Ibn Khafaja: The Mountain Poem (From Medieval Arabic)

The Mountain Poem: Words Spoken in Contemplation
By Ibrahīm Ibn Khafāja
Translated by A.Z. Foreman
Click here to hear me recite the Arabic

What throttled at my saddle? Was I riding
    the camel's body or the blastful wind?
No sooner had I set out from the early east
    than I had westered out past twilight's end,
Alone, as dunes delivering me to dunes
    moved me from rainless waste to rainless waste.
And I saw through the dark like a fell veil
    falling across the faces of the Fates.
My home was nowhere other than the saddle,
    my refuge was none other than the sword,
My friendship came from faces of desires
    laughing with wishes for lips, without a word.

Under a night that, when I thought it over,
    proved false my hope of dawn, I quickened my pace
Trailing a black cloak of the dark behind me
    reaching for hope's white bosom to embrace.
I ripped the night's shirt open and beheld

     a dawn-grey wolf there, sneering through the air.
Dark shards of sunrise glinted in its mouth.
    A peering star blazed in its piercing stare.
I saw a mountain too, its haughty peak
    and bunched spine vying with the worlds on high,
Deflecting every salvo of the wind,
    and shouldering the starlight from the sky,
Brooding above the dunes like some great thinker
    considering days to come as nights go by
With black clouds wrapped about it for a turban
    and bangs of redhead lightning in its face.
And through the night, that tongueless mountain uttered
    marvelous things:

                            How much more time in space?
How long have I been the assassin's safehouse
    And sheltered hermits from the human race?
How many rovers have but passed me by,
    or bid their camels slumber in my shade?
How many times have whirlwinds smacked my body
    while I stood ground against the sea's green blade?
Doom reached and took them all. Its ruinous wind
    ripped each of them from time. As times go by
My throbbing thickets are a gasping chest,
    and my doves' cooing is a mourner's cry.
No solace of forgetting stopped my tears.
    I've wept them out on a life bereaved of friends.
How long shall I remain while riders go,
    bidding farewell as one more friendship ends?
How long shall I be shepherd to the stars
    with lidless eyes that cannot help but see
Them rise and set and rise as nights burst past
    right to the last night of eternity?
So, Lord, have mercy on Thy desperate servant.
    Lifting a hand of stone, Thy mountain kneels.

And I heard every lesson in its sermon
    translated by the tongue of its ordeals.
That grueling night made it the greatest friend
    Whose grief consoled, whose solace grieved till dawn.
And so I said, as I turned toward journey's end,


    "Farewell, for some must stay and some ride on."

The Original:

بائية ابن خفاجة الأندلسي

قال في الإعتبار

بِعَيشِكَ هَلْ تَدْرِي أَهُوجُ الْجَنائبِِ تَخُبﱡ بِرَحْلي أمْ ظُهورُ النَجائبِ
فَما لُحْتُ في أُولىَ المَشارِقِ كَوْكَباً فأَشْرَقْتُ حَتى جُبْتُ أُخرَى المَغارِبِِ
وَحيداً تَهاداني الفَيافي فأَجْتَلي وُجوهَ الْمَنايا في قِناعِ الغَياهِبِ
ولا جارَ إلا من حُسامٍ مصمِّم وَلا دارَ إلا في قُتودِ الرﱠكائِبِ
ولا أُنْسَ إلا أنْ أُضاحِكَ ساعةً ثُغورَ الأماني في وُجوهِ المَطالِبِ
بِلَيلٍ إذا ما قُلتُ قَدْ بادَ فاَنْقَضَى تكشف عَنْ وَعْدٍ مِنَ الظﱡنﱢ كاذِبِ
سَحَبْتُ الْدَياجي فيهِ سودَ ذَوائِبٍ لِأَعْتَنِقَ الآمالَ بِيضَ تَرائِبِ
فَمَزﱠقْتُ جَيبَ الليل عَنْ شَخْصِ أَطْلَسٍ تطلع وَضاحِ الْمَضاحِكِ قاطِبِ
رَأَيتُ بِهِ قِطْعاً مِنَ الْفَجْرِ أغْبَشاً تأمل عَنْ نَجْمٍ تَوَقد ثاقِبِ
وأرْعَنَ طمّاح الّذؤَابَةِ بَاذِخٍ يُطاوِلُ أَعْنانَ الّسَماءِ بِغَارِبِ
يَسُدﱡ مَهَبﱠ الّريحِ عَنْ كُلﱢ وُجْهَةٍ وَيَزْحُمُ لَيلاً شُهْبَهُ بِالْمَناكِبِ
وَقوُرٍ عَلَى ظَهْرِ الْفَلاةِ كَأَنه طِوَالَ الليالي مُفْكِرٌ فِي الْعَواقِبِِ
يَلُوثُ عَلَيهِ الْغَيمُ سُودَ عَمائِمٍ لَها مِنْ وَمِيضِ الْبَرْقِ حُمْرُ ذَوائِبِ
أَصَخْتُ إلَيِهِ وَهْوَ أخْرَس صَامِتٌ فَحَدﱠثَنِي لَيلَ السرى بَالْعَجائِبِ
وَقالَ ألَا كَمْ كُنْتُ مَلْجَأَ فَاتِكٍ وَمَوطِنَ أَوﱠاهٍ تَبَتَّلَ تَائِبِ
وَكَمْ مَرﱠ بِي مِنْ مُدْلِجٍ وَمُؤَوﱢبٍ وَقَالَ بِظِلّي مِنْ مَطِيﱟ وَرَاكِبِ
وَلَاطَمَ مِنْ نُكْبِ الرﱢياحِ مَعَاطِفِي وَزاحَمَ مِن خُضْرِ الْبِحَارِ جَوَانِبي
فَمَا كانَ إلا أَنْ طَوَتْهُمْ يَدُ الرﱠدَى وَطارَتْ بِهِم ريحُ النﱠوَى والنوائِبِ
فَمَا خَفْقُ أَيكِي غَيرَ رَجْفَةَ أَضْلُعٍ وَلَا نَوحُ وُرْقِي غَيْرَ صَرخَةِ نادِبِ
وَمَا غَيَّضَ السُلْوَانُ دَمْعي وَإِنمَا نَزَفْتُ دُمُوعي في فِرَاقِ الأَصَاحِبِ
فَحَتَّى مَتَى أَبْقَى وَيَظْعَنُ صاحبٌ أُوَدﱢعُ مِنْهُ راحِلاً غَيْرَ آيِبِ
وَحَتى مَتَى أَرْعَى الْكَوَاكِبَ سَاهِراً فَمِنْ طَالِعٍ أُخْرَى الليالي وَغارِبِ
فَرُحْماكَ يَا مَوْلايَ دَعْوَةَ ضارِعٍ يَمُدﱡ إلى نُعْماكَ رَاحَةَ رَاغِبِ
فَأَسْمَعَني مِنْ وَعْظِهِ كُلﱠ عِبْرَةٍ يُتَرْجِمُهَا عَنْهُ لِسَانُ التجارب
فسلّى بِمَا أَبكى وَسَرﱠى بِما شَجَ وَكانَ عَلَى عَهْدِ السرى خَيْرَ صَاحِبِ
وَقَلْتُ وَقَدْ نَكﱠبْتُ عَنْه لطية سَلَامٌ فَإنا مِنْ مُقِيمٍ وَذَاهِبِ

4 comments:

  1. Very meaningful indeed, thanks for the translation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is a great help for me to understand the poem further. Nice message. Thank you for translating.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Wow.  What a beautiful poem.  Thanks so much for the translation.

    ReplyDelete

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