
have all melted away
like driven snow.