Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day 2012: Saying It with Words--Your Own, or Those of Syrian Poet Nizar Qabbani نزار توفيق قباني‎

I have written posts previously on the origins, and cultural practices of Valentine's Day, including the traditional gifts of cards, flowers, chocolates, and jewellery. Regular readers are familiar with my (as yet) still unfulfilled quest for the gift of a ruby tiara, in fact this tiara:

However, I have also written about the importance of the sentiments of love, affection, fondness, and friendship at the core of Valentine's Day, and that make it a day of celebration for all those who wish to express their special feelings on this particular day. Though Valentine's celebrations are forbidden in certain countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, and now Uzbekistan, in fact people in these countries find ways to celebrate, through forethought and creativity.

Another aspect of celebrating one's feelings for another, whether romantic, platonic, or amicable, is through the words one says or writes. Some are more eloquent than others; for all, poetry can be a source of inspiration, or a way of saying what one may not have the facility to say. A gift of a poem, whether written or sung as a lyric, can be very special, and not easily censored.

I asked a Saudi friend if she had an Arabic love poem to recommend for this post, and she sent the following one by 20th century Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani نزار توفيق قباني‎ (21 March 1923 – 30 April 1998):

اكرهها واشتهي وصلها
وانني احب كرهي لها
احب هذا المكر في عينها
وزورها ان زورت قولها
اكرهها عين كعين الذئب محتاة
طافت اكاذيب الهوى حولها
قد سكن الجنون احداقها
واطفات ثورتها عقلها
اشك في شكي اذا اقبلت باكية
شارحة ذلها
فان ترفقت بها استكبرت
وجررت ضاحكة ذيلها
ان عانقتني كسرت اضلعي
وافرغت على فمي غلها
يحبها حقدي و يا طالما وددت اذ طوقتها قتلها

Although I had heard the name before, this suggestion sent me looking for more information, and further examples of Qabbani's poetry. Nizar Qabbani was not only a poet, but a lawyer, a diplomat, and a feminist, progressive intellectual, whose poetry evolved from love poetry, often erotic, to more political themes for the Arab cause, often expressed through love metaphors. He was an exquisite writer, from age 16 to his death at 75. No one loved Damascus more, as his 1998 book of poems Alphabet of Jasmine / أبجدية الياسمين attests.

It seems fitting then on this particular Valentine's Day, when Syria and Syrians are suffering so greatly, to invoke the love poetry of one of Syria's greatest national and nationalist love poets. The 3 poems that follow are ones I chose from a site that presents Qabbani's poems in translation. Another site presents longer poems in both Arabic and the English translation. Of course an internet search in either Arabic or English will reveal many more.


Do not say my love was
A ring or a bracelet.
My love is a siege,
Is the daring and headstrong.
Who, searching sail out to their death.

Do not say my love was
A moon.
My love is a burst of sparks.

In The Summer

In the summer
I stretch out on the shore
And think of you
Had I told the sea
What I felt for you,
It would have left its shores,
Its shells,
Its fish,
And followed me.


When a man is in love
how can he use old words?
Should a woman
desiring her lover
lie down with
grammarians and linguists?

I said nothing
to the woman I loved
but gathered
love's adjectives into a suitcase
and fled from all languages.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Related Posts:
St Valentine, His Day, and Its Celebration
Valentine's Day 2011: "El Día del amor y la amistad" or "Love and Friendship Day"

See Also:
For Valentine’s Day: Give Me Great Love, Give Me Great Passion, and Give Me Great Darkness, Too (Arabic Literature in Translation)

Qabbani translated to English:
On Entering the Sea (1998)
Arabian Love Poems (1998) translated by Bassam Frangieh and Clementina R. Brown
Republic of Love (2002) translated by Nayef al-Kalali

What are your favourite love poems (in any language)?
What poem would you most like to receive, give?
Other thoughts, comments, impressions, experiences?


Majed said...

May Allah include Nizar in his mercy and forgiveness.

Mr.Nizar was a revolutionist poet in term of literature as his poem like very few other modern poets did not follow the traditional way of composing poem,he did not care about following the usual rhyming and measuring style which makes saying poetry a very hard job for those with limited reservoir of vocabulary , his poetry is more like prose than poetry,yet very lovely,appealing and intelligible and above all he spoke for all those men who can not dare speak out their feeling and love for women in straight forward way, and also gave women what they love the the most: admiring their treasures and adoration, this way earned the love of of men and women some loved him in secret and some openly.

We had many other wonderful love poets in history but most were royalty poet, exclusively said volumes of respectful loving poems just for one individual woman that they loved and cherished and eternalized had never turned to any other women , but Mr. nizar
to contrary loved all the women of the world and mostly loved their outer shell and hardly in any of his poems he forget to mention their breasts he spoke so much of breasts that most people call him the poet of breasts.

And because of his sensual poetry,there was a great debate whether he should be considered a Muslim or not and whether he should be buried in Muslims grave yards or not.

Susanne said...

Hope you had a wonderful Valentine's Day!


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