Robin Moger Translates “The Princess Waits: A Verse Play by Salah Abdessabour”

Abdel-Hadi El-Gazzar, The Lady Rider, early 1950s. Source: christies.com

We do not see the hut when the lights first come up, and then we see it. Its inhabitants are not interested in us, perhaps because their problems do not concern us. These women spend their days waiting for a man, and they know that one day he will come. Lights shine upstage from the front of the stage, illuminating a door in the back wall. Neither fully open nor quite shut, it swings gently on its hinges, creaking intermittently, as though the fitful wind outside the hut is knocking to make its presence known within. Then the light sweeps downstage and to the right: we see a flight of stairs rising to the princess’s room, mirrored by a flight on the left leading down to their larder. Centre stage is an old-fashioned, rectangular dining table—or rather, it is simply old: it has no identifiable fashion. Around this table there are four chairs, the back of one slightly higher than the rest. The chairs are not neatly arranged but are scattered about as though hastily vacated. Between them wend the backs of two women dressed in black, cleaning the shabby furnishings and complaining.

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The Brimming Sea: More Ibn Arabi from Robin Moger

The Prophet Ilyas Rescues a Prince, from the Hamzanama, India, 1567-1572. Source: britishmuseum.org

Then the secret was there in my heart

and I was gone and my star set away

my heart by my lord’s secret changed and I

absented from the body’s feeling frame

wherefrom therewith I came

upon a ship of my high resolution

disposed therein my fortress thoughts

through a dark gulf of what I knew

unthought

.

and on my ship my longing blew

as winds, and so it passed

an arrow’s passage through the sea

and across that sea Approach I cut

till I perceived unsecret what

was without name. You!

.

I said, by my heart seen!

I loose an arrow at your love

for you are dear to me

and you are my festivity

the end of all my passion and my prize.

.

Ibn Arabi’s original poem can be found here.

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