Sunday, January 6, 2008

Oum Kalthoum - The Ruins
أم كلثوم - الأطلال
El Atlal
Les Ruines

By my calculations this is the site's 600th translation. Oum Kalthoum's "El Atlal (The Ruins)" is a real classic and is considered a high point of Arabic music. The only song ever written by the legendary Ibrahim Nagi, it is one of the most complicated and esoteric works of modern Arabic music and poetry. This is the only English translation I have ever seen of the song, so if you want to post it somewhere please cite my website with a link.

In order to achieve a successful translation I have enlisted the help of the French translation below by Samir Megally and my roommate Albane to help me interpret that. If you want to see the whole performance you can find it in partitions on Youtube cuz it is really long.

Om Kalthoum - The Ruins

My heart, don't ask where the love has gone
It was a citadel of my imagination that has collapsed
Pour me a drink and let us drink of its ruins
And tell the story on my behalf as long as the tears flow
Tell how that love became past news
And became another story of passion
I haven't forgotten you
And you seduced me with a sweetly-calling and tender tongue
And a hand extending towards me like a hand stretched out through the waves to a drowning person
You seduced me with the saliva (of a kiss) that a night traveler thirsts for
But where is that light in your eyes?
My darling, I visited your nest one day as a bird of desire singing my pain
You've become self-important, spoiled and capricious
And you inflict harm like a powerful tyrant
And my longing for you cauterized my ribs (soul or insides)
And the waiting was like embers in my blood
Give me my freedom, release my hands
Indeed, I've given you yours and did not try to retain anything
Ah, your chains have bloodied my wrists
I haven't kept then nor have they spared me
Why do I keep promises that you do not honor?
When will this captivity end, when the world is before us?
He is far away, my enchanting love
Full of pride, majesty and delicacy
Sure-footed walking like an angel with oppressive beauty and rapacious glory
Redolent of charm like the breeze of the hills
Pleasant to experience like the night's dreams
I've lost forever the charm of your company that radiated brilliantly
I, wandering in love, a bewildered butterfly, approached you
And between us, desire was a messenger and drinking companion that presented the cup to us
Had love seen two as intoxicated as us?
So much hope we had built up around us
And we walked in the moonlit path, joy skipping along ahead of us
And we laughed like two children together
And we ran and raced our shadows
And we became aware after the euphoria and woke up
If only we did not awaken
Wakefulness ruined the dreams of slumber
The night came and the night became my only friend
And then the light was an omen of the sunrise and the dawn was towering over like a conflagration
And then the world was as we know it, with each lover in their own path
Oh sleepless one who slumbers and remembers the promise when you wake up
Know that if a wound begins to recover another wound crops up with the memory
So learn to forget and learn to erase it
My darling everything is fated
It is not by our hands that we make our misfortune
Perhaps one day our fates will cross when our desire to meet is strong enough
For if one friend denies the other and we meet as strangers
And if each of us follows his or her own way
Don't say it was by our own will
But rather, the will of fate

Oum Kalthoum - Les Ruines

Ne cherche pas, mon ame, a savoir qu'est devenu l'amour
C'etait une citadelle imaginaire qui s'est effondree
Abreuve-moi et trinquons a ses ruines
Conte en mon nom l'histoire
Maintenant que mes larmes ont coule
Racont comment cet amour s'est transforme en passe et pourquoi il m'est devenu un sujet de douleur
Je ne parviens pas a t'oublier
Toi qui m'avais seduite par tes discours si doux et raffines
Tendant ta main vers moi
Comme celle que l'on tend
Par dessus l'onde, a celui qui se noie
Et comme la lumiere que recherche un errant
Mais ou est donc passe cet eclat dans tes yeux
Mon amour, j'avais eu un jour la joie de visiter ton nid
Me voici aujourd'hui oiseau solitaire, roucoulant ma douleur
Tu es devenu suffisant comme un etre capricieux et gate
Tu pratiques l'injustice comme un puissant tyranique
Mon desir de toi me brule l'ame et le temps de ton absence n'est que braises cuisantes

Donne-moi ma liberte et brise mes chaines
Je t'ai tout donne; il ne me reste plus rien
Ah! tu m'avais saigne les poignets par tes chaines
pourquoi les garderai-je alors qu'elles n'ont plus d'effet sur moi
Pourquoi croire a des promesses que tu n'as pas tenues
Je n'accepte plus ta prison
Maintenant que le Monde est a moi
Il est loin mon bien-aime seduisant, tout de fierte, de majeste, et de pudeur
Si sur de lui, comme un roi de beaute et avide de gloire
Exhalant le charme, comme la brise des vallees, agreable a vivre comme les songes de la nuit
J'ai perdu a jamais ta douce compagnie dont le charme rayonnait de splendeur pour moi
Je n'etais qu'un amour a la derive, un papillon perdu qui s'etait approche de toi
Entre nous, la passion etait notre messager et l'ami qui avait fait deborder notre coupe
Y a-t-il jamais eu plus enivres d'amour que nous?
Nous nous etions entoures de tant d'espoir
Nous avions emprunte un chemin eclaire precedes que nous etions par la joie
Nous avons ri comme seuls deux enfants savent le faire et nous avons couru encore plus vite que notre ombre
C'est quand l'ivresse nous quitta que la lucidite revint et que nous nous sommes reveilles
Mai le reveil fut sans illusion
Finis les reves d'un monde imagine, voici venir la nuit, ma seule compagne

Et puis voici la lumiere qui annonce le jour et l'aube dont le ciel s'embrase
Voila la vie reelle, telle que nous la connaissons, avec ces amants qui reprennent chacun son chemin
Toi qui veilles en oubliant les promesses, et te reveilles en t'en souvenant
Sache que lorsqu'une blessure se referme, le souvenir en fait saigner une autre
Il faut apprendre a oublier
Il faut apprendre a effacer les souvenirs
Mon bien-aime, tout est fatalite
Ce n'est pas nous qui faisons notre malheur

