from “The Ode of Ímr el Káis”

translated from the Arabic by Lady Anne Blunt and Wilfrid Scawen Blunt

Friend, thou seest the lightning. Mark where it wavereth,
   gleameth like fingers twisted, clasped in the cloud-rivers.
Like a lamp new-lighted, so is the flash of it,
   trimmed by a hermit nightly pouring oil-sésame.
Stood I long a watcher, twin-friends how dear with me,
   till in Othéyb it faded, ended in Dáriji.
By its path we judged it: rain over Káttan is;
   far in Sitár it falleth, streameth in Yáthboli.
Gathereth gross the flood-head dammed in Kutéyfati.
   Woe to the trees, the branched ones! Woe the kanáhboli!
El Kanáan hath known it, quailed from the lash of it.
   Down from their lairs it driveth hot-foot the ibexes.
Known it too hath Téyma; standeth no palm of her
   there, nor no house low-founded,—none but her rock-buildings.
Stricken stood Thabíra whelmed by the rush of it,
   like an old chief robe-folded, bowed in his striped mantle.
Nay, but he Mujéymir, tall-peaked at dawn of day, 
   showed like a spinster’s distaff tossed on the flood-water.
Cloud-wrecked lay the valley piled with the load of it, 
   high as in sacks the Yemámi heapeth his corn-measures.
Seemed it then the song-birds, wine-drunk at sun-rising, 
   loud through the valley shouted, maddened with spiceries,
While the wild beast corpses, grouped like great bulbs up-torn
   cumbered the hollow places, drowned in the night-trouble.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on April 9, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.