Al-Ahram Weekly Online
23 - 29 August 2001
Issue No.548
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Current issue | Previous issue | Site map

Dreams of the Old Knight

By Salah Abdel-Sabour

Cavalier with Pipe, Picasso, 1968


If we were two boughs of a tree

The sun would nourish our veins

The dawn would water us with dew

A blooming greenness would dye our leaves

When we grow up and embrace each other.

In spring we would wear colourful garments

In autumn we would take them off,

Bathe nude in winter. Tenderness would warm us.

If we were two waves

Pure of sands and seashells

Crowned with foam and light

Driven in the current

From birth to grave

In a droning dancing step

If a transparent cloud should drink us,

And melt under the tender lovely mouth of the sun

Then again we become two twin waves

Driven by the current

In an eternal round

From the seas to the sky

From the sky to the seas

If we were two close stars

From the same horizon we shall rise

On one cloud we shall sleep

And only to the lovers, only to the travellers

to the land of love,

Only to the sleepless who do not break their pledges

We shall lighten the way.

And when the stars set

We shall set

And our deep love shall be quenched

then God brings us together again as two pearls in His gardens

Among innumerable pebbles.

An angle might see us while passing by

And bow. Our purity might attract his gaze

He shall take us and shine us with his wings

How lustrous these pearls are, he will think

And will set us in his pure temple.

If we were two tender wings of a seagull

A seagull that never leaves the strait

That hovers on the sails,

Announcing the arrival of the sailor

Arousing yearning for friends and home.

The breeze nourishes him

And the vapour of the clouds is enough for his drink

And when the night falls he folds us together... together

Then sleeps on the sail of an ancient vessel

Pleasing the crew whose absence from home has wearied them

While they relieve his fear and anxiety

By singing and reciting poems

By blowing tunes on the wind's flute

If we were

If we were

If we were, Ah how cruel is it to say "If"

My sweet, if we start our conversation with a wish

But we...

Ah, how cruel to say "but"

The tangled twisted letters betray

That we deny what the days have left in our souls

We wish to throw the memory off

We wish to forget

We wish to bring it back to the womb of life

But my sweet, I am benumbed

Cast away on the way side of the world

A world sweltering in delirium and garbage

A world which is void of beauty

A world that gave me nothing but darkness and melancholy

When I fell upon its surface in the prime of my youth

Once my sweet

I was a gallant warrior

Before strange feet spurned my heart

Before the sun and the frost lashed my pride

I lived in an eternal spring

Ah what a spring

I used to cry

And whenever I pitied

The wretched poor

I wished I could feed them from my ailing heart

And whenever I saw the puzzled,

And the wanderers in darkness

the lost

I wished their suffering could consume me

I wished I could shine.

And whenever I laughed, my laughter was pure

As if I were a brook

Whose bright face reflected the shadow of stars

But what happened to the brave warrior?

His heart was startled, and fled away without reins

The wings of his dreams were broken.

Who guides me to the path of the innocent tear?

Who shows me the path of the innocent laughter?

Peace be with you

Peace be with you

I would give you the knowledge and the skill which the world has given me

For a single day of innocence

No, no one but you and only you who can bring me back to the ancient chivalry

Without a price

Without wavering between the profit and the loss.

Pure, my love, I see you pure, as if you grew beyond time

And when we met I realised that

We would part

And I would stand still without a place

If your tender love did not bring me back to purity:

To know love like two boughs of a tree

Like two close stars

Like two twin waves

Like two tender wings of a seagull

Then we will never part

One way embraces us both

One way.

Translated by Samar Attar. Extracted from the bilingual A Journey at Night: Poems by Salah Abdel-Sabour, Cairo: Al-Hay'aa Al-Masriya l'il-Ta'lif w'al-Nashr, 1970.

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