A Rhyme for the Odes (Mu’allaqat)

No one guided me to myself. I am the guide.

Between desert and sea, I am my own guide to myself.

Born of language on the road to India between two small tribes,

adorned by the moonlight of ancient faiths and an impossible peace,

compelled to guard the periphery of a Persian neighbourhood

and the great obsession of the Byzantines,

so that the heaviness of time lightens over the Arab’s tent.

Who am I? This is a question that others ask, but has no answer.

I am my language, I am an ode, two odes, ten. This is my language.

I am my language. I am words’ writ: Be! Be my body!

And I become an embodiment of their timbre.

I am what I have spoken to the words: Be the place where

my body joins the eternity of the desert.

Be, so that I may become my words.

No land on earth bears me. Only my words bear me,

a bird born from me who builds a nest in my ruins

before me, and in the rubble of the enchanting world around me.

I stood on the wind, and my long night was without end.

This is my language, a necklace of stars around the necks

of my loved ones.

- extract from ‘A Rhyme for the Odes’

by Mahmoud Darwish, from the collection ‘Unfortunately, It Was Paradise’

(13 March 1941 – 9 August 2008)

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13 thoughts on “A Rhyme for the Odes (Mu’allaqat)

  1. I’m not counting this book, it’s a dip in and out of volume of poetry, Darwish passed away not long after he was here in France, he would have been 71 today. So this is more of a tribute to a great poet, a voice of a people, and of humanity.

    The book begins with another great poem called ‘I Will Slog over This Road’ it’s a fabulous metaphor for many things, including our reading challenge. I’m definitely an amateur on only one book a week, our friend Jen here has just signed up for the 50 classics challenge!

    • There are so many wonderful verses in this collection, so fortunate that it was able to be crafted into english and for it to come across so well. I can only imagine how it must be to be able to read it in Arabic, inspirational to so many.

      • thanks a lot for sharing, took me back to late 70…STRUGGLE…no much changed unfortunately…but Mahmoud Darwish words will live forever:)
        Reading in Arabic is shorter and simpler…the only different is the language as Mahmoud “god bless his soul” said I am my language, you have to be an Arab living under oppressing and struggling for your I.D to understand it the way we do…having said that struggle is feeling that unite us so I guess anybody can find him or herself in this inspiring Poem…I think what Mahmoud tried to do is freeing himself from oppression and injustice by writing…Thanks again Claire:)

  2. I really enjoyed this poem. I confess to not having heard of Mahmoud Darwish previously, but you can be sure I’d be checking out his poems soon. Thank you for sharing this.

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