October 28, 2007
This poem was written by the Lebanese poet Elia Abu Maadi in the 1920s. Abu Maadi came to America in 1911 and along with Khalil Gibran, Ameen Rihani, and Mikhail Naimy formed the “al-Mahjar” “The Emigrants” group of Arab-American poets. Translated by Josh Berer.
I was strolling in a beautiful garden,
And I heard the songs of singing birds
I was delighted, yet my heart did not love it
Like the birds of my land, or the flowers of my country
I drank the water of the Nile, the Sheikh of rivers,
It was as though I had tasted the water of the Kouthar,
A river blessed since ancient times,
Sweet, but not like the water of my country.
I drew a picture in my head,
Of beauty, for it is the master of the poet
I went to recite it, but my mind didn’t know how,
Until I saw the women of my country.
-Elia Abu Maadi
طرب To be delighted
الكوثر The river that runs through Paradise
عذب Sweet, said of non-salty water
انشدTo look for, to recite (poetry)
أعيا To be at a loss, to be weak, to be unable to express