‘We Have On This Earth What Makes Life Worth Living’

I think Ramsey Nasr’s poem (below) speaks to the ongoing Bab Al Shams project. But in Elias Khoury’s letter to the village’s founders, the Lebanese novelist — author of Bab Al Shams (Gate of the Sun) — referenced a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, “We have on this earth what makes life worth living”:

163356_491451367564933_566119441_nI found a number of translations of this poem online. Below are two rather different versions by translators of Unfortunately, It Was Paradise (perhaps modified slightly by Darryl Li in the reading) and Karim Abuawad; at bottom is the original.

The translation from Unfortunately (via Li) is transcribed from a video, so I’m not sure how it should be laid out on the page.

We have on this earth what makes life worth living

the aroma of bread at dawn

a woman’s opinion of men

the works of Aeschylus

the beginnings of love

grass on a stone

mothers who live on a flute’s sigh

and the invaders’ fear of memories

we have on this earth what makes life worth living

the waning days of dawn

a woman leaving forty in full blossom

the hour of sunlight in prison

a cloud resembling a pack of creatures

the applause of a people for those who face their end with a smile

and the tyrants’ fear of songs

we have on this earth what makes life worth living

on this earth, the lady of earth

the mother of all beginnings

the mother of all endings

she was called Palestine

she came to be called Palestine

o lady, beause you are my lady

I am worthy of life

Karim Abuawad’s translation:

On this earth what makes life worth living:

the hesitance of April

the scent of bread at dawn

an amulet made by a woman for men

Aeschylus’s works

the beginnings of love

moss on a stone

the mothers standing on the thinness of a flute

and the fear of invaders of memories.

On this earth what makes life worth living:

September’s end

a lady moving beyond her fortieth year without losing any of her grace

a sun clock in a prison

clouds imitating a flock of creatures

chants of a crowd for those meeting their end smiling

and the fear of tyrants of the songs.

On this earth what makes life worth living:

on this earth stands the mistress of the earth

mother of beginnings

mother of endings

it used to be known as Palestine

it became known as Palestine

my mistress:

I deserve, because you’re my mistress

I deserve life.

From Darwish:

على هذه الأرض ما يستحق الحياة: تردد إبريل، رائحة الخبزِ

في الفجر، آراء امرأة في الرجال، كتابات أسخيليوس ، أول

الحب، عشب على حجرٍ، أمهاتٌ تقفن على خيط ناي، وخوف

الغزاة من الذكرياتْ.

على هذه الأرض ما يستحق الحياةْ: نهايةُ أيلولَ، سيّدةٌ تترُكُ

الأربعين بكامل مشمشها، ساعة الشمس في السجن، غيمٌ يُقلّدُ

سِرباً من الكائنات، هتافاتُ شعب لمن يصعدون إلى حتفهم

باسمين، وخوفُ الطغاة من الأغنياتْ.

على هذه الأرض ما يستحقّ الحياةْ: على هذه الأرض سيدةُ

الأرض، أم البدايات أم النهايات. كانت تسمى فلسطين. صارتْ

تسمى فلسطين. سيدتي: أستحق، لأنك سيدتي، أستحق الحياة