One of the most enduringly popular toss-off posts on this site is something I wrote about love poems and Valentine’s Day. In truth, love poetry is not a genre I’ve particularly engaged. Nonetheless:
Ibn Hazm (994 – 1064)
Ibn Hazm’s name is synonymous with love; there’s even a line of jewelry inspired by him and marketed for V-Day. This is largely because of his Ring of the Dove, in uninspiring translation by A.J. Arberry. But this, trans. Ammiel Alcalay, is a poem I found in the new collection Poems for the New Millennium – The University of California Book of North African Literature. Please see a second translation, by Christopher Middleton and Leticia Garza-Falcon, down in the comments.
I would split open my heart
with a knife, place you
within and seal my would,
that you might dwell there
and never inhabit another
until the resurrection and
judgment day — thus you
would stay in my heart
while I lived, and at my death
you too would die in the
entrails of my core, in
the shadow of my tomb.
Ibn Arabi (1165 – 1240)
Translated by Maurice Gloton, also from Poems for the New Millennium:
I BELIEVE IN THE RELIGION OF LOVE
Whatever direction its caravans may take,
For love is my religion and my faith.
Also, part of a chapter from the Kitab al-Tajalliyat, translated in the form of a poem by Henry Corbin. From the Ibn Arabi Society:
I have called you so often and you have not heard me
I have shown myself to you so often and you have not
I have made myself fragrance so often, and you have
not smelled me.
Savorous food, and you have not tasted me.
Why can you not reach me through the object you touch
Or breathe me through sweet perfumes?
Why do you not see me? Why do you not hear me?
Why? Why? Why?
You can also read his “Gentle Now, Doves” and listen to podcasts from the Ibn Arabi society.
Abu Nuwas (756 – 814)
At the Princeton Online Arabic Poetry project, you can hear this poem read aloud as the words scroll by. Editors liken this poem to Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It? and note that this is more a love poem for wine than for women. I’m using the translation from the new Library of Arabic Literature volume, Classical Arabic Literature, selected and translated by Geert Jan Van Gelder
Don’t cry for Layla
Don’t cry for Layla, don’t rave about Hind!
But drink among roses a rose-red wine,
A draught that descends in the drinker’s throat,
bestowing its redness on eyes and cheeks.
The wine is a ruby, the glass is a pearl,
served by the hand of a slim-fingered girl,
Who serves you the wine from her hand, and wine
from her mouth — doubly drunk, for sure, will you be.
Thus I am drunk twice, my friends only once:
a favor special, for me alone!
Al-Ma`arri (973 – 1058)
This is perhaps an anti-Valentine’s Day poem, trans. Tarif Khalidi, who is apparently working on a collection (to which we should all look forward):
Woah! That Ibn Hazm is beautifully translated but (like so much ‘Valentine’ poetry) really, really creepy. I guess they didn’t do restraining orders in the 11th century! Reminds me of Sting’s ‘every breath you take’, ie the ultimate stalker-song…
Haha, yes, I suppose much love poetry does ride that razor’s edge between beautiful and keep-him-away-from-me.
Yes, just been reading Rasheed El-Enany calling Wuthering Heights, that great celebration of violently destructive co-dependence, the romantic novel ‘par excellence’ (and comparing Season of Migration to the North to it…). There’s a Valentine’s Day question: which is a scarier boyfriend prospect, Heathcliff or Mustafa Sa’eed? I guess the latter has a higher headcount but it’s a close-run thing!
Or what do you think of this version, by Christopher Middleton and Leticia Garza-Falcon? I don’t believe they worked from Arabic, but amazing anyway:
Is there no way I might
Open my heart with a knife
I could slip you in
And close the cut again
Till the end of time
Till the resurrection
You’d be inside
No heart but mine
In the webbing of my heart
You’d live my lifetime
In the tomb’s twilight
You’d die when I did
(Ibn Hazm, 994-1063)
Thomas Frick’s reflections on it (“a fiery, violent, grandiose sort of valentine”) are here: http://www.thefreelibrary.com/Andalusian+dreams.-a0134777631
Thanks! “In the webbing of my heart.” Beautifully frightful.
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