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Andalusi Poetry

Poetry flourished in Al-Andalus. It was the norm during that time for individuals of varying professions and walks of life to communicate their feelings and thoughts on love, politics, and life through verse.

For example, in the 11th century, some of the greatest poets included kings (Al-Mu'tamid), viziers, princes (Marwan ibn 'Abd al-Rahman), califs, qadis, doctors, as well as simple poets (Ibn Zaydun, Ibn Hazm).

Regardless of their status in life, the verses they forged continue to influence modern-day poets. What's more, the beauty and appeal of their words have had a lasting impression on readers even today.

Here is a sampling of some vivid and engaging poems of the day.

My Beloved Comes
The Garden
White Skin
Blue River
Tide in the Guadalquivir
Written from Al-Zahra

My Beloved Comes

You came to me just before
the Christians rang their bells.
The half-moon was rising
looking like an old man's eyebrow
or a delicate instep. 

And although it was stilll night,
when you came, a rainbow
gleamed on the horizon,
showing as many colors
as a peacock's tail.

~ Ibn Hazm
(died 1063) (Córdoba)

The Garden

The garden of green hillocks
dresses up for visitors
in the most beautiful colors

as if a young woman's dowry
were spread out
glittering with gold necklaces

or as if someone had poured out
censers of mush powder
mixed with the purest aromatic oils.

Birds trill on the branches
like singing girls
bending over their lutes

and water falls continuously
like neckchains
of silver and pearls.

These are splendors of such perfection
they call to mind
the beauty of absolute certainty
the radiance of faith.

~ 'Abd Alla`h ibn al-Simak
(died 1145) (Granada)


My eye frees what the page imprisons:
the white the white and the black the black.

~ Ibn 'Ammar
(died 1086) (Silves)

White Skin

I have never seen
nor heard of such a thing

her modesty turns
pearl into carnelian.

Her face is so clear
that when you gaze
on its perfections

you see your own face

~ Ibn 'Abd Rabbihi
(died 940) (Córdoba)


Look at the ripe wheat
bending before the wind

like squadrons of horsemen
fleeing in defeat, bleeding
from the wounds of the poppies.

~ Ibn 'Iyad
(dies 1149) (Central Andalusia)

Blue River

The river of diaphanous waters
murmuring between its banks
would have you believe
it is a stream of pearls.

At midday tall trees
cover it with shadows
turning it the color of metal.

So now you see it, blue,
wrapped in brocade,
like a warrior in armor
resting in the shade of his banner. 

~ Muhammad ibn Ghalib al-Rusafi
(died 1177) (Ruzafa, Valencia)


Don't cross me off as fickle
because a singing voice
has captured my heart.

One must be serious sometimes
and lighthearted at other times:

like wood from which come
both the singer's lute
and the warrior's bow.

~ Ibrahim ibn Uthman
(12th Century) (Córdoba)

Tide In The Guadalquivir

When the West Wind ripped the river's tunic
the river overflowed its banks
to pursue and take revenge;

but the doves laughed, and made fun
from a sheltering thicket,
and the river, shame-faced,

crawled back into his bed
to hide under its veil.

~ Ibn Safr al-Marini
(12th Century) (Almera)

Written from Al-Zahra

From al-Zahra
I remember you with passion.
The horizon is clear,
the earth's face serene

The breeze grows faint
with the coming of dawn.
It seems to pity me
and lingers, full of tenderness.

The meandering waterway
with its silvery waters
shows a sparkling smile.
It resembles a necklace
unclasped and thrown aside.

A day like those delicious ones
now gone by
when seizing the dream of destiny
we were thieves of pleasure.

Today, alone,
I distract myself with flowers
that attract my eyes like magnets.
The wind roughhouses with them
bending them over.

The blossoms are eyes.
They see my sleeplessness
and weep for me;
their iridescent tears overflow
staining the calyx.

In the bright sun
red buds light up the rose bushes
making the morning
brighter still.

Fragrant breaths come from the pome
of the waterlilies,
sleepyheads with eyes
half-opened by dawn.

Everything stirs up the memory
of my passion for you
still intactin my chest
although my chest might seem
too narrow to contain it.

If, as I so desire,
we two could again be made one,
that day would be the noblest
of all days.

Would God grant calm to my heart
if it could cease to remember you
and refrain from flying
to your side
on wings trembling with desire?

If this passing breeze
would consent to carry me along,
it would put down at your feet
a man worn out by grief.

Oh, my most precious jewel,
the most sublime,
the one preferred by my soul,
as if lovers dealt in jewels!

In times gone by
we demanded of each other
payments of pure love
and were happy as colts
running free in a pasture.

But now I am the only one
who can boast of being loyal.
You left me
and I stay here,
still sad, still loving you.

~ Ibn Zaydun
(died 1070) (Córdoba)

The source of these poems is the book entitled, Poems of Arab Andalusia (City Lights Books, 1989), which is translated by Cola Franzen from the Spanish versions of Emilio García Górmez.

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DISCLAIMER: This purpose of this website is to provide supplemental information to the Cities of Light film and is not intended as a scholarly or academic resource. For scholars' sources, see the Recommended Readings section on this site. Articles reprinted from other sources reflect the views and opinions of the authors, and may not necessarily mirror those of UPF.