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


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