Nizar Qabani is well known Arab poet from Syria. He is known as the ‘woman’s poet’ because much of his work focuses on romance and relationships.

I’ve decided to take a stab at my own translation of one of his poems (below). I was inspired to write up this translation when a friend of mine, who is actually a relative of Nizar Qabani, introduced me to his work via Youtube videos.

The poem below is famous and has been rendered into a song by several arab singers. I think this is the best one (note this vid is considered an oldie for arabic music).



جَلَسَت والخوفُ بعينيها

She sat down, with fear in her eyes


تتأمَّلُ فنجاني المقلوب

Contemplating into the tilted coffee cup


قالت:

She said


يا ولدي.. لا تَحزَن

Oh my son, don’t be sad


فالحُبُّ عَليكَ هوَ المكتوب

For love is written for you


يا ولدي،

Oh my son

قد ماتَ شهيداً

He has died a martyr


من ماتَ على دينِ المحبوب

The one who has died for the beloved


فنجانك دنيا مرعبةٌ

Your cup is hectic world


وحياتُكَ أسفارٌ وحروب..

And your life is filled with travel and wars


ستُحِبُّ كثيراً يا ولدي..

You will love a much my son


وتموتُ كثيراً يا ولدي

And you will die a lot my son


وستعشقُ كُلَّ نساءِ الأرض..

And you will love all of the world’s women


وتَرجِعُ كالملكِ المغلوب

And you’ll return like a defeated king


بحياتك يا ولدي امرأةٌ

In your life, my son, is woman


عيناها، سبحانَ المعبود

Her eyes – Glory be to the worshipped


فمُها مرسومٌ كالعنقود

Her mouth drawn like a vine of grapes


ضحكتُها موسيقى و ورود

Her laugh is musical and rosy


لكنَّ سماءكَ ممطرةٌ..

But your skies are rainy


وطريقكَ مسدودٌ.. مسدود

And your path is blocked, blocked


فحبيبةُ قلبكَ.. يا ولدي

So the love of your heart my son


نائمةٌ في قصرٍ مرصود

Is sleeping in a protected palace


والقصرُ كبيرٌ يا ولدي

And the palace is large my son


وكلابٌ تحرسُهُ.. وجنود

Protected by dogs and soldiers


وأميرةُ قلبكَ نائمةٌ..

And the princess of your heart is sleeping


من يدخُلُ حُجرتها مفقود..

The one who enters her room will be gone, gone


من يطلبُ يَدَها..

The one who asks for her hand


من يَدنو من سورِ حديقتها.. مفقود

The one who approaches her garden … will be gone


من حاولَ فكَّ ضفائرها..

The one who tries to unbraid her locks


يا ولدي..

Oh my son


مفقودٌ.. مفقود

Will be gone, gone


بصَّرتُ.. ونجَّمت كثيراً

I’ve seen and foretold a lot


لكنّي.. لم أقرأ أبداً

But I’ve never read


فنجاناً يشبهُ فنجانك

A cup similar to your cup


لم أعرف أبداً يا ولدي..

Oh my son, I’ve never known


أحزاناً تشبهُ أحزانك

Sorrow’s that match your sorrow


مقدُورُكَ.. أن تمشي أبداً

Your destiny… is to forever


في الحُبِّ .. على حدِّ الخنجر

On the path of love… go on along the blade’s edge


وتَظلَّ وحيداً كالأصداف

And you will be alone, like flowers


وتظلَّ حزيناً كالصفصاف

And sad like the willow tree


مقدوركَ أن تمضي أبداً..

Your destiny is to forever


في بحرِ الحُبِّ بغيرِ قُلوع

Sail in the ocean of love


وتُحبُّ ملايينَ المَرَّاتِ…

You’ll love millions of times


وترجعُ كالملكِ المخلوع..

And you’ll return like an overthrown king