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!”

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.

The Sun

In honor of Muharram, we present this work by one of Islam’s great medieval poets.

Al-haitham
Arab Andalusian
965 – 1040

 

Look at the beautiful sun:
as it rises, it shows one golden eyebrow,
plays miser with the other one,

but we know that soon
it will spread out a radiant veil
over all.

A marvelous mirror that appears in the East
only to hide again at dusk.

The sky is saddened
when the sun leaves
and puts on mourning robes.

I believe that falling stars
are nothing more
than sky’s gem-hard tears.

 

Translation by Cola Franzen

Listen to My Words

06-04 Buthaina
Buthaina bint al-Mu’tamid ibn Abbad
Arab Andalusian
1070 – ?

 

Listen to my words, echoes of noble breeding.
You cannot deny I was snatched as a spoil of war,
I, the daughter of a Banu Abbad king, a great king
whose days were soured by time and chased away.
When Allah willed to break us hypocrisy fed us
grief and ripped us apart.
I escaped but was ambushed and sold as a slave
to a man who saved my innocence
so I could marry his kind and honourable son.
And now, father, would you tell me
if he should be my spouse,
and I hope royal Rumaika would bless our happiness.

The Land of Peace

We present this work in honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut.

Solomon Ibn Gabirol
Arab Andalusian
1021 – 1070

 

Whose works, O Lord, like Thine can be,
Who ‘neath Thy throne of grace,
For those pure souls from earth set free,
Hast made a dwelling-place?

There are the sinless spirits bound
Up in the bond of life,
The weary there new strength have found,
The weak have rest from strife.

Sweet peace and calm their spirits bless,
Who reach that heavenly home.
And never-ending pleasantness—
Such is the world to come.

There glorious visions manifold
Those happy ones delight,
And in God’s presence they behold
Themselves, and Him, aright.

In the King’s palace they abide,
And at His table eat,
With kingly dainties satisfied,
Spiritual food most sweet.

This is the rest for ever sure,
This is the heritage,
Whose goodness and whose bliss endure
Unchanged from age to age.

This is the land the spirit knows,
That everlastingly
With milk and honey overflows,
And such its fruit shall be.

 

Translation by Alice Lucas

I Fear for You

We present this work in honor of the 930th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Wallada bint al-Mustakfi
Arab Andalusian
1001 – 1091

 

I fear for you, my beloved so much, that even my own sight
even the ground you tread
even the hours that pass threaten to snatch you away from me.
Even if I were able to conceal you within the pupils of my eyes
and hide you there until
the Day of Judgment my fear would still not be allayed.