Wednesday, 30 April 2014

the last buZZ

is for Zejel/Zajal

Coming back for the last letter to my on-going love for those Arabic forms which have been carried into other cultures.  Zajal is originally a verse form from pre-Islamic Arabia, which diffused all around the Mediterranean and reached its greatest heights in Moorish Spain, in al-Andalusia.  It has been assimilated into Spanish poetry as Zejel (Seh-hell), and remains part of traditional Arabic poetry recitals in North Africa, Lebanon and Palestine, where it is sung in the colloquial, often in the form of an improvised debate between two teams/poets (called zajjalin in Arabic - the practitioners of this form of folk poetry) and accompanied by percussionists. 

In both, there is a theme verse at the beginning (called matla in Arabic and cabeza in Spanish) which is either a rhymed couplet or a tercet.  The subsequent stanzas are quatrains.  The last line of each stanza must rhyme with the opening stanza, the other lines of the stanza must rhyme with each other.  So the rhyme scheme broadly works out to aa bbba ccca ddda ...

Nothing to press

The grape blushed early on the vine this year
But there was no one to press the fruit for, here.

She crushed other things underfoot and left
but one small light in her window I kept
burning all night neither flame nor man slept
the wax trembled as lashes tipped with tears.

The grape goes waste: its gift of ruby juice;
I can cork the wine but in honest truth
it’s the wine bearer who can pour it smooth,
decant it steady so that it streams clear.

Not every darkness flowers into a dawn
and not every sun can keep a man warm;
what use are shelters when the heart is torn?
what toast to raise against this atmosphere?

In the distance the piper pipes his tune;
the stars wink at the night jasmine’s perfume.
I wait to ride to salvation or doom,
but the messiah has no mount for me, I fear.

Happy to be able to end with an Arabic form! Of the vast amounts of languages that I DON'T know, Arabic has got to be my favourite. It is really the most charming, cutest tongue you’ll ever come across in the Ammeyya (colloquial) while the classical (Fusha) language is majestic and lyrical, even when what is being said is a simple greeting.

And happy too, to have made it all the way through! This month has seen some upheavals in life offline, and it feels like an achievement that I managed to keep all that compartmentalised, keep calm and carry on. Keeping calm, let me put it this way, is NOT my speciality.

Posted for the A-Z Challenge.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Nila - just come over from Denise's blog ... I have to say I love the A-Z and your posts look really interesting - I'm adding you to my feedly - so I'll pop over occasionally ...

    Good to meet you - cheers Hilary