Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Letter From Under The Sea

Nizar Qabbani (1923-88) was a Syrian diplomat and poet. He is one of the most famous Arab poets. He is a controversial figure as he tackles such subjects as mysticism and feminism in his poetry.
رسالة من تحت الماء

إن كنتَ صديقي.. ساعِدني
كَي أرحَلَ عَنك..
أو كُنتَ حبيبي.. ساعِدني
كَي أُشفى منك
لو أنِّي أعرِفُ أنَّ الحُبَّ خطيرٌ جِدَّاً
ما أحببت
لو أنِّي أعرفُ أنَّ البَحرَ عميقٌ جِداً
ما أبحرت..
لو أنِّي أعرفُ خاتمتي
ما كنتُ بَدأت...
إشتقتُ إليكَ.. فعلِّمني
أن لا أشتاق
علِّمني كيفَ أقُصُّ جذورَ هواكَ من الأعماق
علِّمني كيف تموتُ الدمعةُ في الأحداق
علِّمني كيفَ يموتُ القلبُ وتنتحرُ الأشواق
إن كنتَ قويَّاً.. أخرجني
من هذا اليَمّ..
فأنا لا أعرفُ فنَّ العوم
الموجُ الأزرقُ في عينيك.. يُجرجِرُني نحوَ الأعمق
وأنا ما عندي تجربةٌ
في الحُبِّ .. ولا عندي زَورَق
إن كُنتُ أعزُّ عليكَ فَخُذ بيديّ
فأنا عاشِقَةٌ من رأسي حتَّى قَدَمَيّ
إني أتنفَّسُ تحتَ الماء..
إنّي أغرق..

Letter from under the sea 

If you are my friend...help me
   To leave you...
   Or if you are my lover...help me
   So that I may be cured of you
Had I known love was so perilous
I wouldn't have loved
Had I know the ocean was so deep
I wouldn't have set sail...
Had I known my end
I wouldn't have begun...
   I long for you...so teach me
   Not to long
   Teach me
   How to cut the roots of your affection from their depths
   Teach me
   How tears may perish in the eyes
   Teach me
   How the heart may die and yearning may end
If you're a prophet...release me
From this spell...
From this blasphemy
Your love is blasphemy...so cleanse me
From this blasphemy...
If you are strong...pull me out
Of this open sea...
As I don't know how to swim
   The blue waves in your eyes...drag me to the depths
   I'm untried
   In love...and I have no raft...
If I am dear to you...then take me by the hand
I am filled with desire from head to toe
I'm drowning...

(my own translation)

Like many Arabic poems, 'A letter from under the sea' is also well-known in song form. See the famous Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez performing it here and here.