When she begins to sway — لمّا بدا يتثنى

Another gem from al-Andalus:






Translation (of the most common version, in Arabic below):

When she began to sway
my Love’s beauty entranced me
With a glance, she captured me
the branch bends when it sways
O my promise, O my wonder,
None can console my complaint
of love and my sufferings
except the queen of beauty



لما بدا يتثنى
حبي جماله فتنا


او ما بلحظه أسرنا 
غصنٌ ثنا حين مال


وعدي ويا حيرتي
من لي رحيم في شكوتي
بالحب من لوعتي
إلا مليكُ الجمال


Compare with the famous opening of Rumi’s Mathnawi:





1. Listen to the reed how it narrates a tale,
A tale of all the separations of which it complains.

2. Ever since they cut me from the reed-bed,
Men and women bemoaned my lament.

3. How I wish in separation, a bosom shred and shred,
So as to utter the description of the pain of longing.

4. Whoever becomes distanced from his roots,
Seeks to return to the days of his union.

5. I joined every gathering uttering my lament,
Consorting with the joyous and the sorrowful.

6. Everyone befriended me following his own opinion,
No one sought the secrets from within me.

7. My secret is not far away from my lament,
Yet, eye and ear do not possess that light.

8. Body is not hidden from soul, nor soul from body,
Yet, none has the license to see the soul.


–Translation by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. From “The Lament of the
Reed: Rumi,” translated and recited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr,
music directed by Suleyman Ergunerm, 2000.



بشنو از نی چون حکایت می کند
از جدایی ها شکایت می کند


کز نیستان تا مرا ببریده اند
از نفیرم مرد و زن نالیده اند


سینه خواهم شرحه شرحه از فراق
تا بگویم شرح درد اشتیاق


هر کسی کو دور ماند از اصل خویش
بازجوید روزگار وصل خویش


من به هر جمعیتی نالان شدم
جفت بدحالان و خوشحالان شدم


هر کسی از ظن خود شد یار من
از دورن من نجست اسرار من


سر من از نالهٔ من دور نیست
لیک چشم و گوش را آن نور نیست


تن ز جان و جان ز تن مستور نیست
لیک کس را دید جان دستور نیست





Translated Lyrics:

Give me a throne and I will be a king
Give a sword and I will be a soldier
Give me wings and I will be a bird
Put me under earth and I will be strong next to you
The dead are not dead
Maybe invisible, untouchable
Come here spirits of the great masters
Come here spirits of water
Come here spirits of wind.

If I play for Mala Kouli, his name is in my mouth
If I play for Kabboula Kadaou, his name is on my Biram
If I play for Abbaye Nami, his name is on my strings
A king without a throne, is he proud?
A soldier without a sword, what can we say about him?
A bird without wings , is he beautiful? would he be fine?


When it hurts so good…


Long as I live I’ll eat and drink
the sorrow of loving you
nor will I surrender it, this sorrow
to anyone when I am dead.
when Resurrection comes
I’ll walk forth with this raging thirst
still in my head

-‘Ayn al Qozat Hamadani

from The Drunken Universe.  Omega Publications, 1999.

Few capture the strange sweet pain of frustrated love like James Carr and Etta James:


My own humble attempts:

Just look at what happened when they split the atom
You’ll see what you started when you broke my heart
There’s naught below the sun like broken love’s sad drum
We all cry when she strikes, and shake when we’re apart
Lightning hides up in the clouds, and oceans flee their shores
Mountains fade like shadows before hopeless lovers’ sight
If they could break this bond between my heart and yours
The world would vanish in a brilliant flash of silent light


My epitaph is on your teeth
Your rose lips are my funeral wreath
It’s beautiful to die beneath
The tender blossoms of your speech
Your hair, my prayer mat and my shroud
Envelop me in your dark cloud
I know now why the crickets sing
The music of the falling leaves
So let the sun abandon me
Your shadow’s all the light I need


It can’t be helped, hearts must be broken
So let yours be broken wide
Open as the ocean sky
From its ruins, love’s bird will fly
Don’t let your heart get broken in
By bad habits and sadness
But rise above them both and try
To Love, and Love without a why


Addendum: Dinah Washington and Al Green
If you’ve tasted what they’re talking about, then you know. If you don’t, then God help you…