Arabic Language Blog

Al-Mutanabbi: The Arabian Knightly Poet of Majestic Grandeur Posted by on May 18, 2012 in Arabic Language, Culture, Vocabulary

What you are about to read in today’s post is an excerpt from one of the crown jewels of Arabic literature and poetry.

The author is known as المُتَنَبِّـــــــــــــي (Al-Mutanabi.)

He wrote those verses as a مــــــــــدح (praise) of one of the leaders of his time, Seyf al Dawla, whose name literally means in Arabic “the Sword of the State.” 

Although it is no easy task to convey the full meaning of the original Arabic, here is a tentative English translation, the value of which you will hopefully appreciate.

المُتَنَبِّـــــــــــــــــــــي (Al-Mutanabbi)

علـــــــــــــــى قـــــــــــــــدر أهـــــــــــــــل العـــــــــــــــزم تأتــــــــــــي العزائـــــــــــــــم

Resolutions are measured according those who take them

وتأتـــــــــــــــي على قدر الكـــــــــــــــرام المكـــــــــــــــارم

And so much is true for generostiy and its givers

وتعظـــــــــــــــم في عيـــــــــــــــن الصغيـــــــــــــــر صغـــــــــــــــارها

Trifle matters are magnified in the eyes of little people

وتصغـــــــــــر فـــــــي عيـــــــــــــــن العظيـــــــــــــــم العظائـــــــــــــــم

While grandeur is belittled in the eyes of the great

يكلـــــــــــــــف سيـــــــــــــــف الدولـــــــــــــــة الجيـــــــــــــــش همَّـــــــــــه

Sayf al-Dawla commands his will to his army

وقد عجـــــــــــــزت عنــــــــــه الجيـــــــــــــوش الخضـــــــــــــارم

Although the most veterans of the armies could not achieve similar feat

ويطلـــــــــــــب عند النـــــــــــــاس ما عند نفســـــــــــــه

He asks men what he possesses

وذلك مــــــا لا تدعيـــــــــــــه الضراغـــــــــــــم

Though even lions cannot make the same claim

Then he says further (Skip to verse 16 in the video):

أتـــــــــــــوك يجــرون الحديـــــــــــــد كأنمـــــــــــــا

Your foes unleashed their iron swords upon you

سروا بجيـــــــــــــاد ما لهـــــــــــــن قوائـــــــــــــم

As if they were riding legless horses

إذا برقـــــــــــــوا لم تعـــــــــــــرف البيـــــــــــــض

When the light hit them, you couldn’t tell

منهم ثيابهـــــــــــــم من مثلهـــــــــــــا والعمائـــــــــــــم

Their white-clad armor from their shinny swords

And later says (Skip to verse 22 in the video):

وقفـــــــــــــت وما في المـــــــــــــوت شك لواقـــــــــــــف

You stood in the face of certain death

كأنك في جفـــــــــــــن الردى وهو نائـــــــــــــم

As if you lied within the eyelid of Doom while it slept

تمر بك الأبطـــــــــــــال كلمـــــــــــــى هزيمـــــــــــــةً

Heroes pass by you wounded and defeated

ووجهـــــــــــــك وضَّاحٌ وثغرك باســـــــــــــم

While you are all smiles and your face radiantly bright

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  1. Virginie:

    Do you know the translation of one of his proverb “sad are only those who understand”? In Arabic.