Friday, 10 June 2011

On Wishes - Mahmoud Darwish

Mahmoud Darwish is one of the most well-known Arab poets. He was born in 1941 in Palestine, in the village of Birwa, which was destroyed in 1948. His family then settled in Galilee. He received little formal education. His first volume of poetry, 'Birds without Wings', was published in 1960. In 1971 Darwish left the country and moved first to Cairo, becoming a contributor to the newspaper Al-Ahram.The political question of the Palestinian homeland forms the subject-matter of most of Darwish's poetry. As Denys Johnson-Davies explains in the introduction to 'The Music of Human Flesh', a compilation of translated Darwish poems, 'the key to an understanding of his poetry is that it consists largely of an extended and desperate love affair with his lost homeland. However unsatisfactory and painful the love affair, however hopeless of consummation, he has no choice but to continue with it.'

Don’t say to me:
     Would I were a seller of bread in Algiers
     That I might sing with a rebel.
Don’t say to me:
     Would I were a herdsman in the Yemen
     That I might sing to the shudderings of time.
Don’t say to me:
     Would I were a cafe waiter in Havana
     That I might sing the victories of sorrowing women.
Don’t say to me:
     Would I worked as a young laborer in Aswan
     That I might sing to the rocks.

My friend,
The Nile will not flow into the Volga,
Nor the Congo or the Jordan into the Euphrates.
Each river has its source, its course, its life.
My friend, our land is not barren.
Each land has its time for being born,
Each dawn a date with a rebel.

 عن الأمنيات

لا تقل لي:
ليتني بائع خبر في الجزائر
لأغني مع ثائر!
لا تقل لي:
ليتني راعي مواشٍ في اليمن
لأغني لانتفاضات الزمن
لا تقل لي:
ليتني عامل مقهى في هافانا
لأغني لانتصارات الحزانى!
لا تقل لي:
ليتني أعمل في أسوان حمّالاً صغير
لأغني للصخور
يا صديقي! لن يصب النيل في الفولغا
ولا الكونغو، ولا الأردن، في نهر الفرات!
كل نهر، وله نبع... ومجرى... وحياة!
يا صديقي!... أرضنا ليست بعاقر
كل أرض، ولها ميلادها
كل فجر، وله موعد ثائر!

Translation by Denys Johnson-Davies

The poem was set to music in the 1980s by a Palestinian group, Sabreen.