" A damascene rose": a poem tells Nizar Qabbani love to Damascus

Nizar Qabbani was born in Damascus, Syria, on March 21,1923,to a traditional well-to-do family. He was the second of six children.  His house was  located in Al-Shaghor quarters  of the old city of Damascus. His father Tawfic, a respected national figure, helped finance the national movement against the French occupation, and was one of it’s leaders.

While Nizar was a student  at Damascus university, he wrote his first collection of Poems entitled (The Brunette told me). But he earned his reputation for daring with the publication in 1954 of his first volume of verse (childhood of breast) . In his poems he always expressed resentment of male chauvinism, and often wrote a woman’s view points, and advocated social freedom for them.

Though he had lived in London since 1967, but the Syrian capital remained a powerful presence in his poems, most notably in “ The Jasmine scent of Damascus”.

Qabbani was a committed Arab nationalist, and in recent years his poetry and other writings, included essays and journalism, had become more political. His writing also often fused themes of romantic and political despair, especially when his second wife Balqis al-Rawi whom he loved very much, was killed in a bomb attack in Beirut, where she was working for the culture section of the Iraqi Embassy.

He had a big fame not only his two dozen volumes of poetry, or in regular contributions to the Arabic-Language newspaper Al-Hayat but in lyrics, sung by popular singers in  the Arab world.

Nizar Qabbani died in London of a  heart attack at the age of 75, and was buried, at his own will, in Damascus.

The following is an excerpt from his renowned poem :"  A Damascene Moon “, which reveals his deeply rooted love to Damascus

Green Tunisia, I have come to you as a lover
On my brow, a rose and a book
For I am the Damascene whose profession is passion
Whose singing turns the herbs green
A Damascene moon travels through my blood
Nightingales . . . and grain . . . and domes
From Damascus, jasmine begins its whiteness
And fragrances perfume themselves with her scent
From Damascus, water begins . . . for wherever
You lean your head, a stream flows
And poetry is a sparrow spreading its wings
Over Sham . . . and a poet is a voyager
From Damascus, love begins . . . for our ancestors
Worshipped beauty, they dissolved it, and they melted away
From Damascus, horses begin their journey
And the stirrups are tightened for the great conquest
From Damascus, eternity begins . . . and with her
Languages remain and genealogies are preserved
And Damascus gives Arabism its form
And on its land, epochs materialize

                                       Butheina Alnounou

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