On Mahmoud Darwish’s Birthday, a New Translation of ‘The Second Olive Tree’

On the anniversary of the birth of the great Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008), poet Marilyn Hacker shares a new translation:

The Second Olive Tree

By Mahmoud Darwish

Translated by Marilyn Hacker

The olive tree does not weep and does not laugh. The olive tree
Is the hillside’s modest lady. Shadow
Covers her one leg, and she will not take her leaves off in front of the storm.
Standing, she is seated, and seated, standing.
She lives as a friendly sister of eternity, neighbor of time
That helps her stock her luminous oil and
Forget the invaders’ names, except the Romans, who
Coexisted with her, and borrowed some of her branches
To weave wreaths. They did not treat her as a prisoner of war
But as a venerable grandmother, before whose calm dignity
Swords shatter. In her reticent silver-green
Color hesitates to say what it thinks, and to look at what is behind
The portrait, for the olive tree is neither green nor silver.
The olive tree is the color of peace, if peace needed
A color. No one says to the olive tree: How beautiful you are!
But: How noble and how splendid! And she,
She who teaches soldiers to lay down their rifles
And re-educates them in tenderness and humility: Go home
And light your lamps with my oil! But
These soldiers, these modern soldiers
Besiege her with bulldozers and uproot her from her lineage
Of earth. They vanquished our grandmother who foundered,
Her branches on the ground, her roots in the sky.
She did not weep or cry out.  But one of her grandsons
Who witnessed the execution threw a stone
At a soldier, and he was martyred with her.
After the victorious soldiers
Had gone on their way, we buried him there, in that deep
Pit – the grandmother’s cradle. And that is why we were
Sure that he would become, in a little while, an olive
Tree – a thorny olive tree – and green!

translated from the Arabic by Marilyn Hacker


Categories: Palestine, poetry

3 replies

  1. Reblogged this on Passages Home Blog and commented:
    A new translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s “The Second Olive Tree.”


  2. Thank you for this new translation. I am a bit confused about the poet’s birthday, I always believed it was the year 1941 as his official page gives so here http://www.mahmoud-darwish.com/ar2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=13&Itemid=29
    And the biography in his “Journal of an Ordinary Grief” also states 1941. Is it really 1942? Would love to know for sure.


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