Un jour peut-etre nos destins se croiseront, lorsque notre desir de nous rencontrer sera assez fort
S'il arrive alors qu'un de nous renie son amant et que notre rencontre soit celle de deux etrangers
Et si chacun de nous poursuit un chemin different, ne crois pas qu'il s'agira alors de notre choix mais plutot de celui du destin

ام كلثوم - الأطلال

يا فؤادي لا تسل أين الهوى كان صرحا من خيال فهوى
اسقني واشرب على أطلاله واروعني طالما الدمع روى
كيف ذاك الحب أمسى خبرا وحديثا من أحاديث الهوى
لست أنساك وقد أغريتني بفم عذب المنادة رقيق ويد
تمد نحوي كيد من خلال الموج مدت لغريق وبريق يظمأ
الساري له أين في عينيك نياك البريق ياحبيبا زرت يوما
أيكه طائر الشوق أغنى ألمي لك إبطاء المذل المنعم وتجني
القادر المحتكم و حنيني لك يكوي أضلعي والتواني جمرات
في دمي أعطني حريتي أطلق يدي ا إنني أعطيتك ما استبقيت
شيئا آه من قيدك أدمى معصمي لم أبقيه وما أبقى عليا
ما احتفاظي بعهود لم تصنها وإلام الأسر والدنيا لد يا أين من
عيني حبيب ساحر فيه عز وجلال وحياء واثق الخطوة يمشي
ملكا ظالم الحسن شهي الكبرياء عبق السحر كأنفاس الربى
ساهم الطرف كأحلام المساء أين مني مجلس أنت به فتنتة تمت
سناء وسنى وأنا حب و قلب هائم وفراش حائر منك دنا ومن
الشوق رسول بيننا ونديم قدم الكاس لنا هل رأى الحب سكارى
مثلنا كم بنينا من خيال حولنا ومشينا في طريق مقمر تثب
الفرحة فبه قلبنا وضحكنا ضحك طفلين معا وعدونا فسبقنا ظلنا
وانتبهنا بعد ما زال الرحيق وأفقنا ليت أنا لانفبق يقظة
طاحت بأحلام الكرى وتولى الليل والليل صديق وإذا النور
نذير طالع وإذا الفجر مطال كالحريق وإذا الدنيا كما تعرفها
وإذ ا الأحباب كل فب طريق أيها الساهر تغفو تذكر العهد
وتصحو وإذا ما الأم جرح جد بالتذكار جرح فتعلم كيف
تنيى وتعلم كيف تمحو يا حبيبي كل شيء بقضاء ما بأيدينا
خلقنا تعساء ربما تجمعنا أقدارنا ذات يوم بعدما عز اللقاء فإذا
انكر خل خله وتلاقينا لقاء الغرباء ومضى كل إلى غايته لاتقل
شئنا فإن الحظ شاء

Lyrics transcription from


AC said...

yes indeed!
If one wants to know what classical Arabic music is about, there's no better example than this song "Al-Atlaal".


Jewaira said...

thank you for sharing these translations

Nathan Miller said...

Thanks very much for the hard work, this web site in general is a fantastic project. I had some suggestions for emendations to the translation. "Water me and let me drink of its ruins" should be "Give me to drink (wine), and drink (imperative) to the ruins." "And became a matter of the subject of pain" "it became another story of passion"
"and alight searching for a wanderer" = "[you seduced me with] the saliva (from a kiss, a very common image in Arabic poetry) that the night-traveler (another common image) thirsts for"

"The moments were embers" should be "The procrastination (or dallying or something) was embers"

"Why are they still there etc.)"
"I haven't kept her/them (either the beloved or the chains i'm not sure) nor have they spared me." Ie the meaning is of having lost absolutely everything.

"Ive had it with this prison etc." "How much more (ila ma) captivity, when the world is before us?"

"Sure footed walking like a king" king should be "angel"

breeze of valleys should be breeze of the hills.

Chris Gratien said...

wow, so helpful. thanks a lot!

Twosret said...

What a great blog. Thank you ever so much for all your hard work. I am able to share our wonderful poetry with my non-Arab friends. Keep up the good work. Thanks again.

Amer Mdanat - عامر مدانات said...

Great effort, however, unfortunately I have to rate the translation a little below the expectation - for good reasons.
1. the poem itself (original) differs - albeit slightly - from the lyrics as she sings them
2. Some punctuations are altered giving a completely different meaning to the original poem - hence, you lose the real meaning of the poem.

I am happy to point those out or to even provide you with an alternative translation "with an explanation" if you would like.. Just let me know.

Anonymous said...

its bird of longing, not bird of desire!

barbender said...

I have had this piece of music for a long time and am enchanted by it's expressivity and gravity but as a non arabic speaker was always super curious as to what she was singing about that drove the masses so mad with adulation. Now I know, thank you very much....

umelbanat said...

Thanks you very much i was able to share this wonderful song with one of my non-Arab friends becaus eof your great work!!

Itje Chodidjah said...

I have been waiting for this translation for more

Itje Chodidjah said...

I havent finished my comment..... I listened to the song when I was a kid as my father loved it. I can sing the song without understanding the meaning but the music can tell that the lyric has strong and deep meaning. Thanks a lot

Unknown said...

awesome.... thank you for sharing...I love it...

Unknown said...

Thank you very much. These words can wring tears from a stone. I have some basic knoledge of Arabic. I can at least try to read some of my most cherished parts. Umm Kalthoum's rendering of this is haunting and unforgetable. Once again; Thank you!