The Prisoner in Aghmāt Speaks to His Chains

Muhammad Ii Al-mu’tamid
Arab Andalusian
1040 – 1095

 

I say to my chains,
don’t you understand?
I have surrendered to you.
Why, then, have you no pity,
no tenderness?

You drank my blood.
You ate my flesh.
Don’t crush my bones.

My son Abu Hasim sees me
fettered by you and turns away
his heart made sore.

Have pity on an innocent boy
who never knew fear
and must now come begging to you.

Have pity on his sisters
innocent like him
who have had to swallow poison
and eat bitter fruit.

Some of them are old enough
to understand and I fear
they will go blind from weeping.

The others are now too young
to take it in and open theirs mouths
only to nurse.

Tranlsation by Cola Franzen

The Palace and the Garden

We present this work in honor of Shavuot.

06-05 Ibn Gabirol
Solomon Ibn Gabirol
Arab Andalusian
1021 – 1070

Come, spend a night in the country with me,
my friend (you whom the stars above would gladly call their friend),
for winter’s finally over. Listen
to the chatter of the doves and swallows!
We’ll lounge beneath the pomegranates, palm trees, apple trees,
under every lovely, leafy thing,
and walk among the vines,
enjoy the splendid faces we will see,
in a lofty palace built of noble stones.
Resting solidly on thick foundations,
its walls like towers fortified,
set upon a flat place, plains all around it
splendid to look at from within its courts.
Chambers constructed, adorned with carvings,
open-work and closed-work,
paving of alabaster, paving of marble,
gates so many that I can’t even count them!
Chamber doors paneled with ivory like palace doors,
reddened with panels of cedar, like the Temple.
Wide windows over them,
and within those windows, the sun and moon and stars!
It has a dome, too, like Solomon’s palanquin,
suspended like a jewel-room,
turning, changing,
pearl-colored; crystal and marble
in day-time; but in the evening seeming
just like the night sky, all set with stars.
It cheers the heart of the poor and the weary;
perishing, bitter men forget their want.
I saw it once and I forgot my troubles,
my heart took comfort from distress,
my body seemed to fly for joy,
as if on wings of eagles.
There was a basin brimming, like Solomon’s basin,
but not on the backs of bulls like his –
lions stood around its edge
with wells in their innards, and mouths gushing water;
they made you think of whelps that roar for prey;
for they had wells inside them, wells that emitted
water in streams through their mouths like rivers.
Then there were canals with does planted by them,
does that were hollow, pouring water,
sprinkling the plants planted in the garden-beds,
casting pure water upon them,
watering the myrtle-garden,
treetops fresh and sprinkling,
and everything was fragrant as spices,
everything as if it were perfumed with myrrh.
Birds were singing in the boughs,
peering through the palm-fronds,
and there were fresh and lovely blossoms –
rose, narcissus, saffron –
each one boasting that he was the best,
(though we thought every one was beautiful).
The narcissuses said, “We are so white
we rule the sun and moon and stars!”
The doves complained at such talk and said,
“No, we are the princesses here! Just see our neck-rings,
with which we charm the hearts of men,
dearer far than pearls.”
The bucks rose up against the girls
and darkened their splendor with their own,
boasting that they were the best of all,
because they are like young rams.
But when the sun rose over them,
I cried out, “Halt! Do not cross the boundaries!”

The Eagle and the Crow: a Dialogue

05-01 Unsuri
Unsuri
Persian
d. 1039

 

A dialogue occurred, I happen to know,
Betwixt the white eagle and the crow.

Birds we are, said the crow, in the main,
Friends we are, and thus we shall remain.

Birds we are, agreed the eagle, only in name,
Our temperaments, alas, are not the same.

My leftovers are a king’s feast,
Carrion you devour, to say the least.

My perch’s the king’s arm, his palace my bed,
You haunt the ruins, mingle with the dead.

My color is heavenly, as everyone can tell,
Your color inflicts pain, like news from hell.

Kings tend to choose me rather than you,
Good attracts good, that goes for evil too.

 

Translation by Iraj Bashiri

To as-Samar

03-23 Al Kiram
Umm Al-Kiram
Arab Andalusian
c. 1070

 

Marvelously, friends,
of what has harvested a burning passion
therefore not for that, there would be lowered,
accompanied by the moon, the night,
from the highest heaven to Earth.
My passion is that I love in such a way
that if I broke up, my heart would follow him.

Oh, I wish I knew.

If there is a way to be alone together
which do not reach the ears of the spy.
How wonderful
I want to be alone with my beloved
living, even when it is in my gut and in my chest.

Pu Suan Tzu

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 985th birthday.

01-08 Su
Su Shi
Chinese
1037 – 1101

A fragment moon hangs from the bare tung tree
The water clock runs out, all is still
Who sees the dim figure come and go alone
Misty, indistinct, the shadow of a lone wild goose?

Startled, she gets up, looks back
With longing no one sees
And will not settle on any of the cold branches
Along the chill and lonely beach