Eight Translations of Two Lines by Mutanabbi

It began with poet, novelist, and sometimes-translator Youssef Rakha:

He translated two lines by Mutanabbi, and then asked translators Yasmine Seale and Robin Moger — who have made a habit of co-translating Ibn Arabi — to try their hand at “Mutanabbi’s miraculous line”.


Seven more translations ensued.

There were four from Yasmine Seale:

(2) I visit them, black night

my advocate

& go

before the morning light

can ruin it


(3) I go to them, knowing the night

Will work for me

And take off before morning

White, my enemy


(4) I turn up, safe in black

night’s favour, turning

when darkly at my back

whispers the white morning


(5) Night has my back. I stay.

My exit cue: the white

Betrayer, day.


Two were by Robin Moger:

(6) I show my face as night

Dark makes my case, the light

Exposing me,

I flee


(7) In company, night black’s my suit.

In morning white I wear my welcome out.


One was by Samuel Wilder:

(8) I visit them

in night my black emissary;

I fall away

in white morning

pulling me.


  1. This was the most interesting posting. I will read this at my next Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here poetry reading in March (Steamboat Springs, Colorado).

    I loved each and every one of them. The consecutive readings of each translation builds on the beauty of the original poem and enhances the meaning for those of us who don’t understand the original language.

    Thank you!

    1. So delighted to hear it!

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