Thursday, January 04, 2007

Dedicated to a new generation of refugees...

900 years ago a king was sent into exile. His might and his lust for the pleasures of the world were crushed. His children were reduced to poverty and he was broken in body and spirit. He was also a poet, the great Poet-King al-Mu'atamid of Seville and he died an exiled prisoner of the Almoravids in Morocco. While I am only rehashing ancient words, I dedicate them to a generation of Iraqis and generations of Palestinians who (like al-Mu'atamid) were powerless to stop their adversaries - domestic and foreign - and now can only look back to their struggling homeland and weep. May their endings be happier than those of the Poet-King and of Al-Andalus, and may their memories of happier days live on as bright and beautiful as those of the Andalusians to this day.

The Prisoner in Aghmat Speaks to His Chains

I say to my chains,
don't you understand?
I have surrendered to you.
Why, then, have you no pity,
no tenderness?

You drank my blood.
You ate my flesh.
Don't crush my bones.

My son Abu Hasim sees me
fettered by you and turns away
his heart made sore.

Have pity on an innocent boy
who never knew fear
and must now come begging to you.

Have pity on his sisters
innocent like him
who have had to swallow poison
and eat bitter fruit.

Some of them are old enough
to understand and I fear
they will go blind from weeping.

The others are now too young
to take it in and open their mouths
only to nurse.

[Translation of Cola Franzen in "Poems of Arab Andalusia"]


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