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Thread: My Translation of Wallad's Poems (From Arabic to English)

  1. #1
    Registered User Amylian's Avatar
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    My Translation of Wallad's Poems (From Arabic to English)

    Wallada Bint Al-Mustakfi
    Translated by Ali Makki (Amylian)
    Poetry is an interesting take of individuals' way of life. It's a three-dimensional world. I took it upon myself to translate seven of one of the most influential poetess during the Medieval Islamic Period from Arabic to English. Wallada Bint Al-Mustakfi was born in Cordova in 1000. She was the daughter of Prince Mohammad and held a high position in terms of social class. According to Wikipedia, "Wallada was an ideal beauty of the time: blonde, fair-skinned and blue-eyed, in addition to being intelligent, cultured and proud. She also was somewhat controversial, walking out in public without a hijab and in the fashion of the harems of Baghdad, she wore transparent tunics and embroidered her verses on the trim of her clothing."
    If one translates a poem from a language to another, he/she would be able to extract what is there to extract. I mean, there are certain dimensions that can only been known or seen via translation. Translation is merely an interpretation of the person translating the piece. I believe we cannot really give any original poem its full rights when translating it. We're only "interpreting" it. But let's stop the introduction for now and enjoy the poems by Wallada.

    "Fit for a High Position"
    This is by far the most famous or if you will, infamous, poem by Wallada as it expresses pride of a woman. It is said that these four lines were written on her transparent clothing, the first two were written on the right and they serve as a corpus of women's right of mobility. The last two lines were written on the left of her tunics, they serve as a reminder for all men that she can and will choose anyone she likes and loves. Notice the use of the name of "Allah" God in Islam. She might have used it to conjure up attention. Of course, it goes against the scripture of Islam, but she uses Allah's name to prove a point. Be it pointless or not, Wallada had walked freely during her time, despite her status, being a noblewoman.

    "I, by Allah, am fit for a position so high,
    I walk my way, I stride with pride,
    I allow my lover to feel my cheek,
    And he who craves my kiss, I gladly cede."


    In this attempt to translate Wallada's most famous/infamous poem about freedom of movement, I found it the most challenging of all; that is, the Arabic version is by no mean very superior. In the end, I think this is a wonderful job I did here, and I mean managing an end-rhyme scheme. The kernel of the poem is the mobility and independence of women at the time. It seems Wallada (Born in Cordova in 1000) used to meet her lover on a nightly basis. It is kind of another version of the Japanese Tale of Genji. Sharing poetry between lovers at night, sharing love and all the romantic entourage. Wallada, as well, seems to give instructions to her lover to wait for her at certain places, usually a garden from the sound of the poem -- and the fact that Wallada comes from a high, royal class. The sun, the moon and the starts are all used as metaphors and similes, in which case the more reason we should/ believe that her meetings were supposedly to be in a garden.

    "Await, if the night falls, my visit and call
    For I deem the night the secret keeper of all,
    I feel love for you, If she felt the same, the sun would not rise,
    The moon would vanish, the stars would stop their nightly travel-wise."

    Studying the poetry of women in Medieval Islamic Period -- not a medieval in the sense of a "dark age" though -- demands great understanding of the distinction between social classes. Noblewomen and Qayan (Slave girls) are the two main subjects that should be taken into account. Well, I find great pleasure in this subject. My main objective is to relate how has this really affected women in this age. There are certain themes in Wallada's poetry --I am going to express later on-- that I find relative to the mentality of today's women. It seems that Wallad's relationship with Bin Zaydun ended and never got together. So from the tone of this poem, we can sense sadness, anger, and pride. She describes herself as the "dazzling moon", but her lover chooses instead a planet so dark and shady. In the Arabic version, this planet is "Jupiter" -- and I think is that this planet wasn't easily seen in the skies or something. This has to be brought to a professional to explain it or needs a thorough research about planets. Again, Wallada was brought up in a society where women had been secluded from the gazes of men and strangers, especially noblewomen. Wallada went against the current and the conventions of the time. While it sounds hard, but it is true. She might have followed the footsteps of Aisha Bint Talha (عائشة بنت طلحة) the cousin of Aisha, the Prophet's wife, and daughter of Abu Bakr. Talha refused to wear the veil describing in one of her poems that Allah had given her certain features and she ought not hide it, but be proud of it and show it.

    "If you had the delicacy to treat us both fairly in love
    My maid would not choose and yearn,
    A branch so fruitful you have forsaken
    And turned to the branch never ever rewarding.
    You know I am the dazzling moon in the heavens,
    But you have preferred, to my disgrace, a planet so shady."

    1. Wikipedia (Wallada - Pre-Isalmic Period - Andulus)
    4. "Representing the Body in Poems by Medieval Muslim Women" by Marla Segol.

    "To die knowing you were honest with yourself is sure worth it." Ali Makki

    My latest poems:
    The Eve of Polyxena
    He Who Saw the Deep

  2. #2
    Maybe YesNo's Avatar
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    I started paying attention to the planets from participating in Dreamwoven's Astronomy thread. One of the things I've noticed is the planets stand out as very obvious objects in the sky following nearly the same path. We see today Jupiter as being a rather large planet. I wonder if people in her time thought it was large. Venus might appear brighter and more prominent in the morning and evening than Jupiter since it is an inner planet. In any case none of the planets are brighter than the Moon.

    Are there specific meters that Wallada was following? The Wikipedia article references a poem in a "tawil" meter:

    Were her poems generally in this meter or others as well?

  3. #3
    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Congrats to your initiative, Amylian. I suppose this is the project of your thesis or your dissertation.
    It highlights the life and the poetry of women, who probably were too modern and too independent for their time.
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

  4. #4
    Caddy smells like trees caddy_caddy's Avatar
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    Well done Ali ,
    Thanks for sharing these poems with us and welcome to the forum .

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    Would you be able to provide the original Arabic for the poem, ""I, by Allah, am fit for a position so high,
    I walk my way, I stride with pride"

    Thank you for your translation. These are beautiful lines.

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