By Labid Labid

Translated from the Arabic by Ange Mlinko Read the translator's notes

We wither, unlike stars;    die, unlike hills and cisterns.

Ana shadowed my protector,    esteemed Arbad, who’s left us.

But ana do not grieve;    all sparrows exit the feast hall.

Novelties don’t excite me,    nor wyrdstaef affright me.

Men are like encampments    that soon become ruins.

They come with their kin,    leave only land behind when
        they go—

the last herdsman    rounding up the stragglers.

Man’s a shooting star:    light turned to ash.

Wealth and kin a stain    that soon wears away.

The work we do    inevitably gehrorene.

The wise grasp this;    the foolish fight it and lose.

If my wyrd holds off a while,    my fingers reach out for its stick.

Ana can tell you stories,    bent over the more ana try to straighten.

Ana am like a battered sword    that hasn’t gotten any less sharp.

Don’t leave me!    (The sparrow finds the exit suddenly—.)

O you reproachful wifcynn:    when the men go off

Can your witchcraft tell us    who’ll return?

Do you faint    because they flet ofgeāfon?

You make everyone weep!    for the burston bodies

of the irreplaceable friends    of your own youth.

But neither the witches    nor the necromancers know

what the aelmihtig intends.    Just ask them:

Hwœr cōm the men?    Hwœr cōm our protectors?

They don’t even know    when the rain storm will come!

Source: Poetry (June 2011).


This poem originally appeared in the June 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

June 2011


Labid (ac. 560–661) is one of the late poets of the classica Arabic period. He is said to have converted to Islam at the age of ninety, but one of his qasidas is included in the pre-Islamic Mu'allaqāt.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Death, Sorrow & Grieving, Time & Brevity

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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